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Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – “Show Around”

I’m back with another scene from Midas’ Daughter. This is a pretty short one, and we’re in James’ head as Calla shows him around.

James followed Calla out into the yard. She’d practically disappeared the day before after that meeting in her father’s office. He was pretty sure he’d seen hurt, and possibly humiliation, flash through her eyes before she’d shut it down. He’d almost wanted to tell her he didn’t want her horse. That wasn’t what had caught his eye out there.
It had been her.
And he wanted her. If it took using her horse to have that happen, he’d be perfectly fine with that. She’d learn to get over it.
Her father had been perfectly clear about that. She was strong-willed, and it would take a firm hand to control her. Just like an unruly horse. In fact, that was almost exactly how her father had described her. A creature that needed to be handled, broken, and trained to do what you wanted.
It troubled him, but he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what part caused that reaction. He wanted a woman like his mother. Who his father had molded into just the woman he wanted. Even if it meant breaking her a little first.
Calla described the buildings they were passing. He didn’t really care. They wouldn’t be living here once they were married. He’d move her into his own place. She’d have to get used to it.
She stopped and spun around on him. “Are you paying any attention to what I’m saying? Or are you just watching my…my butt.”
It was kind of cute how she stammered over saying that. That sweetness would definitely serve her well as his wife. But, there were some things she’d have to get used to doing and saying. They had time for that, though.
“I’m paying attention,” he lied. He reached out and stroked a hand down her hair. “Keep on. You have my total attention.”
She scowled at him, and he wasn’t quite sure he’d pulled off the lie. Then, with a sigh, she turned back around and continued on the tour. But, she no longer said more than a cursory description of whatever they passed.
She hadn’t bought it as well as he had hoped. He’d have to get better at charming her. His father was not going to be happy if he screwed up and let this merger fall through.

I may be taking a break from posting from this for May as I’ll be writing short stories each day for the Story a Day challenge. But, I will pick it back up in June most likely.

Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – “James”

I’m back with another scene from Midas’ Daughter. Today we’re back to Calla, who is about to find out just what her father is up to.

“It’s about time.”
Her father didn’t even look at her as she walked into his study. Didn’t take the time to see what she’d done with her hair or that she’d put a dress on. He only knew she’d kept him, and whoever his guest was, waiting.
“Sorry, Father,” she said. “I didn’t know to expect company.”
Her father didn’t respond or even look at her. “You’re almost twenty-one,” he said. “It’s time you took on the duties of this household instead of wasting your time playing with that horse.”
Her throat burned, but she held back the tears. She wouldn’t cry, not in front of her father and certainly not in front of the man sitting across the parlor. What duties didn’t she already do? But, that wouldn’t be the right question to ask. He’d likely list them. Not that it was ever something he’d brought up before. She felt the other man’s eyes on her. She wouldn’t embarrass herself or her father in front of him.
“I understand, Father.” Even though she didn’t. Not at all.
“Good. Your birthday is in two weeks. We’ll be having a party here. The housekeeper and butler have the plans and guest list. Make sure they don’t screw anything up.”
What was she supposed to say? He expected her to oversee her own party. A party she hadn’t even asked for. Likely to prove a point. Or humiliate her when it all went wrong. Did he think she’d done that to him the other night? She’d been trying to help. Why was that so wrong?
Calla kept her hands at her sides but felt them trembling. She wanted to be back out in the stable with Ariadne. And Flip. No, she shouldn’t think about him, she knew he didn’t think about her. Instead, she had to be in feeling like she was a child having her hand slapped. She couldn’t believe he was doing this. What had she ever done to deserve him to treat her this way?
He didn’t wait for her answer anyway. “This is James Adair. He’ll be a special guest at your party. I expect you to show him around until then and treat him with the utmost respect.”
This was all hard to swallow, but she nodded. “Yes, Father.” This wouldn’t give her any time to spend at the stables with Ariadne. Which may be his point. He made it even clearer when he stopped her at the door to the study.
“After the party, you’ll be engaged or he’ll be buying your horse.”
No! She’d almost thought she’d shouted the word, but neither man reacted. They had her whole future planned out for her, and it wasn’t one she wanted. She either got married and got to keep Ariadne, or she’d lose everything. And without a penny to her name until he released her trust fund, there wasn’t anything she could really do. Anywhere she could go to get away from this.
“I understand, Father.” She only wished she didn’t.

Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – “Flip Cares”

I’m back with another scene from Midas’ Daughter. In the last one, we first got to meet James Adair. And he’s a piece of work, isn’t he? Today, we’re back with Flip.

Flip took the reins from Calla, but he didn’t move as he watched Calla head across the yard. He’d seen that rich, entitled prick drive up. Prince Charming, yeah right. But, a part of him worried that’s just what Calla would see when she looked at him. Why wouldn’t she after all? He was everything Calla had been raised to think she was meant to have.
Flip wasn’t any of that.
The horse nickered and nudged his shoulder. He reached up and rubbed her face but still didn’t take his eyes away from the house. Not until he saw Calla duck around the side of the house and head toward the back door. He almost started chuckling. When Dario had called down to the stable to send Calla up there, it had been apparent in his voice that he meant ‘right this instant’. But, Calla was apparently going to make him wait anyway.
And she’d probably get away with it.
He gave a shake of his head as he finally turned and led the mare to her stall. He quickly stripped off the saddle and pad under it then slipped off the bridle. He grabbed a brush from her tack box and started brushing her.
There were times when he had more responsibilities out here. And he should check on the horses that they had at the local racetracks. He just didn’t want to leave Calla here alone. Not, that she really cared for his presence. He shook his head as he finished grooming the mare and dropped the tools back into the box.
He came back and stroked Ariadne’s neck. “I worry about her,” he admitted as he wouldn’t to anyone else. “Her father doesn’t have anything good in mind for her. I’m sure of that. He just doesn’t see how much worth she has. Though I don’t know how he could miss it. I’d give anything-”
“Flip?”
Flip sighed and gave Ariadne a final pat then moved over to the stall door. “I’m here, Dad.” He hadn’t even heard his dad pull up. He’d found a small cottage just off the Midas’ property for his father when he’d had to retire. Dario didn’t like his father dropping by now that he wasn’t an employee, but that never seemed to stop him. Flip almost smiled at that.
“Can’t that girl take care of her own horse? Or does she have more important things clouding her mind now.”
“Dad, you know it’s not like that. If her father would let her be, she’d spend almost all her time out here.”
“Then, maybe she should leave and get away from his influence. What’s keeping her here?”
He’d thought the same thing more than once. Still, he felt the need to defend her as he latched Ariadne’s stall behind him. “It’s not as simple as all that. She loves this horse, and he’ll hold that over her head as long as he can. And…well, he still is her father, no matter what else.”
His father let out a long breath. “Yeah, family can twist you up something awful.”
Flip shot a glance at this father, but the older man only smiled. “Not you, my boy. You’ve never done anything but make me proud. Not all family is so easy, though.”
“I have to take a drive out to the track. Want to join me?”
His father looked wistful for a moment. It used to be him asking Flip that same question. “Yeah,” he finally said. “I’d like that.”
Flip cast one glance to the main house as he climbed into his truck after cleaning up. He wished he could make things easier for Calla, but he just didn’t see how.

Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – James Arrives

I’m back with the next scene from Midas’ Daughter. Last week we left Flip telling Calla she had a visitor. Today we get to meet this visitor.

