Pretend Daddy(5)

By: Amy Brent

“And he has,” I assured Hank, hoping to dissipate some of the worry plastered on his face. “He gave me a great life and will spend the rest of it making sure that what he built for us lasts longer than me. That’s why I don’t want to waste time. I’m leaving for NYC to finish the merger in the morning, and I want to have a game plan for when I come back.”

Unfortunately, the worry in Hank’s face didn’t dissipate. If anything, it intensified to the point of looking pained. Puzzled by his reaction, I held his dark eyes and tried to figure out what was eating at him.

As if feeling my request for him to open up and level with me, Hank ran his hands through his jeans and sighed. “You don’t have to concern yourself with that, Ben. The board will make those decisions together at the next meeting.”

His words fell on my ears like gibberish, and though I tried, I couldn’t understand them. I was the CFO, my father’s right-hand man and the only member of the board who had devoted over twenty years of his life to building this company. Above all, I was my dad’s only son and heir. The company was mine and, therefore, the decision should have been mine as well.

Once more, the shock and confusion plastered on my face prompted Hank to speak, and he explained, “Your father wrote a will and left me in charge of it. It would be best for us to talk about it in my office, but knowing you as well as I do, I have no doubt you won’t allow me to leave this house without the proper explanation.” Even though it wasn’t a question, I nodded in agreement and Hank went on. “The will states that you may act as CEO and head of the board—if the board votes in your favor, of course—but his shares and titles are to remain his until your first wedding anniversary.”

“What the fuck?” I barked outraged. My father had always annoyed me about still living the bachelor life at forty, but I had always thought his nagging was just fatherly concern. The thought he would refuse my birthright because of it had never even crossed my mind. Apparently, I was wrong.

I shook my head in disbelief and received a sympathetic glance from Hank. Clearly, at a loss for words, he reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved an envelope which he handed to me. “Just for the record, I told him not to meddle in your personal life like that, but you know how he was—stubborn as a cow stuck in the mud. But don’t let your anger keep you from reading the letter. You dad loved you more than life itself, and these are the last words he has for you. You should know them.”

With that, Hank patted me on the shoulder and got up from the couch. He said a quick goodbye and walked away, herding the last remaining mourners out of my mansion. My eyes, however, paid no attention to his actions or to the people saying goodbye as they left. All of my focus was on the envelope in my hand and the last words I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

Still, curious as to what explanation my father would give for his betrayal, I waited until I was alone in my home and opened the envelope. With a deep breath, I started reading.

My dearest Benji,

If you’re reading this, it means I’m dead. Although I’m happy to finally be reunited with your mom, I must admit I’m also sad because after learning about my will I won’t be your favorite person anymore—a pity since you’ll always be mine.

The fact that you are my number one is precisely why I included the marriage clause in my will. I’m proud to say that I’ve built many things in my life. I’ve built homes, careers, a very profitable business and a massive fortune, but the thing I’m proudest of is the life I made with your mother. Now, as I approach the end of my life, I see that our family and you, my beloved son, are my biggest accomplishments.

For the last fifty-five years, I’ve loved intensely. First your mother, the love of my life and soulmate whom I’ve missed for over a decade now, and then you, my buddy and best friend. It was that love that made me wake up in the morning and work my ass off all day. It was that love that guided me to create the empire we now own. And, contrary to what most people—you included—may think, it was that love that made me a billionaire.

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