A Millionaire for Cinderella

By: Barbara Wallace


“Then why would I be? Lying, that is.”

“Did I say you were lying? I told you, I was simply gathering facts. You’re the one who read deeper meaning into my questions.” Immediately, she opened her mouth to protest, only to have him hold up a finger. “Although,” he continued, “you can’t blame me if I am suspicious.”

Oh, couldn’t she? The guy was practically insinuating—not practically, he was insinuating that she had pushed a helpless little old lady down a flight of stairs. “And why is that?” She folded her arms across her chest. This she had to hear.

“For starters, Aunt Ana hired you directly while I was in Los Angeles.”

So that was it. The man was territorial. “In other words, you’re upset because Ana didn’t talk to you first.”

“Yes, I am.” Having been expecting a denial, Patience was surprised to hear him agree. “Normally, I vet my family’s employees and you, somehow, managed to bypass the process. As a result, I don’t know a damn thing about you. For all I know, you could be hiding some deep, dark secret.”

Patience’s insides chilled. If only he knew...

Still, no matter what questionable decisions she’d made in her life, there were lines she’d never dream of crossing. Hurting a defenseless old lady being on top of the list. “You’re right,” she told him, “you don’t know me.”

Yanking back the curtain, she returned to Ana’s side.

* * *

My, my, quite the bundle of moral outrage aren’t we? Stuart ignored the twinge from his conscience as he watched Patience sashay behind the curtain. He refused to feel guilty for taking care of his family. After all, until eight months ago, he’d never heard of Patience Rush. Suddenly, the housekeeper was all his aunt could talk about. Patience this, Patience that. No need to worry about me, Stuart. Patience will take good care of me. Patience is moving into the brownstone. And the final straw... Patience takes care of writing out the checks now.

With Aunt Ana incapacitated, Patience would have an awful lot of power. Or rather, she would have, if he hadn’t come home. He kicked himself for not being around the past eleven months. Now his aunt was attached to a stranger he knew nothing about. Ana might be sharp for her age, but when all was said and done, she was still an old woman living alone who had a soft spot for sob stories. Her big heart made her vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a pretty young thing had tried to grab a piece of the Duchenko fortune.

Unfortunately for Miss Rush, he was no longer a lonely twenty-year-old looking for affection. Nor was he still naive enough to believe people were as guileless as they appeared. Ana was the only family he had left. He’d be damned if he’d let her be burned the way he had been.

There was the rustle of a curtain, and Ana’s gurney appeared on its way toward the elevator. As she passed by, the older woman gave him a sleepy wave. Stuart grabbed her hand and pressed the wizened knuckles to his lips. “See you soon, Tetya,” he whispered.

“The surgical waiting area is on the third floor,” the nurse told him. “If you want to stay there, we can let you know as soon as they’re finished.”

“Thank you.”

Patience’s soft voice answered before he had the chance. Immediately, his mouth drew into a tight line. “You’re planning to wait, too?”

“Of course. I’m not going to be able to sleep until I know you’re okay,” she told Ana.

Ana smiled. “But Nigel...”

“Nigel will be fine,” he said. While he wasn’t crazy about Miss Rush hanging around, he wasn’t about to start an argument over his aunt’s hospital gurney. “Don’t you worry.”

“Besides, it’ll do him good to wait,” Patience added, “seeing as how this whole accident is his fault.” She raised her eyes, daring him to say otherwise. “I promise, I’ll go home and feed him as soon as you’re out of surgery.”

The sedatives were starting to kick in. Ana’s smile was weak and sloppy. “Such a good girl,” she murmured before closing her eyes.

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