Home > Secret Dynasty (The Dynasties #3)

Secret Dynasty (The Dynasties #3)
Author: Geneva Lee

 

Chapter One

 

 

“You are Kerrigan Belmond.”

The words hit me with the force of a bomb. Explosive but deadly quiet because that’s what happened to the victim. They were gone before they knew what had happened. With four words, he obliterated me. It took me a moment to gather my fragmented thoughts and face him. Tears dried on my cheeks as I sat in silence, trying to think of what to say. In the end, there was only one way to respond.

“You’re crazy.” I stared at him, waiting for him to crack a smile or break into laughter. But he didn’t.

Tod Belmond’s face was cold and hard as if it were carved from stone. I thought he’d been heartless before, but now I knew it was so much worse.

I was not Kerrigan Belmond, his daughter. I was not an heiress or a socialite. I didn’t attend Oxford and vacation on the French Riviera. I was a shit waitress from West Bexby. I was an orphan. I existed. I was real. I was standing in front of him now. He couldn’t just erase me.

But that was exactly what he was doing.

“My name is Kate,” I said defiantly.

“Kerrigan…” His voice was rich with warning, but I didn’t care.

“I’m Kate. I worked in a pub.” My eyes skittered toward Iris. She was frozen, her face a mask of mute horror. I hated that she was finding out this way. “You found me and offered me money—a lot of money—to pretend to be your daughter until she returns home from wherever she ran off to.”

That’s how this had all started. I’d been at work when a couple of entitled pricks took a picture of me and told me I looked like Kerrigan Belmond. Tod had tracked me down the following day and explained his predicament. His daughter had run away from her privileged life, and he needed me to pretend to be her to avoid ruining her arranged marriage to Spencer Byrd, a wealthy aristocrat. I’d thought it sounded mental at the time. I still did, but it was too crazy to make up.

I turned to Tod to remind him of all of that—to remind him that this was all his idea. Our eyes met, and an icy chill ran up my spine. My argument faded into the background as we glared at each other. His lips turned down, and he shook his head. “Perhaps, you should sit down.”

“No.” There was only one way I was staying in this house. I wanted answers, not lies. “Where is Kerrigan?”

“I already told you that you—”

“Stop lying to me!” My head began to pound. The chill I’d felt a moment ago spread through my skin like I’d been plunged into ice water. I pressed a fingertip to my temple as my vision went fuzzy. I locked my legs and tried to fight the panic attack. Now wasn’t the time to lose control. Not now. Not when I was about to get answers.

“I think it’s best if we all take a moment,” Iris interjected softly. She moved closer to her husband as though to take her place by his side.

She believed him. It was evident from the compassion etched in her face. Or was it just pity for the crazy girl? I wasn’t sure it mattered.

I looked at her, disappointment washing through me. “You believe him…” I stuttered in shock. “Did you know he brought me here?”

There was a pause before she nodded.

Who else was playing Tod’s game? What if they all believed him? Giles. Iris. Who else? The walls started to shrink, the air becoming thick and unbreathable. He’d laid a trap for me with ten million pounds as bait. Now that he had me safely in a cage, I had nowhere to go. No one would believe me after he’d whispered all those lies. I wasn’t a pawn. I was a prisoner.

And I needed to escape before it was too late.

“We should call the doctor,” Tod spoke quietly to Iris, all of his attention focused on the next step in his plot.

Was that part of his plan? Tod Belmond had enough money to pay someone to say I was crazy. I was sure of that. But Iris wouldn’t allow that, would she? I couldn’t wait around to find out.

I stood on shaky legs and wiped a palm across my tear-stained cheeks. Lifting my head, I looked to Eliza, who hadn’t spoken since the confrontation began. She’d been so quiet I nearly forgot she was here. Her dark eyes remained round as saucers, and she’d pressed herself against a wall. I couldn’t imagine what she thought of this situation.

Not only did I need to get out of here, but I needed to get her out, too. Who knew what Tod might do to prevent me from ruining his plans for Kerrigan.

And that was precisely the problem. Tod Belmond had money. He had resources. He had powerful friends and private detectives. He held all the winning cards. There was no beating him. I either had to fold and go along with it or bluff.

“I’m going to Sparrow Court,” I announced. “I don’t want to be here.” I looked at Eliza. “Do you want to come with me?”

I prayed she said yes.

But Tod drew himself up, shaking his head. “I think you should stay here, Kerrigan.”

I bristled at the use of her name but didn’t say anything, even though I was screaming inside. It would be a wasted effort to yell or argue. Tod had chosen his play. I was making mine.

“I told Spencer I would join him.” Another lie. But if all of this were about ensuring the arrangement between the two families, Tod wouldn’t want to keep me from him.

“Spencer has his hands full. He needs to attend to his family and deal with his grandfather’s death. You should respect that,” Tod barked at me.

“That’s why I should be with him.” I crossed my arms, making up my mind to see this through until he either locked me in a closet somewhere or I’d made it out the door.

Tod opened his mouth, but before he could argue, Iris placed a hand on his arm.

“You can’t keep her here,” Iris said.

His shoulders slumped as he looked to his wife. “What if she runs off again?”

The hollow ache in his voice was so pitch-perfect he nearly had me convinced. He deserved an award for his performance. No wonder she believed him. And if she believed him, so would everyone else.

He studied me for a moment before finally nodding. “On one condition.”

“Condition?” I repeated. Now we were negotiating?

“You agree to see your doctor tomorrow,” he said firmly.

A scream caught in my throat. I didn’t have a doctor. He knew that. The lie was all part of his plan. But tempting as it was to fight him on this, I realized it was easier to agree. Once I walked out the front door, I could clear my head. He had control of this room and this house.

“Fine.” I managed to keep my indignation to a minimum. There was no way I was meeting with some doctor on his payroll.

“Giles will go with you,” he added.

“I need a chaperone now?” I planted my hands on my hips, searching for another option. I glanced at Eliza. “I’ll take Eliza. She needs to meet Spencer anyway if she’s going to be my maid of honor.”

Bringing up the wedding was all part of my plan. The more I pretended I was going to marry Spencer, the longer my leash would be. But there wasn’t going to be a wedding. I knew that. Somewhere down-deep, Tod had to know it, too.

Eliza let out a small squeak like she resented being dragged into this. I wished I had another option.

“We’ll discuss that later,” Tod said tightly. “But as long as you have someone with you while you’re so upset.”

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