Read Been Loving You Too Long Online

Authors: Seraphina Donavan

Tags: #Romance

Been Loving You Too Long (10 page)

BOOK: Been Loving You Too Long
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It seemed as if the man had been reading for hours, when he suddenly stopped, looked painfully uncomfortable and reached for his bottled water.
 
He gulped it nervously and Vincent knew that Thomas’
hoops
were about to be explained to them.
 

“As you all know, Thomas recently made significant changes to his will. There are contingencies that each of you will have to meet in order to receive anything.
 
And if any of you fail to meet them, then the whole thing becomes null and void and all of Thomas’ shares in DuChamps Hotels, Inc. will be transferred to Claude DuChamps, giving him controlling interest in the company.”

Kaitlyn and Justin erupted, Claude looked smug and Ophelia, on the surface at least, appeared impassive.

Vincent noted the way her hands, folded neatly in her lap, were clenched so tightly that her knuckles had gone white.
 
Resolute, he looked back to the attorney and asked, “What are the contingencies?”

“The first contingency applies to you, Vincent, and to Miss Broulliard...It was Thomas’ wish that the two of you marry, and he’s allotted a period of two months from the date of the reading of his will to provide documentation that you have done so.
 
If you refuse, you will be asked to step down as CEO immediately and all of Thomas’ shares will immediately be transferred to Claude DuChamps.
 
You, and subsequently your siblings, will be disinherited entirely.”

Vincent closed his eyes for a moment, allowing the magnitude of what he’d just heard to sink in
.
 
Hoops
, Thomas had said.
 
This was much more than simply a hoop to jump through.
 
Opening his eyes again, he glanced at Ophelia and noted the pallor of her face.
 
“Can this be contested?” he asked, not missing the fact that she flinched as if struck.
 

“It could be,” the attorney agreed.
 
“But if the will is contested in any way, any part of it, by you or your siblings, then the estate goes into trust immediately and proxy rights to the shares will be granted to Claude DuChamps. It would take years to fight this, during which time the state would bleed the accounts dry with taxes and fees.”

“What if I refuse to marry Vincent?
 
If he’s willing to meet Thomas’ demands but I refuse, what happens then?” Ophelia asked softly.
 

Stanley, if possible, appeared even more miserable.
 
“You may not be aware of this, Miss Broulliard, but approximately four months ago, your grandmother sold her house to Thomas.
 
If you marry Vincent, then ownership will revert to her.
 
If you refuse, she will be evicted from her home and it will be demolished immediately.”

“What sort of bullshit is this?” Kaitlyn demanded.
 
“What the hell could you have been thinking to allow Thomas to put this kind of extortion into his will?”

“I was thinking, Kaitlyn…that it’s Thomas’ property and as his attorney, I was there to do as he asked, not as I pleased. For the moment, I think we should all adjourn.
 
Vincent and Ophelia have matters that they need to discuss.
 
If they decide to honor Thomas’ wishes, then we will move forward with the conditions he levied against your inheritance.
 
Justin’s will be last.”

“What do I do in the meantime?” Claude demanded.
 
“Just continue to sit here and let Vincent bleed the company dry by pouring millions of dollars into a defunct hotel?”

“Yes,” Stanley responded.
 
“That is exactly what you do, Claude.
 
Until Vincent tells me he is refusing to meet Thomas’ conditions, or until the allotted time expires, that is your only option.”
 

“How can this be legal?” Kaitlyn demanded again.

The attorney shrugged.
 
“Thomas DuChamps was of sound mind when he laid out the terms of his will. He was within his rights to make any demands he wanted to in relation to the bequests, just as you all are within your rights to refuse to meet them.”

“How married would we have to be, exactly?” Ophelia asked.
 

“Thomas did address that in the will,” Stanley said.
 
“There are detailed requirements related to where you will reside, that you must share a room and a bed, and that you may not spend more than ten days apart in the year that you are required to stay wed.”

Ophelia rose to her feet.
 
“I think that before this goes any further, Vincent and I need to discuss this privately.”

“Agreed.”Vincent stood and opened the French doors that led out into the garden.
 
Though it was late fall, roses still bloomed lushly.
 

“Take all the time you need.” The attorney nodded.

“Not too much time, Vincent,” Claude interjected.
 
His tone was laced with glee.

Clenching his fists at his side, Vincent fought the urge to knock the older man on his ass. He didn’t doubt for a moment that the man was anticipating running him out of his office on a rail.
 

While Ophelia moved past him and into the garden, he vowed that it would not happen.
 
No matter what he had to do, or what he had to risk, he would not let the company fall into Claude’s incompetent hands.
 
Closing the door, he turned to face her.
 
“I’m sorry for this...I know that it isn’t what you expected.”

“Did you know he’d done this?” she demanded.
 

“No.
 
