Because of His Fortune (For His Pleasure, Book 25) (9 page)

“Everything okay?” Grace asked.

Liam nodded.
 
“That was my dad.
 
He’s in town and wants to meet us in an
hour for breakfast.”

“That’s nice,” Grace said, even though she
wasn’t at all certain if Liam thought it was nice or not.
 
She knew pretty much nothing about him
or what their relationship was.
 
All
she’d managed to gather was that Liam’s mother and father had been divorced and
the father didn’t seem very involved.

Liam looked at her.
 
“I haven’t seen him in a long time, and the
last was when Exley got an award at school.
 
My father showed up for the ceremony and
gave Ex a pat on the back.
 
That was
about it.”

“Is he here for your mother’s funeral?”

Liam shrugged.
 
“It’s hard to say.”
 
He looked troubled.

“Are you absolutely certain you want me
to come with you?” Grace asked.
 
“Because I won’t be offended if you want to see him alone.
 
Especially since you haven’t spent time with
him recently.”

“No,” Liam said, grabbing her hand and
looking in her eyes.
 
“I want you
with me.
 
I don’t even want to go to
breakfast with that asshole, but I figure if I’m with you, it’ll be okay.”

Grace smiled.
 
“You know just what to say.”

 

***

 

Breakfast was at a swanky restaurant
called Norma’s, located inside the Parker Meridian Hotel.
 
The place was filled with the well dressed
and wealthy.
 
Even the small
children had on the most fashionable tiny outfits.

As they entered the lobby together, Liam
raised his hand as he saw the man that Grace assumed must be his father.

And then the man waved them over, and
they got closer to where he stood on the stairs to the restaurant, Grace
decided that Liam was almost the spitting image of his dad.

Liam’s father was wearing a very dapper cream-colored
suit with a vest and a green tie.
 
He had Liam’s eyes, his pale skin and even his mossy hair.
 
The biggest difference between the two
was that Liam’s dad was heavier.

It was as if Liam had gained a wrinkle or
two and about thirty pounds, much of it in his face.
 
But still, the resemblance was almost
shocking.

Liam stood awkwardly in front of his
father and sighed heavily.
 
“So,”
Liam said, “when did you get in?”

“Do I not even warrant an introduction to
your beautiful friend?” His father asked, his eyes twinkling
mischievously.
 
He gave Grace a
friendly wink.

“Oh, yeah.”
 
Liam shook his head and seemed a little
flustered.
 
“Dad, this is
Grace.
 
Grace, this is my father.”

“Todd Vangelis,” his dad said, holding
out his hand.

When Grace shook his hand, she found his
grip was gentle, his skin as soft as a baby’s bottom.
 
“So nice to meet you, Sir,” she told
him, smiling brightly.

“The pleasure’s mine, Grace.
 
And please—call me Todd.”
 
He grinned.
 
“Come, our table’s ready.”

He led the way into the restaurant as if
he was the host and waiter and manager rolled into one.
 
As Todd walked through the crowded
restaurant, he orated loudly.
 
“I’ve
always stayed in this hotel when I come to town,” he said.
 
“So they know me here.
 
It’s like a second home.”

“Or third, or fourth, or fifth,” Liam
said, but only loud enough for Grace to hear.

They eventually came to a small table in
the corner of Norma’s, and the three of them sat down.
 
A waiter immediately approached,
acknowledging that she knew exactly who Todd was.
 
“You look cleaned up,” she said to
Todd—and she was an older but not unattractive brunette wearing dark
slacks and white blouse, that seemed to be the general staff outfit.

“I shaved,” Todd told her, rubbing his
chin and cheeks.
 
“Bonnie, this is
my son Liam and his…”

“Girlfriend,” Liam announced, grabbing
Grace’s hand beneath the table.

His father smiled and nodded
approvingly.
 
“And this is my son’s
lovely girlfriend, Grace.”

The waitress smiled at them both.
 
“Nice to meet you both.
 
Drinks?
 
Coffee?”

The three of them ordered coffee and
water, and then Todd ordered three fruit smoothies.

“You have to try their
smoothies—they’re known for them,” he said, as he lifted his menu and
glanced at it before tossing it back on the table and adjusting his vest.

Liam and Grace were studying their menus,
while Todd regaled them with a story about his flight from England, in which
someone on the plane had stood up and started yelling in a foreign language and
needed to be subdued by other passengers.

“Sounds terrifying,” Grace said.

Todd nodded, his eyes glinting as he
looked at his son.
 
“I just wish
that Liam had been flying with me.
 
He could’ve taken the guy down singlehandedly from what I gather.”

Liam stiffened next to her.
 
“What’s the supposed to mean?” he asked.

Todd smiled, folding his hands on the
table.
 
“Nothing, I just heard
through the rumor mill that you’ve become some kind of modern day gladiator.”

“Who told you that?
 
Ex?”

“I don’t reveal my sources,” his father
replied, and then gave Grace another wink as if it was an inside joke between
the two of them.

Liam shook his head, as the waitress
brought them coffees and drinks and then took their breakfast orders.

Liam and Grace got pancakes and eggs
benedict respectively, but Todd ordered the lobster frittata, which Grace had
noticed cost
one thousand dollars
.
 

When Todd ordered the thousand-dollar
meal, the waitress didn’t bat an eyelash, nor did Liam, so Grace just smiled as
she registered the fact that this breakfast was now officially the most
expensive meal she’d ever eaten.

