Priceless Treasure

By: Melody Anne

Prologue


Have we pushed Ashton too far?”

Richard Storm took a large gulp of good scotch and looked toward the ceiling as he thought about his words.

“What do you mean?” Joseph asked.

“He’s not the same man he was a few years ago,” Richard said, a heavy sigh showing the even heavier heart inside.

“But the goal was for him to grow up,” George pointed out.

“Yes, to grow up, but not to turn into this hard-nosed robot he’s become. I barely even recognize my son anymore.”

“I hate to admit it, but I agree. I feel like we’ve all pushed him too hard,” Joseph said.

Richard sighed. “He’s been busting his ass for four years now trying to prove that he’s not just another trust fund baby, that he is worthy of the Storm — and of course Anderson — name. But in that war he’s been waging, a piece of his soul has gone missing in action.”

“I love that he wants to make you proud, Richard,” George told him.

“He wants to make all of us proud, but this isn’t what I want. Yes, I’m eager for him to marry and give me grandbabies, but above all, I want him to be happy,” Richard said, then realized his glass was empty. “I don’t know how much longer I can take this stress.”

Richard’s two brothers stared at him in concern. The two Anderson patriarchs had been separated from him at birth, and they’d only met decades later, but his pain was their pain. After all, their DNA was almost identical.

“You should look on the bright side, though,” George said. “He used to be a devil-may-care bartender, and now he’s running a wildly successful business.”

Joseph piped in. “And didn’t you tell us that he used to be Mr. Playboy, just tomcatting all around both coasts? And now he’s engaged to be married. That’s another step in the right direction.”

“You’ve met his fiancée,” Richard snorted. “Yes, she has a fancy-schmancy name, and makes regular appearances in the society column. But she’s really nothing but a gold-digger out for alimony. Wouldn’t give him the time of day until she found out about his net worth. Sure, she bats her tinted eyelashes, but she’s no prize — unless you want to call her a prize witch.”

“But what can we do?” George asked.

“I did what I could. I found the perfect match for Ashton. I gave a card to that lovely woman I mentioned before, Savannah Mills, but she never applied for the job I set up. That was two years ago, and now she has a master’s in oceanography. I can’t see her taking a job down at the docks after that.”

“Oh, yes, I remember that now,” Joseph said. “We’ve been so busy with the other kids, I’d temporarily forgotten. I’m not getting any younger, I’m afraid.”

“Do you think we ought to move on from this Savannah?” Richard asked. “She really seemed to be The One, so I hate to give up.”

“No,” Joseph boomed — that’s what he always did. BOOM. “When love is meant to be, it’s meant to be. If she just finished her master’s and she’s set her sights on a PhD, you still have three months before the fall term starts. Maybe now is the perfect time for her and Ashton to finally meet up.”

“But he’s still got that fiancée of his,” Richard growled.

“She won’t last,” George said. “Think about it. If Ashton sees Savannah, he’ll have to make comparisons, and the gold-digger will flame out. Your son isn’t that stupid, is he?”

“I wish I could be sure,” Richard replied, and a frown took over his face. “As I said, Ashton’s track record with women isn’t the best. And now, with him trying to prove something to himself or to us, he’s making even bigger mistakes.”

“Ah, those boys, all of them, know how to put on a mask. I know Ashton has a heck of a lot more soul and a lot more character than he’s letting on. Somewhere deep down inside him, the real Ashton is still alive and kicking,” Joseph assured them.

“I hope so, brother, because I’m beginning to think that son of mine won’t figure it out until it’s far too late,” Richard said.

Joseph threw him a determined look. “We never give up on the people we love. Sometimes we just have to bring out the electric cattle prod.”

Richard finally had a ghost of a smile. “Then let’s start planning. I happen to know that Savannah is more intrigued than ever before over sunken treasures. If she can get some free boat rides out to a site where a ship full of treasure is rumored to have sunk, I can see her finally taking that job down at the docks.”

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