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Mastered By My Guardian

By:Opal Carew

Chelsea walked across the lobby with her suitcase and carry-on in tow, headed to the huge lineup of people waiting to check out. There’d been some big conference at the hotel while she’d been here and it seemed like all of them were checking out at the same time and none of them knew about express checkout.

She sighed, thinking of the note she’d found slipped under her door this morning, telling her there was a problem with her credit card and asking her to stop by reception. She stepped behind a tall woman with a wide-brimmed hat and her smaller companion who were chatting in a language Chelsea didn’t recognize.

Her cell phone chimed and she pulled it from her purse.

“So how’s New York?” asked Sandy, her office manager and close friend.

“It’s fine. It’s New York.”

The women ahead of her in line moved forward so Chelsea grabbed the handles of her suitcase and carry-on in one hand and awkwardly dragged them forward to keep up.

“You don’t sound very excited. I’d love to visit New York.”

“Yeah, well, I come every year at this time to meet with the lawyers and sign the endless papers they collect up for me.”

Just another way Zane kept control of her. Insisting she had to come to the city to meet with the lawyers in person rather than just receiving the documents in the mail. But he was in charge of the corporation that she reluctantly shared with him. At least she’d gotten him to agree that he no longer be present while she met with them. His cool, dominating presence just unnerved her.

“So when are you coming back?” Sandy asked.

Chelsea frowned. “You know I’m coming back today.”

“Yeah, but I thought maybe you might change your mind. You really aren’t going to stay for the weekend? Aren’t you worried he’ll get mad?”

Chelsea shrugged. “Why should I care if he gets mad?”

“He is your stepfather. And he controls your trust fund.”

She pursed her lips. “He is not my stepfather.”

In fact, Zane was her guardian. He was the son of her father’s business partner and when both their parents had died in a plane crash when she was sixteen, Zane being ten years older than her, had become her guardian. It was efficient, since fifty percent of the shares were bequeathed to her, but he controlled those shares through a trust, so even now, she had very little say in the company. But she hated being under his thumb and had decided a couple of years ago that she’d build her own company and let him have at it with No Limits, the high tech conglomerate that led the market in memory chip technology.

“Whatever. Do you really want to defy him?

She frowned. “Screw him. I’m not going to drop everything and come running every time he decides he wants a meeting. He never listens to me with respect to NLI anyway.”

“Okay, well I’ll see you when you get back. Maybe we can catch a movie together.”

Chelsea smiled. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

Sandy had been her friend ever since she’d moved to San Diego two years ago. They had a lot of laughs together.

After she hung up the phone, she glanced at the line-up. It was moving pretty fast, but it looked like another ten minutes at least. She decided to check her email.

Finally, she was at the front of the line waiting for the next available reception clerk. A man finished paying and moved away, then the young man behind the counter signaled for her to step forward. She rolled her suitcases to the desk.

She opened her purse and pulled out the notice she’d received under her door this morning, then placed it on the counter.

“I was informed there’s some problem with my credit card,” she said.

The clerk glanced at it, then at her. “Yes, Ms. Barrett. Just a moment.” He picked up a phone and called someone, then turned his attention to her again. “If you would just step to the side for a moment. Someone will be over in a second to talk to you.”

She pulled her bags to the side, a little annoyed that he waved another person over, leaving her standing here.

“Ms. Barrett?”

She glanced around to see a tall man in a crisp suit standing beside her.

“I’m Mr. Diegler, Assistant Manager. If you’ll come with me we’ll get this whole thing straightened out as soon as possible.”

“Good. I’m sure it’s just some sort of mistake.” The card was nowhere near the limit and the expiry date was two years from now.

She followed him across the lobby and down a short hallway to an office. It had a nice view of the colorful potted plants at the entryway of the hotel.

She sat down in the chair facing his desk as he sat behind it.

“As I said, there must be some kind of mistake, because—”

“There’s no mistake. We called the bank and they confirmed that the card has been deactivated.”

Her stomach clenched. “But that’s impossible.”

This was the only card she had and she had no other way to pay for the hotel bill. The urge to pick up the phone and call Zane zipped through her brain, but she knew that was just a panic reaction. She would not turn to him for help.

Surely there was some other way.

“But I… don’t understand,” she said in a shaky voice.

He held up his hand. “Please, don’ worry. The bank staff told me there was a note on the account giving a phone number of someone at your company that could straighten things out.”

“Oh,” was all she could manage.

Mr. Diegler handed her a slip of paper with a phone number written on it. She didn’t recognize the number.

She pulled out her cell phone and dialed. It only rang once before someone on the other end picked up.

“Hello, Chelsea.”

At his deep, smooth as silk baritone voice, anxiety coiled through her.

It was Zane.

Through gritted teeth as the realization of what had happened sank through her, she said, “God damn. Did you have a stop put on my credit card?”

* * *

Chelsea marched out the front door to the limousine she’d watched pull up in front of the hotel from Mr. Diegler’s office window.

Zane’s limousine.

It annoyed her no end that all it had taken was a few words from Zane to Mr. Diegler to clear up the whole issue. Mr. Diegler had hung up the phone saying the bill had been taken care of and she was free to go.

She should have known better than to keep using the credit card attached to her trust, but the limit was so much larger than she could get on her own, either personally or through her still growing business. If she hadn’t been able to get Bill to invest, as well as finding that angel investor, she never would have been able to start the business at all.

Except that Zane had told her he would loan her the money to get started, but she’d known that was a ploy to keep her under his thumb. She wanted nothing to do with him or his money.

This company was hers and had nothing to do with Zane Chase.

The driver opened the back door of the limo. She knew Zane was in the car the moment the door opened even though she didn’t glance inside. His presence was palpable. She slid inside, taking a deep breath to calm her nerves.

“It’s nice to see you, Chelsea.”

“Yeah? I can’t say I feel the same way.”

She glared at him, but almost faltered at the sight of his incredible eyes, a blue so clear and deep she’d always been mesmerized by them. He smiled and the curve of his full lips, contrasting his strong, square jaw, was just so incredibly masculine, yet alluring, her heart raced. It was always like this. His intensely masculine presence threw her totally off kilter and his extreme good looks set her heart pounding.

But she hated him. Hated how he tried to control her.

“Why did you cancel my card?”

“How else was I going to ensure you spend the weekend with me?”

She raised an eyebrow. “You don’t really think I’d spend the weekend with you after that stunt, do you?”

“Then why did you get in the car?”

“I assumed you’d give me a ride to the airport. After all this, I’m running late.” She glanced at her watch. “I need to be there in thirty minutes.”

“I’m not driving you to the airport.”

“Then let me out and I’ll get a cab.”

“Really? And how do you intend to pay for it?”

“Cash,” she lied.

He laughed. “I doubt it. You never carry more than twenty dollars.”

It was true, She relied on her debit and credit cards for most of her needs. And she had a sinking feeling he’d put a hold on her account, too. He certainly had the power to do it.

“So you’re basically kidnapping me?”

“I think that overstating it, but…” He shrugged. “You really left me no choice. I repeatedly invited you and you refused. The same thing happened last year. But if you like, I can drop you at the corner and you can contact your business partner and have him wire you some money.”

But they both knew she wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t want to look weak in front of Bill, either for being controlled by Zane or needing to rely on Bill for money.

She scowled, wishing she had been smart enough to get a separate credit card that was not connected to her trust a long time ago.

Though a little voice inside her insisted that with Zane’s knowledge of trusts and all things financial, he probably had a way of controlling her that went beyond her reliance on the trust.