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Runaway Heiress
Runaway Heiress
Runaway Heiress
Ebook232 pages3 hours

Runaway Heiress

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Living the life of a celebrity isn't always as perfect as it seems.

Katherine Dawson was born into a life of privilege as the heiress to an apparel dynasty. Between judging a reality TV competition for budding fashion designers and having been the face of her family's clothing line for most of her life, she's one of the biggest celebrities in her field.

When she becomes engaged to up-and-coming television producer Nathan Taylor, she appears to have it all. To any outsider, she has a picture-perfect life, so when Katherine leaves her groom-to-be at the altar and disappears, the tabloids are full of speculation over her sudden departure.

Fleeing New York to hide out in Seattle, she quickly finds that living the life of an heiress in hiding isn't as easy as she thought, especially after she meets a magnetic writer named Royce Reynolds. In her new life on the West Coast, she struggles to keep her anonymity, and  experiences a relationship with a man who wants her for the person she is, not the celebrity she used to be.

Release dateAug 13, 2019
Runaway Heiress
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Ariel Storm

A self-professed bookworm, Netflix junkie and all around story geek, Ariel Storm started writing as an adolescent and hasn’t looked back. In her late teens she picked up a paperback romance and was hooked. Her obsession with love stories stems from her desire to shine light and positivity into a negative, dark world. Although she’s held almost every job imaginable, from working in a restaurant, a call center and public libraries, ‘writer’ is her favorite job title, and one she feels blessed to have.

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    Book preview

    Runaway Heiress - Ariel Storm

    Chapter One

    D addy?

    Katherine Dawson’s voice echoed off the stone walls of St. Patrick’s cathedral. As one of New York City’s oldest churches, the structure had enough prestige and beauty to hold Sunday service, and memorials. It also provided the perfect setting for storybook weddings, like hers.

    When her father didn’t answer right away, Katherine gathered the heavy material of her wedding gown in her hand and walked the few steps to reach her dad. She looked down at the enormous bouquet of flowers in her hand and almost lost her nerve. Yet, the longer she stared at the arrangement of white roses, calla lilies and orchids, the more it reinforced her gut reaction to this day. Like the stunning flowers arranged so perfectly in the bundle, she was also trussed up and made to look pristine. She too was arranged at her peak, the moment in her life when she was likely most attractive. She knew if she went through with this decision that just like the flowers, soon she would wither and lose her beautiful essence. Through the heavy wooden doors, she heard the faint strains coming from the fifteen-piece orchestra. They were preparing to play the wedding march. It was now or never. If she had any chance at escaping the glamorous affair, it was in this moment.

    Daddy. She stood in front of her father and knew she must look as panicked and frightened as a wounded animal. I have to get out of here. I can’t go through with this.

    Tears welled in her eyes, but she blinked fast to push them away. Once the waterworks started, she didn’t know when they might stop. She dropped her hold on the dress and reached for her father’s hand.

    I’m leaving. If you want to stay and deal with mother’s temper tantrums when she finds out I left Nathan at the altar, so be it. Daddy, I just can’t do this. He stood silently, his gaze fixed on the flowers in her fist. Shame welled. She’d disappointed him. It felt like nothing she did could please her mom, but the idea of her father being upset with her was almost too much to bear. Well, won’t you say something?

    Her father cleared his throat and brought his gaze to hers. It was then she noticed the tears that had formed in his eyes. She hated that she’d let him down, but she couldn’t go through life with such a momentous lie hanging over her head. She stood on tiptoe, wrapping her arms around him for a quick hug. I’m sorry I’ve hurt you. I don’t want to be a disappointment to you, but I have to stay true to myself. You won’t see me for a while. As she said the words, she knew it was true. Although she had no real plan and no idea how she’d pull off escaping her insane lifestyle.

    I’m going away, but I don’t know where yet. I’ve got to go find out who I really am without all the pressures of being Katherine Dawson hanging over my head.

    Kitty Kat, he whispered, using her childhood nickname, I could never be disappointed in you. I’m crying because you’ve made me happy. Go find yourself. Follow your dreams. That’s what I’ve always wanted for you. I love you.

    Daddy, I love you, too.

