The conversation was growing stranger by the minute. “Was. She passed away two years ago. Why?”
“Because she was named as secondary beneficiary should anything happen to you before you claimed your inheritance.”
Inheritance. Surely it couldn’t be true. Not after all the years of wondering and hoping that someday...
Then reality began to sink in, as well as the memory of her mother’s warning.
You don’t need to know anything about your worthless daddy or his cutthroat family. He never cared about you one whit from the moment you were born. You’re better off not knowing....
So shell-shocked by the possibility that this had something to do with the man who’d given her life, Hannah simply couldn’t speak. She could only stare at the card still clutched in her hand.
“Are you okay, Ms. Armstrong?”
The attorney’s question finally snapped her out of the stupor. “I’m a little bit confused at the moment.” To say the least.
“I understand,” he said. “First of all, it’s not my place to question you about your relationship with J. D. Lassiter, but I am charged with explaining the terms of your inheritance and the process for claiming it. Anything you reveal to me will be kept completely confidential.”
When she realized what he might be implying, Hannah decided to immediately set him straight. “Mr. Whittaker, I don’t have, nor have I ever had, a relationship with anyone named Lassiter. And if you’re insinuating I might be some mistress he kept hidden away, you couldn’t be more wrong.”
“Again, I’m not assuming anything, Ms. Armstrong. I’m only here to honor Mr. Lassiter’s last wishes.” He glanced over his shoulder at Nancy, the eyes and ears of the neighborhood, who’d stopped watering her hedgerow to gawk, before turning his attention back to Hannah. “Due to confidentiality issues, I would prefer to lay out the terms of the inheritance somewhere aside from your front porch.”
Although he seemed legitimate, Hannah wasn’t comfortable with inviting a stranger into her home, not only for her sake, but also for her daughter’s. “Look, I need some time to digest this information.” As well as the opportunity to investigate Logan Whittaker and determine whether he might be some slick con artist. “Could we possibly meet this evening to discuss this?” Provided she didn’t discover anything suspicious about him.
“I can be back here around seven-thirty.”
“I’d prefer to meet in a public venue. I have a daughter and I wouldn’t want her to overhear our conversation.”
“No problem,” he said. “And in the meantime, feel free to do an internet search or call my office and ask for Becky. You’ll have all my pertinent information and proof that I am who I say I am.”
The man must be a mind reader. “Thank you for recognizing my concerns.”
“It’s reasonable that you’d want to protect not only yourself, but your child.” He sounded as if he truly understood, especially the part about protecting Cassie.
She leaned a shoulder against the support column. “I suppose you’ve probably seen a lot of unimaginable things involving children during your career.”
He shifted his weight slightly. “Fortunately I’m in corporate law, so I only have to deal with business transactions, estates and people with too much money to burn.”
“My favorite kind of people.” The sarcasm in her tone was unmistakable.
“Not too fond of the rich and infamous?” he asked, sounding somewhat amused.
“You could say that. It’s a long story.” One that wouldn’t interest him in the least.
“I’m staying at Crest Lodge, not far from here,” he said. “They have a decent restaurant where we can have a private conversation. Do you know the place?”
“I’ve been there once.” Six years ago with her husband on their anniversary, not long before he was torn from her life due to a freak industrial accident. “It’s fairly expensive.”
He grinned. “That’s why they invented expense accounts.”
“Unfortunately I don’t have one.”
“But I do and it’s my treat.”
And what a treat it would be, sitting across from a man who was extremely easy on the eyes. A man she knew nothing about. Of course, this venue would be strictly business. “All right, if you’re sure.”
“Positive,” he said. “My cell number’s listed on the card. If your plans change, let me know. Otherwise I’ll meet you there at seven-thirty.”
That gave Hannah a little over two hours to get showered and dressed, provided the real plumber didn’t show up, which seemed highly unlikely. “Speaking of calls, why didn’t you handle this by phone?”
His expression turned solemn once more. “First of all, I had some business to attend to in Denver, so I decided to stop here on the way back to Cheyenne. Secondly, as soon as you hear the details, you’ll know why I thought it was better to lay out the terms in person. I’ll see you this evening.”
With that, he strode down the walkway, climbed into a sleek black Mercedes and drove away, leaving Hannah suspended in a state of uncertainty.
After taking a few more moments to ponder the situation, she tore back into the house and immediately retreated to the computer in her bedroom. She began her search of Logan Whittaker and came upon a wealth of information, including several photos and numerous accolades. He graduated from the University of Texas law school, set up practice twelve years ago in Dallas, then moved to Cheyenne six years ago. He was also listed as single, not that it mattered to Hannah. Much.
Then it suddenly dawned on her to check out J. D. Lassiter, which she did. She came upon an article heralding his business acumen and his immeasurable wealth. The mogul was worth billions. And once again, she was subjected to shock when she recognized the face in the picture accompanying his story—the face that belonged to the same man who had been to her house over twenty years ago.
That particular day, she’d returned home from school and come upon him and her mother standing on the porch, engaged in a heated argument. She’d been too young to understand the content of the volatile conversation, and when she’d asked her mom about him, Ruth had only said he wasn’t anyone she should worry about. But she had worried...and now she wondered....
Hannah experienced a surprising bout of excitement mixed with regret. Even if she had solid proof J. D. Lassiter was in fact her father, she would never have the opportunity to meet him. It was as if someone had given her a special gift, then immediately yanked it away from her. It didn’t matter. The man had clearly possessed more money than most, and he hadn’t spent a dime to support her. That begged the question—why would he leave her a portion of his estate now? Perhaps a guilty conscience. An attempt at atonement. But it was much too late for that.
She would meet Logan Whittaker for dinner, hear him out and then promptly tell him that she wouldn’t take one penny of the Lassiter fortune.
* * *
At fifteen minutes until eight, Logan began to believe Hannah Armstrong’s plans had changed. But from his position at the corner table, he glanced up from checking his watch to see her standing in the restaurant’s doorway.
He had to admit, he’d found her pretty damned attractive when he’d met her, from the top of her auburn ponytail to the bottom of her bare feet. She’d possessed a fresh-faced beauty that she hadn’t concealed with a mask of makeup, and she had the greenest eyes he’d ever seen in his thirty-eight years.
She did have on a little makeup, yet it only enhanced her features. Her hair hung straight to her shoulders and she wore a sleeveless, above-the-knee black dress that molded to her curves. Man-slaying curves that reminded Logan of a modern version of those starlets from days gone by, before too-thin became all the rage.
When they made eye contact, Hannah started