Tom Billionaire Ch. 06

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— CHAPTER 6: Marseille —



Sharpley had snatched Cassandra in Manhattan. We always traveled with security outside of the mansion and outside of the JKE building. I knew for a fact that Fat Tony would have made damn sure nothing bad would happen to his favorite blonde bombshell, were he with her.

But he wasn’t. Instead of going directly for Cassandra, Sharpley’s goons had captured our helicopter pilot. He was found drugged and tied up in a janitor’s closet. But by then, Cassandra had already climbed unawares into the chopper, which then took off from the JKE rooftop helipad and headed away for destinations unknown. The helicopter was later found just across the Canadian border. But there was no trace of my dearly beloved assistant.

Things weren’t safe for me or my girls in the Upper West Side apartment, so I moved everyone back to the Montauk mansion. I was getting Ashlyn and Joey moved back home too, along with Charlotte, Evelyn, and even Karl Scott. In fact, I invited anyone who was close to me to come to the mansion, which was under heavy security, until this whole thing was resolved.

Jeff and Kaitlyn accepted, having been with me for the past few weeks. Logically, they were coming because of their recent contact with me, and because if Sharpley traced me to that apartment building, he would also find them. Honestly, I thought the young couple believed *I* needed *their* support at a time like this.

Rebecca and Jack were surprised to find that I had been in town for the past few weeks. Rebecca was rather upset, actually, that both Taylor and I had missed her early June wedding. But they forgave me for missing the wedding, since it was my family’s connections that had gotten them the Plaza in the first place, and because they knew the stress Taylor and I had been under. Still, the couple declined my invitation when I explained the situation. They both dearly cared for Cassandra, but decided that it was riskier for them to be in Montauk — clearly a target despite its security — than to just stay where they were.

Mia was in her own world in Seattle and assured me she’d be fine. And Kate, like Rebecca, was content to remain home with her fiancé, Rene.

I’d also called _Promises_. With Cassandra already taken, Taylor was at the most risk of being harmed or captured to use as leverage against me. Whether she was ready or not, I had the right to pull her from the program, and I was doing so now. Trusted members of my security team, along with Charlotte, were already aboard the private jet to go pick her up. And she would be arriving later this evening.

Now, I paced around my mansion bedroom, throwing things into my suitcase that I only remembered at the last second I would need. Underwear. ALWAYS make sure you have enough underwear. Evania would have had me packed in under five minutes, but she was busy downstairs coordinating my arrangements to get everyone back to the estate.

I also mentally went over all my plans for the people in my care, making sure that I had done everything I possibly could to prevent any further harm to those who mattered most to me. And I waited for the one more person in this world I couldn’t lose.

There was a knock at the door. I gathered myself and stood up, making sure my clothes looked alright and that my face was calm. She’d always drilled into my head that I had to appear in control, even if I didn’t feel so inside. And after a deep breath, I called, “Come in.”

Edward opened the door, bowed his head, and gestured into the room. “He’s waiting for you, madam.”

I gave a short wave. “Hi, Mom.”

“Jonnatan! Whehh have you binn?” After the first moment of adjustment, I quickly adapted to the accent I’d been hearing my entire life. Ironically, though, it didn’t matter, because she launched into a flurry of Cantonese that flew by so fast I’m sure *she* wouldn’t have been able to understand it.

My mom didn’t care to find out why I’d brought her here. Right now, she was rather more upset that (A) I’d disappeared off the face of the Earth for three months without telling her, and (B) I’d come back home without telling her. And on no uncertain terms she complained that I’d seriously failed in my duties as a son.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry… Deui m’ jyu, deui m’ jyu!” The phrases in English were spoken with my hands raised defensively. The Cantonese was an automatic reflex when she started slapping my forehead with her open palm.

The slaps abruptly stopped. “What happen to your face?” she barked instead.

Instinctively, my hand touched my heavily bruised left cheek where Olivia had gone to town just last night. I winced and muttered, “Uh, long story.”

“Girl do this to you?”

I nodded.

“This have something to do with sex?”

Wincing in shame, I nodded again.

“Men. Always think with their pee-pee.”

“_Mooom_,” I groaned.

Mom calmed down after that. She sighed as if I’d been the greatest disappointment in the history of disappointments, bahis firmaları and turned to pace around my bedroom with her hands clasped behind her back. “I’m here. Tell me what happened.”

