Millionaire Under the MistletoeBy: Tessa Radley
Feeling foolish, like the immature child he’d accused her of being almost three years ago, she uncovered her ears and dropped her hands out of his line of sight into her lap and curled them into fists. With hard-won composure, Miranda said, “I’m sure being wealthy beyond belief means you’ve gotten used to throwing money around to make all your problems go away. But not this time. I won’t take a cent.”
His jaw had hardened. A shiver closely allied to fear feathered down her spine as he bit out, “Don’t you think it’s rather late for fine principles?”
Miranda stared at him blankly. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve conveniently forgotten?”
His lips compressed into an impatient line. “Taking money from me.”
“That’s a lie—I’ve never taken a cent from you.”
She’d die of starvation before she did that. He’d caused her family so much grief.
After the funeral, the house where Miranda had grown up with its apple orchard and paddocks had, by necessity, been sold along with her horse Troubadour and Adrian’s expensive racing bicycles. Her mother had never gotten used to the cramped terrace house in a rundown street south of the Thames that the three of them had moved into. Even with Adrian away during the term at the exclusive boarding school Flo had refused to countenance him leaving, space was tight.
Thankfully the lump sum Ironstone Insurance had paid out after her father’s death had been invested wisely, the interest paying for Adrian’s and Miranda’s education as well as a modest retainer to support her mother, though it left Flo only a shadow of the lifestyle she’d once taken for granted.
Yet as Miranda’s gaze remained locked with Callum’s, a deep sense of foreboding closed around her heart.
“So where did the funds for Greenacres come from?” he asked, naming the exclusive culinary school she’d attended. He held up two fingers. “Two years. And your brother’s schooling at St. Martin’s…”
No, please God.
It had been a shock to discover her parents’ precarious financial position after her father’s death. But at least her father had kept his life insurance up-to-date.
Voice trembling, she said, “My father’s life insurance policy paid f—”
“Your father’s suicide voided the policy.”
“No!” She realized she was shaking her head wildly. “That can’t be true.”
Yet even as she denied it, her brain worked furiously. What he said sounded perfectly logical. From the stories her father had told about repudiated claims she knew about fine print. So why had the company paid out the policy after his death when they’d fired her father…had publicly branded him a criminal? And why had she never questioned the settlement?
Because she’d trusted her father not to do anything that would leave her…them…so horribly exposed. Surely he would never have killed himself, cutting them off from the last lifeline available to them?
But he had.
Why had he killed himself, and abandoned them when there’d been so much to live for? It wasn’t as if he’d been guilty. Yet Thomas Owen had left his family vulnerable. And this man, a man she detested, had bailed them out.
She must have said it out loud. Because Callum shifted from one foot to the other and discomfort flashed in his eyes. Her gaze sharpened. He thought she’d been asking why he’d supported them…and that made him uncomfortable. The next why? popped into her head: what did Callum have to feel guilty about?
The answer hit her like a bolt of lightning, filling her with icy shock. Had it been a payoff? So they wouldn’t sue Ironstone Insurance? No. Her mother would never have accepted that.
Or would she have? Miranda wavered. Things had been pretty dire after her father’s death. Had her mother been tempted?
“You can’t have paid for everything.” Please, please, let it not be so.
Something like pity softened his gaze. “Do you want to see the invoices?”
Trepidation made her mouth go dry. “And the allowance my mother receives every month?” She paused. But she had to ask…had to know. “Are you paying that, too?”