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Authors: Barbara Boswell

When Lightning Strikes Twice

BOOK: When Lightning Strikes Twice
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B
ARBARA
B
OSWELL
When Lighting
Strike Twice

When Lightning Strikes Twice

That smile obliterated the little that was left of her equilibrium. He kept his arm locked firmly around her, gently, slowly kneading the hollow of her waist, and the thought of stopping him never crossed Rachel’s mind. His fingers were long, and he stretched them so the tips reached the curve of her hip, the soft swell of her stomach, and it felt so good. So very, very good.

Rachel felt something that had been dormant within her all her life stirring, blossoming, unleashing tendrils of heat that streaked through her. She could almost feel her common sense abandon her as if melted by the fiery, deliciously erotic sensations surging through her.

She had never felt this way before, and she didn’t know how to fight against it. She didn’t even know if she wanted to.

1

“R
achel, the Tildens are here,” Katie Sheely whispered. She’d sidled stealthily into Rachel’s office and touched her shoulder.

The interruption caught Rachel Saxon, a junior partner in the family firm, completely unaware. She jerked, accidentally hitting the escape key on her keyboard.

The file she’d been working on disappeared from the screen. All gone in a microsecond. Rachel stared at the blank screen in grim disbelief.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” Katie murmured.

Rachel suppressed a sigh. She’d definitely been startled, whatever Katie’s intention. She leaned back in her chair and met the younger woman’s eyes. Nineteen-year-old Katie, the receptionist at Saxon Associates, seldom left her desk, which she had customized into her own little world with photos of family, friends and pets, easy access to favorite internet sites, makeup and nail polish, piles of catalogs and CD-ROMs. Coming into Rachel’s office
in person
to announce the presence of anyone was a first.

But even Katie knew that the Tildens were Saxon Associates’ wealthiest longtime clients. Rachel interpreted Katie’s unexpected presence as a warning. An urgent one.

“They don’t have an appointment with anyone ‘cause I checked,” Katie continued. “But six of them barged in, and they don’t look very happy. I tried to stall them with some magazines while I—”

“Young lady, we didn’t come here to read outdated copies of
Time!”
A booming Tilden voice sounded in the hallway. “We must see Eve immediately.”

Rachel jumped to her feet and hurried to the door to see Townsend Tilden Junior striding toward the spacious corner office of Eve Saxon, senior partner, who also happened to be Rachel’s mentor, role model, and aunt.

“She isn’t in today, Mr. Tilden.” Rachel hurried to intercept him. “I’m her niece Rachel. I’m an attorney here, too.”

She always introduced herself to Townsend Tilden Junior because he never remembered her. Not because his memory was failing—at sixty-five, the scion of the prominent and influential Tilden clan was as sharp as ever. But he never bothered learning the names of any underlings anywhere. He considered them mere lackeys, not worth his valuable time. Town Junior dealt strictly with the top management.

“May I help you, sir?” Rachel asked. Even to herself, she sounded a lot like an obsequious lackey.

She saw Katie grin broadly.

“Get Eve here right away!” demanded Town Junior. “We have a serious crisis on our hands, and we need to address it immediately.”

Five more Tildens of varying ages lined up behind Town Junior in the narrow corridor. Their expressions ranged from somber to furious.

“She’s in court in Philadelphia today,” Rachel explained, knowing how well that would go over.

Not well at all. The Tildens turned their collective glares on her. “Perhaps I could be of some assistance?” she tried again. She assumed they wouldn’t take her up on her offer, not the Tildens who did not deal with junior nobodies.

Rachel waited expectantly for them to stage an immediate, disdainful walkout. Instead they stayed put, all six of them.

“There’s another will!” blurted Marguerite Tilden Lloyd, a fiftyish woman, who Rachel knew had gone to an all-girls prep school in New England with Aunt Eve years
ago. “That little floozy claims it was drawn up within the past year, and she’s taken it to Quinton Cormack.” She pronounced “floozy” and “Quinton Cormack” with identical inflections of disgust, as if merely saying the words was an offense to her tongue.

“Another will,” Rachel repeated breathlessly. She felt a sinking sensation. “The little floozy” could only be one person, Misty Czenko Tilden, the twenty-five-year-old widow of the late Townsend Tilden Senior, who had died suddenly, though not altogether unexpectedly, last week at the age of ninety-three.

“And she’s taken this—uh—new will to Quinton Cormack?” Rachel was dismayed but tried not to show it. His name rattled ominously in her head.

Quinton Cormack?
Oh no, not him! Anybody but him! Every nerve in her body went on full-scale alert.

