He looked up at his son and said, “What do I have to do?”
Seth smiled and said, “I think you need to address that question to Adele. She very sweetly holds your life in her hands, as did you hers at one time.”
James looked at me and I saw him swallow his revulsion before he said, “What do you want?”
“I want to see the records from the very day you took over the company. I want whatever was there the day you moved in, including the paperclips. I want the cash that was in the accounts and I want the townhouse to replace the one you took from me. It’s all in that paperwork you have in front of you. All you have to do is sign.”
“You are a…”
“I wouldn’t finish that sentence if I were you, James. You see, my revenge on you will be that this will forever be hanging over you. If I get wind of you even thinking about stealing from anyone ever again, I expose you. If you mistreat your son or disparage me again in any way… guess what? I expose you.” I handed him the ink pen I’d brought with me and said, “The places for you to sign and initial are clearly marked.”
He snatched the pen and signed and initialed the paperwork. I handed him his copy and said, “Paul will notarize these signatures today in case you were thinking of going back on this in any way. I’d like it if you could send someone by the office to pick up your things before the trash is picked up on Friday. Otherwise it will be the problem of city sanitation.”
I took Seth’s hand and we stood up. We started to walk out together and I heard James say, “You’re just like your mother… worthless.”
Seth’s muscles tensed and he let go of my hand as he turned slowly around to face his father. I watched him clear the space between then in two steps and suddenly he was inches from his father’s face.
“Last condition of this arrangement, old man. You never say my mother’s name in my presence. You were not fit to wipe her heels on. She was the absolute best thing that ever happened to you and you were too daft to know it. I am proud to be her son. I’m proud enough of that to make up for getting stuck with you as a father.”
He turned then and we left James Hunter standing there. He would still be a wealthy man. He would have his wealth and his privilege… but he didn’t have his son and he wouldn’t ever be able to walk into another boardroom and feel that power he loved so much. We left him broken and alone the way he had left me when I was a little girl.
Once we were outside we both stopped and sucked in a few breaths of the fresh air. “God that felt good!” Seth said. He was riding a high that only came from standing up for yourself and for those that you love.
“It did,” I agreed. My high was coming from gaining back what was mine and knowing that Seth and I were going to do this a thousand times better than his father had done it, because from here on out it would all be right and legal and ethical. No more shady business for our corporation.
We climbed into the back of the limousine and Seth popped the cork on a bottle of champagne as the driver took us back to Manhattan. He poured us each a glass and we toasted to “Us.” I saw a shift in his eyes as we reached the city and he began looking out on all of the tall buildings. He looked sad suddenly.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
He smiled but his eyes still looked sad. “Oh nothing,” he said. “I love you. I’m so proud of you. I’ll get my stuff from the office this week and hopefully by next week I can have my things out of the townhouse.”
I reached into our bag and pulled out two more papers. I rested the palm of my hand against his face as he looked at me curiously and I said, “You can do that, or you can sign these two papers instead.”
He gave me a “What are you up to?” look and picked up the first paper. It was the deed his father signed over on the townhouse.
“Flip to the last page,” I told him. He did and as he read it, the light began to return to his eyes. I was so happy that it did, I was a little bit worried myself.
“The deed has my name on it too. You want us to live together?”
“If that’s okay with you?” I asked.
“No,” he said, making my stomach fall. “No, that’s not good enough for you. Marry me, Adele?”
The fire he kept burning inside of me stoked up and filled my chest with heat. I grinned at him and said, “I’ll seriously consider your proposition. But in the meantime, will you sign the paperwork so your name is on the townhouse too?”