Chapter 13 ~ Contemplation
“The company members have all been briefed on the exchange, everything will operate as normal. However, as I step down, Bryce Lodger will be taking my position…” I gestured to Bryce, beaming proudly beside me, “He has been personally trained by Tim and is more than qualified for the position and all aspects of the role. You all know Tim both personally and professionally, so you know he only employs the best and most proficient. In the corner is Harmon Kirt, Bryce’s replacement and you will need to develop a working relationship with him, he comes to us fresh out of college, yes, but his credentials are second to none and his savvy attitude to business is what landed him his role within Tri-Star. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to, Mr Logan McCarlock and Mr Pierre Taylor, the CEO’s of LMPT Limited and our now new owners of Tri-Star Global. They have been personally chosen by Tritium Xeal, as we feel they will uphold the values and business knowledge required to keep your investment turning a profit…”
The investors hung on my every word, but the confused faces of both Logan and Pierre the moment I mentioned Harmon’s newly acquired position in our company was not easily hidden, Truth was, I had actually forgotten to tell them what happened and I had a feeling I would be answering questions when this meeting was completed.
Most of the men in our boardroom were close friends of Tim’s and while I appreciated their support in our company’s sale, I had a feeling most of them would pounce on me the day Tritium passes away. At times, over the years, I had to have been blind not to see the way they licked their lips hungrily, engaging like predators, swooping around me like a gold-digging vixen, willing to spread my legs for the next rich bastard to further my career. The only difference being, I held nothing but disgust for all of them and their money and my heart was well and truly won by the most incredible man to walk the earth.
A sharp pang pulsed behind my eyes and I was desperate to be left alone in silence, the stress of this last week had been monumentally draining and I will be relieved once it was all over. The meeting finally ended with more than half the room filled with clueless dirty dogs stalking over to offer their condolences and revelling in the opportunity to touch me aggressively, some even ending with a squeeze to my backside and a promise to ‘take care of me’ once he departed. All said with deviant smirks on their repulsive faces, it took all my willpower not to slap them where they stood, removing their sweaty, fat fingers from my body with a solid promise of pain if they touched me again. All of them brushed my threat off as nothing more than an annoying fly.
I wanted to throw up at the mere thought of lying under them, “you’re popular,” Pierre commented with an impish grin.
“They are starved disgusting dogs, disguised as Tim’s golf friends.”
“Explain Harmon, because we’re having trouble understanding Quinn, he stole the paperwork?” Logan looked at me incredulously.
“He did, yes, but how does an eighteen-year-old know to look for paperwork containing a CEO of a company, he doesn’t work for? Unless he was put up to it?” They both gave me a heated ‘get to the point’ look.
“Harmon’s mother suffers MS or Multiple Sclerosis. An awful vulture by the name of Jerome Malcuta, journalist of the Weekly News Drop, targeted Harmon and offered a large sum in order to pay off some of the piling medical costs incurred by his mother’s condition. With no health insurance and him being the only person to support their family, the offer was too good to turn down. Especially after Jerome waved his adolescent convictions in his face and threatened him with his background being sent to both you and Pierre. His education history shows just how exceptionally smart he is and capable of handling the tasks required of his new position within Tri-Star. He was dealt a bad hand in life, so we offered him the job, until the close of business today; this is still our company, so the hiring and firing of staff fall under our jurisdiction. He is regretful of his past actions and understands he must work hard in order to prove himself worthy, but Tritium has never been one to turn his back on someone in need and we believe, that with this small leg-up, he will be a valuable asset to the company.”
“What about the reporter?” Pierre interjected.
“Well, we have decided to prosecute Jerome and not Harmon.”
They both sat back with bewildered surprise on their faces, “well, I guess that’s that,” Logan breathed heavily.
“Look, I understand what we went through was stressful, but if you were in Harmon’s position, drown under crippling debt, failing to provide stability and proper nutrition or even a safe place to live… would you have done what you could to help your mother?”
“Of course I would,” Logan snapped.
“Even if it meant doing the wrong thing for the right reasons?”
“Don’t be ludicrous and condescending Quinn, I get it. It’s just… well, it would have been nice to have been informed.”
The door flies open as I smirk triumphantly, “Mr McCarlock, Mr Taylor, I understand how you both must feel, and I’m sorry, I truly am…” Harmon comes barrelling in with a fierce fire, ready to defend himself, but I place my finger to my lips, shushing his tirade, his mouth slams shut immediately.
“I’ve told them, Harmon, it’s alright, please bring in an extra bottle of chilled water.”
He gaped at me before snapping his mouth shut and blushed, ashamed at them knowing, “right away Mrs Xeal.”
The room cleared as I sat back and closed my eyes, only to hear the boardroom door re-open. My presumption being it was Harmon, only my eyes fluttered to find Logan and I were alone together and he pushed the chilled liquid bottle toward me as I watched him suspiciously. “Tomorrow night… are you prepared?”
