The Iron Tiara:A Nine Minutes Spin-Off Novel(8)

By: Beth Flynn

Anthony had heard enough. He quietly closed the door and headed for his room.

"You are out of line. He is not a burden, and he is loved, not just by your mother and me, but by many of our neighbors and friends. Your jealousy is unbecoming, RJ." Robert shook his head slowly. The disappointment in his son weighed heavily on him. “You are a self-centered young man, and you dishonor me and this family with your black heart and selfish ways. This conversation is over, and if I ever find out that you have shared any of what you think you heard about Anthony's parents with him or anyone else, you will be removed from this home. Do you understand me?"

RJ scowled at his father. His fingers were clenched so tight his nails dug into his palms. He'd watched for the last two years as that little good-for-nothing piece of trash cousin worked his way not only into his parents’ home, but their hearts as well. RJ had been their world until Anthony came along. Their only child got everything he’d ever asked for and more. Until Anthony came to live with them and showed his father the respect RJ never gave him. It was then that his father started criticizing and demanded more of him. RJ was in a contest for his parents’ attention with an orphaned brat.

"You prefer half-breed trash over your own son?" RJ asked his father. "You're going to groom him for Tribal Chief?"

"Do you understand me?" Robert repeated, ignoring his son's questions, his voice now louder.

"Yeah. I understand," RJ huffed as he headed out of the garage, calling back over his shoulder in a sarcastic tone, "Chief!"

Chapter Two

Naples, Florida 1978

Christy Chapman slid the deadbolt of her parents’ front door into place with shaking hands. She wouldn't need to turn off the alarm. Lester had done it for her. However, she would need to remember to set it again when she left. Standing on her tiptoes to look through the peephole, she was reminded that she'd never been tall enough to see through it. She turned and leaned with her back against the door and tried to catch her breath. She looked down at her hands and saw they were still shaking. Stop it, Christy! she mentally scolded herself.

She closed her eyes and willed herself to get her breathing under control. Who the heck was that? she wondered. Just imagining his cold dark eyes caused her pulse to quicken. And not in a good way.

Where had he come from? She hadn't noticed him when she drove up because she wasn't looking for him. She hadn't paid too much attention to the landscape crew. She'd tried to be nice and engage some of them the few times she showed up hoping to miss her parents, and they all ignored her—except for Lester. When she turned around and realized that she was face to chest with a massive-sized human she hadn’t met before, she quickly swallowed her surprise as she slowly raked her eyes over him. He was wearing a white tank top that contrasted sharply against his dark skin where tattoos were visible on every inch that was exposed. They weren't easy to see because the dark ink blended with his skin tone. He was wearing jeans and black boots. He had to be at least six foot five, six foot six inches tall. Probably taller. Craning her neck her eyes finally found his face, and she saw that he had a beautiful complexion. A smooth chin with very little hint of facial hair. His prominent cheekbones and jet-black hair told her he had to be Native American. He was handsome in a pretty way. She shook her head to clear it and thought, what does that even mean? He wasn't handsome or pretty. He was downright scary. He had black eyes that were cold. Eyes that seemed dead and at the same time exuded authority she immediately resented and possibly even feared.

Lester had referred to him as “boss” so he must have had some clout over the crew. She bit the inside of her cheek as she realized she might have gotten her new friend, Lester, in trouble. She seriously hoped not. She should've been nicer to his boss, but the man's cold stare angered and frightened her at the same time. She'd raised her chin not as an act of defiance, but to ward off the fit of shaking that was starting on the inside and was threatening to reveal itself. She hadn't been able to grab her bag from the car and get inside quick enough.

Ignoring the blasting headache she'd woken up with that morning, she raked her hand through her short blonde hair, blew out a long breath and walked to the front window, making sure she hid from sight. She didn't see either man out front and decided she was safe. Mr. Dark and Brooding had obviously walked away to some other part of the yard.

Her breathing back to normal, she scanned the large foyer and shifted her attention to the twin stairways that swept up each side of the room. The last two times she was here she spent most of her time in Van's home office, but to no avail. Other than a couple of receipts from an accountant in Miami, her search had gleaned nothing that she hadn’t already known about. The accountant was a surprise, and when she had more time, she would check into him and which accounts he was handling. But instinct told her he wasn’t important. That same instinct told her she needed to concentrate today's search in a not-so-obvious place. Possibly the master bedroom. Or what should've been the master bedroom. She was certain that Van and Vivian hadn't shared it in years.

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