The Inheritance Part I
An Excerpt From
The Inheritance Part I

Maggie pressed a clenched fist to her stomach and drew in a deep breath. You can do this. The funeral was much harder, and it’s almost all over now. She opened the glass doors to the large brick building and made her way up the beige-carpeted steps to the third floor. A small brass placard to the side of the office door let her know when she’d reached the right room: Webber and Gareth, Attorneys at Law.

She lifted a shaking hand to smooth the errant wisps of hair around her face, drew another steadying intake of air and opened the door.

An older woman in a soft mauve dress looked up from her mahogany desk, small strands of a tidy gray bun spilling around her face in gentle curls. “Miss Willings,” she said quietly, nodding. Her line-grooved eyes were filled with a generic kindness worn by those who frequently interacted with grieving relatives or emotionally volatile clients. “Please, come in. Mr. Webber will see you in the conference room.” Her slender heels clacked across the slick black-tiled floor into a clean, neutral room on the right with a massive cherry table. “Can I bring you any coffee?”

“No, I’m—” Maggie stepped inside, then stopped, blinking in surprise. “I’m . . . fine,” she made herself continue.

Andrew Brownstone stared back at her, offering a polite half smile. A lock of dark hair flopped over his brow, and in typical Andrew fashion, he let it stay.

Why was he here? Her lungs squeezed tight. He’d made a brief appearance at her grandfather’s funeral, lingering at the back of the crowd and giving her nothing more than a slight nod. The biggest show of emotion he could muster, it had seemed. Had her grandfather put some kind of provision for him in his will?

And if so, why?

She buried her shock and irritation. This wasn’t about her and her issues with an old high-school boyfriend—it was about her grandfather. “Andrew,” she managed to say, proud of her cool and calm voice. She slid into the chair, pressing her now-damp palms onto her lap.

“Maggie,” he replied, his voice equally smooth, the slight drawl slipping across her skin and caressing her in a way she’d thought was long forgotten. His dark suit highlighted the sharp edge of his jaw, the bright blue eyes she’d fallen into more than once, back when she was a naïve seventeen-year-old.

Eight years. Eight years since she’d seen him, and they’d been reduced to these polite formalities. It was like they’d never kissed, never slipped out at night to dance under the moon and—

“Hello?” a familiar light voice asked from the doorway.

Maggie whipped her head around. Icy anger flooded her veins as she stared into the eyes of her former best friend. The gold digger herself, dressed to the nines in a slim red-and-black sheath with black Christian Louboutin heels tall enough to stab someone. Her dark brown hair was coiffed to perfection. God forbid Bethany step out in public without drawing attention to herself.

“Bethany. I’m surprised you bothered to leave my grandfather’s mansion long enough to make it here.”

The instant the words flew from her mouth, Maggie flinched, knowing she sounded a bit too harsh. The rampant emotions of the last few days—finding out her estranged grandfather had died, booking a last-minute flight from Florida back to her hometown, the funeral—had nearly broken her. But when she’d seen Bethany clutching her grandfather’s cold, dead hand while she was poured into an expensive black dress and crying prettily into a handkerchief, Maggie had nearly lost it.

Why had no one warned her beforehand about her grandfather’s affair—and with her, of all people? What would a woman in her midtwenties want with a man in his sixties? Nothing . . . unless he happened to be attached to several million dollars. She never would have expected that kind of blatant materialism from Bethany, though apparently she should have.

The only thing that had held back Maggie’s rage at the funeral was respect for her family. Now that her grandfather was gone, their ties with Bethany could be severed once and for all. The woman could get her portion of the inheritance today and slither back under a rock for all Maggie cared.

Bethany slipped into a padded black swivel chair at the end of the table with a tightly clenched jaw, not responding to Maggie’s barb. Just as well. She needed to get through this next half hour and then get the hell out of here. Hop back on a flight to Florida and leave this godforsaken nightmare behind.

Every moment in this town reminded her of dark memories she’d fought hard to suppress.

Not now. Maggie bit her lip, forcing her attention to the smooth wooden curves of the table, the rich swirl of colors.

The silence stretched out, long and awkward. Chairs creaked. Fingers drummed on the table. Maggie shifted in her seat, checked the time on her cell. What the hell was taking her brother so long? And were her parents coming too, or had they been cut out of the will because of the family split?

She purposely didn’t look at Bethany, who made occasional inane small talk with Andrew about the weather, the high school football team’s chances of success this year, on and on and on. What did Maggie have in common with these people, anyway? Nothing anymore, it seemed. So much distance.

So much unsaid.

Finally, her brother Robert burst in, the usual flurry of chaos accompanying him. “I’m here,” he said loudly, his dark blond hair spiked casually on top, his gray suit slightly wrinkled but form-fitted to perfection. “Sorry to keep you all waiting.” His gaze scraped over Andrew, who nodded, then over Bethany.

Right on his heels came her grandfather’s probate attorney, Mr. Webber himself, bearing a thick manila envelope and a regretful look on his face. “So sorry for all the delays,” he said, his voice thin and reedy as he shuffled his portly body to the end of the room. He sat, and Robert took the empty seat on his right. “First, let me say I’m truly sorry about your grandfather. He was a good man, and we’re going to miss him.” His eyes showed earnest emotion, underscored by the deep worry lines on his face. “I’m going to get right to the point. Your grandfather never let go of hope for a solution to Cassandra’s case, and his will addresses that.”

Maggie’s jaw dropped, her heart slamming madly against her rib cage. A swell of pain washed over her, fresh as ever, mixed with a healthy dose of confusion. “What does she have to do with any of this?”

What the hell was going on here?

 
The Inheritance Part I

The Inheritance Part I