Before he could argue, she turned to Aiden. “What made you think you had the right to get rid of my car?”
“Didn’t he buy you a BMW?”
“Stay out of this, Spencer.”
“The only reason you kept that piece of junk was to irritate me. Isn’t that right?” Aiden asked. Before she could answer, he plunged ahead. “If you had had a new car when you left that seminar, you could have pushed the panic button on the key, and maybe, just maybe, someone would have come to your aid when that maniac was chasing you.”
“When I think what could have happened to you,” Spencer said with a disapproving shake of his head. “You’ve got to know how important you are to us.”
“Running from him … look what you did to your knee,” Aiden said.
“Are you suggesting I shouldn’t have run?”
“Don’t be a smart …” Spencer started and then stopped.
“You had surgery,” Aiden reminded her. “And when did we find out about it?”
“After the fact,” Spencer answered. He was getting angry now. “You should have told us.”
“It was a minor surgery,” she said.
She walked over to the desk and leaned against it. “I didn’t want it to become a big production. I didn’t even tell Cordie or Sophie.”
“We’re your family,” Spencer said. “You should have told us.”
“Look, Regan, I know you want to be independent, but you take it to the extreme.”
Spencer dropped down on the sofa, but Aiden continued to stand. He looked as if he wanted to tell her something but wasn’t sure how.
She sighed. Now she was trying to read his mind. “About the car …” she began.
“We’re finished talking about the car,” Aiden said.
There was a time she would have backed down. Not today. “No, we aren’t. I’m only just getting started. I’ll admit that I was being childish. I kept the car because I knew it irritated you, so, yes, Aiden, you were right about that. However, I don’t agree with or like what you did. You should have asked me before you had my car towed away.”
“You would have said no.”
“Aiden, you had no right—” she began.
“I agree with Aiden,” Spencer said.
She glared at him. “When don’t you agree with him?”
He looked shocked. He wasn’t used to her arguing with him. “When I don’t agree with Aiden, I tell him I don’t agree.”
“It’s done,” Aiden said. “Let it go.”
“We’ve got some important things to discuss,” Spencer added. “And I want to get to them.”
“Maybe we should go into the boardroom,” Aiden suggested as he gathered the papers and slipped them back into the file folder.
“Do you want to have the annual meeting now? Are you prepared?”
Spencer stood and walked forward. “Actually Aiden and I already did that.”
She was furious. “When?”
“Early this morning. You’ve got so much on your mind that we didn’t think you would want to be bothered,” Spencer said. “Everything we went over is in that black binder on your desk. Take your time looking it over.”
She didn’t say a word, but she was so angry with the two of them she thought steam might be coming out of her ears.
“Okay,” she said quietly.
Spencer looked relieved. Then she asked, “Did you allocate funds?”
“What’s my budget?”
“Same as last year.”
“What do you mean, no?” Spencer asked. “It’s done.”
“No, it isn’t done. We’re going to talk about this. I want to triple my budget.”
She was looking at Aiden when she very calmly stated what she wanted. He shook his head. “That’s out of the question. We’ve already slotted money for most of the charities in the city because you wanted us to—”
“And because it was the right thing to do,” she interjected.
“Yes,” he agreed. “But we can’t do any more than that, at least not this fiscal year.”
“We have to think about the bottom line,” Spencer said. “We’re trying to make a profit.”
“You are making a profit, Spencer.”
“The budget’s set,” he said. “And we’ve got a new hotel going up.”
“Yes, I know,” she said. “In Melbourne.”
“Yes, in Melbourne,” he agreed. “But we’re just now finalizing plans for another one.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Now you do,” Spencer said. “We’re hoping to break ground within six months. We’re on a tight schedule, and we’re really moving ahead on this one.”
“And did Walker vote for this?”
“Of course he did. You know Walker. As long as we don’t interfere with his racing, we can pretty much do what we want.”
She picked up a pencil and began to twirl it between her fingers like a baton.
“I’m not a real important part of this organization, am I? Did either of you ever think to talk to me about this expansion?”
“No,” Spencer said. “You’ve been under tremendous stress.”
“Yes, right. Stress.”
“What’s gotten into you?” Spencer said. “I’ve never seen you so antagonistic.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.”
She waited for one of them to ask her what she had been thinking about, but neither one of them did. She wasn’t really sure Aiden was even paying attention to the conversation. He seemed far more interested in the paper he was reading. The pencil twirling got away from her, and the pencil went flying. It landed at Aiden’s feet. Regan immediately reached for another one.
As she turned, she spotted Henry. He was standing at his desk. What was he doing here on Sunday? He should be out, having some fun, she thought. And who was he talking to? She couldn’t quite see.
“Why are you so nervous today?” Spencer asked.
“Why do you think I’m nervous?”
In answer, he looked at her hard. Her pencil was going at Mach four speed. She made herself stop.
Aiden picked up the pencil from the floor, handed it to her, and then pulled out the chair behind her desk and sat down. He opened the folder and said, “Regan, you need to look over these contracts Sam sent over.”
“For the new hotel?” she asked.
“If our attorney sent over contracts, you two must have known about the expansion a long time ago. Odd that you never mentioned it to me.”
“Would you have been interested?” Spencer asked.
“Yes, I would.”
He didn’t believe her. “There’s a basic difference between our philosophies,” he said. “Aiden and I try to make money, and you try to give it all away.”
She smiled. “Not all, Spencer. Just some.”
Her brother walked over to the credenza and poured himself a glass of water.
“I don’t know how it happened,” he said. “We grew up in the same house.”
