An Heiress For His Empire(4)

By: Lucy Monroe

“I am not in the habit of wasting time or resources on a hopeless endeavor,” her father said.

“The story is out there and that can’t be changed,” she agreed. “But that doesn’t mean we leave Perry’s lies unchallenged.”

Her father’s eyes were chips of blue ice. “If you wish to challenge your ex-lover’s lies, you may do so, but that is not my concern.”

“You don’t believe the stories?” she asked with a pained incredulity she couldn’t quite hide.

“What I believe is not the issue at hand.”

“It is for me.” There were only two people in that room whose opinion Maddie cared about.

Her father’s and Viktor Beck’s, no matter how much she might wish that wasn’t the case.

Her gaze shifted to Vik, but nothing from the stern set of his square jaw to the obscure depths of his espresso-brown eyes revealed his thoughts.

There had been a time when he might have tried to encourage her with a half smile or even a wink, but those days were gone. There’d been no softening in his demeanor toward her since her first trip home after going away to university.

And while that might be her own fault, she didn’t have to like it.

Her father cleared his throat. “Those tawdry stories may have precipitated this meeting, but they are not the reason for it.”

Maddie’s attention snapped back to her only remaining family. “What do you mean?”

“The issue we are here to address is your unacceptable notoriety, Madison. I will not sit by while you attempt to rival other heiresses for worldwide infamy.”

“I don’t.” Even when Maddie had tried to court her father’s attention by gaining that of the media, she hadn’t gone that far.

Okay, so she and Romi were known for their participation in political rallies of the liberal variety, which included a well-publicized sit-in protesting cuts in local school funding. That Maddie had gone further, bungee jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge with five others and unfurling a giant banner that read Go Green or Go Home, was beside the point.

There were videos online of her bungee jumping in less politically motivated and slightly more risky circumstances. The snowboarding had been a total failure, but she’d always loved downhill skiing and learning to jump had been fantastic. Of course, only her tumbles made it into the media.

But she hadn’t done a thing to get herself in the papers in over six months. Not since hitting the headlines with a nighttime adventure in skydiving that had resulted in her hospitalization with a hairline fracture to her pelvis.

Her father had not only ignored her exploit, but he’d also ignored Maddie’s injury. And not only had he refused to take her phone calls from the hospital, but he’d also made it clear, through his PA, that Maddie was not welcome at the family mansion for her recovery.

She’d been forced to hire a nurse to help during the weeks of her limited mobility. Romi had offered to stay with her, but Maddie refused to take advantage.

“Am I to understand you didn’t read Madison in on the contents of this contract?” Vik asked, unexpected disapproval edging his deep tone. “Do you actually expect her to agree?”

“She’ll agree.” Her father gave her a stern glare. “Or I will cut her out of my life completely.”

The words were painful enough to hear, but the absolute conviction in her father’s voice stabbed straight through Maddie’s carefully cultivated facade to the genuine and all-too-vulnerable emotions underneath.

“Over this?” she demanded, waving her hand toward the printed articles. “It’s not true!”

“You will not continue to drag my name and that of my company through the mud, Madison.”

“I don’t do that.” While she’d managed a certain level of media notoriety, it had never before been because of anything even remotely like the lies Perry had spewed to the tabloids.

Her father began reading the headlines out loud and weak tears burned the back of her eyes. Maddie refused to give in to them, wishing she could be as genuinely emotionless as the steel-gray-haired man flaying her with other people’s words.

“I told you, he lied.”

“Why would he?” the media fixer asked, sounding interested in an almost clinical way.

“For money. For revenge.” Because she’d turned him down one too many times and compounded that by refusing his latest request for a loan. “I don’t know, but he lied.”

How many times did she have to say it?

“It is time for definitive measures to be taken,” Jeremy said, as if she hadn’t spoken.