Authors: Tori Brooks
, 2013 Mike’s Basement, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from Mike’s Basement, Inc. For permission requests (outside of the scope of "Fair Use" doctrine), contact:
This book is a work of fiction. The characters and events described are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or people, living or deceased, is purely coincidental. Except for the baby gate incident, that happened.
Thank you to
Marie Tilley for editing and A&L Brewerton for the cover design. My special thanks to my husband and family for their continued support. I acknowledge my addiction to Dr. Pepper and Appletini Crystal Light. I also acknowledge teenagers are what they are and I’ve gotten off easy. So far. It’s not over, but so far. (Now that I’ve said that . . .)
Table Of Contents
Flynn shortened his long stride and slowed his pace. The woman not far in front of him on the crowded
New York sidewalk
Teri. He already saw her profile when she turned to talk to the younger woman she was with, but she looked like Teri, from behind anyway. Flynn sighed. He needed to let it go. He already followed this woman nearly two blocks out of his way.
She stopped at a crosswalk and Flynn waited with the growing crowd for the light to change. This was insane. His divorce was final three months ago; he lost his wife and he lost the woman he
, for all intents and purposes, left his wife for. Teri was happily snuggled in the bed of another man.
The light changed and Flynn followed the short
, curvy brunette across the street at a discreet distance. Her stride was different from Teri’s, more brisk. Flynn shook his head, this was beyond insane. Never mind obsessing over a woman he couldn’t have and probably shouldn’t, eventually someone was going to recognize him. He dreaded a fan asking where he was headed. Besides, with his marital track record, the best thing he could do for Teri is stay away from her.
bothered Flynn was that he never got a fair chance. By the time he met her, Paul Lovett had already invested an unimaginable amount into his pursuit. Flynn couldn’t compete with that right out of the gate. Of course he was a rock star, he should have pressed that advantage, Flynn thought bitterly. If there was one thing he knew, it was seducing women.
The woman turned into a shop with her companion. Flynn
glanced and did a double take: it was a tobacco shop. He didn’t see that coming. Briefly, he considered following her in, but Flynn didn’t smoke anymore and the woman wasn’t Teri anyway, so he loitered outside for a moment while he thought.
He wanted Teri
, although he decided not to pursue it when the private investigator he hired gave evidence Paul moved in with her. But he couldn’t put her behind him. Maybe it was time to look again. Paul was a prick. Maybe Teri was ready to move on.
“Flynn Alexander Peterson?
, thinking a fan finally found him, standing in front of a tobacco shop of all places. Wait . . . his full name?
” Flynn sized up the man. He was a suit. Flynn had too much experience to think he was about to be served lawsuit papers. This guy was a novice and wouldn’t last if that was his job.
“I have a message for you. Paul Lovett would like to see you
” Was it possible Paul knew he hired someone to follow Teri? No, that was months ago; if Paul found out he would have done something about it then.
’d like to meet you. In his office if that’s agreeable.” The man seemed to be remembering a set of instructions and contingencies. Flynn knew the look well from his manager’s never-ending parade of assistants.
“And he sent you out to wander
New York looking for me?”
, sir. I went to your apartment building. I’ve been trying to catch up with you for over three blocks.” The man glanced at the tobacco shop and back to Flynn, his brow furrowed slightly. Flynn didn’t feel like commenting on why he accidentally led Paul’s lackey on a merry goose chase, he just decided to accept a reason for the walk more satisfying than chasing a dream.
“Why does Paul want to see me?
’t say, sir.”
The idea of meeting with Paul was
distasteful. Nothing good could come of it. Regardless, he found himself nodding. Damn his curiosity. “Fine. I’ll see him.”
• • •
“Flynn, please come in.”
Flynn hesitated for a moment as Paul stood and gestured to a
pair of comfortable chairs in front of his desk. He still wasn’t certain of the wisdom of agreeing to meet Paul in the first place. He was here now though, so he crossed the room and took a seat, barely glancing at the exquisite décor of Paul’s office. Flynn expected as much. The man had money, he knew that when they competed for Teri’s affection. Paul used his resources better, unfortunately. The realization left a bitter taste in Flynn’s mouth.
, will you —” Paul began.
’s already on his way.” Paul’s secretary smiled and closed the door leaving Paul and Flynn alone. Instead of sitting behind his desk, Paul chose to sit in the other chair beside Flynn.
He wants something
, Flynn decided. A magazine lay open on the desk with a picture of Teri on Paul’s arm attending a charity banquet. Flynn stared at it and didn’t feel inclined to do Paul any favors.
“You got a divorce
,” Paul said. The reminder of his third failed marriage didn’t endear him to Flynn.
’ve got Teri, I’m not a threat anymore,” Flynn said, glancing again at the magazine. It was the current edition.
“Do you still want her?
” Flynn was sure he heard that wrong. Paul worshiped Teri. He looked into their relationship while he went through the divorce. Except for the lack of wedding bands, they seemed cozy and happy together. Women sometimes changed their minds, frequently in Flynn’s experience, it was the reason he was single again. Flynn was hoping to encourage Teri to change her mind. He didn’t expect Paul to.
, I have to ask you not to repeat what I tell you here today. It won’t be for long, but it’s important.”
, but finally nodded in agreement.
Flynn sat up straight and looked at th
e man he thought he hated. He didn’t know what to think. Paul gave him a weak smile.
