Library
English

Blackmailing The Billionaire

68.0K · Completed
Josine
66
Chapters
190
Views
9.0
Ratings

Summary

Colin is a determined CEO, but he has never bargained for his wife's life. Daphne understood that marrying Colin Martino, a billionaire CEO, would pose challenges. Concealing the facade of their marriage until his board of directors relents is the ultimate test. Her task is to enhance Colin's public image and establish a stable household at Martino House, which is far from simple. Complicating matters is Francesca, Colin's troubled daughter. Daphne's innate charm wins over nearly everyone, bolstering Colin's professional standing. However, their personal feelings blur boundaries. Despite their strictly business marriage contract, Daphne transcends her role as a mere accessory. Acknowledging the sham nature of their union doesn't diminish Daphne's genuine concern for Colin and Francesca. When they are kidnapped together, Daphne is determined to ensure their safe return. Colin is accustomed to the cutthroat realm of business, but he's soon to realize that love is the most dangerous game of all.

contemporaryRomancecontract marriageSecond ChanceBillionaireCEOPossessiveDominantSoul MateSingle Father

1

COLIN

The waning light of the day streamed through the windows of his study as Colin Martino tightened his grip on his tumbler. The ripples in the amber liquid mirrored his mounting frustration.

The reports scattered across his desk offered scarce information on DG Industries, the elusive company entwined in his secretary, Eva Clarke’s bizarre ordeal.

His thoughts flitted between anger and concern. His new wife, Daphne, had been the one who made the discovery and saved him from a murder charge, but the peril she’d faced while rescuing his secretary provided a grim reminder of the stakes.

He still worried about her recovery from the injuries she’d sustained during the incident. The emotion frightened him as deeply as the high stakes themselves. It went beyond corporate espionage; the boundaries of his contractual marriage seemed to increasingly blur in his mind.

Colin sipped his bourbon, allowing the vanilla hints to dance across his tongue as he flicked his gaze outside.

“Mr. Martino,” the voice of his butler, Worthington, said from behind him. “Still working?”

“Not really,” he said, eyes never leaving the pristine front yard of Martino House.

“Avoiding something, then?”

Colin offered a soft laugh as he spun in the leather executive chair to face the gray-haired man. “No.”

“Really?” Worthington said with a flick of his eyebrow that questioned the answer.

“I’m not,” Colin assured him. “I’m just…trying to read something into this lack of information. I can’t believe this is all they’ve found in weeks. Actually, what I’m considering is a clean sweep of the security team.”

Worthington chuckled as he lifted the tumbler from Colin’s hand and crossed to the sleek drink cart to freshen his drink. “If their identity had been easy to find, none of this would have happened.”

“You’re right,” Colin said. “But Daphne managed to track down more information in less time.”

“And thank heavens for us and Eva Clarke that Mrs. Martino was quick-witted enough to piece it together.”

Colin pressed his lips into a thin line, staring into the amber liquid again. “Yes. Not for her though.”

Worthington offered a fleeting smile, understanding his concern over the physical injuries Daphne had sustained. “Mrs. Martino seems to have recovered quite well.”

Colin’s mind strayed to the frightening moments he’d waited in the hospital for information about her. With the hit to the head she’d sustained, things could have gone much worse than a severe concussion.

He’d spent the next two days by her side, insisting she remain in bed and resting to ensure there were no lasting effects. The memory of their shared time had been a primary factor in the blurring of the lines of their contract.

With a strong pull to her already, those moments had made it even stronger. The memory of her genuine laughter as they joked over a ridiculous plotline still echoed in his mind.

“Yes, I know that, but I hate that she went through that at all.”

“Do I detect a note of non-contractually obligated concern for the newest Mrs. Martino?”

Colin flicked his eyes up to the perceptive man in front of him. “Does it matter if you do?”

Worthington clasped his hands in front of him and frowned. “You tell me. This one is quite different from the others, isn’t she?”

Colin swiveled his chair around to face the lawn again, unwilling to allow his butler to glean any raw emotion that may slip into his eyes. “It doesn’t matter. Daphne…has her own life. I can’t imagine she wants anything to do with me after all this trouble.”

