Home > The Marriage Mistake (Marriage to a Billionaire #3)(4)

The Marriage Mistake (Marriage to a Billionaire #3)(4)
Author: Jennifer Probst

Max prepped for the Italian temper of his friend and boss. There was one thing Michael pursued with the vigor of medieval warfare—the protection of his baby sister. His word meant law in the Conte household, passed from generations of old-school traditions. The idea of Carina suddenly challenging his decisions the moment she landed on his turf fascinated the hell out of him.

And then the world tilted on its axis.

Michael gave a brief nod. A hint of a smile touched his lips. “Very well, cara. I want you to stay in my home because Maggie will enjoy your company. We can show you around until you become more comfortable in your surroundings. As for the company, I know your skills excel with figures but I need you to get training in all aspects of the business, most especially management. Max is the only one I trust to properly hone your skills.”

Huh?

Max looked around for the cameras but found none. Carina looked pleased. “Very well, I agree that Max will be the best person. I’ve missed Maggie, too, so I’ll stay for the whole week. But then I really need to move—living with my older brother is not what I expected when I came out here. It’s time I get my own place, and Alexa’s loft sounds perfect. Agreed?”

He didn’t look happy about losing the last half of the agreement, and Max waited for more negotiations.

“Agreed.”

The siblings grinned at each other. Who were these people?

“Now, let me visit the restroom, then would you take me home? I’m exhausted and need to change.”

“Of course. We are having a small dinner party to celebrate your arrival, but you’ll have a chance to nap.”

“Wonderful.” She gracefully rose from the chair and stopped in front of him. “Thank you for the tour, Max. I will see you tonight.”

He nodded, still dumbstruck at the civil meeting he’d just witnessed. She left the room and he stared at his boss. “What the hell was that about? Why aren’t you laying down the law like you always do? And what happened to her? She hasn’t cried or gotten upset once since she’s arrived.”

Michael waved his hand in the air and shrugged on his suit jacket. “Maggie convinced me she needs to be respected as an individual in order to make her own decisions. Do I hate it? Si. But she’s grown up now, and needs to find her own way.” His eyes shadowed. “I am her brother, not her papa. But I appreciate you keeping an eye on her, mio amico. I trust you to keep her safe and help her learn what she needs in order to run this company.”

Unease slithered down his spine. “Run the company?”

Michael laughed. “Of course. She is a Conte and will one day take the full reins of La Dolce Maggie. That is what we are training her for.”

Max stared up at his friend, and coldness seeped into his chest. Would he ever truly feel like family and good enough to own a portion of the business? Was he being selfish or ungrateful? They’d built La Dolce Maggie together, but in his gut, Max knew he was replaceable. Carina may be appointed CFO, but would also own a portion of the company. He never demanded permanence from Michael, afraid their friendship would cloud a decision that should be strictly business. Why did he always feel the need to fight harder to truly belong? Sure, his ass**le father took off, but the constant struggle of worthiness was getting weary.

“I shall see you at seven tonight. Thanks, Max.”

The door shut behind him.

Max was left in the room with silence. With memories. And with a sick feeling in his gut that never seemed to go away.

Chapter Two

Carina sat cross-legged on the bed and giggled as her sister-in-law waddled over and carefully slid into the chair. Her swollen bare feet poked out from the floor-length skirt, and her massive belly rose up and dominated her body. Cinnamon-colored hair slid into her eyes, and Maggie stuck out her lower lip and blew. Immediately the strands parted to reveal a pair of stunning green eyes, now filled with irritation and general discomfort.

“Your brother sucks,” she announced.

“What did he do now?” Carina asked, trying to look serious at the current condition of her usually trendy, composed sister-in-law.

“Pick from the list. He sleeps and has the gall to snore while I lie like a beached whale in the bed. He acts ridiculous by continuously asking me if I need anything. And today he informed me I wasn’t allowed to go to my next photo shoot, something about it getting too dangerous for me to travel.”

Carina gulped back a snort of laughter. Maggie was due in eight weeks and still refused to believe she couldn’t follow her normal schedule. “Well, you know how overprotective Michael is,” she offered. “And, umm, I don’t know how you’d even be able to kneel down to get the shot, Mags.”

Maggie glowered. “I know. Why didn’t you tell me twins run in your family?”

“Would that have made a difference?”

“Maybe. Oh, God, I don’t know. Probably not. Men suck.”

Carina was saved from answering that remark by the opening of a door. A face peeked in surrounded by a bunch of corkscrew black curls. “Oh, yay, I was hoping you’d be up here. Carina!”

Carina screeched in joy and they hugged and kissed. Maggie’s best friend, Alexa, was married to Maggie’s brother, and reminded Carina of an older sister. Filled with general enthusiasm and joy, she was part of the core family that made her feel like she belonged. As Carina released her, something jumped under her hands, and she drew back.

“Oh, my God. The baby moved!”

Alexa put her hands over her swollen belly and grinned. “I’m gonna enroll this one in karate.” With a matching waddle, she air-kissed Maggie and took a seat in the second chair. “Thanks God you’re up here. I need some serious girl time. My husband is pissing me off.”

Maggie snickered. “Seems to be the consensus. What is my dear brother doing now?”

“He told me I’m not allowed to go into the bookstore anymore. Like I’m going to let my business slip because I’m pregnant. He keeps reminding me we don’t need the money.” Alexa snorted. “Do you know how many animals we can save with that kind of money? And he’s all cavalier about it, saying I should just stay home and relax. Relax with a three-year-old? Yeah, sure, let me put my feet up and eat bonbons all day. Ain’t gonna happen. At least BookCrazy is quiet and I get to talk to adults.”

Maggie shuddered. “Last time I came over, Lily locked me in the nursery and made me play tea party for hours. I was fine the first hour, but come on. How long can you drink pretend tea and eat pretend cookies?”

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