“I do nothing,” I assure her.
She waves me off with another guttural sound from her throat. “You watch over me, you help ensure I have the finest of places to live, which I can’t afford on my own, and you cart me around from location to location with you, so I’m never alone.”
“You do like traveling around, don’t you?” I ask, wondering if perhaps I’m doing a disservice to her by uprooting her.
“It’s an adventure, and I love meeting new people,” she reassures me. “If I ever feel strong ties to a community when you’re ready to leave an area, I’ll tell you. You know I have enough confidence to do that.”
Yeah, that I know. My parents taught me how to wield power by coercing an ego bordering on the vapid side out of my impressionable mind. Any ounce of decency I have in the decisions I make with the immense power backing me are strictly from Leonie and the moral compass she helped instill. One of those traits was teaching me how to be confident without being too much of an asshole.
I’d like to say I mastered that trait, but alas… I know I’m still an asshole some of the time, particularly with women.
“What about you?” Leonie asks, sitting back in her chair and holding her wineglass up for a small sip.
“What about me?” I tease, also leaning back and crossing my arms over my chest. I always relish in making her work for the slightest bit of personal information about me. It’s a game, no more, because Leonie is the only person who could ever get me to just let go and talk.
She rolls her eyes. “How’s work going? Have your next project lined up?”
I smile at her, wondering just what she’d think of me wanting to open up a resort—outside of the Blackwood name, of course—that focused on a sex club? She’d probably blister my butt for sure, but on the other hand, she’d celebrate me wanting to do something for myself. She’d always encouraged me to find my own path in life, including some of the darkest days of my life just a few years ago when I needed her guidance more than anything.
“I have some solid ideas I’m working on,” I say vaguely. “I’m looking at investors right now, but I’m considering a smaller, boutique type of resort.”
Leonie nods thoughtfully. “What about your next Blackwood project? Where might that be?”
“We have it narrowed down between Miami and San Francisco,” I say.
Leonie gets a gleam in her eye, holds up her wine glass. “Being nearer to the California wine country doesn’t sound all that bad.”
Laughing, I tip my head back. She may be seventy-six, but she has a lot of damn living left within her. Part of me loves that she moves everywhere with me, but the other part wonders if she’s not missing out on settling down in the few remaining years she has. She’s never been married and always insists she never had any desire to do so.
“I’ll put in a word to Father that I’d prefer the San Francisco project then,” I say, gladly willing to give her time there. At this point, we don’t know how much time she has left.
“Now, the most important question,” she says, and there’s a sly gleam in her eyes as her lips curl upward. “When are you going to consider settling down and giving me some grandbabies to fawn over.”
My mother would gasp in a slight outrage if she heard Leonie right now. She’d be offended that Leonie would consider herself a grandmother to any potential offspring I might have, but I love it. While I don’t understand grandparent influences since I didn’t have them, I suppose if I ever did have kids, I’d want them to have a grandmother like Leonie instead of my own mother who can be cold and off-putting in the best of times.
“I’m still a young man,” I grin at her. “Plenty of time still to sow more wild oats. And you’re still a young woman. Plenty of time for grandbabies later.”
“Bah,” she grumbles, flicking her hand. “You should fall in love, kiss your woman under the Eiffel tower and enjoy the rigors of what it takes to make babies. You work too hard, and you’re too jaundiced when it comes to love.”
“Don’t I have reason to be?” I counter, no hint of teasing at all in my tone.
Her expression sobers, and she nods, “Aye… you have reason.”
She knows. The only one who really does.
“But,” she continues on with the tone of a woman that’s seen a lot in her many years. “You shouldn’t let past experiences define the way you step into your future. Because if you do—if you let it scare you and put boundaries in place that you’re afraid to cross—you’re going to miss out on so much opportunity.”