Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 1

Republisher’s Note: A reader named Rose sent me the two missing beginning chapters. Thank you very much and if you have any Manny fanfic chapters either old or new ones you’ve written please share.

Since she’s shared Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 was already out of order, I’m going to go ahead and repost the rest of the story so it’s in order.

Marriage of Convenience By ‘J’ Chapter 1

“Tell him I’ll be there around five, if he can wait for me,” Michelle Bauer said into the phone. She listened to the response and nodded. “Okay,” she answered, concluding the conversation, and hung up thoughtfully, staring out the window at the full, newly blooming trees.

The appointment was to discuss her father’s will with his probate lawyer. Her father had just died in Europe, leaving instructions forbidding a funeral or memorial service of any kind. His passing seemed unreal to Michelle, who had never had a chance to say goodbye.

The house line buzzed on her phone. She picked it up distractedly. “How about dinner tonight?” Bill Lewis said.

“Bill I can’t,” Michelle replied. “I have to go over to Ross Marler’s office and discuss my father’s estate.  Ross’s being very mysterious, refusing to talk about it over the phone.” Michelle had been dating Bill, her colleague in the district attorney’s office, for several months. Michelle decided to study law in school, after wanting to be a doctor for several years.

“Maybe your dad left you an emerald mine in South America, ” Bill said lightly.

Michelle smiled. “I wish it were that simple. I’m sure it concerns the ranch, and what I’m going to do about that, I haven’t a clue.”

“You’ll resolve it, ” Bill said confidently. “Selling it is probably the answer.”

” Bill, I’ve got another call.”

” Okay,” Bill said, “I’ll call you tonight.” Michelle switched lines and took the call, then hung up and grimaced at the pile of paperwork awaiting her. At this point her summation consisted of an assortment of scattered index cards with notes like “Point out defendant’s recent history of psychiatric treatment” and “remind jury of previous threats against the victim’s family.” Michelle made a face. This would never do. She instructed her secretary to hold all further calls and settled down to prepare for the court presentation.

But her mind kept wandering back to the subject of her father. Michelle’s mother had died, after finding out about an affair her dad had with a hospital nurse. He remarried. When her step-mother died, her father had remained in Europe on his ranch with his stepson as the foreman. Her father visited Michelle in Springfield regularly, but she had not been back to Europe since the summer after she graduated from high school.

Ten years, she thought. During that time she had gone to college and pre-med, then changed her major and went to law school, taken a job as an assistant district attorney in Springfield and performed with notable success.

But somehow when she thought of Europe, she was always eighteen again. At a quarter to five Michelle gave up on the summation, deciding to keep her appointment with Ross and then spend a couple of late nights getting the oral presentation ready. She packed her briefcase and walked the four blocks to Ross’s office, enjoying the late-spring afternoon.

Winnie, Ross’s secretary, waved her inside. “Hi Ross,” Michelle said, dropping wearily into the lawyer’s conference chair and setting her briefcase on the floor.

Ross looked at her over the tops of his glasses. “Bad day?” he said.

“Kind of.”

He sighed. “I’m afraid I’m not going to improve it”.

Michelle surveyed him. Ross was one of her father’s oldest friends, and she’d known him since she was a child. “What’s the matter, Ross?” she said easily. “Didn’t the papers come through?”

“Oh they came through, all right, but you’re not going to like what they say”

“What do they say?”

“You’d better sit down, Michelle,” Ross said.

Staring at him, Michelle said, “I am sitting down.” Michelle leaned forward. “Tell me,” she said tersely.

“Well, your father left you half the ranch in Europe on one condition,” Ross said cautiously.

“Half?” Michelle asked, bewildered.

“Yes.”

“What’s the condition,?” She had no idea what to do with a horse ranch, half or whole, in the first place, and couldn’t think of any reason why her father would place a condition on her receipt of it, in the second.

“You must marry your father’s stepson, Danny Santos,” Ross said, wincing. Michelle’s ivory skin became even paler, and her fingers closed around the leather-padded arms of her chair. Danny Santos. The name brought a flood of unwanted memories, and her mouth became a grim line.

“I will not marry that man under any circumstances,” she announced flatly.

“Read it and weep.” Ross replied, shrugging, and tossed a file into Michelle’s lap. “You get half the place and Danny gets half. To keep it together and hold it as joint tenants, you have to get married.”

Michelle flipped through the pages, reading the intermittently, and then clipped the file together, replacing it on Ross’s desk carefully. “Ross, this is preposterous, she said. Estates on condition of marriage went out with the last century, you know that. The will would never hold up in court, the condition would be struck.”

Ross pursed his lips. ” I told your father as much. I said that if you contested it the condition would fail, but he insisted.”

“So what am I supposed to do now?” Michelle demanded, frustrated.

“Are you asking my advice?”

“I imagine I’d better hear it,” Michelle answered wearily.

“Contesting this will take forever,” Ross said. “The probate docket is backed up into next year. I know what your situation is at work. You’re up against a tough thing there, and you don’t need to be suing your father’s estate at the same time. My advice is to take a leave of absence when your current case closes, go to Europe and marry this Danny. If you allow this will to go through, the estate will be probated in a few months and you can divorce the guy.”

“Ross, you can’t be serious,” Michelle said dumbfounded.

“Why not? Take a vacation in Europe. Go through a civil ceremony with the step-son and cut him loose when you get clear title. You and he can sell the place and split the money, or he can buy out your half.

“I’m not going to do it!” Michelle replied outraged.

“Is it something about this man, Danny that’s bothering you?” Ross asked mildly, watching her face.

“Why do you say that?” Michelle asked sharply.

“Your father gave me the impression that you knew him.”

“I knew him once,” Michelle answered distantly, avoiding the lawyers gaze. “I spent the summer out there ten years ago when my father married his mother.”

“Can you think of any reason why your father would force you to do this?

 

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