CHAPTER TWO

Adam Winston, only son of a stinking-rich New York family and, apparently, also my biological father, mentioned me in his will. Dad doesn’t know how much he left me, only that Charles Atkins, who he’s since spoken with, called it a ‘significant sum.' He gave only basic information, including the fact that Edward Winston had been at Harvard when he met Elizabeth. I feel sick knowing that she must've named me after him. 

He must've known she was pregnant, and he’d probably also known that she had no family or and that she'd struggle after he left. Eleanor Mannering's parents died in a boating accident when she was two. She’d lived with her only relative, her grandmother, who died from a stroke when she’d just turned eighteen. I know this because Eleanor told Mom. She turned twenty-one soon after I was born, so she’d been twenty and alone when Winston left her.

Now, decades later, he decides to remember me?  Well, fuck him. I don’t want his money, and I hope he rots in hell! The music stops suddenly, and I snap my eyes open to find Cait standing over me. “Turn it on, Caitlin,” I growl, not bothering to remove my headphones.

“What’s wrong?” she asks even though she knows because, after our discussion, Dad filled her and Mom in. I refused to be there. Went straight to my room where I’ve spent most of the last two days.

I want to tell Cait to leave, but I can’t be mad at her when she looks at me like that. “There’s a lot of shit going on,” I mutter instead.

She crawls over me to lie with her back against the wall. “Tell me,” she mouths, and her simple invitation, like always, loosens the tightness in my chest.

“Why don’t you want to go?  Don’t you want to know more?” she asks when I’ve explained my feelings and admit that I have no intention of going to New York.

‘What difference will it make?  The fact is, he didn’t care. He never cared.”

“He cared enough to leave you something, Adam.”

“Money!” I sneer.

“Go, or you’ll never know anything about him or why he left.”

Dad said almost the same thing. He said I’d regret it later, that I owed it to Eleanor and myself to go. I stormed out of his office, but I know the conversation isn't over. Plus, he’ll definitely be calling me out on my behavior because I was so mad, I shoved some things off his desk.

I mean, what the hell?  When Eleanor said I only had her, I’d stupidly invented some perfect dad, one who’d died doing something brave. In my childish imagination, he’d wanted us— me— but had no choice. I didn’t once think he'd chosen to ignore me, For seventeen years. What if he’d lived another forty? Would he have acknowledged me during that time? Some fucking hero!

Cait scrambles over me to leave but turns at the door. “I love you, big brother,” she signs. 

 “Love you too, Sis,” I say out loud.

The next morning, I tell Dad I’ll go to New York.

                                                                        * * * * *

“Adam, are you okay?” Dad rests his hand on my shoulder. We’re in the offices of Babcock, Atkins, and Hanes. All marble, glass, and expensive-looking art, it’s clear this is a law firm for rich people.

“I’m fine,” I tell him, even though I’m not. 

“Don’t worry, Son, I’ll be right there with you,“ Dad assures me. I return his smile gratefully.  No matter what I learn today, Callum Thorne is my father—my only father, one I'm proud of. 

Dad’s good-looking, tall, and fit. He's an architect, owner of a construction company, and has always been comfortable in any situation. But there’s something different about him today, and I’d been a bit shocked when he entered my interconnecting room this morning. He usually dresses in a pair of jeans and a button-down shirt when visiting sites. In his office, he wears a pair of dress slacks and throws on a tie and jacket for client meetings, but I’ve never seen him look quite as businesslike as he does right now.

Yes, he looks even more impressive in the dark suit, white shirt, and red and gray striped tie, but it’s the look in his eyes and the determined set of his jaw that's different. If Charles Atkins thought he’d be dealing with a pushover, then he’s about to find out just how wrong he was. Dad looks like he who won't take shit from anyone. My chest swells with love and pride when I realize that he’s here not only to learn about the contents of Adam Winston’s will and support me; he’s here to lay claim to me as his son.

Sitting in this slick foyer, I finally understand why, when he saw my reaction to his suit, Dad said, “appearances count, Adam. Remember that.” And, for the first time, I'm glad Mom insisted I pack the slacks, white shirt, tie, and blazer she'd bought for this trip. I complained, practically whined, that teenagers don't wear stuff like that. "Teenagers who attend important meetings in New York do," she'd responded calmly as she folded the items.

Proud as I am of Dad, I want him to feel the same way about me—especially today. Through his lawyer, I want Adam Winston’s family to know that, since I entered Callum and Emma Thorne's home, I didn’t need him or his money. And that I sure as hell don’t need either now. I almost choke on the resentment I feel when comparing what I imagine his life must have been like to Eleanor's and mine. I can’t wait to tell Atkins to shove whatever Winston left me and then get out of here.

