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Caring for his nephew was Chase's way of making up for his fractured relationship with his brother — and a marriage of convenience to Dori just might prevent the...
Caring for his nephew was Chase's way of making up for his fractured relationship with his brother — and a marriage of convenience to Dori just might prevent the nasty custody battle that loomed....
Getting up, Brady joined her near the window and laid a hand on her shoulder. "I don't know what Warren Davis wants as far as his grandson is concerned. He's coming today because he's mentioned in the will. So maybe we'll learn his intentions." Brady turned back to the desk and brought out two folders.
With a heavy sigh, Dori stared at them. The words printed across the top screamed at her. The Last Will and Testament of Tyler W. Davis. The Last Will and Testament of Marisa M. Davis. When her sister Marisa and brother-in-law Tyler had written a new will and asked Dori to be their child's guardian, she never imagined that a month later they would be dead.
Dead. Dori still didn't want to believe it.
Now her sister's baby was Dori's responsibility. Her child. Brady adjusted his glasses as he rearranged the file folders on the desk. "Sorry we have to wait, but the others should be here shortly."
"I don't care if they ever get here," Dori replied, thinking about baby Jacob, who was in her mother's competent care. Being away from the tiny infant made Dori realize how much her nephew meant to her. She loved him and wanted to keep him safe from someone like Warren Davis. Blinking back the threatening tears, she shook her head. "I'm not sure I can be civil to Warren Davis."
"He is a difficult man to deal with, but you don't have to say a thing." Brady rubbed his hand across his balding head as he again sat behind his desk. "I'll do the talking. Don't let him rile you. There's no sense in letting him know he's upset you. Your anger will only incite him."
Anger was the only thing that kept Dori from crying when she thought of the awful car accident that had taken the lives of her sister and brother-in-law. Anger at Warren Davis and anger at God. How could God allow loving people like Marisa and Tyler to die when hateful people like Warren Davis lived and prospered?
"I don't understand why Tyler left him anything. Do you think Mr. Davis will contest the will?"
"Legally, I can't think of any grounds he has to contest it."
"I don't trust that man."
"Don't fret over it. Have a seat. Try to relax until they get here."
Fighting back tears, she sat in a blue leather wingback chair. She crossed and uncrossed her legs. She picked at a piece of lint on her navy-blue skirt and brushed the sleeve of her navy-and-white plaid jacket. As she fought against the misery that welled up inside her, she surveyed the shelves of law books lining three walls of the mahogany paneled room, then glanced at her watch.
The intercom on the desk suddenly crackled and Brady's secretary said, "Mr. Garrett is here."
Going to the desk, Brady punched the button. "Send him in."
"Who's Mr. Garrett?" Dori's heart jumped into her throat.
"Tyler's brother," Brady answered as his eyebrows knit in a puzzled frown. "I thought you knew Tyler had a half brother."
"Yes, but they've been estranged for years. Why is he here?"
Before Brady could answer, the door opened. Not daring to look, she huddled in the big chair. What did this man want now that his brother was dead? Was he after part of Tyler's estate?
"Good morning, Chase." Brady's greeting was congenial. "Is your father on his way?"
"I don't know. I haven't talked to him."
"While we're waiting for your father, let me introduce you to Marisa's sister, Dorinda Morales."
As the man came into view, Dori's stomach lurched and her palms grew moist. His gray, pinstriped suit emphasized his broad shoulders and his height, which had to be over six feet. He strode toward her with a look of confidence. She willed herself to be calm as she smoothed her hair that was drawn back in a loose knot at her nape.
He smiled, and a dimple appeared in his right cheek. Despite his friendly demeanor, she didn't want to like him. It wasn't the Christian thing to do, but he had never associated with Marisa and Tyler when they were alive. Now that they were dead, he suddenly appeared. She wanted to pray that God would help her treat Tyler's brother as she should, but God had sometimes seemed far away in the past few weeks.
Surreptitiously wiping her hands on her skirt, she stood and extended her hand. "Hello, Mr. Garrett."
"Please call me Chase. May I call you Dori? That's what Tyler called you." His large hand closed around hers.
"Sure," she said, unable to deny his request even though she didn't want to like him. His infectious smile immediately disarmed her while little shivers ran up her spine. Surely they came from her desire not to like him, but she wasn't certain of anything.
When had Tyler ever mentioned her to Chase Garrett? Why was he having this effect on her? There was nothing to like about a man who hadn't bothered to be part of his brother's life for ten years. Like Warren Davis, this man hadn't attended Tyler's funeral. She withdrew her hand and returned to her chair. She should know by now she wasn't a very good judge of men, and her reaction was nothing more than her propensity to fall for the wrong type.
Dori observed Chase as he settled in the chair next to hers. The only clue to his thoughts was the rigid set of his shoulders. His eyes, a kaleidoscope of blues, greens and browns orbiting the sunburst around his pupils, held no hints to what he was thinking. His handsome features remained unreadable.
