Ronald Valentini removed his reading glasses and set them on his desk, rubbing his eyes with this thumb and forefinger. He drew a deep breath and leaned his head back against his leather chair, then closed his eyes. He was looking forward to the holiday. A few days relaxing on his boat sounded much better than board meetings, FDA deadlines, and confronting his son.
Haden was his only child, and he loved him more than anything in this world, but Ronald was growing concerned about the way he was living his life. Haden had always been very popular, even as a boy. He made friends easily and had the face and charms that won him any girl he had eyes for. Fortunately, he was also very intelligent. He possessed his mother’s photographic memory, and his father’s determination to win. He graduated high school at seventeen with a 4.0 GPA and a scholarship to Harvard. In college, he was even on the Dean’s List three years running.
Ronald felt certain Haden had moved past his colorful youth when he graduated college with his degree in architecture. Instead of putting it to use, he returned to his flamboyant lifestyle, traveling around the globe with is best friend, Aaron Nielsen, partying every night, and entertaining a different woman in every country he visited.
His son had everything a young man of twenty-five would ever want. He was suave, good-looking, tall, and had a father worth billions. Much to Ronald’s disappointment, the only ambition the boy had was improving his tennis game and finding another young beauty to warm his sheets. Unbeknownst to Haden, however, all of that was about to come to an end.
Ronald Valentini had come from a very poor Italian-American family and was forced to drop out of school when he was fourteen. His father had been killed in the Vietnam War, leaving his wife and two young sons alone in the world. As the eldest of the two, and the new man of the house, it was up to Ronald to support his family. The money they received from the Air Force was enough to send only one child to school, and he knew that wasn’t going to be him.
At the age of fourteen, Ronald found his limitations a hindrance. He was too young to join the military, too young to hold down a fulltime job, and too young to apply for government assistance. He was forced to work three jobs, while his mother cleaned the homes of the wealthy. When he was nineteen, Ronald lucked into a job that launched his career in pharmaceuticals.
As he was busing the tables at a local restaurant, he overheard two customers talking about an opening at Merck, for a man to visit doctors’ offices and hospitals, and inform them of a new immunization they had developed. That night he went to the library and checked out six books. Five on pharmaceuticals, and one on resume preparations.
First thing Monday morning, Ronald was at the front desk of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, his old brown suit across his muscular frame, and thirteen dollars in his pocket. Two hours later, he was given the keys to a company car, the money for a new suit, and a territory of twenty doctors and three hospitals.
It only took a few months for the young man to take the information he had learned from his visits, to understand what the medical profession needed and wanted. Again, luck was his ally. He met a young, ambitious resident working for a local pediatrician. They had been overrun with children suffering from pertussis. After discussing the disease with the doctor, and the resident, Ronald decided to do a bit of research into the problem.
Working in secret, the resident and Ronald decided to try and find a cure. Six months later, they sold their idea to two pharmaceutical companies, and made enough to start their own business. Ten years later, Ronald bought his partner out and turned his company into a fierce competitor to his former employer.
At last, he was able to move past a dismal, frustrating youth. He moved his mother into a home of her own, and helped his little brother settle into his own law career. The only thing missing from his young life, was a woman of his own.
That was when he met the beautiful Carolyn Dalton. She had applied for a secretarial position with his company, but instead of offering a place in the pool, he married her. Haden was born two years later, but after a long, serious bout with colon cancer, that even his medications couldn’t cure, his beautiful Carol died. All he had left was Haden, and he wasn’t going to let him destroy his life before he learned to live it.
Ronald opened his eyes when the door to his office opened and his assistant, Kelly, stepped in. She smiled at him as she set a cup of fresh coffee on his desk.
“I thought you might need something to drink, but I only had coffee,” she chuckled a she sat down in the chair opposite him.
“Is there a reason I may need something stronger?” Ronald asked, picking up the cup and taking a drink, forcing the disgusted look from his face.
Kelly was the best assistant he’d ever had, but she didn’t know much about making coffee. It was either too weak, or too strong, but the effort was appreciated, nevertheless.
“I heard from your son,” she said, brushing the died red curls from her face and pushing her glasses back up her hook nose. “He wanted you to know he’s back from Italy, but only for a few days. He has plans of going to Ireland next week but wanted to spend the fourth with you and celebrate his birthday.”
“I appreciate you letting me know,” Ronald said with a deep sigh as he sat the cup back on the desk.
“Can I offer you a piece of advice?” Kelly asked, crossing her legs beneath the long black skirt.
“That depends on whether I’ll get angry and fire you, or not,” he smiled back, his tone a deep teasing.
“I think it’s time you clipped that boy’s wings. You could always use a new partner, and he’s old enough to start learning the business. I’m surprised he hasn’t come back from one of his many travels with a wife. Or an STD.”
Ronald laughed as he pushed away from his desk and removed the suitcoat from the back of the leather chair. He glanced at the clock, anxious to start the long weekend away from work.
“It’s five thirty now,” he began with a wicked grin. “I’ll wager, by this time next month, my son is either going to be exhausted from working, or sore from where I’ve kicked him in the ass.”
“I’ll take that wager,” Kelly laughed as she stood from the chair. “I’d like to see Haden do something other than swimming or playing tennis.”
“If I promise to keep you up to date, will you promise to take tomorrow off and go home? I’m sure your husband would be thrilled to sleep in. I’ll even spring for a weekend in Vegas if you want.”
