Page 70 of For Lila, Forever

“He didn’t call you last Sunday?” I ask.

Westley shoots me a look, probably hoping I’ll shut the hell up before he loses the five million Granddad designated for him. According to this guy, my mother and her sister will each receive twenty-two million dollars, a laundry list of various valuables and collectors’ items, and will share ownership of the family home in Bridgeport. Westley and Whitley will each receive five million dollars placed in a trust they can access once they reach thirty-five years of age.

But me? According to Howard Bertram’s last will and testament, I’m to receive a lump sum of eleven million dollars and Rose Crossing Island.

“I didn’t know,” I say to all of them, palms in the air. “I swear to you. I have no idea why he divvied things up the way he did.”

Or why he didn’t call his attorney Sunday like he claimed he was going to do …

Perhaps his threat was empty and only hurled at me as an attempt to scare me into changing my mind, and maybe he was going to wait a day or so to see if I’d come crawling back to bend to his will.

Or maybe he meant to do it first thing Monday but his heart gave out first.

Honestly, I don’t even want the island.

The rest of the family is quiet and stoic, eyes glassy and red and averted, everyone except for Westley and me.

“That concludes the reading,” Granddad’s attorney says, rising from his chair. “I’ll have my assistant give you each my card. My personal cell is listed there and you can contact me any time night or day if you have questions. Howard was a long-time client of mine, and I promised everything would be handled in a timely manner with the utmost care.”

Collectively, we stand and stretch and gather our things and make our way to the hall. Mr. Hageman’s assistant hands me one of his cards, and I tuck it into the interior pocket of my jacket.

“I need to take off,” I tell my parents.

“So soon, lovey?” Mom asks. “We were going to grab lunch, all of us. I’d love for you to join us.”

“Tippi, let him do what he needs to do,” my father says, his hand on the small of her back. If I know my dad, and I do, he probably thinks this is my way of mourning, that I need alone time and space.

I hug my parents before heading to the elevator and order a ride home to grab my things before heading back to the city.

On the way, I make a call to an old friend.

“Rose Crossing Ferry and Charter, this is Leon,” he says when he answers.

“Leon,” I say. “Thayer Ainsworth.”

“Oh, hey,” he says, his tone losing the cheery disposition it had a second ago. “I heard about your grandfather. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Appreciate that,” I say before cutting to the chase. “Anyway, I’m calling because I have a favor to ask of you …”

Chapter 58


I hold a check for ten thousand dollars and run my fingertip along the blue signature at the bottom. It’s the second check Thayer’s sent, and while I know he’s only trying to help, I’m having the hardest time bringing myself to cash it. We need it. But we don’t need it need it. Not yet.

We’re coming up on a month now living with Ms. Beauchamp, and while she seems to enjoy the extra company (especially at dinnertime), it’s only a matter of time before we outstay our welcome.

By the grace of God, I managed to find a hygienist job at a new dental office opening up. I don’t start for another couple of weeks, but it’s thirty flexible hours a week with full-time benefits. I almost squealed and dropped the phone when they called and made me the offer last week.

Once I get a few paychecks under my belt, I’m going to find us the perfect home. MJ requested a place with a big back yard on a street with lots of kids and a park. I told her I’d do my best.

Thayer and MJ talk on the phone constantly. I think they’ve racked up dozens of hours, or maybe it just seems that way. He was planning to fly us out to the city this summer for a couple of weeks, but now that I’m starting a new job, I told him we should hold off. I thought he’d be disappointed, but he took it well, and he said he’d see about rearranging his schedule so he could spend a few weeks out here for the summer.

I get the feeling co-parenting with him will be a breeze. He’s so sanguine and easy-going about everything. We still haven’t talked through any custody details, but he isn’t pressuring me. We both agreed that we need to focus on the two of them getting to know one another before we worry about that.