Rise of the Billionaire Page 2

Why didn’t I stop him?

Well, that’s a funny story . . . one that took Jeisa momentarily back to how she’d gotten what some might call her third job in the United States.

“I don’t know anything about being an image consultant,” Jeisa remembered clearly telling Mrs. Duhamel. However, denying the matriarch of Corisi Enterprises was as productive as telling the wind not to blow. Always impeccably dressed, she was a maternal force of nature. She knew the names of everyone in the company’s Boston building, and they certainly knew her. Everyone stood a little straighter, smiled a little more pleasantly, and typed a little faster when Mrs. Duhamel entered the room.

All that information would have been helpful to know the first week on the job, when Jeisa had stepped into the hallway during a break in what was a particularly harsh, albeit well-deserved, discussion regarding her job performance.

Having typed papers and passed her college courses, Jeisa had figured she could easily handle an office job. And the computer programs they’d asked if she knew how to use? Could a person be blamed for optimistically believing she’d be able to master them before anyone noticed her complete lack of exposure to them?

Really, what was one more little lie when you were bathing in an ocean of them already?

It was a reason for dismissal, at least as far as her supervisor had been concerned. He’d started a conversation that had likely been leading to her termination when he’d been cut off by a phone call, and she’d been sent to the hallway outside his office while he took it.

If only she could go back in time and tell herself not to offer help to the older woman she’d seen carrying a parcel into an elevator. I should have been fired, called my father with a confession, and worked my way out of this malfeasance.

Instead, I’m here, watching a good man get a beating because I haven’t worked up the nerve to tell him the truth yet.

Why did Mrs. Duhamel—Marie, Jeisa corrected herself mid-thought—choose me to help Jeremy? Why did I say yes? The second question was easy to answer. No one refused a request from Marie, not even when the very formidable woman asked to be addressed by her first name. And no one lied to her. With those sharp hazel eyes and a few pointed questions, she’d wrung Jeisa’s life story and every last embarrassing truth out of her. Right down to lying about her job qualifications. Instead of firing her, Marie had laid a sympathetic hand on hers and ordered tea, and a friendship was born.

A friendship that had changed everything, even things she hadn’t wanted to change.

Her supervisor no longer cared when she couldn’t complete a project; instead, he would ask others to input the files he’d assigned her, replacing that work with typing. On one hand it was a relief to be given a job she could do. On the other, it distanced her from her coworkers, whose once-friendly banter evaporated in response to the preferential treatment she now received. They never voiced their resentment outright, however, and Jeisa doubted they ever would. Marie wielded more influence with her friendly visits than most men did when they boomed orders.

Otherwise alone, Jeisa found comfort in Marie’s friendship. They started having lunch together whenever she was in town. With Marie’s support, Jeisa started to think she’d be able to turn things around. She could make it. She hadn’t done anything so awful that it couldn’t be repaired. She just needed a little more time.

So when Marie had asked Jeisa for help, refusing hadn’t felt like an option. All she had to say was that she was an image consultant. One more small fabrication and she’d have a real shot at being independent. An enormous increase in salary, an opportunity to travel and build a résumé that wasn’t based on a fictitious employment history. Oh yes . . . and no more typing.

Until now, Jeisa hadn’t felt bad about deceiving Jeremy. She’d felt qualified. Her background had prepared her to teach him how to blend in with the wealthy. And until today she’d been proud of his transformation.

Moments like this were payback for tempting fate with the question—What could go wrong?

Sorry, Marie, I broke the first client you sent me—next, please?

Jeisa gripped the back of the chair so tightly that her knuckles whitened. She welcomed the discomfort. Marie hired me to help him and look at me—just watching instead of doing what I know is right and putting an end to this.

Jeisa cringed as the trainer stopped toying with her client and his next hit crumpled Jeremy to the ring’s padded floor.

“Stay down,” the trainer barked, but Jeremy was already pushing himself up off the floor and back onto his knees.

Jeisa nervously chewed her bottom lip. He’s going to get killed. Why won’t he just stay down?

Jeisa held her breath as, with heartbreaking effort, Jeremy struggled to stand. He wobbled. He faltered. Eventually, he straightened and raised his gloved hands in front of him again.

Ray pulled back as if he were about to deliver a final, deadly blow. Jeremy swayed but said nothing. Blood dripped from his nose onto the mat below as the two men stared each other down.

Jeisa took a step toward the ring. An indelicate amount of wrath filled her. If he hits Jeremy again, that old man had better run, because I’m going kill him.

“You don’t give up,” Ray said in recognition and expelled a harsh breath. He lowered his hands and began to remove his gloves.

Jeremy lowered his own and stumbled as his legs gave way a bit beneath him. Relief flooded through Jeisa. She grabbed a clean white towel from a bag near the ring and rushed to Jeremy’s side. She slid beneath one of his arms and took his weight on her shoulders, wiping the blood from his chin with the towel. Jeremy took the towel from her and held it to his nose.

