Romancing the Billionaire by Jessica Clare, now you can read online.
Violet DeWitt held the envelope marked “To Be Opened by My Daughter Upon My Death” and ran her fingers along the edges.
“Well?” the solicitor asked, clearly curious. “Aren’t you going to open it?”
But Violet only eyed the calligraphic writing in her father’s hand, reminiscent of medieval illuminations. She studied the ornate wax seal. It was such an unnecessary thing on a modern envelope. So very much something her father would do.
She carefully placed the envelope in her lap and gave the man across the desk from her a polite smile. “No, I’m not.”
The man’s broad forehead wrinkled, and he looked disappointed. “But it’s your father’s last wish, Ms. DeWitt. Don’t you want to honor it?”
“I’m fairly certain I know what it says already, Mr. Penning,” Violet said, keeping her voice brisk and cheerful as she tucked the envelope under her hands. “Now, is there anything else involved with my father’s estate that you need me for?”
He cast her another puzzled look before turning to the stack of papers on his desk and flipping through them. She understood the look he was giving her. Most people that the solicitor saw were probably grieving or concerned about money they would inherit; Violet was not interested in anything of the sort. She just wanted to leave.
“Your father was a great man,” Mr. Penning commented as he pulled out another piece of paper and peered at it through his bifocals.
“His work was so very respected. I’ve read three of his books, and even though I’m only an armchair enthusiast, I couldn’t help but be fascinated. What an exciting life the man led. Really, just a great man.”
“So I am told.”
Now, Mr. Penning looked surprised. “Did you not know your father, Ms. DeWitt? I was under the impression—”
“I knew him,” she corrected, wishing the conversation wasn’t heading in this direction. The estate solicitor probably didn’t want to hear about her workaholic father’s long absences, his abandonment of her mother, and Dr. DeWitt’s own callous treatment of Violet. Everyone just assumed that the legendary archaeologist Dr. Phineas DeWitt was as lovable and endearing to his family as he was to the documentary cameras. Not the case, Violet thought to herself. Not the case at all. But she put a patient smile on her face and leaned forward, as if interested in what the paper Mr. Penning was clutching read. “His estate is all handled, right?”
“Oh.” He adjusted his glasses, refocusing back on the paperwork in front of him. “Yes, actually, I believe that envelope is the last item outstanding. Your father, I’m sorry to say, racked up quite a bit of debt prior to his death. It seemed he was privately funding a few personal expeditions and ran up several mortgages on his house, which was taken by the bank three weeks prior to his death.”
Violet made a sympathetic murmur in her throat. She didn’t care about the money or the house, and she hadn’t expected anything. She just wanted to leave.
“Luckily, there was an anonymous third-party donor who has paid off all of your father’s outstanding debts.”
“Very lucky,” Violet agreed, her fist clenching. She had an idea who that donor was, and she hated the jerk. Anonymous, indeed. Now he’d expect her to be grateful and throw herself at him with gratitude. Not in this lifetime.
“I think that’s everything, then.” The solicitor gave her one last expectant look, his gaze sliding to the envelope in her lap. When she made no move to open it, he sighed and handed her a paper to sign. She did, and he stood and extended his hand.
“Thank you, Mr. Penning. Call me if I can be of any further assistance,” she told him, all business. Then she shook his hand and left the law office, the unopened envelope clutched in hand.
When she got out to her car, Violet started the engine, tossed the envelope into the passenger seat, and then paused. She rubbed her forehead, willing the headache behind her eyes to go away. Envelopes were an old favorite of the late Phineas DeWitt. When she was eight, her father had given her an envelope for her birthday. Inside was a clue that, if followed, would lead her to a trail of additional clues. She’d been so excited at the time, and after a series of envelope clues, each one more complex than the last, she arrived at her present.
It was a copy of The Encyclopedia on the Study of Ancient Hieroglyphics. Used. The inscription inside said: To Phineas, thanks for being a great teacher.
Granted, it was an interesting book, but her eight-year-old self had wanted a Barbie.
Phineas paid no attention to Violet’s other birthdays until she turned sixteen. She’d received another envelope in the mail and had been excited despite initial trepidation. At the end of the chase, however, her present had been a copy of a doctoral thesis written by one of her father’s students on Minoan frescoes. He’d tacked a note to it that read: Pay attention, Violet. This is the sort of thing you’ll need to write if you want to work for your father!
Again, not something she’d particularly wanted. But Phineas DeWitt believed in two things—knowledge and adventure. All else was foolishness.