Riding the Heir

By: Jasinda Wilder

"Wedding? What wedding?" I tried not to sound panicked.

Virginia Sorrenson looked from my baffled expression to Shane's chagrined one. "I was under the impression she knew what she was getting into, Shane. This does not appear to be the case."

I turned to Shane. "What's she talking about, Shane? You said going with you meant it was a declaration that we were together. You didn't say anything about any damn wedding."

I saw Virginia's brows furrow at my vulgar language. Shane winced, and took my hand.

"Yeah, I know, and I'm sorry. It's not like it's going to be next week or anything, Leo, just..." he scrubbed his face with his hand. "Let's talk about this later, okay? In private?"

I nodded.

Virginia seemed displeased. "Shane, you should have been forthright with her from the beginning. It's not fair to her to be in the dark like this. She should know what she's getting into."

"I know," Shane said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Can we just get home? I'll explain everything."

"Everything?" I asked. "Is there more?"

Luke spoke up. "With Shane, there's always more. He's not the most forthcoming man ever."

The three other brothers all chuckled.

"Let's just say there's probably more he's not saying than he is," Jon added.

"We're his brothers, and he didn't tell us about his patents until after he'd made his first billion," Rob said.

I choked on my saliva. "His first what?" I looked from Shane, who seemed intensely pissed off, to Rob. "His first billion with a 'B', or million with an 'M'?"

Virginia sighed. "Billion, dear. With a capital 'B'. My tight-lipped son Shane here is worth nearly as much as his father." She glared at Shane. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. This poor girl obviously knows nothing about you, and not through any fault of her own. This is the kind of thing you can't just spring on a girl, son."

"It's not like I wasn't going to tell her, I just—"

"You want her to like you for more than your money," Virginia cut in. "I know. We've been over this. But obviously things with Leona have progressed rather quickly. If she's to make an informed and responsible decision about her future with you, then she needs the facts. All of them, dear. Not just the ones you decide to part with."

I turned away and stared out the tinted window. Our limo, which I suspected was worth more than my parents' house, was zipping smoothly along a narrow, winding road lined with spreading trees, now changing to brilliant reds, oranges, yellows and browns as fall descended on upstate New York. There was more to Shane Sorrenson than met the eye, clearly. I'd always known that. Even from the first time I met him, I knew he was more than just a biker. His carriage, his bearing, something in the ramrod stiffness of his spine spoke of breeding and sophistication. It hadn't clicked right away though, and he tried to brush it off, especially when it came out that he was the son of Henry James Sorrenson. And now, suddenly, those medical patents he'd so casually mentioned and dismissed weren't a trivial matter, and the company some little dot com existing on paper somewhere. He was a billionaire.

"Shane, you told me you owned a few medical patents," I said, after a long, tense silence.

Shane didn't answer right away. He picked at a thread on the leg of his pants, not looking at anyone. "First, I'm sorry. My brothers are right, in that I don't like to talk about myself. I don't like to flaunt my family name or my own personal wealth. Dad's money is his, earned by his hard work, over a lifetime. Mine is...well that's different. Those patents are meant to make life better for everyone, and it seems wrong somehow to capitalize on them."

Virginia huffed in irritation. "Oh for goodness' sake, Shane. Stop being so ridiculously egalitarian. Those patents are revolutionizing battlefield medicine. You've changed the medical world, son. You'd be a fool not to capitalize on it."

"Mother, I know. That's not the point. The point is, how do you tell someone your net worth without sounding arrogant? 'Hi, Leo, my name is Shane Sorrenson and I'm worth six billion dollars?' I don't fucking think so."

"Shane Alastair Sorrenson, I will not tolerate such vulgar language in my presence. This is not the United States Marine Corps."

I stifled a giggle. Shane blushed red and mumbled a very boyish, "Sorry, Mom."

His brothers all seemed to have come down with coughing fits as well.

At that moment, the limousine pulled to a stop at the top of a circle driveway. All that was visible to me, through the dark window, was a wide set of marble steps leading to a pair of enormous, dark wood French doors and thick, elegant, fluted white columns.

The door was opened by an older, thick-set man with buzzed black hair and sunglasses as well as the kind of earpieces worn by Secret Service agents.

