Heir Untamed

By: Danielle Bourdon

Chapter One


Chey stared at the pink eviction notice on her apartment door with a heavy heart. Setting the bag containing her camera equipment by her feet, she pushed up her sunglasses to read the fine print: This is your final notice. Pay delinquent rent or face eviction on October First.

“I know, I know. I can't pull money out of thin air.” Chey peeled the paper off her door and fished her keys from a pocket. Letting herself inside, she set the camera case by the wall and put her purse down precisely in line with the edge of the couch.

Exhaling a long breath, she placed the eviction notice on a side table, using her fingers to align it exactly with the edge. Turned down for two jobs and getting threatened with eviction in one day was a little more than she could handle. Three weeks after losing her regular day job, she was still looking for work. The remaining prospects were grim.

Hands on her hips, she scanned the interior of the apartment with a critical eye. The couches, white with a soft floral pattern, had belonged to her parents. Chey inherited them along with the end tables, a hutch and kitchen table when they perished in a car accident eight months past. A coat rack, fake ficus tree and various antique odds and ends she had picked up at the local flea market. It wasn't much, but it was hers.

Where she would move it, she wasn't sure. What landlord would take her in with no job? Never mind she didn't have first and last—she didn't even have this month's rent. Walking to a calendar hanging on the wall just inside the kitchen, she glanced at the date. September Thirteenth. She had roughly two weeks to come up with this month and next month's rent.

Running her fingers over the close up shot of wildflowers on the calendar, Chey appraised her work. When she wasn't employed at a portrait studio, she made calendars and prints to sell through various outlets online. She'd been hoping to pull in supplemental revenue but sales had been disappointingly slow after the last holiday rush.

Flipping the calendar to the next month, she eyed the landscape of poppies. It was a good, clear shot. Somewhat whimsical. The problem was the other million or so photographers trying to make a living the very same way. Getting seen was the hard part. Maybe today someone had purchased a hundred coffee cups with hydrangea or calendars with spectacular sunsets.

Heading into her bedroom, Chey picked her laptop up off her nightstand and sat with her legs folded beneath her on the bed. Opening the cover, the machine sprang to life from sleep mode. Rubbing her palms together, sending up a silent prayer, Chey got her fingers on the keys and accessed her seller account.

She needed sales. Desperately.

With hope in her eyes, she watched the correct screen pop up.

Nothing. Not even one sale.

She checked the account on another site. Just in case.

Nothing there, either.

Bringing up the local newspaper, she surfed to the classifieds and scanned the possibilities. She really wanted to stay within her chosen field—photography—but anything that would pay the bills would suit at this point.

“Day care, fast food, fast food, coffee cafe—all part time.” Part time didn't cover her rent and utilities, much less leave enough for groceries. The rent on her apartment, located in a slightly upscale neighborhood with good security in Seattle, was steep. Before the death of her parents, when she'd worked as an assistant to a prominent, private photographer, things had been much better. Since then, everything had taken a nose dive, including losing her beloved job when the photographer moved out of state.

“Convenience store. Full time, benefits in three months. But the pay...” Chey shuddered. It just wasn't enough.

Propping her elbows on her thighs, she brought her fingers to her temple and rubbed. She could hear her mother now, rattling on about stretching the skin around her eyes. Did she want premature wrinkles?

Chey rubbed anyway. It helped with the massive headache about to obliterate her world.

Maybe alcohol was in order.

A hard series of knocks on her front door startled Chey out of her descent into self pity. The manager of the complex wouldn't send people to kick her out early, would he?

Gripped by sudden anxiety, Chey set the laptop aside and climbed off the bed. Smoothing her hands down the burgundy, long sleeved sweater she wore over black slacks, she made her way to the door. When she peered out the peephole, she had a view of a man in a strict, very expensive looking suit.

Oh no.

Swallowing a knot of worry, she unbolted the lock and swung open the door.

Two men, hands clasped before them, eyes hidden behind sunglasses, stood waiting. One looked like he could have walked off a runway: dark hair, square jaw, straight nose. He wore a fine layer of short whiskers trimmed just so. His shoulders filled out the black suit perfectly. He held a briefcase in one hand.