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Authors: Melody Anne

Hidden Treasure

BOOK: Hidden Treasure
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Table of Contents

Hidden Treasure

Book Nine in the Billionaire Bachelor Series

The Andersons Continue

by Melody Anne

Copyright

© 2014 Melody Anne

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Printed and published in the United States of America.

Published by Gossamer Publishing Company

Editing by Alison and Nicole and Mary

Dedication

T
his is dedicated
to my longtime friend Adam, someone I trust more than any other. I couldn’t do this without your taking care of everything in my life. I’m so thankful to know you, love you, and have you always be there for me and my family!

Note from the Author

I
’m so excited
about this story because you get to meet some of the characters for my upcoming book series with Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books. Those books are set in Montana, which just so happens to be where Brielle gets her ranch. I love intertwining my characters from the different series so that we can all keep up with them, because when I write these stories these characters become a part of my family and I just don’t want to let them go.

There’s no possible way I could do what I love so much without an entire team of people behind me. I want to thank them so much.

  • Jack Martin, who does so many things above and beyond the call of duty
  • My manager, Adam, who never fails to take care of it all.
  • Kathiey, who runs the social media side of things, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg — she’s amazing
  • My editors — Alison, Nikki, and Mary — who argue with me, encourage me, and make me a better writer
  • Jeff, who is the numbers guy (and daddy to my amazing nephews and future niece) and makes sure we are all taken care of.
  • Eddie, who probably believes he’s fallen into the Twilight Zone working with me
  • Aunt Linda, who makes sure my home stays perfect
  • My two best friends, Nik and Stephy, who always share ideas, inspiration, and dirty thoughts
  • My husband, who takes care of me so much more than most husbands would ever dream of doing. He goes above and beyond every single day.
  • My beautiful daughter, Phoenix, who storyboards with me, and inspires me to be a better person
  • Chris, who has helped me with this book and done storyboarding with me, much to his horror, and given me flight and ranch information
  • My nephews, Jacob and Isaiah, and Kathiey’s grandkids, Ryder, Maycie, Reese and Kaylee, who take my stress away by spending the day with them
  • My mother, who gave me a love of romance

There are so many more people in my life that inspire and help me that I could write a book just about them alone. I love you all.

Finally, a huge thanks to my Muses, my beta readers, and my fans. Because of you, I get to live my dreams.

Books by Melody Anne

BILLIONAIRE BACHELORS

*The Billionaire Wins the Game

*The Billionaire’s Dance

*The Billionaire Falls

*The Billionaire’s Marriage Proposal

*Blackmailing the Billionaire

*Runaway Heiress

*The Billionaire’s Final Stand

*Unexpected Treasure

*Hidden Treasure

BABY FOR THE BILLIONAIRE

+The Tycoon’s Revenge

+The Tycoon’s Vacation

+The Tycoon’s Proposal

+The Tycoon’s Secret

+The Lost Tycoon

RISE OF THE DARK ANGEL

-Midnight Fire – Rise of the Dark Angel – Book One

-Midnight Moon – Rise of the Dark Angel – Book Two

-Midnight Storm – Rise of the Dark Angel – Book Three

Surrender

=Surrender – Book One

=Submit – Book Two

=Seduced – Book Three

=Scorched – Book Four

Coming Soon

New
Hero
series based on characters from the
Billionaire Bachelors
series (the Andersons) and the
Baby for the Billionaire
series (the Tycoons), published with Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books

“Baby, it’s Cold Outside”
– Up for preorder now on all sites

Her Unexpected Hero
– Book 1 in the new series

Prologue

S
he refused to
cry. She hadn’t done that in eleven years.

So Brielle Storm inspected her fingernails, tapped her foot, and waited for the show to begin with all the coolness she could muster. It had been a couple of days since her last manicure. Yes, that’s what she would focus on. It was easier to focus on her nails, and to keep her family thinking she was nothing more than a shallow, spoiled brat, than to have them know what she really was.

But did she even know herself? No. Not really. She’d been lost for so many years, she didn’t think it possible to find herself. Finding yourself was a sixties thing, anyway. So she would focus on her fingers, look at the chipped paint on her nails, and tune out the people who used to be the most important ones in her life.

A spa was calling her name, wasn’t it? Of course it was.

