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His gaze moved over her, and he nodded thoughtfully. "But now that I see you, it
makes sense. That wholesome girl-next-door look must work wonders on lonely old
Carly sighed and pushed the reheat button on the coffeemaker. It was clearly
going to be one of those days. The man, whoever he was, had bypassed the
receptionist and cornered her in the staff room, where she had gone to change
into a clean lab coat and gobble a few bites of cold pizza for lunch. He had
walked in unannounced, set his briefcase on a chair, then dared to call her
Charlotte, which was the most reliable and efficient way to get things off to a
Morning at the clinic had begun with the frantic arrival of Gigi Beeson, society
doyenne of San Francisco, whose pug had just consumed a five-carat emerald
earring. Carly had used an endoscopic forceps to retrieve the jewel, and the
small dog was going to be fine, but after dealing with Gigi's hysterics and a
yowling, barking waiting room full of increasingly impatient clients, Carly
wasn't so sure of her own chances.
And now there was a stranger blocking the doorway, saying things that made no
sense. If he was a random lunatic, he was the best-dressed lunatic she had ever
seen. A heavy silver watch was his only ornament, but Carly had spent two years
caring for the pampered pets of San Francisco's elite and knew money when she
saw it. That suit was Italian, tailored to an expert fit over his broad
shoulders, and his shoes and belt together were worth more than her entire
wardrobe. Men like him did not wander the streets looking for veterinarians to
"Okay," Carly said, trying not to think about the state of the waiting room.
"You have exactly one minute until I take my coffee and go back to work. Please
explain what you're talking about, and how you know my name." The stranger
regarded her coolly. "Your name is just the beginning. One word from me, and my
people will dig up things about you that even your mother doesn't know. Yet."
Carly didn't know whether to be amused or annoyed. "You're threatening me?"
"Damn right," the man said. "The day you decided to fleece Henry Tremayne was
the day that you messed with me, lady. And that was a very big mistake."
"Henry! What does Henry have to do with this?" The man's mouth curved cynically.
"Not bad," he said. "Not bad at all. The startled surprise, the innocent,
mystified look ... You're almost convincing. Have you been practicing, or have
you done this before?"
The novelty of the encounter was wearing off. "Look," Carly said. "I'm tired, my
feet hurt, and my afternoon is booked solid. I don't have time to stand here
listening to you, so would you please get to the point? Who are you?" "My name
is Max Giordano. I'm the executor of Henry Tremayne's will."
"What?" In an instant, Carly forgot her sore feet and the overcrowded waiting
room. "Oh, my God, Henry isn't ...?"
"No. He isn't. He's alive, albeit barely. There was an accident, and he hasn't
Carly pressed her lips together, trying to recover her composure. She did not
want to cry in front of this forbidding man, but the news was overwhelming.
Henry, barely alive? He was nearly eighty, but he had always seemed ageless to
her, and he had been fine just yesterday afternoon, when she had stopped by to
see him. Technically, of course, it wasn't Henry who she was visiting, but the
latest addition to his ever-changing menagerie. This time it was a
three-week-old kitten, abandoned in a dumpster on the other side of town.
Henry's reputation as a willing caretaker for any creature lost or unloved had
brought the baby, special delivery, to his doorstep. Carly had left him sitting
in his favorite red velvet armchair, his white head bent as he fed the tiny cat
with an eyedropper.
She cleared her throat, blinking hard. "What happened?" "He fell down the stairs
and fractured his skull. He's in the ICU at Hopkins Memorial."
"Is he going to die?" "At the moment, I have no idea." "And you ...? You're his
lawyer?" "No," Max Giordano said. "I'm his grandson."
Max's day had started at 5 A.M., when he had been awakened by the most shocking
phone call of his life. He had stumbled into the shower and blasted himself with
hot water in an attempt to clear his mind and process the incredible news: Henry
Tremayne-who wasn't even supposed to know that Max existed-not only knew about
him, but had left him in charge of the entire Tremayne trust.
In the year that Max had spent planning his first face-to-face contact with his
only living relative, he had never imagined that it could happen in such a way.
Henry, pale and unconscious in the hospital bed, his frail body violated with
tubes and monitors, had looked more dead than alive. Max had spent the next
hours sitting alone in the visitors' lounge, clenching a Styrofoam coffee cup
and staring through the window into the chilly, gray light of the new dawn.
It was easy to brood in a hospital. The cold sterility of the place, with its
utilitarian white walls and steel-framed furniture, magnified the horror he felt
as he realized how close he was to losing the grandfather he had yet to meet.
