Seducing His Enemy's DaughterBy: Annie West
‘OF COURSE YOU’LL do it. You know you will.’ Reg Sanderson paused in the act of pouring a double whisky to fix his gimlet stare on his daughter. As if he could bend her to his will, like he had years ago.
Ella shook her head, wondering how any man got to be so caught up in his own importance that he didn’t notice the world had altered. She’d changed in the years since she’d walked out. Even Fuzz and Rob had changed lately, but their father hadn’t realised.
He was too focused on his business machinations. Except they were no longer just business. His latest scheme was an outrageous mix of commercial and personal.
No wonder Fuzz had run. Felicity Sanderson might be flighty and spoiled, as only the favourite child of a very rich man could be, but she was no fool.
‘Don’t be absurd.’ Ella stared her father down, ignoring his razor-sharp glare. It had taken years of practice to stand tall against his brutal behaviour but it came naturally now. ‘This is nothing to do with me. You’ll have to sort it out yourself.’
Who’d have thought Reg Sanderson would come cap in hand to his forgotten middle child, the one he’d ignored for so long?
Except there’d been nothing cap in hand about his bellowing phone call, demanding she come to his harbourside home instantly because her sister Felicity was about to destroy her life.
‘Of course you’re involved,’ he roared, then caught himself, pausing to swallow a slug of alcohol. ‘You’re my only hope, Ella.’ This time his tone was conciliatory, almost conspiratorial.
Ella’s hackles rose, tension clamping her belly. Her father shouted whenever he didn’t instantly get his way. But it was when he pretended to be on your side that you really needed to beware.
‘I’m sorry.’ She bit her lip, reminding herself there was no need for her to apologise. Yet ancient habits died hard. She lifted her chin. ‘It’s a crazy idea and even if it weren’t I couldn’t fill in for Felicity. I’m not—’
‘Pah! Of course you can’t hold a candle to your sister. But with a makeover and some coaching you’ll do.’
Ella stood tall. Once upon a time his constant references to the many ways she didn’t measure up to her older sister—in looks, grace, vivacity, charm, the ability to throw on anything and look like a million dollars—had been the bane of her life. Now she knew life held more important things than trying, fruitlessly, to live up to his expectations.
‘I was going to say I’m not interested in getting to know any of your business cronies, much less marrying one.’
Ella shuddered. She’d escaped her awful father in her teens and never looked back. This man her father so wanted to do business with would be in the same mould: grasping, selfish, dishonest. She’d met his associates before.
‘I’m sure if you explain the situation he’ll understand.’ She got up from the white leather lounge, retrieved her shoulder bag and turned towards the door.
‘Understand?’ Her father’s voice cracked on the word, transfixing Ella. Despite his volatile temperament, she’d swear it was the closest he’d come to real emotion in years. Even when her mother died he’d shed only crocodile tears.
‘Donato Salazar isn’t the sort to understand. You don’t realise how badly I need him. I suggested marriage to cement our business ties and he agreed to consider it.’ Her father’s tone made it clear what an honour that was. This from a man who viewed himself as the acme of Sydney business and society.
‘I need Salazar’s money. Without it I’ll go under and soon. Even with his money...’ He looked every bit his age despite the work he’d had to keep the lines and sags of good living at bay. ‘I need a personal tie to keep me safe. A family tie.’ His tone was grim, his expression ugly, a familiar scheming look in his eye.
The idea of her father’s massive wealth at risk should have shocked her. But somehow it didn’t. He was an inveterate risk-taker.
‘You don’t trust him.’ Ella stared in revulsion. ‘Yet you want your daughter to marry him.’
‘Oh, don’t be such a prude. You remind me of your mother.’ His lip curled. ‘Salazar can give a woman everything money can buy. You’ll be set for life.’
Ella said nothing. She knew her mother’s worth, and that money couldn’t buy the important things in life. But the discussion was academic. Fuzz had run rather than meet this Salazar person and Ella had no intention of sacrificing herself to her father’s schemes. Besides, this paragon of corporate success wouldn’t be interested in having Reg Sanderson’s other daughter foisted on him. The dull, uninteresting one who actually worked for a living.