The lawyer was waiting for them, all prickly and officious. “Miss Senga Monmartin, Mr. Erramun Silence. Here are the full details of Mirabella’s behest to the two of you. It encompasses all that was read in the will – both the rewards for compliance and the punishments for a lack thereof, as it were – but includes also this statement:
“‘Now, Silence, I know you, and you’re going to try to give up as little as possible, and Senga, I know you, and you’re going to try to be nice, because that’s what you do. Neither of those things are bad traits – but they don’t suit this plan of mine. If I’m gone – and if I weren’t gone, you wouldn’t be hearing this, now would you – you’re going to have to trust the plan, both of you, because nothing else will keep you both above water.
“‘In that vein, I will only consider you to have followed the letter of my will and the spirit if you swear to the Belonging in front of Mr. Maladono, my favorite lawyer, and if you do so with no qualifiers. Nothing but you, Silence, saying you Belong to you, Senga, that and nothing more.’”
Senga looked at Silence. He was growling softly under his breath, glaring at the lawyer and the paper the lawyer was holding. The lawyer, quite sensibly, took a step backwards. Senga resisted the urge to do the same as Silence turned his glare on her.
“This was not my doing,” she pointed out, “or I wouldn’t have bothered to be negotiating terms with you.”
“You’re fucked if I say no, aren’t you?” There was something amused under the growl. Senga struggled not to show anything on her face.
“You’re fucked if you say no, too, aren’t you?” she countered.
“Oh, yeah. But it’s nice to know we’re fucked together…. or not-fucked together.” He smirked at her. “Which defeats the purpose of me being under your Name, I suppose.”
She snorted. “I don’t think Great-Aunt Mirabella arranged this all just so my bed would be warmer. For that, I can imagine she’d have picked someone who wanted the collar. She had a few of those, didn’t she?” She turned that question on the lawyer, who was doing his best to pretend he wasn’t listening to this discussion.
He cleared his throat. “If you mean, were there people in Mirabella’s will… there were three. Those disbursements were handled separately, as that is obviously against the law in this state.”
“All states, I’d think?”
“Oh, actually, there are special laws in three states, including California, that were presumably put in place stealthily and under the aegis of other laws by powerful Ellehemaei. That being said, if you wish to discuss inheritance law vis-a-vis Ellehemaei, I’d be more than willing to do so – at another date. Right now, I need to know which path the two of you are pursuing.”
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