Marriage of Inconvenience (Knitting in the City Book 7)(5)

By: Penny Reid

I thought about retorting with, “Other than a string of enormously substandard first dates last year, which make me question the solvency and continued relevancy of the male portion of the human species, no. Not anyone of note.”

Or, “How the heck am I supposed to find someone to date when I have work, school, and flying to Boston twice a month for heiress lessons?”

Or, “Do you really think it’s wise or even possible for me to date anyone when I know eventually what I’ll become? What they’ll have to put up with?”

Instead, I replied, “No. Why?”

“You could get married.”

“Married?” Panic resurged, causing me to shriek, “Eugene! I can’t get—” I stopped myself, swallowing, endeavoring to breathe. Breathe. Breathe . . . Calm down. “Sorry for my outburst. I apologize.”

“Caleb could try to contest a marriage, this is true.” Now he sounded less like his grimly pragmatic self and more like he was trying to soothe and pacify; this alteration in his voice did not help my mood. “But his chances of success are minimal, especially if you marry immediately.”

“I am not irrational, Eugene. You do not need to use that tone of voice with me.”

“Fine.” He sighed, and when he spoke again he sounded like good old grim Eugene. “In the absence of a valid medical power of attorney by a mentally competent person, your spouse would be the default for all medical decisions. Therefore, it’s not as though you signed anything over or admitted—or even implied—mental incompetence. In the eyes of the law, the bond of marriage typically surpasses all other relationships, familial or otherwise.”

“Married.” Now I definitely couldn’t breathe. I was dizzy. I needed to sit down. Spotting a stack of printer paper, I lowered myself onto the top ream.

“Yes. Married.”

“This seems implausible.” Married? What a ludicrous suggestion. “This isn’t a movie, Eugene. Sorry, but I do not believe people just get married to protect themselves from greedy family members’ nefarious scheming.”

“Yes. They do. People get married to avoid being deported, to obtain a green card, to avoid testifying in court, to secure medical insurance or other tangible benefits, and—yes—even to avoid greedy family members’ nefarious scheming. It’s why marriage fraud is against the law.”

“Marriage fraud? Are you suggesting that I commit a crime?”

“No, I cannot suggest you commit a crime. That is completely unethical and I could be disbarred.”

My head was spinning so I lowered it between my legs. The last thing I needed was to faint in the supply closet. “But you can break attorney-client privilege with Caleb and warn me about his intentions?”

“I was just one of seven lawyers present during Caleb’s last visit to Sharpe and Marks. Your family’s estate employs the firm, and you are the sole beneficiary of your father’s estate. I have—personally—been on retainer, paid by your father since before you were born, since before Sharpe and I founded the practice.”

“I thought you were retiring.”

“I will be next month, for the most part, with some exceptions. The most notable exception being Zachariah Tyson. I hold your father’s power of attorney and I’m the executor of his estate, the trustee. I have fiduciary interest in carrying out your father’s wishes. You are Zachariah’s sole beneficiary. Caleb assumes too much. I have no reason to believe Caleb is ignorant of my freedom to discuss estate matters with you, at my discretion.” If I didn’t know better, Eugene almost sounded like he was grinning. “Nor have I identified any cause to clarify this point with him or any of my colleagues—including Sharpe.”

Spoken like a true lawyer.

He continued, “As long as you intend to make a life with the person you marry, it’s not marriage fraud. If you marry immediately, Caleb’s request for guardianship will look like a reaction to your marriage rather than the other way around.”

“You’re serious.”

“As my billable rate.”

Darn. “I see.”

I lifted my torso, placing my elbows on my knees; my forehead fell to my hand.

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