Violet stared at the shelves of law books that covered the walls of the lawyer’s office, her eyes gritty and dry. In contrast, her mother sat beside her, weeping softly. In the weeks since Tiberius’s death, Lucille had gone through a dozen boxes of tissues.
A part of Violet was ashamed that she’d moved swiftly through the five stages of grief while her mother had gone straight to stage four—depression—and stayed there.
“That takes us to the Lucky Heart,” John Malcolm, Tiberius’s lawyer continued. “As you probably know, the casino is deep in debt.”
Violet nodded, absently squeezing her mother’s hand in comfort, relieved that Tiberius had invested his personal fortune wisely and set aside enough for Lucille to never have to worry about money. “I don’t understand why. The entire time I worked there, it always operated in the black. Nor has business fallen off in the last five years. Tiberius was too savvy to let that happen. So where did the debt come from?”
“He was mortgaging the Lucky Heart in order to buy stock.”
“Stock?” That didn’t sound like Tiberius at all. “Why would he do that? He didn’t trust Wall Street. Said it was a sucker’s bet.”
“He was buying private stock.”
Even more curious. A rhythmic ache had manifested in Violet’s temples. She rubbed to ease the pain. “So can we sell the stock and get the Lucky Heart out of debt?”
“Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to do that.”
“Why not?” Making bad business decisions was something Tiberius had never done. “What sort of stock was he buying?”
“Stone Properties stock.”
Violet leaned forward. Had she heard the gray-haired lawyer correctly? “Why would he do that?”
John’s solemn blue eyes were the gatekeepers of a thousand clients’ secrets. “He had his reasons.”
Her thoughts rushed through a dozen scenarios as to why Tiberius had kept something this huge from her. Then she contemplated her conversation with JT a few days earlier. “How much stock did he have?”
“In the three months before his death he’d managed to get eighteen percent.”
Violet’s curiosity spiked. Did his purchase of Stone Properties stock have anything to do with why he’d been reestablishing his relationship with JT? Together they would’ve controlled forty-eight percent of Stone Properties, not enough to take over and force Preston out, but if they could secure another three percent...
Is that what Tiberius had been up to?
“Did he leave the stock to JT?”
John Malcolm looked surprised. “No. He left it to you.”
Any normal person who’d just inherited eighteen percent of a multi-billion dollar company might be dancing around the lawyer’s office or at the very least grinning. Violet had no desire to celebrate. The price tag for her windfall was too high. She’d lost the man who’d been her father in heart and soul if not by blood or marriage.
“Why me and not my mom?”
“Because he trusted you’d know what to do with it.”
“First Scarlett inherits a warehouse full of secret files and now this,” she muttered, thinking about all the private information Tiberius had gathered over the years on acquaintances and family. “What other surprises does Tiberius plan to unleash on the Fontaine sisters?”
“Now, as to the conditions of the inheritance.”
“And there it is,” Violet grumbled. She loved Tiberius, but he was a cagey bastard.
John Malcolm ignored her outburst. “You can’t sell the stock, donate it or give it away.” The lawyer smiled ironically as he said this last bit, if he couldn’t understand why anyone could part with that much money and expect nothing in return. “Until the death of Preston Rhodes.”
Obviously Tiberius wanted to make sure his brother-in-law never got his hands on the stock.
“Chances are it won’t be worth anything by the time that happens,” she murmured.
“And there’s one other issue,” John Malcolm continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “You can’t vote the shares because you’re not family.”
Violet sat back in her chair and regarded the lawyer in utter bafflement. Why hadn’t Tiberius just left the shares to JT? The answer occurred to her an instant after the question had formed. Because his relationship with JT hadn’t reached that level of trust yet. Tiberius probably thought he had months to get to know his nephew. It wasn’t like he was planning on getting murdered.
“Thank you for all your help,” Violet said, standing to shake hands with the lawyer.
“Yes,” Lucille echoed. “Thank you. I know you were a good friend to Tiberius all these years.”
“Sometimes I felt more like a co-conspirator,” John Malcolm with a wry smile. “But it was my pleasure to call him both friend and client.”
Violet and her mother left the lawyer’s office and headed to the parking lot.
“I can’t believe Tiberius left you all that stock,” Lucille said, “without there being anything you can do with it.”
“Did he talk to you about what he was up to?”
Lucille’s beautiful smile was always a little bit sad, but since Tiberius’s death it had become downright melancholy. “You know he didn’t talk business with me.”
No. Tiberius had always made it his mission to bring all things joyful and fun to his conversations with Lucille. He’d loved when her eyes sparkled. Discussing something as upsetting as staging a coup against Preston Rhodes would never have happened.
“Maybe I’ll check his office when I drop you off,” Violet said.
“There might be something in his files.”
When they arrived at the house Lucille had shared with Tiberius for years, Violet discovered that her mother was right. There were ten files pertaining to the stock acquisition. Two contained the paperwork for the stock Tiberius had purchased. The other eight contained information on family members he hadn’t yet contacted. Her interest rose as she read through Tiberius’s notes. Gaining another three percent wouldn’t be easy, but she had a notion of how it could be done. Not that it did her any good. She owned eighteen percent of a stock she could neither get rid of nor vote.
So, what the hell was she supposed to do with it? Better to ask, what would Tiberius want her to do with it?
The thought of becoming embroiled in the intrigue surrounding Stone Properties gave Violet a bad taste in her mouth. She was quite content with her own piece of the Las Vegas strip. From the second she’d been put in charge of Fontaine Chic, she’d known complete happiness. It was all she needed. She didn’t care if she won the contest their grandfather had created to decide which of the three Fontaine sisters would succeed him as CEO. Violet was realistic about her chances. With Harper’s education and hotel training, it was her contest hands down. Besides, it was her birthright. Just like Stone Properties was JT’s.
If only there was something Violet could do to make it so he could claim his rightful place. Not that he wanted her help. She dismissed that as insignificant. She needed to focus on keeping alive Tiberius’s plan to reclaim his family’s company. But how?
When the answer came, she was stunned by its simplicity and foolhardiness. She couldn’t. The idea was crazy. On the other hand, maybe crazy was what the situation called for.
And there was only one way she was going to know for sure.