The room is quiet but out of the corner of my eye, I can see Debs cleaning up the sandwich and hear the coffee things being cleared up but I'm just fixed on Zeon.
"You okay? You didn't eat any of it, did you?"
"Go wash your hands okay?" I order him and he heads to the kitchen.
"I'll make some more coffee. And you young lady, go sit down." Jennifer tells me firmly.
I do feel a bit shaky, so head to the cart and inhale a brandy then wait for it to kick in. I feel strong arms round me and I sink into them.
"Sssh, ZayZay, sssh, he's fine, he's fine. Hush now."
Nobody says a word as Zeus comforts me. "C-can you check make sure..."
"I will. Now go sit down."
I'm staring into space thinking how close I came to a major stomach upset and hives when Zeus nudges me.
"Zeon you okay? You need anything?"
"I'm fine. Fuck me she's quick though - cleared that space in no time."
"I'd have let you eat it." Zeus responds quietly.
"Says a lot about your character then, doesn't it?" Jennifer snaps.
"No, because I didn't remember the allergy."
Jennifer pauses. "Says a lot about her that she did. Now take this on board. I love Zee. But Brian and Justin are mine...and they are all ours. If this is some ruse then carry on but don't say you weren't warned. As I say, never underestimate the strength or the power of someone who has nothing to lose."
We watch her carry out another tray.
"Fuck me! Dad's not going to know what hit him!" Zeus grins.
THOMAS WILLIAMSON'S HOUSE - TUESDAY LUNCHTIME
I'm pacing, the house is tidy, I'm tidy and they will be here in 15 minutes. I think I'm having a panic attack. 15 minutes! I double check the lunch and resume pacing. I have a speech prepared...I can't believe I was so cruel to them when all they, especially mom, were trying to be was understanding.
The bell jangling stops my pacing and deserved self-flagellation and I take a deep breath and open it.
"Dad! Mom!" I yell and launch myself into their arms. "I'm sorry I'm so, so sorry!" I sob.
I'm not sure when we made it indoors let alone to the couch but the door is shut, coffee is being poured and tissues pressed into my hands.
"Let me look at you my boy, let me look at you! How could you scare us for so long?! What were you thinking?"
Dad demands running his hands over my face and arms and anywhere he can touch.
"Arnold...we're here now and that's all that matters." Mom interrupts him. "So you've been here all this time?"
"No, I went to NYC for a few years, then San Fran and came back a couple of years ago."
Kiki heads to the door. "Kiki where are you going?" Mom asks.
"Leaving you alone for this. It's private."
"Please stay." I ask and look at my parents- my parents- for confirmation and they nod.
"Are you, please don't get annoyed, but are you well?" Dad asks.
"Yes dad. I'm perfectly healthy apart from asthma, I'm fine."
He sighs in relief. "I'm sorry I didn't handle it well when you first told us."
"None of you did." Kiki tells us firmly. "It's what you do now that matters. Now what smells so good?"
"Lunch. Whilst I was away I trained as a chef."
E&ZHoD - WEDNESDAY MID-MORNING
We put out an advert last week and we've got over 40 resumes to look at. Luckily we're not that busy at the moment. We've got events from early November so that gives us time to find a PA at least. But we have recipe testing to do next week for those.
"Hello darlings!" Lydia ruffles Ms Scarlett and Rhett and I know she's just given them a treat each despite what I say. "Emmy Lou what on earth is all that?"
"Resumes. We're looking for a PA." I sigh. "I hate admin. So what are you doing here?"
Lydia is looking through the pile on my desk and quickly dismisses almost all of them.
"Oh this one is good. Call this lady." She hands me a resume and then looks thoughtful. "Though why she would want to work here is anyone's guess..."
"Thanks!" I snark.
"Read the resume Emmy Lou just get her in. I was wondering if there was any lunch going to answer your earlier question." I shake my head. "Shame. Get her in. I think we might have a mutually acceptable solution."
She walks out with a smile.
Smiling I grab Cara and head to E&ZHoD, hoping this works out.
