A Billionaire's Redemption - By Cindy Dees Page 0,1

grave. What was that all about? He hadn’t been close enough to hear the commotion, but it had been hard to miss. An angry buzz of gossip hummed around him...something about the senator’s daughter threatening to kill someone....

Quiet little Willa Merris? Alarm blossomed in his gut. Was she in danger? The girl he remembered wouldn’t say boo to a mouse. But then, he hadn’t seen her in over a decade. She’d been a skinny, awkward teen the last time he’d visited the Merris home. Before his falling out with John Merris. Before the two of them became mortal enemies.

At least Willa’s outburst had drawn the attention of the rumormongers away from his arrival at the funeral. As it was, he was sure to be topic number one in the gossip columns for showing up at John Merris’s grave. He would probably be accused of coming here to gloat. In point of fact, he hadn’t wished the old man dead. Plenty of suffering and failure, yes. But not death.

The preacher mumbled a few more words into the suddenly circuslike atmosphere, but no one was paying attention. Seeming to sense it, the minister cut short and wrapped up the graveside service with unseemly haste. Gabe watched in sardonic amusement as the good ladies of Vengeance, Texas, wasted no time texting and calling their friends to report the latest scandal surrounding the lurid death of John Merris. Vultures.

He jolted as a microphone materialized under his nose. “Have you got any comment on Willa Merris’s outburst, Mr. Dawson? You’re Senator Merris’s former business partner, are you not?” a female reporter demanded.

She looked as avidly entertained as the vultures. More so.

“No comment,” he growled. He strode away from the woman, but she walk-ran beside him, continuing to shove that damned microphone in front of him.

“What do you have to say about John Merris’s murder? Some people are saying you’re more pleased than anyone that the senator is dead. Is it true you two had a violent argument just a few weeks ago?”

He stonily ignored the reporter and her sleazy innuendos.

“Is it true that the police have asked you not to leave town, and that you’re a person of interest in the senator’s murder?”

He stopped at that, turned slowly and gave her the flat, pitiless stare that had earned him his reputation as a hard man among hard men. The reporter recoiled from him with a huff. Smart girl.

“What did you say your name was?” he called after her as she stomped away from him.

She half turned and snapped, “Paula Craddock. KVXT News. Are you going to give me a statement?”

“Nope. Just wanted to know who to sic my lawyers on the next time you harass me.”

The journalist’s gaze narrowed to a threatening glare.

Yeah, whatever. Better women than she had tried to get a rise out of him over the years. But he wasn’t the founder and CEO of a billion-dollar oil conglomerate for nothing. He chewed up and spit out self-serving leeches like her for breakfast.

Meanwhile, the alarm in his gut refused to quiet. What had caused Willa Merris to blow up at her own father’s funeral? She and her mother were always the souls of decorum, quiet props in the background of Senator Merris’s many public appearances. Willa had been trained practically from birth how not to draw attention to herself. It was unthinkable that she would cause a scene, ever, let alone in public, in front of the press, and most definitely not at a somber occasion like this.

What had gotten into her?

Worry for the unpleasant conversation he had yet to have with young Willa flashed through his head. Maybe he should wait awhile to break his own bad news to her and her mother. But it wasn’t like there was ever going to be a good time to tell them John Merris’s last, nasty little secret.

He sighed. Lord, this was going to suck. He might as well go find Willa Merris now and make her misery complete.

Chapter 2

No matter how long she stood under the water, nor how hot the water was, Willa never felt entirely clean anymore. But as the shower went from tepid to icy cold, she reluctantly climbed out. She felt like the fragile little handblown glass horse figurine she’d gotten somewhere as a child. At the slightest touch, she was going to shatter into a million knife-sharp pieces.

She’d give anything not to have to face the world for a good, long time. Or better, to leave