Lost and Found Family - Jennifer Ryan

Chapter One

“Why now?” Sarah sank deeper into her office chair, wallowing in her desire to be defiant, knowing this reckoning disguised as a visit was a long time coming.

Sarah stared at the letter Margaret’s attorney, Luke Thompson, sent her two weeks ago basically telling her to either allow Margaret to see the boys voluntarily or face a court battle.

All Margaret had to do was ask.

But no. She had to be difficult and get a lawyer.

“Why can’t Sean’s mother come here if she wants to see the boys? She can make the drive just as well as I can. Why demand such a long visit when the kids have school and I have a business to run?”

Her best friend and assistant, Abby, kept her features and response neutral. “You haven’t taken a vacation in four years.”

Sarah rolled her eyes. “Spending time with Sean’s mother is not a vacation. It’s an endurance race through hell.”

Sean’s mother and sister knew nothing about the man Sean had become before his death, and treated her with open hostility, making it clear they hated her. She’d endured their disdain followed by two years of cutting silence, and now, out of the blue, Margaret had demanded to see her grandsons.

Sarah despised Sean for making her keep his deep dark secrets.

She did it to spare his family, for the sake of her children, and the company they owned and had built into a thriving enterprise.

But keeping the secrets weighed on her mind and heart.

Abby pressed her lips into a flat line. “Maybe you’ll resolve the differences between you. Put the past to rest, then she won’t be so unkind.”

That was a tepid term for the scathing words Margaret liked to spew.

“She doesn’t want to be friends, or even play nice for the boys’ sake. She blames me for Sean’s death and thinks I stole his company from him.”

After the company’s IPO and Sean’s sudden death, the stocks were up and down like a roller coaster. She did what she had to do to stabilize the business and show the investors the company was still solid. “We came so close to losing everything. The boys deserved some small piece of their father to survive.”

Abby folded her arms across her chest. “You are Spencer Software. Everything this company is only exists because of you and your genius at programming. You’ve always held the company’s reins. You catapulted us to where we are now.”

Sarah found it difficult to accept the accolades she’d worked hard to deserve but wasn’t comfortable flaunting.

“Spencer Software is the best in the industry, and there are your successful side businesses as well.” Abby prodded Sarah to see her life for what it really was, not how Sean’s family saw it, and how she hid it. “People are banging down the door to get you to do their projects. The boys will have some legacy. Thanks to you. Not Sean. Stop letting him take credit for your work. You should have left him long before he started treating you like an employee instead of his wife and the mother of his sons.”

No sense arguing. Sarah had saved the company and, most important, everyone’s jobs. “You’re right. So why the hell did I agree to spend six weeks with his mother, who hates me, and pretend that all the things I allowed her and the world to believe are really true?”

“Tell. Her. The. Truth.” Abby held her hands out and let them fall. “What difference does it make now? He’s gone. You shouldn’t have to pay for his mistakes and misdeeds forever.”

Sarah didn’t see an upside to revealing Sean’s true character. “He was everything to her. The perfect son, who could do no wrong. I can’t take that away.” She understood Margaret in a way. “As a mother, I look at my boys and want to believe they’re perfect in every way. Let her have her untarnished memory of him. I wish for the boy’s sake he’d been that person.”

And telling Sean’s mom everything opened the door to the boys remembering things better left forgotten.

Abby let it go.

Sarah glanced at her calendar and worried about all the meetings she’d have to take remotely. “Did you call Margaret and give her the details about our arrival?”

Abby rolled her eyes again. “Yes. And Margaret wanted me to tell you”—she released a frustrated huff—“and I quote, ‘She could have taken five minutes between lunch with friends and spending Sean’s money to call me herself.’” Abby might get a headache from all that eye