Mom already knew about the recent crises in my life, from the stolen money to the rape allegations to the company being sanctioned. She’d stayed away for those first few months, letting me deal with things the way I needed to without her hovering over my shoulder. But when JJ had died, she’d immediately come to try and ‘help’.

Unfortunately, having her mother-in-law present didn’t help Taylor’s ability to cope with JJ’s loss. Taylor started using her discomfort around my mom as an excuse to leave and go be with her modeling friends, some of whom had started her on the cocaine binges. And by the time my mom moved back home to White Plains, Taylor was already lost to me.

Back then, Mom’s comments had vacillated back and forth between “good riddance from the pretty girl who broke your heart in college and has been toying with it ever since” to “so unfortunate for the mother of my grandson”. She meant well, but in my state of mind, all I felt was nagging. And she became reason number fifty-six to just pick up and run away from my life.

But now I was back, and she was back, and my one and only parent deserved to know where I’d been for the past four months. But first…

“You told me I had to come here for my safety,” she looked at me skeptically. “Given the way you treated your poor mother the past few months, I would have thought you’d be happier if some degenerate murdered me in my sleep.”

“_Mooom_,” I groaned again. Why the hell did she have to be so melodramatic? I held my hands up to keep her from saying anything further. I had to take charge of this conversation. “Cassandra has been kidnapped. The man who did this is dangerous enough that I thought he might threaten other people close to me. So I’m bringing *everyone* here where security can keep them safe, okay?”

Mom’s eyes flew wide open and her jaw dropped. Cassandra had always been her favorite, not only because my assistant was fluent in Cantonese, but because Cassandra was my mom’s idea of a perfect wife: completely concerned with taking care of me, even in spite of myself. “Kidnapped?” Mom gasped.

I nodded.


“Money, what else?”

Mom scowled and pretended to spit. “Always your problems with money. You have too much now, I think. More than you need. Just give him some and get that girl back. She’s too important for you to lose.”

I sighed. “I wish it were that simple.”

“Make it simple. How much does he want?”

“Two hundred million.”

“You can afford it?”


“Then give it to him.”

“You want me to just GIVE him two hundred million dollars? I do that and every shmuck with a gun is going to be holding my family for ransom for the rest of my life! Plus, there’s no way yet of doing it that ensures I _actually_ get her back.”

“Make it work. You do NOT lose Cassandra.”

“I know, I _know_. You think I want to lose her?”

She cocked her head. “You left her behind before.” And then without pausing for a second, her eyes narrowed and she scowled at me. “So where did you go all this time?”

I sighed. “Europe.”

“Eee…” Mom hissed. “You lucky I didn’t have a heart attack. I TOLD you I would have a heart attack if you ever left the country without telling me!”

“Mooom,” I groaned. I rubbed my forehead. This was going nowhere. To stay here and continue arguing with her would be a waste of time. “Forget it. I’m glad you’re here. You’ll be safe until I take care of this. But I need you to go now. I have a lot of details I need to plan.”

But she wasn’t budging. “No. Not until you tell me why you leave before.”

“Why?” I barked, laughing in disbelief. I suddenly remembered all the circular arguments we’d been having right before I’d disappeared. I remembered why even though I loved my mom dearly, I hadn’t thought twice before running away from it all. “Why? THIS is why! I didn’t want to *deal* with this anymore. All this arguing of what should and could have been. I can’t sit here and dwell on the last few months. JJ died. Taylor went to rehab. And YOU wanted to sit on my head and talk me to death about it!”

“Because you were not *thinking*. You were just moping and depressed and not *doing* anything! _Life_ was happening to you, and it does not always go straight.” She looked at me with concern, and recited, “When the road bends, your only choices are-“

“-to bend with it or fall off it,” I finished. She’d drilled that statement into my head enough times.

“You fell off,” she stated simply.

I couldn’t disagree. Jonathan Kwong’s road bent, and I didn’t go with it. I took another path, and Tom Eriksen’s life had been filled with so much more happiness.

“Why?” she asked again.

“Because it was easier, okay? I didn’t want to think about things I couldn’t change, people I’d lost, or a life that had fallen apart. Okay?”

She kaçak iddaa eyed me carefully. “To fall off is not what I taught you.”

I shrugged. “I couldn’t bend.”

“Couldn’t? Or wouldn’t?”

