“Do you want to get a restraining order?”
“Do you want to sue her for libel?”
“Do you want to demand paternity?”
“Do you want to sue the newspaper for printing these statements?”
My lawyers have been asking the same questions for the past five hours and I have been trying to navigate the fog.
I didn't need to be in NYC for the law advice. My legal team could have just as easily flown out to New Orleans and I could have met them at our offices there.
I was in New York to smooze and somewhat beg George Wilson to remain our key supplier for the southern states and the projects that Gold and Penn had there.
By the end of the meeting, I wasn’t convinced that he wouldn’t pull out.
I was forming a plan of how to sue Sarah for loss of earnings, thirty million down the drain (potentially) all because of her lies.
My phone rang. It hadn’t stopped since I’d touched down in Manhattan. I had to admit that I missed the insular vacuum of Louisiana. The small town I lived in and all.
It was a different atmosphere. Slower. Less cruel and brutal and I was adjusting to life in Goldryn Bois better than I had expected.
I'd left the town with notions of striking out but I’d returned to find that I had shunned everything Goldryn Bois offered when maybe I shouldn’t have.
“Gold.” I grunted as I answered the phone.
“Eli, my boy. How are you doing?” An unfamiliar male voice responded. “Don’t you recognise your new father in law’s voice?”
Walter Mallory. My lip curled over my teeth and I clenched my fists. My anger radiated from me in waves. As I rode up the elevator to my office, sharing the small space with a woman that from the looks of it couldn’t get away fast enough.
“Walter.” I said, keeping my voice level. “I don’t think you should be encouraging Sarah like that. We're not engaged. She's still married to Hank Kellerman if I remember rightly.”
“Well, yes.” Walter said indulgently. “But we all know that'll tie itself up quickly. It has to wrap up before the baby is born.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose and closed my eyes. “I have no plans to marry your daughter.” I told Walter.
“I heard about the Wilson deal.” Walter continued as if he hadn’t heard me. “I was disappointed when you didn’t come to the Mallory's for your lumber. It's a slight to Goldryn Bois. We like to keep things local.”
“Wilson’s are still on board.” I said through clenched teeth with crossed fingers, hoping that was the case.
“If you need my help, son, just let me know.” Walter replied with ease.
“I need you to stop your daughter from spreading lies online.” I snapped.
“But she is pregnant. And it is yours.” Walter laughed without humour. “My girl has more sense than to lie. If the baby was her husband's we'd all know when it came out black.” Whilst that might have been true, it was crass to say.
I'd done my research. That’s why I believed Sarah when she said it was mine.
I marched down the corridor and slammed my office door open once I reached it.
“Keep your daughter away from me. Do you want money? Fine. Contact my lawyers. We'll write it up. I don’t want to see Sarah again. Ever.”
I ended the call and barely restrained myself from throwing the iPhone across the room. Instead, I sank into my office chair and put my head in my hands as I looked down at Central Park.
“She’s fucking crazy.” I whispered. “That whole family is fucking insane.”
My phone rang again and Rina’s name flashed on the screen. I sighed in relief.
“Hey, have you spoken to Harry?” I blurted out upon answering.
“Hi Rina. How are you, Rina? How’s my brother, Rina? Is he well?” She said mockingly.
“Don’t start with me, Langley.” I snarled.
“But you're so easy to rile up.”
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Sarah Mallory broke into your house yesterday. You should check your feeds to make sure nothing's missing.”
“Fuck.” I growled. “Security didn’t stop her?”
“Not sure but Harry found her in your kitchen.”
“Is Harry okay?” I asked.
“Sarah really fucked with her head.” Rina sighed. “Sarah is pushing the envelope to close in on you, while she pushes Harry further away from you. Backstabbing and lying about you the whole time.”
“Harry walked in. Your ex had clothes strung out on the floor. Sarah made it look like you were there—having sex—when you were in New York all along. How could you lead her on like that, Elliot?”
“Rina, I meant how did she break and enter?”
“It's hard to explain over the phone. Maybe you should watch your security feed.” She suggested.
After I ended the call, I did just that. Pulling my laptop forward, I signed into the security system and watched the footage from the night before, starting around lunchtime.
I watched as Sarah tipped my clothing to the floor and artfully arranged it to look like a fit of passion.
I watched right up until I saw the heartbroken and angry face that Harry wore as she stormed out.
