Home > Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(13)

Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(13)
Author: Catherine Bybee

She laughed and pushed against his chest. “I’ll see you tonight.”

He didn’t attempt to kiss her before walking away. Once she slipped behind the door, she leaned against it and muttered, “You’re wearing me down, Reed.”

Lori glared at her dusty computer. Instead of dropping in bed for a much-needed nap, she made use of the proximity of land and higher speeds of the Internet and logged into her e-mail.

Over two hundred unread messages.

She moaned.

After skimming the names and the glimpse of the messages, she opened the one from her paralegal marked urgent.


I hate bothering you; however, the executor of Alice Petrov’s will has contacted the office saying it was urgent that we speak with them. I made the call, explained you were out of the country.



Lori calculated the time back home and dialed her office. A quick platitude with her secretary and the call was transferred.

“Hey, Vivi.”

“You received my e-mail.”

“What’s up?”

“The short answer?”

“Why say five words when two will do?” Her courtroom mantra.

“Alice Petrov met with her attorney one month before Fedor’s death and changed her will.”

“I’m listening.”

“That’s all I have. You have to call her lawyer and Trina needs to be at your side. I told him you’d videoconference so he can confirm Trina’s identity.”

These kinds of requests were always followed with a big punch, leaving Lori wary of what was coming. Lori wrote down his number and told her paralegal to let him know they’d be calling in the next ten minutes.

Lori knocked on the adjoining door to Trina’s room. A dead bolt and a simple door lock later and Trina opened. “Missed me already?”

“Come in.” Lori set her computer up for a video call. They needed to do this quickly or miss the window of time where reception would play a factor.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure anything is wrong. My paralegal informed me about a change in Alice’s will.”

“What kind of change?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What do I have to do with Alice’s will?”

“Let’s video call her attorney and gather the facts.”

They both glanced in the mirror, smoothed back the day’s mess in their hair.

“Whatever,” Trina said. “It doesn’t matter what I look like.”

Lori set her computer up to where both of them would be seen in the picture.

Their image stared back at them until the office picked up their call. “Mr. Crockett?”

“Yes, hello.”

“I’m Lori Cumberland, and this is Katrina Petrov.”

“Good morning.” The man staring back at them was in his early sixties with salt-and-pepper hair and a kind smile. He sat in an office decorated in dark wood and leather chairs. “Thank you for getting back to me so far away.”

“We called as soon as we could.”

“Getting away from such tragedy was a wise plan, Mrs. Petrov.” Mr. Crockett spoke to Trina.

Trina fidgeted. “It’s been a hard few months.”

Mr. Crockett’s lips pulled into a soft smile. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you. Let me start by saying I’m greatly sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.”

“I attended Alice’s funeral. She would have been pleased that you saw to all her requests.”

“Alice was a lovely woman. I regret that I didn’t know her longer.”

Lori grasped Trina’s hand and found it cold.

“She told me the same thing.”

“Mr. Crockett, in an effort to keep this connection, the ship we are on will be pulling away from the mainland anytime, and I can’t guarantee it will last. My paralegal said it was urgent that we speak. I’m assuming since you requested Trina here, this has something to do with Alice’s estate.”

“Yes, yes . . . Alice specifically wanted her will read a month after her burial.”

“That would have been yesterday.”

“Correct. But since you’re out of the country, I had to hold off.”


Mr. Crockett ruffled through papers on his desk before removing his reading glasses and staring at the camera.

“As you know, Alice’s only child was Fedor. Who she cherished with all her heart.”

“They were very close. I don’t think he could have lived through her death.”

“Unfortunately you are right about that. Alice also knew that Ruslan would have done everything in his power to obtain her estate through Fedor.”

Trina nodded. “The man is evil.”

“I won’t argue that.”

Lori glanced out the balcony, noticed the shoreline moving.

“Mr. Crockett, the ship is pulling away . . .”

“Of course, Counselor. Trina . . .” He hesitated.

Trina squeezed Lori’s hand.

“Alice left her estate to you and you alone.”

Trina sat speechless.

“When exactly did this change in her will happen?” Lori asked.

“One month before Fedor took his own life.”

“Did Fedor know?” Trina asked.

“Not unless Alice told him. Which I don’t believe was her intention. We had a very lengthy conversation when she changed the will.”

“I don’t understand, Mr. Crockett. Why me?”

The screen started to sputter.

“I’ll have my secretary arrange a time for us to come in when we return to the States.”

“Of course. I wanted to let Trina know what she was coming home to,” he told them. “We are talking in excess of three hundred and fifty million dollars, depending on the price of a barrel of crude oil.”

“I’m gonna be sick.”

“Thank you, Mr. Crockett.”

Once Lori managed to redirect Trina to a shower, she called Sam.

“We have a problem.” In a few sentences, she explained the change of events.

“How is Trina?”

“Shell-shocked.” Lori glanced at the clock.

“How much money are we talking?”

“Three fifty.”

“This is going to be a big story when it breaks.”

“With lots of people seeping from the walls to try and get their share.” Large estates drew out roaches, poaching off the wealthy.

“And here I thought she’d be able to find some normal when she returned,” Sam said with a heavy sigh.

“We need our PI to look into the family, see if there are any players that are going to attack. Ruslan won’t take this sitting down.”

“And I’ll have Neil arrange security for Trina in New York.” The Alliance team was tight. Woven from family and lifelong friends. Neil and Rick worked security for Alliance and were physical roadblocks who brought their A game when it came to protecting their charges. “Outside of this, how is the trip?”

Lori instantly thought of Reed. Her smile wavered. “Avery is hooking up with a Spaniard by the name of Rogelio. Doesn’t speak a word of English.”

“Sounds like Avery.”

“Trina is starting to smile. And Shannon . . . I’m worried about her.”

“I feel responsible.”

“We both do.”

“Try and have fun. I’ll let you know if anything is leaked to the media so you know what you’re coming home to.”

Chapter Nine

Reed watched her from across the crowded deck. Lori pulled Trina aside and they put their heads together.

Trina swayed, and Lori caught her arm and guided her to a chair.

Lori looked around the two of them and ducked her head close again.

Reed swept the deck with his eyes, wondered if anyone else noticed the tension between the two women.

From his periphery, he saw someone watching them. A woman, her back was to him. But her eyes followed Trina and Lori just as closely as Reed’s. When she looked toward an upper balcony, Reed followed her gaze, saw the back of a man turning away.


He waited to see if Miguel was going to take the stairs and approach Lori and Trina, only he didn’t. It was as if he was observing, just like Reed.

Just like Reed and the unknown woman.

Lori kept one eye on Trina, the other on the show.

“Is everything okay?” Avery leaned over and asked Lori.

Lori shook her head. Trina was understandably upset.

Finally Trina gave up on the show, stood without warning, and left the auditorium.

Lori followed. And right behind walked Shannon and Avery. Once they were in the bright lights of the ship, they surrounded Trina.

“I don’t want this,” she all but shouted to Lori.

“What’s going on?” Avery asked.

“Didn’t you tell them?” Trina asked.

“Of course not.” She lowered her voice. “I’m your lawyer. It’s not my news to share.”

Trina turned to Shannon and Avery. “My mother-in-law left her estate to me.”

Lori noticed someone walking by turn their way.


“Oh my God,” Shannon exclaimed.

“Let’s go up to my room. We don’t want to discuss this here.”

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