“I want to talk to Jared,” Gavin demanded as forcefully as he could.
Sabine leaped up and sat beside him on the couch. They hadn’t really spoken much since their fight, and things might be irrevocably broken between them, but in this moment, they were united in finding their son and making sure Jared returned home safe and sound. He reached out and took her trembling hand in his. He was just as nervous, just as scared as she was, but he was better at not showing it. Holding her hand and keeping her calm was like an anchor on his own nerves. It kept the butterflies in his stomach from carrying him off into the sky.
“I bet you do. But you’re not in charge here. I am. And you’ve got a couple hoops to jump through before that’s even on the table.”
“How do I know that you really have him?”
“If I don’t...who does? You haven’t misplaced your son, have you?”
“For now. I haven’t harmed a hair on his handsome little head. If you want to keep it that way, you’ll do exactly as I ask and not involve the police. If you call the cops, we’re done negotiating and you’ll never see your little boy again.”
Gavin nervously squeezed Sabine’s hand. She smiled weakly at him, confusing his gesture as one of reassurance. He felt anything but sure. “I’m not calling the police. I want to keep this between you and me. But I have to know. What, exactly, do you want, Paul?”
The man on the other end of the line chuckled bitterly. “Aww, shoot. I was hoping it would take longer for you to figure out who was behind this. How did you guess it was me? I thought you’d be ruining the lives of half a dozen people right now, but you narrowed the field pretty quickly.”
Paul Simpson. He had been right on the money with his original guess. Roger’s irresponsible only son was the heir to Exclusivity Jetliners. At least until his father signed over the company to Gavin on Tuesday. The looming deadline must have pushed Paul too far. He had no choice but to act. That left little question of what his ransom demand would be.
“Only a handful of people knew I was going out of town. Even fewer knew that I had a son. That’s not common knowledge yet.”
Gavin had mentioned the trip to Roger when they spoke on the phone Thursday. He’d mentioned taking Sabine to Bermuda and that his parents would be watching Jared. That’s when Roger had graciously offered the jet. If Paul was listening in on their conversation, all he had to do was wait for the right moment to slip in and steal away their son. He had handed his enemy the ammunition to attack him and didn’t even realize it.
The only plus to this scenario was that Paul was spineless. Or so he seemed. Roger didn’t have much faith in his son. When he snapped, Paul jumped to attention. That said, Gavin wouldn’t have given him the credit to plan a scheme like this, so maybe he was wrong. He wouldn’t push Paul to find out.
“Ahh. Well, mistakes are bound to be made in a scenario like this. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about any of that because this is going to go smoothly and without issue.”
Somehow, Gavin doubted it. “What do you want, Paul? You still haven’t told me what you’re after with all this, although I have a pretty good guess.”
“It’s simple, really. First, you’re going to call my father. You tell him that you have to back out of the merger deal. Give him whatever excuse you want to. Aside from blackmail, of course. But end it, and now.”
The sinking feeling in his gut ached even more miserably than it had before. His dream of having his own jet fleet was slipping through his fingers. Everything he’d worked for, everything he’d built toward in the past few years would be traded away for his son. Gavin hadn’t been a father for long, but he would do anything to keep Jared safe. If that meant losing Exclusivity Jetliners, that was the price he would pay. But that didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt.
He should’ve seen this coming. Paul had silenced his complaints about the sale recently. Roger had thought that he had finally convinced his son to see reason, but the truth was that Paul was quietly looking into alternatives to get his way. Going around his father was the best plan. But it wouldn’t solve all of his problems.
“If I don’t buy the company, your father will just sell it to someone else.”
“No!” Paul shouted into the line. “He won’t. If this falls through, he’ll give me the chance to try running the company on my own. Then I can prove to him that I can do it and he won’t sell.”
Gavin wanted to tell Paul he was delusional, but he couldn’t. The moment Jared was safely in his arms, he’d have the NYPD swarming this guy and hauling his as**s to Rikers Island for the foreseeable future. He wouldn’t be running a company anytime soon.