ROYAL(88)

By: Winter Renshaw



“My goodness, I just can’t even imagine,” Betty says, her voice rife with condolences. “I’m living off Virgil’s pension, but boy, half the town handed their money to that man to manage.”

“And everyone thought they were getting filthy stinking rich. I just knew it was too good to be true.” Raspberry Lips clucks her tongue. “I don’t know what they’re going to do now. They’re too old to start over.”

Betty makes the sign of the cross. “They’re in God’s hands now.”

“I heard a bunch of them are looking for a good attorney to take him on. They’re going to sue the ever-loving daylights out of that young man,” Lips says, staring down her pointed nose. Her penciled-on eyebrows lift, and she looks like a scolding schoolteacher.

I would know.

“Excuse me.” I interrupt because I can’t stand it a moment longer, and the twinge in my gut gives me a feeling I need to have confirmed. “Do you mind if I ask who you’re discussing?”

Betty glances behind me, swallows, and leans in. “That Brooks Abbott fellow, with Abbott Financial.”

My heart lands at my feet, and my mouth dries.

“Do you know him?” she asks. “He’s about your age. Not very old at all.”

I swallow the lump in my throat and nod.

“Yeah, I used to know him,” I say. “What did he do? Exactly?”

Raspberry Lips leans in, her hand on Betty’s shoulder. “He was running some sort of Ponzi scheme operation.”

“My God.” I almost drop my basket of groceries when my arms go to Jell-O. The credit cards. The cash advances. The constant moving around of money. The secretiveness. He was constantly buying and selling random things. He never really had any real money.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars. All gone.” Betty shakes her head. “Can you even imagine?”

“How did they find out?” I ask.

“Apparently, he was in a really bad accident a couple of months ago,” Lips says. “While he was recovering, his accountant and partners were trying to balance the sheets, and the numbers just weren’t adding up. That’s when they realized what he’d been doing all this time.”

“Do you know any of these people?” I ask.

Betty nods. “We know most of them, yes. Why?”

“If they haven’t hired an attorney yet, tell them Robert and Derek Rosewood of the Rosewood and Rosewood Agency are two of the best prosecutors in the state. And you didn’t hear this from me, but I have it on good authority that Brooks has a sizable trust fund set to mature in a few more years. It won’t cover everything they’ve lost, but it’ll help.”

The line moves ahead, and the lady with the huge cart pushes her bagged groceries toward the front door. Raspberry lips places her basket on the moving belt and exchanges a pleasantly surprised smile with Betty.

“Well, sweetheart, we’ll certainly pass the message along,” Betty says. “You can count on that.”





Chapter Forty-Eight




Royal



“They’re going to freeze all his assets.” Demi’s mouth moves a mile a minute as she unloads groceries. Cupboards open and slam. The glass condiment jars rattle when she yanks on the fridge door. She’s in a frenzy, all worked up. “All this time, he’d been running a goddamn scheme. Royal, he didn’t just fuck me over, he fucked over half the population of Rixton Falls.”

I shut my Constitutional Criminal Procedure book and rise to help her with the rest of the groceries.

“And you’re surprised, why?” I take a box of cookies from a bag and peel the pouch open. “Thanks, babe.”

She slaps my hand. “Wait until after we eat, please.”

Demi’s frown makes her look exactly like Bliss for two seconds, and I smirk. “You look like your mother right now.”

She rolls her eyes. “Good. Then maybe my lasagna will taste exactly like hers.”

“I’m sure it’ll be good either way.”

“How was school today?” She pulls a long casserole dish from the pantry and lines the ingredients along the island of our little rental condo. It’s modest and quaint, and just the right size for two people.

I’d love nothing more than to buy Demi a house someday, but now that I’m in school and she’s substitute teaching, the timing’s all off.

She hasn’t complained though. Not once. That’s what I love about her. The woman of my dreams is content just to be with me.

Now that says a lot.

Demi Rosewood is a keeper, but I already knew that. And I plan on keeping her. Forever.

She hands a jar of red sauce to me to open, and I twist it with a satisfying pop before giving it back.

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