The Texas Millionaire's Runaway Wife

By: Mary Malcolm

Chapter One

Stephen had merely glanced up at his security monitor from the document he was signing, but what he saw made his blood run cold.

It couldn’t be her. It had only been a month, yet it seemed impossible that the one woman Stephen Sands had vowed to spend the rest of his life hating had waltzed into his office and sat primly on the edge of his Italian leather sofa as if she had every right to be there.

His phone buzzed.

“Mr. Sands, your two o’clock has arrived.”

He hit the button. “Ms. Simmons, please come into my office.” He watched the monitor as his secretary excused herself and came to his door.

“Yes?”

He gestured. “Please come in, and shut the door behind you.”

She entered wearing the ill-tempered look of a drill sergeant who missed breakfast, seeming ready to defend herself if need be.

“What is that woman doing here?”

The crease on her brow deepened and she stepped a foot farther in. Her curly brown hair, peppered with enough un-dyed white to show defiance toward her age, bobbed as she shook her head. “She’s your two o’clock.”

Pursing lips, he straightened his tie and crossed arms over his chest. “That woman. You said she has an appointment?”

How could he have missed that? Every morning he got here more than an hour early to drink his cup of coffee and go over the day’s schedule. He hadn’t seen “Heartless Bitch” written anywhere, but then again, perhaps he’d overlooked it.

She crossed to his desk and picked up the planner. Her finger trailed down until it landed on the entry. “Two o’clock, Mrs. Presley. It’s right here.” She held out the book, as if that would answer things.

It did not. Though the name made sense now that he thought about it. Vegas. He shut the planner and placed it back on his desk. “I saw the entry.”

Cheeks flushed, Gayle crossed her own arms and matched his stance. After twenty-five years with his father and ten with him, she refused to argue with a Sands man. So she waited.

“You remember her, right?”

Gayle Simmons had an almost photographic memory when it came to people and faces. “I do. That’s the woman who made the wedding cake for your dad’s wedding to Lacy. No—Barbara.”

Apparently her memory didn’t stretch to events. Not that he could fault her, his father had been married four times. “Diane. It’s been a year since then. You didn’t recognize her voice when you set the appointment?”

Anger tinged the edges of his words. Stephen couldn’t imagine a scenario where in his lifetime he might forget her voice, the way she said his name, the softness of her laugh. The bitterness of her final words as she broke his heart. It wasn’t fair for him to expect Gayle to remember what he couldn’t forget, but there it was.

Her arms uncrossed and she heaved a sigh, her bosom straining the buttons of her blazer. “Why would I recognize her voice, Stephen? What is this all about? She came through that door demanding to see you. I told her she’d have to wait, just like everyone else.”

“It-it’s nothing. Complicated. No, it is something, just…” He cursed under his breath. “Ah hell. I need to take a few minutes.” He sat behind his three-hundred-year-old antique oak desk, a gift to his father from the king of a country that didn’t even exist anymore, and leaned back in the chair. Closing his eyes, he pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath.

And the day had started out so good.

The sarcastic thought was a laugh.

On the way in, he missed the new speed zone change on Callahan and now he’d have to pay a fine for going fifteen over. More frustrating was that the officer hadn’t wanted to give it to him. Had argued with him once he saw who he was. Stephen had always been a big supporter and donor to the Fort Worth Police Department, but that shouldn’t excuse him from wrongdoing. That was always the way, though, and probably the thing Stephen hated most about his notoriety. Anyone else and the officer would have gladly handed over the fine, yet he tried to back out once he saw it was Stephen.

What kind of world was it if millionaires got out of tickets because they had money while someone poor and unrecognizable would have to pay two days’ salary for the same offense?

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