“So, you going to tell me why you’re not at work?”
He grimaces slightly. If I didn’t know him so well, I wouldn’t have seen it. He’s hiding something.
Ignoring my question, he says, “First, I need to tell you how proud I am of you. Graduating a year early. Being with Tess…”
I take a sip of the sweetened ice tea and look at him for a moment.
“What’s wrong?” I demand.
He starts to laugh. “Nothing. I’m genuinely happy for you.” He looks down at his wedding ring, which he still wears. “And… it’s time I step down. Hand everything to your father, your brother, and you.”
Putting down my fork, I lean back in my chair. “Why?”
“Because I have been running an empire my entire life. I’m tired and I’d like to enjoy myself. Which is why I pushed so hard for you to go to Columbia. I wanted you to get your degree. I know you don’t need it. But you did it, and in record time.” His eyes gleam with what looks suspiciously like tears.
I frown. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“I’m fine, Reed, but it’s time.” He motions to someone in the corner.
“Whiskey please, Rebecca. Reed, I assume you’re fine with iced tea since you are driving?”
I cross my arms. “That, and it’s barely noon.”
“See, once I retire, I can drink any time of the day.” He grins at me.
I shake my head. “Whatever makes you happy, Grandfather.”
“You and Jax make me happy.” He clears his throat. “Do you want to take over the London office? You and Tess can live overseas for a while.”
I reach for the bread, considering if I should tell him. Fuck it—he’s being somewhat honest with me. Might as well tell him the truth. “I’m thinking about asking Tess to marry me.”
He exhales, staying quiet as he takes a sip of water. Putting it down, he looks me straight in the eye. “Nothing would make me happier.”
I’m stunned. I was all ready to defend myself, convinced he was going to say we were too young.
“You have no idea how happy that makes me.” I almost reach over and hug him, but I stay seated. “To be honest, I was hoping I could get into the safe. Use one of our grandmothers’ rings?”
“You can have whatever you want. Marry her, settle down, have children.” Again I see tears in his eyes.
“One step at a time.” I laugh. “First, I have to get Tess to agree. She has this idea that we should wait. Worried that people will judge us for being too young.”
“That’s absurd.” He thanks Rebecca as she sets down his highball filled with whiskey.
Taking a sip, he ponders for a moment. “We’re too rich for her to worry about that.”
“She seems to care.” I shrug. “We are going to Los Angeles this weekend. I was thinking about maybe proposing there if the time is right.”
He smiles as they bring out our rare Kobe beef fillet with asparagus.
“You weren’t kidding, steak for lunch.” Taking a bite, I moan. It’s that good.
“You don’t even need a steak knife to cut this.”
Realizing I’m the only one eating, I look at him curiously. He seems satisfied with watching me and enjoying his drink.
“You sure you’re okay? I’m not going to lie. You saying you want to retire when you are a workaholic…” I’m pressing the issue because he is behaving differently.
“I’m fine,” he says, his voice gruff. I decide to drop it, knowing if he hasn’t said anything yet, he’s not going to.
“Anyway, I have complete confidence in your father and you to take over. What I want to talk about is Tess.”
“Okay…” Hesitating to say anything, I wait to see where he is going with this.
He swirls his glass. “You are young. You need to trust me when I say there is nothing worse than losing your soul mate.”
Uncomfortable with his grief, I look away from his tortured eyes. He rarely mentions my grandmother; the few times have always been painful. She died in a car accident before Jax and I were born. He’s never fully recovered from the loss.
He looks up at the blue skies. “Let’s go back to your future with Tess. I think she would love living overseas. You both can travel, and you can take care of our European market.”
I start to eat my lunch again. “That’s the thing, Grandfather. I have to wait and see what she wants. As of yesterday, she was adamant about finishing her last year at Columbia.”
“Hmm, well, whatever you think is best. You can easily help your father here and we can leave our overseas people alone. We have a good team in place.”
“Don’t worry. You will be the first to know. I mean, we are spending the whole summer abroad. That could change her mind.”
“What about Jax?”
Arching an eyebrow at him, I say, “What about Jax?”