“Jazzy, I’m glad you’re here.”
Jazz smiled at Chris’s voice. She turned and was immediately enveloped in a hug. She pulled back and struggled to concentrate solely on him before she shattered into tears.
“Where else would I be, Chris? How are you holding up?”
“That should be my question to you. As soon as the funeral ended yesterday, you were nowhere to be found. I worried about you.”
“You know after all these years, avoiding my mother is a skill, and I’d figured a head start was warranted. I’m here because of your message. You said Dad wanted his will read immediately. Did he tell you why?”
Chris nodded and took her elbow, steering her to his closed office door. “He loved you a great deal, Jazz. His urgency about the will reading was because he wanted you situated as soon as possible.”
She already figured this probably had to do with Cortez Enterprise, but before her father had passed, he gave no indication or explanation about what he’d do with the company. Though she’d worked there since the age of eighteen—beginning on a part-time basis—Jazz simply hadn’t questioned what his intentions were. Dealing with the cancer that ravaged his bones had taken all her concentration. But Jazz had trusted her father would do what was best. When he’d made her vice president the year before, she was sure her father trusted her to take more control in the company. “I don’t understand. Situated how?”
“It’ll become clear soon. Let’s go inside. Everyone has arrived. You stay strong, Jazz.”
She knew her mother would be here. “Who else is here?”
“A few others.”
Jazz nodded as Chris opened the door and ushered her inside. Her gaze landed immediately on her mother. They shared some physical traits, their height and the color of their eyes, but that’s where it ended. And for that Jazz was glad.
Next to her mom stood the very man who’d had an affair with her mother while Maria was still married to Jazz’s father. But then Jazz always suspected Matthew Wayne had involved himself with Maria because of his jealousy toward her father. Cortez Enterprise owned several hotels and restaurants in Manhattan as well as Miami, California, and Texas. They also had another hotel under development in Greece.
Matthew, owner of Wayne Corp., owned several hotels located throughout New York and New Jersey. But his business reach was nowhere near the level of Cortez Enterprise.
Her mother took a step toward her. “We’ve been waiting for you for fifteen minutes. It would be more gracious of you to have appeared here on time.”
She shouldn’t have been surprised that after all these years, criticizing her would be the first thing her mom did. “I am on time. Why is he here?” She’d seen Matthew at the funeral but made a point to avoid him.
Maria sputtered indignantly. “He is my husband and your stepfather. You will show some respect.”
“The same respect you showed my father when you had your affair?” God, she didn’t want to do this here, and she sure as hell didn’t want to do it now.
Stay in control, Jazz.
“Why don’t we all save this for later and proceed with the reading of the will.”
Jazz froze as an erotic shiver rushed through her at the sound of the voice. His deep, rich tone somehow melted away the annoyance flaying her at seeing her mother. She wished she could close her eyes and savor his voice for one moment. Instead, she turned and gasped when she saw the man in front of her.
He was over six feet tall, and at five feet five, Jazz found herself tilting her head back to get a good look at him. The bottom of his black hair was closely cropped to his head, with the top strands longer, styled slickly back. His eyes were a startling gray. She couldn’t help but continue to study him. His lips were full, and Jazz was surprised at the hunger rushing through her at the thought of tasting them. His jaw was square, and she noticed it was clenched. She wondered if it was in annoyance or something else. His nose was a little too long for his face, but endearing, and it seemed to balance out his model-like features. She dropped her gaze and examined his flexing muscled physique pressed against his suit. “Who are you?”
“That, my dear,” her mother stated, “is your stepbrother.”
Jazz swallowed. She’d heard her mother’s husband had a son and a daughter, but since she avoided Matthew and her mother like the plague, she never thought she’d meet any of them. And honestly she’d never had a desire to, especially since they were Matthew’s children. But there was something about this man that made her preconceived notions fly out the window.
The delectable man grinned. “I’d hardly call her my stepsister, since this is the first time we’re actually meeting. My name’s Cade West.”
His voice was like a hot caress, and to her horror Jazz felt the evidence of her arousal on her panties. What the hell was this instantaneous attraction? She’d never felt anything like it before. She took a step back from him, hoping some distance between them would clear her head.
“West? Why isn’t your last name Wayne?” Jazz found it odd he didn’t possess his father’s name and more importantly wondered why he was here at this reading.
Cade smiled and reached for her hand. “I wanted to cut ties with my father, so I opted to use my mother’s maiden name instead.”
Cade lifted his gaze from hers. “Not now,” he growled, before returning his stare to hers. “My condolences on your loss and apologies for not being able to attend the funeral. I had a business trip I couldn’t cancel.”
Heart still pounding quickly, Jazz could only whisper, “Thank you.” His skin was rough as if he spent time working with his hands, and his flesh against hers caused her clit to throb. What the hell was it about this man?
“Why don’t we all have a seat so I can begin,” Chris interjected as he picked up his reading glasses.
Jazz reached for the nearest chair and sat. She focused on Chris, but it wasn’t lost on her that Cade slid into the seat right next to hers. She breathed deeply and tried to calm her arousal down. He was a shocking distraction; one she didn’t need right now.
“Since most of us are all familiar with one another, and since this is a small gathering, I’m going to skip all the formalities and just jump to it. Please refrain from any comments until I’ve read the will in its entirety. You are all here as requested by William Cortez. And he has distributed his money and properties to be executed as follows: the Manhattan townhouse where Maria continues to reside will be hers. Jazz will inherit the homes I have acquired in New York, Greece, Texas, and Miami, all bank accounts, the vehicles I have bought as well as the jewelry I’ve kept in safe deposit boxes.”
“How could he?” Maria shouted as rose to her feet. “How could he not leave me money, after all I did for him?”
“Mrs. Wayne,” Chris interrupted. “Refrain from any more comments, or you’ll be escorted outside.”
Jazz watched her mother’s face turn a deep shade of red in her anger.
Chris adjusted his glasses. “As for Cortez Enterprise, the company will be divided into equal shares. The new owners are to be my daughter Jazz, and Cade West.”
Jazz stiffened, then gasped as the words sank in. She turned to Cade and was even more astonished when there seemed to be no trace of amazement on his face. Had he known all along? But before Jazz could even guess what was going through his head, or even ask, all hell broke loose.