when we met. i/inheritance.
I knew something was wrong when I didn’t see Henry at the coffee shop. He came in every day, and I always took my break as soon as he showed up. We spent the whole time together talking. He was the most charming man I’d ever met.
I’d never seen Henry outside the coffee shop, but I had given him my number just in case he ever needed anything. He was eighty-six years old, and he lived alone. I worried about him. He always assured me that his grandson checked up on him, but I wanted him to be able to reach me anyway.
Not seeing him for a week scared me. But I had no way to contact him. He was just… Henry. I didn’t even know his last name. I tried not to dwell on it, but I found myself looking up at the shop door every time I heard the bell signaling that someone had come in. But it was never Henry.
I was lost in my thoughts, trying to stop myself from thinking the worst, when my ringing phone startled me. I usually wouldn’t answer a call from an unknown number, but with Henry’s disappearance, I took the call.
“Is this Riley Evans?”
“Yes,” I said nervously.
“My name is Jonathan Foster. I’m calling on behalf of the estate of Henry King.”
I took a moment to register what he was saying. Estate? Oh no. I said nothing.
“Yes. Sorry. I’m here.”
“Mr. King passed away on Wednesday. He died peacefully in his sleep.”
“Oh God.” Tears immediately welled up in my eyes.
“I assume you didn’t know? I’m so sorry.”
“I will need you to come to my office tomorrow afternoon to go over the terms of your inheritance.”
“My what?” I was crying and confused.
“Were you not aware that you are named in Mr. King’s will?”
“What? No. I didn’t even know his last name. He was just Henry to me.” What is happening?
“I will explain everything tomorrow.”
• • •
“Who the hell is Riley Evans, Jonathan?”
“I don’t know, Declan. Henry left a letter that I’m not to open until she arrives.”
“I’m going to fight this. Gramps and I worked all of this out a long time ago. His assets were all to be transferred to me. I don’t know what this woman did to get into his will, but I won’t let this happen.”
“Calm down. Let’s just wait until Ms. Evans arrives and…”
As if on cue, an impossibly beautiful woman walked into Jonathan’s office. But she didn’t stride in with confidence or any sense of entitlement. Instead, she appeared shy and sad. Was this an act?
“Ms. Evans?” Jonathan said, standing. I stood as well. I might be angry, but I had manners.
“Yes,” she said. “Please, call me Riley.” She shook his hand. I offered mine and introduced myself.
“You’re his grandson,” she said, shaking my hand. “I’m so sorry for your loss. Henry talked about you often. He adored you.”
She barely got the words out before her eyes welled up. If she was acting, she was very good at it.
Jonathan offered her a seat in the chair next to me. She sat, and I returned to my chair beside her.
Her eyes were on her lap, but mine were on her. As Jonathan began speaking, she looked at him, but barely. I discretely watched her the entire time Jonathan read Gramps’ letter.
I’m writing this letter for Riley Evans in the event of my death.
My dear Riley,
At the time of this writing, we’ve known each other for over a year. I remember the day I met you at the café. I didn’t know then that you would become so dear to me.
I saw you behind the counter every day, always with a warm, welcoming smile on your pretty face. You spent your breaks with me, every day, listening to me, talking to me, and making me smile. You have been a light in my life. The world today is filled with selfish, cruel people, but you gave me hope and restored my faith in humanity.
I saw tears falling from Riley’s eyes. She wiped them away with her fingers, but they kept coming. I began to feel guilty for thinking the worst of her.
It broke my heart when you told me how you lost your mother. And it broke my heart that you struggled to keep your family together after she was gone. I wanted to help you. And I offered to help you. But you always refused. I think you may have assumed I didn’t have the means to help you. After all, I never told you my last name. To you, I wasn’t the billionaire founder of King Enterprises. I was just Henry. But you can’t refuse my help now.
Opening your heart to a stranger is not something many would do. You are family to me. You’ve shown me kindness, consideration, support, and love. And I want to do the same for you. (I’m positive that right now you think that I already have, but I want to do more.)
Riley shook her head and let out a little laugh through her tears.
For you, my dear, I leave the sum of ten million dollars. I also leave you my second home at 435 Ocean Drive. And finally, I leave you a ten percent share in King Enterprises.
I turned to Riley when I heard her gasp. She had covered her mouth with her hand and was visibly shaking. Before I realized what I was doing, I had reached over to her and covered her free hand with my own. She turned to me with a mix of gratitude and shock.
I wish you a beautiful, happy life filled with the same kindness and love you share with others.
• • •
I could barely breathe. Ten million dollars. A house. Shares in a multi-billion dollar company. To say I was shocked would be a gross understatement.
“I can’t believe this.” My words were quiet mumbles, nearly whispers. With a hand on my forehead, I shook my head.
“Riley?” Declan said.
I turned to him, only then noticing that his hand still covered one of mine.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“I had no idea. I didn’t know.” My words suddenly fell from me in a flood. “I only found out he was gone yesterday. I was worried. He didn’t come for coffee. I had no way to contact him. No last name, no number. Nothing. I just… I can’t believe he’s gone.” I took a deep breath. “I don’t know if I can accept all of this from him. It’s too much. It should be yours.”
“No,” Declan said, giving my hand a squeeze. “It should be yours.”
p.s. — Maybe I need to get a job in a coffee shop.
Hot guy: model Simone Bredariol (the love of my life)