    She turned her head toward the heavy wooden doors again. The wedding march was playing. She had to go now. Preparing for the sprint she knew she’d have to do to make it to the limousine that waited outside, she kicked off her silver-sequined Louboutin heels. Dropping her bouquet on the ground and gathering her skirt in her hands, she hurried out of the front door and down the church steps.

    In her haste to escape the wedding, she’d forgotten about the crowd of reporters and spectators gathered along the sidewalk and in the street. At least fifty black cameras took aim at her and several eager members of the paparazzi stood right in her path, their camera flashes going off. She refused to look into their lenses, even as they called out to her by name. Her gaze was locked in on the back door of the limousine. Once she got there, she’d be home free.

    Katherine! Katherine! Why are you running?

    Have cold feet, Katherine?

    Where’s the groom?

    Ignoring the inane questions from the media, she opened the door to the back seat of the car. Franklin, her family’s driver, jumped from the front seat, prepared to help her into the vehicle. Katherine met his gaze and she shook her head. He took her unspoken command and hopped back behind the wheel. She could handle the paparazzi. After all, she’d been dodging the vultures since she’d been a teen. Pulling the door closed behind her provided a moment of peace. However, her relief was cut short as half of the camera-wielding assholes formed a semi-circle around the limousine while the rest scattered to nearby cabs. The car had to move before they got trapped—or worse—were followed by the bloodthirsty press.

    Where to?

    Her mind raced while she tried to think of someplace safe he could take her.

    Take me to my penthouse. No, wait! Don’t do that. She knew that would be the next place the paparazzi looked for her. It wouldn’t do if the press followed them to her apartment. Arriving in the sleek, black town car was a dead giveaway. She wished for the anonymity of a taxi, or a rideshare service.

    Take me up a few blocks, then I can hop out, hail a cab and have the driver drop me off around back.

    She glanced down at the ivory wedding dress. She needed to get out of the itchy, Godforsaken gown. It was starting to feel like a vise, squeezing the life from her body, not to mention she was barefoot. Her brilliant escape plan started to crumble around her. If she stepped out onto the street corner in her current state of dress the media would descend upon her within seconds. Damn, so much for arriving in an anonymous yellow cab. She gave him the go-ahead to go to her house anyway, and to her relief, Franklin floored the vehicle, giving no consideration to the asshats with cameras standing around in the street.

    While they peeled out from in front of the church, Franklin assured her that he would drop her off at the private back entrance of her building. Provided they could lose the press between here and the short drive to her place, the car could pull into the restricted garage where she could slip into the private elevator to her house. Being carted around Manhattan in a town car was more her mother’s style. Katherine couldn’t remember the last time she’d had Franklin pick her up or drop her off at her penthouse. Under normal circumstances she preferred to walk or drive herself. As the limo weaved in and out of the mid-town traffic, she felt a surge of relief. She’d pulled off something that had previously seemed impossible and had saved herself from a huge mistake.

    Now, what to do next?

    Looking around the interior of the limousine, she noticed the chilled bottles of Dom Perignon and twin champagne flutes. A drink sounded heavenly. God knew she needed something to soothe her nerves. Even though she’d gotten away from the church, the stickiest parts were yet to come. After popping the cork on the bubbly, she put the bottle to her mouth and took a long pull. Letting the exquisite liquid dance upon her tongue, she thought about the coming aftershocks of leaving Nathan at the altar.

    Her wedding had been touted as one of the biggest social events of the year. Hell, there had been more media parked out front of the church than there had been the last time the president had been in town. She took another swig of Dom and scratched at the bobby pins nestled in her mane. Pulling the veil from her head, she tugged hard enough to rip a few strands of hair out. Her elaborate updo was wrecked, but she didn’t give a damn. No one was going to see her.

    Twenty-fifty, she called to Franklin, giving him her code for the gate to the private garage at her building.

    I still remember your code. I may be getting on in years, but I remember the important things.

    He pulled up to the private elevator that led to the penthouse and jumped out to assist her. Katherine was too quick. She’d already hopped from the back seat by the time he’d rounded the car. Despite the warm June day, the concrete floor of the garage was cool beneath her bare feet.

    Do you want the bags out of the trunk, Miss Katherine?

