Karma Ch. 05byWine_Maker©
Chapter Five: Karma
When we woke the next day, we made slow and gentle love in the morning sunlight. It was so unlike what I normally associated with sex. It was a slow, sensual, ever-deepening closeness; not a mad rush for pleasure. Oh, make no mistake, the orgasms were there for me, but the real treasure was the developing feelings between me and the man - the man - who was making love to me.
Afterward, lying in his arms, I felt more at peace with myself than I think I'd ever felt. I didn't want the moment to end. I wanted to lay there with him forever; but, that wasn't in the cards. I sighed and nestled closer to Tony, shielded and safe in his arms.
"I don't want to go," I said, "but I need to. I need to finish this."
He kissed my nose and pulled my head to his chest. "I'll go with you. And if Conrad starts something, I'll stuff him in a trash compactor."
I laughed. "You'd ruin the trash."
Reluctantly, I got out of bed. We showered together, and a little fooling around almost got us sidetracked.
As we dressed, I watched Tony, openly admiring his body. He just grinned at me.
"What do we do now?" I asked, a little afraid of the possibilities. "Can you go to LA or will that ruin your work?"
"I have a really good relationship with the company, so I can take a leave of absence to go to LA. We'll figure it out there," he said reassuringly. "There's no need to rush. Let's take this one step at a time and do this right."
Grateful, I let out the breath I didn't realize I was holding. "That makes me feel better." I gave him a soft kiss. "Thank you."
He grinned and swatted my ass. "Get dressed and let's go. Finish this so we can start the rest of our lives." I felt dizzy at the implication of his words. With a smile, I dressed and we left.
The offices of Dugan and Reynolds looked suitably posh for Mother to retain. With her, appearances meant everything; and this place screamed money and influence. Creamy marble and expensive wood dominated the hard surfaces and over-stuffed leather furniture graced the wide open space.
The receptionist, a young woman in a designer blouse and sweater, gave Tony a discreet once over and smiled at us. When I identified myself, she showed us into a conference room.
I sat and twirled slowly in one of the executive chairs, feeling my uncertainty creep back up on me. Why the hell was I even here? Conrad was just going to make a sweep of Mother's possessions and gloat. Part of me still regretted losing that much money, but I was growing more used to the idea; it didn't hurt quite the same way now. Honestly, I was more irked that Conrad was going to get his way than anything else.
Right on the stroke of ten, the door opened and an older man in a tailored suit walked in with a large folder in his hand. He had that distinguished look that control and power brought to a man, and he used it well to hold himself apart from us even as he shook our hands.
"Good morning. My name is Orin Reynolds and I'll be handling the reading and execution of Mrs. Masterson's will."
I grimaced as he said that. Having Mother even attached to Conrad's name irked me.
As Mr. Reynolds sat down, he opened the folder revealing papers and three DVDs. "Miss Thomas, Mister Masterson, please allow me to express my condolences for your loss. I never met..." He dragged to a halt as I held up my hand.
"I'm sorry, but there's been a misunderstanding," I said. "I'm Miss Thomas, but this isn't Mister Masterson. This is my friend Tony Di Ricco. He's here for moral support."
The lawyer apologized for the mistake and closed the folder. "I hope you'll understand, but we need to wait for Mister Masterson, since both of you are required to be present for the reading of the will."
"My mother left a video for us?" I asked, hearing the tremor in my voice. I'd expected the dry reading of what went where and perhaps some words from on high about how I should do better in the future. How would those words change if she only could see me now?
The lawyer nodded. "I can't go into the specifics just yet, but she did leave a personal message to be played to both of you."
Tony held my hand under the table and we waited. And waited. And waited some more. To the point that Mister Reynolds excused himself and made some calls. The receptionist got us some coffee while Tony and I spoke quietly as we waited.
It was almost eleven when Conrad sauntered in with the frowning lawyer behind him. Conrad seemed unnaturally cheerful and didn't acknowledge us in any way, not even to protest Tony being there. That was so out of character that it set off my asshole warning system. I didn't know what his game was, but there was something going on. His perfunctory apology satisfied no one, and was just another reason to dislike him.
