A Millionaire for Cinderella

By: Barbara Wallace

Oh, yeah, a real sweetheart, he thought to himself. The way she so casually referred to the brownstone as home rankled him to no end. It was like ten years ago all over again, only this time, instead of a beguiling blonde worming her way into their lives, it was a brunette with hooded eyes and curves that wouldn’t quit.

Interesting that she chose to downplay her sexuality. A tactical decision, perhaps? If so, it didn’t work. A burlap sack couldn’t mute those assets. Even he had to admit to a stir of appreciation the first time he saw her.

She was hiding more than her figure, too. Don’t think he didn’t notice how she looked away when he mentioned having secrets. There was a lot more to Patience Rush than met the eye. And he intended to find out what.

* * *

They spent the time Anna was in surgery on opposite sides of the waiting area, Stuart moving chairs together to create a makeshift work area while Patience made do with out-of-date women’s magazines. Having read up on last fall’s fashions and learned how to spot if her spouse was having an online affair, she was left with nothing to do but lean back in her chair and shoot daggers at Ana’s nephew.

Who did he think he was, suggesting she had something to do with Ana’s fall? Like she could ever. Anastasia Duchenko saved her life with this job. Every morning, she woke up grateful for the opportunity. To be able to walk down the street with her head held high. To not have to scrub herself raw to feel clean. Finally, she had a job she could be proud of. Be a person she could be proud of.

Even if the whole situation was built on a lie, she thought, guilt washing over her the way it always did.

She wasn’t proud of her behavior—add it to a long list of regrets—but she made amends every single day by working hard and taking care of Ana. You wouldn’t find a better housekeeper and companion on Beacon Hill. She would never—ever—jeopardize the gift Ana had given her.

Tell Stuart Duchenko that, though. If he learned she’d lied her way into the job, he’d kick her to the curb before she could say but... And who knows what he’d do if he learned what she used to do for a living before finding Ana? She shuddered to think.

The sound of rustling papers caught her attention. Looking over, she saw Stuart pinching the bridge of his nose. The man looked worn-out. Patience had to admit, for all his jerkiness, he appeared genuinely concerned for his great-aunt. The adoration Ana talked about seemed to run both ways.

“Mr. Duchenko?” A small African-American nurse in a bright pink smock rounded the corner, bringing them both to their feet. “Dr. Richardson just called. He’ll be down shortly to talk with you, but he wanted you to know that your aunt came through the surgery without problem and is on her way to recovery.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” The words rushed from Patience’s mouth, drawing Stuart’s attention. Their eyes met, and she saw agreement in their blue depths. In this, they were on the same page.

“Can we see her?” he asked.

“She’ll be in recovery for several hours, I’m afraid,” the nurse replied with a shake of her head. “In fact, considering the hour, they might not move her until morning. You’re better off getting some sleep and coming back tomorrow.”

Patience watched as a protest worked its way across the man’s features. She had a feeling if he insisted, he’d get his way. Better judgment must have stepped in—either that or fatigue—because he nodded. “How long before Dr. Richardson gets here?”

“He said he was on his way down, so I don’t think it’ll be more than five or ten minutes.”

It turned out to be closer to twenty. When he did arrive, Dr. Richardson gave a succinct report, without a whole lot of new information. They’d inserted a plate and some screws to stabilize the break. Ana came through the surgery without issue. They’d monitor her throughout the night for complications. No, he wasn’t sure how long she’d need to stay in the hospital.

Still, Patience left the waiting room feeling that Ana was in good hands. Another plus: Stuart was on the phone so she was spared any more accusations. From here on in, she’d do her best to avoid the man.

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