James Adair pulled up into the circular area in front of the large house. He’d heard plenty about Dario Midas over the years. And he’d definitely been impressed by it. His father had apparently been close friends with him at one time. He didn’t know what had come between them, but apparently it wasn’t so strong it kept Dario from asking a favor of the family.
Because marrying a pretty, and wealthy, girl would be such a hardship for him. Especially when his father was pressing him on that exact issue. It was time to settle down, to ensure the Adair line continued, and on and on. He usually stopped listening. Why would he want to settle himself down with only one woman when he could have his pick of them?
Not that marriage had to mean doing that. His father was perfect evidence of that. Still, he didn’t understand why this merger was so important to his father. But, he’d been pretty much ordered to make it work.
Dario was waiting in front of the house when James stepped out of the car. He pocketed his keys and headed around the car to the front steps. “Mr. Midas,” he greeted the man, holding his hand out to him.
“Mr. Adair, I’m pleased you could stop by.”
Amazing how the man didn’t sound like he was getting ready to sell off his only daughter. But, that wasn’t really a concern for James. He only needed to worry about making this work. Or his father was going to make him regret it.
He wasn’t exactly sure how he planned to do that, but he’d like to avoid it if he could. “Should we take this inside?” he asked. He just wanted to get the details worked out. Then, he could get in his car and put on some speed. That always helped clear his head.
Dario nodded and started to turn toward the house. As James went to follow, something caught his attention. He stopped and turned to look across the yard. He saw a horse moving around a fenced-in area. Not just a horse, he saw. A girl sat on his back. As he took in the fences set up, he realized it was a practice arena. They moved smoothly over a jump, almost as if they were one figure.
It took his breath away.
It did more than that to him, but he tried to shove away the way his nerves danced at the sight. “How many horses do you have?” he asked.
Dario only cast a quick glance over his shoulder. James thought he caught a good bit of derision in the look. “Just the one here currently. A few others on the racing circuit. Useless animal. Not doing any good since she stopped competing, but the girl refuses to sell.”
“It’s your horse, isn’t it? Can’t you make your horse trainer sell it?”
Dario snorted. “That’s no trainer. And you’ll soon see how difficult it is to make my daughter do anything.”
That was Calla Midas? Well, damn. That put a whole new spin on this business arrangement.

Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – Ariadne

I’m back with another scene from Midas’ Daughter, the short story I’m fleshing out into a novella. Last week, we saw some of the fallout from Dario Midas’ temper. Now, a hint of what his scheming is going to bring about.