Jeisa glared at the trainer. “What were you thinking?”

Ray scowled at her. “He’s fine. Nothing a little ice won’t fix.” He met Jeremy’s eyes and said, “Come back next week and I’ll train you.”

A faint smile stretched Jeremy’s swollen and split lips. Jeisa said, “Don’t you dare look pleased with yourself. You’re lucky if you don’t have brain damage from this.”

The trainer sized them both up again and asked, “You sure you’re not his girlfriend?”

Jeisa said some choice words in rapid Portuguese.

The trainer held one of the ropes up so that Jeisa could maneuver Jeremy out of the ring more easily. He said to Jeremy, “Be here Tuesday morning at eight.” Jeremy nodded. “But leave her home.”

Jeremy chuckled and groaned. “I’ll try.”

Jeisa glared at him as she helped him remove his gloves and wraps.


Together they made their way across the gym toward the exit. Jeremy’s dark blue eyes were dancing with triumph and a wave of attraction hit her like a sucker punch. When they’d first met, the description that had come to mind had been earnestly adorable. Had it really been only a few months since she’d met him? Gone were the old clothes, the unruly mop of brown hair, and the boyish expressions. Even his gray sweats and matching T-shirt were from a modern athletic-wear designer Jeisa had discovered.

Not that fashion had done much to aid Jeremy this day.

He paused and shook his head. Jeisa slid beneath one of his arms again to help steady him. The heat from his body spread like wildfire through her own. Jeremy was all man now, and Jeisa could feel how much he’d changed in every place that their bodies touched. The strong arm draped across her shoulders no longer felt like it belonged to a man who spent his life behind a computer. Boxing was only a small piece of Jeremy’s plan to physically transform himself. He’d started running and lifting weights very soon after they’d met. Jeisa hadn’t thought it was necessary . . . But oh, the results were nice.

He stumbled as they walked. Her hand flew up to steady him, coming to a rest in the middle of his hard chest, and she felt him catch his breath.

Is he thinking what I’m thinking?

No, no, no, she thought frantically.

Unlike me, Jeremy has always been painfully honest.

Remember that he’s doing all of this to win the heart of a woman.

Another woman.

As in, not me.

Her body didn’t care. She looked past the swelling and the blood and all she could see were his beautiful, sexy blue eyes. They paused for what seemed an eternity and she couldn’t look away.

What would it be like to be loved by a man who is willing to do anything to win your heart?

You could be yourself with such a man.

Love like that doesn’t follow the rules.

It is sweaty, and passionate, and the stuff that romances are made of.

An odd expression entered Jeremy’s eyes and he straightened away from her, breaking contact. “Jeisa,” he said in a gruff voice, “let’s go home.”

“Yes,” she said, and chastised herself for entertaining such thoughts about her employer. She was part of Jeremy’s life.

Just not in the way she wanted to be.

Chapter Two

Jeremy opened the door to his penthouse apartment in uptown Boston. Normally he took a moment to appreciate the ultramodern white furniture and powerful view of the skyline. He liked to think it represented his internal changes. This time, however, he couldn’t think past the pain reverberating from a variety of locations on his upper body, and his sight was impeded by the swelling around one of his eyes.

As far as first sessions go, today’s had been more painful than expected, but he’d accomplished what he’d set out to do. He now had a boxing trainer, one of the best. Unlike most of Ray’s clients, he didn’t hope to win any matches—at least not in a ring. What he wanted was much more primal than that. He wanted the look. That almost indescribable quality that makes another man step back and a woman’s glance linger.

“You need a doctor,” Jeisa said, interrupting his thoughts.

“I need a couch.” He touched his swollen eye tenderly as he shuffled through the foyer toward the living room. “And some aspirin.”

Jeisa followed him. “You need to have your head examined if you’re even considering going back there,” she said in a much harsher tone than he was used to hearing from her.

One thing at a time.

He lowered himself gingerly onto his couch, not taking care to protect its pristine surface. He propped his feet up on one side, his head on the other, and said, “I’ll double your salary if you stop yelling.”

The silence that followed his comment was worse.

He opened his unswollen eye and assessed the woman standing over him. Her arms were folded across her chest and her bright red lips were pursed with irritation. What is that ridiculous line that men say to women? You’re beautiful when you’re angry? He could see—well, he could half see—what they meant. He was pretty sure that when his other eye was fully functioning again it would be in agreement.

Jeisa was a stunning woman on a bad day. She wore her dark hair long—past her shoulders—and untamed. Her feminine flair added a sexiness to even the simplest outfits she wore. The black jumper she’d worn today revealed just enough cleavage to raise a man’s blood pressure with merely a glance.

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