The CEO's Accidental Bride(3)By: Barbara Dunlop
“Her lawyer may well disagree with you.”
“If her lawyer has half a brain, he’ll tell her to take the two million and run.” At least Zach hoped that was what her lawyer would say.
The two of them were married. Yes. He’d have to own that particular mistake. But it couldn’t possibly be a situation his grandmother had remotely contemplated when she wrote her will. There was the letter of the law, and then there was the spirit of the law. His grandmother had never intended for a stranger to inherit her estate.
He had no idea if New York was, in fact, a joint property state. But even if it was, he and Kaitlin had never lived together. They’d never had sex. They’d never even realized they were married. The very thought that she’d get half of his corporation was preposterous.
“Did you think about getting an annulment?” asked Dylan.
Zach nodded. He’d talked to his lawyers about that, but they weren’t encouraging. “We never slept together,” he told Dylan. “But she could lie and say that we did.”
“Would she lie?”
“What do I know? I thought she’d take the two million.” Zach glanced around, orienting himself as they approached an entrance to Central Park. “We going anywhere near McDougal’s?”
“I’m not getting you drunk at three in the afternoon.” Dylan shook his head in disgust as he took a quick left. The Porsche gripped the pavement, and they barely beat an oncoming taxi.
“Are you my nursemaid?” asked Zach.
“You need a plan, not a drink.”
In Zach’s opinion, that was definitely debatable.
They slowed to a stop for a red light at another intersection. Two taxi drivers honked and exchanged hand gestures, while a throng of people swelled out from the sidewalk in the light drizzle and made their way between the stopped cars.
“She thinks I got her fired,” Zach admitted.
Dylan sent him a skeptical look. “Is she delusional? Or did you do something that resembled getting her fired?”
“Fine.” Zach shifted his feet on the floor of the Porsche. “I canceled the Hutton Quinn contract to renovate the office building. The plans weren’t even close to what I wanted.”
“And they fired her,” Dylan confirmed with a nod of comprehension.
Zach held up his palms in defense. “Their staffing choices are none of my business.”
Kaitlin’s renovation plans had been flamboyant and exotic in a zany, postmodern way. They weren’t at all in keeping with the Harper corporate image.
Harper Transportation had been a fixture in New York City for a hundred years. People depended on them for solid reliability and consistency. Their clients were serious, hardworking people who got the job done through boom times and down times.
“Then why do you feel guilty?” asked Dylan as they swung into an underground parking lot off Saint Street.
“I don’t feel guilty.” It was business. Nothing more and nothing less. Zach knew guilt had no part in the equation.
It was not as if he should have accepted inferior work because he’d once danced with Kaitlin, held her in his arms, kissed her mouth and wondered for a split second if he’d actually gone to heaven. Decisions that were based on a man’s sex drive were the quickest road to financial ruin.
Dylan scoffed an exclamation of disbelief as he came parallel with the valet’s kiosk. He shut off the car and set the parking break.
“What?” Zach demanded.
Dylan pointed at Zach. “I know that expression. I stole wine with you from my dad’s cellar when we were fifteen, and I remember the day you felt up Rosalyn Myers.”
The attendant opened the driver’s door, and Dylan dropped the keys into the man’s waiting palm.
Zach exited the car, as well. “I didn’t steal anything from Kaitlin Saville, and I certainly never—” He clamped his jaw shut as he rounded the polished, low-slung hood of the Porsche. The very last element he needed to introduce into this conversation was Kaitlin Saville’s breasts.
“Maybe that’s your problem,” said Dylan.
Zach coughed out an inarticulate exclamation.
“You married her,” Dylan said, taking obvious satisfaction in pointing that fact out as they crossed the crowded parking lot. “You must have liked her. You said yourself you haven’t slept with her. Maybe you’re not so much angry as horny.”
“I’m angry. Trust me. I can tell the difference.” Zach’s interest in Kaitlin was in getting rid of her. Anything else was completely out of the question.
“Angry at her or at yourself?”
