A Millionaire for Cinderella

By: Barbara Wallace

The gentle prodding in his voice reminded her of how she would wake her baby sister, Piper, before school. It surprised her. He honestly didn’t seem like the gentle type.

Ana’s eyelids fluttered open. She blinked, then broke into a drunken smile. “What are you doing here?”

“That fall-alert necklace you refuse to wear notifies me when 911 gets called. I was on my way back from the airport when I got a message.”

The smile grew a little wider. “Back? Does that mean you’re home for good?”

“It does.”

“I missed you, lapushka.”

“I missed you, too. How are you feeling?”

“Good, now you’re here.” Her gnarled hand patted his. “Is Nigel okay?”

“Nigel is fine.”

“He was a naughty boy. Make sure you tell him I’m disappointed in him.”

“I’ll let him know.” There was indulgence in his voice.

“Don’t make him feel too guilty. He didn’t mean it.” The older woman’s eyelids began to droop, sleep taking over once again. “He’s stubborn, like you.”

“You go ahead and get some sleep, Tetya. I’m back home now. I’ll take care of everything.”

“Such a good boy. Not at all like your grandfather, thank goodness.” She closed her eyes only to open them wide again. “Patience?”

Until then, Patience had lingered at the foot of the bed, not wanting to crowd Ana any more than necessary. Upon hearing her name, she drew closer. “Yes, Ana?”

“There you are,” Ana replied. “Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me,” she said.

“Yes, I do,” the older woman insisted. “You take such good care of me.”

Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Stuart shift his weight and felt the moment his gaze slid in her direction. She kept her attention on Ana and pretended she couldn’t see him. “I was only doing what any person would do. Now, why don’t you get some rest?”

“Take care of Nigel while I’m here?”

“I will.”

“Stuart, too.”

She assumed Ana meant for her nephew to help take care of Nigel. Either that or this was the confusion the nurse mentioned, because the man next to her definitely didn’t need taking care of. Certainly not from someone like her.

From the tick in his cheek, Stuart thought the same thing.

They stayed until a different nurse came to check Ana’s vitals. The small space was barely big enough for two visitors, let alone three, so Patience stepped outside. To her surprise, Stuart followed.

“You know what’s crazy?” she remarked. “That foolish cat causes her to break her ankle and he’s still going to get gourmet cat food for dinner.” A dinner that, she realized as she did the math in her head, was now several hours late. Hopefully he didn’t kick cat litter all over the kitchen floor in retaliation. Or worse, break her ankle.

Stuart was watching her again, his face as dour as before. Apparently drawing the exam room curtain closed off more than Ana’s bed. “Are you positive Nigel tripped Ana?” he asked.

That was dumb question. “Of course, I’m sure,” she replied. “I mean I don’t know for certain. But, it was dinnertime, and the cat does have this annoying habit of bothering the nearest warm body when he wants to eat. Why are you even asking?” Ana had already told him that the cat had caused the accident.

“Just want to make sure I have all the facts.”

Facts? For crying out loud, he sounded as if they were in one of those hour-long detective dramas. “Trust me, you’ve got all the facts. Nigel is one horrendous pest.” Not to mention spoiled rotten. “Besides, who else would trip her? I was the only other person in the house and I...”

He didn’t...

She glared up at him through her bangs. “You think I had something to do with Ana’s accident?”

“Why would I think that? Ana blames Nigel.”

“Because Nigel tripped her.” His mistrust was serious. Unbelievable.

No, actually, it was very believable. A guy like him, used to the cream of everything. Of course, he’d suspect the help. “Are you suggesting your aunt is lying?”

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