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His Millionaire Maid

By:Coleen Kwan

Chapter One

“My life sucks,” Nina Beaumont declared, glaring at the road ahead of her, hands clenched around the steering wheel of her BMW.

A snort came from her cell phone mounted in its hands-free cradle. “Yeah, right,” her best friend, Lindsey, said. “It sucks to have a megamillionaire daddy like Carson Beaumont. I’m sure most of America can sympathize with that.”

“Most of America doesn’t know how difficult it is working for that megamillionaire daddy.”

“Come on, Nina. After all the clashes between you two, your dad’s just relieved you’re finally working for him.”

Nina blew out a sigh. “But if I wasn’t working for him, I wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“What kind of mess?”

“A horrible, never-saw-this-coming kind of mess.” Nina chewed on her lip. “It’s just hit me out of nowhere…and now I don’t know how I’m going to face everyone at the office when I get back to San Francisco—”

Her voice broke up, and a lump formed in her throat. Damn it, why did this have to happen now? Why did being a Beaumont continue to screw with her life?

“Nina?” Concern threaded Lindsey’s voice. “You sound really upset. Tell me what’s going on.”

Nina lifted her foot off the gas pedal and eased the car down to forty miles per hour. She was cruising through redwood forests and rolling pastures with the ocean sparkling in the near distance—gorgeous countryside she barely noticed. She was also headed in the complete opposite direction of where she was supposed to be—and wasn’t that an apt metaphor for her entire life? Instead of heading south toward San Francisco, she was going north, winding through Mendocino County, not with any specific destination in mind but because the thought of returning to Beaumont, Inc. headquarters and facing the work colleagues she’d thought were her friends made her feel sick to her stomach.

“I came up to Sonoma yesterday,” she said. Beaumont, Inc. owned a string of exclusive upmarket golf resorts, and she’d gone to the one in Sonoma County for a human resources meeting, an ordinary gathering about work policies. “And this morning before I left, Harry, my manager, called to tell me I got a promotion—”

“But that’s fantastic news!” Lindsey interrupted. “You never told me you were in line for a promotion.”

“Well, I never thought I’d be chosen. I was so stunned I was speechless.”

“You, speechless? I find that hard to believe. So what’s the problem?”

“In all the confusion, I forgot I had some questions for Harry. So I called him back. But an intern answered, and when she went to look for him, instead of putting me on hold, she left the phone on her desk.” Nina sucked in a deep breath. “And I overheard a couple of people talking about me.”

“Oh, no. I’m guessing it wasn’t anything good?”

“They were talking about my promotion, and they both agreed that no one else stood a chance against me, no matter how hard they worked, because I’m a fricking Beaumont.” She heard the bitterness in her voice but couldn’t suppress it. “Can you believe it? Doesn’t matter if I deserved the promotion or not—everyone assumes I only got it because my daddy owns the company.”

“You work hard; you don’t trade on your name. You shouldn’t listen to idle gossip.”

Nina shook her head. “This was Ryan and Fiona talking. We’ve worked late nights together, gone out for Friday night drinks, talked about ourselves. I thought we were friends.” Her heart panged. That was the worst part, finding out they had never really been friends and could never be friends because of who she was—a Beaumont heiress.

She should be used to it by now. Lindsey was her only true friend. They’d met in college when Nina was going through her rebellious stage, rejecting her family and trying to embarrass them. Lindsey had always supported her, even at her brattiest worst. But even she couldn’t fully understand the unique torments Nina suffered.

“If they say things like that behind your back, then you’re better off without them,” Lindsey said.

The problem wasn’t just with Ryan and Fiona, though. She had never fit in with the other rich kids at the exclusive school her father had insisted she attend. She’d gone out of her way to mix with ordinary people, but there’d always been a change in their attitude—subtle or otherwise—when they learned who she was. She’d become sensitized to that, hyperaware that being rich—and obscenely rich at that—affected people’s perception of her. Affected how they treated her. She was never sure what people really thought of her.

