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Hard(9)

By´╝ÜSosie Frost



Except I only wanted one flavor.

Vanilla.

Oh, man did I need something vanilla. With dark swirls of ink and enough power to knock me on my butt and keep me there. Another night with a man like Zach would definitely take my mind off of this insanity.

“Before you get too excited, we have a couple particulars to discuss,” William said. He cleared his throat, harumping over some of the fine print on the contract. “Because of the…enormity of your father’s resources, the actual liquid assets and investments were combined into your trust. You will receive the money with your scheduled inheritance when you graduate. In…six months.”

“Five.”

“Oh.” William squinted at the paper. “Uh, I think your father mistyped your information.”

Not a surprise.

“In any case, Shay, the estate and his immediate belongings—car, home, material possessions—will be divided between his living heirs.”

His what now? Heirs?

Plural?

The hair on my neck prickled. I held up a hand, gesturing for William to explain what the hell that meant. He cringed.

“I see your father and you…haven’t spoken for some time.”

“What heirs? I am his living heir.” I stiffened. “Oh, no. I knew he was playing around while he was still with Momma. He has a secret lovechild somewhere, doesn’t he?”

“No, no.” William paused. “Well, not quite.”

“Oh, Lord. What did he do?”

“It’s not what you think. You know your father was in love with Emily Brewer. She was a lovely lady. You would have liked her.”

I wasn’t going to disparage a woman I didn’t know, especially one who was tragically killed in the same car crash that took my father. But even when I learned of the engagement, I wasn’t ready to get mani-pedi’s with my new step-mother. My father had his life. I had mine. If we only wanted to meet up for the holidays, all the better.

“Your father’s wedding…” William folded his hands. “It was just for the family. A nice celebration to bring everyone together.”

“Aren’t they all?”

William’s eyebrows furrowed. “It wasn’t the official ceremony. Shay, your father married Ms. Brewer over a month ago. Completely spontaneous and romantic. He flew her to Aruba—”

“They got married?”

“And his will was updated to reflect it. You see…Ms. Brewer has a son…”

He didn’t tell me.

Why didn’t even tell me? Not an e-mail. Not a call. Not even a damn postcard from his wedding! I paced, clutching my stomach.

“Are you kidding me?” I slammed a hand on the window. “My father marries some woman, dies a month later, and her kid is named in his will?”

“Shay, I told you, he thought of her family as his.”

“Well, at least he remembered them!”

“You were given the bulk of the inheritance, I assure you.”

“It’s not about the money!” I pointed to the paper in his hands. “It’s about his will! For the past seven years, my father pretended I didn’t exist, and now he’s claiming some other kid as his own! That’s not right. He never even wanted his own biological child.”

“I understand this will take some…adjustments. But your step-brother—”

“—Do not call him that—”

“—Is entitled to half of your father’s new home, and the same material goods I mentioned previously.”

“Jesus.”

“We might be able to work something out—especially if you wish to live at the estate. But first we should meet with him and work out an arrangement.”

“Meet with him?”

William motioned for me to sit. He buzzed on an intercom for a secretary nearly as old as the crackling electronics.

“Sandy, could you send Zachary in?”

Zachary?

“You brought her son here? Now?” I groaned. “William, I can’t have a freakout in front of a kid. Please tell me he’s not some ten year old grieving orphan.”

“No, no. He’s not a child. He’s older than you, actually.”

Well, that didn’t make me feel better. Not at all. Instead of a kid who might have needed help, I’d be dealing with some adult ready to bolt from their day job and spend all my father’s money on a Caribbean beach house.

William stood as the door opened and an elderly secretary hobbled within the room. She gestured the man through.

My stomach dropped.

So did everything else.

My pride. My dignity. My rage.

Zach Harden gave me a cocky grin and shrugged.

“Hey, sis.”





“Oh. Hell. No.”

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