The Ties that Bind(6)

By: Emilie Rose

He glanced at the freckled female with the long auburn hair and even longer legs sitting in his passenger seat. Pretty, but not so much so that she’d drive men wild with lust, and her conservative clothing wasn’t going to lead a man to believe she was looking for a lover. Her story didn’t add up. And then there was the way she’d studied his artwork as if she knew the value of each piece. The collection was insured. But he’d have to watch her.

Her almost empty apartment and her soap opera sob story about her ex-husband combined with the pile of bills on the counter indicated a woman in dire straights. A woman desperate enough to do things to make a few bucks.

Like proposition a wealthy parent.

Or fence stolen paintings.

He’d been convinced he’d made a mistake in hiring her, then she’d helped the girl, doing so in a manner that made giving handouts look as if the teen was doing Anna a favor by taking them.

Pierce had been surprised when the girl had opened Anna’s refrigerator and cabinets because those too had been nearly empty. He hadn’t seen a pantry or refrigerator that bare since his stint in foster care.

It was only after Anna’s comment about missed groceries that he’d noticed the girl wasn’t fashionably thin. She was emaciated. And Anna had given her what little food she had. Sure, Aronson would be eating on his dime in the foreseeable future, but she’d handled the delicate situation with a sensitivity that he couldn’t help but respect.

He kept his eyes on the road and the traffic, but his brain waves remained tuned in to the pale and silent woman sitting in the seat beside him.

Sarah might believe that having a woman with Anna’s qualifications fall into his lap when he was desperate was a godsend, but if life had taught him anything, it was that when something looked too good to be true, ninety-nine percent of the time it was.

He’d definitely have to keep his eye on Anna Aronson.


Anna’s nerves were getting the better of her. Her boss’s frowning silence in the driver’s seat didn’t help.

Without the contract to read or the need to give directions during the car ride back to the estate she had time to think, time to worry about whether moving into a stranger’s house—a stranger who thought she was a liar—was the right thing to do for Cody and herself. It made them vulnerable. Much more vulnerable than she’d been in her remote classroom at the far end of the hall at the academy where no one had heard Dan’s illicit invitation or his threat to make her regret saying no.

But what choice did she have? It was mid-September and schools had already filled their teacher positions. This had been the only job available for which she was even slightly qualified.

She swallowed, trying and failing to ease the dryness in her mouth. “Does Mrs. Findley—Sarah—live with you?”

“She has stayed at the house for this past week, but tonight she’ll go back to her cottage.”

“And the housekeeper?”

“Comes in three times a week.”

That meant Anna and her boss would be alone—except for the boys—in a house surrounded by luxuriant lawns, dense trees and a six-foot-high stone fence with an electronically controlled iron gate.

Don’t be a worrywart. Not every good-looking rich guy is a pervert who wants to play with the help.

Her pep talk did little to ease her disquiet. Something about Pierce Hollister disturbed her. Not in a skulking around in dark corners creepy kind of way, but…well, she didn’t really know how or why he agitated her. He just did in an adrenaline-pumping, palms-moistening kind of way.

“Graham favors you,” she blurted in an effort to redirect her thoughts.

Hollister shot her an appalled glance which she thought a little odd. “He’s not even a year old. You can’t tell that.”

“Sure you can. He has your nose, chin and hair, and his eyes are shaped like yours even though they’re blue instead of hazel. Haven’t you noticed the similarities?”

“You’re imagining things.”

“If you compared your baby pictures to his you’d see what I mean.”

Hollister’s scowl deepened. “I don’t have any baby pictures.”

“Your mother probably does.”

“My mother is dead.”

She winced. Way to put your foot in your mouth, Anna. “I’m sorry. Your father then?”

“I was adopted. There are no pictures.”

Even adoptive families took photos. But his hadn’t? Another strange fact to file away. An awkward silence filled the car. “How old were you when you joined your new family?”

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