Rise of the billionaire, p.34
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       Rise of the Billionaire, p.34

         Part #5 of Legacy Collection series by Ruth Cardello
 
Page 34

 

  That had Abby laughing out loud until she stopped and held her side. “Don’t make me laugh. I’ve been having Braxton Hicks contractions for the past week and they are only getting worse. ”

  Suddenly serious, Nicole looked at one of the new mothers in the room and asked, “Maddy, wasn’t that what you said you were having the day I delivered your baby in my limo?”

  Abby rushed to reassure her. “Don’t worry, I’ve been to the doctor, these are not real contractions. Well, they feel real, but I’m not in labor. I have two more weeks before I’m even at my due date and first-time mothers often go past that date. ”

  Nicole paled. “All of that sounds painfully familiar. ”

  Abby moved over to sit in a chair Katrine held out to her and said, “I’m not even having contractions right now, it’s just that it seems like anything can set them off lately. I shouldn’t have brought it up. ”

  Not looking particularly reassured, Nicole waved her hand in the direction of Abby’s stomach. “I want to make it clear that delivering a baby was a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and I want to keep it that way—as just that one time. ”

  “Why don’t we change the subject before I start getting nervous?” Abby suggested. “Jeisa, I didn’t see Jeremy out there, did he come with you?”

  Zhang answered instead. “Rachid asked about him when we arrived. I believe Alessandro said he’d stepped into the library to talk to someone. ”

  Lil and Abby’s eyes met. “It’s not Alethea,” Lil blurted then instantly looked contrite. “Oh, my God, Jeisa, I didn’t mean to say her name. ”

  All eyes turned to Jeisa, who smiled because she realized that Jeremy was right—there was nothing in the past or the future that could threaten their love. “You can say her name, Lil. She’s your friend. I should have trusted Jeremy that day. It would have saved me a lot of heartache. I’m not about to make that mistake again. ”

  Lil wrinkled her nose at Abby. “See, I told you it wouldn’t be a problem anymore. Does that mean I can invite—”

  “No,” Abby said in a tone that implied that was the end of that particular discussion.

  Marie walked in with Colby, Lil’s little girl, who high-stepped proudly as she clung to both of Marie’s hands for support. “It looks like almost everyone is here. How is our mommy holding up?”

  Abby pushed herself awkwardly to her feet. “Ready to get this over with. ”

  Lil bent to rest one knee on the floor so her daughter, Colby, could take a few independent steps into her arms. She hugged her daughter to her even as she spoke to her sister above her head. “Oh, come on, Abby. This is going to be great. Imagine the presents you’re going to get. ”

  Abby braced her back with one hand. “Really, there was no need to register for anything. We have more than we need. In fact, I asked for donations to the maternity ward of the hospital in lieu of presents. ”

  Colby raised her hands greedily in the direction of a woman who had never been comfortable with children, but who now also dropped down onto her knees to greet the child. “Ni Ni!” Nicole didn’t seem to mind how her drool-covered little hands wrinkled her silk blouse. She stood and twirled with the girl on her hip and after they both came to a laughing stop, she said, “Stephan and I gave a donation, but we couldn’t help ourselves—we also bought you a present. ”

  Marie added, “By the look of the growing pile of gifts out on the patio, I’d say that everyone did the same. ”

  “Did you finally tell Dominic the sex?” Nicole asked her sister-in-law.

  Abby rolled her eyes skyward. “I wanted to keep it a secret until the end, but that man is unshakeable when it comes to anything related to the health of this baby. He’s already hired a bodyguard for her. Can you imagine—she’s not even here yet and she has her own security. ”

  With a smile of approval, Marie said, “You know he does it out of love. ”

  Abby laid a hand on top of her rounded stomach. “I don’t even want to think about what he’s going to be like in the delivery room. ”

  Lil wrapped an arm around her sister and rubbed her belly playfully, earning a not-so-playful swat from Abby, which only amused Lil more. “That’s why you invited me to join you. I’ll handle him. ”

  Nicole turned to Jeisa and in a stage whisper said, “Now that is something I’d pay to see. ”

  Me, too, Jeisa thought. “If she’s smart, she’ll have Jake as backup. ”

  From a corner of the kitchen, Maddy’s husband piped in. “My money is on Lil. ”

  Maddy turned with her young son in her arms and admonished him playfully. “Richard, what did I tell you about listening in?”

  His wide grin was unabashedly unapologetic. “You can punish me later. ”

  Marie shook her head while the other women gave in to laughter. “In my day we weren’t quite as open as this new generation is. ”

  Elise and Katrine exchanged a look and then Elise asked, “Aren’t you our age?”

  Marie looked a bit flustered at the question. With her chin held high she said, “Yes. ”

  As Jeisa looked on with sympathy, she noticed the beautiful dress Marie had chosen to wear. It was one she’d sent her months ago as a thank-you. The dark-blue fitted top took years off her age, as did the additional makeup she’d chosen. Marie, you sly dog. “Not too old to have caught my father’s eye. You were the reason he agreed to come here for Christmas last year. He still asks about you. ”

  Marie flushed a bright red but said nothing.