    Yes, I suppose I’ll need them. The three pieces of Louis Vuitton are mine. The rest belong to...Mr. Taylor, she said, speaking of her now ex-fiancé’s luggage.

    She’d completely forgotten about her baggage. She’d assumed they’d already been delivered to the room at the Plaza where she and Nathan were supposed to spend the night. Thank heaven for small miracles. That would be one less thing she’d need to take care of. The driver placed the largest bag on the ground then sifted through the other items in the trunk. Impatient and knowing she was on borrowed time, Katherine reached in and slung her carry-on bag over her shoulder then grabbed the small suitcase in her left hand.

    It’s okay. I’ve got it. She popped the handle of the larger bag up to pull it behind her. Looking earnestly in the driver’s eyes, she pleaded, I won’t need you anymore today. Feel free to do whatever you want from here. This little...snag has no effect on your pay. If you choose to return to the church, please tell no one where you brought me and please don’t bring anyone here.

    Of course, miss. If it’s all the same to you, I could really use the evening off. Don’t worry. I won’t breathe a word of your whereabouts to your mother.

    Take the evening off with pay. If my mother tries to say otherwise, don’t listen to her. I’ll have my assistant see to it that you’re paid. Thank you for all that you’ve done for me. She squeezed his hand in appreciation, wishing she knew where her purse was in her collection of bags, so she could slip him a hefty tip.

    Dragging her luggage behind her, she hurried to the elevator, punched in her access code then rode all the way to the top. Thankfully she had the option of keypad access to enter her apartment as well, since she didn’t want to spend the minute to rifle through her bags for her keys. She knew that time was of the essence. It was only a matter of moments before someone, her mother, Nathan or Tiffany—her personal assistant—showed up at her door. She could barricade herself inside and put off the inevitable by changing the access code to her apartment door. At least then no one could come inside. Of course that wouldn’t stop them from beating on the door or blowing up her cell.

    As though on cue, the electronic device started ringing. She heard the muffled bleeping noise coming from the attaché case slung over her shoulder. Picking a six-digit code at random, Katherine went through the necessary steps to change her access code. She could scratch that item off her to-do list. In doing so, she’d held off the wolves for a little longer.

    After dumping her luggage in the middle of the foyer, she tore at the gown, trying to get the constrictive piece of clothing off her body. The bodice laced up the back and fit her figure like a glove. It had taken the help of two people to get the dress on her. It wasn’t likely that she could get it off without the help of another person. That was, of course, unless she didn’t care if the damned thing remained intact. At the moment, she didn’t. She grabbed a pair of scissors, then went to work on getting the offending garment off. The dress had been designed especially for her. It was an exquisite piece of clothing. She knew cutting it was a selfish move. And one that would very likely land her in fashion purgatory.

    It could also have a cathartic effect, like a snake shedding its skin or a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Destroying the gown could be therapeutic and the first step in claiming her new identity. Gone would be her old life, the old her. The new Katherine would surface from the horrible event stronger, better and more vivacious—like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

    Shit, I’ve lost my mind.

    Enough with the transformative metaphors. Just do it already.

    The sound of the shears ripping through the heavy silk fabric should have mortified her. After all, she’d spent most of her life in the fashion industry. To any other apparel heiress, what she was doing was a crime so heinous she should be punished with a life sentence on the worst-dressed list. That was the thing about her. She just didn’t care. Never had and never would, she realized, as she tore through the dress. When it lay in a shredded pool of fabric at her ankles, she took a deep breath, filling her lungs with air for what felt like the first time in an eternity.

    Her cell phone chimed again. She’d received a text message. Choosing to ignore it, she strutted into her bedroom and pulled off the white strapless bra and matching thong. She grabbed a black tank top and a pair of running shorts. Her cell phone rang, and she decided it was time to face the music—or at least see who was calling her, and see what kind of texts and voicemails they’d left.

    A glance at the device’s screen told her she had twelve voicemails. Somewhat methodically, she listened to the messages. The first ten were from her mother. One was from her assistant and the last was a hang up. Tiffany offered to help her in any way she could. She’d even gone so far as to ask if she could handle the press or hold her calls, emails and social media profiles until further notice. Her mother’s messages weren’t quite as friendly.

