Chapman Financial, Boston
Cassie Chapman winced as the slick newspaper slammed down on the polished surface of her father’s desk. Bill Chapman wasn’t playing. That was for sure. One glance at his red face and furrowed brow told her that.
“Look at this, Cassandra!” her father growled, laying his big hand flat on top of the tabloid.
She peeked at the front page of the paper. There was a lot of skin showing in that picture.
And Wally, that doofus, was grinning ear to ear up at the camera.
“What the hell were you thinking?” he asked.
Cassie nibbled on her bottom lip as she searched for some kind of answer to placate him.
She’d always been able to play her father like an iPod. Now, though? Now she was up to her neck in her latest mistake and she was damned if she could figure a way out of it.
“He didn’t tell me who he was,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
Her father’s eyes narrowed. “Or who his father is, I’ll bet.”
“His father?” Cassie blinked at Bill. “Why does that matter?”
Bill cursed, coming around his desk to pace the length of his spacious office. His relocation gave Cassie an unobstructed view out the wall of windows. Pity the gray April sky didn’t do a thing to lift her mood. The thunderclouds following her father around the office didn’t help, either.
“His father is the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, for God’s sake!”
“Wally never told me that,” she said.
Bill turned to pin her with eyes as bright a blue as hers. “Really? You never got around to talking about just what the guy was doing in Copenhagen?”
Cassie crossed her legs, attempting to look calm even as her stomach was churning. She ran her palms over her Lucky jeans-clad thighs in an effort to soothe herself. She should have known better than to buy the line Wally had given her. He’d said he was the heir to some banking empire in the States with money to burn. He’d wanted to party and she was always up for a party.
“I don’t know why any of this matters, Dad. Wally and I met up with a few of his friends.
“His friends. Friends with highly-placed, high-profile parents.”
“Friends with as little sense in their heads as you.”
His words singed her but she didn’t let it show. “We partied. That’s all.”
“You’re tangled up in this mess, Cassie.” Bill blew out a breath and sank back down in his chair. “The ambassador’s son has been in and out of rehab over the past year. Just tell me you didn’t take anything with him.”
Now she was angry. “I don’t do drugs, Dad. I never have.”
Bill nodded, raking a hand through hair still thick, dark and rich. He looked a lot like her two brothers, Rick and Jake. Tall and broad and handsome. A pang settled in the center of her chest. She missed her brothers. It felt like forever since she’d seen them and she hadn’t seen Rick’s little boy since he was born four years ago.
“Yeah, yeah,” Bill said. “I know.”
“That’s something,” she grumbled.
He glared at her again. “Look, young lady. You’re not a kid anymore. God, you remind me of your brother Jake.”
Cassie hid her smile. Jake was everything she wished she was. Bold and adventurous even if now he was, of all things, settled.
“Jake has a good life, Dad.”
A shadow passed over Bill’s face and he turned away. Cassie knew what he was thinking.
Neither Rick nor Jake had anything to do with their father now. They were both married and settled and, even though they only exchanged emails, Cassie knew they were happy. That pang moved down to her stomach. Happier than their mother had ever been.
“You have to give this time to blow over,” her father said.
Cassie focused on her father now. “Let what blow over? A party with the son of an ambassador?”
“He’s a drug addict, Cassie. And a lot more trouble than the rest of that Euro-trash you pal around with put together.”
Cassie bit her tongue at his dismissal of her crowd of, well they weren’t exactly friends, but still.
“I’m not seeing Wally. I didn’t even sleep with him.”
Bill’s flush deepened. “I don’t want to hear it.” He pointed at the blurry photo plastered across the front page of the paper. “You’re naked in that picture. And so is he.”
Her eyes scanned the photo. She was nearly naked but none of her important parts was showing. As for Wally? Apparently, he’d decided to take a few selfies after she and her girlfriends had fallen asleep. It did look like she’d been up to more than partying, though. There was no denying that.
“So one paper printed Wally’s photo. So what?”
Bill jerked open his bottom desk drawer and pulled out a stack of newspapers. “They’re all running the photo, Cassie.”
Crap. Tabloids printed in several different languages apparently all decided that the story was big news. Or at least big news this week. Her eyes nearly crossed as they ran over the images spread on Bill’s desk. Black and white or glossy full color, they didn’t look good.
“This will so blow over, Dad.” She waved a hand. “I’ll just head to London a little earlier than I’d planned.”
“You’re not going to London.”
“I reserved a flat.”
“I cancelled it. You can’t afford a flat.”
Cassie let out a soft laugh. “Yeah, right.”
Bill leaned toward her. “You, Cassandra Chapman, can’t afford anything.”
Her mouth dropped open. No. It couldn’t be. Her stomach tightened. “What are you saying?”
“You’re cut off.”
Alarm trilled through her. “Cut off?”
Bill nodded, and then ran his fingers through his hair again. “Yes, you’re cut off.” It seemed like he was making this up as he went along but he seemed very pleased with his latest decision. “My money doesn’t seem to matter to your brothers. Maybe you should take a lesson from them.”
Cassie stood, wishing for a second that she was as tall and imposing as her brothers and father. At least in her heels she neared five seven.
“I know I screwed up, Dad. I should have kept my guard up. Protected myself.”
“Cassie, you’ve always had some crazy guardian angel watching out for you. Skating out of whatever scrapes you stumbled into. Apparently, that’s not the case anymore. You can’t have the Chapman money to keep you safe, either.”
Panic crawled up her throat. “What am I going to do?”
Bill’s face brightened and she pulled back, wary. Uh oh.
“What are you going to do?” he asked. “I’ll tell you what you’re going to do.”
Cassie swallowed. “What?” she asked in a soft voice.
Bill smiled but the expression didn’t have a touch of warmth to it. “You’re going to Cypress.”
She clutched the edge of the desk as a flash of emotion washed over her. Cypress Corners. That wild place in Central Florida where both her brothers had found themselves. One of Chapman Financial’s most successful investments and the bane of Bill’s existence. That was reason enough to go down there but the big draw for her was seeing her brothers. It was as if the sun broke through the clouds.
“I can go stay with Rick and Harmony,” she said. “Jake and Claire just got married, so they’ll want their alone time.”
Bill’s mouth thinned. Her brothers had little contact with their father, and that included Rick and Harmony’s adorable little boy, Nick.
“You can work out the details when you get down there,” he grumbled.
She sat back down, relief flooding her. “Cypress Corners. It should be nice and warm down there this time of year. I’ll hang out by the lake. Maybe head out to the coast for a few days. It’s as good a place as any to regroup.”
“Oh, you’ll regroup all right.”
She stared at her father, the bright, sunlit picture in her mind dimming a little bit. “What do you mean?”
Bill crossed his arms. “You, Cassandra Chapman, are going to get a job.”
Her breath froze in her lungs.
A job? Crap.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish