“You could have more if you need it.”
“That’ll do.” Ryan felt the pure, clean feeling of relief flood through him, and he slumped back in his chair, suddenly feeling energized. It had been a lot easier than he expected, he thought. He was prepared to grovel, to beg if he needed to. Asking his father for the money had stung a lot less than he expected it to. Because Jaci, and her happiness, was a lot more important to him than his pride.
It was that simple.
“That’s it? Just like that?” Ryan thought he should make sure that his father didn’t have anything up his sleeve, a trick that could come back and bite him on the ass.
Chad linked his hands across his flat stomach and shrugged. “An explanation would be nice but it’s not a deal breaker. I know that you’d rather swallow nails than ask me for help, so it has to be a hell of a story.”
Ryan jumped to his feet and walked over to the open door that led onto a small balcony and sucked in the fragrant air. He rested his shoulder against the doorjamb and looked at his father. In a few words he explained about Banks and Jaci’s part in the fiasco. “But, at the end of the day, it was my fault. Who risks a hundred million dollars by having a pretend relationship with a woman?”
“Someone who desperately wanted a relationship but who was too damn scared to admit it and used any excuse he could to have one anyway?”
Bull’s-eye, Father. Bull’s-eye. He had been scared and stupid. But mostly scared. Scared of falling in love, of trusting someone, terrified of being happy. Then scared of being miserable. But hey, he was miserable anyway, and wasn’t that a kick in the pants?
“As glad as I am that you’ve asked me to help, I would’ve thought that you’d rather take a hit on the movie than come to me,” Chad commented, and Ryan, from habit, looked for the criticism in his words but found none. Huh. He was just sitting there, head cocked, offering his help and not looking for a fight. What had happened to his father?
“Why are you being so nice about this?” he demanded. “This isn’t like you.”
Chad flushed. With embarrassment? That was also new. “It isn’t like the person I used to be. Losing Ben made me take a long, hard look at myself, and I didn’t like what I saw. Since then I’ve been trying to talk to you to make amends.”
Now, that was pushing the feasibility envelope. “And you did that by demanding ten million for narrating the documentary about Ben’s life?” He shot the words out and was glad that his voice sounded harsh. Anger he could deal with, since he was used to fighting with his father.
Chad didn’t retaliate and he remained calm. A knock on the door broke the tension and he turned to see Chad’s housekeeper in the doorway, carrying a tray holding a carafe and mugs. She placed it on his desk, smiled when Chad politely thanked her and left the room. Chad, ignoring Ryan’s outburst, poured him a cup and brought it over to him.
Ryan took the mug and immediately lifted the cup to his lips, enjoying the rich taste. He needed to get out of this room, needed to get back to business. He gestured to the contract. “There’s the deal. Get it to your lawyers but tell them that they need to get cracking. I don’t have a lot of time.”
“All right.” Chad nodded. “Let’s go back a step and talk about that demand I made for payment for narrating that movie.”
“We don’t have to... What’s done is done.”
“It really isn’t,” Chad replied. His next question was one Ryan didn’t expect. “Did you want to do that documentary? I know that Ben’s friends were asking you to, that you were expected to.”
God, how was he supposed to answer that? If he said yes, he’d be lying—the last thing he’d wanted at the time was to do a movie about his brother, who died on his way back from a dirty weekend with his fiancée—and if he said no then Chad would want an explanation as to why not. “I don’t want to talk about this.”
“Tough. I think it’s time that you understood that I made that demand so that you couldn’t do the movie...to give you an out.”
Ryan frowned, disconcerted. Chad jammed his hands into the pockets of his shorts and looked Ryan in the eye. “I knew that Ben was fooling around with Kelly and I told him to stop. It wasn’t appropriate and I didn’t approve. You didn’t deserve that amount of disloyalty, especially not from Ben.”
Chad’s words were like a fist to his stomach, and he couldn’t get enough air to his brain to make sense of his statements. “What?”