Calla stepped out of the house and glanced across the courtyard right outside their door. She hadn’t seen her father since the scene in his office earlier that week. Apparently he was still sulking. What reason did he have to sulk? He wasn’t the one cleaning up after her temper tantrums.
Maybe Nita had been right, and he was actually scheming something. That would make more sense. And it wasn’t like he ever discussed his business decisions with her anyway. So, she wouldn’t have any idea if that’s what was happening. She had a feeling this wasn’t about business this time, though.
And that worried her.
Calla stepped down from the porch and headed across the courtyard to the stables. Her father didn’t keep a lot of his horses here, not this time of year anyway. He just had them, and this big of a stable, for the prestige. But, there was one horse always here. Ariadne. The mare had been hers from the time the animal was born. Calla trained her, fed her, groomed her every day.
When she stepped into the stable, someone already stood in front of her mare’s stall. “Flip, I didn’t expect to see you here this morning.”
He’d been here about as long as Ariadne, had come with his father, Philip. He’d worked under his father as a stable boy until a few months ago, when the older man retired. Now, Flip was the one in charge of the stables. There wasn’t as much for him to do with the other horses out on the racing circuits, but she figured he’d be checking on them by now. Not still here.
They’d shared one kiss the first summer he’d been here. It almost seemed like he’d avoided her since then. He wasn’t rude about it, but they were hardly ever alone. Maybe she read more into it than what was there. He didn’t say anything to her now but stepped back so she could approach the stall. That hurt, but she’d never admit it.
When he’d first arrived, she thought they could be friends. She’d never had one before. Not at the private school her father sent her to, not among anyone her father hired for this place. It looked promising with Flip. Until that kiss apparently ruined it all.
“Did you feed her this morning?” she asked instead of asking the real question she wanted the answer to. What had she done so wrong to ruin them?
“Earlier. She’s good if you’re planning to take her out.”
“Okay. Thanks.”
Then, he headed back down the aisle, away from her. Calla let herself into the stall, forcing her thoughts away from Flip. She brushed the horse before finding her tack and saddling her up. She led the mare outside and climbed into the saddle. She could take her out for an easy ride on the trails, but apparently easy wasn’t what she was after. Instead, she headed to the arena set up with jumps. Right in view of her father’s office. There were times she’d seen him watching from the window when she took Ariadne out to practice. She didn’t let herself look today.
Both she and the mare knew this course perfectly. It felt like they flew over each of the jumps. She went over it three times until Ariadne felt like she was working. She trotted around the perimeter then slid down from the saddle, grabbing the reins and leading her out of the arena.
She stopped when she saw her father standing in front of the house. He wasn’t alone, and he wasn’t looking her way. Her stomach cramped as she continued walking toward the stable. He hadn’t been watching her anyway. He hadn’t seen how perfectly she’d taken Ariadne over the jumps. They hadn’t brought home any ribbons or trophies in over a year—they’d both burnt out on the jumping circuit—so hadn’t entered any shows, so none of it mattered to her father.
“You two looked perfect out there.”
She jumped a little at Flip’s voice as she walked Ariadne around the yard to cool her off. “I didn’t realize you were watching.” At least someone had seen them and appreciated it.
She thought she caught him murmuring something as he turned away again, but she’d probably imagined it. Then, he looked over his shoulder. “Your father called down. He wants you up at the house. You’ve got someone calling on you.”
Calling on her? What did that even mean? She’d seen the sports car sitting in front of the house, and the man who it probably belonged to. She’d assumed it was another of her father’s business associates. What did he have to do with her? She hadn’t even noticed them go into the house.
It didn’t matter. She still needed to take care of Ariadne before she went in. When she led Ariadne into the stable, Flip waited at her stall. Their hands brushed as he took the reins from her. Her gaze shot to his, and she was sure his cheeks flushed before he turned away. “I’ll take care of her. You don’t want to keep Prince Charming waiting.”
Prince Charming? Where did he get this stuff? “I don’t even know who he is.”
But, she released Ariadne to Flip’s hands. He’d take as much care with the mare as she would. Calla went up to the house the back way. Father would not appreciate her greeting his guest all sweaty and smelling like the stable. She’d heard that lecture more than enough times to know how he felt about it. In his view, it was almost as bad as being late. So, she’d get a shower before she went to find them.

Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – “After Dinner”

Last week, we got to see more of Calla’s interaction with her father. Today we get just a hint of what might be to come after that.

Calla headed into the dining room after washing the alcohol from her hands. She’d nicked herself at least once with the broken glass, but thankfully it hadn’t bled too much. Although maybe seeing her hands bandaged would get her father to realize what he was doing.
And that he wasn’t only hurting himself.
But, when she stepped into the dining room, it was empty. Where was her father? She thought he would have come right here from his office. Apparently that wasn’t the case, though. And it didn’t sound like he was berating any of the kitchen staff. She’d definitely be able to hear if he was.
She sighed and crossed the room, pushing into the kitchen. Nita turned from the stove. “Calla, dear, what are you doing? Your father-”
“Is probably shut in his room. I just finished cleaning his office.”
“Calla, that isn’t for you to do.” It was the same thing her father had said, but this time there was softness in the words.
“I know. But, none of you should have to deal with the aftereffects of his rages, either.”
“We are paid for it. You aren’t. Instead you feel you need to pay for what he does.”
She shook her head. That wasn’t it. But, she had never been able to put into words just what it was. Before she could try once more, there was a knock on the jamb of the kitchen door. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Murray, the butler, smiling past her to Nita. If her father knew they’d had something going on as long as she could remember, he’d lose it. He didn’t like anyone having loyalties to anyone but him.
One, if not both of them, would be fired. And her life would probably be even more miserable.
“What is it, Murray?” she asked the butler, smiling sweetly. “Does my father need me?”
The smile dimmed slightly, and she imagined it was the mention of her father. She thought that if it wasn’t for Nita, Murray would have given up his position long ago. Frankly, she wasn’t quite sure why any of the employees stayed on and tolerated her father’s behavior. She didn’t have much choice if she didn’t want to live on the streets. Maybe they feared the same thing.
And she thought her father liked it that way.
“No, Miss Calla,” Murray said, nodding at her. “He just informed me he’ll be taking his meal in his room tonight. I shall take it up once it’s ready.”
“Told you,” Calla said, turning back to Nita. “Sulking.” There were shadows in her eyes, though, and she wondered what the older woman knew.
“I’ll let you know when it’s ready,” she told Murray softly.
He nodded and stepped back out of the kitchen. Even though Calla was pretty sure he wanted to come forward and at least kiss the woman. He wouldn’t do that while they were on duty, though. Wouldn’t take the risk. He probably knew how much Father depended on him, but he’d say he could always get a new cook. Murray wouldn’t put Nita at risk like that.
“He is just sulking, right?” Calla asked.
Nita’s mouth thinned, and she turned back to the stove. “Scheming more like it,” she muttered.
A chill went over her. Though it wasn’t like he didn’t scheme every day. Why should this one be any different?