I furrowed my brow, forcing myself to sit up and refill my glass, “I am, the speech is not long but hopefully it will be inspiring, a great note to end…”
My words were cut short by Logan shaking his head and sighing, “Not that, are you prepared to see Dante?” His question startled me.
We sat there, eyeing one another tensely for several very long minutes before I finally broke. “How much do you know?”
“I know enough, I know he cares for you a great deal and ever since you showed up, he has been unable to remain focused, calm or rational,” I sucked back a sharp breath through my teeth, causing a hiss whistle sound. “Do you love him?”
“I’m married, Logan.”
“That’s not what I asked Quinn.”
I slumped dejectedly, blinking rapidly with fervour, trying to withhold the prickle of tears gathering at the sides of my eyes. “I am… in-love with him, yes.”
“Does your husband know of your affair?”
He was prying now, but I had no choice, I must admit the truth. “No, he does not and I wish to keep it that way.”
“You know, when I met my wife Arabella, she was married to another man, though your situation is different from ours, someday soon you are going to find yourself alone. What do you expect from him? To wait around until your husband passes away? To hold hope until you are ready to commit?”
“No, I asked him to find someone to love him the way he deserves.”
“And was that the right choice? I see the sadness within your eyes, the same sadness Dante carries, is denying yourselves the chance at happiness, at a future, really worth all this suffering? Don’t think I didn’t see the way your eyes lingered on the door after we entered, wondering if DJ would walk in too. My son’s heart is shattered and as his father, I feel helpless, unsure how to ease his pain, do this old man a favour… at least talk to him, try to make him understand or, never contact him again.”
I swallowed the gigantic knot that had formed in my throat and allowed the guilty tears to splash my cheeks behind the back of Logan’s exiting form. In the past few months, I had made so many wrong turns that I was having trouble trying to find my way back from the confusion clouding my own mind. After tomorrow night, I will be able to pull back and focus solely on my last few moments with my husband, the man who showed me how incredible love can be.
It was past eleven and I was sitting out on the balcony like usual, listening to the sounds of the night from the bushland that surrounded our home, thinking about what my life will be like without Tritium when a notification popped up on my mobile. People barely messaged my social network account, mainly because I had no friends left, so as I opened the message, I was pleasantly surprised by who it was.
The message was from Viola, Dante’s little sister, it read:
‘Hey, not sure if you remember me, but you’re doing business with my father Logan and Uncle Pierre. Anyway, just wanted to touch base and see how my stories weighed up against other stuff you’ve read? Hope to see you tomorrow night for the company party, Viola McCarlock.’
I replied straight away:
‘Of course, I remember you, how could I forget? Your family is so warm and welcoming. I have finished your novel’s, you are an exceptional writer. Looking forward to seeing you too, Quinn.’
We began to type back and forth, exchanging messages as though we were old friends, suddenly, it occurred to me that maybe we might actually become real friends and my heart leapt with joy, would it be crossing the line becoming more than just acquaintances with Dante’s little sister? I hoped it wasn’t, because god knows I could use a real friend right now.
The fact that she would be there tomorrow night put my heart at ease, she would be a great distraction from Dante, even help navigate the anxiety at having to face a room full of people all alone, or rather, seeing Dante alone.
We ended our furious messaging and I slid into bed, my eyes trailing over my husband as he lay there, being helped to breathe from a machine and my heart clenched with sadness. He used to be so strong and full of life, now, he remained half of what he used to be and I meant literally. He had lost so much weight and muscle tone that his body had grown weak, tomorrow morning would be the first time, in a long time, I would be waking up right beside him and in these moments of unbearable clarity, I knew I was running out of time.
The funeral had been organised months ago, even down to the email typed up ready to be sent the moment he passes, he had made sure to incorporate everything he wanted, but could you really ever prepare to say goodbye? I guess there was no choice now and a flush of anger washed over me. I had built a life with this man, never truly believing he would be taken from me and now, the only other man that held my heart, I had pushed away when selfishly, all I truly wanted was his arms wrapped comfortingly around me.
“Yes please, we need them here by two today to get her ready for tonight,” my eyes fluttered open, hearing Tim’s voice.
“What are you doing?” I questioned.
“Ah, my love, you are awake, good morning.” His cheerful greeting had me smiling right away.
“What are you doing Tim?”
“My love, I am organising the stylist, make-up artist and hairdresser, tonight, you will be the bell of the ball.”
“No,” I groaned, “I’m sure there’s something in the cupboard, I’ll throw on some lipstick and an old dress and go, the sooner it’s over, the sooner I can get back here.”
He frowned, “no Quinn, you will dress up and look even more radiant than you do now and go enjoy your night.”
“It’s not my night, it’s the companies and I really don’t need to do that.”
“Please my love, just let me see you one last time looking sexy as fuck,” he growled excitedly.
“Is this what you really want?” I raised my brow suspiciously.
“Then I will do it, for you, but I won’t be happy about it.”
He chuckled at my annoyed face, “you will look exquisite.”
I feigned mortification, “you mean, all these years I’ve looked awful?”
“You are more beautiful now than the day I met you,” Tritium leant over, planting a kiss to my forehead.