Wed By Deception

By: Emilie Rose

Prologue

“‘And last but not least, to my daughter, Nadia…’” Richards, the longtime family attorney paused in reading Everett Kincaid’s will and sought Nadia Kincaid’s gaze across the long dining-room table.

Every muscle of Nadia’s body tugged as taut as a ship’s anchor line in a swift current. She and her overbearing—now dead—father had shared a love-hate relationship, and in her opinion, the terms in his twisted will she’d already heard were going to ruin both her older brothers’ lives for the next year. She dreaded finding out how dear old Daddy planned to mess with her head.

When Richards realized he had her full attention his eyes returned to the thick document. “‘Your work record is commendable and your dedication to Kincaid Cruise Lines can’t be faulted…’”

Nadia stiffened even more.

Not good. When her father started with a compliment he always ended with an insult. He liked to lift you up so you had farther to fall when he took you down.

“But your job and your empty-headed friends are all you have. You surround yourself with people who give no thought to the future, who never consider what they would do without their trust funds and never plan beyond their next party.”

Nadia winced at the accuracy of his assessment. Her father wouldn’t understand that she liked her narcissistic friends because they were too busy worrying about their own neuroses to be interested in hers.

“You’re twenty-nine, Nadia. It’s past time you grew up, took responsibility for your actions and discovered what you want out of life. With that in mind, I’m pushing you from the nest.”

A frisson of alarm crept down her spine. “Pushing me from the nest? What does that mean?”

“‘Effective immediately,’” Richards resumed reading, “‘you are on an unpaid leave of absence from your position as Director of Shared Services at Kincaid Cruise Lines and you are banned from all KCL properties and Kincaid Manor.’”

Confusion swirled inside her like a riptide. What would she do? Where would she go? With the stroke of his pen her father had taken away her job, her home and any sanctuary she might seek elsewhere. Why?

“‘You will reside in my Dallas penthouse for 365 consecutive days.’”

“Daddy owns—owned—a Dallas penthouse?”

Richards held up a silencing hand.

“You are not allowed to seek other paid employment or to host parties in the apartment. I expect you to fill your days with a new class of people. And to make sure you’re not partying with wastrels every night you must be in the penthouse between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. every night.”

Nadia snapped her gaping mouth shut. “Midnight? What am I? Cinderella?”

“‘If you fail to fulfill my terms to the letter,’” Richards droned on in his usual monotone, “‘then you will lose everything. And so will your brothers.’”

Her brothers. She forced her gaze from the attorney to Mitch beside her then Rand seated farther down the Kincaid Manor dining-room table.

“Can you believe this? He’s grounding me and sending me to ‘my room,’” her fingers marked quotes in the air, “as if I were a child.” She folded her arms and sat back in her chair. “This is ridiculous. I’m not doing it.”

“You have no choice,” Mitch said quietly, calmly. Typical Mitch. Coolheaded in a crisis. She ought to know as many times as she’d dialed his number.

“Come on, Mitch. I can’t give up my job, my home and my friends.”

“Yes, you can.” Rand leaned forward in his high-backed chair and rested his clenched fists on the table. As the oldest he’d been the one Nadia had always gone to with her troubles—before he’d abandoned her and KCL five years ago without a backward glance.

He held her gaze with his serious hazel eyes. “You heard Richards. If you don’t, we lose everything. Mitch and I will help you.”

“How? You’ll both be stuck here in Miami while I’m banished to Dallas.”

“Dallas isn’t exactly the Arctic Ocean. We can get supplies in and out.” Mitch gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. He’d been her rock since Rand took off, the one she could count on…no matter what.

“But this is stupid.”

Richards cleared his throat. “There’s more.”

How much worse could it get? Nadia’s nails bit into her palms. She took a bracing breath and nodded for the attorney to continue.

“You have been pampered for far too long. Unlike your brothers, you have never even attempted to live in the real world outside Kincaid Manor—not even during college. It’s time you learned to take care of yourself, Nadia, because your brothers and I won’t always be around to clean up your messes.”

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