The secretary's voice came over the intercom, but before she finished speaking, Warren Davis barged into the room. His finely tailored charcoal-gray suit, flamboyant tie and Italian leather shoes subtly reminded Dori that he was a very rich and powerful man. His black hair, except for the touch of gray at the temples, and his blue eyes were just like Tyler's. Except Tyler's eyes had been like a warm summer sky while Warren's made her cold, like the dead of winter. Chase, with his tobacco-brown hair and multi-colored eyes, didn't look like either one of them.
Casting her a derisive look, Warren took a seat on the other side of Chase.
"Hello, Mr. Davis," Brady said with a nod. "Now that we're all here, we can get started."
"Good," Warren said, leaning forward in his seat. "Let's get right to the point. I'm not going to sit here and let my son's estate fall into the wrong hands. The Morales family has been after Tyler's money ever since he married their daughter. They aren't going to have it now."
Rage boiled inside Dori. She clenched her fists in her lap. Heat suffused her cheeks as she glared at Warren. He glared back. She wanted to lash out at him and tell him to keep his false accusations to himself, but she looked at Brady and ignored the two other men. No matter what they thought, she had the truth on her side.
"Mr. Davis," Brady said calmly, but forcefully, "I'm in charge of this meeting. Please be quiet and listen."
Brady got up from the desk and handed each of them a folder. "In the folder you'll find a copy of Tyler's will and a copy of Marisa's will. You can see they are mirror images of each other. Since they are both deceased, we go on to the next of kin being the minor child, Jacob Tyler Davis.
He inherits the bulk of the estate, which is held in trust for him until he reaches the age of twenty-five. Dorinda Morales is named as guardian for the minor child. Chase Garrett is the executor and trustee of the estate. One hundred thousand dollars goes to Warren Davis."
Taking in Brady's last statement with disbelief, Dori looked at Chase and found him staring at her. She returned his gaze. How could Tyler have named his estranged half brother as executor of his will? Why had Marisa agreed to it? What had they been thinking? And why had Tyler left money to the father who had disowned him? Dropping her gaze to her lap, Dori's mind buzzed with the questions. She jumped when Warren surged to his feet.
"I've heard enough." He strode to the door. "Are you coming, Chase?"
Standing, Chase looked across the desk at Brady, then at his father. "No, I'm staying. No matter who inherits this estate, I'm still executor."
"Suit yourself," Warren said, exiting the room.
Dori watched Chase, who took a deep breath and released it slowly as he returned to his seat. He appeared genuinely troubled by his father's behavior. But was this their version of a "good cop, bad cop" routine? She had no reason to trust either of them.
Finally, Chase looked at Brady. "What's going on here?"
"Didn't your father explain?" Brady asked.
"No, he's failed to tell me a lot of things." Chase looked puzzled. "Why is my father so upset about this will?"
Brady adjusted his glasses. "Your father seems to think the baby might not be Tyler's."
"What?" Chase asked, shaking his head. "That's crazy."
"Not to your father. He knew that Tyler and Marisa had been going to a fertility specialist for a number of years before they conceived Jacob. And he wants to make sure the child is really Tyler's."
Chase frowned. "Whether the child is Tyler's biological child or not doesn't make any difference, does it? The child is still his legal heir."
Brady nodded. "That's correct, but I believe your father thinks there's some way around that."
"You heard him." Dori stared at Chase. "He thinks my family is after Tyler's money. He thought that was the reason Marisa married Tyler."
"Tyler never said anything like that to me."
"When did you talk to him?"
Chase narrowed his gaze, as he appeared to contemplate his response. "A few weeks before he died."
Frowning, Dori shook her head. "I had no idea. I thought you never spoke to each other."
"We didn't for many years, and I regret that deeply."
"Ahem. Could we get on with this?" Brady interrupted.
"Excuse us. We'll settle this later." Gripping the arms of the chair, Chase eased himself back.
Brady proceeded to explain the rest of the will and the duties assigned to each of them. The hurt and pain surrounding the loss of her beloved sister and brother-in-law became more acute with every word. And she couldn't help wondering why Tyler and Marisa had never mentioned speaking with Chase.
Tyler's relationship with Chase became a convoluted puzzle in her mind. If they had the same father, why didn't Chase and Tyler share the same last name? Tyler had never talked much about his family. Whenever the subject came up, his unease had been obvious. He had readily adopted the Morales clan as his own, and they had taken him into their hearts. How did Chase fit into this enigma?
She glanced over at him while he listened intently to Brady's explanations. The more she learned the more evident it became with her as Jacob's guardian and Chase as the executor and trustee, she would have to work with him frequently. She could only pray that God would help her get over her bitter feelings toward a man who had been at odds with Tyler and Marisa for years.
When they were done, Dori stood. "Thanks, Mr. Houston, for your help. I'll be waiting to hear from you on the court dates."
"My secretary will call and let you know. If you have any questions, feel free to call me any time." Brady stood and walked around the desk to shake her hand.
"I will. I'd like to discuss some personal matters."
"Fine. See my secretary on your way out. She'll set up an appointment for you."
"Thanks again." She left the room without glancing back.
Posted February 16, 2007
Posted November 18, 2008
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