Like Oliver, her ex. After many dating disasters, she’d thought she’d finally found a man who loved her for herself, only to discover he was more in love with her trust fund. The memory caused the fist around her heart to clench even tighter. Six months after their breakup, his betrayal still hurt.

“Damn it,” she blurted. “For once in my life I’d like to live somewhere where no one knows who I am, without my money or my last name to screw things up.”

There was a pause on the other end of the call before Lindsey said, “Oh, honey, that’s a nice idea, but you wouldn’t last more than two months.”

“Is that what you think?” Nina took the next curve in the road a tad too fast, causing her to tap on the brakes as she negotiated this twisty section of the highway. “You’re supposed to be on my side.”

“I am, and I love you, but let’s be serious. You might have been a rebel a few years ago, but you’re past that stage. You’re wiser now, and since you went to work for your dad you’ve—dare I say it—gotten used to a cushier lifestyle. I bet you’re cruising in your swanky BMW right now, wearing designer jeans and sunglasses. Am I right or am I right?”

Nina shifted guiltily in her leather seat. “Okay, yeah. But the BMW was a gift from my dad. I’d never have bought a car like this. And as for these jeans, you talked me into them, and—” She let out a groan. “Oh, Lindsey. How did I end up like this? Where did I go wrong? Remember college? We used to shop at thrift stores and hitchhike and survive on ramen noodles.”

“You were trying to stick it to your father, but I had no choice,” Lindsey pointed out. “And, frankly, I don’t miss those days. I’m doing great now, and I enjoy spending the money I’ve earned.”

Unlike Nina, Lindsey had graduated from college with honors, was a rising star at her publishing company, and had a nice, steady boyfriend. Lindsey’s life was on the up and up, whereas Nina’s seemed to hit one dead end after another.

“I’m not trying to stick it to my dad anymore.”

A year and a half ago, she’d become mixed up with a group of hard-core radicals, but when their protest at an economic forum had turned violent, she’d realized she didn’t share their nihilist views. But by then she’d already been arrested, caught up with the other glass-smashing thugs. Her father and his high-powered attorney had gotten her out of serious trouble, and she knew that she owed him. That was why she’d finally agreed to come on board at Beaumont, Inc.—to mend things between her and her dad. At the time it had seemed like a good, sensible decision for once in her life, but now she wasn’t sure about anything.

“The thing is, I’m sick of how my life is panning out. I’m sick of being Nina Beaumont. I can never get away from her. In fact, I should just stop in the nearest town”—she peered at a signpost indicating the next town was a place called Hartley—“and go incognito for a month or so.”

Lindsey chuckled. “Do it, then. I dare you.”

“I’m serious!”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll humor you for a little while. So if you did go incognito, what about your job? Are you just going to resign in a fit?”

“No,” Nina said, thinking rapidly. “But I’m due to take some vacation time starting next week anyway, so no one will miss me for at least three weeks. After that I can arrange something with Dad, depending on how it goes.”

“You really shouldn’t waste your vacation on a wacky scheme like this. Your dad has a house in Hawaii, doesn’t he? Why don’t you go there and catch some sun? You’ll feel heaps better.”

“You don’t think I can do this?”

“Oh, I think you’re capable of anything.” There was no mistaking the amusement in Lindsey’s voice.

Nina pressed her lips together. If her best friend and biggest supporter didn’t take her seriously, then how would she ever break free? She firmed her grip on the wheel as she approached another bend. Afternoon sunlight flashed through tall trees, temporarily blinding her. She eased the car around the corner, squinting against the glare, only to find herself barreling straight toward a fat brown duck waddling across the road.


She slammed on the brakes, instinctively veering away from the bird. The duck squawked and took off across the windshield, blocking her view. Tires squealed, and Nina screamed as the car skidded off the road before hurtling down a steep embankment. For several heart-stopping seconds, everything was a blur of whipping greenery, and then she was out in the open, heading straight for…a large pit filled with still black water.