“I can’t believe him,” Luke muttered under his breath to no one but himself. It was only the darkness listening. “Crazy old man.”
It was nearing midnight and though he’d made it back to his car since walking off the tarmac, he still hadn’t turned on the engine. He needed time to think. The news his grandfather had delivered was a crushing blow that he hadn’t anticipated. Not even in his wildest dreams would he have guessed what Grandfather would say. Luke probably should have suspected something when Grandfather had called and told Luke to meet him at his estate in upstate New York over the weekend. Any kind of news that Grandfather didn’t want to deliver over the phone was never good. Luke had found that out the hard way three years ago and had never forgotten.
Besides, he was pretty certain his grandfather had him come so he could watch Luke squirm in person. That’s part of the reason Grandfather always fired people face-to-face—to see the look in their eyes when he severed his connection with them. It was heartless, but Luke knew Grandfather hadn’t built his company from the ground up by being soft.
Obediently, Luke had gone, though he hated the fact that his grandfather had that kind of control over him. Sure, Luke ran his pharmaceutical company with discipline and precision, but Grandfather was still the owner. He could fire Luke in the blink of an eye if he wanted to, and that’s exactly what he had threatened to do unless Luke abided by his preposterous demands.
Too bad for his grandfather that Luke had disappointed him. Along with a penchant for being a savvy businessman, Luke had learned from Grandfather a long time ago how to keep a masterful poker face, especially when things were getting tense. Grandfather never complained, since Luke’s hard work had made Grandfather’s fortune swell into the healthy ten figures. It was the kind of money Luke had long taken for granted—enough in his bank account that he could literally buy happiness. Growth had started when his father had taken over Grandfather’s company, took a few gambles, which paid off big time, turning Luke’s family into new money overnight. Luke wasn’t sad when they left their two-story, suburban, cookie-cutter house for their very first mansion.
Except for one thing, but it was in the past. When memories of her surfaced, it was as real as if he was still holding her in his arms.
Life had gone on and from time to time, he indulged his fantasies and thought of the depth of her soulful brown eyes, or the hint of amber in her brunette hair that made it look like fire. She had a laugh that could make anyone who heard it join in. But, she’d made it extremely clear when Luke’s family moved that she never wanted to see him again. To her, he was betraying everything they’d built. There was no changing her opinion and Luke hadn’t tried. He took the news without a hint that it was completely destroying him. He hadn’t looked back as he walked away, but more times than he cared to count, he wished he had.
So when Luke’s grandfather sat him down across his gleaming mahogany desk and told Luke he was going to fire him at the end of the year, it was painful not to flinch, but Luke managed.
Why he was thinking about his ex in that moment was beyond him.
Slumping back against his leather car seat, Luke watched a thunderstorm roll across the sky. In Orlando, the storms produced the kind of lightning that lit up the clouds every few seconds. A smattering of rain hit his windshield and it was hypnotic watching it cascade down the glass, gathering with other droplets on its descent. Laughing to himself, Luke thought of how appropriate a metaphor the weather was for his current mood.
Though the humid spring air was hanging somewhere in the mid-eighties, there was a distinctive chill that settled deep in Luke’s bones. He’d been in some tight spots before, but he had no clue how he was going to escape this one unscathed.
His grandfather had given him an ultimatum—be married by the end of the year or else.
Grandfather was testing Luke, but what Luke didn’t understand was why. Luke had always been loyal and hardworking. What more could his grandfather want?
“I want you to be happy. To stop wasting away your life,” Grandfather had said.
What the cantankerous old man knew about happiness was beyond