“Couldn’t,” I stated firmly. “JJ was dead. He’s not coming back. Taylor needed rehab; she needed professionals to help her overcome her addiction. There was nothing I could do to change what had happened.”

“Bending with the road is not about changing what _was_. It is about adapting to what _is_ and is to come.”

“Yeah well what *is* now is that my Cassandra has been kidnapped. And I’m going to do *everything* in my power to get her back. Alright?”

“You mean that?”


She waved over at my suitcase, a pile of clothes rising out the top of it. “You go get her yourself? You not send some agent or let the police do this?”

“Yes!” I barked even louder.

She blinked twice and stared at me, scrutinizing my face. “Why?”

I rolled my eyes, breathing heavily. “What? YOU were telling me two minutes ago about how I couldn’t lose her. Now you’re asking me why?”

Mom eyed me even more intensely. “Why now? Why you work so hard to go get Cassandra back when you could leave her behind so easily before?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know. I just know that I have to.”


“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Mom! Just go away, please?” For some reason, likely frustration, I was on the verge of tears.

“Jonathan,” she said cautiously, walking up to me and grabbing onto my shoulders to keep my face in front of hers. I sagged and made a half-hearted attempt to pull away, but she held me firm. “You have a good heart, but you’re acting stupid.”

“I don’t care,” I sighed as the urge to cry nearly overwhelmed me. And with moist eyes, I bit out. “I’m going to get Cassandra back. I don’t care if it’s dangerous or risky or whatever. I’m going to get her back.”


“Because… I _need_ her…” The first tears rolled down my cheeks. “I *love* her.”

Mom smiled and then patted my cheek. “Okay,” she stated perkily. And then without another word, she turned and walked out the door.

I stared after her dumbly, not quite understanding what had just happened. But the door to my room was still open, and Edward just sort of gawked at me from the other side, looking surprised himself.

When my butler realized I was looking at him, he straightened and cleared his throat. “The agents are here now, sir.”

I nodded. “Have them meet me in the office.”


Barry Farnsworth leaned over my desk, both hands planted on the wood while he hung his head between his shoulders. He picked his head up and turned around at the sound of the door opening, and I thought he looked rather disheveled. His hair and skin were oily, like he hadn’t taken a shower in a while. There was dirt on his collar, and his black tie was loose around his neck. There were bags beneath his eyes, and his face was pale.

“Hi, Barry,” I greeted casually, feeling a pang in my gut as I said it. I’d gotten in the habit of using the agent’s first name solely because of Cassandra, and to say it now reminded me that she wasn’t here.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Kwong. And you must be Miss Koteas,” he added, looking past me and holding his hand out to Evania. I’d invited my valet to accompany me, the same as I would have with Cassandra for something like this. It wasn’t that I thought Evania had any special knowledge that would help me in a situation like this, but it always had helped me to have a second pair of ears to listen to new information and remember what was going on.

Evania shook hands and then we also shook hands with Agent Reddick. Afterwards, the two of us went and sat on the couch, and the two agents pulled up wing chairs opposite us.

“You look tired, Barry. Not sleeping much?”

He wouldn’t meet my eyes immediately. Exhaling slowly, he picked up both hands and put them palm to palm with fingers fully extended, then inhaled with his index fingers against his nose. And without looking at me, he said apologetically, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kwong, but Miss Cooper was kidnapped last night. I haven’t slept since then.”

My eyebrows popped up. “_Last_ night?” I barked incredulously.

He nodded.

“And you didn’t inform me?” I asked in an accusatory tone.

Now he looked at me, shrugging. “Actually, Mr. Kwong, I didn’t know you were back in the country. I didn’t have any means of contacting you until *you* called me.”

I winced, leaning back. “Oh, right.”

Rubbing his forehead, Barry exhaled again. “So no, I haven’t been sleeping much. I was up all night trying to track Cassandra down.”

I arched an eyebrow. “So it’s not ‘Miss Cooper’ anymore, is it?”

Agent Reddick actually chuckled at that, a knowing smirk on his face, and I narrowed my eyes as the faintest bit of green jealousy popped up my spine. Cassandra would *never* have-

“We’ve worked together on the Sharpley case for almost a year, but I assure you that Miss Cooper kaçak bahis and I have maintained a strictly-professional relationship, Mr. Kwong,” Farnsworth stated coldly. “I apologize for the slip-up.”

