Bound by the Millionaire's Ring

By: Dani Collins

Then her father had retired and Henri had used a press-gang of euros and guilt trips to bring her aboard. Etienne had believed he was a shoe-in for her father’s position. Instead he had wound up answering to her. He was not happy.

“So it’s true?” he said, his tone bordering on belligerence.

“What’s that?”

“Trella is pregnant?” His tone rang with obviously. “That’s what this press conference is about, isn’t it?”

“I’m need-to-know, same as you.” She pretended to read something on her phone. “But today’s announcement is on another topic entirely.”

A beat of silence, then he asked, “You’re not going to tell me what that topic is?”

“You’ll find out in five minutes. That’s why I invited you to hear it firsthand.”

He swore, muttering something about favoritism.

When she made no response, he said, “So you don’t deny it?”

“Deny what?”

His jaw clenched, then he spat out what had clearly been chewing at him. “You were hired because of your father. You’re not even qualified. You don’t have my experience.”

“I was given a chance because of him, yes. But if I stuff things up, I can assure you they will have no qualms about letting me go.”

A door closed down the hall and they went silent as Ramon’s firm steps approached. She pasted on the same composed smile she would use to introduce him to the rabid hounds of the press.

“Henri.” Etienne greeted Ramon with a deferential nod. He waved at the elevator she’d been holding, inviting Ramon to enter ahead of him.

“Ramon,” he amended as he stepped into the car.

“Of course,” Etienne said, visibly flustered as he came in last and pressed the button for the bottom floor. “The memo didn’t specify.” He sent a malevolent look at Isidora. “I didn’t realize you were here. I suppose your brother is still in Spain with—”

“Bernardo never had a problem telling us apart,” Ramon interjected. “And neither does Isidora. It’s a quality we appreciate in those closest to us. Don’t ever gossip about my family again. I have no qualms about letting you go for that.”

* * *

It wasn’t working. After a brief ripple of flashes and murmurs over his announcement, the callouts quickly turned to Trella.

“Can you confirm the pregnancy?”

“When is she due?”

“Who is the father?”

“Ladies and gentlemen, please confine your questions to today’s topic.” Isidora leaned her fragrant hair under his nose so the microphone picked up her well-modulated voice. “Ramon is retiring from racing to free up his time to restructure the company. These are details that will be of interest to your financial and market readers as well as the sports fans.”

Such a smooth, unruffled command as she stayed on message, just like her father. As competent as she was, however, Etienne was right. She lacked experience. She didn’t have Ramon’s well-honed skill for manipulating the press—techniques he had learned from her father under the worst possible tutelage.

“Cuánto lo siento,” Bernardo had said fifteen years ago, pleading for Angelique’s forgiveness while Ramon had held her small, sweaty palm in his equally clammy hand.

The police thought a public plea for help would urge people to come forward with tips that could rescue their sister from her kidnappers.

“Emotions move people, Angelique,” Bernardo had said. “I don’t mean to cause you more pain. Lo siento mucho. I know you’re frightened and hurting, but please don’t try to hide your tears. People need to see how you are feeling. This is what makes it stick in their minds and moves them to act the way we need them to. Lo lamento mucho. I wish I didn’t have to ask this of you, but I need you to reveal your heart to the camera.”

It had been a disgusting thing to ask of a nine-year-old girl. Using her terror and anguish had bordered on exploitation. Their father hadn’t been able to watch, too filled with self-contempt at putting his shy, sensitive daughter through such an ordeal when she was already so traumatized. But they had been desperate, all of them.

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