"Sarah? Oh Lydia what are you doing here?" Emmy Lou looks surprised.
"Helping you to get the right person for the job, close up let's get this started."
Cara, Sarah and Emmy Lou exchange bewildered expressions.
"Sarah you are an art graduate, Cara you love food and planning events and are good at it. This PA job here would be brilliant for you and..."
"Oh my God you're Lydia Glendale." Sarah gapes at me.
"Yes I am, now as I was saying, you take Cara and I take Sarah."
"What?!" The both say at the same time and Emmy Lou just smiles.
"Cara come on. Are you seriously trying to tell me that you aren't itching to work here, seriously?"
"I would love to but..."
"Then it's done. Handover for a week and Sarah I think you will fit in perfectly."
LUTHER STARK'S CONDO - FRIDAY MORNING
I'm so fucking fucked off. I'd been trying to get Xanthe on the phone for the last few days now but it turns out that her phone was stolen so we are only on email. I'm waiting for her to reply to my last one with a new phone number. She's going to be in Paris for the next few days. Finally, she sends me the number but before I can call her Zephaniah and Zander come in.
"Boys, how great to see you." I indicate the seats and Zander is the only one that sits.
"What's this about?" Zephaniah demands.
"Tone boy." I growl.
"Leaving now." He barks back.
"Are you still pouting about Talon? Boy, if you were giving her what she wanted, I would not be needed, now would I? Now just sit down and listen."
He remains in the room leaning against the door regarding me coolly.
"Right. Zander, I want you to sell your shares to me..."
"What? What for?"
"So I can get back on the board of course..."
"But it won't make a bit of difference she's got 75% of the company. She can still outvote you easily."
"That's true but I can make running it difficult. Once..."
"Why do you hate her so much?" Zeph asks quietly.
I look at him as if he has two heads. "She killed my boy!"
"No! No she didn't. Zebadiah would not have survived..."
"Bullshit! If she had been born last..."
"She would've still lived!" Zephaniah shouts back.
I grip the desk hard. "I wanted boys! Not a girl! And she defies me at every turn. I'm the father! She does what I tell her!"
"No Mr Stark, there's a difference between being defiant and being better and she's better than you- better than us- and you can't stand it!" Zephaniah snorts.
"$20 million." Zander stands. "$20 million and the shares are yours."
Zephaniah gapes at him and walks out. "I knew I could rely on you. Let me get the money together; you'll have it by the end of next week."
He follows Zephaniah out and I smile. Soon I will be back to making her life miserable again.
Xanthe has finally replied. I dial the number putting it on speaker, ready to bask in her honeyed tones.
"Bonjour how may I help you?"
I freeze and look at the number that she sent and the number that I dialled.
"Sorry, I seem to have misdialed. I was trying for Xanthe Collier, I'll..."
"No sir this is the service for Ms Collier, how may I help you?"
"Oh. May I be put through to her please?"
"Who is calling?"
I grind my teeth. "Luther Stark. I'm..."
"On the hang up list. Goodbye."
I quickly email Xanthe and I get a bounce back. What the fuck is going on?
I call the New York office and am put through to Cindy. "Cindy its Luther Stark. I want to speak to Xanthe but I can't get through."
"Oh, wait let me just check. Yes you're on the hang up list. Goodbye."
I huff angrily and then think, she'll be back. She's just pouting about something ridiculous.
"Hey Tobias, its Ted. I'm fine and so is Blake. What? When? Oh I'm so happy for you. Have you got a venue or a date? Of course we'd be delighted to come. Look the reason for the call I have a concern. Taylor Electronics, and maybe its owner Craig Taylor, is about to come into a large amount of money and...I'll leave it with you."
I quickly dial Blake. "Guess what honey? Darius proposed and Tobias said yes! Of course we're going to the wedding, date to be determined. Look I've got another call coming through speak to you tonight. Love you."
"Tobias? I'm not sure how it will get to him but I know who if that helps. Stark, Luther Stark."
Mess with my family Mr Stark and Mr Taylor...oh I think not!
