Taken by a trillionaire.., p.6
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       Taken by a Trillionaire 1-3, p.6

         Part #1 of Taken by a Trillionaire series by Ruth Cardello
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  Kendra’s short blonde hair bounced on her cheeks as she shook her head vehemently. “I never said that. Honey, just be realistic, okay? I don’t want to see you get hurt if he slips out the back door while you’re brushing your teeth.”

  Dressed from the waist down, Xander stood at the top of the stairs listening to the conversation below. Avoiding Kendra was no longer possible. It looked like he would have to win her over. He plastered a charming smile on his face and went downstairs to meet Kendra before she talked Reanna into not trusting him.

  He recognized her instantly from her photos in Reanna’s file. Xander was sure many men found Kendra attractive, but she lacked the sweet innocence of Reanna. Everything from the stylish cut of her short blonde hair, to the provocative nature of her attire, was brash. He doubted the two women had much in common. However, looking at them together, he could tell their bond was real. From everything he’d read about Kendra, she’d been a good friend to Reanna, and that made Xander like her more than he would have, had he judged her by her outward appearance.

  Kendra dropped her phone when she saw Xander. Her mouth fell open, and she shook her head a couple of times. “Oh, my God,” she said to Reanna.

  He met Reanna’s eyes across the room and flashes of the night before flew through his head, making him momentarily forget her friend was there. He wanted her again, and from the flush on her cheeks, she wanted him just as much. He loved that she didn’t look away from him now. She met his eyes boldly, not hiding at all how she felt.

  Kendra looked back and forth between them. She bent to pick up her phone, then fanned her face with it. “Yeah, that’s him.”

  Xander walked over and greeted Kendra first, raising her hand to his lips. “You must be Reanna’s friend, Kendra.”

  “Wow,” Kendra sighed.

  Xander released her hand and chuckled. “Sorry about my appearance. I would have gotten dressed had I known we had company.” He pulled a bemused looking Reanna to him and gave her a quick kiss. “I was disappointed when I rolled over and you weren’t there.”

  Reanna returned the kiss, then put a hand to his chest to push him back. “Do you have anything you want to tell me?”

  He’d heard enough of their conversation to know exactly what she wanted him to admit, but he decided to have some fun with her and raised one eyebrow instead. “Nothing immediately comes to mind.”

  “Being next in line to the throne doesn’t sound like something you think people should know before they sleep with you?”

  That amused him. “It’s not catching.”

  She glared up at him. “I feel like an idiot. I mean, I knew you were too good to be true, but I didn’t know you were that too good to be true. Is being with me some kind of joke to you?”

  He gripped both of her arms and held her before him. Her words touched him, but he didn’t have the luxury of being honest with her. His beautiful little scientist had been disappointed by many in the past, and that had left her with insecurities that only time would heal. He told her as much as he could. “Last night I didn’t want to be Prince Alexander Demande with you. I wanted to be myself. Just a man who couldn’t stop thinking about you. No matter what I told myself was the right thing to do, I couldn’t walk away from you.”

  “Is that the truth?” Reanna asked, and Xander felt a stab of discomfort at his deception.

  He pulled her to his chest because he couldn’t look her in the eye while he said, “Yes.” She relaxed in his embrace, and he reminded himself her life would be better in Rubare Collina. He had the power to give her everything and anything she wanted.

  “Wow,” Kendra said again, with similar awed inflection. “I’m sorry. I’d like to say something more intelligent, but you are just beautiful.”

  Reanna buried her face in Xander’s chest and murmured, “He is, isn’t he?”

  Xander kissed the top of her head. She fit against him perfectly. He was still constantly surprised by how much he liked being with her. “You ladies are too kind. Did I hear you were joining us for breakfast, Kendra?”

  Still obviously surprised by the scene before her, Kendra said, “That was the plan, but I don’t want to intrude.”

  Xander looked down at Reanna. “It’s up to you. I have all day.”

