The Billionaire's Price

The Billionaire’s Price — Chapter 38: Reunion

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If you’re wondering why Chapter 38 is posted here and not on Wattpad, read this.


Sebastian knocked on Benson’s door.

“Come in.”

“Hey, buddy,” he said, entering the room. “I thought you might need help with that tie.”

Benson grinned. “It’s okay, I got this,” the boy said. He was standing in front of a full-length mirror dressed in a white shirt and dark trousers. He tugged at his bow tie, trying to make sure it was fastened properly. “Why can’t I wear a tie like yours?” He looked wistfully at his uncle’s charcoal grey tailored evening suit and black shirt and tie.

“Your mom likes you in a bow tie.” Sebastian sat down on the side of the bed. He smiled as he watched Benson pick up his suit jacket and stare at it uncertainly.

“You can wear one, too,” Benson said.

“Maybe next time.” Sebastian rested his upper arms on his lap and linked his fingers together. “Victoria will be joining us tonight,” he said. “You don’t mind, do you?”

The boy frowned as he put on the jacket. “Why? Isn’t she your girlfriend?”

“She is.” Sebastian stared at him in surprise. “How did you know?”

“You keep staring at her when you think I’m not looking.”

“Oh.”

“And Mom told me.”

“How did she know?”

Benson shrugged. “She’s Mom. I think she knows everything.”

“How do you feel about it?”

The boy sat on the bed beside Sebastian. “I’m used to it, I think. It’s just weird, like when I tell her I don’t mind so much that Mr. Holland in Math class is not very good even though I’m pretty sure she knows I do.”

“I mean, what do you think about Victoria and me being togeth —” Sebastian crossed his arms. “You’re messing with me, aren’t you?”

“Yes. Sorry.” Benson tried not to laugh.

“Your Mom and Dad used to do the same thing to me all the time.” Sebastian shook his head. “Your Mom still does, actually. And now you.”

“Mom says you need to lighten up.”

“Someone just told me recently that I’m not very funny.”

“I think Victoria likes you anyway.”

“You think so?”

“She stares at you when she thinks I’m not looking.”

Sebastian tried not to grin. “She does?”

“Yeah.” Benson ran his finger over the crease of his trousers on his knee, not looking up.

“Things aren’t going to change between us, all right?” Sebastian said. “It’s just that Victoria will be around a bit more from now on. You okay with that?”

Benson nodded, still staring at his knee. “Okay.” He slowly looked up to meet Sebastian’s eyes and gave him a small smile.

“We’re seeing Grandpa tonight.” Sebastian paused, reluctant to continue. “He says he misses you.”

The boy looked thoughtful. “He asked me if I wanted to move to Fort Worth,” he said. “I don’t have to, do I?”

Sebastian jaw clenched. His father had tried many times to convince him to send the boy back to Texas to live with him. He’d been uninterested in Benson until the day Eric passed away, probably realizing it was a chance to have an heir he could groom into his own image. “No.” Sebastian pretended to look at his nephew sternly. “You’re stuck with me, buddy.”

Benson wrinkled his nose. “He said I could have a pony.”

“I can get you a pony,” Sebastian said. “I’ll get you two.”

The boy laughed. “Where do we put them?”

“I think we could hide them behind the gazeebo.” Sebastian’s forehead furrowed. “You think Mrs. Sellers will notice?”

“Probably.”

***

Sebastian was waiting for her in the main hallway as she entered the front door with tentative steps. Her champagne-colored cocktail dress glinted under the chandelier lights, but it was her smile that took his breath away.

“Hey,” Victoria said shyly, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. Her hair was up in a loose chignon, with small strands left loose to curl around her face.

He kept his hands in the pockets of his trousers as he waited for her, resisting the urge to close the distance between them himself. His eyes swept over her from head to toe.

“What’s wrong?” she said. She stopped a few feet away from him.

He moved toward her. “That dress is hideous,” he said.

“Hey! Deborah sent it over.” She frowned. “I like it.”

