Second Chances (Dreams Come True, #2) - Emma Nichols
Staring out the window, I wanted to be anywhere but here. It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky, which made no sense. Shouldn’t it be dark, like my mood? It shouldn’t be so nice out when inside I was falling apart.
“Did you hear what I said?” The lawyer stared at me and waited for a response.
With a scowl, my uncle reached over and jabbed me in the ribs hard enough to make me wince. “Pay attention.”
I turned in my seat, focusing my cold dead eyes on the man and felt a hint of satisfaction when my uncle, who was a complete stranger, couldn’t maintain eye contact. My parents had once told me there was a falling out in the family, but never explained it. Now all of a sudden, Uncle Luc was my guardian and would be the executor of the estate until my twenty-fifth birthday.
“So, I will make the decisions regarding the gallery, but I won’t be the sole owner until I’m twenty-five?” I addressed the lawyer, Mr. Lefevre.
“Not exactly. You have to marry by twenty-five.” Mr. Lefevre had a severe look on his face, as if he wasn’t pleased with what he’d read.
“And if I don’t?” I frowned. At fourteen, it felt like I had a lifetime to worry about it.
Mr. Lefevre leaned back in his seat and folded his hands as he glanced back and forth between my uncle and me. “If you don’t, then your uncle will get the gallery and the remainder of the family fortune.”
“The remainder?” I leaned forward as I tried to understand the legalese I’d barely listened to.
After a sigh, the lawyer explained. “You have a hefty inheritance. It can’t even be touched until you turn twenty-five. In the meantime, the expenses will be paid through the accountant your father hired.” Mr. Lefevre looked down his nose at Uncle Luc before continuing. “There will be a monthly stipend for household expenses like groceries, clothing, estate maintenance, and other necessities. I’ll be personally watching the expense report.” Though I couldn’t be certain, the way he spoke seemed like a warning. Then he focused on me once more. “If you don’t marry by twenty-five, you’ll have your inheritance, but you’ll lose the gallery, the condo above the gallery, the mansion, and the rest of your parents’ estate.”
I cocked my head in confusion. “So I just forfeit it. Where will it go?”
He licked his lips. “Your uncle will legally own it all.”
Whipping my head around, I narrowed my eyes on my uncle, who had a hand over his mouth, no doubt to cover his smile. His eyes were averted, probably to hide his excitement. “But he’s not married.” My eyebrows rose.
“He doesn’t have to be. It says nothing about that in here.” Mr. Lefevre tapped on the will he had been reading.
“Well.” It was all I could say out loud. The rest of the thoughts racing through my head were completely inappropriate. This wasn’t the place for me to shout how it was complete bullshit. I couldn’t proclaim it crap and contest the will. I knew I’d lose anyway. “I suppose they wanted me to prove I was mature and responsible by marrying.”
A half smile appeared on Mr. Lefevre’s face. “Actually, no.” He inhaled deeply. “When we made the will out, it was very important to your father that you find true love, that you marry and be happy.” The man swiped at his eyes. “They wanted you to have balance. Your father once explained that without a wife, without you, he’d have spent all his time growing his fortune and never truly living. A life without love can be a very lonely existence.”
Leaning back in the chair, I considered everything he’d said. It was too much too process, so I focused on what I felt comfortable with. “Okay. In the meantime, I get to run the gallery?”
“As long as it remains profitable. We’ll watch closely, then we may call in an advisor.”
“I can help!” Uncle Luc jumped in and offered his services.
Shaking his head, Mr. Lefevre turned the page on the will. “It specifically says here in the codicil that you aren’t allowed to have any interest in the gallery unless Sebastian forfeits his claim by failing to marry.”
Uncle Luc’s face clouded over. “Fine.”
“So now what?” I hadn’t meant to speak the words aloud. Inside, I was struggling with living in the mansion, knowing my parents would never return.
“Now you make the best of the situation, I’m afraid.” Mr. Lefevre folded