Only on His Terms(10)

By: Elizabeth Bevarly

 But maybe they should take a minute to wonder why Harry had done this. He hadn’t been the kind of man to turn his back on people, unless those people had given him a reason to do it.

 Harry spoke from the video again, bringing Gracie’s attention back around. “Vivian and Harrison, this part is for you. Billions of dollars is way too much for anyone to have. Gracie Sumner is the kind of person who will understand what an awesome responsibility that much money is, and she’ll do the right thing by it. She won’t keep it for herself. I know her. She’ll get rid of it as quickly as she can, and she’ll make sure it gets into the hands of people who need it.”

 At this, Gracie braved another look across the room. Vivian Sage, her hair silver, her suit gold, her fingers and wrists bedecked in gemstones of every color, looked like she wanted to cry. Harrison, however, was staring right at Gracie. But his expression was unreadable. He could have been wondering where to eat lunch later or pondering where to hide her body. She hadn’t a clue.

 Thankfully, Harry’s mention of her name gave her a reason to look back at the TV. “Gracie, this part’s for you. I could have given my money to worthy causes myself and saved you a lot of trouble. But being a better person than I am, you’ll know better than I would what to do with all my filthy lucre. But listen, kiddo. This last part is really important. Keep some of the money for yourself. I mean it. Buy yourself one of those ridiculous little cars you like. Or a house on the water. Go to Spain like you said you wanted to. Something. You promise?”

 Again, Gracie felt every gaze in the room arc toward her. She had no idea what to say. It just felt wrong to take Harry’s money, even a modest sum. After that first meeting with Mr. Tarrant, Gracie had gone home and headed straight for Google. In every article she’d read about Harrison Sage, Jr., he’d been defined by his wealth. “Billionaire Harrison Sage, Jr.,” he’d invariably been called. Even after his disappearance, when the word recluse had been added to his descriptions, it had still always been preceded by the word billionaire. In his old life, Harry had been, first and foremost, rich. Anything else had been incidental. Gracie didn’t want to be one of the people who saw only dollar signs in conjunction with his name, and she didn’t want to be one of the ones who took from him. Especially after he’d given so much to her.

 “Promise me, Gracie,” he said again from the big screen, obviously having known she would hesitate.

 “Okay, Harry,” she replied softly. “I promise.”

 “That’s my girl,” Harry said with another wink.

 He said his farewells, and then the TV screen went dark. Again, Gracie felt tears threatening. Hastily, she fished a handkerchief out of her purse and pressed it first to one eye, then the other.

 Across the room, Harrison Sage began a slow clap. “Oh, well done, Ms. Sumner,” he said. “Definitely an award-worthy performance. I can see how my father was so taken in by you.”

 “Were I you, Mr. Sage,” Bennett Tarrant interjected, “I would be careful what I said to the woman who owns the Long Island mansion my mother calls home.”

 It hit Gracie then, finally, just how much power she wielded at the moment. Legally, she could indeed toss Vivian Sage into the street and move into the Long Island house herself. That was what a trashy, scheming, manipulative gold digger who’d used her sexual wiles to take advantage of a fragile old man would do.

 So she said, “Mr. Tarrant, what do I have to do to deed the Long Island house and everything in it to Mrs. Sage? This is her home. She should own it, not me.”

 Harrison Sage eyed Gracie warily at the comment, but he said nothing. Something in Vivian’s expression, though, softened a bit.

 “It’s just a matter of drawing up the paperwork,” Mr. Tarrant said. “Today being Wednesday, we could have everything ready by the end of next week. If you don’t mind staying in the city for a little while longer.”

 Gracie expelled a soft sigh. Harry’s Long Island estate had to be worth tens of millions of dollars, and its contents worth even more. Just shedding that small portion of his wealth made her feel better.

 “I don’t mind staying in the city awhile longer,” Gracie said. “It’ll be fun. I’ve never been to New York before. Could you recommend a hotel? One that’s not too expensive? The one I’m in now is pretty steep, but I hadn’t planned to stay more than a couple of nights.”

 “It’s New York City, Gracie,” Mr. Tarrant said with a smile. “There’s no such thing as not too expensive.”

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