“That’s not the Colin Martino I know.”

Colin swung back around, this time with a grin on his face. “Maybe that’s a good thing. We’re trying to change my image, remember?”

“And Mrs. Martino seems to be doing a lovely job of it.”

“Let it go, Worthington. There’s nothing there.”

“Nothing, sir? At all? On either side.”

Colin leapt from his seat with a sigh. “I said leave it alone.”

“On that note, I should remind you dinner is in thirty minutes.”

“Thanks.”

With a nod of his head, Worthington disappeared from the room, leaving Colin alone with his thoughts. His butler read him like a book after decades of service. But the man failed to comprehend the intricacies of his relationship with Daphne. Or lack of relationship.

He took on too rosy a view of the world, assuming they’d end up happy simply because they were meant to be or good for each other. But four previous marriages disagreed with his butler’s view.

His mind wandered to each failed chapter that had closed with indifference or regret. Yet, in this case, it was different. The thought of their contract ending didn’t bring relief or indifference, but an unaccustomed sense of loss. Her resilience and her gentle nature had etched themselves into his life in a way he hadn’t anticipated.

Though Daphne was different…

The tinkle of the woman’s voice interrupted his thoughts as she cheerily greeted Worthington on her way down to dinner.

“I made wonderful progress on my book today, thank you for asking,” she said.

He could see why the staff liked her and hoped she stayed. Naturally kind, she probably treated them better than any of his other wives.

He took a final sip of his bourbon before he left the office behind. Even with the countdown to their contract end inching closer by the day, he had the time with her now. He could be happy with that…maybe.

* * *

The blinding morning sun sparkled off the buildings that filled in around them as James drove Colin into the office the following morning.

“Got a lot on the agenda today, Mr. Martino?” James asked with a flick of his eyes into the rearview mirror.

“Isn’t there always?” Colin replied as he smoothed his tie. “To make it worse, Evie’s out today. Follow-up appointment with the doctor.”

“How is Mrs. Clarke doing, sir? I can’t believe she’s back to work.”

“Me either,” Colin said, “though I’m glad she is, as selfish as that sounds. She’s doing well. Bound and determined to do as much work as she can to keep the office running smoothly. She seems to be doing pretty well.”

“That’s good.”

Colin eyed the man in the driver’s seat. “I’m not sure I really thanked you for your role in that. Both with Evie and Daphne.”

“It was my pleasure, sir. I’m glad I could be of assistance.” James slid the car next to the curb outside of the steel tower housing Martino Global.

He hurried to open the door for Colin.

As Colin stepped out into the cool morning air, he buttoned his suit jacket. “Mrs. Martino’s meeting me for lunch today. Can you have her here around one?”

“Absolutely, sir. Have a great morning.”

He strode into the building with his briefcase in hand, pushing through the glass doors into the sun-drenched lobby.

With a wave to the security guard, he entered the elevator and rode to the penthouse floor of the building. He glanced at his watch as the doors whooshed open. Five hours until lunch. He wondered how much work he could push out of the way before then so he could enjoy a leisurely lunch.

At this early hour, he passed by the quiet offices and cubicles as he reflected on the meal. It would provide them a chance to discuss the upcoming dinner party planned with several members of his board.

Despite the lack of information on the DG Industries front, they had to move forward with tackling their other issue: ensuring enough board votes for him to maintain control of Martino Global.

They’d arranged an event with several members, some for him and some against, to showcase his newly changed image.

With Daphne at the opposite end of his table, he didn’t have to worry about decorum or boorish behavior. Instead, he hoped it wouldn’t overwhelm her. She’d already been through so much, including a very public defense of him after his murder charge.

She seemed fine with the idea, but social situations seemed to make her uncomfortable. Surprising, given how genuine she was and how at ease she made most people.

He strode through his secretary’s office, not missing the empty chair neatly tucked in where Evie normally sat.

From the temporary desk in the corner, the leggy blonde temp here to help Evie bounced from her seat with a wide grin that lingered a little too long.

“Good morning, Mr. Martino. I have a stack of messages for you, and I’ve already pulled several of the files you may need.”