I didn’t.
 
He told me that he had created hoops for us to jump through, but I never envisioned this,” he replied honestly. “When I asked in there if it could be contested—”

“You’ve made your feelings for me abundantly clear, Vincent.
 
There’s no need to explain. You have no desire to marry anyone, least of all me.”
  

“It has nothing to do with you.
 
I avoided you precisely because I never intended to have that type of relationship.
 
But, my options are limited at this point.
 
Whether I wanted to get married or not doesn’t matter anymore.
 
The question now is whether or not you’re willing to marry me.”

“Thomas really left me no choice—losing her home would kill Ruby, and she’s the only family I have. How could he do this?
 
It’s just cruel—like the worst sort of betrayal!”

Vincent wished that he could offer her some sort of comfort, but he knew that she was last person he’d accept it from.
 
She’d loved Thomas, trusted him, thought of him as family, but he’d manipulated and lied to her.
 
He offered her the only explanation that he could. “I don’t have a definitive answer for that.
 
For what it’s worth, I don’t believe Thomas would ever have intentionally been cruel to you.
 
He adored you.
 
But he got it into his head that this marriage between us would be the best thing for us both.
 
The rest of all this is just him hedging his bets.”

Ophelia sighed.
 
“If I agree, Vincent—I have conditions.”

With his hands in his pockets, he leaned back against the large oak tree.
 
She stood only a few feet from him, but it felt like miles.
 
“I figured you would.”

“I won’t sleep with you again. We have to share a room, we have to share a bed—but no sex.”

“Do you believe that’s possible? Put two relatively young, healthy, heterosexual people in an intimate setting for an extended period of time and that is the only logical outcome... but there is something between us that is more powerful than simple biology.”

“There
was
something between us.” She emphasized the past tense.
 

“Well, here are my conditions,” he said.
 
“You have every right to turn me down, but I have the right to try and change your mind...and regardless of whether or not we’re having sex with one another, there’s no cheating.”

“Like I would!” she snapped while looking affronted.
 

“It’s not a judgment, but if we do this, Ophelia—and I really don’t see that either of us has a choice, it’s important to have realistic expectations.”

Ophelia rolled her eyes heavenward.
 
“I have no expectations of you, Vincent.
 
None.
 
Right now, I can barely stand to look at you.”
 

“I wasn’t talking about your expectations,” he said gently.
 

“Don’t.
 
Just don’t even go there.
 
Less than twelve hours ago you couldn’t get rid of me fast enough!” she shouted.
 

“I panicked.
 
I was wrong to handle things the way I did, and I’m sorry that I hurt you.”

She wanted to scream, mostly because she was having such a hard time holding onto the anger.
 
“When are we going to do this?”

“I think we should do it as soon as possible.”

“I assume you’ll want a prenup,” she said.
 

“It hadn’t even crossed my mind.
 
We’re not strangers, Ophelia. I know you’re character pretty well.”

“Fine.
 
I want a prenup, if for no other reason then so that I won’t be called a gold digger by the tabloids.”

“Then, I’ll have one drawn up. Do you want a ceremony or should we just elope?”

“Elopement sounds like the better option—I don’t think I could stand the hypocrisy of doing this in a church,” she replied.
   

 

~~****~~

 
 

Inside, Kaitlyn and Justin were glued to the window, watching the byplay between the tense and aloof couple.
 
“It doesn’t appear to be going well,” Justin observed.
 

“Please!” Kaitlyn scoffed.
 
“She hasn’t hit him yet, but then again it is Ophelia...Still, I think it’s going well.
 
Look at the body language between them.”

“They’re standing several feet apart and she has her arms crossed.
 
I still say she’s pissed.”

“She
is
pissed,” Kaitlyn agreed, “But she has good reason.
 
Look at how she’s turned slightly toward him and he’s turned toward her—and
look
at the way he watches her.
 
Vincent can’t take his eyes off her.
 
I don’t like how Thomas did it, but he was right about one thing.
 
Those two are made for each other.”

“I don’t get it.
 
Why would Thomas go to such lengths to force Vincent to marry when he clearly doesn’t want to?” Justin asked.
 

“God, I love you to death, but sometimes you are just fucking dense,” she said, smacking the back of his head.
  

“Hey!”

“I know you don’t remember Mom and Dad, but let me tell you something, little brother.
 
They didn’t have a fairy tale marriage.
 
It was ugly.
 
All the time it was ugly and it was Dad.
 
He was so jealous and so possessive that he made everyone’s life a misery, but she put up with it so in my book, she’s just as much to blame as he was. All the people who were on the outside of that, who never saw what a bastard he was, have spent the last thirty years telling Vincent he’s the spitting image of our asshole father.”

“That’s crazy—Vincent has never been the jealous type.”

BOOK: Been Loving You Too Long
7.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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