“The jet was fine. Don’t worry about any of that. Something came up and we had to come back ahead of schedule.” He just couldn’t tell him that the something involved blackmail and kidnapping. “I—I’m sorry to have to make this call, Roger. I’m afraid I have to withdraw my offer to buy Exclusivity Jetliners.”
“What?” Roger’s voice cracked over the line. “You were thrilled about the offer when we last spoke just a few days ago. What’s wrong? What happened to change your mind so suddenly? Did you find a better company to meet your needs? Our arrangement is completely negotiable.”
“No, please, Roger. I’m sorry, but I can’t really elaborate on the subject. I hate that I have to do this, but I must. I’m sorry for the trouble I’m causing you, but I have to go.”
Gavin hung up the phone before Roger could grill him for more information. He did what he had to do for Jared’s sake, but he didn’t have to like it. Dropping his phone onto the coffee table, he got up, brushing off the questions and sympathetic looks of Sabine and his family, and walked out of the room. He needed some space to mourn his dreams, privately.
It was 10:00 a.m. and Gavin had returned from the bank with the million-dollar ransom a few minutes ago. The whole family was gathered around the phone waiting for Paul’s call and the instructions for today’s trade-off.
Sabine hadn’t slept. They had all stayed at the Brooks mansion, but even an expensive mattress with luxury linens couldn’t lure her to sleep. And from the looks of it, Gavin hadn’t slept, either. Never in her life had she seen him look like he did right now. His eyes were lined with exhaustion and sadness. Gray smudges circled beneath them. He wasn’t frowning, but he wasn’t smiling, either. He had shut everything off. She recognized that in him. There was too much to deal with, too much that could go wrong, so he had chosen to numb himself to the possibilities.
She knew it was hard on him. Not only because of his concern for Jared but what it cost him to ensure his son’s safety. That jet acquisition had meant everything to him. Seeing him in the cockpit of that plane had been an eye-opening experience. She had experienced what she thought was the pinnacle of passion when she made love to Gavin. But for him, there was a higher joy, a greater pleasure.
He’d been so close to merging his work and his dreams. And he’d been forced to throw it away.
Sabine placed a reassuring hand on his knee, and he covered it with his own. The warmth of his skin against hers chased away the fears that threatened from the corners of her mind. She wouldn’t allow herself to indulge those thoughts. She’d be no good to her son if she was a hysterical mess.
As much as she’d yelled at Gavin, and blamed him for this whole mess, she was glad to have him here with her during this. No one should have to deal with this sort of thing alone. He had handled everything, and well. There were benefits to having a take-charge man in her life, even when it was sometimes frustrating.
Gavin would do whatever it took to see that their son came home safely. Jared was their number one priority.
The phone rang. The loud sound was amplified in the silent room, sending Sabine straight up out of her seat. Gavin calmly reached out and hit the button for the speakerphone. Sabine hated listening to only half the conversation and had asked him to let her listen this time, as well.
“I’m surprised, Gavin.” Paul’s voice boomed through the speaker. “You’ve done everything I’ve asked so far without a whisper to the police. My father was quite disappointed that your deal fell through. It was hard not to laugh in his face. You’ve been so cooperative you must really care about this brat. Funny, considering you’ve only known about him for two weeks.”
Sabine fought back her urge to scream profanities into the phone. They were too close to getting Jared home safely. She could say or do whatever she wanted after that.
“I’ve got the money,” Gavin said, ignoring his taunts. “What now?”
“Meet me in an hour in Washington Square Park. I’ll be waiting by the arch with junior. You hand over the backpack, I hand over the kid.”
“If I so much as smell a cop, we’re done. And so is the kid.”
Paul hung up, leaving them all in a stunned silence. After a moment, Celia started crying. Byron put his arm around her.
“Don’t worry, dear. He doesn’t have the nerve to actually hurt Jared, no matter what he says.”
Gavin stood up and nodded. “He’s right. Roger told me once that Paul didn’t have enough ambition to get out of bed before noon most days. This is just the quickest, easiest way to make some money and get his father to do what he wants.” He slung the backpack with the money onto his shoulder. “I’d better go.”