I picked up my phone to call her but it went straight to voicemail.
Wilson's Woodworks and Lumber tentatively agreed to keep to their contract once I provided the evidence of court proceedings and the security footage of Sarah breaking into my home. If I’m lucky, they'll see the manoeuvre for what it was. The Mallory’s posturing and playing small-town games with the big leagues.
Traditionally, the founding families of Goldryn Bois don’t go against each other. Disputes have always been smoothed over via the town council. Then again, it was also an unwritten rule to keep business local. It seemed that I had broken that rule when I went to Wilson’s instead of the Mallory’s.
Despite the fact that the Sarah mess began before all that.
I was tired when I stepped off the plane in Baton Rouge and Markus greeted me. He tipped his baseball cap, but said nothing as we drove into town.
It wasn’t until we pulled up outside my home on the Row that he spoke.
“Your mother wants to know which one of your women you plan on bringing to the Mistletoe festivities next week.” Markus said.
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t have 'women'.” I pulled open the car door and thanked Markus for his time. I made a mental note to ask Harry if she wanted to come to Mistletoe Day at the Gold Manor. If she believed me about Sarah Mallory.
I walked around the back and punched in my key code. I made a mental note to change it, even though I had no idea how Sarah had gotten inside.
Speak of the devil and they shall appear. Her peroxide blonde back was to me as she did the washing up like it was her kitchen and not mine.
“Oh honey! You’re home. I got your note.” Sarah turned around, and her eyes sparkled. I couldn’t place the emotion behind them but it wasn’t good.
“What are you doing here?” I snarled, as I pulled my phone from my pocket. I dialled the number for my security office.
“Yes, Mr. Gold?”
I stared into Sarah's eyes and willed her existence to expire. “Please escort Miss Mallory off my property. I want you to ensure that she doesn’t come back. I also want to know why the fuck she’s in my kitchen in the first place.” I ended the call as Sarah sauntered towards me. She placed her hand on the granite work surface and it took a second for me to realise that she was sliding a Manilla envelope towards me.
“I did some research on your girlfriend.” Sarah said sweetly. “I didn’t know she was a stripper.”
“And?” I hated that Harriet took her clothes off for money, but I wasn’t going to stop her. It was her life. I knew that no one touched her. I trusted my brother to ensure her safety.
“Oh, you knew?” Sarah's eyes widened in mock innocence. She took out a photo print of a grainy security image. I could just make out Harry's neck as it arched in pleasure. She straddled my lap. It was one of the times that we'd been too caught up in the private room to care.
“Where did you get this?” I hissed as I snatched the photo from her.
She fanned herself with the brown envelope. “I have ways.”
“Cut the shit, Sarah.” I screwed up the shiny paper and threw it to the floor with force. “What do you want from me? Money? Take it.”
“I don’t want your money.” She snivelled reaching for the lapels of my jacket. “I want you. I want us to be a family.”
“If the baby's mine.” My fists were clenched. “If it is, I'm taking that child. They'll never know your face.”
“You wouldn't dare.” She reared back like I’d slapped her. “I'll go to court.”
“And say what?” I replied simply, without emotion. “I’ve been speaking to my lawyers. They've got footage of you breaking into my house. The security reel at the hotel shows you holding me up. I was paralytic when you took me back to the hotel room. You took advantage. Intentionally or not. Sarah, you don’t have a leg to stand on.”
Her face flushed a deep puce and her lips thinned until they were a line on her face. “It’s your baby.” Sarah hissed. “You have to take care of me.”
“Oh. I wish I could take care of you.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “Though hiring a hitman is illegal in most states.”
She paled. “You...”
I shrugged and my eyes flickered down to her stomach. “Your pregnancy doesn’t give you a pass into my life or to my money. You need to get that through your skull.” I said slowly and delicately. “If this was a normal one night stand, I'd have given you access to all I had. You'd be a part of a future with this child, but you're not. That baby doesn’t deserve a rapist for a mother.”
“A rapist?!” She spluttered. “What are you talking about? You were hard! You wanted it!”
“I was unconscious!” I roared and she flinched back. She opened her mouth to respond, when Jack, the head of my security knocked on the kitchen door.
“I’m here, Mr Gold.”
“Can you escort Miss Mallory from the premises and ensure she doesn’t return.” I turned away from her and walked away without looking back.