I shared a glance with Reddick. I got the distinct impression that while things may have indeed remained strictly professional, Barry Farnsworth had become rather fond of my assistant. I couldn’t really blame him; Cassandra was an incredible woman.

“Tell me what you know,” I said, gesturing for Farnsworth to continue.

“We’d lost Mr. Sharpley. After finding and freezing the final account last February, which brought our total recovery to, ah, 3.97 billion…”

“3.96,” I corrected. “Close enough.”

“3.96,” he nodded. “He just disappeared. The last access was in Berlin, a week prior, but the trail went cold. Further interrogations of Miss Crystal Ward and Mr. Ken Matthews produced no additional leads. With the bulk of the money recovered, and the remainder presumed cashed out and either spent or buried, we scaled back on the investigation. Agent Reddick here was given another assignment, and I proceeded to coordinate with various international agencies to locate Mr. Sharpley… to no avail. We had absolutely nothing new on him from February until two weeks ago. I informed Miss Cooper of the developments at that time.”

I nodded, remembering that lunch at Bobby Van’s.

“I suspected at the time that Mr. Sharpley might be resurfacing,” Farnsworth continued. But then he paled and grimaced, looking deeply wounded. “Only I didn’t know… I didn’t see…”

“You didn’t see this coming,” I finished.

Farnsworth shook his head. “I spent all night going over the kidnapping details, trying to find a clue that would lead me to her. Nothing. It was a clean job. My new team is going over your building security footage to try and identify the replacement helicopter pilot and his accomplice. We have satellite imagery from Manhattan to the helicopter’s destination at the Bridgewater Country Club in Fort Erie. And Canadian local police has taken statements from eyewitnesses who saw the crew forcibly put a blonde woman into a waiting sedan. But the trail goes cold from there.”

I sighed.

“Has Mr. Sharpley contacted you again?”

I shook my head and held up my cell phone. “He said he would call me back when he had further ‘orders’ as he put it.”

Farnsworth nodded. “I’ve got a team arriving in an hour with equipment. We’ll try to trace the call then.” He then sat up and looked around. “We’ll need to establish a base of operations. Is there a room here we can use?”

I’d seen enough movies to get an idea of what he was talking about. “Sure thing.” I looked at Evania and told her to work with Edward to make arrangements for now. Charlotte would be able to help once she returned with Taylor.

Agent Reddick now leaned forward, “We’d also like to check out your security and bolster your perimeter with our own agents. At a time like this, protecting you is a top priority.”

I frowned. “I wouldn’t mind, since a lot of people I care about are going to be staying here. But don’t worry about adding staff for me here. Sharpley said he would want to meet me at a location of his choosing, and I’ll bet you it’s not on U.S. soil.”

Reddick frowned. “Absolutely not. Mr. Kwong, there is a threat to your life. You can’t meet him in-person, and that will be something we can negotiate him down from. Money is his top priority, and as long as you can get it to him, he won’t need to see you face-to-face.”

I arched an eyebrow and stared right at the burly agent. I hadn’t forgotten what I’d just told my mom a few minutes prior. “I’m telling you this isn’t negotiable for ME. I’m GOING wherever I need to go to get Cassandra back. And if that means flying out of the country, I’m doing it.”

“Sir, that’s a bad idea. You could-“

“You said it yourself: money is his top priority, not me. He’s not going to harm me.”

“You don’t know that. And if he gets *you*, he can hold you for a LOT MORE in ransom. So he’s got motivation to capture you as well.”

“That’s a risk I’m willing to make.” I turned and stared right at Barry. I rather thought _he_ might understand how I felt about this. “I’m getting her back. Whatever it takes.”


Sharpley still hadn’t called by nightfall, but I was prepared to leave at a moment’s notice. The jet was on stand-by at the airfield, activity that hadn’t gone unnoticed by the paparazzi. Security reported that there were a few cameramen hanging out there already. I didn’t care. The cat was out of the bag, so to speak. And at this point it didn’t matter if anyone filmed me flying away.

In the meantime, I made the rounds to talk to the important people I’d assembled in this house. I fully expected to be leaving soon, and I wasn’t entirely sure when I’d be seeing them again. The last time I’d disappeared, I’d done so practically without warning, and I didn’t want to be doing that to them again.

Plus, with such a varied group of people here, I wanted to make sure they all got along. First up was my mom. I needed someone to keep her out of Taylor’s hair while I was gone, lest she devolve into an overbearing mother-in-law while my wife was still fragile.

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