  Reanna raised her head and gave her friend a pained smile. “Would you mind if we did this tomorrow?”

  Xander cut in, “Tomorrow? I was hoping you’d agree to join me on a little vacation, Reanna. You just finished a project. I have time off before my next commitment. I realize this is unexpected, but I would love to show you my country.”

  Reanna tensed beneath his arm. She searched his face then looked to her friend for a sign of how to respond to his offer. “Visit your country? As in go away with you? I wouldn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t know how to act.”

  He held her eyes. “Just be yourself. There is so much I want you to see.”

  “Is this how royals date? You meet someone and fly off with them?”

  Xander caressed one of her cheeks with his hand and made sure he appeared adoring as he said, “I never have, but then I’ve never met anyone like you. Come with me, Reanna. Let me show you my world.”

  “Holy shit,” Kendra said. “Sorry. This is like watching a movie. Is this really happening?”

  “Only if she says yes,” Xander said, not taking his eyes from Reanna’s.

  Xander kissed her thoroughly then turned back to Kendra. “Please don’t tell anyone where Reanna is going. There are those who would hurt her just to get to me. That’s the heavy price that comes with a title and wealth. If we can keep this a secret for now, Reanna will be safe to accompany me as she pleases. And if she decides to end our time together, she can return to her old life without worry of the paparazzi or someone kidnapping her for ransom.” Xander hated lying, but when it came to family and country, duty came before honesty.

  “I won’t say anything to anyone,” Kendra promised.

  Reanna looked from Xander to Kendra. “It should be safe enough, right Kendra? It’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

  Kendra waved a hand by her face again and said, “Reanna, if you don’t go with him, I will.”

  Xander hid his smile. At least for now, Kendra was no longer a problem and getting Reanna to Rubare Collina had just proven easier than he’d ever imagined.

  Chapter Six

  Life doesn’t get better than this, Reanna thought, as she woke in Xander’s arms a few hours later. Kendra had left with her notes and samples, promising to deliver them to Biostern for her. Which meant Reanna would never have to return there.

  Instead of grasping at any excuse to leave her, Xander had asked his driver to deliver a change of clothing and toiletries. She and Xander had showered together, then made love slowly, tenderly on her bed before falling asleep in each other’s arms.

  Reanna didn’t open her eyes. She wanted to savor every moment of being with Xander. She knew too well that pleasure, by nature, was a fickle and short-lived entity.

  “What do you want to do today?” Xander asked, his deep voice still thick from sleep. She’d never heard anything sexier.

  “Besides this?” Reanna said, slowly opening her eyes and meeting his.

  She felt his chest rumble with a soft chuckle. “I like the way you think.” He ran a hand through her hair absently. “However, I don’t have many chances to travel for pleasure. I was hoping you could show me your town before we leave.”

  “My town? You mean Boston?”

  “Isn’t that where you grew up?”

  “Yes, but I’ve never given anyone a tour before.” She chewed her bottom lip nervously. “What would you like to see? I know the historical significance of many of the buildings. Have you heard of the Freedom Trail?”

  With a finger beneath her chin, he tipped her face up to his. “That’s not the tour I was looking for.”

  Reanna swallowed hard. “Of course not. You’re a prince. You probably don’t want to hear about ho
w we broke off from the king . . .” She paused when nothing came to mind. “See, I told you, I’m an awful tour guide.”

  He smiled and caressed her jaw softly. “You misunderstand. I want to experience the area through your eyes. I want to see it as you do.”

  “I don’t understand.”

  “There must be something here that you love. If this were your last day in this city what would you say goodbye to? Where would you go?”

  “How long is this vacation with you going to last?” she joked, but his face remained serious. “Sorry, I tend to make jokes when I’m nervous. I don’t have any favorite places.” She thought of one then dismissed it. “Well, none that would work for today.”

  He studied her expression then asked, “But you do have one?”

