Propositions: Strictly Business
Two suitcases packed to the brim. One suit bag bulged at the seams. Nate Somers stood beside his bed and assessed the luggage lying before him. He rubbed the back of his neck with the palm of his hand as he surveyed his room yet again. What else will I need? He was unsure if he’d packed enough—he’d never stayed in one location for more than a few weeks at a time since his university days.
Living in Sydney for the next six months overseeing the opening of the new hotel for his family’s business on one hand was exhilarating and exciting, while on the other it was making him apprehensive. Because this was his project. The first one he’d seen from the ground up. Location, designs and plans had all been his idea.
Out of the bay window of his Chelsea home he caught a glimpse of the dawn erasing away the night sky, and the glow from the streetlights shimmering upon the murky waters of the Thames River. He hesitated for a moment to take in the view before he crossed the room and drew the curtains closed. This time leaving London somehow felt different. He tried to shrug off the niggling sensation that had settled in the center of his shoulder blades. Surely it was nothing. Maybe it was because he had no idea when he’d be back here again.
He made one last round of his rooms to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. In his office, his desk was all in order. Not a pen out of place. Just the way he liked it. Back in his bedroom, the metal runners on his drawers glided smoothly on their tracks when he opened them. They were nearly bare of all contents. A few neatly folded socks and jocks remained. His walk-in robe echoed with the sound of his movements as he skimmed his eyes over the railings where only a few suits and shirts hung, half still wrapped in their dry cleaning plastic. In the bathroom he checked his toiletry tote again before packing it into his luggage. He should’ve found the time to go shopping because he didn’t like the toothpaste from Japan that tasted like strawberries, or the mouthwash from China that was too sickly and sweet. But yet again this had been a fleeting visit. He spent more time away from his home than he cared to think about.
As he started to zip up his bags, the picture of Lucy on his bedside table caught his eye. He picked up the silver frame and stared at the vision of his daughter before him. Her dimpled cheeks and long black hair always filled him with conflicting emotions because she reminded him so much of her mother. Heart heavy he opened his bag, tucked the frame carefully between his clothes and zipped up his case.
Nate lugged his bags down the stairs and stood them at the front door. He checked his watch. Yes, he had time for a quick cup of tea before his driver was scheduled to arrive.
As he savored the last mouthful, the doorbell buzzed loudly. Nate opened the door and greeted his driver.
“Hey Lawrence. There’s all my things.” He pointed to his luggage. “I’ll just be a few minutes.”
Nate scuttled over to the kitchen to clean up his dishes. As he picked up the cup, something caught him by surprise. For years the loose tea-leaf dregs in the bottom of his cup had never changed. They always fell the same way—in lines—indicating travel. But today they fell in the shape of heart. Love. He let out a loud snicker as he quickly rinsed the pot and put everything away. Love was the furthest thing from his mind. Not an option. Not going to happen. Regardless how much he had tried to ignore his grandmother when he was a boy, her silly superstitions and tea-leaf reading antics had become embedded deep within his psyche—whether he liked it or not!
Nate put the nonsensical thoughts out of his mind as he slid into his jacket, picked up his laptop bag, headed out the door and into the waiting limousine.
Stuck in early morning peak hour traffic on the way to Heathrow airport, he double-checked his flight itinerary on his phone. Yet again, he was flying through Singapore. Yet again unable to see his daughter because of the short timeframe between his connecting flights. He hadn’t played a major role in Lucy’s life since she was born, so why was it starting to bother him now? He strummed his fingers against his thigh. Should he ring her or not? It wasn’t time for his scheduled call, but he thought ‘What the hell’ and dialed the number.
“Hey Luce. How are you sweetheart?” He let out a sigh of relief when it was her voice on the line.
“Daddy!” Her excitement warmed his heart.
“Lucy—who is it?” But the sound of his ex-wife Rachael’s voice in the background turned everything cold again.
“Daddy, Mommy’s mad at me for not eating my dinner. I don’t like sushi. It’s yucky. Do I have to eat it?”
Nate didn’t like sushi either, so he knew where Lucy was coming from. “I’ll talk to your mom about it, okay?
“Daddy, when are you coming to see me again?”
“Soon, baby. Soon. In three months. For the September holidays.”
He winced as Rachael’s voice suddenly screeched in his ear. What did she do, rip the handset out of Lucy’s fingers?
“What are you doing calling now? Lucy has to finish her dinner and her homework. Call back on your designated day.”
“Come on Rachael, it’s just a phone call. I’m stuck in traffic on the way to the airport—”
“No, Nathan. Lucy doesn’t need the interruption. We have a deal. If you don’t like it, you’ll be hearing from my lawyers.”
Nate’s back stiffened. He’d had enough of lawyers in business and in his personal life to last a lifetime. The thought of losing what little access he had to his daughter sent a chill through him. Rachael was pushing his buttons the wrong way. “Should we get the lawyers involved this time? I’m sure I could easily get partial or full custody of our daughter.”
Rachael laughed down the line. “Your threats have no substance, Nathan. You know that. You’re too tied to your business. What kind of life would Lucy have with you?”
He hated it when she dismissed him. She was the only person in the world who could get under his skin. He’d never suspected the innocent-looking Singaporean girl, who he became smitten with, would be the one to take him for a ride.
“Okay, Rachael. Enough is enough. I have to go. I’m nearly at the airport.”
Infuriated, he hung up and put his phone back in his jacket pocket. He massaged the tension throbbing in his temples. He hated to admit it—but Rachael was right. The truth sent a shudder through his body. What kind of father could he ever be? He had no time to be a father. Not now. Not ever. Business always came first. Always would.