Only on His Terms(9)

By: Elizabeth Bevarly

 Unbelievable, Gracie thought. Even if she’d known Harry was worth a bundle, she never would have taken advantage of him. And she certainly wouldn’t have used her alleged sexual wiles, since she didn’t even have a sexual wile, never mind sexual wiles, plural. True friendship was worth way more than money and was a lot harder to find. And incapacitated? Diminished? Harry? Please. He’d been full of piss and vinegar until the minute that damned aneurysm brought him down.

 Mr. Tarrant met the other attorney’s gaze levelly. “Harrison Sage, Jr. changed his will in person, in the office of his attorneys, two of whom are seated in this room. And he presented to them not only a document from his physician stating his excellent health, both mental and physical, but his physician was also present to bear witness in that office. Your father’s intent was crystal clear. He wished for Grace Sumner to inherit the bulk of his personal estate. Two judges have agreed. Therefore Miss Sumner does inherit the bulk of his personal estate.

 “Now then,” he continued, “on the day he amended his will for the last time, Mr. Sage also made a video at his attorneys’ office that he wanted Miss Sumner and his family and associates, along with their representatives, to view. Renny, do you mind?”

 Renny Twigg aimed a remote at the TV. A second later, Harry’s face appeared on the screen, and Gracie’s stomach dropped. He looked nothing like the Harry she remembered. He was wearing a suit and tie not unlike the other power suits in the room, a garment completely at odds with the wrinkled khakis and sweatshirts he’d always worn in Cincinnati. His normally untidy hair had been cut and styled by a pro. His expression was stern, and his eyes were flinty. He looked like a billionaire corporate mogul—humorless, ruthless and mean. Then he smiled his Santa Claus smile and winked, and she knew this was indeed the Harry she had known and loved. Suddenly, she felt much better.

 “Hey there, Gracie,” he said in the same playful voice with which he’d always greeted her. “I’m sorry we’re meeting like this, kiddo, because it means I’m dead.”

 Unbidden tears pricked Gracie’s eyes. She really did miss Harry. He was the best friend she’d ever had. Without thinking, she murmured, “Hi, Harry.”

 Every eye in the room fell upon her, but Gracie didn’t care. Let them think she was a lunatic, talking to someone on a TV screen. In that moment, it felt as if Harry were right there with her. And it had been a long time since she’d been able to talk to him.

 “And if you’re watching this,” he continued, “it also means you know the truth about who I really am, and that you’re having to share a room with members of my original tribe. I know from experience what a pain in the ass that can be, so I’ll keep this as brief as I can. Here’s the deal, kiddo. I hope it didn’t scare the hell out of you when you heard how much I left you. I’m sorry I never told you the truth about myself when I was alive. But by the time I met you, I was way more Harry Sagalowsky than I was Harrison Sage, so I wasn’t really lying. You wouldn’t have liked Harrison, anyway. He was a prick.”

 At this, Gracie laughed out loud. It was just such a Harry thing to say. When she felt eyes on her again, she bit her lip to stifle any further inappropriate outbursts. Inappropriate to those in the room, anyway. Harry wouldn’t have minded her reaction at all.

 He continued, “That’s why I wanted to stop being Harrison. One day, I realized just how far I’d gotten from my roots, and how much of myself I’d lost along the way. People love rags-to-riches stories like mine, but those stories never mention all the sacrifices you have to make while you’re clawing for those riches, and how a lot of those sacrifices are of your morals, your ethics and your character.”

 Gracie sobered at that. She’d never heard Harry sound so serious. He grew more so as he described how, by the time he’d left his old life, he’d become little more than a figurehead for his companies, and how unhappy his home life had become, and how all he’d wanted was to escape. So he left his work, his family and his “big-ass Long Island estate,” returned to the surname his ancestors had changed generations ago and moved back to the blue-collar neighborhood in Cincinnati where he grew up.

 At this, Gracie glanced across the room at Vivian and Harrison and saw them looking at the television with identical expressions—a mixture of annoyance, confusion and something else she couldn’t identify. She tried to be sympathetic. She couldn’t imagine what it must be like for them, being ignored by their husband and father for fifteen years, and then being disinherited by him. She supposed they were justified in some of their feelings toward Harry.

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