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A knot began to form in Lily Kincaid's stomach as she looked around the conference table at her family and the three strangers who had attended her father's funeral the day before. They were gathered for the reading of Reginald Kincaid's will and as difficult as it was to believe her beloved father was gone, the fact that he had led a secret double life for the past three decades was almost impossible for her to grasp. It was just beyond comprehension to think that he'd had a second family up in Greenville all these years.
When Harold Parsons, her father's attorney, walked into the room with a thick file and sat down at the head of the table, then removed several envelopes and papers from the folder, her apprehension grew. She hated that her father had been taken from her, hated that his life's work was about to be divided up into shares. More than that, she hated that the perception she had of him had been nothing more than an illusionan illusion that had been shattered with seemingly no way for it to ever be repaired.
"Before we begin, I would like to express my sincere condolences for your loss," Mr. Parsons said, his normally gruff voice softened with sincerity. "I knew Reginald for many years and will sorely miss his sense of humor and quick wit. I can remember the time"
Lily bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling when the man claiming to be her half brother, Jack Sinclair, rudely cleared his throat and glanced at his watch as if he wanted to hurry things along. How could a man as warm and loving as her father had been have spawned such a cold, unfeeling son?
Her oldest brother RJ's scowl was formidable. "In a hurry to be somewhere, Sinclair?"
"As a matter of fact, I am," Jack stated flatly. "How long is this going to take, Parsons?"
Mr. Parsons's bushy white eyebrows met in a disapproving frown above his reading glasses. "It will take as long as it takes, young man."
"Please don't, Jack," Angela Sinclair begged, her voice trembling as she placed her hand on her son's arm. Her chin-length blond hair swayed slightly as she shook her head. "Please don't make this any more difficult than it already is."
If circumstances had been different, Lily would have probably felt sorry for the woman. It had been apparent yesterday at the funeral and today as they sat awaiting the reading of the will that she was taking the death of Reginald Kincaid extremely hard. But considering the nurse had been her father's mistress for the past thirty years and had shown up to mourn his death as if she and her sons were a legitimate part of the family, it was almost more than Lily could bear. Angela Sinclair either didn't realize or didn't care about what a shock and devastation it would be for the Kincaid family.
"You'll have to excuse my brother's impatience," Alan Sinclair spoke up, giving Lily and her family a sympathetic smile. "I'm afraid Jack is still trying to come to grips with Reginald's death."
Angela's youngest son, Alan, seemed to be the exact opposite of his older half-brother in every way. While Jack was tall, with dark hair, blue eyes and a cold, ruthless demeanor, Alan was shorter, had dark blond hair and hazel eyes like his mother, and appeared to be sympathetic to the shock and disbelief the Kincaids were going through. Not only were they having to cope with the death of their father, possibly by his own hand, they had been blindsided by the ugly truth of his clandestine life.
"Don't apologize for me," Jack growled, turning his hard stare on the younger man. There was such animosity in his expression, it was obvious there was no love lost between the two. "I have nothing to be sorry about."
"Enough!" RJ said, his voice deadly. Turning to the lawyer, he nodded. "Please continue, Mr. Parsons."
"If Sinclair doesn't want to stick around for the details, I'm sure you can send him a letter outlining what our father wished to leave him," Matt said, backing up RJ.
Only a few years older than herself, her brother Matt had already seen his share of heartache. It had been only a year since he had buried his wife, Grace, and been left to raise their young son, Flynn, on his own. Losing their father so soon after her passing had to bring up some very painful memories for him.
Lily glanced at her mother to see how she was holding up through this latest upheaval. The epitome of a true Southern lady, Elizabeth Kincaid had maintained an elegant calm about her throughout this whole ordeal that Lily couldn't help but envy. It appeared her mother was faring much better than Lily and her two sisters. Laurel, Lily's oldest sister, kept dabbing at her tears with a lace-edged hankie, while Kara looked as if she was in a state of total shock.
"Please continue, Harold," her mother said, smoothing a strand of short, dark auburn hair into place.