LINDSAY AND MICHAEL'S SUITE
"...oh I see. Well yes we'll be delighted to meet you next week. What time? Thank you. I'm unsurprised by what you've said. Goodbye."
"Who was that?"
"Luther Stark, Zee's dad. Turns out that she, as has been shown by her behaviour, was and is the protagonist in their relationship. He wants to meet with us next week. He says he can get all our cases reviewed with a view to getting them retried! Here in New York!"
He grabs me and swings me around. "Yes! And there's nothing that can stop that!"
WHITE & SULLIVAN
This potential review of all our cases has me worried. I've finally got back to the office so now to speak to Solomon as he worked on most of the cases.
"Uh Mel could you just..." Sheridan calls out.
"Sheri sorry but I really do need to speak to him."
I swing open the door. "Solomon I need to...whoa! Sorry so sorry I'll be in my office when, when you've finished." I slam the door shut.
"I tried to warn you." Sheri giggles. "He landed last night and surprised him this morning, which is why Adam is in court. When he saw him Dump Truck squealed like a girl, leapt into his arms and they've been in there ever since.
I head back to my office somewhat in shock at the vision of Menno ploughing into the ass of Solomon Sullivan. Could've sworn he was a top.
Fifteen minutes later a well fucked and happy looking Solomon knocks on the door. "Knocking saves surprises." He chides me when I let him in.
"I'm so sorry again." I can feel the heat radiating off my face. "But I have something I need to talk to you about and..."
"Kinney, Peterson, Novotny and Bruckner cases?"
"They've already been reviewed, first thing we did. New York is locked down; the rest will follow. We go by state rather than supreme since they're easier to get and when you get New York, the rest tend to follow. Whatever Stark has planned, the cases aren't the way to go!"
"Wow... just wow!"
He grins at me and heads to the door. "Oh I'm versatile, just in case you were wondering."
I groan and sink my head onto my desk.
ZANDER'S CONDO - JERSEY
"How could you? How could you just agree to sell like that?"
"Agree to what? Someone want to catch us up here?" Zeus demands.
"Zander and I went to see him today and he wants to buy Zander's shares and he's agreed to the tune of $20 million. He's paying over the odds just so he can make her miserable...again!"
"Wanted all boys instead of a girl. Especially, a girl who is better than him and us- well most of us- at everything!"
"Apricots. She remembered the apricots." Zeon tells us quietly.
"Back to the share issue! Zander, how could you?" I growl at him. "Why the fuck are you smiling?"
"Because I don't have them. I just wanted to know how much her pain is worth to him."
"If you don't have them, then who does?" Zeus demands.
"Zee of course. She owns the company outright, although she doesn't know that yet. So now it's our turn. Time to be the big brothers we were always supposed to be."
PITTSBURGH COUNTRY CLUB - FRIDAY MID-AFTERNOON
I look around and wonder what made Luther Stark snort. I can't see what's wrong with the place. It has everything: the right ambiance, the right people just the right...everything.
"Craig what are you doing here?" I sigh and turn around to face Jennifer.
"Meeting a friend for a drink? You?" I can't keep the smug smile off my face.
"Likewise. Seems my table is ready. Excuse me."
"Another whisky mac." I demand.
"Mr Taylor." I look up and smile at Christopher Hobbs.
"Come let's go to our table." He follows me quietly. I make sure that Jennifer can see us BUT she has her back to us. No matter we can still discuss our move.
"So what is this meeting about?" He asks.
"I have a proposition for you. How would you like to metaphorically finish what you started with my son?" He looks wide eyed at me. "Don't panic I don't mean that. I mean just make him uncomfortable? I have a friend who thinks like you and me and now that Justin is married to that man..."
"Mr Taylor, can I stop you there?"
"No let me finish. I know you left town for a while, to give people time to cool off no doubt..."
"Yes there was that but..."
"Now that time has passed. Let's talk about what we can do to Justin. I see you're married now yourself."
"Yes. Yes I am."
"Very much, we got married in Paris."
"Lovely and what's her name."