She shouldn’t be so surprised by the news, she admonished herself. What other lawyer would the treacherous Misty hook up with, especially if she wanted legal representation here in Lakeview? None other than that conniving, manipulative shark Quinton Cormack, of course. He’d arrived in Lakeview a little over a year ago—descended like a toxic cloud was more apt, to Rachel’s way of thinking—to help his unfortunate attorney father Frank Cormack with his hapless law practice.

Rachel tensed, as thoughts of the humiliating Pedersen Car Shoppe case inevitably sprang to mind. Before Quinton’s arrival in town, Frank Cormack’s legal practice had been nothing but a joking afterthought. Currently retitled Cormack and Son, it was pure trouble. Particularly for Saxon Associates. And now, it seemed, for the Tildens as well.

“Quinton Cormack has a copy of another will,” she murmured, feeling her initial ripple of anxiety swell to a full-fledged torrent. Calling Aunt Eve out of court would definitely be an overreaction, but she was beginning to consider it.

“That’s what we just told you!” a thirty something Tilden
offspring snapped at Rachel. “Is it really necessary to repeat everything back to us? What are you—a parrot?”

Katie tittered. When seven pairs of disapproving eyes focused on her, it seemed to dawn on her that no humor had been intended. “Uh, gotta get back to my desk,” she called over her shoulder, making a fast getaway.

The Tildens returned their attention to Rachel. “This is an emergency situation, young lady,” Town Junior roared. “Call Eve out of court if you have to.
Nothing
is more important than this.”

She was caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, Rachel acknowledged glumly. She tried a diversionary tactic. “Do you know what the provisions are in this alleged will that Misty is flaunting?”

Her ploy worked. All the Tildens began to talk at once. Apparently they couldn’t pass up a chance to blast the former nude lap dancer whom the late Mr. Tilden had brought into their family fold three lamentable years ago. There were no further demands to summon Eve Saxon from court. The Tildens crowded into Rachel’s office, regaling her with Misty’s latest perfidy—her possession of the newest, most up-to-date last will and testament of her late husband Townsend Tilden Senior.

Naturally, it left his entire estate to her, his devoted grieving widow.

“I have a strong hunch that the Tildens’ attorneys will try to get you to agree to an out-of-court settlement, Misty. That means you would give them some portion of your husband’s estate in return for their not contesting the will in court.”

Quinton Cormack handed the platinum-haired young woman a Double Derby. Misty had a taste for difficult-to-mix drinks, and the skills he’d acquired during his years tending bar had proven invaluable in overcoming her aversion to lawyers. She trusted a lawyer who knew the fine points of icemanship and whether to shake or stir.

The two of them were in the office/den located in the
basement of Quint’s house. Both found it preferable to the depressingly dilapidated official Cormack and Son legal quarters right next to the High Speed Line, located in the only undesirable business zone in Lakeview. At least his home office didn’t shake like an earthquake every time a train to or from Philadelphia went by.

“What you have to decide is whether or not you want to agree to a settlement or go ahead with a court fight,” Quint added, coming to sit beside Misty on the thickly cushioned gray-blue sectional sofa.

It was shaped like a very long L and lined two of the wood-paneled walls. He knew Misty didn’t like to drink alone, so he sipped from a bottle of dark Canadian ale.

“Why do I have to decide anything at all?” Misty pouted. “The will says what it says. Townie wanted me to have everything. Why should I have to give
them
a dime? How come we have to go to court in the first place?”

Quint took a long swallow of his ale. Was this the hundredth—or hundred and fiftieth—time Misty had asked these same questions, to which he would again give the same replies?

“Misty, I drew up that will at your husband’s direction four months ago, and Mr. Tilden and I both knew at the time that the family would contest it. It was inevitable. Our choices are either to fight them in court or offer to pay them off.”

“I don’t know why they have to be so greedy! They already got their trust funds and their big salaries from Tilden Industries, so they’re all richer than God anyway. They don’t need another cent from Townie!” Misty raged, jumping to her feet to pace the rectangular area within the L.

She downed the remains of the Double Derby in two gulps. “How come they won’t let me have what Townie wanted me to have? They have so much, and I never had nothin’ till Town. What if they—”

“Town made sure that you’ll be well taken care of for the rest of your life, Misty,” Quint interrupted. “You’ll never be poor again.”

He winced at the sheer melodrama of the remark. It sounded like he’d lifted it from a scene in
Gone With the Wind
, one of Scarlett O’Hara’s fervent pledges to herself. He’d recently rewatched portions of the old classic on video, so maybe he had.