    She’d threatened her with disinheritance, which was just a bluff anyway, since Ivy and Plaid was her father’s company. Like so many other things in life, her mother had simply taken over the clothing line when they’d married. True, she was mostly responsible for where the company was today. She’d breathed new life into the line. She’d expanded it, reinvented and strengthened their brand. The reality TV show had been her baby as well.

    Sighing, she dropped her cell phone on the bed. She didn’t want to think about her mother or her enterprising ways. Experience told her that her mother wouldn’t take her leaving Nathan at the altar lying down. She’d do everything in her power—and if it was one thing her mother had, it was power—to make sure Katherine mended things with Nathan.

    Grabbing the remote, she flipped on the flat-screen TV that hung on her bedroom wall. Torturing herself, she headed straight for one of the twenty-four hour cable news channels. Standing stock-still, she watched and listened for any mention of her name. She lifted the remote, ready to turn the TV off. She’d been vain to presume running out of her wedding would merit a story on a respectable news station. TMZ or E! sure, but CNN? Probably not. Just as she was about to flip to another channel, she read her name as it came across the crawl at the bottom of the screen.

    Katherine Dawson of Ivy and Plaid Apparel leaves groom Nathan Taylor at the altar. Dawson serves as one of the judges on her family’s reality TV show, A Cut Above, which Taylor executive produces. There is speculation over whether the reality show will come back for a fifth season. An official statement from Dawson’s personal assistant was declined.

    Wonderful. Her life was unraveling and all the public could worry about was whether the show would continue or not. Letting loose with a guttural growl, she threw herself onto her mattress in disgust. Rolling onto her belly, she aimed the remote at the TV and flipped through the channels. On each news and entertainment channel she saw more of the same. Her name scrolling across the bottom along with similar questions. She muted the sound on the TV and hopped off the bed.

    Her face had the waxy, plastic feel of too much cosmetics and she remembered that although she’d stripped out of her wedding garb and loosened her hairstyle, she hadn’t removed her makeup yet. She flipped on the bright lights above the wide mirror. Leaning against the marble counter, she peered at her reflection. The heavily made-up face and false eyelashes juxtaposed with her running attire looked ridiculous. She scrubbed over her cheekbones, eyes and forehead with a washcloth and carefully removed the fake eyelashes. Her face was bare, her skin smooth from lack of cosmetic gunk. Turning her back to the mirror, she leaned against the bathroom counter and folded her arms across her chest.

    She needed to get out of there. Pretty soon—if not already—her apartment would become ground zero for the press, at least until the next celebrity fucked up. Oh how she wished a young starlet would go to rehab or a rapper would assault a member of the paparazzi—anything to turn the spotlight off her life. Looking around the plush white carpeted bedroom, she wondered what she could do.

    Her eyes landed on a photograph of her with her grandma. She walked to the dresser and picked up the heavy silver frame that held the snapshot. In it, she and her grandma stood smiling at the base of Seattle’s famed Space Needle. Running her fingertips over the glass, she stroked her grandmother’s cheek. The picture had been taken nearly ten years ago, when Katherine had still been a teenager. Her grandma had died a couple of years ago. In a move that had outraged and perplexed her mother—the rightful heir—her grandmother had left the majority of her fortune to Katherine instead of her own daughter.

    Her grandmother’s reasoning was that her daughter had slowly eaten away at her inheritance while she’d been living. Besides that, she’d made plenty with her marriage to Katherine’s father. She had controlling interest in a successful clothing apparel company, was a judge on a reality TV series and  had landed a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with a high-end wrinkle cream. She bit her lip and giggled as she thought about her mother in the ads. She claimed that her smooth, unlined face was due to using the miracle potion, when in reality her mother had undergone cosmetic surgeries more times than Katherine could count.

    The chirping of her cell broke her out of her reverie. She recognized the special ringtone she’d programmed for Tiffany. She set the frame down as gently as she could then walked to the bed and picked up her cell. She needed to get this over with. She’d have her assistant cancel the honeymoon she’d booked in Bora Bora.

    Hey, Tiff.

    Oh my God! I didn’t expect you to actually pick up. Are you okay?

    "Well, considering...yes. I’m great.

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