"Very well, Miss Elizabeth," Mr. Parsons said, using "miss" the way most older Southern gentlemen did with any lady, single or married. He read aloud the preliminary legalese, then clearing his throat, began to go through the list of her father's assets. "'Regarding my personal properties, I would like for them to be divided as such. To my son RJ, I leave the Great Oak Lodge in the Smoky Mountains. To my daughter Laurel, I leave my beach house on the Outer Banks. To my daughter Kara, I leave my vacation home on Hilton Head Island. To my son Matthew, I leave the Kincaid family farmhouse where we used to spend holidays. And to my daughter Lily, I leave the Colonel Samuel Beauchamp House in the Battery.'"
Tears filled Lily's eyes. Her father had known how much she loved the historic homes in the Battery. It was one of the prettiest sections in Charleston and quite possibly the entire state of South Carolina. But she had been completely unaware that he owned one of the stately mansions in that area.
After outlining the money and properties her father wished to bequeath to Elizabeth and Angela, Mr. Parsons added, "When Reginald updated his will, he wrote these letters and asked me to give them to you at this time." He passed each person in the room, except Elizabeth, a sealed envelope with their name on the front before he continued, "As for Reginald's business holdings, they are to be divided up as follows. 'RJ, Laurel, Kara, Matthew and Lily are each to receive nine percent interest in The Kincaid Group. My oldest son, Jack Sinclair, will receive forty-five percent interest.'"
Silence reigned for several long, uncomfortable moments as the gravity of her father's last wishes sank in.
"What the hell!" RJ's expression was a mixture of barely suppressed fury and total disbelief.
Lily gasped and the knot in her stomach turned to a sickening ache. How could their father do that to his children and especially to RJ, his oldest legitimate son? RJ had worked tirelessly for years as the executive vice president of The Kincaid Group and had been led to believe he would one day take over as president of the vast enterprise when their father decided it was time for him to retire. The news that their father had given the majority of the shares in the family business to Jack Sinclair was hard for all the Kincaid children to take, but it had to be completely devastating for RJ.
"That's only ninety percent," RJ said, his frown formidable. "Where's the other ten?"
Mr. Parsons shook his head. "Due to attorney/client confidentiality, I'm not at liberty to say."
The room erupted with heated allegations and threats of legal retaliation from both sides of the table and Lily felt as if the walls were closing in on her. She knew if she didn't leave, she was going to be physically ill.
"I need some air," she said to no one in particular.
Rising to her feet, she stuffed the unopened letter from her father into her purse and blindly ran from the room. She wasn't certain whether it was the news of her father's complete betrayal of his legitimate family or the new life growing inside her that caused her to feel sick, but she had to escape the law office.
As she hurried down the hall to the reception area, she wasn't paying attention and suddenly ran into someone standing as if rooted to the spot. Strong hands immediately came down on her shoulders to keep her from falling and when she looked up, her heart skipped several beats.
Of all the people she could have met up with in the law office, why did she have to run headlong into the owner and CEO of Addison Industries?
Daniel Addison was not only The Kincaid Group's fiercest business competitor, he was the father of her unborn child. A baby he knew absolutely nothing about.
"Where's the fire, sweetheart?" Daniel asked as he steadied the woman who, in the past couple of weeks, had treated him as if he had the plague.
"I need air," Lily said, her voice barely more than a whisper.
Her unnatural pallor and the desperate look haunting her vibrant blue eyes caused his heart to stall. Yesterday afternoon when he attended Reginald Kincaid's funeral, he had seen her upset. But this went beyond the grief of losing a loved one. Lily looked as if her whole world was crashing down around her.
"Come on," he said, placing his arm around her shoulders and leading her toward the office exit.
"My family I can't leave," she gasped.
Stopping at the receptionist's desk, he quickly told the woman he would call and reschedule his appointment, then instructed her to get word to the Kincaid family that he was taking Lily home. As he led her out the double glass doors and onto the sidewalk, he watched her gulp in the cool January air and knew that she was seconds away from losing her breakfast. Guiding her over to a trash can, he held her long, red hair back while she was sick.
"Please, go away and let me die in peace," she said when she finally raised her head.
"You're not going to die, Lily," he said, gently cupping her chin with one hand while he wiped the tears from her eyes with his handkerchief.