Fortunately, it was just what Misty needed to hear. She calmed down and dropped back down on another section of the sofa. “Do you mind if I smoke?” She was already fumbling in her chic Ferragamo purse for a pack of cigarettes.

Quint shrugged his indifference. He was willing to tolerate his clients’ vices—and most of his clients had many. He didn’t require a pedigree before he accepted a case, unlike the wellborn attorneys at the lofty firm of Saxon Associates.

Quint’s brown eyes gleamed. Since his arrival in Lakeview, New Jersey, fourteen months ago, cases for Cormack and Son had been increasing exponentially. The highly respectable, well-established firm of Saxon Associates definitely was feeling his presence.

He could only imagine how very much the Anointed Attorneys there must hate his legal competence and success, which increasingly brought new clients to his door. Recently, he’d been retained by the kind of clients who would’ve automatically bypassed Cormack in favor of Saxon Associates. The glorious Pedersen Car Shoppe case had been the turning point, and the upcoming Battle of the Tilden Will would boost—

“You want one, Quint?” Misty’s voice jarred him from the midst of his very pleasant reverie. She held out the cigarettes. “I noticed you starin’ at the pack.”

She had obviously mistaken his glow of legal triumph for a nicotine fit. Well, he’d had his share of those, too.

“No thanks. I gave them up when my kid came to live with me,” he added by way of an explanation. “It was hell.”

“Giving up smoking or having your kid come to live with you?” Misty was curious.

“Well, at the beginning—both. But it’s working out well. I haven’t taken a puff in fourteen months and Brady is doing fine.”

“Brady is your little boy’s name? I saw his picture in your crummy office down by the tracks. How old is he, about two?”

“Two years and two months,” confirmed Quint, a little surprised by her accurate guess. The photo on his desk in the office had been taken the week of Brady’s second birthday.

“I used to do a lot of baby-sitting.” She inhaled on her cigarette, long and deep. “I like kids, but I won’t be having any of my own.”

“Don’t rule that out. You’re a very young widow, Misty. And a beautiful one.” He didn’t bother to add the obvious, that Town Senior’s will made her certifiably rich, always a potent lure. “You’ll marry again and—”

“I mean I
can’t
have kids. I got some kind of infection, and it wasn’t treated for years. The doctor said I’m sterile now.” She lit another cigarette from the half-smoked one. “I did more than dancin’ in those places on Admiral Wilson Boulevard, y’know. And even worse stuff before I ended up there.”

Quint said nothing. He knew that Misty considered her nude lap-dancing stint at Fantasy’s Gentlemen’s Lounge on Camden’s seedy Admiral Wilson Boulevard to be the most respectable aspect of her past. Also the luckiest, as it had led to her meeting one of Fantasy’s regular customers Townsend Tilden Senior—whom she had subsequently married three years ago.

“Where’s your kid’s mother?” Misty broke the brief silence. “I know she’s not here in Jersey with you.”

“True. She’s not in the picture at all.” Quint’s voice was clipped, discouraging further questions.

Misty asked anyway. “Well, is she like, dead or something?”

“Like, or something.” Quint’s lips curved into a cynical smile. “Sharolyn gave me permanent full custody of Brady
shortly before his first birthday. Her new boyfriend is a freelance travel guide who likes to travel light. He goes all over the world and wanted Sharolyn to come along, but a baby was an inconvenience. The last I heard they were in Bulgaria, scouting out possible tourist packages.”

“The bitch!” Misty was indignant. “What kind of mother is that?”

“I have this noble spiel where I say that a woman has as much right to seek her bliss as a man and that a child’s father is equally responsible for raising him. Want to hear more?”

“No, it’s crap, and we both know it. Nothing’s worse than a rotten mother, I know that for sure. My mother dumped me, too, except I ended up a ward of the state of New Jersey.” Misty sighed. “It sucked.”

“But now you’re Mrs. Townsend Tilden Senior. I’ll bet your long-gone mother would be thrilled to renew your acquaintance.”

“And then some,” Misty agreed. “But she’ll never get the chance. If that whore would ever try to come back and claim me as her long-lost little girl, I’d blow her off the way the Tildens tried to blow me off for the past three years.”

“Well, they failed to get rid of you, didn’t they? You’re still here, and they’re also going to fail to get anything from Town’s will unless you choose to give it to them, Misty.”

“To avoid a court fight,” Misty said slowly.

Hallelujah! She’s got it!
Quint felt as proud as a math teacher whose slowest student had finally managed to grasp the gist of subtraction. “That’s right, Misty. The decision is yours to make. And even if you choose to settle with the Tildens out of court, you will still be a very rich lady.”

BOOK: When Lightning Strikes Twice
6.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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