As the sound of serial muttering floated around her, she looked up, annoyed that she had to deal with her family. Why on earth had her father summoned them? They’d been little more than strangers to each other for a long time. And Brielle liked it that way. Well… That was her story, and she was sticking to it. There was no room for emotion in the world she’d come to be a part of. These people in the room with her were little more than strangers now. Tuning back into the conversation, she made her face into a mask of boredom as one of her brothers spoke.

“Do any of you have a clue what this is about?”

“Nope. It seems the old man has gotten something up his keister again,” another brother said. “I still haven’t gone to bed yet — sheesh, I’d been up all night when my phone rang with dad’s summons. I seriously considered not showing up.”

Brielle smiled, the forced social smile she knew her brothers detested. “You might as well stop complaining about it, because you know how father gets. You don’t want your precious trust fund cut off, now, do you?”

“Shut up, Brielle. You’re the one who’d be hurting if you lost Daddy’s money.”

The comment stung, but she refused to acknowledge it. She wouldn’t show weakness in front of her brothers — no way. There was a time she’d thought of them all as superheroes, thought the sun and moon hung on them.

That time was long over.

So why was she suddenly fighting tears?

Nope. Wasn’t going to happen, because Brielle didn’t cry — not anymore.

She deleted that emotion and looked toward her oldest brother, Crew, with a subdued scowl. Then Lance spoke and she turned in his direction. Lance was the second of the boys their turncoat mother had popped out of her belly at regular intervals before she took off in the middle of the night.

“All of you should shut up before the old man walks in. The more compliant we are, the sooner this touching family reunion can end, and the quicker we can get on with our lives.”

“That’s very good thinking, Lance. I know how important it is for you to run from my presence.”

Her father’s voice.

Brielle tensed as the man of the hour came through the doorway. He had once been the biggest hero of all to her. Now she barely spoke to him. As she sat motionless, she waited, wishing for only a brief second that she could turn back the clock, and be that little girl again who ran into her father’s arms without the weight of sorrow on her back that kept her from doing so now. But she quickly pushed that thought away. No emotions! That was her motto.

“Fine, you heard us complaining,” Brielle said. “We’re sorry, Dad, but we haven’t all been together in one room in years. So what’s the big emergency?” Even though it was morning, she stood and walked to the liquor cabinet and poured herself a scotch. It was just a dramatic gesture, really, all for show. She didn’t make a habit of drinking, especially at eight a.m.

If truth were to be told, she hated the whiskey, hated her life, hated the empty shell she felt she had become.

But she wouldn’t tell her father that. And she certainly wouldn’t share with her brothers. She was the baby of the family at age twenty-four, but she wasn’t about to act like one. She didn’t respect them — even her father. And she didn’t particularly respect herself. What was the point of even being there with them now? Tipping her glass back, she swallowed, enjoying the burn as the scotch slid down her throat. At least that was something else to focus on instead of these thoughts running through her head, instead of the pain of being in the room with a family she no longer felt was family.

“You’ve all been cut out of my will and I’m freezing your trust funds.”

It took Brielle a few moments to process her father’s words, but when she did, she found herself white-knuckling her empty glass. Had she heard correctly?

“Do you care to elaborate?” Crew asked, his face devoid of emotion.

It ran in the family
, Brielle thought.

“My parents were hard workers their entire lives. They built not only one medical practice, but two. They scrimped and saved, and gave me a good education. When they passed, I was devastated, but I took my inheritance and I created something both of them would be proud of. Unfortunately, I’ve pampered and indulged the five of you, making you think that life is nothing more than one big party, and that you deserve to be handed everything on a silver platter. Well, that stops today. As I’ve just said, you’ve been cut from my will. Your trust funds are frozen, and your credit cards canceled —”

“You can’t do that!” Ashton shouted.

Amen
, Brielle said silently.

“I can and I have. You may leave the room now and be on your way, or you can hear me out.” None of them budged as their father turned to each of them looked them in the eye. Much to her horror, Brielle again felt tears threaten.

No!

That was a weakness she wouldn’t show, especially in this room. Never again. She hadn’t shed one tear since she was thirteen years old. Not one!

“You haven’t really given us a choice other than to listen to you, have you?” Lance said. “Is this your way of saying you need some attention? You could have just scheduled a lunch date.” He was trying to make a joke, but the mood in the room allowed no break in the tension.

“You always have a choice, Lance. It’s your decision whether to make the right one or not. I’m really sorry you feel that way, though. It honestly breaks my heart. We were once a tight-knit family, laughing together, speaking often,
living
our lives. I don’t know where I went wrong, but somewhere along the way, you got lost, and now I’m allowing you to find yourselves again. I hope you do.”

