The rain fell hard against my windshield, disguising the night around my car. I glanced at the clock. 11:47. I wasn't far from the city, I'd get to my grandmother's in the next hour or so. She'd be annoyed that I'd gotten in so late, say a lady doesn't travel in these conditions.
But wasn't that the whole point of me coming out here? To learn to be a lady and find a husband? I could still remember the sad look on my dad's face when he told me I should take my grandmother's offer to teach me.
I understood why I had to go. My grandmother, rich and spoiled lady of the city New York, had been funding my dad's car garage for a long time now. But ever since my mom died, she'd hated him. Said it was his fault her daughter died.
I look like my mom, I have the same fiery red hair, the same blue eyes that changed depending on what I was wearing, the same heart-shaped face. The only thing I got from my dad, really, was his strong build. I reminded her of mom, which was part of the reason my grandmother insisted I learn to be a lady, or she'd cut him off. No cash, no garage.
I was what you'd call a tomboy. I was the son dad never had. He really did try, but he never quite managed to encourage my girly side. In fact, he wasn't really sure what to do with a child generally. I'd grown up around cars and mechanics the only thing he really knew. Not that I minded. And even though I was turning 23, I'd never done much more than a university degree in English. But I could remove the carburetor from the intake manifold faster than any of the guys there.
All of which disgusted my grandmother. So here I was, a dark and stormy night, heading to live with her. She says it'll be easy to find me a husband once she's done. As if that's all a woman my age that's not married could think about.
I squinted at a turn-off, trying to read the sign. It read in large print, Cormack. I looked down the road and saw lights. Not a road, a driveway. I sighed. Less was definitely not more with these people.
It wasn't until I was down the road that I felt the car sputter. I quickly pulled over. Not now, not now. It's an old car, a Ford Mustang 1970, but I thought it could make it. Hoped it could make it.
I climbed out into the pouring rain and pulled up my hood and the car's. I looked at the engine but with the dark and the rain was making it really difficult. I knew this car like the back of my hand, but in these conditions, I really didn't want to be messing around with it.
It looked like I would be sleeping on the back seat. My grandmother would have a fit about the fact that I didn't arrive on time (yes, I know I said she'd want me to stop driving. She's a hard woman to please.) Then I remembered the driveway.
I hurried back down the road to the driveway and started the trek up to the door. Even in the dark I could see that the lawn was perfectly kept. I remembered the tiny shaggy lawn back at the garage and made myself walk faster.
I rang the doorbell, shivering and rubbing my arms to get some warmth. I waited a minute, then rang it again. It's a big house, but it wouldn't take that long to get to the door. I didn't care if I had to annoy them to the door, I came all this way, I wasn't about to turn around.
There was a click as the door unlocked, and an older man with white hair looked out at me, disdainfully. I said quickly, "I'm sorry to call so late, but my car broke down just down the road and I was wondering if I could use your phone."
He looked over my soaking clothes and pretended to sound almost cheerful, saying, "Of course. Come in, miss."
This guy didn't own the house? Wait, of course not, he's the butler. I stepped into the mansion and glanced around. Holy crap. This place was huge! A crystal chandler hung down from the ceiling and on either side of it, huge staircases twisted up to the second floor. Two other rooms attached to this front hall, and more rooms attached to those.
He butler cleared his throat, the signal for me to stop gawking, and led me through to a room with an expensive looking telephone. But when I glanced behind me, he was just standing there. I wasn't sure what to say, but he said, "The master requests your presence when you are finished." Then before I could refuse, walked out.
I picked up the phone, gingerly, and punched in the digits. It rang twice before my grandmother picked up. The charming lady started off with, "Where the hell are you? Do you know what time it is? I swear, if you had grown up with me instead of that hillbilly your mother married, you wouldn't do things like this."
I waited until she was done to say, "I'm fine. I got away late, but I was planning to drive all the way when my car broke down. I can fix it, but I won't be there until noon tomorrow."
She huffed and complained about me and my upbringing for a few more minutes, then asked again where I was. I said, "In a huge mansion outside the city. Wait, there was a sign with a name. What was it…Corflack, Conick,"
She quickly cut me off, "Cormack?"
"Yeah, that's it. You know him?"
"He's the richest man in New York State. He inherited his fortune some time ago when he took over his father's business. Quite the lady's man, but never to come of anything. He refuses to have a long-term relationship with anyone. Hardly goes to parties…You have to invite him to your arrival party!"