"Ah, we've arrived," Virginia said, sliding out. The driver/bodyguard took her hand as she stepped out. "Thank you, Gerald. Leona, come with me, if you would. I'll show you the house."

I was next out, and I found myself lifted to my feet by Gerald's calloused, powerful hand. I mumbled, "thanks," to the burly man and followed after Virginia, glancing back at Shane. I would have rather had Shane give me the tour, as I hadn't had a moment alone with him since the picnic in Sudan. For all that I was irritated with him for holding back the truth from me, he was still the one familiar thing in my life, which was suddenly a very tumultuous thing. Shane watched me go, a thousand emotions shifting across his handsome features.

The front doors swung open as Virginia approached them, held by a pair of uniformed...servants, I guess you would call them. I wasn't sure. Butlers? Maids? People who worked in the house. Virginia swept past them without so much as a glance, but I thanked both of them and tried to keep up. She was moving swiftly, clad in an elegant but simple floor-length dress. The house was palatial. I'd only seen places like this in movies. This was something out of Jane Eyre or Mansfield Park, endless expanses of marble floors, grand, curving staircases and extravagant crystal chandeliers, suits of armor.

I had stopped in the middle of the foyer, which was bigger than the house I'd lived in with John. Virginia noticed I'd stopped and drifted back to my side.

"Don't let the trappings intimidate you, my dear. My husband has a flair for the dramatic. This house, if you can properly call such a monstrosity as this a house, is modeled after an eighteenth century British nobleman's estate. Something-upon-something-ford. I don't know. It's all grand and wonderful and entirely too big."

"How can I not be intimidated, Mrs. Sorrenson? This place is...god, it's incredible. I don't even know how to process what I'm seeing."

"Please, call me Virginia. And really, darling, it's just a house. A rather over-large one, but still, just a house."

I snorted. "Yeah, just a house. Okay." Virginia cocked an eyebrow at me, which I was learning was a Sorrenson family trait. "I'm sorry, I hope I didn't offend you. It is beautiful. It's just...overwhelming."

"Oh, well it is that, even to me, sometimes. Try finding someone in this house. If Henry isn't in his study, I need a search party and walkie talkies to find him. I told him we should get intercoms installed, but he said it wasn't authentic, and the electricity was bending the design enough as it was." I must have looked surprised, because she laughed. "Oh, you'll see what I mean about Henry when you meet him. He doesn't do things halfway. When he decided to do a period design, he originally wanted it to be completely authentic. All fireplaces and lamps and outhouses and so on. Well you can be sure I put my foot down. I told him he made it a normal, twenty-first century home, with TVs and electricity and indoor bathrooms and all that, or he could find someone else to live in it with him. But he refused on the intercoms, and I didn't push it. He did give me an entire wing of the house as a walk-in closet, after all."

I widened my eyes at that. We were strolling through the house, which really was properly called a palace. There were sitting rooms with ornate, period-style furniture and fireplaces and Greco-Roman sculptures, a formal dining room big enough to seat at least fifty people, and a dozen other rooms, including a library that seemed to be a reproduction of the one in the animated Beauty and the Beast movie, with hundred-foot high ceilings and shelves of books stretching out of sight, lining every wall, with nooks and crannies and ladders and paintings.

"An entire wing for clothes?" I asked, as we neared a curving staircase wide enough to fit a Hummer.

"Would you like to see it?" Virginia asked.

Did I ever. Her 'closet' was two floors, connected by a private spiral staircase. It wasn't just racks of clothes in a giant room. It was a display, a museum, a department store. There was a room dedicated to dresses custom-made for her by all the top-name fashion designers, some in different colors of the same design. There was an entire room just for shoes, floor-to-ceiling shelves designed to display only shoes. I may have drooled, just a bit. There was another room for purses, organized by color, size, and designer. More drool. And yet another room for lingerie, and another for more mundane things like jeans and shirts and socks and such. I was speechless.

We found our way back to the shoe room. "Henry calls this my 'shoe-seum'," Virginia said. "He says I have enough shoes that if we ever went bankrupt, I could open a shoe store. He may be right, but hey, a girl can never have too many shoes, right?"

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