  She looked down at his chest and ran her hand over it, loving how his heart thudded louder beneath her caress. She didn’t want to do anything to risk ending her time with him early. “When we get up, I’ll do a quick online search for tourist sites. People come from all over to see Boston.”

  “Look at me,” he ordered softly.

  She met his eyes reluctantly.

  He said, “When I show you around my country, I will take you to the places that matter to me. You will likely be bored to tears hearing tales of my family. Show me this place you think I won’t be interested in. I want to know everything about you, Reanna.”

  “I can’t imagine being bored by anything you say or anything you could show me,” she whispered.

  “Then you know exactly how I feel,” he answered and kissed her gently.

  Right then, even though Reanna told herself it was a foolish thing to do, she fell a little bit in love with Xander. Her head reminded her she didn’t know him. Her heart assured her it didn’t matter.

  Later that day Xander stepped out of his Bentley and then helped Reanna out. They had both dressed casually. Her tour had taken them outside the city to a small neighborhood park. At first Xander thought she was leading him to the park, but, hand in hand, they walked beyond the entrance to a small blue and white house.

  Reanna let go of his hand, and wrapped her arms around herself. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but I love this place.”

  There was so much Xander wanted to ask. He didn’t remember this house being mentioned in any of his reports. “How long did you live there?”

  Without looking away from the house, Reanna said, “Not one single day, but I spent years wishing I had. Two of the kindest people I ever met lived here. Trudy and Jonathan Belise.”

  Xander remembered a brief mention of them in one of her later files, but he had no idea what they represented to her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her backward into a protective embrace. “Tell me about them.”

  Reanna hugged his arms to her as she began to speak nostalgically. “They were retired professors. Trudy taught romantic English literature. At least, that’s what she called it. Jonathan taught physics. I met them through a school fundraiser when I was at Boston University. I was fifteen and feeling awkwardly out of place.” She looked at him over her shoulder. “I tested out of high school at an early age.”

  “I know.”

  She tensed a bit in his arms. “From reports about me?”

  “Does that bother you?”

  She relaxed somewhat. “It did, but I understand you have to be careful when meeting new people.”

  “Good, now continue, because I’m interested.”

  “Really?” she asked.

  Xander looked into her hopeful eyes and was once again reminded how little attention she was used to receiving. He wasn’t used to feeling powerless, but he couldn’t change what had happened to her. He would, however, make her life different — better. He would make sure she never felt lost or alone again.

  Reanna looked back at the house and said, “Trudy and Jonathan were in their late seventies and childless when I met them. Trudy said they would have adopted me if they’d been younger. I believe they would have. Did you ever meet someone and connect on a level you couldn’t explain? You can’t rationalize it, but you know you were meant to meet?”

  Xander tightened his arms around her. “Yes, I have.”

  Reanna continued on, lost in her memories. “That was me with the Belises. From that first day we met, I was always welcomed in their home. I didn’t have friends at school, but I would come here on Saturdays and visit bookstores with Trudy. She was always hunting down those elusive first editions she loved to collect.”

  “That’s why you eat lunch at the bookstore near your house,” he said quietly. The more he learned about her, the more he was drawn to her.

  “Yes,” she whispered.

  He didn’t have to ask her to know the couple had passed away. He was sure the information was tucked away in one of the reports if he looked for it, but the way she’d described them said enough. If this was her final day in this area, he was glad he had given her this last look into her past.

  Reanna stepped forward, out of his arms, but turned and held out her hand to him. “May I show you one more thing?”

  He took her hand in his. “Show me anything you want, Reanna. I’m in no rush.”

  She led him into the park and to a stone bench that was engraved: In loving memory of the real reason the sky has stars.