Remember
, she told herself,
these people are from a different world than you
.
 

Still, she couldn’t help but marvel at
the notion that it would ever make sense to spend one thousand dollars on a
plate of eggs with some seafood thrown in.

After the waitress departed, the table
fell temporarily silent and Grace had a sip of the dark, strong coffee.

Liam’s father was sitting his coffee, and
his expression had changed from mischievous and exuberant to something more
sober.
 
He took a deep breath and
shook his head slightly.
 
“I’m still
reeling from the news about Anne,” he said softly.

Liam stiffened again, his hands curling
into fists beneath the table.
 
“It
was a shock,” he muttered.

“Was she speeding?”

“I have no idea,” Liam said.
 

“Well, what exactly happened?” Todd
asked.

Grace realized that she and Liam hadn’t
gone into details.
 
All she knew was
that it was a car accident that took his mother’s life.

“She was driving and she must’ve lost
control of the car,” Liam finally answered.
 
“I don’t know if she was trying to avoid
something in front of her, but she skidded off the road and hit a tree.
 
They say she died instantly.”

Todd cleared his throat.
 
“At least she didn’t suffer.”

Liam made a face.
 
“I guess that’s something to be thankful
for.”

Todd stared across the table at his
son.
 
He hefted his mug in one hand
and held it aloft, considering Liam.
 
“I know I’ve been a little bit absent these last few years,” he began.

Liam barked out a hollow laugh.
 
“I hadn’t even noticed.”

“And I don’t blame you for being angry
with me,” Todd continued.
 
“God
knows I was angry with my old man for how absent he was for most of my
life.
 
And the times he was around,
he wasn’t exactly a ball of laughs.
 
But that’s life, Liam.
 
People are complicated and the sins of the fathers—“

“You know I’ve heard these lines before,
right?” Liam said, snorting, looking down at his silverware.

Grace put a hand on Liam’s thigh and
squeezed lightly.
 
She willed him to
calm down.

As if he sensed their dynamic, Todd glanced
to her.
 
“How long have you two been
seeing one another?” he said.

Grace swallowed.
 
“Oh, I don’t know…mum…”

“You don’t have to answer him,” Liam told
her.
 
Then he finally made eye
contact with his dad.
 
“She’s not
giving a deposition, counselor.
 
She
doesn’t owe you any explanations, and I’d rather you didn’t try to put her on
the stand during breakfast.”

“I’m not putting anyone on the stand,”
Todd said, leaning back and putting his hands up as if in surrender.
 
“Just trying to get to know her.”

“Then maybe you should talk to her like a
normal person.”

“Was that not a normal question?”

Liam shook his head.
 
“Nothing about this is normal.”

Todd made eye contact with Grace and he
seemed to have sad eyes, she decided.
 
“Grace,” he said.
 
“You can
probably surmise that my son and I don’t have the greatest relationship at the
moment.
 
But I do want to improve
things.
 
I want to fix my mistakes.”

Grace smiled at him.
 
“I think that’s wonderful,” she said,
wanting to reassure him somehow.
 
“But these things take time, and obviously right now is a very sad
moment for the entire family.
 
Everyone’s emotional, I’m sure.”

“See, now, there’s a smart lady,” Todd
said.
 
“You’ve chosen well, my
son.
 
Smart, beautiful, but most
importantly—kind hearted.”

Liam spun his cup so hard that a bit of
coffee splashed over the sides.
 
“Spare us the bullshit, Attorney Vangelis.”

“You can see what I’m dealing with,
here,” Todd said to Grace.
 
“I can’t
say anything right.”

“Stop trying to use her,” Liam
snarled.
 
“It’s pathetic, you know.”

At that completely awkward moment, the
waitress returned with their plates of food.
 
As she set the plates down, it allowed
for the anger to settle.

Staff efficiently refilled the water and
topped off their coffee cups.

And then another waiter brought their
smoothies.

“So much wonderful food,” Grace smiled,
trying to shake off the sense of being on a sinking ship.

“You should really try the smoothie,
Grace,” Todd said.
 
“They’re so
refreshing.”

“Sure, why not?” she replied, and picked
up the slender, tall cylindrical glass filled with fresh fruit juices.
 

He was right after all.
 
The smoothie tasted amazing.

Actually, all of the food was
amazing.
 
She’d never tasted such
delicate eggs, and the flavor of the Hollandaise sauce was light and tangy and
she couldn’t believe how hungry she was.

The food seemed to settle Liam a little,
and he was able to shoot her a covert smile, and she returned it.

Todd was making short work of his
thousand-dollar frittata.
 
He ate
with his mouth slightly open at times, guzzling coffee, water and smoothie
juice in between voracious bites of his meal.

“What can I say, Liam?” Todd asked, after
he finally took a break from shoveling food in his mouth.
 
He wiped his lips with a napkin.
 
“I’m sorry I’ve been such a dismal
failure as a parent.”

Liam just looked at him.
 
“Mom’s dead,” he said, his voice low and
controlled.
 
“It’s not about you.”

“I understand that,” his father replied
evenly.
 
His voice trembled a little
as he spoke again.
 
“But I want to
be here for you and Exley and Vera.
 
I don’t want you kids to go through this alone.”
 
He smiled painfully.
 
“Can’t you understand that?”

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