’t know. I have an aneurysm. If caught in time, medication or surgery could take care of it. But it wasn’t caught in time and there are complications. It’s a fluke we even know, and the specialists it doesn’t look good. If I’d known, I never would have pursued Teri. She lost her husband to a heart attack. I don’t want to put her through this again. I’m doing what I can to make it easier on her.”
Flynn stared at Paul in shock. The door behind him opened and closed as Tim
, Paul’s assistant, joined them. His footfalls echoed in Flynn’s mind and the chair behind Paul’s desk creaked softly when Tim sat. Finally the reality of Paul’s statement reached Flynn’s consciousness. He nodded silently before he found his voice.
“What can I do?
” Flynn offered, his voice hoarse.
’s a proud woman. She’ll need a shoulder to cry on, but she won’t ask and won’t accept if you offer. Of course she has Nicholas, they’ve been friends for a long time. He’ll be there for her, but she’ll need more. I’ve drawn up a will that will cause quite a bit of tension when it’s read. You’re included. Unofficially, I’m leaving you Teri.”
Flynn furrowed his brow and shook his head
, not understanding how that was possible. Not daring to believe. Paul held up a hand.
“There is a subtle plot behind this and I need you to help me carry it out. As my goal and yours will be the same
, you have a chance of success. Teri told you about her son, Dev, and his band.”
Flynn nodded. He tentatively planned on using her son
’s band as his ‘in.’
might be biased, and I’m certainly not an expert on the music industry, but I think they have potential. I’m setting aside a trust for the boys to develop their abilities and to produce an album. I’m putting you in charge of that, if you’re willing. You’ve been in the industry a long time, your band is successful, your involvement is reasonable. Naturally it means you’ll need to hang around the house quite a bit. That will give you a reason to be there and, because she already knows you, Teri will hopefully be able to lean on you when needed.
“Give her time
, of course, she’ll be upset. I’ll leave you a letter also asking you to look after her for me. Don’t show her that right away, with any luck you won’t need to at all. Try to get her out of the house. She loves the Seattle Aquarium, The Space Needle at sunset, and the zoos. Choose your timing. But if she resists, and you think it’s time, show her the letter. It might throw her into tears, but she’ll most likely be cooperative after that. Once you can start getting her out of the house, you can take it from there.”
, still unsure of what to say.
“I suspect you
’ll get along fine with the kids. Teri has two: Cassandra and Devin. Cassie and her best friend, Tiffany, are nearly inseparable so you’ll see Tiffany sleeping over quite a bit. The girls are easy going and they’re heading off to NYU next fall. I don’t expect you to have any problems with them.
“Of the boys
, Dev is the youngest in the band, two years younger than Bryan and four years younger than Kenny and Jess. Jess is quite the ladies’ man, but he’s not exactly clever. I suspect he’s capable of using his mind, he just hasn’t needed to. Kenny is smart and talented as far as I can tell. He’s the drive behind the band. He writes their songs and makes their decisions. Kenny doesn’t get along with Cassie, and it irritates him whenever he sees Jess fawn over her. Bryan is the patient one who holds them together. Dev fights with Kenny and Jess, Bryan sooths the frayed nerves. They act like brothers, with Jess and Kenny as oldest and Dev as the youngest, used to getting his own way. Bryan is the stereotype of a middle child, he fades to the background except when he’s keeping the peace. Unfortunately, Bryan doesn’t actually live there, he just sleeps over quite a bit.
“Dev is a smart kid
; really smart, watch him. He’s got a knack for computers. Shortly before I came into the picture, Teri grounded him for a month because he got mad at her and wrote a virus to disable her cell phone. He likes to outwit Jess too. Oddly, that doesn’t annoy Jess as much as it probably should.”
“Cell phone virus
,” Flynn repeated weakly.
“Yes. I doubt he
’d do it again, and don’t let him know I told you. I don’t think he knows Teri told me. She just wanted to warn me because Dev and I tend to butt heads. Also, Teri’s raising them to uphold abstinence, including the boys but with limited success in Jess’s case. No success actually. Dev threw quite the fit when he found out Teri and I . . .
“Teri can be seduced
, but don’t rush it. She’s very conservative. Once you get there, she’s really . . . ah, energetic.”
Flynn felt his face grow hot as Paul continued and opted to stare out the window behind Tim instead of face the man telling him how to seduce the woman he loved. Flynn noticed Tim watching him
, and the heat spread to his ears. He looked away from Tim. Why was he here? The thought to stop Paul didn’t occur to Flynn, but a witness to the uncomfortable conversation made it even worse.
“Luckily you don
’t have a tour planned anytime soon, of course I don’t know when it’ll happen,” Paul continued, unaware of Flynn’s wandering mind and growing discomfort.
Flynn turned back to Paul and simply nodded in acknowledgment.
“It’s a lot to take in.”
“More than a little unexpected
,” Flynn agreed.
“Tim will help as needed.
Flynn looked back at Tim
, finally understanding his presence. Tim didn’t smile, but nodded in agreement of Paul’s assurances.
, I generally try to be prompt, but there is no specific time frame for this.” Paul smiled at his little joke.
. . .” Flynn faltered, unwilling to ask if it would hurt or even if he was in pain now. Paul understood what he was asking, however, and looked away before he answered. His voice changed now that he wasn’t thinking about Teri.