The lawyer opened the folder, pulled out one of the DVDs and slid it into the player below the recessed television at the end of the room. "Mrs. Masterson left her final will verbally on this recording. It was witnessed by the staff of this firm. Her written will also specifies the same wishes. She didn't have to make the recording," he assured us, "but insisted on doing so. It was made less than a month ago, right here in this room."
When the picture came on, Mother was sitting in a chair in front of the same paneling I could see to my left. She looked like... Mother: proud, powerful and supremely self-confident. The fact that she was wearing the same dress she chose to be buried in was enough to creep me out completely. Tony noticed, and slipped his arm around me.
God, she was so young! The pain of losing her hit me all over again. She was only in her sixties. She should've had decades of life left. It was so unfair.
"Obviously, I'm dead," my mother said from the TV. "I know that I have breast cancer, and that it's going to kill me, probably within a few months." If that news bothered her, she didn't choose to share the emotion with us.
"I could've let everyone know, but I didn't want to start a three-ring circus in my final days. I wanted to die in peace. Hopefully, I did so." She smiled a small smile. "You know me, though; I just couldn't resist controlling the chaos I'm leaving behind."
That was the truth. I snorted, which earned a sharp look from Conrad.
"My will is short and sweet," she continued. "Regan." I sat straighter and then smirked at myself - I still jumped at her call. "I know we've had our disagreements over the years. I'm not the least bit sorry for that." She nodded her head forward. "What I am sorry for is that we weren't closer than we were. Despite my disapproval of your lifestyle, I want you to know that I do love you, and I'm sorry that we never had the chance to grow closer. That is the one regret I have in this life, and the one way I've failed you."
Tears filled my eyes. The lawyer had to stop the video while I regained my composure. She could have called me any time to ask me to come, and we could have talked. Or maybe we couldn't have. Perhaps it had been too late. Perhaps we were so alike that it had always been too late.
When I was able to continue, the lawyer started the video again and Mother continued. "That said, I hope that one day you will get your life under control and find someone that makes you happy. A man. Really, Regan, you need a good man in your life." With one word, she conveyed her subtle disapproval of all my bisexual antics. Another thing she never understood about me.
"Speaking of good men, that leads me to Conrad," she continued. He sat up straighter and looked expectantly at the screen. "Not to confuse you with a good man, though you are a man," she said with a sniff.
I expected some reaction from him, but Conrad's smirk at me was hardly keeping with the tone in Mother's voice. This just wasn't tracking.
"I know that you've slept around on me, but at least you were discreet about it," she continued. "Because it's a good idea, I've decided to go with your advice in regards to Regan." I stiffened in my chair and Conrad's expression became almost gloating. What advice, I wondered in growing dread.
Mother cut off my internal questions and delivered her pronouncement. "Regan, some of your behavior recently has worried me. I've been afraid you've fallen back in with bad companions. Let me be blunt, dear. I'm afraid you've started taking drugs again." She stared solemnly out of the screen as I gaped in shock. "Conrad convinced me that if you had, I shouldn't support you in destroying yourself and, for once, I agree with him."
I glared at Conrad. Tony had to pull me back into my seat as I tried to get up to smash his smug face. He'd set me up! Conrad and Rod had set me up!
Unaware of the unfolding drama in the room, Mother continued to speak. "Your inheritance is dependent on a clean drug test to be administered here and now. I hate being firm with you, but if you fail this test or refuse to take it, you will inherit one dollar and nothing more."
The lawyer ejected the DVD and put it back in its case. "I have a nurse in the building and she has a testing kit."
I stood up and glared at Conrad. "Fine, let's get this farce over with."
Tony rose to his feet and stopped me, earning a confused look from the lawyer. "I don't trust Conrad. I think I should take the test first, just to make sure there's no funny business. I know Regan's clean, and so am I."
Surprised, I looked at Conrad. Could he fix this, too? Probably. The lawyer was offended that Tony questioned his integrity. Too bad for him. I sided with Tony and the lawyer relented. Conrad sat back, still looking very pleased with himself.
Ten minutes later, Tony was back with a woman dressed in scrubs. He just grinned and gave me a thumbs up as the nurse gave the lawyer the same information in a hushed tone.
"Piece of cake, sweetie," Tony whispered in my ear. "Go in there and settle this once and for all."
