Penny Jordan Collection

By: Penny Jordan

CHAPTER ONE

‘YOU’RE not     serious...’

Sylvie frowned as she studied the synopsis pinned to the front     of the file her employer had just handed her.

Lloyd Kelmer the fourth was the kind of eccentric billionaire     who, by rights, only ought to have existed in fairy stories—as a particularly     genial and indulgent godfather, Sylvie thought. She had been introduced to him     at a party to which she had been invited by some acquaintances of her     stepbrother’s. She had only gone to the party because she had been feeling     particularly lost and insignificant, having only recently left her American     college and moved to New York. They had got chatting and Lloyd had begun to tell     her about the trials and traumas he had experienced in running the huge wealthy     Trust set up by his grandfather.

‘The old man had this thing about stately homes, I guess I     kinda feel the same. He owned a fair handful of the things himself, so he kinda     had a taste for them, if you know what I mean. There was the plantation down in     Carolina and then a couple of châteaux in France and a palazzo in Venice, so it just kinda happened naturally that he     should have this idea of using his millions to preserve and protect big houses,     and now the Trust has a whole skew of them all over the world, and more wanting     to have the Trust bankroll them every day.’

Sylvie, with her own admittedly second-hand experience of her     stepbrother’s problems in running and financing his own large family estate in     England, had quite naturally been very interested in what Lloyd had had to say,     but it had still surprised her a few days later to receive not just a telephone     call from him but the offer of a job as his personal assistant.

Sylvie wasn’t seventeen any longer, nor was she the naive and     perhaps over-protected girl she had once been. Lloyd might be in his early     sixties and might, so far, not have done or said anything to suggest that he had     any ulterior motive whatsoever in making contact with her, but nevertheless,     having asked him for time to consider his unexpected offer, the first thing     Sylvia had done was telephone her stepbrother in England and ask for his     advice.

An unscheduled and unfortunately brief visit from Alex and his     wife Mollie to vet Lloyd and talk over the situation with Sylvie had resulted in     her deciding to take the job, a decision which, twelve months down the line, she     regularly paused to congratulate herself on making, or at least she had done     until now.

Her work was varied and fascinating, and barely left her with     any time to draw breath, never mind for any personal relationships with members     of the opposite sex, but that didn’t worry Sylvie. So far, what she had learned     from her experiences with men was that she was a particularly poor judge of the     breed. First there had been her revoltingly humiliating teenage crush on Ran and     his rejection of her, then there had been the appalling danger she had put     herself and her family in with her foolish involvement with Wayne.

She and Wayne might never have been lovers but she had known,     from the first, of his involvement in the drug scene and, as foolishly as she     had tried to convince herself that Ran would fall in love with her, she had also     tried to convince herself that Wayne was simply a lost soul in need of     protecting and saving.

She had been wrong on both counts. Love was the last emotion     Ran had ever felt for her. And as for Wayne... Well, thankfully he was now     safely out of her life.

Her new job took every minute of her time and every ounce of     her energy. Each new property the Trust decided to ‘adopt’ had to be inspected,     vetted and then painstakingly brought up to the same standard as all the other     properties the Trust financed and opened to the general public.

Sylvie knew that her employer’s highly individualistic and     personalised way of deciding which of the multitude of properties he was offered     as potential new additions to the Trust’s portfolio were worth acquiring caused     other organisations to eye him slightly askance. For Lloyd to accept a house it     had to have what he described as the ‘right feel’, but his eccentricities tended     to make Sylvie feel almost maternally protective of him.

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