  Lil interjected her own brand of wisdom. “At your age you probably shouldn’t make him wait too long. The life expectancy of men is shorter than it is for women. However, thanks to Viagra, at least you know everything will still function. ”

  Abby clapped a hand on her forehead. “Lil!”

  “What?” Lil asked, unperturbed. “Do you think Marie is too old to want a piece of that Brazilian stud?”

  Jeisa choked on bubbling laughter as she imagined her father’s reaction if he’d overheard this conversation. Brazilian stud. You go, Dad.

  Maddy clasped her hands together in excitement. “I’ve never tried my matchmaking skills on an older couple. This could be fun. ”

  Despite the futility of it, Abby cautioned, “Or, it could be none of our business. ”

  Lil’s and Maddy’s eyes met and they dismissed Abby’s advice in unison. “Nah, Marie, you’ll thank us. ”

  Marie cleared her throat and said, “Enough of this foolishness. We have guests arriving and presents to open. ” With that, she led the way to the doorway.

  Jeisa spoke softly so the departing Marie wouldn’t hear. “We should invite my father to your wedding, Lil. ”

  Maddy bounced her son gleefully on her hip. “That’s perfect. He’ll be irresistible in a tux. ”

  Lil danced with excitement beside her. “We can figure out a way to give them some time alone—and let nature take its course. ”

  “Speaking of nature, I have to pee again,” Abby said as she retreated. “So, you ladies can plot away and I will waddle back to meet you on the patio. ”

  Being summoned to the Andrade library to speak with Dominic and Jake gave Jeremy a moment of apprehension. He ran through a quick list of what might have gone wrong that would have necessitated the privacy they’d requested. Had Sliver broken through? Had he been naive to believe a dictator like Alvo would let him live if he backed out of their negotiations?

  If something bad had happened, it hadn’t stopped Jake or Dominic from enjoying Alessandro’s 1939 Macallan scotch and his Nicaraguan cigars. Still, these men might face the apocalypse with the same nonchalance, so Jeremy felt compelled to ask, “Is something wrong? What happened?”

  Dominic let out a puff of smoke and asked, “Does something have to be wrong?”

  No, but I don’t normally get invited unless something is, Jeremy thought, but instead asked with some sarcasm, “Oh, so you missed me? I just saw you at Christ
mas. ”

  Dominic flicked his cigar ashes in a tray and motioned to the empty chair across from him. “Have a seat. ”

  Jake poured a third glass of scotch and handed it to Jeremy. “We want to talk to you about something. ”

  Jeremy took the open seat and the drink. “I don’t need any more advice. Jeisa and I are fine. ”

  Dominic rolled his eyes at the ceiling, but looked amused.

  Jake puffed on his own cigar before saying, “We don’t have a lot of time before the women come looking for us. Jeremy, we have a business proposition to discuss with you. ”

  Tempting as the idea was, Jeremy had set his course and would not be led easily from it. “I haven’t finished my first ethics course. I need some time before I attempt to play at your level again. ”

  Dominic flicked the ashes of his cigar into the tray on the table beside him. “I have a master’s degree in business. Those ethics courses never helped me. ”

  Jake choked on the sip he’d been taking, then parried, “They might have if you had taken fewer hits on the rugby field. ”

  Dominic glared at his best friend for a moment before turning his attention back to Jeremy. “I respect that you want a formal education, but don’t underestimate your natural talent. I doubt anyone at WIT can do what you can. ”

  Jake added to Dominic’s opening. “It’s time for us to branch into a new field of technology. In the past we’ve worked mainly on designing infrastructures and software integration. We’ve recently come into possession of a prototype for something we think you’d be interested in helping us develop. ”

  Jeremy took his first sip of scotch and gasped as the liquid burned every internal surface it touched. He coughed until his eyes watered, then replaced the glass and ignored the amused expressions on the other two men’s faces. When he could speak again, he said, “I’ve never created anything. My skill is breaking into what others have. ”

  “You don’t give yourself enough credit,” Jake said. He handed him a tablet that displayed the specs for the project he was asking Jeremy to consider. “Take a minute to look over our design before you make your decision. ”

  As Jeremy studied the plans, his jaw dropped. “Do you know what this would mean to the gaming world? We could finally be inside the game. No more keyboards, joysticks, or visual cueing. This would be full immersion. The virtual reality of science fiction. A program that learns to read your body language better than a person can. Is it possible? That many biosensors would require massive processing power. Right now you’d need a server the size of a farm in Kansas. ”

  Jake sat back in his seat and said, “Obviously there are issues with the current silicone chip sets available. However, my parents have made headway with increased processing power using biologically based architectures. We’re not there yet, but we’re close. Dominic has connections to someone who is developing a generation S quantum computing system for a university. The government just cut his funding, so he’s ripe to join us. We need someone who can design the codes to support the bioinformatics sensor interfaces. ”

 
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