A Millionaire for Cinderella

By: Barbara Wallace

“Is that her real name?”

Good question. Strangely enough, he hoped the quirky moniker was real. “That’s for you to tell me.” He gave him what details he knew.

“You’re not giving the investigator much to work with,” Bob replied.

“He’s worked with less.”

“True. What client number should I bill?”

“SD100.” On the other end of the line, there was a soft intake of breath. Stuart seldom used his discretionary fund, but the firm’s investigator was the best around. He’d reimburse the firm later.


“What?” Stuart asked.

The associate paused. “This might take a while. We’ve tapped him for a couple other projects.”

And clients always came before personal. Stuart understood. “Just tell him to get to it as soon as he can.”

In the meantime, he’d just have to keep a close eye on Patience Rush. Thinking about her eyes, he couldn’t help but smile. There were worse jobs in the world.

* * *

A short while later, having showered and changed, he headed downstairs only to hear muffled voices coming from the kitchen. One muffled voice actually. He found Patience crouched over Nigel’s food dish, brandishing a dustpan and broom. “You’d think a cat who acts like he’s starving wouldn’t drop pieces of food all over the place,” she muttered. “One of these days, I’m going to toss the whole bowl out. Let’s see what you do then.”

A chuckle rose in his throat. Nigel had a way of making all of them talk as if he understood. He leaned a shoulder against the door frame. “Not a cat person, I take it.”

She gasped before looking up at him with a glare. “Do you always sneak up on people?”

There they were again, those chocolate-diamond eyes. He crossed his legs to keep his jeans from growing tight. “I didn’t know walking around the house was considered sneaking.”

“Then you should walk louder,” she replied. “Or wear shoes.”

He looked down at his bare feet. “I’ll keep that in mind. May I ask what the cat did to earn your wrath?”

“Nigel isn’t a cat. He’s a four-legged spoiled brat.”

As had been all of Ana’s cats. His aunt tended to overindulge the strays she adopted. Pushing herself to her feet, Patience swayed her way across the room to the trash can. Stuart found himself wondering if the seductive gait was natural or on purpose. “Sounds like the two of you have a great relationship,” he remarked.

“Mine and Nigel’s relationship is just fine. Why?” She took her foot off the receptacle latch, causing the lid to close with a loud slap. “Afraid I’ll try to push him down the stairs, too?”

“Nah. A woman as smart as you would know hurting Nigel is the quickest way to getting on Ana’s bad side.”

She gave him a long look. “Was that supposed to be a compliment?”

In a way, yes. He did think she was smart. “If you want to take it as such.”

“Gosh, thanks. I’ll try not to let it go to my head.”

Smart and quick-witted. She was dressed similarly to yesterday in jeans, a T-shirt and a cardigan sweater, her hair pulled back with one of those plastic hair bands. For the first time he looked closely at her features. Yesterday, he’d been too distracted by her eyes, but today he noticed more intricate details like the long slope of her nose and the way her teeth met her lower lip in a slight overbite. A two-inch scar cut across her right cheekbone. Time had caused it to fade. In fact, with makeup, it’d be barely noticeable, but since she was again bare faced, he could see the jagged edges of a cut that should have had stitches. The scar bothered him, like seeing a crack on the surface of a crystal vase. It didn’t belong.

Patience cleared her throat. Realizing he’d been staring, he covered his action by adjusting his glasses. This might be one of those rare moments when he was grateful for them. He detested wearing the heavy black frames. The look might be considered stylish now, but it simply reminded him of his younger, awkward days. Then again, maybe a reminder was a good thing, given the awareness swirling around his insides this morning.

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