Home > One Last Kiss (Blood Ties #0.5)

One Last Kiss (Blood Ties #0.5)
Author: Kat Martin

 

Chapter One


   The black-robed judge rapped the gavel, and the courtroom fell silent. As the judge rose and stepped down from the dais, a rising tide of chatter swelled among the wooden pews filled with spectators, miscellaneous family members, lawyers and their clients.

   “I’m sorry, Libby, but the judge has made his ruling. Your uncle’s will stands as written. That includes the provisions that apply to you.”

   The tall doors opened with a clang, and Liberty Hale rose from her place next to her attorney, Bert Strieber.

   “As far as the ruling applies to Uncle Marty’s greedy family, I couldn’t be happier,” Libby said. “None of them deserved a nickel more than they received in the will. Uncle Marty’s contribution to the Save an Animal Foundation was his business, not theirs. That money will do a lot of good, exactly what my uncle wanted.”

   Bert waited for her to step into the aisle behind the crowd exiting the courtroom, then followed. He was an older, gray-haired man, a little stoop-shouldered, one of Uncle Marty’s best friends. For an instant, Libby’s mind strayed to the dignified, handsome older man who had raised her. The only family member willing to assume the burden of providing a home for an orphaned twelve-year-old girl, her grandfather’s brother had taken her in after her parents had been killed in a car accident.

   Tears threatened. Libby clamped down on her emotions. Martin Hale had died two months ago. Libby was still grieving, trying to accept his death, though after months of battling cancer, Uncle Marty had seen the end as a blessing.

   She took a shaky breath. “As I said, I’m glad Judge Barrymore refused to give in to my cousins’ outrageous demands. As for me, Uncle Marty left me more money than I ever imagined. It’s the provision he created in order for me to get it that I don’t understand.”

   Bert came up beside her as they moved along the aisle. “I can only tell you that whatever your uncle did, he always had your best interests at heart.”

   It was true and yet... “Or else he’s still trying to control me.”

   She loved her uncle as much as the parents she had lost fourteen years ago. Uncle Marty had always been there for her, had always given her anything and everything she wanted. Then he’d fallen ill, and something had shifted between them.

   They’d argued about her future—the fact that she really had nothing specific in mind, nothing beyond having a good time and indulging herself in wildly expensive shopping excursions.

   Uncle Marty had continually brought up her childhood, reminding her of where she had come from, the small Kansas wheat farm where she was born and raised until the accident.

   Somehow that concern had morphed into the strange codicil to the will requiring her to spend the summer in the middle of Nowhere, Colorado—on some dude ranch she had never even heard of.

   Libby sighed. Trailing behind the grasping family members streaming through the tall mahogany courtroom doors, she and Bert made their way into the anteroom. A few feet ahead of her, Martha Newman, her second cousin by marriage, stopped and turned to face her.

   “I hope you’re happy, you spoiled little bitch. A bunch of stupid animals are getting half of Martin’s fortune. He never should have taken you in when your loser parents died.”

   A wave of fury hit her so hard her whole body tightened. If Bert hadn’t grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back, she would have launched herself at the red-haired witch married to her cousin Ferris.

   “Ignore her and keep walking,” Bert said.

   Since a wrestling match in the foyer of the courthouse was probably a bad idea, Libby kept moving, making her way out through the glass front doors onto Centre Street in Lower Manhattan. The black Lincoln Town Car they had arrived in pulled away from the spot where it had been waiting and drove up to the curb.

   As the driver opened the rear door, a rush of warm July wind sent Libby’s hair flying, tossing long blond curls over her shoulders. She ducked into the car and slid across the seat, leaving plenty of room for Bert, who climbed in beside her.

   “You shouldn’t pay any attention to Martha,” Bert said. “She’s always been a jealous fool.”

   Because it was true, Libby didn’t argue. “Are you sure there’s nothing else we can do about the will?”

   Bert shook his head. “At this point, Libby, you’ve got two choices. You can spend a month on the guest ranch, as your uncle’s will insists, or you can forfeit your inheritance. I realize you have income from your career as a makeup model, but it’s sporadic at best, and let’s be honest, your tastes are extremely expensive. Your apartment costs a small fortune.” He glanced down at the red leather stiletto heels that matched her outfit. “I would venture to guess the shoes you’re wearing cost at least six hundred dollars. Am I correct?”

   “Eight hundred.” She turned her slim ankle one way and another, showing off her pretty pumps. “These are Louboutins.”

   “Yes, well, then I suggest you do as your uncle wishes and spend your summer at the ranch.” He leaned back against the seat. “You know, there is always a chance you might actually enjoy yourself.”

   Libby scoffed, rolling her long-lashed, heavily mascaraed blue eyes. As a model for some of the top cosmetics companies in the world, she felt an obligation to always look her best. “You have got to be kidding.”

   Bert chuckled but made no comment.

   Crossing her arms over her chest, Libby fell back against the seat. For the first time since Uncle Marty had died, she felt something besides agonizing grief. She was filled with anger and resentment toward the man who was still controlling her, even from the grave. Worse yet, he was determined to put her life in the hands of yet another man.

   Libby tried to form an image of the rancher whose orders she would have to follow for the next four weeks. According to Bert, the rancher’s father, Chet Bridger, had been close friends with Uncle Marty. Then Chet died, his son inherited the property, and the friendship had continued.

   The Bridger Ranch in the mountains northwest of Denver was a working cattle ranch that catered to visitors for a few months in the summer. But the requirements of the will were specific—Libby wouldn’t be one of the paying guests; she would be working as one of the employees who served the guests.

   Fresh irritation rolled through her. Sam Bridger would be in control of her life—for now. But in a little over a month from now, she would be free to live as she pleased. Libby vowed that from this day forward, no man would ever control her life again.

 

 

Chapter Two


   Sam Bridger stood outside the Vail Valley Jet Center, the executive terminal at the Eagle County Airport, watching a sleek white Citation taxi toward the gate and brake to a halt.

   The stairs were put in place, and the door swung open. A well-dressed blonde emerged from the plane, the only passenger aboard. Sam chafed with annoyance as he watched her descend the metal stairs, the spoiled city girl he would be babysitting for the next four weeks.

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