"I'm pretty sure you're wrong." She took a deep breath. "Right now I feel like death would be a blessing."
"Did you drive your car?" he asked.
"No, I rode with Momma," she said, her voice sounding a bit more steady.
He put his arm around her and tucked her to his side as he ushered her toward the parking garage across the street. "Good. I won't have to send someone back to get it."
"I can't leave," she said, starting to turn back toward the law offices of Parsons, Gilbert and Humbolt.
He held her firmly to his side. "This isn't negotiable, Lily. You're upset to the point of making yourself sick."
Opening the passenger door of his diamond-white Mercedes for her, Daniel nodded toward the inside of the car. "Get in. I'm taking you home."
"You're being a bully about this," she said stubbornly.
Daniel shook his head. "No, I'm making an executive decision. Now, will you please get into the car or am I going to have to pick you up and put you there?"
She glared at him. "You wouldn't."
"Try me, sweetheart."
They stared at each other for several seconds in a test of wills before she finally moved to sit down in the leather bucket seat. "Fine. Take me home and then you can be on your way."
He closed the door and walked around the car to slide into the driver's seat. "We'll see about that."
Considering her emotions at the moment, Daniel wasn't about to upset her further by telling her that he wasn't leaving her alone until he was certain she was going to be okay. He might be many thingsruthless in business, arrogant and fierce when he was in competition for a new client and jaded about most things in lifebut he wasn't an uncaring bastard who left an obviously distraught female to fend for herself. Especially when that female was Lily Kincaid.
For reasons he couldn't explain, he had been drawn to her from the moment he laid eyes on her last fall at the Children's Hospital Autumn Charity Ball that his mother had helped organize. Young, vivacious and with a zest for life that he found utterly charming, he had introduced himself and asked her to dance, then asked her out to dinner. He hadn't really expected her to say yes, considering the thirteen-year difference in their ages, but to his delight she had accepted. That had been over three months ago and until the past couple of weeks, they had seen each other almost every night.
When he realized that Lily had fallen asleep, Daniel reached over to cover her delicate hand with his. He hadn't intended for things to progress between them so quickly, but he couldn't really say he was sorry they had. She was the most exciting woman he had ever met and the time they spent together had made him feel more alive and less cynical than he had in years. What he couldn't understand was why out of the clear blue sky, she stopped taking his calls and started making excuses not to go out with him.
As he turned the car into the driveway and drove around the Kincaid family home to the carriage house where Lily had an apartment, Daniel shook his head. He didn't know what had happened or why she suddenly wanted nothing to do with him, but he had every intention of finding out.
Parking the car, he reached over to trail his fingers along her smooth cheek. "You're home, sweetheart."
Her eyes fluttered open and she slowly sat up straight to look around. "Thank you for bringing me home, Daniel. I'm sure you have somewhere else you would rather be."
Before she had the chance to reach for the handle, he was out of the car and opening the door for her. "Give me your key," he said as he helped her from the vehicle.
"Really, I'll be fine." She shook her head. "You don't have to see me in."
"What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn't see you safely inside?" he asked, smiling.
For the first time since running into her in the law office, she looked him directly in the eye. "Give me a break, Mr. Addison. It's midmorning and I seriously doubt that there's a safety issue for you to be concerned with."
He reached up to trail his index finger along her creamy cheek. "So now it's Mr. Addison? I thought we were a lot closer than that, sweetheart."
"I uh, at one time I suppose we were," she said, clearly uncomfortable with his observation.
Daniel had heard about someone looking as if they were a deer caught in headlights, but until that moment he hadn't seen it for himself. But that was the only way to describe the expression on Lily's pretty face. She looked trapped and desperate.
The question was, why? What had made her so clearly uncomfortable about being in his presence?
Unfortunately, he was going to have to bide his time until she was feeling a little more in control before he got to the bottom of what was going on with her and why she had ended their affair. The past few days had been a nightmare for her and her family and he wasn't going to add more stress by interrogating her as to what had changed between them.
Placing his hand at the small of her back, he felt a slight tremor course through her and instinctively knew it had nothing to do with the mild winter weather Charleston was experiencing. Good. At least she hadn't developed a complete immunity to him.