"I don't care how bad the problem is," I said, with an indifferent shake of my head. "The buyers can deal with it if they feel like it. Of course, that's if they even notice all these nit picky things you have listed here."
"Yes, I am pretty thorough," he said, his Cheshire cat smile unfaltering, which caused a shiver of unease to tickle my spine. "You see, as the maintenance guy here, I have a much better picture of what's wrong with the house than a normal inspector would. Your buyer's inspector can't open up walls or look under the carpet, really do anything invasive. But, since I can poke around all I want, I can find every little thing that's not up to code and those can add up to some rather problematic violations if left unattended."
"Yeah, that's great," I said with a shrug, though my confidence continued to crack as he watched me with an impish smirk, "but, again, the buyer can deal with it whenever they stumble across it."
"Well, they have to stumble across it now," he said, his smile widening. "You either get these problems resolved and up to code or you have to disclose that entire report before signing a contract on the house."
"Excuse me?" I hissed, realizing his trap had finally snapped.
"You are legally obligated in this state to disclose any inspection reports that you have seen in the past three years. If you don't and the buyer finds a costly issue after the sale, an issue you were aware of, then they have grounds for a lawsuit."
"What? That can't be..."
"It's true," added Saundra with sigh. "The state requires that you disclose inspection reports." She gave Jordan a sideways glance as she shook her head, but he returned it with a boyish grin and an unapologetic shrug.
"Why didn't you warn me before I signed the papers?" I asked, turning my frustration upon the lawyer, who answered back with a stern glare that kept me from fuming further.
"Ms. Creeke, your great aunt was my client and though I am working with you to resolve the will, that does not mean I'm employed by you. Also, Mr. Wells would have included a statement in that packet for you to sign, stating that you acknowledge your obligation to disclose the report. I assume you would never sign something you hadn't read."
"We both know that's not what you assumed," I answered, my voice more deprecating than angry.
"Plausible deniability on my part," she said with a shrug.
"Well, even if this is true, you're just a handyman, how can I trust your assessments?" I asked, grasping at straws I feared would only cast me farther into the pit I was digging around myself. "Are you licensed? Are you certified?"
"Yes and yes," he answered simply. "I'm a licensed and certified home inspector. I do it on the side whenever a need arises in town. And as a home inspector, I can tell you that you either need to see these repairs are fixed before selling or you need to disclose the report and watch the house's value plummet because of it."
"You..." I said through gritted teeth, my hands balling up as I fought back the urge to scream and stamp my feet. I recalled myself, reigning the emotions in and stuffing them back into their cage. They weren't helpful and I didn't need to present that weakness before him. With a deep breath I locked the door upon the anger and frustration, releasing my tight fists and dropping my shoulders. Then, I cleared my throat and turned my gaze to him with stiff resolve glinting in my eyes. "What is the problem here Mr. Wells?"
"What is the problem?" he asked with a disbelieving scoff. "This is your aunt's house. This was her life, this was everything to her, and it's embodies everything she was. Yet, you're going to sell it off to the highest bidder."
He stumbled, trying to find words, his mouth gaping open and his hands grasping at the air. I thought to answer him, but I hadn't anything to say.
"You are her only family," he said, his face turned to the sky, his hands on his hips. "You're it." He looked to me and the pain dancing in his gaze forced me to study the trees lining the property. "Do you get it? Do you understand me? It's you and this house. That's all she had."
"I didn't even know she existed," I answered, swinging my head back around to face him. "Do you understand? You're trying to guilt me into keeping on a financial burden, even though, right now, I know more about you than I do about her."
"Well, you may not have known her, but she sure knew you."
"What?" I asked, glancing over to Saundra. "I thought the will stated that you were to find her closest kin?"
"I never said that," the lawyer replied, "and if you had read the will, you'd have seen your name was specifically mentioned."
"What? I... But that's not possible. I've never heard of her. No one ever told me about her." My words drifted into a whisper and I suddenly felt very tired. My legs ached and I longed to meet a pillow that promised me an end to this day.
"Well, you've met her and I have proof," said Jordan, his words still fierce and biting, though his tone rounded out with a note of hesitation and contemplation. When I glanced up at him to see if he could procure this supposed proof, I found narrowed, curious eyes watching me. "Come this way, I'll show you."
I didn't fight him. So long as we were moving towards the house, I deemed the exercise a useful one. However, it occurred to me that this adventure into Georgina's and my past may only result in a realization of a rather grave mistake. Had I met this woman, I would have heard about her. Plain and simple. I had assumed up until that point that this aunt had runaway from home and had become estranged from the family. That would be why my grandmother knew nothing about her. If Saundra's research was right, then she would have been my grandmother's sister-in-law. Had she simply disappeared before my grandparents married, then my grandmother may have been as clueless as I was. But, if we met when I was alive, then that meant someone in my family knew of her existence. That seemed far more improbable than Saundra screwing up and tracking down the wrong family member. I sighed, realizing perhaps my dreams of a newly renovated condo was about to be cast to the dirt.
We climbed up the porch steps and entered the elegant double doors. A grand foyer greeted us with two spacious archways leading to charmingly decorated rooms on either side. Ahead of us, a double staircase led to the top floor and situated between them was an antique wooden table with a guest book, seasonal flowers, and a photograph.
"Here is Georgina's most prized possession," said Jordan. He placed a gentle hold upon the thick golden frame and passed it over with care so I could admire the two figures featured in the portrait.
There was a grainy quality to the photo, the colors washed out and the focus soft. Despite that, the emotion came through in crystal clear HD quality. In a cozy park, a woman in her mid forties hugged an infant close to her, smiling down into the baby's bright eyes as the little child reached her chubby hands up to brush the woman's nose. A playful smile curled the infant's pink lips and the woman's eyes sparkled with pure glee. Based on the woman's teased hair and turquoise turtleneck, the photo had transported us to the early nineties, maybe late eighties. That meant the baby in that picture would be about my age. Of course that observation wouldn't be enough to confirm it for me. However, the dainty dress and frilly bonnet the baby wore was.
"That outfit," I said, stopping to bite my cheek and keep my eyes from releasing any weakness, "that's the outfit my mother kept for me in an heirloom box." I paused once more, my fingers gripping tight to the frame, fighting back the quiver threatening to overtake them. "That's me."
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Her Christmas Legacy *COMPLETED*Romance
Madelyn "Lyn" Creeke and her grandmother were the last of their family. At least, that's what Lyn's grandmother always led her to believe. Lyn had never heard of or seen pictures of Georgina Creeke, a great aunt that had been living a few hours awa...