Chapter 20: Christopher
Christopher had had it with his mother. Every time he turned around, it was Jessica, Jessica, Jessica. Jessica was here tonight and his mother has been on his ass since he arrived home to, as she says, “patch things up.” Patch what up? The girl is becoming unbearable. So she’s pissed because he went away for the weekend when she had expected him at Rose Island? He was fucking sick to the death of Rose Island. It was the same every single weekend. They’d get on a boat, drive out to a deserted island with the same losers they’d been hanging with since primary school, spread out a picnic, get a rum punch, and go stand in the ocean. Sure, they’d also have the occasional snorkeling excursion or boat diving competition, but... Boring. He couldn’t even get the losers to play cards. They claimed it was too hard in the sand. Okay, so Jessica looked great in a bikini, but that wasn’t enough to keep him from a trip to New York City.
Christopher looked around his parent’s living room at Highwater and rolled his eyes at the scene. So predictable. There was Ulysses sitting in the grand armchair in the corner, apparently, the one he’d sat in since he lived here himself with his grandmother. There were the hangers-on crowded around him, buzzing like sandflies. His sister Elizabeth in particular. She was a firefly, though. She lit up if Ulysses turned in her direction and shut down when he turned away. Something was up with his sister. She’d been living under a dark cloud for months now. Elizabeth was probably hanging around Ulysses to avoid the scrutiny of their mother, who avoided Ulysses at any cost. The other hangers-on were all work people. David Irving was there, the father of his buddy Clark and a couple of contractors that Christopher didn’t recognize. They were wasting their time on his grandfather. Ulysses had stepped out of the business and blessed his brother Bradley with the crown. They had ignored Christopher’s desires as usual. Did he care? Difficult to say. He detested the idea of sitting behind a desk but craved the opportunity to be in control of all that money. Now he lived on an allowance like a teenager. But now, what Ulysses and his brother didn’t know, was that he had a literal ace in his pocket.
Bradley caught his eye and, after dismissing himself from what must have been a scintillating conversation with Diane Irving, walked toward him. He wished Clark had come tonight. Then maybe people would stop feeling like he needed company.
“Had a pleasant trip? Did my loan help?” Brad said.
Christopher raised an eyebrow. “Loan? I thought that was a gift, Dear Brother.”
“It was until I heard you flew a girl home with you. Now it’s a loan. Rent for Water’s Edge.”
Christopher laughed. “Rent for Water’s Edge? Grandmother left us equal shares. Who am I paying rent to?” He took a swig of his scotch. Brad didn’t have a leg to stand on, and he knew it. Brad had a hard-on for Water’s Edge. He was the only one who ever used it. As far as Christopher and Elizabeth were concerned, it was far too small to be useful. But Brad didn’t own it.
“Fine. But don’t you think you should confer amongst the three of us before many a unilateral decision to move someone in?”
“Conferred? Unilateral? What, you’re a lawyer now, as well as a real estate agent? How about I’ll confer with you when you confer with me about hosting your forbidden mistress there? It’s a small island, Brad, and boats do travel out East, you know. My friends see her all the time outside. They say she’s a real hottie.”
Brad grimaced, and Christopher followed his gaze and saw their mother storming toward them. She arrived and tugged forcefully on his elbow.
“Don’t you think you should chat with Jessica, Darling?” She kept a rigid smile as she murmured the question/command.
Brad turned and left. Toni didn’t even acknowledge him.
Christopher looked over at Jessica, who was clustered with three friends in the opposite corner. All the girls grasped full martinis in their manicured hands, and all of them were shooting daggers at him across the room. They were like a bunch of teenagers. Someone should remind them they weren’t at St. Andrews anymore. Jessica hadn’t spoken to him since he’d returned from New York. She was waiting for him to go over there and prostrate himself in apology, but he wasn’t doing it. He’d positioned himself carefully in front of a window with a full view of the driveway. He wanted to catch Cat’s arrival.
“Jessica looks happy with the company she has, Mother. Why would I disturb her?”
“Christopher, are you trying to upset everyone in your entire family?”
“I’m not trying to upset you, Mother. And Jessica isn’t my family.” He heard a car pull in and glanced out the window, but it wasn’t his car.
“Do you have somewhere to be?” She lifted her glass, a martini, of course, to match the twittering girls in the corner. Her plentiful diamonds flashed in the fading sunlight.
“Then I suggest you make your way over to Jessica and apologize, or it will be a long evening, my dear.”
She strode off toward the door to the expansive living room to welcome two new guests being ushered in by the maid.
“Welcome, Darlings!” Her voice echoed across the room. Why did she have to be so freaking loud all the time?
His mother wanted him to marry Jessica Syms. She’d made that plenty clear. She wanted him to have money so that she would have money. Clark had told Christopher about his mother’s stupid prenup as soon as Clark’s mother had let it slip. Christopher couldn’t give a shit. He didn’t owe anyone in this family anything. If Toni had been stupid enough to sign her life away, she’d have to live with that decision. He wasn’t her property to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Sure, he’d have money too if he’d married Jessica, but he’d have to work too. He’d become the same manipulated loser, working full-time in her dad’s law firm. And since he didn’t have a law degree, they’d force him to be a trumped-up secretary or some shit. No, thank you. Christopher was going to make his own money. He didn’t need Ulysses, the business, or Brad’s chintzy allowance. He would build an empire to rival the Hannas and prove how much they had underestimated him.
Speaking of empire, here was his golden goose arriving now. He hustled to the door to get to her before anyone else did. He had some rules for her to follow tonight.