“They say it
’ll be fairly quick, with little or no pain or warning. Obviously things that increase my heart rate increase the likelihood . . . I’m not changing anything. I won’t live like that.” Paul paused and Flynn looked to Tim, but received no further answers. “I might have six months, they’re not sure.”
“Are you going to tell her?
’m preparing as much as I can and I don’t want to ruin the time we have left. As far as Teri’s concerned, I’m retiring. With any luck, I’ll finish my retirement plans and actually get to spend more time with her. Of course, it might be better if it happens while I’m away from home.” Paul sighed and looked back to Flynn. “Either way, she’ll know afterward that I knew. I have a letter for her, and it’ll be clear when the will is read.
“On that topic
, while the arrangements for the trust and management of developing the kids’ band are already underway, they won’t be notified until the reading of the will.”
’t you want to see their happy little faces?” Flynn smiled.
“Not concerned about it
, no. Dev would just be suspicious. He’s accused me several times of trying to buy him off. He doesn’t approve of my relationship with Teri. I can’t marry her. It’s complicated and he doesn’t understand. Teri does and that’s what’s important. She knows I want to do this for them, and believes Tim’s still looking into the details. The reason I’m waiting isn’t anything to do with the kids, it’s because I want you at the reading and it gives a plausible reason for you to be there.”
” Flynn was rapidly becoming a bundle of raw nerves. Paul was so calm about dying. He was planning everything, giving the woman he fought so hard for to another — him. Flynn couldn’t do what he was doing. A sickening realization burrowed through Flynn: the best man
win Teri. And she was losing him. How could he fill those shoes?
“I expect trouble and I want her to have as many people there to support her as I can.
“What kind of trouble?
“My wife and children will be taken care of
, Flynn, but they won’t be happy with my division of assets.”
, it’s only fair to give Flynn a brief explanation about your wife,” Tim said. Paul looked at him, then nodded and turned back to Flynn.
“My marriage failed due to mistakes we both made. One point that hopefully won
’t come up is that none of my three children are actually mine. They’re adults now and I don’t know if they suspect anything. I raised them so I’ll always think of them as my children. It might be a shock to them if they don’t know.
“Sara is bitter and refused to grant me a divorce at any
price. She’s holding the children’s paternity over me, threatening to ruin the lives of three other families if I sue for a divorce. Teri met her and decided she’d rather live with me in sin than let Sara get her way.”
“Does your wife know?
“Yes. Knowing about Teri isn
’t the problem. It’s that if she’d given me a divorce, Sara would have gotten quite a bit of money. I’m not feeling quite so generous in my impending death. I’m also treating Dev and Cassie as my own children, they’re inheriting equally. In addition, I’m leaving a little to Tiffany, Jess, Kenny, and Bryan. They’re at the house enough they’re almost like Teri’s children too.”
“And you enjoy the
idea of how Sara’s going to react to the point you’re making,” Tim said quietly.
’ve waited a long time to make this point. It’ll make things uncomfortable though. I’m doing everything I can to take the heat off Teri.”
Paul paused. Flynn stared out the window at the clouds drifting by over Tim
’s shoulder. Paul’s eyes weighed on him.
’s a lot to think about.” The slight change in Paul’s tone startled Flynn and he looked at the man beside him. He saw Paul in a new light now. He wasn’t the opponent he lost the prize to, now he was a comrade who needed his help in the final fight.
, it is. I’ll do what I can for her. Even if things don’t work out between us, I’ll do what I can,” Flynn answered sincerely, looking Paul in the eye for the first time since they sat down.
,” Paul whispered. “That’s all I can ask.”
Kyle Mercer sat quietly behind his desk and waited as people arrived for the reading of Paul Lovett’s will. He knew what was in it, of course, and tried to dissuade Paul for Teri’s sake if no one else’s. Paul was not to be deterred, so Kyle did everything in his power to make it incontestable. He even took it to another senior partner to look over. When he couldn’t find any loopholes, Kyle took it to an ambitious junior attorney with a habit of playing dirty. It was solid.
After the division of assets was handled and the wording of the reading finalized
, Paul and Kyle went about arranging moral support. Kyle had specific instructions and allowances to disclose some terms of the will prior to the official reading. Paul’s former mistress, Kayley, was aware of how everything would play out and agreed to be supportive of Teri. That Kayley and Teri were friends was a surprise and a relief when Kyle approached her.
Kyle met with Flynn Peterson as well and was satisfied he knew his part in the little drama that was about to unfold. Paul hinted at an additional informal agreement with Flynn
, and Tim confirmed it yesterday. It didn’t impact Kyle’s part so he didn’t pry, but found it interesting the lengths Paul went to in order to make everything go smoothly. Where it was supposed to anyway.
He stood as Sara Lovett arrived
, her blond hair pulled back into an elegant twist and wearing the traditional black of a widow. Blaine, Olivia and Chad followed her into the room. Walking around the desk, Kyle shook their hands in turn and gestured where they were to sit.
“Paul was specific
,” Kyle answered her questioning gaze, and Sara sat in her assigned chair without a fuss. Following their mother’s cue, her children took the seats Kyle indicated as well.
