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Lacey shook her head. “That can’t be right. Uncle Marc always said I would inherit at twenty-one.” In fact he’d counted on her signing the handling of her money over to him by then; the day she overheard that conversation was still vivid in her mind.

Beside her, Ty remained silent.

Paul Dunne steepled his fingers and met her gaze. “I can assure you these are your parents’

wishes. I can’t imagine why your uncle would have told you otherwise.”

“Probably because he was hoping he could have convinced her to trust him enough to sign her money over to him when she was younger,” Ty muttered in disgust.

Lacey nodded in agreement. Ty’s reasoning made perfect sense, but the trustee shook his head.

“Lillian, you must admit you were a difficult child. I’m certain if your uncle misled you it was only because he knew someone with your—how shall I say it—your lack of maturity needed him more than you understood.”

She pushed herself out of her seat. “You’re condoning his lie?” Not to mention validating what she’d already thought of Paul Dunne. He was a disinterested paper pusher who hadn’t given a damn about her as a child any more than he did now.

“Of course not. I’m just offering a possible explanation. Your uncle’s lies were uncalled for.

Assuming things happened as you remembered them. Isn’t it possible that with the trauma of losing your parents, you were confused back then?”

Lacey stepped forward at the same time Ty rose and pulled her backwards until he had an arm wrapped around her waist. “I think speculating about the past is useless. What Lilly needs now is for you to explain to her what the next steps are for her to claim the money on her twenty-seventh birthday which is—”

“Next month,” she said, suddenly becoming more aware of the other parts of her parents’ will.

“Why twenty-seven? Isn’t that an odd number?”

Paul straightened his papers. “It isn’t uncommon for parents and guardians to delay the distribution of money to their children until they’ve grown up. In this case, there are yearly allotments paid out of the interest on the money that came due each year. Those were designated for the care and upkeep of the house and land and were paid to your guardian, Marc Dumont.

Your guardian also had the right to request money at the trustee’s discretion for your care.”

Lacey did her best not to snort at that last comment.

“But to answer your question, the reason you can’t claim the money until you turn twenty-seven is that your parents wanted you to have time to really live. They wanted you to go to college, or Europe , etc. while you were young. Once again, the interest would have paid for those things according to the trust agreement. They wanted you to learn about life before inheriting.

Otherwise they feared you might go through the money unwisely.”

“Little did they know how things would turn out,” she said to Ty.

She ran her hands up and down her arms. Her parents had wanted her to have valuable life experiences and she’d had more than they could ever have imagined. Instead of college, she’d ended up in New York City barely surviving thanks to her uncle, her so-called guardian.

Ty pulled her close, his strong presence the only thing holding her up.

“Still, isn’t twenty-seven an odd number? Wouldn’t they have picked a number like twenty-five?

Or thirty?” Ty asked.

“Your mother was a sentimental woman. She met your father at the age of twenty-seven. They married on April twenty-seventh.” He shrugged. “Your father lived to indulge her,” he explained.

“That makes an odd sort of sense,” Ty said.

Hearing about her parents caused a lump to fill her throat and Lacey could only nod in agreement.

“So on Lacey’s birthday, she can come here and sign the papers?” Ty asked, obviously understanding that she was unable to ask coherent questions herself.

“It’s a little more complicated than that, but essentially yes. She signs and the papers need to be filed with the bank. Then she’ll be able to access the money.” He cleared his throat. “Now if you two will excuse me, I have another appointment I must prepare for.”

Lacey was not ready to be dismissed. “Just how much money are we talking about, exactly?”

“Well there has been fluctuation of interest rates over the years.” Paul Dunne fidgeted with his tie. “But approximately two point five million dollars.”

And Lacey knew she only had to stay alive long enough to claim it.

They exited Dunne’s offices and Ty led her out onto the street. He knew she’d been shaken by all she’d heard, especially the fact that she’d inherited her parents’ home. He knew better than to bring up the subject now. She needed time to digest the info rmation.

Ty stopped at a drugstore next door to the law firm and bought her a bottle of water before they settled into the car.

“You okay?” he asked, as he opened the bottle and handed it to her.

She nodded and drank some. “Surreal doesn’t begin to describe things, huh?”

“That’s one word for it.”

She gripped the bottle hard. “The terms of the trust are proof. Uncle Marc is out to make sure I don’t live to see my twenty-seventh birthday.”

He let out a groan, hating to agree with her. He had no choice. “I don’t see how it could be anyone else. But he’s not going to touch you.”

She grinned for the first time since walking into the office. “What would I do without you?” she asked, impulsively leaning over and kissing him on the cheek.

He  sure as hell didn’t want to find out, but they both knew she’d survive just fine. She’d already proven she could.

He turned his attention to starting the car. “I say we go back to my mother’s. You can hang out with Digger, rest a little this afternoon and come with me to Night Owl’s later on. I have to work the night shift and you need to get out among people.”

“Ooh, a night out. I can’t wait!” She perked up a little, her shoulders straightening at the thought.

“Think I can help out, too? I’m so tired of not being busy.”

Another sign this little idyll between them was soon coming to an end, Ty thought. “I’m sure you can convince the guy in charge to let you do some work.”

Because that guy in charge tonight happened to be him, and he couldn’t deny her anything.