Marriage of Inconvenience (Knitting in the City Book 7)(4)

By: Penny Reid

“I didn’t think you would.” His chair creaked again. I was going to have to call his assistant about getting that chair oiled.

“What is my next option?” Proud of the deceptive calm of my voice, I released a slow exhale.

“Option two: you execute a medical power of attorney preemptively to someone close to you, but your cousin will definitely contest that appointment.”

The panic began to recede, finally. This was good news. “Oh. Okay.”

“Not okay.”

“Why? That’s better than option one.”

“Yes, but not by much.”

“Why not by much?”

“At best it’ll only buy you some time. When I say Caleb is motivated, I mean he is motivated. He’s not going to stop until you’re under his thumb. Voluntarily assigning someone your medical power of attorney is basically admitting you’re not mentally competent to make your own decisions. Most judges will agree that a family member has priority and is better suited in this role than a friend selected by the incompetent person. Plus, you would be subjecting this friend to intense scrutiny and litigation.”

I stopped pacing. “What about option three?”

“Which option is that?”

“You tell me.” There had to be an option three, because neither option one nor two were acceptable.

He was quiet for a long moment, and then said very, very grimly, “I assume you are considering the transfer of your shares to Caleb? A buyout?”

My gut response was, hell no. Not only was Caleb a terrible cousin, I was convinced he was a terrible human. For the last several months, whenever I visited Caravel headquarters and reviewed division earnings, I’d always left with a creeping notion that something wasn’t right. The numbers added up, but they were too good to be true.

Profits were soaring with Caleb as the CEO, which meant the board was ecstatic. Yet, the sudden sharp profit margin concerned me. We’d had no new properties come to market in five years, spending in drug development was down, and I’d identified obvious inefficiencies in our clinical trials subdivisions. Vague revenue reports from several of the most lucrative divisions culminated in a nebulous sense of anxiety about executive operations.

What would become of my grandfather’s company under Caleb’s tenure if left unchecked?

Whereas my brain and heart asked, Why not? Why not walk away?

I didn’t want the responsibility. I’d never wanted it. No one—especially not father when he was still fully cognizant—believed I was capable of it. Even on my best days, I doubted myself in the extreme.

Why not just wash my hands of it? Walk away. Live a normal life.

Eugene didn’t wait for me to respond. “I discussed that option with him, suggested a buyout of your shares. He . . . did not appreciate the suggestion. Firstly, he doesn’t have the money. As you know, the CEO’s compensation package is capped at five million, inclusive of pay-for-performance and share options. That puts him at far less than his contemporaries. Secondly, he said he wouldn’t pay you a single cent, that he’s taking what’s rightfully his. As he put it, ‘what I’m owed.’”

“Hypothetically speaking, not that I’m considering this,” I hesitated, choosing my words carefully, “couldn’t I just sign it all over? Free of charge? Just give it to him?”

“The bylaws disallow that. As the controlling shareholder, bylaws require you be compensated at least one hundred and ten percent the average stock price of the last two years, and current stock is at an all-time high.”

Well, there went that idea.

Despite the suffocating lump in my throat and tears pricking my eyes, I was able to whisper, “Eugene, there has to be another option. Talk to me. Give me some hope. What can I do?”

His chair creaked once more, this time giving me the impression he’d been struggling to find a comfortable position. “There is one more option.”

“What? What is it?”

“Do you have a boyfriend? Or a girlfriend?”

My eyes flickered over the neatly organized shelves of office supplies, my brain stuck on the word boyfriend. “What?”

“Are you seeing anyone?”

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