Survivor’s Trust by Ellen Seltz

Survivor’s Trust by Ellen Seltz

What if you lost everything you ever wanted, and had just one chance to get it back? Hotshot attorney Cordelia Simms needs a do-over. She spent her whole life being perfect, and it nearly destroyed her — now she’s got a long to-do list, and “perfect” isn’t on it. She negotiates a minefield of old money and modern office politics while family conflict and dangerous secrets threaten to drag her down for good. Previously… Cordelia’s brother agreed to pick up Bella, but with conditions: he wants to make sure Bella has a stable home, and will pursue custody if that’s what it takes. Another associate walked in with an assignment and found Cordelia crying. Cordelia pulls herself together in a hurry.

Episode 8

Poor Scott. Of course it’s a bad time.

I snort and grab a tissue to scrub at my eyes. I don’t cry pretty. “No, no. No problem!”

He’s appalled. “Are you okay?”

I wave a hand. “Pffft. Just saltwater. What can I help with?”

“I need tax planning research for a high-net-worth client.” He lowers his voice. “Seriously, take a minute. Marj chews up associates instead of Nicorette.”

I match his tone. “Seriously, I need something to do.”

He smiles a toothpaste-commercial smile. It matches his dark-gold wavy hair and his pricey suit.

My stomach lurches. Once, this was my future – Mr. and Mrs. Perfect, working our perfect plan to become a high-net-worth family. I force a smile back.

He gives me the client number and the specs. Ten pages, fully cited.

“Five p.m. good?”

He looks concerned. “Nine tomorrow’s fine. No pressure.”

Bless his heart. More pressure is less time to think.

I dive in. Finally, I get to do what I was made for, and it feels amazing. I research the tax code, and proposed changes, and long-range impact, and strategic positions. I lawyer the hell out of it.

I add my work to the document system. The client number pops up: Ackerman, Z.

Zoe Ackerman? She’s the one Henry Norris accused of cheating him out of $10 million. I whistle. That’s high-net-worth, all right.

I do a little digital spelunking. The Norrises were clients for years. But a few months before Mrs. Norris died, Ms. Ackerman got a file of her own. The first document drafted was a survivor’s trust.

The trust made Zoe joint owner of nearly all Mrs. Norris’ assets. Henry Norris inherited the whole estate, but there was wasn’t much there. Everything was in Zoe’s name.

I shake my head. Sucks to be Henry.

I log my time. Trouble pipes up. Why stop now? I bet the billing’s interesting, too.

That voice of Trouble may be evil, but it’s rarely wrong.

* * *

Tasha’s at the printer when I arrive.

I flash her the client number on my pages. “Can I ask you? I notice when the Norris Trust got signed, we logged a meeting with Ms. Ackerman, but no meeting with Mrs. Norris.”

Tasha shrugs. “Mrs. Norris was bedridden. Ms. Ackerman was her caregiver. She’d get Mrs. Norris’ signature at home and I’d notarize it here.”

I gape.

Tasha gets brisk. “It’s not technically perfect, but firms accommodate good clients. I know Mrs. N’s signature. I even called her. It’s fine.”

My phone beeps — 4:55. I hustle to find Scott.

The Tax Department looks familiar. So does the secretary with the tight perm and loose sweater.

“Cordelia!” Richard blindsides me from the corridor. “Got that report for Scott?”

I clench my fists. Dammit, I was working all day for him?

He beckons me into the corner. “About that favor. Marj sails close to the wind. The Executive Committee is monitoring her, but we need information.” He takes my elbow. “You bring me something I can use, and we’re even.”

I look around. If the secretary pursed her lips any harder, they’d crack.

What do I say to that?

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