What could her father be scheming about? How will it affect Calla? Hold on and you might just find out.

 

Fiction Friday: Midas’ Daughter – Midas

I’m back with another scene from my fleshing out of Midas’ Daughter. Here we’ll see more of Calla’s interactions with her father.

Calla made her way down to the fountain in the middle of her father’s yard. She settled on the wide base of the pool and trailed her fingers through the water as more trickled down from the three tiers until it fell back into the pool. Something about the cycle of it soothed her frayed nerves. Her father had it installed when he’d moved her mother into the house with him, before Calla had even been born. Maybe that was part of what soothed her as well.
Her father, Dario Midas, was already a wealthy man, so she didn’t understand why he only cared about making even more money. Sometimes she wanted him to see she was right here, to know she mattered more than any business deal or wealth he attained. Other times she just wanted to get away. To find someone who wanted her and not her father’s wealth.
He was in another of his moods today, and it was always best to make herself scarce in these moments. Not that he’d ever raised his hand to her, but she’d be another target for his angry words. Even though, she wasn’t quite sure what had brought this mood on tonight.
She shook her head as she looked into the pool of water in the fountain. All of that was likely wishful thinking. Yet she couldn’t stop it. Everyone said he had the golden touch when it came to business, but he drove every woman in his life away. And he failed to see her, the only one who remained through it all. Maybe she would go as well, if only she had the means. She couldn’t touch any of her money yet, so she was still stuck.
She pushed back up from the fountain, knowing she should go back in and check that he hadn’t done too much damage this time. Hopefully he’d calmed by now anyway. When she stepped inside, the tension was still thick. All of the house employees averted their eyes, and she wanted to head back out of the house. That wasn’t the way to get her father to see her. So, she headed toward his office, even if it was the last place she wanted to be.
She knocked on the door but pushed it open without waiting for a response. Her father sat at his desk, his hands clasped at the back of his head, staring down at the top of the desk. She approached slowly, hoping whatever upset him had passed now.
By the looks of the room, that wasn’t the case. Liquid dripped down the wall on the other side of the room. Glass lay shattered below it. Calla sighed. She’d likely have to order more glasses soon.
“Father, are you all right?”
“Go away, Calla.”
I would if you’d release my trust. She didn’t like the thought going through her head. She was all he had left, and she should want to be here with him. And whose fault is it he has no one else? Certainly not mine.
Another ugly thought that seemed to go through her head at least once a day. She shoved it back down and went to clean up the mess he’d made.
“That’s not for you to do.” There was a distinct snarl in his voice.
“I can handle it, Father. Cook should just about have dinner ready. I’ll meet you in the dining room.”
He sniffed, but his chair creaked as he stood and his footsteps headed toward the doorway. After a slight hesitation, the door closed behind him. Her eyes shouldn’t be burning. She’d brought this on herself. The maids didn’t deserve to deal with the effects of her father’s temper. Still, it was her fault if that’s all he saw her as.

This was actually the opening scene in the original version of this story. Next week, we’ll see the fallout, or at least a hint of it, from this one.

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