Hidden Treasure

By: Melody Anne

Chapter One

One year later

Brielle took deep breaths and watched the floor numbers click higher and higher. Why was she in Seattle? And why was she here to beg? Because she’d run out of options.

She’d really thought she would be fine on her own. She’d worked in a retail shop in a mall in Washington D.C., thrilled to leave Maine behind, even though it had meant also leaving her beloved condo and moving into a tiny studio apartment. But the place she’d been working had gone out of business, and she couldn’t get another job to save her life. She’d sold off most of what she owned to make the move, but the whole “adventure” had bought her only a little time — a year, to be exact.

So here she was, in her father’s new office building. No, she wasn’t the master of her fate, but she was still unbowed. More precisely, she was more than ticked off. If Richard thought he’d earn back his place in her heart by forcing her hand, he was dead wrong. What he had done was manipulative and degrading. Yes, she was ticked, but beyond that she was showing the first inklings of real fear.

Upon reaching the top floor, she stopped breathing as the doors opened onto a beautiful lobby. It was smaller than her dad’s executive office space on the East Coast, but it was just as classy, and the same secretary he’d had for the past twenty years was sitting behind a huge mahogany desk.

“Good morning, Brielle. It’s been a long time,” Tanya said with a genuine smile.

Brielle had always liked Tanya, but she couldn’t let down her defenses, not right now, so her reply was less than warm: “I’m here to see my father.” Instant remorse filled her when the woman, who’d always been kind to her, flinched. “I’m sorry, Tanya,” Brielle told her. “I…” Her words had to trail off — she didn’t know what to say.

“It’s okay, darling. I understand,” Tanya said, but it was obvious that she didn’t.

Brielle sighed. “No. It’s not.” She gave the woman a rueful smile, then turned and moved toward her father’s office. Being cold was how she survived. It was awful, and she knew it, but it was the only way she made it through each day. Trying to erase the awkwardness with Tanya from her mind, she came to the end of the hallway, where she found an open door.

Of course his office was facing the water. Her father had always loved the ocean, even after losing his parents in a boating accident.

Enough of this. Brielle refused to get sentimental. She was here on business, and she had no time for anything else. She was here to get her father to bend to her will. Or maybe to her wiles.

Turning her lips up in a determined smile, she walked through her father’s door. Richard looked up and a grin spread across his face. It was nearly blinding and caused Brielle to stop in her tracks. When was the last time she’d entered a room and found someone so happy to see her? She honestly couldn’t remember.

Her protective wall seemed to crack just a little. Heck, she really wanted to rush forward and cling to her father the way she used to do when she was younger and found herself frightened or hurt.

But times had changed. She needed to remember that. She wasn’t a little girl anymore and she didn’t need anyone, especially not her father. Repairing the wall around her heart, she started moving again — was her stride suitably confident? — and then sat down across from Richard without a word.

“It’s so good to see you, Brielle. I’m glad you made your way to Seattle,” Richard said, his smile not deflating in the least despite the cool look she was sending his way.

“You really left me with no choice, Father,” she replied, trying to tone down the bitterness in her voice but not quite managing to pull it off. She’d had to take a bus to Seattle. A bus! The trip had taken three days. Three days of pure hell.

“Again, I will say that I’m very sorry I had to do things the way I did, but I need for you all to understand that anything in this life worth having is worth working for.”

“This whole rescuing-a-failing-business thing is stupid, Father. I don’t know anything about business. Do you remember my college major? You’re setting me up for failure, and you know it.”

“I would never do that. I love you, Brielle. I know how strong and capable you are. Heck, from the moment you were born, you had your brothers and me wrapped around your tiny little fingers,” he said with a chuckle.

“The only business that’s left is a stupid ranch in Montana.”

“I know. Your brothers have already taken possession of the other businesses. I’m very pleased to be seeing results already.”

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