’s office was large as befitted a senior partner. The wall behind his desk was made entirely of glass, and he had rich mahogany paneling and bookshelves covering the remainder of the room. Normally there were four comfortable overstuffed chairs in the room but they traded them for fourteen matching chairs from the conference rooms, making it cozy even for his spacious office. Three chairs were positioned in front of Kyle’s desk, Sara would be on the left as he read the will, with Teri on the right and Kayley in the middle as a buffer.
’s children were to her right, and Teri would have her two children to her left. To that point everything was fairly normal. Flynn’s placement beside Dev to Teri’s far left was a breach of etiquette, but Paul wouldn’t budge on it when Kyle tried to talk him out of it.
Behind the women would be Teri
’s friend and sometimes photography assistant, Nicholas Daley, with the other four teens Teri considered to be practically her own. Kyle knew that they were at Teri’s house more often than not, but still disliked Paul’s decision to use them this way. Not that they or their parents would complain.
Also unusual was Tim
’s location to Kyle’s right. Tim was actually inheriting, although he seemed somewhat surprised when Kyle told him earlier. His presence today was not so much as a recipient as an enforcer. Paul expected trouble. Kyle hoped he was watching this from wherever he was. Someone should enjoy today’s proceedings.
Kyle sat on the edge of his desk and waited. Flynn arrived next and Olivia stood in surprise as he walked in. Kyle indicated his seat and Flynn sat with only a small nod to Olivia. Sara pulled Olivia back into her seat with a frown and turned her attention to Kyle. He was expecting this
, so he intentionally wasn’t looking at her to discourage her inevitable questioning stare.
Kayley came in next. Her arrival was planned to be after Sara and before Teri and she was simply waiting in another office for her cue. She knew where she was sitting
, but allowed Kyle to show her to her chair nonetheless. He was grateful she was willing to play along and briefly reconsidered his previous assessment of her. Kyle didn’t like Kayley when she was Paul’s mistress, but when he spoke to her the day before yesterday, he got the impression that she was happy for Paul. There wasn’t any bitterness that she’d been replaced even before Kyle told her how well Paul provided for her in his will. He suspected she already knew Paul would take good care of her because she was only slightly surprised.
’s willingness to play her part extended to her wardrobe, Kyle saw. Leaving her golden hair down in luscious curls, Kayley wore black as well, but much less conservatively than Sara did. Sara was a handsome woman and held herself well, Kayley was simply gorgeous. The kind of face and figure that gave other women a hit to their own self esteem, and she was aiming for Sara.
Sara shifted slightly in her chair to put her back to Kayley as the model took her place. Kayley mirrored the action and gave Kyle a slight smile and playful wink. Kyle fought back a smile of his own. Let the games begin.
Turning his attention to the door, he took a breath as Tim arrived with Teri, Nicholas, and the kids. Like Kayley, Tim arrived earlier and kept Teri’s group in another office until it was time. Paul did what he could in his instructions to make this go easier on Teri, and Tim was determined to insulate her from Sara’s hostility as much as possible.
Tim already knew the seating arrangement and directed Nicholas and the kids as he passed Teri off to Kyle. Teri gave Flynn a curious look but didn
’t say anything. Dev and Cassie hadn’t met Flynn and Kyle noted a mix of awe and confusion in their faces as Tim sat them beside him.
Kayley reached out and gave Teri
’s hand a squeeze as she sat, almost sending Teri into tears. A slight nod from Kayley drew Teri’s attention to Sara on her other side. Unlike Sara and Kayley, Teri wore a simple, unassuming suit. Sara looked at her, a smug expression on her cold face, and Teri seemed to draw on some reserve of strength as she straightened herself in her chair.
Kyle returned to his seat behind his desk
, but waited to sit until Tim closed the door and found his place beside him. Kyle suspected Tim sat only so his presence would be more noticeable when he stood again later.
“Ladies and Gentlemen
, now that you’re all here, I will commence with the official reading of the Last Will and Testament of Paul Andrew Lovett.” Kyle proceeded with the usual preamble from memory as he gauged the reaction of the people in front of him.
Cassie cried and
, being one of the youngest women in the room, he expected that. Kayley and Teri were struggling to hold it together, again he expected it. Sarah and her brood held polite, emotionless expressions. He’d hoped for something from Olivia, although Paul assured him his children truly despised him by now, but her face was as stony as her mother’s.
’s son looked disturbed. Dev clenched his teeth, his hands in tight fists, and stared out the window behind Tim with grim determination. Paul mentioned he and Dev didn’t hit it off. He expressed concern about how the fifteen year old would handle the proceedings.
Dev, Flynn Peterson quietly looked over the room as well. Kyle suspected Tim was doing the same. Nicholas Daley and Teri’s unofficial children displayed varying degrees of grief. Nicholas had an arm around Tiffany, who sniffled and fought back tears. Kenny looked miserable and sat quietly between Jess and Bryan, who looked unhappy and uncomfortable. Kyle only met Teri’s kids and their friends once, but he felt better about the will when he saw they cared more about Paul’s passing than his own children did.
“And now I will disclose the division of assets. At the time Paul Lovett passed
, his estimated worth, including stocks physical assets, totaled four hundred and thirty eight million dollars.”
Sara shifted slightly in her seat and Kyle
’s eyes flickered to her briefly.