Eight o'clock brought a meeting with the Tremayne legal team, confirming what
had been said on the phone. Fourteen months ago, Henry had quietly rewritten all
of his legal documents to name Max as his primary heir and successor trustee.
Fourteen months. The timing couldn't be a coincidence. His grandfather had
learned of his existence shortly after Max had hired an investigative firm to
track down the family of the father he knew almost nothing about. Henry's
lawyers were close-mouthed on the subject, but it was obvious to Max that
someone at the firm had leaked-or, more likely, sold-the information to Henry.
Had his grandfather even believed the story at first? To suddenly be told,
almost forty years after the fact, that his son Alan had fathered an
illegitimate child only days before the car wreck that killed him ... well,
that wasn't the kind of news that you mentioned casually over lunch. Max had
spent many nights staring up at the darkened ceiling over his bed, trying to
come up with a reasonable plan for dropping such a bomb on an unsuspecting old
Little had he known that the announcement had already been made. It was lawsuit
material, but at the moment, Max had a more immediate problem to deal with, in
the form of a woman named Charlotte Martin.
She was staring at him, obviously stunned. "You're Henry's grandson? I didn't
think he had any family at all. Aside from the pets, that is."
"Rich, old, and alone," Max said. "The perfect target." She stiffened. "I think
you'd better explain yourself."
He was pleased to see caution darkening her eyes, replacing her earlier
carelessness. She wasn't feeling so confident. She didn't know what to make of
him, or the threat that he represented, which was exactly as he had intended.
Confused and on the defensive, she would be easy to read. She could cling to the
innocent, self-righteous role if she wanted to; it would make no difference in
the end. It was time to get this over with. "You've been mentioned in my
"Yes," she said matter-of-factly. Max looked curiously at her. This was an
abrupt switch. He had expected wide eyes, trembling lips. What? Dear Henry
thought of me? How kind. How unexpected. How much?
"You're not surprised, Ms. Martin?" "Give me some credit," she said. "Anyone
with the brain of a hamster could have guessed that you were leading up to that.
Why else all the jabs about old, rich men?
But I'd like to know what you're doing here, talking to me about your
grandfather's will while he's still alive. Do Henry's lawyers know about this?
Because if they don't, then you have absolutely no right to-"
"The lawyers were the ones who called me," Max replied. "And I wasn't using the
word 'will' in the technical sense. My grandfather's estate is actually held in
something called an inter vivos trust, which means that all of his assets are
under the care of a person called a-"
"Trustee. I know what a trust is. My brother is a tax attorney, and he just
helped my parents set one up. You should have just said so, instead of assuming
that my entire understanding of estate planning comes from the daytime soaps. So
you're actually Henry's trustee, not his executor. Fine. What does that have to
do with me?"
Max opened his mouth, then closed it again. This wholesome-looking veterinarian
might be an unlikely femme fatale, but she was smart enough to cause trouble if
he wasn't careful. "Henry Tremayne has given you custody of the animals in his
estate," he said, his eyes never leaving her face as he waited for her reaction.
She blinked. "All of them? My goodness."
"You will be their caretaker in the event of his incapacitation, and their owner
upon his death. They may be placed in qualifying homes, the criteria for which
are outlined in a special document, but they must never be abandoned,
euthanized, or given to a shelter."
He pulled a slip of paper out of his suit pocket, and consulted it. "The sum
total of the animals is ... twenty-three cats, eleven dogs, two birds, and an
iguana. Are you willing to accept custody under these terms?"
He had intentionally avoided telling her that the pets were only the first part
of Henry's bequest. It was his chance to erase the Charlotte Martin problem in
one quick stroke, thanks to a trick in the wording of the legal documents.
If she refused guardianship of the animals, then she would forfeit everything,
and he had the disclaimer statement sitting in his briefcase, ready for her
signature. He waited, concealing his impatience. There was no way that she could
possibly agree to this part of Henry's plan. He knew, from having questioned the
lawyers, that she lived in a tiny basement apartment with barely enough room for
one animal, much less thirty-seven. She had to refuse. She had no choice.
His heart leaped as she began to shake her head. "No," She said. "I don't
think-" Max seized the word. "No?"
"No," she repeated, more firmly now. "It's twenty-two cats, and definitely no
iguana. Henry found homes for the Persian and the yellow tomcat, then adopted
the new kitten, and Oscar-the iguana-died weeks ago."
She shot Max a chilly look. "Died of old age, I should add, in case you're
planning to accuse me of murdering him."
Max put a hand to his forehead and discovered that he was perspiring. The clinic
was hot, or maybe the day was finally getting to him. "Answer the question. Do
you, or do you not accept custody of these animals?"
