The Insiders

Page 18

Jesus. Wing.

I heard the fondness and pride.

She was proud of what she did at this estate, of who she worked for, or perhaps of what she did for the children. She provided a sanctuary for these children, and that was important to her.

She waved to the partition behind me. “There’s a desk behind that. That’s for you.”


“As soon as Kash informed me you were coming, I had maintenance bring up a desk for you. It’ll be your spot for when you are inside the estate home. I called after seeing you at the villa and they’re bringing up a computer as well. It might already be there, but you can check later. Now…” She was done with her paperwork, putting it all aside and fixing me with a direct stare. “Let’s discuss you.”

I swallowed, not getting a good feeling from how she said that. “Me?”

“You.” And she narrowed those eyes at me. “You are going to be a problem.”

Those were the words every illegitimate daughter longed to hear.

And, feeling like a smartass, I smiled. “Please elaborate.”

She fixed me with a look, her mouth flattening even further. She was not amused.

I tried to make my smile more sincere. “Pretty please?” Was that better? Then I just sighed on the inside. Kash was right earlier. I was fighting being here, but could he blame me? Could anyone? But that wasn’t her problem. That was mine. That was my f—that f-word. She was just doing her job.

I sat up straighter in my chair and rolled back my shoulders. “Okay. Lay it on me. Tell me how to not be a problem for you, and I’ll do the best I can.” I bobbed my head up and down. “Promise.”

Her mouth pursed together and she moved her head, giving me a side-eye. She blinked, slowly, and rotated her face to look at me square again.

“Okay.” She laid her hands down on her desk, folding them together. “You want to not be a problem for me?” She didn’t wait a beat. “You should go home, go back to where your mother is, and not contact Mr. Colello or Mr. Francis again.”

I stand corrected.

Those were the words every illegitimate daughter longed to hear.



“Excuse me?” I pretended to clean out my ears. I hadn’t heard that right, had I?

“You heard me.” It was like she could read my mind. She fixed me with a steely glare. It wasn’t a full glare, but it wasn’t a stare.

“You will only upset this household. There is no place for you. If Mr. Francis wanted to include you in his family, he would’ve introduced you as his daughter, not this facade of being Mr. Colello’s family friend. You are upsetting master and mistress, their children, and also Mr. Colello himself. He has enough to worry about. He does not need to add a stranger into the mix to babysit.” She lowered her voice, but that only made her more terrifying. “If you should pack up and require a ride from the estate to return to your real family, I could set that up. You could do it quietly, and tonight, when Mr. Colello is in the city dealing with other aspects of his life.”

Other aspects of his life? What all did he do?

“I thought Kash worked for…” Did I say “master” too? “For Mr. Francis. Does he not?”

Some of the steam cooled, but she was still chilly.

“Let’s stick to what you need to know, and that’s this: if you stay here, you will upset the balance of this family.”


This family. Not mine.

Not me.


She kept on. “If you remain here, Cyclone will get attached. Seraphina will care for you. They are good children. Your presence is a risk. There is a possibility they could discover who you claim to be, and if they do, what then? You are under a guise. You are not here as a member of this family, nor will you ever be. This has happened before, where someone came under the facade of proclaiming they were Peter Francis’s child. When it is discovered you are not, you will only hurt those dear children. Their hearts will be ripped out, all because Mr. and Mrs. Francis had the kind heart to bring you into their fold, even if Mr. Colello is insisting for your presence to be kept under wraps so they do not get attached.”




She thought I was lying. She thought I was a fake.

“You think I’m conning my biological father?”

My hand curled in on itself on my lap.

Her nostrils flared and, flattening her hand on the desk, she inched forward. “Mr. Colello would never allow that to happen, but it is alarming that you’ve been given free range of the estate.”

She should’ve just shoved her fist into my throat. That’s what I was feeling here. “You think I’m here … why?” Think, Bailey.

“Why do people usually claim to be a long-lost daughter of Peter Francis?”

She was so cold, mocking me now.

I flinched. “Right. Right.”

Her mouth thinned. “Why else would you be restricted to being under my charge if Mr. Colello was not still investigating your claims? He assured me you wouldn’t be here long.”

I almost laughed at that. “He said that because I go to graduate school in the fall.” I leaned forward. “For computer security. I’m a hacker, Marie. Don’t you think that’s a big coincidence, if you thought I was this con man?”

She drew up her chest, letting it lower again, then shrugged. “I think you underestimate the lengths some people will go to be claimed as a child from Peter Francis.”

So she just didn’t believe me.

Well, that was an easy fix.

“Right,” I drawled. I didn’t think anything I said would get anywhere, and on top of that, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted her to believe me. Maybe there was a reason she was being so distrustful? Kash could’ve dealt with this when he told her I was coming, but he hadn’t.

Maybe it was for the best? I mean, in a way, she was speaking the truth. I would be gone soon. She just didn’t know the real reason.

And, at this rate, who knew if I’d even meet my father. It was day three and no one mentioned him being anywhere in the vicinity. I was given a desk in the staff headquarters, for God’s sakes. I was not wanted here.


I stood up.

“Where are you going?”

“Can you have the computer brought to Kash’s place? I can do some of my work from there instead of…” My eyes skimmed her office and my heart sank a little. If this had been my home, if she’d been in charge of my family, I would’ve loved to spend time here. The room was warm and inviting, just not to me. My throat tightened up. “I’ll remain out of the way as long as possible, until Mr. Colello’s done with his investigation.”

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