I kissed his cheek and nodded. "I'm ready." I followed the nurse to a restroom and she locked the door behind her.
Reaching into a box, she pulled out a small plastic cup and handed it to me. "I'm sorry, but I have to see you fill the container," she said apologetically.
That made me smile. I'd probably had more women look at my pussy from far closer than she could guess. "No problem." I quickly filled the cup and handed it over. While she ran her test on my sample, I sat back on the toilet and finished.
By the time I emerged from the stall, she was cleaning up. She smiled. "All clear, Miss Thomas."
"Thank you," I said with a bit of relief. At this point, I didn't want to care about getting Mother's money, but part of me still did. Even if the lion's share still went to Conrad, so be it. I guess I couldn't change everything about me overnight. I followed the nurse back to the conference room and glared at Conrad as I sat down. I thought the peacock was going to explode with excitement.
The lawyer nodded to the nurse and she walked out with a smile directed at me. As soon as I closed the door, he smiled at me.
"Congratulations, Miss Thomas. All clear, as you no doubt expected."
Tony squeezed my hand and said nothing. His smile was worth all this to me.
Conrad leapt to his feet with a screech. "What? Impossible!" He grabbed the table and glared at me. "She fixed the test or paid off the nurse. Call in someone else to do the test. With witnesses!"
The lawyer's smile at Conrad seemed to have a hint of malice under the professional veneer. "I'm very sorry you feel that way, Mister Masterson, but your wife's instructions on this matter are crystal clear, and she left the final authority with me. Nurse Granger and her firm are above reproach. The results stand. Now, if you will resume your seat, I will select the appropriate clip to close out Mrs. Masterson's statement."
"The appropriate clip?" Tony asked.
"Indeed," the lawyer replied. "Depending on the outcome of the test, there were two closing videos. I am only authorized to play the one dealing with a clean test result. The other will be destroyed by me immediately following the signing of the papers." He slid the second DVD into the player and started the video.
Part of me was still very angry with Mother for doubting me, but I had to admit that she probably had good reason. My track record was long and distinguished. I watched her appear and nod at me through the screen.
"I'm sorry I put you through that, Regan, but I had to be sure." She actually did sound a little sorry, and I felt my anger toward her melting just a little. "I'm proud of you for staying clean. Now you need to work on getting the rest of your life in order. Say 'yes, Mother,'" she said with a smile.
I shook my head at her reproach, but said, "Yes, Mother."
"Let's finish this, shall we?" she asked. "Conrad, here is where I deviate from what we discussed." Conrad sat bolt upright. "To my daughter, Regan, I leave the chalet that I know she loves so much."
Conrad seemed to be choking on something but I barely heard him. My heart was soaring. The chalet meant more to me than I'd been willing to admit. It was a part of me after all these years.
"Seeing as I've already made all the charitable contributions in this life that I care to, that leaves the remainder of my assets, including my home in Knoxville that I share with Conrad."
At that, Conrad sat forward. It was disappointing, but I wasn't going to lose sleep over him getting what he'd schemed over so long. In the end, it was more than Daddy's fortune, since Mother had socked it to him in the divorce, but I had all I wanted. Her love and the chalet would be just fine.
"Those assets," Mother continued blandly, "also go to my daughter, Regan, except for Conrad's inheritance of one dollar. And don't bother challenging it, Conrad. I have video of your infidelities, and our pre-nup is crystal clear on this point."
She sat serenely with her hands folded on her lap as Conrad began shouting and pounding things. I could only sit there and blink stupidly at the TV. What did she say? I felt like I was having an out of body experience - to which I'll admit to some familiarity. From the blinking of Mother's eyes, I knew the video wasn't paused, so she was just waiting for the scene to calm.
With shouted threats of lawsuits and appeals, Conrad stormed out of the conference room and left us in relative peace. Mother sat quietly for another half-minute before continuing.
"Well, I'm betting Conrad has left. No doubt in quite a temper," she said dryly. "He never was as smart as he thought he was. Regan..." I swallowed and waited. "The last thing I'll leave you is a piece of advice. Don't make the same mistake I did. Don't mistake existence for life. Find someone you can love. Forget what anyone expects of you. To hell with them. Find someone that you actually love and stay with them," she grimaced in distaste, "even if it is a woman."