“I hate it.” His arms went around her waist and he pulled her snugly against him. He moved his mouth down to brush against her ear. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to tear it off you later tonight,” he whispered.

“Oh.” She suppressed a smile, and instead put on a hurt expression. “I don’t know. Then maybe I’ll sleep somewhere else tonight.” She looked up at him. “I really don’t want this dress damaged.”

“I’ll buy you another one?” He slid his hands down her backside, and fought the urge to press her harder against him. Already he felt a familiar stirring in his pants, but it was the furious beating of his heart that reminded him of how much he had missed her.

“Why do you keep buying me clothes if you’re just going to rip them up?” she said.

“Everyone needs a hobby.” He pressed his lips on her forehead. “This is my new favorite thing to do.”

“You’re terrible.” She leaned on his chest.

Sebastian allowed himself the luxury of a few moments of having her in his arms until the reality of their having to be somewhere else in a few minutes became a concern. “I have something for you,” he said.

She looked up at him suspiciously. “What is it?”

He led her over to the coffee table a few feet away and picked up a black velvet box the size of a small book. He opened it carefully.

“Oh my. That’s … ” Victoria stared at the gold cuff bracelet resting in the cream satin lining.

“Is the style too old for you?” He sounded odd to himself, and he realized he was nervous.

“No! It’s beautiful. It’s just that … wow.” She bit her lip. “It looks expensive.”

“Do you like it?”

“I do.” She smiled. “You really shouldn’t have. You’ve already given me so many nice things.”

“May I?”

She nodded.

He lifted the gold band and put the box back on the table. Lifting her right arm, he fitted the bracelet carefully on her wrist.

“This is made to go on the right arm,” he said.

The gold cuff molded on her wrist perfectly. “I can’t believe how well it fits,” she said. “Did you…”

“I had it adjusted to your size, yes.”

“Thank you.” She winced. “Now I feel bad about my drugstore earrings.”

Sebastian gently cupped her face with his hand, and ran his thumb on the tiny pale pink crystal stud on her earlobe. “Don’t be,” he said. “You make everything beautiful.”

She blushed. “Thank you. But I don’t really—”

He interrupted her with a kiss to her forehead. “You realize it only turns me on when you argue with me, don’t you?”

“Horrible man.” She giggled. “Oh Benson, hi!” She pulled away from Sebastian.

“Hi,” the boy said, stopping midway down the staircase across the hall. He looked at them uncertainly. “Should I go back upstairs?”

“It’s okay Ben,” Sebastian said, smiling up at him. “We were just about to call for you. You ready?”

Benson nodded, and continued walking down the steps.

Sebastian took Victoria’s hand. “Let’s go.”

***

George Mattheson was a great many things: oil tycoon, shrewd businessman, neglectful father, unfaithful husband. He was the distant parental figure of Sebastian’s childhood, and later on, his mentor. The man who looked at his son always with disapproving eyes no matter how hard the younger man tried to live up to his expectations.

Right now he was the VIP guest of the party. He arrived flanked by his bodyguards, another director of the board, and two company VPs. Nearly everyone stood up to greet him as he passed by their tables.

“Benson, my boy,” he said as he neared Sebastian’s table. “Let your Grandpa take a look at you.” He smiled warmly as Benson stood up dutifully to go to him and shake his outstretched hand.

“Good to see you, sir,” the boy said.

George ruffled his grandson’s hair. “You’re taller than I remember. Why don’t you ever come visit your poor old grandpa?”

“Sorry.” Benson ventured a look toward Sebastian, who had stood up as well.

“Dad,” Sebastian said, walking over. He held out his hand. “Ben and I were thinking of coming to see you in the spring. How have you been?”

His father stared at his son’s offer of a handshake for a moment, his lips curling up in amusement, before taking it. “I suppose congratulations are in order. Even Elizabeth was quite pleased with how things turned out.”