“Two hundred and sixty million of that amount will be dispensed to various trusts and organizations which will be made available to you upon request but I will not list at this time
, with two exceptions. A specific trust will be administered by Flynn Peterson and will be used for the development of the music group known as A Thousand Words.”
Kyle permitted himself a small smile as the boys started whispering among themselves. Nicholas got them settled and he continued.
“Mr. Peterson and Mr. Lovett spoke regarding this arrangement already and Mr. Peterson is awarded two million dollars for his service. It was Mr. Lovett’s desire to prepare the group and produce their first album.” Kyle paused again as Nicholas quieted the low murmurs at the back of the room. He pulled out an envelope and handed it to Flynn.
, you already know what’s in there. Considering the distraction, would you mind if I let you give the boys the details later?”
,” Flynn nodded.
“Stay put if you will
,” Kyle reminded him and turned back to the will.
“The other trust is for Lexi Frost
,” Kyle wasn’t disappointed as Sara turned and looked around the room. “She’s a photographer, Sara. Kayley met her and Mr. Daley is here as her representative. Teri knows who she is.” He let Sara settle down before continuing. Kyle specifically failed to mention Lexi Frost was Teri’s pseudonym for her work — erotic photography. Paul was adamant that information not be disclosed publicly.
“To Lexi Frost
, Paul left the deed to a small cottage in Vermont, estimated value of just under one million, and —”
“To a photographer?
” Sara interrupted.
“He was very impressed with her. I mean her work
,” Kayley told her helpfully. “She took pictures of me. I could show you sometime.”
“So he slept with her
,” Sara replied with a small sneer.
” Kayley turned her back to Sara and winked to Teri. Teri took Kayley’s hand as Kyle cleared his throat to continue.
“And a trust to be administered by Nicholas Daley. He sincerely hopes she will continue her original hobby and interest even if she chooses to retire. Nicholas Daley will receive a sum of two million to administer the trust.
“Now for the children. To Blaine
, Olivia, and Chad Lovett; I leave a sum of five million each. To Cassandra and Devin Giles I also leave five million each.”
“What? They aren
’t even his kids!” Sara stood in outrage.
Kyle sighed. “I had hoped you would let that slide. Sit down
, Sara. Paul has an addendum that I am to read in this eventuality.”
He flipped to another page. Tim stood and Sara took her seat in response. Paul knew she
’d say that, and in truth he did too, but he still hoped she wouldn’t make him go down this path.
“This is a message to
Blaine, Olivia, and Chad. I regret that we weren’t close in my final days as I’d always hoped that as you matured you would start to see something of the truth behind the relationship between me and your mother.”
’t,” Sara whispered.
’t have a choice, Sara. It’s not as bad as it could be,” Kyle assured her before continuing. “It was the desire to open your eyes that compelled me to pay your allowances personally. I knew you were unhappy with the arrangement, but I hoped in time you would understand.
“The difficulties between Sara and I aren
’t important and had nothing to do with you. I did remain married to her because of the three of you. I tried to divorce your mother several times, offering her more than generous terms, but she refused. I would have sued for divorce, however, before I proceeded, your paternity was officially brought to my attention.
“While I knew most of your lives that I was not your biological father
, I loved you and allowed Sara to continue the masquerade to protect you. If I divorced Sara, she vowed to make this information public. While I wasn’t concerned about the impact on me, it would have destroyed the careers of the three men who did father you, and the impact on each of you could have been devastating. You’re adults now and capable of understanding these things. Sara no longer has any hold over me and, as of now, has no unknown weapon against any of you either.” Kyle set aside the will, took out three new envelopes and handed them to Sara’s stunned children.
“Those letters say much the same thing. Paul tried to arrange to meet with each of you to tell you in person
, but you refused to meet with him early and . . . he didn’t want to tell you this way,” Kyle faltered. “This was more to put Sara in her place than to be hard on the three of you. Paul also wanted me to mention that if any of you want to know the identity of your biological fathers, Tim or I can arrange a meeting.”
Kyle picked up the paper again and continued. “Because Paul wasn
’t able to divorce Sara, he wasn’t able to marry Teri. So, while Cassandra and Devin are not his children in a legal sense, he didn’t hold that against them. At the time of his death, Paul considered Teri to be his life partner, if not his actual wife. Therefore, he took responsibility for her children as his own, hence the equal distribution of the inheritance. This sum is in addition to trust funds established for the children previously.”
Kyle looked at Dev and Cassie
, they looked almost like twins with matching wide eyes and mouths open slightly in surprise. “I don’t know if you two are aware, but Paul established trusts for both of you awhile ago.” They shook their heads that they didn’t and remained quiet. Kyle smiled briefly. He always felt warm inside when good things happened to good people.
, Paul left two million each to Jessan Baxter, Kenneth Wright, Bryan Trino, and Tiffany Caster with the understanding chores will be done and you’ll fix dinner every now and again.” The kids laughed and Teri smiled despite herself.
’s service to Paul has not ended with his passing, and he will continue to draw a salary as he administers his affairs and trusts. In addition, Paul has left Tim a sum of fifteen million dollars with gratitude for his dedication and his friendship.”
’s more than his children!” Sara protested.
“Tim does more than his children
, and I would have thought you’d learned your lesson against arguing by now.” Kyle held her eyes with the impassive face he used in the courtroom.