“I knew I was different and I tried to be more like you, but I didn’t become a capitalist.”
“That’s what I’ve been thinking about,” she said. “And I’ve come to some startling realizations.”
“I’ve always thought I had to earn your love. Silly, huh? I worried that if I didn’t please you and Aiden, that you would stop loving me.”
“Where did you get that crazy idea?” Spencer asked.
Aiden answered the question. “Mother. When she was there, withholding affection was her way of manipulating us into doing what she wanted.”
Regan turned to Aiden. “She did that to you?”
He nodded. “She did it to all of us.”
“You don’t think we’re doing that to you, do you, Regan?” Spencer asked.
She sighed. “All I’m trying to say is that I’ve spent my life trying to please you, and it’s wearing me out. I grew up worrying that you’d stop loving me … but I don’t feel that way any longer. I’m your sister, and as far as I’m concerned, you have to love me no matter how angry I make you.”
Aiden nodded. “Good. I’m glad you worked that out. Now will you look at these papers? I’ve got to get going.”
She turned to him. “I’m not finished yet. Aiden, I’m sorry you got stuck with the job of being my parent, and I’m sorry you and Spencer had to carry such a burden. I can’t change the fact that our mother didn’t like being a mother, but I want you to know how thankful I am that I had you.”
Tears gathered in her eyes. Spencer noticed. “Ah, no. You’re getting all emotional on us, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am.”
“You know we love you,” Spencer said.
“Okay then. Let’s move on.”
Like Aiden, Spencer was uncomfortable showing any kind of emotion. “Okay,” she agreed. “About the meeting …”
“Besides setting the budget for next year and agreeing to start another hotel, what else did you boys decide?”
“That’s about it.”
She started to reach for the papers Aiden wanted her to read, but Spencer stopped her when he said, “Actually, there was one other matter we discussed.”
She turned back. “Yes?”
“We talked to Sam about it, and he agreed,” he said. “I know you aren’t going to like this, but we decided to pay Emerson nuisance money to get rid of him.”
She jerked away from the desk. “No,” she said in a near shout.
“It was either that or give him the house,” Spencer said. “And you know what that property is worth. Emerson’s agreed to get out by the end of next week. Then he’ll get a check.”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Regan, it’s a done deal,” Aiden said.
“How can you do this?” she cried out. “My God, he was cheating on our mother when he married her.”
Aiden was suddenly angry. He stood, planted his hands on the desktop, and said, “And what do you think she was doing?”
She didn’t understand. “She was getting her heart broken.”
“Yeah, right.” The derision in Spencer’s tone infuriated her.
“What does that mean?”
“Jeez, Regan, grow up. Our mother was doing the same thing Emerson was. She was never faithful.”
She shook her head. “You can’t know that.”
“Oh yes, I can,” Spencer said.
“All those trips she took,” Aiden said. “Did you think she went alone?”
“Come on, Regan. You had to have known what was going on.”
She and Spencer were suddenly shouting at each other while Aiden patiently waited for the argument to end. Spencer accused her of living in pretend land, and she finally conceded that she had wondered how her mother could fall in and out of love so easily.
“Love?” Spencer scoffed at the notion. “Love didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Mother always wanted what she couldn’t have.”
It suddenly dawned on her that she was screaming, giving both of them hell, and they were still there. No one was walking out on her. Aiden looked as if he wanted to put a gag in her mouth, but she wasn’t intimidated … or worried.
“You need to grow up,” Spencer said, his tone calmer now. “And face facts.”
“Acknowledging that our mother was a slut is growing up?”
He shrugged. “It’s facing reality.”
“All right,” she said. “You both believe that since Mother slept around, it’s okay that Emerson did? Isn’t anyone faithful anymore? Don’t wedding vows mean anything, like now and forever?”
“Apparently not,” Spencer shouted.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Aiden snapped. “We’re getting rid of a problem.”
“The cheapest way we know how,” Spencer said. He shoved his hands in his pockets and frowned at her.
“And nothing I say will change your minds?”
Both of her brothers shook their heads. Then Spencer said, “Sorry, Regan, but we’ve got to play hardball on this one.”
She smiled. “Okay.”
Then they smiled … until she walked to the door.
“Wait,” Spencer called out. “You forgot to sign the papers.”
She pushed the doors open as she turned back. “You need my signature to go forward, and you know what? I need you to triple my budget for next year. When that happens, I’ll sign. And that, boys, is playing hardball.”
“I’VE NEVER HEARD YOU LOSE IT LIKE THAT BEFORE.” HENRY made the comment, and from the look on his face, it was apparent he was impressed.
“I didn’t lose it. I simply stated my position.”
Henry spotted Spencer walking toward them, and so he lowered his voice to a whisper. “Yes, but you were shouting when you were stating your position. Honest, I’ve never ever heard you raise your voice. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard Aiden or Spencer raise their voices either,” he said. “Except during football games. Spencer yells at the television then.”
Henry hadn’t included her brother Walker, but then why would he? He barely knew him. Walker was never around. Henry had met him a couple of years ago, while he was still training, but he’d only seen him once since, at the dedication in Conrad Park that they had all attended.
Spencer turned her attention when he walked past her. He tugged on a strand of her hair and nodded to Henry.
Aiden came out of her office a minute later. He stopped to talk to Henry. He noticed the article and the photo Henry had framed and hung on the wall.
“That’s nice,” he said. He started to walk away, then changed his mind. “You’re doing an excellent job here. Paul Greenfield, my senior manager, keeps me informed,” he explained. “If you ever want a job making money instead of giving it away, come work for me.”