"Of course I do," she said, but a wrinkle furrowed her brow. "It's the least I
can do for Henry, after everything that he's done for me. I just wonder ... I
can't bring them to my house ... and the cost of feeding all of them ..." She
stopped herself and squared her shoulders. "Well, I'll figure something out,"
she said. "Henry loves his animals, and he's been a good friend to me. I
Frustration gripped Max. What was this woman thinking? How could any sane person
agree to be his grandfather's zookeeper? Her response proved that she already
knew what else was included. "I'm sure this isn't news to you," he said, "but
you'll receive a generous income from the trust to cover care of the animals."
She exhaled softly. "That will help."
Max paused, hoping to catch impatience in her expression as he delayed the real
news. But she didn't betray a thing.
"There's more," he said finally. Charlotte Martin looked surprised. "Something
else?" "Yes. Something else." Max narrowed his eyes at her. He had hoped that
things would not get this far, but she was turning out to be more adroit than he
had expected. There was no way to delay the inevitable next step, but he
reminded himself that it was only a preliminary defeat. The real battle was only
He took a deep breath. "My grandfather has given you the Tremayne mansion."
Carly reached back to grab the edge of the counter as her knees went wobbly.
"The house?" she said, her voice sounding thin and squeaky to her own ears.
"Henry left me his house?"
"No." Max Giordano shook his head. "A house is a little building with a picket
fence. My grandfather left you a mansion with an estimated value of 20 million
dollars. He left you his castle, for God's sake, and he's under the impression
that you'll turn it into some kind of stray animal rehabilitation center. I
assume that you know what he's talking about."
"Oh, my God. He was serious about that?" Max nodded grimly, and she stammered,
"I mean ... it was something that we chatted about, yes, but never in detail, and
he never said anything about putting me in charge of it. It was just an idea. I
never thought ..."
"Really. You never thought. Oh my." He widened his eyes in disbelief at her
shock. "Well, guess what, Ms. Martin. I find that a little hard to believe. I'll
bet that you've been thinking about this for a long time. It must have taken
some work to insinuate yourself into Henry Tremayne's life and brainwash him
into making a gift like this."
Carly stared at him, finally understanding what had brought this man into her
clinic with both fists swinging.
Because of her, Max Giordano was not going to inherit a significant portion of
his grandfather's estate, and he was angry about it. This was all about greed,
and the ugliness of it appalled her. Who would have guessed that gentle,
eccentric Henry Tremayne could have produced a grandson like this?
"Henry and I are friends," she said. "I make house calls to take care of his
pets, and that's all. Your accusations say a lot more about you than they do
about me." "Sorry, Doc, but I wasn't born yesterday. Old men don't casually
leave mansions to pretty young female friends."
"They do if they have no one else," Carly exclaimed. "Where have you been? I've
known Henry for two years, and I've never seen you or heard a single word about
you. Just the fact that you think he's a gullible old man who would fall prey to
some ... temptress ... is ridiculous.
He's one of the sharpest people I know, old or young. Have you ever so much as
spoken with your grandfather, or are you just showing up now to collect his
money?" Max Giordano paled slightly, and Carly hoped that her question had hit a
nerve. She glared at him. "When was the last time that you visited him?"
"You don't understand the situation." "No? Explain it to me, then. When was the
last time you called him? Just to say hello. I'm curious." Max remained grimly
"I think I do understand," Carly said, nodding. "And I'm not surprised that
Henry never mentioned you.
Excerpted from TRUST ME
by Melanie Craft
Copyright © 2003 by Melanie Craft.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted September 6, 2003
Max Giordano accuses veterinarian Carly Martin of fleecing an old man, his grandfather Henry. His accusations shock her, but not as much as when he informs her that Henry lies in a coma after a near death fall. Max states that Henry named her as trustee to his 23 animals and the mansion if she converts it into a clinic as they once discussed. Carly tells Max he was never there for Henry whom he never met and she often visited. Carly thinks back in time to when she met Henry. He asked for a house call to check out his ailing raccoon. They became friends and she comes over once a week to check the animals and to chat. <P>Max begins to wonder if he misjudged Carly. She seems nice and innocent and he is so attracted to her yet new evidence surfaces that prove that someone tried to murder Henry. Carly is the obvious suspect as she has motive (inheritance) and opportunity (her vehicle at the scene). <P>Though the heroine is too perfect and the lead male becomes irritating at times with his ¿J¿accuse¿ mentality, readers will like both of them. The story line is fun to follow as Max cannot believe that Carly has no hidden agenda when it comes to Henry. Melanie Craft lives up to her surname as she provides a solid relationship tale with a touch of suspense at the end that sub-genre readers will enjoy especially those who value the canine caper crowd. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2010
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