Sebastian nodded. Elizabeth Beal was his father’s second cousin. A retired CEO of one of the biggest a food manufacturing companies in Arizona, she was never a big supporter of his appointment to run Mattheson. She was by far the hardest to please of anyone in the board of directors.

“I guess she couldn’t make it tonight?” he said. “What a pity.”

“She has a couple of new thoroughbreds at the ranch this week, I hear. Can’t tear her away from her horses these days.”

“No, I suppose we can’t.” Sebastian turned to Victoria and held out his hand, palm up.

Her eyes grew wide as she set down her water glass. She sat frozen in her seat.

He smiled encouragingly. Nodding nervously, she stood up.

“Dad,” Sebastian said. “I’d like you to meet—”

“You made it, my dear,” said George, smiling at a young blonde woman who had just joined them. He took her hand and patted it affectionately. “You remember Brooke, don’t you son?” he asked Sebastian.

“Hello, Baz,” she said. “It’s been a while.”

It took Sebastian all of five seconds to recover from the shock of seeing Brooke Hildebrand. Tall, blonde and unnervingly elegant in a short white dress, she was a far cry from the skinny, gangly girl in a ponytail and glasses he remembered.

“Bree,” he said, almost in a whisper.

She smiled when she heard him call her by the nickname he gave her years ago. “I was afraid you’d forgotten.”

“How are you? Your glasses…”

“I got lasik after college,” she said. “Pretty vain, huh?”

“No, no.” He swallowed. “You look good.”

“You look amazing.” She averted her gaze downward for a moment. “But then you always did.” She looked back up to stare him in the eyes. They were the same beautiful shade of hazel he remembered.

It was then that Sebastian remembered. He looked back at the table.

Victoria was preoccupied with her salad. Or at least she tried to look like all her attention was focused on the arugula and lettuce she was busily moving around on her plate.

“Excuse me,” he mumbled.

When he reached Victoria, she smiled up at him. “Hi,” she said.

“Sorry about that. My father is rather …” He rested his hand on her shoulder. “Let me introduce you, all right?”

“No, really, it’s not necessary.” She shook her head. “I’m sure you two have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to you date, son?” George Mattheson said, sitting down beside Victoria.

“Dad,” Sebastian said, surprised. After a brief moment, he said, “This is Victoria Slade. Vi, my father, George Mattheson.”

“Very nice to meet you, Mr. Mattheson,” she said, shaking his hand.

“Charmed,” George said. “What’s a nice girl like you doing with my boy here?”

“Oh, Sebastian, he’s …” She swallowed. “He’s been great.”

“If he ever gives you any trouble, you just come to me, all right?”

“Yes, sir.” She smiled, at ease with the older man’s friendliness.

“Call me George, sweetheart. Now tell me.” He raised a hand to signal a waiter. “How’d you two meet?”

With his father having taken his seat, Sebastian sat beside Benson. He turned to see Brooke take the empty seat next to him.

“Your dad’s been telling me about you,” she said.

“Has he?”

She laughed at his expression. “Don’t worry, Baz. It was all good. You’ve done really well for the company, I hear.”

“I do my best.” It was difficult for him to believe his father was anything but critical of him and his work. But he supposed George wouldn’t bore Brooke with details about his concerns with the way Sebastian had been running his company. “And what about you?”

“I’m helping my Mom run her campaign. She’s running for Governor in the next primary.” She narrowed her eyes. “You didn’t know, did you?”

“I didn’t, no.” He hesitated. “You quit your job then?”

“I’ve always worked for her.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I just—”

“It’s fine.” She shook her head. “I didn’t really expect you to be keeping tabs on an old girlfriend you hadn’t seen in more than a decade.”

“Actually, I’m surprised you even remember me.” It just occurred to him he hadn’t expected their meeting again to be this congenial. Considering the way he had ended things between them.

“How could I forget you, Sebastian?” Brooke gently touched his hand that had been resting on his lap. “You were my first.”

© 2015 Ansela Corsino. All rights reserved.

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