“Why am I-”
“Follow me, please.” Cecil led the way into the formal dining room effectively cutting off any further questions.
The woman hesitated for only a second, looking around her nervously with wide eyes feeling utterly overwhelmed and more than a bit lost. “I don’t understand, Ce-”
“Please,” Cecil interrupted, his eyes pleaded with the woman, “just sit here and wait. Everything will be explained. I promise.”
With a quick nervous nod she sat as asked looking around in fascination. She gripped a handkerchief and folded her hands on her lap avoiding eye contact with the others currently filing into the room, two were escorted by Cecil, two were walking in of their own accord.
“Who is-” Her question went half asked as the young man she was walking with led her away to the opposite end of the long dining table.
There weren’t many gathered; only five people. All of them glance at each other, avoiding eye contact, sitting along the same side of the table, facing a large blank screen.
Odette walked into the room - heels clicking staccato notes on the tile flooring with each step - carrying a briefcase that she set down at the head of the table. She looked along the table with a small smile before opening her briefcase, pulling out official documents and setting them down before her. “You have all been asked to bear witness to the last Will and Testament of Peter Hamilton, as dictated to me on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.”
She turned to Cecil and handed him a disc case. “Prior to the reading, it was Mr. Hamilton's wish for this to be viewed by a select few.” Their eyes meet and Odette gives Cecil a meaningful nod before taking a seat. Every one’s attention was quickly moved from Odette to Cecil as he slipped the disc into the player and stepped back. Using the remote Cecil turned the volume up before fading into the background taking position behind the nervous woman.
The screen came to life showing Peter Hamilton sitting in a chair, presumably in Odette’s office sparking murmurs around the table of watchers. Peter was adjusting his tie, straightening it, his expression was thoughtful and distant until Odette’s voice off camera brought him back to the present. “We’re ready when you are, Mr. Hamilton. Are you sure about this?”
“Is anyone ever sure about these things?” Peter gave her a lopsided grin and a small shrug. “Is my tie straight?” He looks off camera and sat back trying to relax, staring into the camera and he suddenly laughed. “I should make it crooked so that my daughter will be so distracted through this whole thing just wishing she could reach into the screen and straighten it.”
Peter smoothed his tie one last time. “I’m ready.” He looked at the camera and took a moment. “So, this is probably a bit creepy for you. You’re sitting there watching this recording because I’m gone… dead… buried… but hopefully not forgotten.” He folded his hands across his stomach and tilted his head at the camera.
“I’m not going to bore you for too long, if you’re there watching me, chances are I left you something or I have something to say to you… possibly both. Over the years I have met some interesting people, some that have impacted my life beyond their comprehension, others that I’ve forgotten the moment they left my sight.” He sat forward now, his forearms resting on his knees and he peered at the camera. “There was this girl. We were eighteen, our first summer out of high school.” He grinned and chuckled shaking his head. “She was it, I was in love.”
Peter sat back in his armchair and sighed. “Father wouldn’t have it, she wasn’t rich, wasn’t from the right family. You probably guessed at what happened next, it’s straight from a cheesy novel. I was sent away to college and I had no idea what became of her. I never forgot her.”
The sun was just rising over the water. Sunbeams shined off the waves casting glimmering light and color. A girl stood in awe watching the display for a long time before closing her eyes and lifting her face to the sun, allowing the warmth to envelop her. Her short light brown hair gently whipped around her calm heart-shaped face dancing with the soft breeze. She let out a squeak of surprise when he slipped his arms around her. “Pete, you scared me!”
Peter grinned in her neck, placing small kisses along her jaw. His arms firmly wrapped around her middle, held her close. “Good morning, my wife.”
“Wife,” Aemilia giggled and leaned back against him. “I am not your wife… yet. Think you’ll tell me about your family before we actually get married?”
“You’ll know when you meet them.” Peter glared out over the water at a point beyond his view his brows furrowed with unspoken doubts.
She looked up at him with wide frightened eyes, the color of golden honey. “What if your family doesn’t like me?”
“What’s not to like? You are the most beautiful person, inside and out. They’ll love you as much as I do.” Peter kissed her forehead.
She shivered in his arms. “I hope you’re right.” Aemilia bit her lip and looked up at him as if to say something, but changed her mind. She kissed his jaw and turned her attention back to the sunrise.
“What? What is it?” Peter’s hold on her tightened.
“Nothing,” Aemilia hesitated, “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Peter cleared his throat and straightened in his chair, his look hardened and he stared into the camera. “Right, enough of that, let’s get down to business. Dennis, you have come far and are growing into a man I can say I’m proud to call you son. I am entrusting the family business to you… when the time is right.” Peter’s gaze was directed straight into the camera, intense and focused.
“You must have a degree in order to fill that position. You will need to experience life, sew those wild oats and then you come home and take over.” Dennis raised an eyebrow of surprise. “Yes, that’s right. I’m not only giving you permission, I’m demanding you live your life. Son, go experience college life, dorm life, just life in general. When you’re ready, you’ll come home. I have faith in you.”
“During his absence I will need someone to take charge of the company. Therefore, I’m entrusting the business to the only man I can trust. The only man I have ever met that is strong enough, mentally and physically, to put me in my place.” Peter got a far off wistful look. “Jenson McMillan, I am entrusting you as President and CEO of my company, Hamilton Industries. Upon my son, Dennis Hamilton’s return, you will forfeit the position of CEO to him and remain as the President until you choose to retire.”
“Dennis, this is important. Jenson is a good man, with business sense to rival my own and more passion than…” Peter’s words fade and he gave a half quirk of a grin. Jenson sat quietly. His face was a mask of calm with hands folded neatly on the table. Peter continued, “Jenson, take care of my company and watch over my son.” His lips quirked into another grin, “keep him honest.” Jenson’s mask cracked then. The man chuckles softly at this and looked at his folded hands on the table, avoiding anyone else’s gaze.
