Melting the Millionaire's Heart

By: Linda Morris

Chapter One

Kayla Johnston tore her gaze from the road just long enough to check the readout on her ringing cell. It was Carolyn. Surprise, surprise. Prying one white-knuckled hand off the wheel, she picked up.

“This had really better be important, Carolyn.”

Carolyn Hart, her best friend and teacher’s assistant at Horizons, meant well, but she needed a twelve-step program to break her addiction to cell phones.

“When are you going to get here? I told you Dr. Dunne was about to freak! What’s the hold-up?”

Kayla took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. “Are you kidding me? This snowstorm is so bad a yeti wouldn’t go out in it. And I can’t concentrate on driving because you’re calling me every five minutes to tell me I’m late, which I already know!”

“I know, I know, I’m being a pain, but you know how important this event is to Dr. Dunne. He’s beside himself because you’re not here.” After a pause, Carolyn’s voice dropped to a loud whisper. “Plus I’m getting a super-weird vibe from Steve. He’s here with Eve.”

“Of course he is. They’ve been dating for like six months now.” She put the phone on speaker and tossed it on the passenger seat.

Steve and Eve. Eve and Steve. Kayla’s ex-boyfriend and his rhyme-y new girlfriend, both staffers at Horizons, the private school for kids with special needs where Kayla taught third grade. Kayla had thought for a while that she and Steve had some long-term potential, but that was before he’d dumped her for someone hotter, blonder, and more interested in Pilates. Less interested in, say, Korean street tacos.

She would have preferred not to spend her New Year’s watching Steve and Eve climb all over each other, but she wished them well. She really did.

Just not too well.

“Yeah, but Steve and Eve are acting really weird. He won’t meet my eye, and she was actually nice to me.”

“Huh.” Eve, nice? “That is weird.” Still, she had better things to do right now than worry about her cretinous ex-boyfriend and his new love. Like, making it to the Langford estate in one piece, for starters. “I’ll be there as soon as I can. And Carolyn? Please don’t call me again while I’m on the road unless someone is on fire.”

Kayla ended the call and dropped the phone onto the passenger seat. The mix of freezing rain and snow had been growing steadily worse all evening. Carolyn’s weird vibes aside, she needed to focus on the drive if she didn’t want to slide off into a ditch.

She clutched the wheel and turned the wipers to their highest setting, peering through her windshield to the narrow twist of road she could see ahead. Her Corolla’s headlights illuminated nothing but snow, blacktop, and the yellow stripe she’d been steering by for the last ten minutes.

Driving in a snowstorm in the middle of nowhere wasn’t her idea of how to ring in the New Year, but Dr. Dunne, the headmaster of Horizons, had insisted, so here she was.

Ryan Langford, hotshot social media entrepreneur and newly minted gazillionaire, had decided to take an interest in special needs kids, probably at the behest of his PR person. Langford had been dangling a six-figure donation over their heads for months now, but before he made a final decision, he wanted to get to know the staff of Horizons better. Hence the New Year’s Eve event at his estate, hence her trek to the wilds of southern Indiana. She’d prefer to stay in the classroom and let PR handle the Langfords of the world—schmoozing with strangers had never been her cup of java—but the school really needed this donation. Carson Daly and the rest of Times Square would have to get along without her watching the ball drop on TV this year.

Her cell phone buzzed again. She groaned. “What now?” Tempted to ignore it, she relented after a moment. What if it truly was something important? Without taking her eyes off the road, she pawed the passenger seat until she found it and brought it in front of her eyes. Carolyn again, this time with two texts.

Don’t freak out. Found out what’s up with Steve and Eve. I thought you’d want to know.

Really? Carolyn was bothering her with this, again? Her ex acting weird did not qualify as an emergency in her book. They were done. Who cared what he and Eve got up to?

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