Stolen the billionaire d.., p.23
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       The Billionaire Deception, p.23
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         Part #1 of Stolen series by Holly Rayner

  Seth had me on his arm as we walked into the midst of the party but he had a distant and anxious look on his face and I had to wonder if he even remembered that I was here.

  “Hey, there he is.” An older man with a smart-looking platinum haired woman at his elbow spoke to Seth as we passed by. Seth was suddenly focused and I marveled at the quick transformation.

  “Howard! Louise! It’s great to see you both. Louise,” he said, turning towards the older woman and taking her hand. He brought it to his lips without taking his eyes from hers as he said, “You get younger every time I see you. What is your secret?”

  Howard laughed a deep, hearty laugh. His wife gave him a dirty look and then with a brilliant smile in Seth’s direction she said, “Well, it’s certainly not the company I keep. How are you dear?”

  “I get better every day,” he told her with a wink. “Let me introduce this lovely young lady to you. Howard and Louise Barker this is Erin Summers.”

  It was Howard’s turn to flirt. He took my hand and made a grand play of kissing it the way Seth had done with his wife’s. Then he said, “I’m so delighted to meet you.”

  “I’m pleased to meet you both,” I told them.

  “Howard is one of our shareholders,” Seth told me. “Howard, Erin is our CBDO. She’s been with us a few months now and I have to say we’re lucky we found her.”

  “And where did you find her?” That voice came from behind us. I was still holding onto Seth’s arm and I felt his muscles tighten as he turned us around slowly to face James Hunter. My stomach drew up into instant knots.

  “Good evening, Father.”

  “Seth.” James Hunter was looking at me. His blue eyes were the same shade as his son’s, but they were as cold as ice as they held my gaze. “And you are?”

  I held out my hand, praying that my palm wasn’t sweaty and said, “Erin Summers.”

  James took my hand, very briefly and then said, “Summers… do you have family in the business?”

  “No sir.”

  “Hmm,” he said. “Well, it looks like you got the job and the CEO. I don’t know if your work is any good, but it’s fast, I’ll give you that.”

  I was in shock. Did he really just say that to me? In front of people, no less. I had to remind myself to shut my mouth when I realized it was agape. I waited a few beats, just knowing that Seth would say something. When he didn’t I finally said, “If you come by my office sometime sir, I’d be happy to show you how good my work is. I’m well qualified for the position.”

  James smiled, but it wasn’t a pleasant or happy expression as he said, “I’m sure you’re qualified for many positions, wouldn’t you agree, son?”

  I could feel my face turning bright red and it was burning up. I was furious and only got more so as Seth continued to do nothing. I glanced at him and he wouldn’t even meet my gaze. Howard and Louise were standing behind him and they both looked as embarrassed as I felt. I finally realized that Seth had lost his spine when his father walked in the room.

  “Maybe I’m misreading you sir but your implications are offensive to me. I’d appreciate it if…”

  He didn’t let me finish. He gave a glance around the ridiculously large room we were standing in and said, “This is my place and I won’t be told by anyone what I can and cannot do in it.”

  “Father, please…” Seth’s voice was a whisper, and instead of an outraged tone, it was more of a whiney plea.

  “Please what?” James said. When Seth didn’t answer he turned back on me and said, “I do believe you two deserve one another.” Then he walked away as quickly as he appeared.

  When he was out of range Seth looked down at me and said, “Erin, I’m…”

  “Don’t bother,” I told him, wrenching my arm free. I heard him say my name again as I stormed off, but I wasn’t about to stop. How dare he stand there and let anyone talk to me in that fashion. I was appalled. I found one of the circulating waiters and grabbed a glass of champagne off his tray. After downing that I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm down enough to think. I could let my anger get the best of me, or I could take this opportunity to further my own agenda. Looking back across the room I saw Seth was conversing with another one of his executives, no doubt once again acting like he was on top of his game. I saw my chance and turned towards a hallway that was as wide as a city street and made my way down it. On one side of me was a wall decorated with expensive artwork and the other side was made of floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto the bay. It was gorgeous and it made me hate James Hunter that much more.

  As I was gazing out the window with those thoughts running through my head I heard a man’s voice and a name I shouldn’t be hearing.

  “Adele Morgan?” In spite of myself, I shivered. I hadn’t heard anyone other than Louisa call me that in over six years. I continued staring out the window. I could see the reflection of an older man in a sharp suit standing behind me. “Adele?” he said again. This time I took a deep breath and turned around.

  “I’m so sorry; I think you must have mistaken me for someone else…”

  “No, there is no way that you aren’t little Adele Morgan. That is unless she had a twin sister I didn’t know about.” I wracked my brain trying to think of where I might have met this man. Was he a friend of my father’s? How the hell did he know who I was? I decided to keep up the charade.

