Only on His Terms(7)

By: Elizabeth Bevarly

 Harrison opened his mouth to say something else, but Bennett Tarrant—another thorn in the Sage family’s side for the last two years—appeared next to Gracie, as if conjured by one of her magic spells.

 “I see you’ve met Mr. Sage,” he said unnecessarily.

 “Yep,” Grace said, her gaze never leaving Harrison’s.

 Tarrant turned to Harrison. “And I see you’ve met Miss Sumner.”

 “Yep,” Harrison said, his gaze never leaving Grace’s.

 The silence that ensued was thick enough to hack with a meat cleaver. Until Tarrant said, “We should head for our seats. We’ll be starting shortly.”

 Instead of doing as Tarrant instructed, Harrison found it impossible to move his feet—or remove his gaze from Grace Sumner. Damn. She really was some kind of enchantress.

 In an effort to make himself move away, he reminded himself of everything he and his mother had been through since his father’s disappearance fifteen years ago. And he reminded himself how his mother would be left with nothing, thanks to this woman who had, by sheer, dumb luck, stumbled onto an opportunity to bleed the last drop out of a rich, feeble-minded old man.

 Fifteen years ago—half a lifetime—Harrison had gone down to breakfast to find his parents seated, as they always were, at a dining-room table capable of seating twenty-two people. But instead of sitting side by side, they sat at each end, as far apart as possible. As usual, his father had had his nose buried in the Wall Street Journal while his mother had been flipping through the pages of a program for Milan Fashion Week. Or maybe Paris Fashion Week. Or London Fashion Week. Or, hell, Lickspittle, Idaho, Fashion Week for all he knew. So he’d taken his regular place at the table midway between them, ensuring that none of them was close enough to speak to the others. It was, after all, a Sage family tradition to not speak to each other.

 They’d eaten in silence until their butler entered with his daily reminder that his father’s car had arrived to take him to work, his mother’s car had arrived to take her shopping and Harrison’s car had arrived to take him to school. All three Sages had then risen and made their way to their destinations, none saying a word of farewell—just as they had every morning. Had Harrison realized then that that would be the last time he ever saw his father, he might have...

 What? he asked himself. Told him to have a nice day? Given him a hug? Said, “I love you”? He wasn’t sure he’d even known how to do any of those things when he was fifteen. He wasn’t sure he knew how to do any of them now. But he might at least have told his father...something.

 He tamped down a wave of irritation. He just wished he and his father had talked more. Or at all. But that was kind of hard to do when the father spent 90 percent of his time at work and the son spent 90 percent of his time in trouble. Because Harrison remembered something else about that day. The night before his father took off, Harrison had come home in the backseat of a squad car, because he’d been caught helping himself to a couple of porno magazines and a bottle of malt liquor at a midtown bodega.

 Five months after his father’s disappearance had come the news from one of the family’s attorneys that he had been found, but that he had no intention of coming home just yet. Oh, he would stay in touch with one of his attorneys and a couple of business associates, to make sure the running of Sage Holdings, Inc. continued at its usual pace and to keep himself from being declared legally dead. But he wouldn’t return to his work life—or his home life—anytime soon. To those few with whom he stayed in contact he paid a bundle to never reveal his whereabouts. He’d come back when he felt like it, he said. And then he never came back at all.

 Harrison looked at Grace Sumner again, at the deceptively beautiful face and the limitless dark eyes. Maybe two judges had decided she was entitled to the personal fortune his father had left behind. But there was no way Harrison was going down without a fight. He would prove once and for all, unequivocally, that she wasn’t entitled to a cent. He’d been so sure the appeals court would side with the family that he hadn’t felt it necessary to play his full hand. Until now. And now...

 Soon everyone would know that the last thing Grace Sumner was was a fey, unearthly creature. In fact, she was right at home in this den of trolls.

 * * *

 Gracie wanted very much to say something to Harry’s son before leaving with Mr. Tarrant. But his expression had gone so chilly, she feared anything she offered by way of an explanation or condolences would go unheard. Still, she couldn’t just walk away. The man had lost his father—twice—and had no chance to make amends at this point. His family’s life had been turned upside down because of Harry’s last wishes and what he’d asked her to do with his fortune. She supposed she couldn’t blame Harrison III for the cool reception.

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