Pretend Daddy(9)

By: Amy Brent

He nodded, and I turned to walk away. Before I could even take a step, however, his voice reached my ears again. “Thank you, Pam.”

“You’re welcome, sir. I really hope you find a way to honor your father and get your company.”

As I walked away, I couldn’t help the feeling of mission accomplished flowing in my veins.

Chapter 4 – Ben

Pam’s words stayed in my mind for the rest of the week. I couldn’t stop thinking that she had a very valid point and maybe I was looking at this whole marriage clause wrong. Maybe it really was just about my father wanting to make sure I was okay and, if that was the case, then I could find a way out of this mess without signing away my life to a wife I didn’t want.

Knowing that there was only one place for me to get the answers I needed, the first thing I did after returning from NYC was to drive over to Hank’s house. I parked my Bentley in the driveway of his modest home—or at least, modest by Bel Air standards—and made my way to his front door. After three knocks, his face appeared on the other side of the glass.

“Benji,” he greeted me by the nickname only he and dad ever used and pulled me in for a tight hug. Being called Benji at forty was odd, but after recent events, it was a nostalgic oddity I enjoyed. “I wasn’t expecting you,” he added.

I nodded as we pulled away. “I know, but I just got back and wanted to talk to you before the board meeting tomorrow. Is now a bad time?”

His lips parted into one of the broad smiles I had seen my entire life. “It’s never a bad time for you, son. C’mon in.”

He stepped away from the threshold and opened the door wider, welcoming me into his home. The house hadn’t changed one bit from when I was a kid. The walls were still painted the same cream color, and the floors were still covered with the same ethnic rugs. He guided me through the long corridor that connected the foyer to the double doors of his home office.

The smell of paper and wood filled my nostrils as we walked inside the old-school wood paneled room. I smirked thinking of the many times I sat in the corner while Dad and Hank talked business at the long table by the window.

“Do you want something to drink?” Hank asked as I took a seat at one of the chairs facing his side of the desk.

Needing a clear head to properly navigate the delicate subject, I passed on the drink and waited until he was seated. Just as I opened my mouth to finally start the conversation I needed to have, Hank put on his reading glasses and pulled a folder from his top drawer. He tossed a stack of papers over to me and placed a second one right in front of him.

“What’s that?” I asked, looking down at the papers.

Hank raised a brow at me. “What you came here for, and don’t deny it. You and I are gonna read your dad’s will together and see what we can do about your situation. I really want to help you, son, and I’ve told Kevin that much, but I’m bound by law to uphold his wishes. I hope you understand that.”

I sighed but still nodded. Hank wasn’t only my father’s friend. He was family, and I knew he was on my side. He’d always been.

“Okay,” I started picking the papers up from his desk. “What does this thing states.”

With a small smile on his lips, Hank picked up his version of the will and started explaining me the terms clause by clause. Aside from some money to charity and personal belongings he wanted his closest friends to have, I had received everything dad owned. The money, the houses, the cars, the art and jewels, everything, except for his shares and duties to our company, was now mine.

Then, after that was settled, we arrived at the damned marriage clause. The text was quite straightforward. A mere seven line, meddling paragraph that wreaked havoc in my personal life.

Once we were done reading it, I removed my glasses and propped my forehead in my palm. “Can’t I buy his shares instead, then?” I demanded, trying to find another way.

Hank pulled his glasses off as well and shook his head. “No, to protect what is rightfully yours, Kevin has already transferred the bonds to your name. However, they are bound to the marriage clause and will only be released after your first wedding anniversary.”

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