“To Kayley Goldstein
, Paul left the deed to her apartment, various pieces of art, jewelry, and other items of value with an estimated worth of six and a half million in addition to fifteen million dollars.” Sara turned her back on Kayley again.
’m going to read this last part verbatim. To Sara Lovett, my wife of sixteen years when I asked for a divorce, I leave the house in Phoenix, an estimated value of one and a half million dollars, and a sum of two million dollars.” Sara stood, but Kyle continued. “To Teri Giles, I leave my heart and the balance of my worldly possessions. At this time, that’s an estimated one hundred million dollars.”
• • •
Kyle sat back to wait. Arguments against the division of assets were thrown about on his left and Teri progressed from stunned silence to tears in front of him. Tim stood and pulled Teri to her feet. Before she got settled crying on his shoulder, he passed her to Flynn. Kayley rose to help comfort Teri, and Tim took up position to keep Sara on her side of the room.
’s attention turned back to Sara, now standing at his desk.
, I understand this is a shock,” Kyle began.
“I am his
. He won’t —”
Kyle held up a hand to stop her. “I strongly recommend you
do not say or imply that you will contest this will. Paul left specific instructions if you do. Also consider that I am very good at my job, Sara, as are the other attorneys who reviewed this document. The reading was simplified because I’m the only lawyer in the room. But this document, when taken in its entirety, will stand up in any court. I made sure of it.”
She glared at him
, shaking her head in denial of what she was hearing.
“Cut your losses
, Sara. Paul asked for a divorce, you should have granted him one.”
Arizona is a community property state.”
’t Arizona and this isn’t a divorce. What’s more, I have the paternity results on the kids. Even Blaine isn’t his and he was born something like thirteen months after you were married. You couldn’t stay faithful for four months? Paul wasn’t even traveling then.”
“He was always at work
, and he had affairs too.”
at work, providing for
. That will come up in court. Many of the people close to him back then were with him until the end. I have signed affidavits that he wasn’t having affairs yet when Blaine was born. Never in Arizona actually. Most of them went into detail about how good a husband they perceived him to be. His affairs didn’t start until he started traveling, by then yours were well known and documented.
“Your claim to his estate will never hold up and you
’ll embarrass yourself if you try. I’m not the only one good at my job, Tim is as well. He’s been collecting documentation and building a case against you since Blaine was four. Paul didn’t know, but Tim showed me what he has. I wouldn’t try anything, Sara.”
Kyle let that sink in for a moment and returned his attention to Teri. Flynn
had moved Teri to the sidelines and held her gently. She was still crying, but seemed to be trying to pull herself together. Kayley rubbed her back, handed her tissues, and collected the used ones. Kyle took the wastepaper basket by his desk over to let Kayley dispose of the tissues in it. Then he set it down against the wall by Flynn so it would be convenient.
” Teri whispered as he started to turn away. He turned back to her. He knew what was coming.
’t want to deal with Sara. Just give her the money.”
Kyle smiled softly and held up a finger to indicate she should wait. Returning to his desk
, Kyle flipped through the will and cleared his throat. He waited until the room fell silent.
, Paul left instructions regarding gifting funds to Sara or her children: he specifically forbade it. I’m sorry, you can’t give Sara a dime.” He turned to judge her reaction.
She slumped against Flynn and glanced at Sara across the room. Kyle didn
’t have to look to know Sara was giving her a hateful glare.
” Teri asked, looking back to Kyle.
’t help it, he laughed. Paul said she’d probably call him on it, but Kyle had seen too many will readings gone wrong. Between emotions running high and simple shock, he doubted Teri would think to ask how Paul could enforce the request.
“He said he
’ll never forgive you.”
?” Sara demanded.
’s enough,” Teri whispered.
Sara turned to face her
, Kyle wasn’t sure if she was going to try threats or pity as a ploy to get the money Teri was willing to sign over only moments before. Indecision was written across Sara’s face, apparently she was still trying to size Teri up and decide as well.
Tim stood ready to keep Sara from approaching Teri and glanced at Kyle. Both long time friends and colleagues of Paul
, Kyle and Tim knew each other well and could work together. Kyle was Paul’s attorney; Tim was off the clock.
,” Tim spoke firmly to draw her attention from Teri. “You know very well Paul wrote his will to make a point. You denied him a divorce and a chance for happiness. He didn’t want you to have the money. He didn’t want to reward you for being a bitch.”
“She barely knew him. Not like I did. He would have left her in the end.
“You can justify your actions any way you like
, but I’ve seen Paul’s will rewritten a few times over the years, you were never going to inherit more than you did. At one point he cut you out of the will entirely.”
“But to leave it to her
, not even his own children.”
Blaine recently convinced Paul that they needed to become contributing members of society and not having to work for living proved contrary to that goal. Be grateful he left them what he did.”
Tim turned to Kyle. “I don
’t think anything more needs to be said. I believe we’re done here?”
“For now. The actual dispersals will take longer and
, as you know, there are questions regarding the handling of Teri’s share.”
Tim nodded. He turned to Nicholas and motioned for him to take the children out of the room.
“We’ll take Teri out of here now.”
“Of course. That concludes the affairs of Paul Lovett. Thank you
, Ladies and Gentlemen,” Kyle announced formally.
