Home > Because We Belong (Because You Are Mine #3)(10)

Because We Belong (Because You Are Mine #3)(10)
Author: Beth Kery

“So you’re uncomfortable with all this, Lucien?” Francesca prodded gently.

“I’d like to examine our options. As I said, these contracts with acquisition loan companies can be extremely delicate and convoluted. Ian didn’t tend to use acquisition loan companies, unless it was in the most extreme circumstances.”

“Ian has used them in the past when he wanted to jump on a deal,” Gerard said. “I asked Lin earlier, and she assured me it was true on two other occasions when Ian recognized timing was crucial.”

“He chose not to use them on dozens of other occasions, and always did what he could to avoid it,” Lucien said.

“And there are other options, aren’t there?” Francesca asked. “We could liquidate some assets for the purchase?”

“No,” Lucien corrected, moving his stare from Gerard to Francesca. “You could, Francesca. Ian left the power of attorney for such large liquidations and acquisitions only with you.”

Francesca nodded, hoping she adequately disguised how overwhelmed she felt as she studied the four other faces at the table. She tried to imagine what Ian would want. A voice in her head urged caution.

She didn’t like that the voice was Ian’s in the slightest.

“I agree with Lucien,” she said at last. “At the very least, I’d like the opportunity to read over the deal in detail before I decide. Of course, I’ll need all of your advice. As you all know, I’m an artist, not a businesswoman.”

“We’d be happy to give whatever clarification we can,” Gerard assured. He gave James a knowing sideways glance. “Besides, Ian once told James and I that he’d been regularly coaching you on business matters and that you had more innate understanding of financial intricacies than some of his top executives.”

Perhaps Gerard had thought she’d be flattered by Ian’s compliment, because his smile faltered when he saw her expression. She stood abruptly.

“May I take a copy of the proposal with me?”

“Of course, Lin has one prepared for you,” Gerard said, standing as well. He was nearly as tall as Ian. “But we—that is, James, Anne and I—were going to suggest that you stay with us for the next few days. It’ll be easier than having you try to get us by phone every time you have a question. We can put in some late nights and plow through the deal together.”

“Can you take off a few days from your painting?” Anne asked. Francesca hesitated as she looked into the elderly woman’s cobaltblue eyes. Ian had inherited his grandmother’s eyes. “We’d so like to spend some time with you. James and I miss you.”

“I miss you, too,” Francesca said honestly before she could stop herself. She examined the polished grain of the wood table, waiting for her composure to return.

“I can manage a few days, I think,” she said after a moment. “I just finished a piece that was meant as a Christmas gift for the buyer’s wife. I was planning on taking some time off until the New Year.”

“You’ll have to tell me all about your work, and how your final project went for school. I look forward to hearing about everything in your life. We have so much to catch up on, aside from this business deal,” Anne said warmly, coming toward her and taking her hand. Impulsively, Francesca gave her a hug, smiling at the familiar scent of Anne’s perfume.

“I’d like that,” Francesca said.

“Good. Well, that’s all settled then. Why don’t we get everything we need from Lin and head over to the penthouse? We can have dinner together,” Gerard said.

“The penthouse?” Francesca asked numbly.

“That’s where we’re all staying while here in Chicago. I hope it’s all right,” James said in a conciliatory manner. “I know that Ian bequeathed the use of his properties to you, but we realized you weren’t in residence. And Anne said . . . that is . . . well, that she hadn’t been able to get ahold of you to tell you our plans,” James said awkwardly. Francesca felt her cheeks warm at his delicate handling of the fact that she’d been ignoring phone calls and deleting e-mails from Ian’s grandparents. “Eleanor begged us to stay there instead of a hotel,” James continued, referring to Ian’s housekeeper, Mrs. Hanson, a longtime Noble family retainer and loyal friend. “Poor lady. She’s been quite lonely rambling around that big old place by herself. She misses family. She misses you.”

Francesca’s throat swelled uncomfortably. How horrible she was, not to have visited Mrs. Hanson or even called. She knew how much the housekeeper doted on Ian. She must be so lonely.

“I look forward to seeing her then,” Francesca said, her heart beating very fast. When she noticed Lucien’s gaze on her, she knew her anxiety hadn’t escaped him.

“Will you be there, too, Lucien?” she asked hopefully.

“I’m afraid not. Elise is returning from Paris this evening after a visit to her parents.”

“Please give her my love,” Francesca said regretfully, thinking of all the concerned e-mails and texts she’d trashed from Lucien’s vibrant, beautiful wife. Francesca’s friend. Pain rushed through her as if a floodgate had been opened. She’d even missed Elise and Lucien’s wedding.

“I will do that,” Lucien said, his brow furrowing. He clearly saw her sudden distress. He quickly strode toward her and took her hand.

“Lucien, I’m sorry—” she began, her voice cracking when he pulled her to the far side of the sprawling office.

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