Marriage of Inconvenience (Knitting in the City Book 7)(2)

By: Penny Reid

Architects were like junkies around office supplies, insatiable. I didn’t understand their preoccupation with mechanical pencils and graph paper, especially since all their work and renderings were done using computer models. Regardless, we could never keep either in stock.

I once had a junior architect buy me a fruit basket for a packet of highlighters. I felt like saying, Dude. Anyone can buy highlighters. Just go to an office supply store. Instead, I wrote her a thank you note.

Staring at the screen of my phone, I pushed past the rising tide of fear and redialed Uncle Eugene’s number.

He picked up the phone immediately. “Hello?”

“Hello,” I said. Waited. When he was quiet, I added, “It’s me. It’s Kat.”

“Yes. I know.”

I waited again. When he said nothing else, I asked, “What am I going to do? Please tell me what to do.”

“You don’t have many options.” He sounded grim, but then he always did. I appreciated his consistency.

Eugene Marks wasn’t really my uncle. He was my family’s lawyer, but I’d known him since I was a kid, and he’d always been nice to me. Grim, but nice. The bar had been set so low by my blood relatives, to the extent that Uncle Eugene had been my favorite person growing up. I always remembered his birthday with a hand-stamped card and an edible bouquet of mostly pineapple. Pineapple was his favorite.

“Please, tell me my options.” I paced within the small closet.

“Fine. First option: you allow your cousin to become the guardian of your person and your property. He will promptly commit you, take control of your inheritance when the time comes—specifically, your controlling shares in Caravel Pharmaceuticals—and you may spend the next several years institutionalized. He’ll have control of your accounts and finances, therefore you’ll have no funds for legal representation.”

See? Grim, right?

“Please explain to me how any of this is possible. I’ve been—voluntarily—going to counseling for just over two years now. I earned my GED, and my AA all on my own. Now I’m putting myself through the part-time business program at the University of Chicago, maintaining a 3.9 GPA while working full time.”

“Yes. Even though some of those actions will work in your favor, it won’t be enough.”

“Please explain.”

“Firstly, you aren’t ready to lead a multi-national pharmaceutical empire.”

“I agree. Of course I’m not ready.” I kept my tone calm, firmly dispassionate. “But I have been flying there two weekends a month, haven’t I? I’ve been meeting with you, the board, learning, preparing. As far as I know, the board is happy to vote my father’s shares as a collective until I reach thirty-one. That was the plan we all agreed to two years ago, and I’ve done everything asked of me.”

“Except quit your job and move back to Boston.”

I shook my head. “We’ve already discussed this.”

What I didn’t say, what I hadn’t admitted to anyone, was that I didn’t know if I’d ever be ready to move back to Boston, to assume the role I’d been born into. I’d been stubborn, stalling, putting off the inevitable, because just the thought of living that life, living in that empty mansion, sequestered from the real world, filled me with misery.

“Caleb has never been a proponent of the plan. He believes the shares should reside with the family, not with the board.” Eugene’s reminder was unnecessary.

Whenever I saw my cousin, he mocked me, told me how I’d failed my family, and how I’d never be capable of leading the company. He’s say I was too shy. Too inexperienced. Too timid. Crazy like my mother. His favorite taunt was that I could snap at any time.

I wasn’t shy. He mistook my silence for timidity. I saw no reason to converse with people I didn’t like and the truth was I didn’t like him. Just thinking about the weasel made me want to throw spoiled milk on his weasel face. And then heft loaves of maggoty pound cake at his weasel face. And then rotten tomatoes. And then drown him in a vat of sewage. And then bring him back to life just to burn him in a dumpster full of dead rat carcasses . . .

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