She studies him in that way she has that can set anyone on edge, and Lucien is not immune.
Bruno introduces himself to the other lawyers.
“Why don’t we get on with the reading of the will?” I suggest. “We have more appointments while we’re in town.”
Brady clears his throat. “I’m afraid your brother-in-law will not be able to enter with us. Family only. And of course, your attorney,” he says to Vittoria.
“I give him permission,” she says.
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, sis,” Lucien says.
She opens her mouth to protest, but Brady clears his throat. “However, I’m told we’ll have some other business after the reading of your father’s will,” he says, glancing at Bruno and then at Bastian. “If you could please remain close.”
Bastian gives him an irritated nod and makes a show of sitting on the couch in the waiting area.
Lucien grins. A small victory for him. We enter the room and take our seats around the large oval table with Lucien and his lawyers on one side, and Vittoria, Bruno, and I on the other.
While Brady gets on with the reading of Geno Russo’s will, I study Lucien Russo. I look at the ring with the family’s insignia on his finger. I remember it from that day in our kitchen. Remember the toe of his shiny, expensive shoes when he stepped on the money his father had scattered on that shitty linoleum floor. I think of his hands on Hannah. Sweet, young, innocent Hannah. Helpless Hannah.
My hands fist. I sit up and lean my forearms on the table. Brady passes a sealed letter to Vittoria and another to Lucien. Vittoria traces her name on hers. It’s handwritten. Lucien jams his into his pocket, leaving me to wonder if he’ll bother to read it at all.
Brady finally gets down to it.
Lucien, already owning thirty shares of the company, will inherit nineteen more of his father’s shares, putting him at forty-nine percent. Lucien opens his mouth, clearly surprised.
“When did he change it?” he demands, cutting Brady off.
“We’ll get to questions.” Brady’s unruffled by Lucien’s tone and carries on reading. He explains how Vittoria will come into her thirty shares on her twenty-first birthday and will inherit twenty-one more on that same day.
“What?” Vittoria asks. She too is surprised. As surprised as me.
I watch them, glance at my brother through the glass wall. We expected the shares would be split fifty-fifty, knowing he wouldn’t leave anything to Emma, but this is a surprise. And makes my job a hell of a lot easier.
Lucien’s hands are fists. “When did he fucking change the will? He wasn’t in his right mind the last few months, I can tell you that. He was slipping. If he—”
“The change was made nearly seven years ago, Mr. Russo.”
Lucien’s face pales as he’s momentarily dumbstruck. I wonder if anyone else notices it. Notices how his shifty eyes move over his sister.
“And there is no contesting it on grounds that your father was not in his right mind,” Brady says firmly. I tune him out as he continues reading more details.
Her father changed his will seven years ago. I look at Vittoria. Is she doing the math? She would have been fourteen. The timing coincides with the year she lost. The question is why Geno Russo did it. Why he gave Vittoria controlling shares of his business.
I turn to Lucien. See the sweat on his brow as he texts something with his thick thumbs as he curses. He moves to stand, and I see the corner of the letter he pushed carelessly into his pocket. See the one Vittoria is still holding with reverence.
Did Geno Russo change his will to punish his son? He’d have to know it would put Vittoria in danger, but she was already in danger. A fifty-fifty split would give them equal power. If anything would have happened to her, the shares would shift to him because the company must be controlled by the family. This much I already knew. It was her father’s wish. In fact, if anything happens before those shares are transferred on her twenty-first birthday, everything will still go to Lucien. After she’s twenty-one, should anything happen to Vittoria, those shares would remain mine as her husband. It’s why I married her. Why we had to do things the way we did.
“Do you have any questions, Ms. Russo? Excuse me, Mrs. Caballero. I realize this may come as a shock, but you own controlling shares of the company.”
“I don’t…” She shakes her head. “What about my sister? You haven’t mentioned Emma.”
“Emma is not accounted for in the will,” Mr. Brady says, clearly uncomfortable. “Your father was very clear in his instruction regarding your younger sister.” He pauses politely. “That concludes this meeting, but my office will set up a time to go over everything with you in greater detail and handle the transfer of shares on your twenty-first birthday which is coming up, young lady,” he says with a smile. Vittoria attempts to smile but falls short. He glances back at Lucien, who is staring out the window as he whisper-shouts into his phone. “You should know that your father was very proud of you, Vittoria,” he says to her and pats her hand.
Vittoria’s eyes water, and I think about how she felt about him. How she loved him. But I clear my throat. Time to get on with the business of things.
“Excellent,” I say just to get on with things. “Thank you, Mr. Brady. And now that that’s done and given that I am in control of Vittoria’s finances, which thus includes her shares of the company, I’d like to request an audit to be conducted immediately. I’d like to know exactly what my wife and I are getting into.”