The telephone buzzed, interrupting his thoughts and his friend’s questioning looks. He’d been so lost in his anger he had forgotten his friend was waiting.
“Mr. James, I’m sorry to interrupt, but Miss Williams is here for her two o’clock appointment.”
The woman whose father had pilfered hard-earned money from his clients. Duncan thanked his secretary saying he would be done soon.
“So what do you suggest I do?” he asked his friend.
Mark stared at him for several moments. Duncan knew his friend was getting pleasure from this. Mark had been trying to get Duncan to settle down for years. His friend had been happily married for several years with a family, and he seemed without any need for other female company. Duncan would never admit to his friend that he envied the peace Mark had gained. It would do him no good to admit to such things.
“Well, I think if you want your father’s estate and business you need to start interviewing for the bride-to-be,” Mark said, standing up ready to leave.
“That’s all you’ve got to say? Interview for a bride?” Duncan ran his fingers through his hair finding himself annoyed with the whole situation. He was a forty-year-old man. He shouldn’t be considering his father’s ultimatum.
“What else will you do? You’ve said how much you want what your father had. You want Miranda out of the villa and your mother back in.” Mark picked up his suitcase ready to leave.
“You have always doubted my thoughts with regards to my parents. Why?” Duncan asked.
“Your parents wouldn’t admit the truth to their son. I don’t think your father’s behaviour was as cut and dry as your mother makes out. You’ll do what you want, James. You always do.” Mark walked to the door. “Let me know what you decide. Don’t hurt a woman in the process of gaining your revenge.”
Tess Williams rubbed her sweaty palms down her skirt for the hundredth time. Her nerves were getting the better of her. This interview meant so much to the future of her father. Duncan James could ruin her father in one swift phone call. She knew her father had stolen money, not only from Duncan, but also from other clients in the company. She didn’t know the exact amount her father had stolen. She knew it had to be a vast sum to have him worrying about it. Today she would try to negotiate the outcome of her father’s punishment. She knew it had to be a serious problem for him to go to her. Erik Williams rarely approached his daughter for anything unless he had to.
She noticed the curious glances from Duncan James’s secretary. Tess knew this place wasn’t right for her. She stuck out like a sore thumb, which only put her on edge. Tess ran her hands through her dark curls trying to make her hair look someway decent. No matter what beauty product or device she used to tame the wayward locks, they always wanted to do their own thing. The glances reminded her of her school days where she felt out of place. Her full figure and wayward hair, along with her lack of propriety, had always been a topic of discussion among her peers and her father’s friends. She knew Erik was embarrassed by her. He’d tried to change her while she was growing up, but she had found peace being in her garden or in the library where she worked. Being in the limelight for Erik had never appealed.
Tess didn’t know who her mother was, so she didn’t know where she got her characteristics from. She liked getting her fingers in the dirt and staying away from anything that would consume her passionate nature.
No one else knew who her mother was, either, and Tess had never seen her. It was the one aspect of her life that had remained a complete mystery. When she asked her father who her mother was, he would simply say, “a woman I knew”.