“Thank you, Bianca,” he said as he entered his office and dumped his briefcase on the desk. The morning light filtered through the blinds, casting long lines across his meticulously organized desk, the stark modernity of his office reflecting the precision he demanded in business. He blindly reached for the messages as he stared at an early morning text from his daughter, Francesca.

He glanced up at the woman when nothing hit his fingertips. She held them close to her chest, a coy smile on her features.

“The messages, Bianca.”

“Of course, sir. I just wanted to be sure you were ready to start your day.”

He creased his forehead as he grabbed the papers. “I’m here. I’m ready.”

She lifted a shoulder in response and batted her eyelashes. “A man who is ready to go right away. Wonderful.”

He held back rolling his eyes as she trotted to the door. He missed Evie. Bianca hung on the doorknob, flicking a blonde lock over her shoulder. “Buzz me if you need anything.”

Something about the way she said the word “buzz” bothered him as he sank into his chair. Before he could read the first message, his phone rang.

“Francesca, what is it? I’m trying to get through my messages.”

“Why didn’t you answer my message?”

Colin pinched his nose as he held back a sigh. “About bringing the new boyfriend to the dinner tonight?”

“Not boyfriend, business partner. Potentially, anyway. I think it’s a perfect time for us all to meet.”

“I think there’s already a lot going on. Look, schedule a lunch for this.”

“Daddy!” Francesca’s voice took a shrill turn. He imagined her stamping a designer heel on the floor and pouting.

“If it’s okay with Daphne, it’s okay with me.” He pulled the first message toward him and scanned it.

“Dad!” Francesca shouted again. “Why do I have to ask her? It’s not up to her. It’s your house.”

Colin recognized the challenge in her voice, but he wasn’t planning on backing down–or explaining. His insistence on including her in the decision was less procedural and more a testament to his respect for their partnership. “Ask Daphne.”

The muffled scream gave him a chuckle as he ended the call. He flicked his gaze into space for a moment as he wondered how difficult Francesca would make this on Daphne. He’d find out at lunch.

Knowing Daphne, they’d have another guest at their dinner party. She’d never tell Francesca no. She might spoil his daughter more than he did.

He picked up the phone to return his first call, setting the day into motion. The whirlwind of the multinational corporation sped the morning hours by in a blur of spreadsheets, contracts, and hard-nosed negotiating.

As the noon hour slipped by, he buzzed Bianca, ready to clear his desk before lunch and have her pull a new set of files for his afternoon.

She bounded into the office seconds later sans suit jacket that had covered her this morning. The too-low top pushed the boundaries of the corporate dress code.

He slid a stack of files off his desk and held them toward her.

“All finished with these?” she asked.

“Yes. And please pull the Dover, Monticeto, and Lockview files for the afternoon.”

“Of course. Is there anything else I can do for you?” she asked as she fanned herself with the folders.

“No. Are you feeling okay?”

The innocent question opened a door he hadn’t intended. She sauntered around the desk and perched on the corner. “Just a little hot. I see you were, too.”

She arched an eyebrow at his suit jacket draped over his chair back.

“If it’s too warm, feel free to adjust the thermostat,” he said.

She tugged one corner of her pink-red lips back before she set the folders on the polished desk and leaned closer to him. “I don’t think that’s going to help.” She lowered her voice, taking on a sultry tone. “I think we both know what’s going on here.”

Colin twisted his chair to face her. “Look, Bianca, I think there’s been a misunderstanding here.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” She traced his jawline with a manicured nail. “I see the way you look at me. And I just wanted to let you know, I feel the same way.” She leaned closer to him, her lips searching for his.

“Bianca…”

That didn’t stop her advances. She slid a knee onto the chair as she leaned closer to him. He tipped the chair backward, angling away from her as he searched to find the right words to diffuse the situation without causing a scene. “Ms. Jensen…”

“Just give in to it, Colin. You know you want to,” she whispered in his ear.

“Oh, my goodness,” a new voice split the silence.

Colin’s heart stopped as he snapped his gaze to the open door. The sight of Daphne, a stunned expression on her delicate features, twisted his stomach into a knot. What she had just walked in on must have looked awful.

His heart raced, not only with surprise but with a sinking dread. Would she understand or would this destroy the fragile bond?