“You have a visitor…” Cecil’s voice was hesitant.
“Oh?” Peter glanced up from his desk at him. He frowned with concern by Cecil’s unease. “Who is it?”
“Jenson McMillan.” Cecil dropped his gaze uncomfortably. “He said it was urgent.”
Peter’s whole body became rigid at the mention of Jenson’s name. “For him to come to my home, it damn well better be.” He dropped his pen, rising quickly from his chair crossing the room in four long strides. He paused beside Cecil, panic curled in his belly while he stared at the door behind the man. “Who knows he is here?”
“No one, I took him to my house and came directly here for you.” Cecil looked up at Peter searching his face. “I won’t pretend to understand, but I know how you feel about…”
“Once again I have put you in a bit of an awkward position. I’m sorry.” Peter put his hand on Cecil’s shoulder, gave it a gentle squeeze. “Zania is never to know he was here.”
Cecil nodded once. “Of course, you know where my loyalty lies.”
Peter smiled at Cecil. “Thank you.” Peter leaned closer, gently kissed Cecil’s temple. “Stay in the main house until I return. I’ll be back shortly.” He slipped out of the room and made good time down the hallway. His mind was reeling with questions. Why here, why now, what was Jenson up to and how can he think to justify this intrusion?
Peter slipped through the door letting it click softly behind him. He took the spiral steps of the servant’s area as fast as he dared, skipping a step here and there to hasten his journey. His heart was racing, his palms were sweating and he paused to get a grip on his expectations. Jenson wasn’t here for their usual meetings. This was different.
Unfortunately that didn’t quiet Peter's concerns, only raised more. Peter hastened his steps taking the corridor he had built for Cecil, connecting the main house with his. He paused at the door and took a calming breath. He threw the door open and entered Cecil’s home. His breath was caught in his chest at the sight of Jenson, pacing with his hands folded behind his back, shoulders drooped with uncertainty. Peter’s panic balled in his stomach, clenching tighter. “Jenson?”
Jenson was facing the window looking out at the Hamilton estate. He jumped in surprise and turned quickly to face Peter. “Where-”
“It doesn’t matter. What is so urgent you came here… to my home… are you fucking insane?” He crossed the distance between them on shaking legs. Peter paused and took another calming breath. His whole body was trembling.
Jenson slipped his hand along Peter’s jaw, wrapping it around the back of Peter's neck to pull him closer. Their lips clashed in a heated kiss, Peter clutched at Jenson’s shoulders. All too soon the kiss ended, Jenson smirked at him. “I’ve been told I am…”
Peter stared longingly at Jenson’s lips, “We can’t, not here-”
“I won’t be in Hidden Springs tomorrow.” Jenson leaned his forehead against Peter’s. “I’m going to ask her to marry me, Peter.”
“You love her.” Jenson nodded once. Peter closed his eyes, his voice cracked with emotion. “She is a lucky woman.” Peter stepped closer feeling Jenson’s warmth one last time as they embraced. “Be happy, Jenson.”
Peter cleared his throat and moved on, “Tiana, you’ve been dreaming of becoming a pilot. Your mother would have you believe that I am against the idea, but she lies. I’m concerned about your safety, sure, but this is what you want so I’m behind you. I bought a small bi-plane a month ago. I haven’t told you about it because I want you to wait until you’re eighteen. I know, I’m mean and evil, blah, blah. Still I’ve been holding on to this for you so take lessons, have fun. Just promise me you’ll be careful.”
He chuckled low, “You are the most grounded person I know. More mature than any sixteen year old has the right to be. Just be happy, Princess. Oh and I have a, um, small confession to make. There’s a safety deposit box with jewelry in it for you. You don’t really think I remember to buy you a trinket every time I travel, do you?” He shook his head grinning. “No, I’m sure you don’t.”
“I have set up individual accounts for each of my children in the amount of one hundred thousand dollars. Any child of mine under twenty-five, your account will be held in trust and you will be given a monthly allowance of five thousand dollars. Other than an emergency, there are no advances on your monthly allowance.” He smirked then and leaned forward. “You do not stipulate what is considered an emergency. Needing new shoes to match your mood is not an emergency, Tiana. Odette-” The sound of someone clearing their throat was evident at this point and he chuckled.
“Ms. London has a list of what I deem an emergency.” He sat back and smirked at someone off camera.
“Zany, my drunken tramp of a wife, I pray that by the time I kick the old proverbial bucket I’d have enough sense to divorce you.” His gaze dropped and he shook his head. “Not likely, but maybe you’ll be fed up enough to leave… no, you won’t do that either. Doesn’t matter, there’s an account in your name. Not much, just enough to keep you from being able to nullify this Will.”
“That means Zany, you worthless bitch, you’re lucky to get fifty thousand. If you can’t live off of that, Zania. Tell that lazy pool boy, or as Cecil aptly calls him fool boy, to get a job.” Tiana looked to her brother. Dennis slipped his arm around her to comfort her, kissing her forehead.
Hector and Elissa stood at the open garage watching as the officer emerged with a pool skimmer. Elissa tilted her head and called him over noting the odd protrusion of a small spring action button. “I have a feeling Vanessa is going to find blood, skin and hair that match Travis Knight.”
Hector shook his head. “Why here? She knew we had this place taped off.” Hector waved off the policeman to continue cataloging the evidence.
Elissa shrugged a shoulder. “She panicked. Where else would she put it? In his place? In her car? In the garage she thinks we already finished checking?” The pair walked out of the garage and back into the sunshine. “She had it all and yet she had nothing.”
Squeezing her shoulder, Hector gained her attention. “Come on, we have paperwork to file.”