Millionaire Under the MistletoeBy: Tessa Radley
But her father’s assistant had insisted it was true: the police had been, and had taken her father away. Miranda needed to get hold of her mother urgently. Callum Ironstone would be issuing a press statement soon.
At barely eighteen, Miranda’s first sighting of Callum Ironstone on television had swung rapidly from interest in the handsome devil with dark hair, a sensual mouth and eyes that held a mesmerizing intensity, to hatred when she’d heard what he had to say. The press statement had been brief but damning.
All of it lies. By the time it came to an end, Miranda was numb with disbelief.
There had been a mistake. Yet Callum Ironstone clearly didn’t believe that. Rage had set in. Her father was not a thief.
Her father was granted bail, and emerged from the courthouse pale, shaken, but determined to clear his name. He had done nothing to justify the indignity the Ironstones had heaped upon him after two decades loyal service. Miranda had been confident it would all be sorted out.
But what followed had been traumatic. And, in the end, Thomas Owen simply gave up. Miranda could still remember the set, serious face of the policewoman who’d knocked on the door to break the news that her father was dead.
Then came the funeral. Miranda’s hands grew clammy and nerves fluttered in her stomach at the memory of the last terrible occasion she’d seen Callum Ironstone—it still made her cringe. Devastated by her father’s death, her white-hot hatred boiling over, she’d confronted him in the stone-walled forecourt of the church.
The men beside him moved to cut her off. But she barged past them. Standing in front of Callum, she inspected him with angry eyes. “How could you take a good man’s life and destroy it?” she’d challenged.
His jaw had set, and his face had grown harder than the marble tombstones in the churchyard. “He stole money from me.”
“So you decided to teach him a lesson and humiliate him?”
A flush seared his carved cheekbones.
A man who resembled Callum—a brother perhaps—stepped forward. “Wait a minute, young lady—”
She brushed him aside, focusing all her emotion on Callum. “You killed him. You know that?” Tears of rage and pain spilled onto her cheeks. “He worked for you for twenty years, you gave him a gold watch, yet you never gave him a chance?”
Her father had been given no opportunity to avow his innocence. Callum had relentlessly pushed the police to the conclusion he’d wanted.
“You’re overwrought,” he said dismissively.
That made the ball of anger swell inside her. “And what’s going to happen to my mother, my brother?” Me? “Now that you’ve destroyed our family?”
Callum gave her a stony stare. He raised a dark, devilish eyebrow and asked sardonically, “Finished?”
She hadn’t been. Not by a long shot. But before she could vent any more he’d cut her off, snapping “Grow up” in a supercilious, condescending way that made her feel childishly inadequate.
Callum’s words had been unkindly prophetic. She’d had to grow up, and quickly. Much as Miranda loved her mother, she knew Flo could never be practical. Overnight Miranda had become the adult in the home. There’d been no choice.
And now that same man was trying offer her money. A bribe?
Miranda felt Callum Ironstone start as she spoke. The sensitive skin of her nape prickled. A moment later a pair of bright blue eyes glared down at her. She’d never noticed their color before.
“What do you mean ‘No’?”
Closing the folder with a snap, Miranda slammed it down against the glossy wood. “I mean I have no intention of accepting your blood money.”
“Blood money?” he said softly, dangerously, and his gaze narrowed to an intimidating glitter.
She refused to be cowed. “Yes, blood money for what you did to my father.”
“Your father stole from Ironstone Insurance.”
Miranda shook her head. “You got the wrong man.”
“Give me strength.” Callum made a sharp, impatient sound. “You’re not a child anymore.”
“Stop it!” She put her hands over her ears.
Blue eyes bored into hers.