“At her,” said Zach. “I’m just the guy trying to fix the problem here. If she’d sign the damn papers, or if my grandmother hadn’t—”
“It’s not nice to be mad at your grandmother,” Dylan admonished.
Zach wasn’t exactly angry with Grandma Sadie. But he was definitely puzzled by her behavior. Why on earth would she put the family fortune at risk? “What was she thinking?”
Dylan stepped up onto the painted yellow curb. “That she wanted your poor wife to have some kind of power balance.”
An unsettling thought entered Zach’s brain. “Did my grandmother talk to you about her will?”
“No. But she was logical and intelligent.”
Zach didn’t disagree with that statement. Sadie Harper had been a very intelligent, organized and capable woman. Which only made her decision more puzzling.
After Zach’s parents were killed in a boating accident when he was twenty, she’d been his only living relative. They’d grown very close the past fourteen years. She was ninety-one when she died, and had grown increasingly frail over the past year. She’d passed away only a month ago.
Zach thought he was ready.
He definitely wasn’t.
He and Dylan headed into the elevator, and Dylan inserted his key card for the helipad on top of the forty-story building.
“She probably wanted to sweeten the deal,” Dylan offered, with a grin. He leaned back against the rail, bracing his hands on either side as the doors slid shut. “With that kind of money on the table, you’ll have a fighting chance at getting a decent woman to marry you.”
“Your faith in me is inspiring.”
“I’m just sayin’…”
“That I’m a loser?”
The elevator accelerated upward.
Dylan happily elaborated. “That there are certain things about your personality that might put women off.”
“You’re grumpy, stubborn and demanding. You want to drink scotch in the middle of the day, and your ass isn’t what it used to be.”
“My ass is none of your business.” Zach might be approaching thirty-five, but he worked out four times a week, and he could still do ten miles in under an hour.
“What about you?” he challenged.
“What about me?” Dylan asked.
“We’re the same age, so your ass is in as much danger as mine. But I don’t see you in a hurry to settle into a relationship.”
“I’m a pilot.” Dylan grinned again. “Pilots are sexy. We can be old and gray, and we’ll still get the girls.”
“Hey, I’m a multimillionaire,” Zach defended.
The elevator came smoothly to a halt, and the doors slid open to the small glass foyer of the helipad. One of Dylan’s distinctive yellow-and-black Astral Air choppers sat waiting on the rooftop. A pilot by training, Dylan had built Astral Air from a niche division of his family’s corporation to one of the biggest flight service companies in America.
Dylan gave a mock salute to a uniformed technician as he and Zach jogged to the chopper and climbed inside.
He checked a row of switches and plugged in the headset. “You want me to drop you at the office?”
“What are your plans?” asked Zach. He wasn’t in a hurry to be alone with his own frustrations. He had a lot of thinking to do, but first he wanted to sleep on it, start fresh, maybe forget that he’d screwed up so badly with Kaitlin.
“I’m going up to the island,” said Dylan. “Aunt Ginny’s been asking about me, and I promised I’d drop in.”
“Mind if I tag along?”
Dylan shot him a look of surprise. Aunt Ginny could most charitably be described as eccentric. Her memory was fading, and for some reason she’d decided Zach was a reprobate. She also liked to torture the family’s Stradivarius violin and read her own poetry aloud.
“She has two new Pekingese,” Dylan warned.
Zach didn’t care. The island had always been a retreat for him. He needed to clear his head and then come up with a contingency plan.
“I hope your dad still stocks the thirty-year-old Glenlivet,” he told Dylan.
“I think we can count on that.” Dylan started the engine, and the chopper’s rotor blades whined to life.
A week later, Kaitlin met her best friend, law professor Lindsay Rubin, in the park behind Seamount College in midtown. The cherry trees were in full bloom, scenting the air, their petals drifting to the walkway as the two women headed toward the lily pad–covered duck pond. It was lunchtime on a Wednesday, and the benches were filled with students from the college, along with businesspeople from the surrounding streets. Moms and preschool kids picnicked on blankets that dotted the lush grass.