Tim walked over to Kayley and whispered in her ear. She nodded and took Flynn
’s free hand, leading him and Teri out of the room. Kyle had a conference room set aside for them to retreat to so Teri could have a chance to recover. One of the interns should be setting up a lunch in there right about now. Tim retrieved Kayley and Teri’s purses and followed them out, closing the door behind him.
“Dev, give it up,” Kenny sighed in irritation. Dev’s pacing was getting on his nerves. First he paced and stomped through the house because Paul was living with them, now the same thing because he wasn’t. Kenny was pretty sure he wasn’t this annoying at fifteen.
Kenny should have predicted that response. Whenever Dev felt
unusually stressed or overwhelmed, he turned to Bryan. As far as Kenny could tell, Bryan didn’t do much besides be a good listener. It was enough of a habit now that Bryan’s mere presence seemed to calm Dev.
’s just,” Dev paced for a moment more, then settled on the edge of Kenny’s desk. “Mom’s upset. She’s depressed over losing Paul. It’s not fair, she lost Dad. I didn’t like Paul, but I wanted her to be happy.”
“Give her time
,” Kenny said.
When Paul moved in
, Dev was in a foul mood for a week. Even Bryan started avoiding him. The same thing when Paul started planning his retirement. Worse actually. Now any mention of Paul got Dev going all over again, but for an entirely different reason. Paul talked Kenny into taking a few psychology classes to help handle Jess and Dev. It was time he started using it.
Dev leaned against the wall
, his back to Kenny, and sulked. Kenny steeled himself for the attempt.
, apparently being a pain in the ass didn’t mean anything to him. I mean, Paul left you five mil. He obviously didn’t hate you. You’re a pseudo-stepson. He understood.
“He also understood some things we needed to do to get the band going.
” Kenny tried to change the subject and pull Dev out of this dark place he was in.
, he bought us a rock star for a mentor.”
,” Kenny hesitated. He wasn’t so sure this particular rock star was a good idea. Flynn competed with Paul for Teri not that long ago. That was going to bring back memories. Not to mention Flynn’s history with women. Dev clearly didn’t know and Kenny didn’t want to be the one to tell him. “Yeah, he did. So settle down and help me with Jess so we still have a band for Flynn Peterson to help us with.”
, you do your crazy classes and I’ll handle Jess.”
Dev walked out and Kenny didn
’t get more than a few pages read in his psychology book before Bryan and Jess walked in, somehow missing Dev.
, I’m just saying to take it easy on him. He shy and really suffering with this modeling thing,” Bryan said in his reasonable and easy-going manner that made him so effective at handling Dev.
If you’re worried about Dev, go spend some quality time with him. Break him out of this guilty mood. Elsewhere,” Kenny suggested, waving them away before they could sit down.
Kenny wished he could talk to Paul again. Dev
’s guilty depression was over Kenny’s head and he knew it. Teri was only half there now. She got up and made breakfast, sometimes. Frequently she was in pajamas or sweats, with no more done to her appearance than running a brush through her hair. He supposed it was better than when she briefly broke up with Paul and wouldn’t leave her room. Kenny just wished she didn’t remind him of an extra in a zombie movie. Maybe he’d get lucky and it’d make Flynn change his mind about chasing her after all.
• • •
Flynn arranged to come by Teri’s house for the first time before the kids were out of school. Kenny and Jess already graduated so Nicholas said he’d try to get them out of the house too. Flynn wanted to talk to Nicholas before meeting the boys and Nicholas appeared to want the same thing.
Tim confirmed Nicholas wasn
’t included in the planning of Flynn’s unofficial invitation back into Teri’s life, and suggested feeling out the situation before telling him. Flynn didn’t think Nicholas would be fooled for a moment about why Flynn was there, and didn’t see him as the problem Tim did. They met before and Flynn felt they understood each other. Still, it was best to get these things taken care of in private.
Nicholas answered the door when he rang. “Come in
,” he backed out of the way to let Flynn inside. “I managed to get Jess out the door but not Kenny, he’s in the basement. I swear he’s developing that extra sense Teri accused Tim of having.” Nicholas took Flynn’s coat and gestured for him to follow him into the kitchen. Flynn sat on one of the bar stools while Nicholas returned to putting away groceries.
’s upstairs asleep for the moment. She hasn’t been sleeping very well at night.”
’s she holding up?” Flynn asked.
’s getting there.” Nicholas stopped, walked over to look out at the living room and down the stairs for a moment before returning to stand opposite Flynn. He leaned forward and continued in a quieter voice. “Want to fill me in on what’s going on here? Don’t give me ‘developing the band’ either.”
“Not buying that one?
” Flynn grinned.
“Paul could have found any number of musicians to do this. You
’ve still got an active career and no time for this project. That’s setting aside the glaringly obvious fact that you two were in direct competition for Teri.”
“You know Paul knew he was dying?
“We discovered that after the fact
, yes. He told you before?”
“Just between us?
Nicholas nodded and glanced over Flynn
’s shoulder again. Keeping an eye out for Kenny, Flynn decided.
“Yes. He wanted as much support in place for Teri as he could. The project wasn
’t completely a set up; he did want to give the kids a hand. Rather than adding a stranger to the mix, he called me.”
“You still want her.
“In the long term
, yes. More importantly, she knows me and I have an interest in helping her recover.”
“It came to my attention you were still married when you started chasing Teri.
