Holding the Dream


Chapter One

Her childhood had been a lie.

Her father had been a thief.

Her mind struggled to absorb those two facts, to absorb and analyze and accept. Kate Powell had trained herself to be a practical woman, one who worked hard toward goals, earned them step by careful step. Wavering was not permitted. Shortcuts were not taken. Rewards were earned with sweat, planning, and effort.

That, she had always believed, was who she was; a product of her heredity, her upbringing, and her own stringent standards for herself.

When a child was orphaned at an early age, when she lived with the loss, when she had, essentially, watched her parents die, there seemed little else that could be so wrenching.

But there was, Kate realized as she sat, still in shock, behind her tidy desk in her tidy office at Bittle and Associates.

Out of that early tragedy had come enormous blessings. Her parents had been taken away, and she'd been given others.

The distant kinship hadn't mattered to Thomas and Susan Templeton. They had taken her in, raised her, given her a home and love. Given her everything, without question.

And they must have known, she realized. They must have always known.

They had known when they took her from the hospital after the accident. When they comforted her and gave her the gift of belonging, they had known.

They took her across the continent to California. To the sweeping cliffs and beauty of Big Sur. To Templeton House. There, in that grand home, as gracious and welcoming as any of the glamorous Templeton hotels, they made her part of their family.

They gave her Laura and Josh, their children, as siblings. They gave her Margo Sullivan, the housekeeper's daughter, who had been accepted as part of the family even before Kate.

They gave her clothes and food, education, advantages. They gave her rules and discipline and the encouragement to pursue dreams.

And most of all, they gave her love and family and pride.

Yet they had known from the beginning what she, twenty years later, had just discovered.

Her father had been a thief, a man under indictment for embezzlement. Caught skimming from his own clients' accounts, he had died facing shame, ruin, prison.

She might never have found out but for the capricious twist of fate that had brought an old friend of Lincoln Powell's into her office that morning.

He was so delighted to see her, remembered her as a child. It warmed her to be remembered, to realize that he had come to her with his business because of the old tie with her parents. She'd taken the time, though she had little to spare during those last weeks before the April 15 tax deadline, to chat with him.

And he just sat there, in the chair on the other side of the desk, reminiscing. He'd bounced her on his knee when she was little, he said, had worked in the same ad firm as her father.

Which was why, he told her, since he'd relocated to California and now had his own firm, he wanted her as his accountant. She thanked him and mixed her questions about his business and his financial requirements with queries about her parents.

Then, when he spoke so casually of the accusations, the charges, and the sorrow he felt that her father had died before he could make restitution, she had said nothing, could say nothing.

"He never intended to steal, just borrow. Oh, it was wrong, God knows. I always felt partially responsible because I was the one who told him about the real estate deal, encouraged him to invest. I didn't know he'd already lost most of his capital in a couple of deals that went sour. He would have put the money back. Linc would have found a way, always did. He was always a little resentful that his cousin rode so high while he barely scraped by."

And the man - God, she couldn't remember his name, couldn't remember anything but the words - smiled at her.

The whole time he was speaking, making excuses, adding his own explanations to the facts, she simply sat, nodding. This stranger who'd known her father was destroying her very foundations.

"He had a sore spot where Tommy Templeton was concerned. Funny, when you think it turned out that he was the one to raise you after it all. But Linc never meant any harm, Katie. He was just reckless. Never had a chance to prove himself, and that's the real crime, if you ask me."

The real crime, Kate thought, as her stomach