  Reanna’s hand clung to his as she said, “Trudy found out she had a terminal blood disease while I was still an undergrad. At the time, I was taking some medical courses. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I’d always been good at science. I started reading everything I could about her condition. I wanted so badly to find a cure. She’d say there was no cure for mortality and how unromantic life would be if there was. Is something still precious if you don’t have to fight for it? How much sweeter is anything if you have a limited time to enjoy? She had an eloquent way of explaining things that made the truth irrelevant. Jonathan said he fell in love with her when she told him the reason there were stars in the sky was simply because people needed something larger than themselves to look up to. Something more unifying than religion, culture, or country. People needed the sky to remind them of how much we have in common, no matter how different we are. Beneath the stars, we are all the same. We are all small, all temporary, and all beautiful.”

  Xander put an arm around Reanna’s waist and pulled her to his side. He had thought spending the day with her this way would help him understand her better. He hadn’t expected to be moved by the experience.

  Still lost in her memories, Reanna said, “Trudy passed away near the beginning of my last year of college. Jonathan died a few months later. They’d both promised to see me get my doctorate, but they couldn’t. Sometimes people can’t be there for you, no matter how much they love you. And they did love me. That’s what matters. I come here when I get scared. Or lonely. It reminds me that that kind of love is possible.” She wiped away a stray tear. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get so melancholy. Does this now qualify as officially your worst first date ever?”

  Xander let out a long breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He wasn’t ready to face the guilt her monologue had elicited within him. He wanted her to be happy, but he didn’t know if he was capable of even a fraction of the love she had described. “Thank you for showing me this place.” He kissed her temple gently. “I know how to put a smile back on your face. We’ll leave for Rubare Collina now.”

  “Now?” Reanna asked in surprise.

  “Yes. I have my own plane. We’ll be in the air in less than an hour and at my family’s summer home by morning. We’ll have breakfast overlooking the ocean.” He turned her to face him. “I’ll have Albert make the arrangements.”

  Reanna’s eyes rounded with surprise. “I don’t have anything with me.”

  He nuzzled her neck. “What do you need that we can’t buy on the way?”

  Her mouth opened and closed a few times, but she didn’t utter a sound. He led her back to his car. Once inside, he said, “Al
bert, call ahead and have my plane readied. We’re heading home now.”

  “As you wish,” Albert said. If he was surprised, he was too polished to show it.

  When Xander took Reanna’s hand in his, he noted it was cold. She looked nervous even though she didn’t say it. He gave her hand a comforting squeeze. Unlike the modern view of love as something people fell in and out of, Xander had much more traditional view of it. Love was commitment. Love was duty. Passion was something that could be found without it. It confused him that Reanna elicited a protectiveness usually felt only for his family. “Reanna, what would you risk for a love like you described?”

  She studied his face closely. “Everything.”

  “Good,” he said cryptically and smiled. “You will love my country.” And me.

  Chapter Seven

  Reanna’s first impression of Xander’s plane was, from the outside at least, it looked no different than any other private plane. She didn’t know what exactly she’d been expecting — a large crown emblem on the side? That would have been crazy.

  As crazy as heading off to a foreign country with a man I don’t know?

  Reanna peeked at him from beneath her lashes as they walked side by side toward the plane. She remembered how they had spent most of the time since they’d met and blushed. Okay, so I know him well in some ways.

  She paused at the bottom on the steps leading into the plane. Several men in dark suits were stationed around the plane. They were her first reminder that Xander was not just any man.

  Xander leaned down, the hand he had placed on her lower back to urge her forward now caressed her in a soothing manner. “What is it? Are you having second thoughts about going?”

  Turning so she could see his face, Reanna asked herself a few questions: Do I believe in fairy tales and in princes who track down women like me in book stores, sweeping them off their feet, and whisking them away on romantic trips to their country?

  And if I don’t? If I turn back now, too afraid to believe something this good could happen to me, what then? I go back to my empty house? I start looking for new employment because I let those idiots drive me out of a position I enjoyed? I should have stood up to them, just as Kendra told me to. But I was afraid I would lose. If I walk away from Xander, will I spend the rest of my life wondering what would have happened if I had been brave just this once?