Pawn of the Billionaire

By: Kristin Frasier&Abigail Moore

But no. I’d sat, fascinated, reading the story of these long-dead people who’d made mistakes in their lives, had to live with the consequences.

I’d waited, striding the room impatiently, while Lawrence had instructed teams of investigators and genealogists, finding what had happened to a missing pregnant girl nearly fifty years ago. I smiled.

Lawrence had been puzzled.

“Sir, there are three other suitable girls from other families we’ve already found. Shall we research those, and put this one aside? There might not even be a female descendant.”

I’d shaken my head. “No. I want to find out.” I couldn’t tell him. Tell him that I’d looked at an old photo of Elizabeth, the Lady Antonia’s daughter. Her eyes had looked out at me. I had to find out what had happened to her. The consequences of her uncle’s reckless riding to hounds had cost her the chance of an aristocratic life, a suitable marriage, and had led to abandonment by her family, having to raise her child alone in a strange country. That we’d found out she’d ended up here, in San Francisco, had seemed beyond coincidence.

I watched as my own luxurious home swung into view as the car rolled to a halt outside the wide steps. I picked up the folder and stepped out as the limo slowed to a halt. Lawrence was waiting beside the steps, his eyes on my face.

“Decent coffee, Lawrence. A decent cup of coffee as soon as we can.” I took the wide steps quickly and the great door swung open for me. I wondered how this Antonia would take it. The understated taste, the quiet staff, a place to relax, where you didn’t need to do anything unless you wanted to. Food would arrive at the table, what you wanted would be bought for you, the house cleaned, maintained, filled with flowers. Everything done to ensure your comfort.

I looked around. I’d earned this. I’d slogged my guts out, worked every hour there was, taught myself everything I needed to know.

And I’d been lucky too. Who’d have predicted that apps would be the way to go? The big software firms had their share of the market, and I wouldn’t take them on. But apps were easy to get into. Yes, I’d been lucky. Lucky enough to have the money to live on in the beginning so that I had time to learn, lucky enough to have the sort of brain that could see what to do, control the team I built around me as I built my empire. Lucky enough too, in the apps that I chose to develop. They’d sold like crazy. I smiled in relief as I threw myself into my chair, and David entered the room at the same time from the service door, bearing a tray. The coffee aroma finally heralded home, and I sighed.

“Thank you, David. It smells heavenly.”

He smiled. “Thank you, sir. I’ve taken the liberty of adding Scottish shortbread. You didn’t eat breakfast.”

I looked at the tray, and my mouth watered, imagining the soft, crumbly biscuits.

“Great, thanks.” I nodded at him and got out the dossier again.

Soon, I’d need to see her again, tell her what I had planned, work out how to get her to agree.

“Sit with me, Lawrence.” He’d never come and join me without being told to, but he was a very useful sounding board, and never tried to take advantage of his position.

“Well, your men were right. It’s an absolutely foul little hole.” I shuddered again. “The coffee!”

I looked over at him. “But you know, she’s absolutely perfect for what we need. She’s exactly like that photo of Elizabeth, her grandmother.” I flipped through to the old photo. Staged, black and white, old-fashioned hairstyle and hard makeup, she still mesmerized me.

I held the two photos next to each other. The old one of Elizabeth and the modern one of Antonia — Toni, the customers had called her. I had to talk to her.

“I think she’ll be easy enough to persuade. The diner’s a horrible place and the accommodation block’s no better.” I tapped the pages absently. “I just can’t work out why she’s there.”

Lawrence sat quietly. He knew I didn’t want answers, just a sounding board. “She’s a bright, clever girl. Her school records show that.” I frowned and slid the timeline towards me. “Then she couldn’t finish High School because her mother was diagnosed with cancer.” I looked up at him. “You’ll have to help me here. In England, of course, there’d be all the support necessary to let her carry on at school.”

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