Brielle rolled her eyes. “Okay, okay. What is this ‘journey’ you want us to take?” Good. She’d regained her composure and she could think more clearly. Best to just get this meeting over with.

“I’m glad you asked, Peaches,” he replied, reverting to the nickname he’d given her at birth. The sun-kissed color of her hair was as stunning as the beginning rays of a sunset, and it hadn’t changed as she grew older.

She hadn’t been called that in ages, and for one brief moment, she was knocked out of kilter. It was a name of love, of better times. And those days were over.

Brielle pulled herself together and looked back at her father with now-narrowed eyes. “I haven’t been
Peaches
in fifteen years,
Daddy
, but if you want to reminisce about the ‘good’ old days, then I’ll go ahead and play your game.”

The tone of her voice seemed to make her father stumble slightly, and Brielle couldn’t help but feel immense guilt. But she
couldn’t
feel that —
wouldn’t
feel it. She didn’t love her father anymore. He was just a weak old man, she told herself. He’d been as self-absorbed as the rest of them. Or just work-absorbed.

“I’ve sold the family business. I’ve decided it’s time for a fresh start, and I’ve chosen to do it on the West Coast. There’s nothing in Maine to hold me here any longer, and I’m tired of the tourist season. I’ve just finalized the paperwork on a failing computer tech firm, and I plan to turn it around. Doing that gave me an idea for the five of you.”

Rage simmered in Lance’s eyes. “Can this be reversed?” His voice was strained with the amount of control he had to exert to keep his temper.

“No.” Richard didn’t elaborate.

“The business was supposed to be mine.”

“Then you should have taken pride in it. You should have proved to me that you deserved a stake in the family business. I had hoped to pass it to you one day, but as of right now, you are unworthy to take the reins of any business of mine.”

Crew broke in. “Don’t you think that’s a bit harsh, Father?”

“No, I don’t, Crew. And you are no different from your brother Lance. None of you has worked for an honest dollar in so long, I can’t remember when last you did, and I would rather see my funds passed down to people who can appreciate them than leave them to you with the way you’ve been acting. You have time to figure this out — well, time for now, at least.”

“What is
that
supposed to mean —
for now
?” Tanner asked.

“Nothing, Tanner. You just need to pay attention. I want you to prove yourselves, make something of your lives. You are more than these spoiled brats I see before me right now.”

“How are we supposed to do anything if we have no money? What do you want us to do to
prove
ourselves?” Tanner threw his hands into the air in exasperation.

“That’s the smartest question you’ve asked so far,” Richard said with a smile before pausing to gaze at each one of his children. “I’ve purchased five more failing businesses. You can fight amongst yourselves to choose which one you want to run. I’ve created a sufficient budget for you to do what needs to be done to bring the companies back into profitability. If you do this, and do it well, only then will I reinstate your inheritance. If you fail, you will be on your own.”

“Well, what if your idea of a successful business is different from what our idea would be?” Ashton asked.

“When you truly feel success for the first time in your life, you will know what it is. You’ve never earned that badge of honor before. You’ll learn now, one way or the other. I’m done explaining this. You may come see me when you’re ready.”

Setting down the manila folders of the five businesses he’d bought, he looked each of his children in the eye again, then turned to leave the room.

Brielle was fuming, and she refused even to glance over at the folders. What in the hell was her father thinking? She didn’t know how to run a business, let alone make a failing one successful.

This was nothing more than a waste of her time. She flung herself into a deep-cushioned chair. She just wasn’t going to play. But as her brothers walked to the table and began grabbing the folders, she felt her fingers twitching. Did she have any other choice?

Yes, she did. No freaking folder for her.

“I’m out of here,” she said as she stood back up on wobbly legs and began walking to the door.

“Are you sure you want to do that, Brielle?” Lance asked. “Your manicures don’t come cheap.”

Brielle turned on her four-inch heels with fire in her eyes. She was in no way beaten, and she wouldn’t let Lance push her around. She approached her brother with grave determination. When she was standing only inches from his face, she lifted her hand and poked a sharp fingernail against his chest.

“Don’t worry about me, big brother. I have my own ideas.”

Lance didn’t bother replying, and Brielle was battling strong emotions. Not good. Feigning indifference, she sauntered to the door and pushed her way through it.

This wasn’t over, not by a long shot.

BOOK: Hidden Treasure
10.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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