Dad promised me a day of sightseeing after our meeting. Cait and Mom, naturally, immediately suggested places to visit. Dad said no more than five, and so The Empire State building was included because Mom and Cait once watched and enjoyed some old movie that featured it. Times Square made the list because, as kids, Cait and I loved staying up to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. Matt, when he learned about the trip, insisted on a visit to Yankee Stadium. I wanted to go there too, so it also made the list. And finally, both Dad and I wanted to visit The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

“Mr. Thorne?” someone calls out, and Dad stands as a middle-aged woman approaches. "Yes. I’m Callum Thorne, and this is my son, Adam,” he replies as I stand as well.

“Mr. Atkins will see you now." She smiles before turning her gaze on me. The smile slips from her face, and her eyes widen before she schools her expression into one of professional politeness.  Do I look like him? I wonder as she leads us down a hallway. The thought makes my stomach turn. 

 

                                                                                * * * * *

“Thank you for making the trip, Mr. Thorne, Adam,” Charles Atkins says as we settle into the leather chairs across from him. His reaction wasn't as blatant as his secretary's when seeing me, but I’ve sensed his eyes on me several times since we'd entered his office. 

“It seemed like the only way to get the answers Adam needs.” Dad gets straight to the point.

“Yes, of course. Let’s get on with it, shall we.” Atkins looks a bit uncomfortable, though I don’t know why. He’s not the one who left a pregnant woman to fend for herself and his bastard kid. 

He opens a brown leather folder and stares at it briefly before looking up at me. “Mr. Winston, your father, died in mid-February. He and his pilot were killed in an air crash. He was traveling to Aspen to join his family for a weekend of skiing. He'd made the trip many times before; it should have been a routine flight." He pauses expectantly, but I say nothing. If he expects me to show interest or sorrow, then he'll be waiting a long time. I’m not interested in learning about Adam Winston's life, his family, or how he died. I just want him to get to the part about the money, so I can tell him I don’t want it.

“Mr. Atkins, I'm puzzled. How did you trace Adam, and how can you be sure he’s Mr. Winston’s son?” Dad asks, and Atkins, who seems relieved by Dad's interruption, pulls something from his brown folder and hands Dad a handwritten letter with a photograph clipped to one corner. Dad stares at the photo, running his forefinger over it almost reverently. I’m curious but try to hide it because I can sense Atkins watching me again. 

Dad reads the letter next; his brow furrowed and mouth stretched into a straight line. “Did he ever respond to this?” he asks, his voice tight.

“I’m afraid I don’t know. Mr. Winston did leave something for Adam, though. You may find answers in there.” Atkins digs into the folder once more and offers me a sealed envelope. I shake my head, refusing to accept it.

“I'm sure you'll understand how stressful this is for my son. Adam didn’t want to attend this meeting, but my wife and I insisted—not because he needs anything from Adam Winston, but because he deserves it. Adam hasn’t accepted that yet, so I’ll take that for safekeeping for whenever he feels ready to open it.” 

“Of course.” Atkins' tone is apologetic.

“I’d also like his mother’s letter and that photograph,” Dad adds, letting me know the letter's from Eleanor; one, I assume she'd written to Winston. The photo, I can only guess from Dad's reaction to it, is of me. Which means he'd known about me and had chosen to ignore me.

Atkins nods. “I’ll have Diane make a copy for our files and include the originals with what Mr. Winston left for Adam.” 

“Thank you,” Dad responds before turning to me. “Son, do you have any questions?  Something you’d like to know about Adam Winston or his family?”

I’m glad he didn't call him my father. “Just one,” I say, addressing the lawyer. “Does he have other kids?”

“He does,” Atkins answers after a pause—a moment in which I curse myself for asking because I already knew the answer. Still, it doesn’t stop the fresh wave of betrayal and anger that rips through me.

I lower my head and breathe deeply as I try not to embarrass Dad or myself. When I look up, Atkins' nervous glance darts between Dad and me, but Dad’s attention is firmly on me. He smiles, his message clear. The weight I felt pressing down on me is lifted. I’m his son, he's saying. Adam Winston may have donated his sperm, but he, Callum Thorne, is my dad. 

“He has a son and two daughters. Their names are….” Atkins speaks, but I cut him off.

“I didn’t ask for their names, I asked if he had other children, and you’ve told me.”

He clears his throat. “Of course, I’ll just get onto the legalities," he says with a forced smile.  "Your father, Adam Winston, has left you thirty million dollars.”

                                                          

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