The Billionaire's Triplets

By: Mia Caldwell

CHAPTER ONE




Julio Torres sat back in the soft leather seat and stared out the window. There was little to see but clouds and the pleasant soft colors of the central Italian countryside. Down there somewhere flowed the Po River, and soon he’d be landing in Milan. He liked Italy, and often wound up visiting Milan on business of one form or another.

He knew his mind was wandering and he let it. He needed to let it rest before the meeting this afternoon.

“Your drink, sir,” said a soft voice at his ear. He turned and smiled at Elaine, the flight attendant. The pretty brunette usually had a smile for him, and she was certainly pleasant to look at. She was a well-educated Frenchwoman in her twenties, and he found her slight accent sexy. “We will be in Milan within the hour.”

“Thank you, Elaine.”

As she moved away, he sipped the single-malt Scotch and wondered why he wasn’t more pleased with himself, his life. It seemed rather petty to be sulky when you were whisked around Europe on your own jet with a handpicked crew who dedicated themselves to your comfort. Business was good, he was thirty-eight and, according to both his doctor and personal trainer, in excellent shape. In a few hours he’d be in his room at one of Milan’s five-star hotels, the Baglioni, where he’d get ready for a business meeting that he had every reason to believe would result in another lucrative contract.

He watched Elaine for a moment and sighed. Her lithe body and accommodating nature were a serious temptation, and he was certain that if he suggested it, she’d be happy to come to his room that evening. Of course, if she did, he was sure it would be because of the allure of the chance at becoming the wife—of the rich and powerful Torres. She might be attracted to him, or she might simply be acting pleasant to her employer—she didn’t really know him, and he knew little about her. Although they’d spent quite a few hours together, it was always in this employee/employer relationship, and he liked what that provided too much to take it further. Better to keep some ideas, some women, in the realm of fantasy.

It amused him to think how she would react if she realized that by being so good at her job, she had ruined her chance to become his lover. He wondered if knowing that would shock or please her. Of course, he might be flattering himself. For all he knew, she was deeply in love with some young man, or woman, for that matter. Nonetheless, despite the lust she aroused and knowing he’d do nothing about it, she made the endless business flight more charming.

“The latest version of the proposal just came in.”

This time it was Willa, his assistant, approaching him. She was waving a sheaf of documents. He sighed. The continual small, almost insignificant changes that were made in proposals for a bid meant rereading the entire document. Often they meant nothing important or relevant, but he had to be thorough and not risk making a mistake. And interminable changes or not, Julio wanted to win this project. A consortium wanted to put up an innovative business complex here in Milan—it would be a huge undertaking, and a great thing for the city. Unfortunately, that meant all manner of petty bureaucrats would insist on putting their mark on the project whether their contributions were meaningful or not. Some would be included precisely because they were insignificant, and adding them to the mix smoothed the project’s path to completion. Regardless, he had to read them all, then respond to them. His responses would then initiate yet another revision that included the changes and compromises.

That was the tedious part of his work, and he wished he could delegate it, but that wasn’t possible. He’d made his billions by trusting his instincts and himself, and developing a sharp eye for contract details and their implications. This particular deal was not one to slack off on.

Overcoming his reluctance, he waved Willa into the seat beside him and watched her spread the papers over the table in front of him.

“I scanned them quickly. Whatever changes they’ve made are small.”

“Those are the worst, the land mines,” he laughed.

“What do you mean?”

“They are the ones that are dangerous because you don’t notice their consequences until you step on them.”

Willa nodded, and Julio reflected on his good fortune in having her as his personal assistant. She’d worked beside him without complaint for three years now, and it was a demanding job. She never mentioned her personal life, never took any time off. That seemed odd to him, for she was an attractive German woman of twenty-four, with short-cropped white-blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. He’d seen men take a second look at her, but never saw her respond. She didn’t pay attention to women either, so it wasn’t that she was gay. From the first day on the job she’d simply thrown herself entirely into her work. He’d been happy to shut up and let her do it, but after three years, he wondered what motivated her. She showed a great deal of personal loyalty, but if that translated into affection, she never showed it.

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