“After I call Roger and cancel the deal, we get our son back?”
“Not exactly,” Paul chuckled. “First, I have to confirm with my father that the merger is out for good. After that, I need a little financial insurance. I expect to see you at the bank bright and early in the morning—and yes, I am watching you. You’ll withdraw a million in small bills and put it into a backpack. I’ll call again in the morning with the rendezvous point.”
“And then we get Jared back.”
“And then,” Paul sighed in dismay, “yes, you get your precious little boy back. But first, phone my father and call off the deal. I’ll be calling him in half an hour, and I expect him to share the disappointing news when I speak to him. You’ll hear from me at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.”
Gavin dropped the phone onto the table and flopped back into the cushions of his couch. He was fighting to keep it together, but inside, it felt as if his world was crumbling. His son was in danger. The one person he believed was in his life for good could be permanently snatched away on the whim of a ruthless man. His dreams of owning private jets were about to be crushed. The woman he cared for blamed him for all of it and might never forgive him if something went wrong. She was already one foot out of his life, he could tell.
But nothing he could say or do would guarantee that Jared would be handed over, unharmed. Or that Sabine would ever look at him with love in her eyes again.
She was watching him silently from the seat beside him. He was still clutching her hand, worried if he let go, he’d lose her forever. “Well,” she said at last. “What did you find out?”
“Is Jared okay?” his mother asked.
“Yes, I think so. I know who has orchestrated this and why. I don’t have any reason to believe that he won’t return Jared to us safe and sound as long as I meet his demands.”
She breathed a visible sigh of relief. “Who has him?”
“Paul Simpson. No one you know.”
“What did he ask for?” His father finally entered the conversation.
“A million-dollar ransom, delivered tomorrow in exchange for Jared.”
“Our accountant can make that happen,” Byron confirmed.
“And today,” Gavin continued, “the cancellation of my latest business deal.”
Sabine gasped and squeezed his hand even tighter. “The one you were working with the private jet company?”
Gavin nodded, his gaze dropping down to his lap. “Yes. I hope you enjoyed riding in that plane to Bermuda. That will probably be the last time.”
“Oh, Gavin, I’m so sorry.” Her pale eyes, lined with worry, were at once glassy with tears. For a moment he was jealous that she could cry for what he was losing and he couldn’t. “I know how important that was to you. Maybe you can still—”
Gavin pulled his hand away and held it up to silence her. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with the maybes and other consolations she could offer. It wouldn’t matter. “Even if this all works out, I think my dealings with the Simpson family are over.”
“We can acquire more planes, son.”
He shook his head at his father. “Finding another company with a quality fleet I can afford is nearly impossible. The shareholders won’t back a more expensive merger. The whole concierge plan is dead.”
He turned away from his family and picked up his phone. He needed to call Roger, but that would wait a few more minutes. More important was calling his accountant. He didn’t exactly leave thousands of dollars just lying around, much less a million. Some things would need to be shifted around so he had liquid assets for the ransom. His accountant would get everything together for him with little fuss.
The awkward call to his accountant took only a few minutes. The man seemed confused by the sudden and out-of-ordinary request, but he didn’t question it. The money would be ready for pickup in the morning. That done, he couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer.
Gavin slowly dialed the familiar number of Roger Simpson. With every fiber of his being, he didn’t want to back out of this deal. It was everything he’d desired, and it was mere days from being his at last. He wasn’t even sure how he would say the words out loud. His tongue might not cooperate. He’d rather shout at Roger about how his son was volatile, if not plain disturbed. But he wouldn’t. Not while Jared’s life was in another person’s hands.
“Gavin?” Roger answered. “I didn’t expect to hear from you today. You’re back early from Bermuda. Did something happen? Was something wrong with the jet I loaned you?”