Guardian to the Heiress - By Margaret Way
IT WASN’T THE BEST of times for Selwyn Chancellor. Lying in his massive carved mahogany bed, he was moving in and out of consciousness, lost in a darkening sea of foreboding. Wave upon wave of memories tossed him about. Figures came and went. All the while his fragmented dreams were attended by excruciating pain that morphine was barely touching.
He was dying; he knew that. He welcomed death. It would come as a relief—that from a man who had lived his life refusing to face the fact one day he would die like everybody else. Only, he wasn’t everyone else, was he? He was Selwyn Chancellor, billionaire several times over, a man of power and wide-reaching influence, rich beyond even his own dreams. He had lived and would die a rich man, president of the Chancellor Group, a conglomeration of trading companies, real-estate companies, manufacturing enterprises, transport services and insurance, with investments in many countries around the globe.
The father he had worshipped, Sir Edwin Chancellor, knighted by the Queen for his services to industry, had always urged him to excellence. His father at the end of his days had prophesised his brilliant future: I know I can count on you, Selwyn, to build on my achievements. I leave the Chancellor Group in safe hands.
His father, a legendary hard-nosed pragmatist, had been proud of him. His father’s approval had meant everything in the world to him; but none of that counted now. At the end of his extraordinary life he had been forced to concede the moments of true happiness in his life had been few and far between. He’d known some would genuinely mourn him just as he’d known the minute their family doctor, Harry McDowell, declared him dead “the Vultures” would move in.
“The Vultures” was his private name for his family. Not very nice, but justified. There was his son Maurice, by his deeply reserved wife, Elaine. His son’s wife, Dallas, who had started out so attractive but had quickly gone to seed. At least Elaine had never done that, but Elaine had been unfitted by temperament to be the wife of an increasingly powerful man. To bring her lifestyle traumas to a head, had come the premature death of their beloved son Adam, their first born. Not all that long after, Elaine had ended her own life, though the coronial finding had labelled it an accident.
He knew better. He knew it all. Tragedy had clung to him. Maybe he had brought it on, however unwittingly.
It was Adam who was to have succeeded him; Adam who had all the necessary skills and strength of character to step into his shoes. Maurice, his younger son, had always lived in Adam’s shadow, never effective enough in any of the family businesses, too indolent and too greedy to strike out on his own. The same could be said of Maurice’s son—his playboy grandson Troy—who, of all of them, had taken the most pleasure in watching him die. Oh, the boy had covered it well, even feigning sorrow, but Selwyn could read his grandson like a book. Troy was and always would be hungry for money. Not that all three of them wouldn’t have their hands out for their share. He knew there would be plenty of in-fighting. Blood was thinner than water when it came to money.
In a moment of blessed clarity he saw the stocky white-clad nurse move away from the window, checking her watch. Time for another injection. The woman had an obsession with punctuality. He saw her place her tray on the bedside table then pick up a syringe, flicking it to expel air, preparatory to injecting the powerful drug into his near-useless arm. She was about to jab him when he summoned up all his remaining strength, startling her so badly she let out a shriek. A fruit bat couldn’t have done it any better.
“Leave it, woman. Leave me be. Go away.”
Her mouth opened and closed like a beached fish, but whatever she wanted to say she thought better of it. No words emerged. He supposed, with bitter humour, she could understand his family’s wishing to be rid of the old tyrant. She wasn’t such a fool that she wouldn’t have cottoned on to the fact his family was a seething cauldron of emotions. Over the past week of his serious decline he had witnessed those emotions coming to a rolling boil. One of them could even take it into their head to finish him off; an overdose of a