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Pawn of the Billionaire

By:Kristin Frasier & Abigail Moore


I stared out at the gathering dusk. It wasn’t that late, but I was tired. I leaned back into the comfortable chair. It was the one chair in the place that didn’t look as if it fitted, didn’t match. It was too large, too dark, the leather ancient and polished through countless years of use. I didn’t know who had made it, he must’ve been dead a century or more, but I thanked him silently every time I threw myself into that chair.

It was a long time since I’d had to spend whole days crouching in front of a computer screen, but today had been difficult, a lot of problems and a team that seemed to be unable all of a sudden to make decisions. I’d have to do something about that. But tonight, I’d stay home. Tonight, I’d lounge in this chair. It seemed to have been designed just for me, easing out the kinks in my neck and shoulders and revitalizing me within moments. I’d never part with it.

David quietly put the tumbler of whiskey down on the table beside me, made sure it was within reach, and waited deferentially until I nodded at him to go. He’d been my butler for nearly five years now. I grinned to myself. I’d taken him from my father, just like I had the chair. Father had grumbled, but David had wanted to travel, and this way he stayed in the family. Eventually he’d go back to the Sandiford Estate. His family had served mine for generations.

Lawrence was sitting quietly at the desk in the corner of the library. My personal secretary knew how to blend into the background. I couldn’t imagine life without him. I looked over at him.

“I don’t know what I’ve got on tonight, Lawrence, but cancel whatever it might be. I’m going to stay in. Tell the kitchen I just want a light dinner, please, and then you’ll be able to go home.”

“Thank you, sir.”

I didn’t know where he lived. I suspected he didn’t actually have a place outside his apartment here. But that was okay. He was always here when I needed him.

The phone rang at that point, and I scowled. I didn’t want to be disturbed. Lawrence answered as he always did. I raised an eyebrow as his voice became even more deferential — if that was possible.

“Good evening, Lord Sandiford.” He raised his eyebrows at me, and I nodded wearily. Better to talk to my father now than have him ring me later on. I glanced at the clock. It was really early for him to be ringing me.

“Of course, Lord Sandiford, Mr. James will take your call now.” And he moved over, handed me the handset, and put a notepad and my fountain pen on the table beside my whiskey.

“Good evening, Father. How are you?” I could sense the grumbling discontent before he spoke, so I wasn’t surprised when he launched into a tirade.

“James, my boy. You must dread my calls. I always seem to want money these days.”

“Well, that’s true. But if you didn’t, I’d never hear from you.” I joked, trying to raise his spirits. Lately my father had seemed rather depressed, and I wondered what the difficulty was. Still, I could solve the money problems without hesitation, and no doubt I would have to throw money at the other problem too. That problem being my brother.

I crossed my legs, letting my left one swing idly as I listened.

“Look, James. The South Wing roof that you agreed should be replaced. Well, the Listed Buildings people have been over the place with the contractors. They think it’s time the whole roof was replaced, or the timbers won’t be preserved correctly.” His sigh was audibly frustrated. “It’s just one problem after another. Now they’ve brought me an estimate of three million.”

I sucked my breath in at that. Even me. That was one hell of a lot of money just for a roof. All right, I could pay it no problems, but I still wondered if we were being taken for a ride here.

“That’s a bloody lot of money, Father.” I chewed my lip. “They’re going to have to come up with a very detailed proposal for that lot.”

“I know.” Father was obviously frustrated. “But the Council chap was insistent that I’d have to get the work done.” He was silent for a minute. I knew what was coming next.

“Or they’ll put a compulsory purchase order on it. You know.”

I smiled. “Father, don’t worry about that. They absolutely don’t want to take it over. It’ll cost them a fortune. Anyway, I can pay. You tell them to ring me here tomorrow.” I stood up, beginning to pace around the room.

“They must come up with a full set of proposals, including crediting the cost of any salvage like lead and the peg tiles.” I thought for a moment. “Tell them I’m financing it and they must send me all their documentation directly. I’ll have a team go over it here. I bet if they think I’ll bring a US team over, the quotation will come down a lot.” I had a brainwave. “And I’ll ring the Masons. They’ve had a lot of roofing work done recently. I can find out what it cost them. But, of course lead is expensive and so are handmade tiles now.”