Did I mention that's one of the only things my grandmother does is plan parties? "I don't even know if he's awake. And why would I do that?"
"Because it would make Margret Boyle so angry! And if you don't, I'll rip your pretty little hair out."
That would've startled anyone else, but she didn't scare me. I said I would invite him, and hung up. Well, time to head back to the car. Another night in the backseat.
No one was around, so I thought I'd show myself out. I was halfway out when I heard the voice of the butler, "—elephone. Should I throw her out?"
Another smooth voice I hadn't heard before replied, "No, if she came all this way to meet me, I would hate to disappoint."
Came all the way to meet him? The butler replied, "Very good of you sir, but do you want a repeat of the last few times?"
"No, I suppose not. What did this one say, lost or in need of a place to rest the night?"
"Neither, actually. She claimed that her car broke down and she was in need of a phone. Apparently she even said she'd leave."
"That's different. Well, it doesn't matter anyway, they're all the same. All they want is my money. Pathetic, really."
He thought I was a gold digger? What an egotistic bastard. He didn't even know me. He thought he was so great that I would pretend that my car broke down so I could see him. No, I wasn't having it.
I swept into the room with all the dignity I could muster, which was a lot. They both stopped and looked at me, so I smiled and said, "Thank you so much for letting me use your phone. I assume you are ?"
"I am." He stood. He looked like he'd just gotten in from a fancy party, in a black suit with a blue tie that matched his light grey-blue eyes and his dirty blonde hair. He stepped forward and stuck out his hand, which showed how tall he was. I wasn't short and he was still taller than me. I guess he's what you'd call handsome. Not that I noticed.
I took his outstretched hand, and expected a shake, but he raised my hand to his lips. Oh. I pulled my hand back and put it in my pocket. That seemed to amuse him. He said, "You know my name, but I don't believe I've had the pleasure."
"Samantha Grayson. Coming to New York to visit my grandmother." There was something in the way he looked at me, like I was some desperate gold-digger that was trying to get at his money that made me do the stupidest thing I've ever done. It was that which made me say, "Though I'm not sure her mansion will be big enough. I mean, it's nice, but the castle I have in England makes it so hard to settle for small houses like this one." I glanced around.
His brows rose, "Really?" I nodded, standing tall. He said, "I agree, the castle I own in Scotland is quite fabulous."
I brushed my fiery bangs out of my eyes. He actually had a castle? I said, "Well, thank you again for letting me use your phone, but I really must be going."
"Might I ask where?"
Damn, I didn't have an answer. Where do rich people sleep when their cars break down? Luckily, he continued, "Because I would not have you stay anywhere but here tonight until your chauffeur arrives tomorrow."
Before I could stop myself, I said, "I don't have a chauffeur." He looked mildly surprised at that, but I said, "I prefer to drive myself."
He pretended to smile, "As do I. Refreshing in today's young women."
"Yes, well, I make it my business to know the reason of my wealth. My father owns a successful auto business. But I hate to gloat."
I gave him a look that made his light eyes narrow, and he said, "I'm sure you do. Might I ask the name of your father's so successful business?"
I glanced away, then met his gaze, "No, you may not. I would hate to make you jealous."
He stood taller, "My father is the richest man in the state."
I tried to match his height, failing, but still looked defiant, "Really? And where does that leave you?"
Mr. Cormack looked annoyed as he said, "I've inherited his business, which means I make millions every year."
I pretended to look sympathetic, "Only millions? How sad. Well, I'm sure business will pick up."
He finally stopped and leaned back. He looked amused, a small smile playing on his lips, and said, "Yes, I suppose it will. It is late, Miss Grayson, and I hope you will forgive me if I retire. Goodnight."
He walked past me, heading for the stairs. God, what had I just done? I told the richest man I was ever going to meet that I was a rich heiress. Well, at least tomorrow I could fix my car and go on my way, never have to deal with him again.
Then, just to crush my relief, he called from the base of the stairs, "And until your car can be fixed, madam, I will act as your chauffeur to the city. It's the only hostly thing to do." Damn it. I turned and smiled sweetly, "So good of you sir."
He gave me a look that said he knew how much I didn't want a ride, which is exactly why he was giving me one before walking up the stairs. Rich, egotistic, satirical bastard.