A Millionaire for Cinderella

By: Barbara Wallace

“Oh, sure.” It was exactly the laugh she needed. “Because my life isn’t enough like a made-for-television movie. Seriously, though, what am I going to do?”

“You could try telling the truth.”

Patience shook her head. “I can’t.”

“Why not? I bet Ana won’t care, especially once she hears the whole story. I mean, it’s not like you had other choices. Surely, Ana would understand that you did what you had to do.”

Maybe, but what about the reason Patience stayed for as long as she did? There were some secrets Piper didn’t know and was better off never knowing. That particular shame was Patience’s and Patience’s alone.

Again, she shook her head. “I’ll just have to stay on my toes is all. Hopefully, when Ana starts to feel better, he’ll lose interest. A rich, handsome lawyer? I’m sure he’s got better things to focus on than the hired help.”

“You didn’t mention he was handsome,” Piper said, giving her a smirk.

“He’s...good-looking,” Patience replied rolling her eyes. Handsome wasn’t the right word. “Not that it makes a difference. I’m more concerned about keeping my job.”

“You’re going to be fine, You’re one of the most resilient people I know.”

Patience wished she shared her sister’s confidence. “Let’s talk about something else,” she said. She was tired of whining. “How’s school?”

“Um...good. French pastries are turning out to be a challenge.”

“Bet yours taste fantastic. Any way you can mail me your homework?” She was so proud of Piper. Winning a scholarship to study cooking in Paris. Piper’s success made everything worthwhile. “And how’s work?” Her sister was earning room and board as a live-in maid. “Your boss must be psyched to have a gourmet cook on staff.”

“Frederic doesn’t eat home much.”

The grainy camera image failed to mask the shadow that crossed Piper’s face, immediately sending Patience’s maternal instincts into high alert. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Piper replied quickly. “I’m just bummed not to have someone to cook for is all. I miss you.”

Homesickness. Of course. Patience should have realized. This was the longest the two of them had ever been apart. Hard as it was on her, it had to be doubly hard on Piper, alone in a foreign country. “I miss you too Pipe. But, hey, we’ve got Wi-Fi. You can call me anytime you want.”

Piper smiled. “Back at you.” Offscreen, a noise occurred, causing her sister to look over her shoulder. “Hey, I’ve got to go,” she said. “The boss just walked in. Don’t let Ana’s nephew intimidate you, okay? You’re just as good as he is.”

“Thanks. I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Patience’s smile faded as soon as she clicked off. Piper had such faith in her. It wasn’t that she was completely ashamed of everything she’d done in life, she thought, setting the phone aside. Raising Piper, for instance. She couldn’t be prouder of the woman her baby sister had become. Giving Piper a chance for a real future had always been what mattered the most. Her baby sister would never have to degrade herself to pay the bills.

A knock sounded behind her, making her start. “You can’t accuse me of sneaking up on you this time,” Stuart said. “I knocked.”

Yes, he had, and he now stood in the doorway with his arms folded like a long, lean statue. It wasn’t surprising that he managed to look as regally imposing in jeans and bare feet as he did in a suit. Patience had a feeling he could wear a bunch of rags and still look wealthy. Even the glasses that, on someone else would look geeky, looked more geek-chic on him. Actually, much as she hated to admit it, the frames looked adorable on him.

Some of her bangs had slipped free of her hair band. She brushed them aside to disguise her reaction. “Do you need something?” she asked.

“It dawned on me that I sounded—are you writing out checks?”

His gaze had dropped to the ledger that lay open on the desk. What now?

“I’m reconciling the checkbook. Ana likes a paper record in addition to the online version.” She considered adding that his aunt had asked her to take over the task because her math was getting a bit fuzzy, but that would only make her sound more defensive than she did, and she refused to feel guilty for doing her job.

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