I laughed and hugged Tony to me. If only she were here! As sad as it was, her passing had made me see exactly what she was telling me.
"I love you." She smiled affectionately and the screen went dark.
The lawyer rose, pulled out the DVD, and handed me both the ones that we'd viewed. "The unviewed disc will be destroyed after you sign next to the arrows on these papers." He also took one of the two papers from the folder before calling in his secretary to witness. I suppose those papers would've given Conrad his heart's desire.
Tony stood and put his hands on my shoulders while I signed the documents. It was odd how you could throw your life away and find it anew.
The lawyer handed the unneeded DVD and papers to his secretary to destroy. "If you'll excuse me for a moment?" At my nod, he followed her out, quietly closing the door behind him.
"I never could have made it through this without you," I told Tony. "And I'd have slipped and given Conrad everything he wanted if you hadn't been there."
He kissed my neck. "All I did was help you help yourself. It was your strength that beat him. That beat both of them."
That made me feel even better.
When the lawyer returned we shook hands and I asked him please to see to locking the bank accounts and securing all of Mother's - my - properties from Conrad, both physically and legally. Tony and I will take care of evicting Conrad from the chalet ourselves.
Sitting in Tony's Rover after we left the lawyer's office, I tried to get my bearings. The events of the past hour or so were still too overwhelming for me to deal with, so I decided to focus on the here and now. We'd best go to the chalet and see to throwing out the trash. And see about calling a locksmith.
"Let's go deal with our unwanted house guests," I told Tony. His answering grin was almost shark-like, and he drove there quickly.
The driveway had Rod's rental and Conrad's SUV in it. I wondered briefly where he'd found it.
I climbed out with a shrug. No matter. It would be a pleasure to throw Rod out, too. I went through the front door and heard Conrad shouting in the great room. They must be arguing. Perfect. I went up the stairs quietly with Tony beside me.
Rod was standing in the center of the room with his arms folded, staring coldly at Conrad. Conrad was pouring himself a drink and hurling invectives at Rod.
"If you call me incompetent one more time," Rod snarled, cutting Conrad off in mid-curse, "I'll stuff that damned bottle up your ass. It's not my fault she didn't use the coke."
"But you swore she did," Conrad protested, his back still to all of us. This was interesting stuff indeed.
"I said she seemed to have taken it," Rod sneered. "The fact that you're idiot enough to count on assumptions isn't my problem. I'm only here to give her payback for dumping me in the first place. What happens to you is your problem."
"You gentlemen," I said in a clear, firm voice that yanked both of their eyes immediately to me, "and I use that term very loosely, are on private property." Conrad dropped the bottle and it shattered loudly in the sudden silence.
While Conrad looked like a mouse staring at a snake, frozen in fear, Rod just smiled. The same smile of his that he always used when he'd gotten away with something.
He sauntered over to stand in front of me. The arrogance of his stance stood my teeth on edge, but I didn't want to argue. I just wanted him gone.
"Looks like you came up roses again, babe."
"Get your things and get out, Rod," I said frostily. "Now."
His grin raised my hackles. "What you want is really no skin off my nose. You should know by now that I don't do what you tell me. "
As the rage toward Rod flared up inside me, I had even less warning than Rod when Tony's arm shot past me and a hard-knuckled fist exploded against Rod's nose. I swear I could see it flatten and twist in slow motion as blood squirted from it. Rod flew back and crashed into a coffee table on his way to the floor. That had to hurt. Rod struggled to get his feet under him and shot a murderous glare at Tony.
I wanted to kick him while he was down, but he was back on his feet too quickly.
"I suppose you think I deserved that," he sneered at me. "Fine, you keep on believing that."
Tony advanced on Rod, his expression promising pain. Rod backed up, holding up one hand. "This is Conrad's problem, not mine. I'm leaving because my business here is done."
Part of me was very disappointed. I really wanted to see Rod pay, but people like him never did. At least I was through with him once and for all. Good riddance. Tony followed him out while I glared at Conrad.
"You can leave under your own power right now and I ship your crap to you, or we toss you out, too," I said serenely. "Please make me throw you out. Pretty please?"