Authors: Heather Tullis
Tags: #mystery, #DiCarlo Brides, #ski resorts, #family saga, #sweet romance, #hot air balloons, #suspense, #family drama, #landscapers, #Contemporary Romance, #hotels
© 2012 Heather Justesen
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Published by Heather Justesen at Smashwords.
Published by Jelly Bean Press, 90 S Main St. Ste #2, Fillmore, UT 84631
Cover design by Bill J. Justesen
Cover design © 2012 by Heather Justesen
the oldest of George DiCarlo’s daughters, born to his wife,
head of guest services.
eldest, head of the resort Spa. Born to Darla Parker.
eldest of George DiCarlo’s daughters, born to Wanda Keogh, head of resort food
)—Fourth eldest, second daughter by George’s wife, hotel
Fifth eldest daughter by Zelda Gifford, head of resort
eldest daughter by Trudy Chestnut, head of the resort floral center.
architect, best friend of Jeremy and Gage.
photographer, best friend of Vince and Gage.
of Deer Mountain, the local ski resort. Best friend to Vince and Jeremy.
—older half-brother to Sage by another father. Head of hotel HR.
manager of DiCarlo Resorts, stationed out of the Juniper Ridge resort.
Navy SEAL, head of hotel security.
Camellia gripped her sister’s hand as they passed into the
wood-paneled conference room at the attorney’s office. Her eyes burned, but she
felt Lantana’s fingers squeeze hers so she sucked it up and continued on.
A quick sweep of the room showed a lot more faces than she’d
expected, and though all of them were familiar, she wasn’t certain how she knew
the women. Three women—two blondes and a brunette—were seated in the row of six
chairs facing the table at the front of the room. She’d noticed them all at the
funeral, and they’d been vaguely familiar then, but she still had no idea why.
“Cami, who are all these people?” Lana asked, leaning closer
“No idea.” Her eyes sought out Alex—her cousin, her father’s
lawyer, and estate executor.
He walked toward them, leaned in to kiss each of their
cheeks and squeeze their hands. “Please take a seat. We’ll start soon.” He
guided them to a couple of chairs along the right side of the room. “We’re
waiting for one more person.”
“But what about—”
He interrupted Cami with a gentle touch to her elbow. “I’ll
explain everything in a few minutes. Try to be patient.”
Cami sat beside Lana and looked up as Alex put a hand on
each of their shoulders. “Are you okay?” he asked. “Would you like something to
drink? I have soda, water or juice.” He waved to a nearby table.
“I’m fine.” It was a lie, she wasn’t fine. She couldn’t be
fine the day after burying her father, after finding out he’d had terminal
cancer that would have killed him in a matter of weeks—if the pulmonary
embolism hadn’t done it first. She’d known he wasn’t well, but he hadn’t said
it was cancer. The loss made the pain of her mother’s death five years earlier
come back again full force.
“Nothing for me,” Lana murmured.
A tall blonde—thin, lithe, a little snooty in her three-inch
heels and impeccable navy dress-suit—sauntered into the room, scanning it, before
taking a chair. Her short-cropped hair framed her face and though a valiant
effort had been made to cover it with makeup, her eyes were red and puffy from crying.
Cami studied all of the women again, four of them besides
herself and Lana. All of whom had thrown flowers on her father’s coffin, all
acted as though they had reason to belong, but none had approached her or Lana
with condolences—or spoken to each other as far as she’d noticed. Who were
The women were near her own age, and so familiar. How had
they known her father?
Alex greeted the newcomer, his low voice making the words
indistinguishable, even from eight feet away. He gestured to his assistant to
close the door, and he returned to the front of the room. He shot Cami and Lana
a glance, grimaced, then let his eyes follow the line of women.
“I’m glad you could all make it, though I’m sorry for the
reason you’re here. I’m Alexander Checketts, the executor of George Marlin DiCarlos’s
estate. Because all of you were important to George, he remembered you in his
will.” He glanced at Cami again and she lifted a finger. “As you’ll be able to
tell when you hear the terms, this was a very recent revision.”
“Aren’t there a lot of other bequests in the will? Friends,
employees?” She swept her eyes over the other women, doubting they fit either
category. Wouldn’t she have known about them if they were important to her
Alex touched his fingertips to the tabletop in a gesture she
had long recognized as a sign that he was uneasy. Most people wouldn’t have a
clue he wasn’t perfectly comfortable, but she knew him too well to be fooled.
“They will all be contacted separately, but this portion of
the will concerns each of you equally, and your father and I felt it best to present
it to you as a private group.” He picked up the legal forms and began to read
the stultifying legalese which always made Cami’s head ache, even under the
best of circumstances—and these were far from that.
When he reached the bequests, he studied them. “I’m going to
skip over the little things he wanted given to others, though I’d be happy to
provide copies of the will to anyone who would like to check it. I’ll go
straight to the part concerning all of you.”
All of you? What did that mean? Cami glanced at Lana and
caught confusion on some of the other women’s faces as well.
“To my daughters, Camellia DiCarlo, Sage Parker, Rosemary
Keogh, Lantana DiCarlo, Delphinium Gifford and Jonquil Chestnut, I leave my
Cami’s eyes flashed to Alex’s, but his gaze was riveted on
the papers he held, though he paused for a moment. She stared at the other
It didn’t make sense, but Alex started reading
again, so she focused on him.
“‘Yes, you are all my daughters, though none of you knew
about everyone else. You will share equally in my legacy, but first I have a
requirement. The newest hotel and spa will be ready to open in September and
if you want to earn your part of the inheritance, you will all need to pull
together to make it shine, as I know you will.
“‘All of you have areas of expertise that will be valuable
in the launch of this latest enterprise—expertise most of you have refused to
fully utilize. You have two weeks from tomorrow to show up in Juniper Ridge,
Colorado, to put everything into motion. There is a house I have purchased and
furnished for your use during the course of your stay in the area.
“‘The trial period will last for one year from the opening
date of the resort and your work will be evaluated by the regional director and
Alexander Checketts. If you prove your mettle as I know you all will, you will
each inherit equal parts of my estate, and share ownership in the hotel chain.’”
Alex mentioned the estate value, which was in the upper reaches of the
Cami closed her eyes as a murmur went up in the room,
punctuated by gasps. Her stomach dropped at the sum. She’d known her father was
rich, it showed in everything he was, everything he did, but this was far more
than she’d realized. Far more than public record showed.
Alex continued, “‘Those who stick it out will get their
one-sixth split, the rest will lose everything. If any of you choose not to
participate, your potion of the inheritance will be donated to an organization
or charity I have specified.” He paused in the reading, a tick in his jaw
showing his feelings.
He met their gazes. “So you know, your father was very
careful to choose a different organization for each of you for your portion of
the inheritance. He made certain the charities were ones whose core values you’d
despise, so you’d have added incentive to not want them to get the money. You
can speak to me after this meeting if you want to know where your portion of
the inheritance would go.” His eyes skimmed over them again, then returned to
the will to continue reading. “As I now own all of your places of employment,
or the buildings in which they reside, my directions will ensure you are all
out of work if you choose to defy me.”