The Man Must Marry(7)

By: Janet Chapman


And her day was not over. Willa opened her eyes and squinted at her watch. In four hours, there would be three angry men taking her to dinner. Oh, they’d be civil enough, considering that each one wanted her vote. They all would probably spread on the charm so thick she’d likely drown in it. Except maybe Sam Sinclair. He hadn’t tried very hard to hide his feelings about the situation—or her. She didn’t blame him. Abram had run away from home, hurting all three of his grandsons. They obviously loved the old man and needed to say good-bye to him. Willa understood both the grandsons’

points of view and Abram’s; she also understood everyone’s pain. To top everything off, Sam clearly considered her a slap in the face. Abram had brought a stranger onto both the familial scene and the business scene. And not just a stranger but a klutz. Willa had never worn heels in her life and couldn’t seem to get the hang of them. The ones she had on today had belonged to her mother. And she hated elevators. If the boardroom hadn’t been on the thirtieth floor, she would have walked up the stairs—though thirty floors was a bit much. Then her luggage had been eaten. And when she’d gone to the bathroom and gotten a look in the mirror, she’d nearly screamed.

She’d laughed instead, until she cried. She’d come toManhattan , to a high-powered meeting, looking like something her cat had dragged up from the beach. No wonder everyone had been horrified to think she had the tie-breaking vote. She’d been horrified herself.

Now she was simply scared.

And that was unnatural for her. She was twenty-nine years old and considered herself fearless. She had confidence in her ability to read situations and people. She made her own decisions. And even if those decisions turned out to be wrong, she always stood by them.

That was why she was there, facing Abram’s three grandsons. When the wild-haired, sharp-eyed old man had appeared on her doorstep, asking to rent her cottage, he’d stolen her heart with his disgraceful charm, atavistic arrogance, and failing body. He’d told her bluntly that he’d come toMaine to die and that he wanted to do it on his own terms. And Willa, being a pushover for anything in need, had taken him in and given him love and understanding—and her promise to come tell his grandsons he was dying. She should have guessed they would be younger versions of Abram. All three grandsons were gorgeous—tall, imposing, and downright intimidating. Willa was sorely tempted to write her vote on a piece of paper and leave it at the front desk, so when they came to pick her up that evening, she would already be on a plane back toMaine . She didn’t want to be near either of the losers when they realized the results.

With more willpower than ambition, Willa forced herself to crawl off the bed and strip out of the suit she’d borrowed from Maureen, one of her senior employees. Rummaging around in the mess on the floor, Willa found the dress she’d bought for this trip. Shaking it out with a growl of disgust, she fished a hanger from the closet and hung the dress in the bathroom. Then she turned on the shower, hoping the wrinkles would leave the dress while she steamed the wrinkles out of herself.

“Where in hell did Bram find her?”

“InMaine .”

“Figures. What did she say? When’s he coming home?”

“He’s not,” Sam said softly.

“Never?”

“He’s dying, according to Ms.Kent .”

Sam sat quietly in the corner of the car, letting his statement sink in. Jesse was sitting facing him, Ben beside him. All three were dressed in casual evening attire, on their way to pick up their dates for dinner. Willamina was Sam’s date.

“He can’t just run off and die on us,” Jesse whispered. “Can he?”

“It seems he has. Ms.Kent said he’s too proud for us to see him die.”

“That’s bullshit. The man literally brought us up. He’s been more of a father than a grandfather. He has no right to die without us,” Ben said, his fists clenched on his knees. “We’ll get her to tell us where he is, and then we’ll go get him. He belongs home.”

“She won’t betray him. I tried.”

“Maybe you didn’t try hard enough.”

Sam gave his brothers a wry grin. “Don’t underestimate Ms.Kent , gentlemen. She may look like a meek little partridge, but she won’t break her promise to Bram.”

“We know he’s inMaine . We’ll track him down,” Ben said.

Sam looked at his brothers’ anxious faces in the soft interior lights of the limo. “Do we really want to go against Bram’s wishes?” he asked, his voice betraying his reservations. “He’s of sound mind; it’s his body that’s failing him. And he doesn’t want us to see that.”