Only on His Terms(8)

By: Elizabeth Bevarly

 Nevertheless, she braved a small smile and told him, “I doubt you’ll believe me, but it was nice to meet you, Mr. Sage. I’m so sorry about your father. He was the kindest, most decent man I ever met.”

 Without giving him a chance to respond, she turned to follow Mr. Tarrant to the other side of the room, where chairs had been set up for everyone affected by Harry’s will. They were arranged in two arcs that faced each other, with a big-screen TV on one side. She seated herself between Mr. Tarrant and two attorneys from his firm, almost as if the three of them were circling the wagons to protect her.

 Gus Fiver, the second in command at Tarrant, Fiver & Twigg, looked to be in his midthirties and was as fair and amiable as Harrison Sage was dark and moody—though Gus’s pinstripes looked to be every bit as expensive. Renny Twigg, whom Mr. Tarrant had introduced as one of their associates—her father was the Twigg in the company’s name—was closer in age to Gracie’s twenty-six. Renny was a petite brunette who didn’t seem quite as comfortable in her own pinstripes. Even with her tidy chignon and perfectly manicured hands, she looked like the kind of woman who would be happier working outdoors, preferably at a job that involved wearing flannel.

 Everyone else in the room was either connected to Harry in some way or an attorney representing someone’s interests. Seated directly across from Gracie—naturally—were Harry’s surviving family members and their attorneys. In addition to Harrison Sage III, there was his mother and Harry’s widow, Vivian Sage, not to mention a veritable stable of ex-wives and mistresses and a half-dozen additional children—three of whom were even legitimate. As far as professional interests went, Harry had had conglomerates and corporations by the boatload. Add them together, and it totaled a financial legacy of epic proportion. Nearly all of what hadn’t gone back to the businesses was now legally Gracie’s. Harry had left a little to a handful of other people, but the rest of his fortune—every brick, byte and buck—had gone to her.

 Oh, where was a paper bag for hyperventilating into when she needed it?

 Once everyone was seated and silent, Bennett Tarrant rose to address the crowd. “Thank you all for coming. This meeting is just a formality, since Mr. Sage’s estate has been settled by the court, and—”

 “Settled doesn’t mean the ruling can’t be appealed,” Harrison Sage interrupted, his voice booming enough to make Gracie flinch. “And we plan to file within the next two weeks.”

 “I can’t imagine how that’s necessary,” Mr. Tarrant said. “An appeal has already supported the court’s initial ruling in Miss Sumner’s favor. Unless some new information comes to light, any additional appeal will only uphold those rulings.”

 Harrison opened his mouth to say more, but his attorney, a man of Mr. Tarrant’s age and demeanor, placed a hand lightly on his arm to halt him. “New information will come to light,” the man said.

 Mr. Tarrant looked in no way concerned. “Mr. Landis, it has been twice determined that Harrison Sage, Jr., was of sound mind and body when he left the bulk of his personal estate to Grace Sumner. Another appeal would be—”

 “Actually, we’ll disprove that this time,” Mr. Landis stated unequivocally. “And we will prove that not only did Grace Sumner exert undue influence over Mr. Sage of a sexual nature, but that—”

 “What?” This time Gracie was the one to interrupt.

 Mr. Landis ignored her, but she could practically feel the heat of Harrison Sage’s gaze.

 Mr. Landis continued, “We’ll prove that not only did Grace Sumner exert undue influence over Mr. Sage of a sexual nature, but that he contracted a sexually transmitted disease from her which rendered him mentally incapacitated.”

 “What?” Gracie erupted even more loudly.

 She started to rise from her chair, but Gus Fiver gently covered her shoulder with his hand, willing her to ignore the allegation. With much reluctance, Gracie made herself relax. But if looks could kill, the one she shot Harrison Sage would have rendered him a pile of ash.

 Especially after his attorney concluded, “She used sex to seduce and further incapacitate an already fragile old man, and then took advantage of his diminished state to convince him to leave his money and assets to her. We’re hiring a private investigator to gather the necessary evidence, since this is something that has only recently come to light.”

 “I see,” Mr. Tarrant replied. “Or perhaps it’s something you’ve pulled out of thin air in a vain last-ditch effort.”

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