’t expect that, but nodded to concede the point. “My marriage was suffering before I met her. I was waiting for Wendy to file, she had more cause than I did. I lost Teri, but it didn’t change anything. I finally filed myself.”
“Your third I believe Paul said?
“It was. You
’re rethinking whether I’m such a good thing for her.”
’s her decision, but yes. You made her laugh, she seems to like you, but you’re a little weak in the commitment department. Chasing her while you were still married doesn’t look good.”
’t argue that. I can’t even tell you where the problem comes from. I promised Paul I’d take care of her even if things don’t work out between us, and I will. You’re a shoulder for her to lean on. I can be too, but mostly I’ll get her back on her feet.”
“Of course you will
, women can’t resist you,” Nicholas sighed. “I have to trust Paul knew what he was doing and go along with it. I assume Tim’s in on this?”
Flynn nodded. “If things do work out
, Tim will probably be watching me even closer than you will. I know it. It’s part of the price for getting a second chance.”
Nicholas nodded in agreement of Flynn
“And as a bonus
,” Flynn added with a smile, “I might just get this struggling new band on their feet.”
“Get Bryan on task with his so-called drum solos and Teri will be thrilled.
Flynn and Nicholas talked about Teri
’s talent as Lexi Frost while waiting for her to wake up or the boys to come home from school. The impromptu photo-shoot that first brought Teri to Flynn’s attention produced fantastic photos.
“She always was good at improvising
,” Nicholas agreed.
“Is she retiring? She seemed to love it.
” Flynn couldn’t quite see her giving it up.
“Taking a break officially.
Maybe she’ll continue at a reduced pace. Money’s not an issue anymore, but she’s made a name for herself photographing nudes and she enjoys it. She used to do what now may be called accidental porn.”
“I know. Drew showed me some of her early work as Lexi
, then when I learned her real name I found what I could.”
Nicholas laughed. “Stalker.
“Not as bad as Paul was.
“Or Allen either. He was relentless.
Flynn smiled. “Well
, then I must be onto something.”
They were silent for a moment
, both lost in memories. “We kept postponing that studio appointment, she never did shoot the band again,” Flynn said.
“I understand Charlie
’s left the band now.”
’ve done a couple of gigs with a new guy, it just didn’t have the same chemistry. Zane brought Hayden Cross into the studio to record with us, that didn’t go over. His style’s just too different, we couldn’t work together.”
, that would have been an interesting mix.” Kenny’s voice from the dining room startled Flynn and Nicholas and they turned to see Kenny lounging at the dining room table, head resting on his crossed arms.
Nicholas frowned. “How long have you been there?
’t worry, I already knew Teri had a split personality.”
“Keep it to yourself
,” Nicholas warned.
“Seems to be the house motto. Maybe that
’s what we should’ve named the band.” Kenny sighed, “I always do, Nicholas, chill.” He turned his hazel eyes on Flynn.
” Flynn gave him a casual wave.
“I appreciate the help
, don’t get me wrong, but I know you and Paul didn’t get along,” Kenny said.
’re wondering why I’m here,” Flynn finished and glanced at Nicholas.
’t look at me.” Nicholas shook his head.
Flynn turned back to Kenny. “Paul and I reached an understanding. He had a choice of who to bring in to give you guys a boost
, he offered it to me.”
, keeping the enemy close, or what?”
“Because if it wasn
’t for the personal connection he wouldn’t have chosen me?”
’s pretty much acknowledged Zane makes the decisions for In Like Flynn. No offense.”
Flynn nodded with a chuckle. “None taken. Zane
’s a control freak, however, he doesn’t do it single handedly. We all have a part in the process. I actually
qualified to do this. Officially.”
, quit prying,” Nicholas warned.
, it’s okay. It’s better if we have an open enough relationship that Kenny can ask questions. Although the ‘keep it to yourself’ motto might be worth considering. Paul,” Flynn hesitated, looking for the best way to phrase what he wanted to say. “Paul implied you might have questions or concerns that fell outside the subject of the band. So, on a personal level, you’re right, Paul and I didn’t hit it off. In fact, the first time I met him I dearly wanted to deck the man. Also, the second time.”
“You were after Teri.
, and Paul was pretty determined I wouldn’t win that particular competition. Once they hooked up, I looked at the relationship, decided she was happy, and I let it go.”
” Nicholas asked.
, mate.” Flynn answered Nicholas and turned his attention back to Kenny. “Teri told me about your band on a flight once, Paul knew that.”
“And we would have been your in with Teri.
“It crossed my mind. Paul probably knew that.
“So why invite a wolf to the party?
Flynn hesitated. “Look
, Kenny, is anyone else going to be asking?”
Kenny shrugged. “Teri maybe. She
’s got to wonder what the hell he was thinking.”
“Teri I can handle. I meant Cassie or Dev specifically.
“Only Kenny knows about you and Teri
,” Nicholas confirmed. “Go ahead and tell him.”
Flynn slipped off the bar stool and took a seat at the table by Kenny.
“Listen, Paul knew he was dying. He was looking for someone to work with you, but he also wanted to build a support network for Teri. He knew this would be rough on her. He called me in
I chased Teri. I have an interest in making this band work for you that has nothing to do with the job. And I have an interest in getting her through the mourning stage.”
“Please tell me you
’re joking.” Kenny sat back in his chair, a look of disbelief on his face.