  I smiled sweetly and said, “I’m Erin Summers. I’m not sure who Adele Morgan is…”

  He laughed. Somehow this man knew who I was. He was going to blow this for me. Everything I’d struggled for over the past ten years… gone. I had to wonder if I’d be better off admitting the truth and asking him to keep it between us. But, if he knew who I was, he obviously knew who my father was and what James Hunter did. If he was an ally of James’s then I was screwed.

  “I’m not sure why you want to insist you’re not her. You look just like your mother.” When he said that another woman suddenly came around the corner towards us from the other end of the hall. I smiled at her and when she was out of sight I took the older man by his arm and pulled him into the room behind us.

  We were in a library of sorts… maybe an office. At that moment, I didn’t care. “What makes you so insistent that I’m this Adele person?”

  “I knew your parents well. I was one of your father’s clients when the company was still in his hands. He was a good man and your mother was a great lady. I was at your home for dinner more than once. I think the last time I saw you, you were only four or five, but your face and your hair… those jade green eyes, that’s all Sally Morgan through and through.”

  “What is your name?” I asked him.

  “Oh dear. Excuse me. I’m Phillip,” he said, holding out his hand. “Phillip Granger.”

  “Mr. Granger, are you a friend of the Hunters?”

  “Please, call me Phillip. No Miss, I’m not a “friend” of theirs. I suppose Seth is okay but I don’t know him that well yet. I am no fan of James Hunter… unfortunately I bought my shares before I realized just how badly I disliked the man, I may have invested elsewhere.”

  Knowing that I didn’t have any other choice at the moment I said, “I am Adele Morgan… but please Mr. Granger…”

  “Phillip,” he corrected.

  “Phillip. Please, I don’t want anyone to know that.”

  “I’m capable of keeping a confidence,” he said. “But I’m terribly curious as to why. Why would you change your name? Your parents were wonderful people, I was so sad when they died. Then I heard about you being left with nothing…” He looked sickened by that and I suddenly had a feeling that perhaps I’d found an ally.

  “You know what James Hunter did to me?”

  “I heard rumors that James’s purchase of the company wasn’t solely done on the up and up, so to speak. I always wondered what happened to you. Your father was so proud of you, you know? He used to brag all the time about how smart you were and how someday you would take hi
s company to new heights.” I felt the tears burning the corners of my eyes as I listened to him. His words only served to renew my convictions. He suddenly said, “Adele, why are you here? Does James Hunter not know who you are?”

  “I’m not sure,” I said. “I didn’t think he did… but he was so rude to me earlier. Tonight is the first time I’ve actually met him face to face, although I’ve worked for the company for nearly three months. I came here with Seth tonight…” I felt my chest tighten at the thought, at the memory of him just standing there, cowering in front of his father as James proceeded to walk all over me.

  “How do you know Seth?”

  I looked into Phillips eyes and what I saw there was compassion and sorrow. I needed to trust someone and something about this man told me that I could trust him. I began talking, telling him everything from the day I found out my parents were dead until tonight. I told him about intending to use Seth and developing feelings for him as well… if I was going to trust him, I was going all out. When I finished he looked even more sad.

  “I’m so sorry for you, Adele. I can’t imagine being so heartless that you could take away a child’s legacy from their dead parents and still look at yourself in the mirror every day.”

  “I have a feeling that James Hunter enjoys looking at himself in the mirror.”

  “I have to say that sadly, I agree. He is definitely one of the most narcissistic people I have had the displeasure of knowing. Have you found anything out that will help you in your cause yet?”

  “Nothing solid, but Seth has told me some things… what he can remember, but I honestly don’t think he knows what James did, exactly. He was a kid too when it all took place.”

  “I can see that you are very fond of him.”

  “I am, but I’m afraid I may have realized too late that his fear of his father runs a lot deeper than whatever feelings he might have for me.”

  “I want to help you,” he said.

  I felt a surge of hope once again. I was getting nowhere… I needed help. “Thank you, I can’t even tell you how much that means to me.”

  “I can imagine. I loved my parents too and if anyone had tried to take what I had left of them when they were gone, I would have fought to the death for it. I have the good fortune as a shareholder to have access to a lot of private documents. I’ve never had reason to look through the old ones before, but I will be doing that now.”

  I lost my head for a second and threw my arms around the portly little man. I felt his body shake as he laughed. When I let go of him my face was hot with embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I’m just so grateful.”

  “Don’t be sorry. It’s been a long time since a fat old bald man such as myself received such an affectionate hug from a pretty young lady.” He took two business cards and an ink pen out of his breast pocket and handed it to me. “My numbers are on there. Write yours down for me on the other one.”

  I did as he asked and he said, “I will be in touch. If you need to get ahold of me before that, A—Erin,” he said with a smile. Calling me that let me know that he was willing to keep my secret safe. “Feel free to call me anytime.”

  “Thank you so much. I will always be grateful.”

  “I hope I can help you,” he said. “I will do my best.” I stood rooted to the spot while he left. I felt like the stars were finally lining up on my side.

  ~

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  ~

 
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