“It’s an agreement. It’s been a long time since Albert and I have been alone, and the kids are going to my brother’s for the holiday.”
“Then do one last thing for me and make the reservations. Someplace nice, with room service and a hot tub.”
“That I will do and thank you. I’m sure Albert will appreciate time away from the chaos of his mother and her chihuahua.”
“How’s it been, having your mother-in-law living with you?” Ronald asked, picking up his briefcase and walking to the door with the woman.
“It’s somewhere between hell and purgatory,” Kelly snickered. “The woman is insane. She doesn’t like my cooking, she hates the way I fold clothes, and she’s always complaining that Albert spends too much time in the garage working on cars.”
“But he’s a mechanic. What else is he supposed to do?”
“Who knows. Maybe she needs someone to walk Mr. Winkie.”
“Well, go to Vegas and enjoy yourselves, and don’t think about anything at home. It will all be there when you get back.”
“Is it too much to hope that she runs away with the milkman while we’re gone?” Kelly asked with a wide grin.
“I would suggest you get a milkman before you try marrying her off to him,” Ronald chuckled, hugging his assistant and walking to the door to the hallway.
He closed the door and walked to the private elevator that took him down the sixteen floors to the garage. He removed his key from his pocket and pressed the button, unlocking the doors to his black Tesla SUV. He tossed his briefcase to the seat beside him and closed the door, then drew another deep breath. He was definitely looking forward to relaxing and seeing his son after many months of traveling, but he had a feeling the fireworks weren’t going to have anything to do with the holiday.
Ronald finished packing his overnight bag for the boat, glancing to his phone. He arrived back to the mansion he had bought his wife as a wedding present, but Haden wasn’t there. He’d left a message on the fridge, just as he had when he was a teenager, informing his father that he’d gone out with Aaron and would be back late. He promised to meet him for breakfast the next morning, but that had been two hours ago.
As much as he wanted to see his son, he didn’t dare go to his room to wake him. The last time he did that, he was surprised by the image of Haden asleep in bed with two attractive young women, the floor covered in clothes and three empty bottles of expensive champagne.
He took his phone off the bedside table and sent a text to Haden, then picked up his bag and left the master bedroom. He walked down the grand staircase and into the foyer. He’d ordered his driver to pick him up at eleven o’clock, then instructed the shipyard to have his yacht ready for him to take it out. A few hours of sailing would prove to be just the ticket he would need to clear his mind and make certain he was making the right decisions.
The doorbell rang as Ronald set his bag on a bench at the side of the oversized room. He glanced across his shoulder to Bentley, his butler of twenty years, and waved him back, then walked to the door and opened it.
“Good morning, Mr. Valentini,” Dustin said, tipping his black cap to reveal a bald tanned head above his dark eyes.
“Good morning Dustin,” Ronald answered, walking back to pick up his bag. “Ready to take off?”
“Yes sir. I thought your son was going to join you?”
“I guess he’s changed his mind,” Ronald said, the sound of disappointment echoed in his voice as he glanced up the empty staircase.
Ronald slipped his arm through the strap of his bag and walked to the door, glancing behind him once more before closing it. He climbed into the back of the limousine and set his bag on the floor, watching the large fifteen-bedroom mansion disappear from sight as Dustin pulled out of the security gate.
He knew, deep down inside, Haden wouldn’t be ready to leave this early. He liked the nightclubs, the dancing and flirting with young, beautiful women. But he had held out hope that his approaching birthday on Sunday would have helped him mature. He wanted his son to act responsibly and to show respect for his own father.
Ronald knew Haden loved him, that wasn’t the point. They had been very close when he was younger, and grew even closer after Carol died, but as he grew older and discovered girls and liquor, he became more distracted. He liked all the things his father’s money could buy him. He liked the toys, the cars, the leisure, but all of that was going to change very soon.
Opening the cabinet at the side of the car, Ronald removed a wine cooler from the small refrigerator and unscrewed the top. He was more determined now then ever to shake his son’s life up a bit and help him open his eyes. He wanted him to be the man he knew he was capable of, even if that meant alienating him from his own life.
Ronald stared out at the passing cars as Dustin drove silently to the pier. He barely noticed the cars passing by as he stared out at the ocean. He often wondered what life would have been like, had he chosen to continue working for Merck instead of forming his own company. He wondered if Haden would have been more responsible, or if he’d still turned out to be the playboy he was.
“The weather is reporting clear sailing, and warm temperatures, Mr. Valentini,” Dustin said, breaking the silence and bringing his passenger out of his solitary state. “A typical California summer.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Ronald smiled. “I never want to go through another storm like last year.”
“That was a rough one, that’s for sure, but it wasn’t anything you did. That storm switched directions in the blink of an eye. You’re lucky to have made it back to port.”
“Yes, I was, thanks to Sigmund and Franz. I couldn’t have steered that boat without their help.”
“You have loyal people following you, sir.”
“Thank you. I feel very lucky.”
“Hopefully, you’ll be able to take some much-needed rest this weekend,” Dustin said, pulling off the road and into the parking lot of the pier.
“I’m certainly looking forward to the break.”
The limousine parked in the reserved stall and Dustin climbed out. Ronald drained the last of his drink, then placed the bottle into the plastic can in the back and slid across the seat. He grabbed his bag as the door opened, then climbed out of the back, blinking at the bright sun as he removed the sunglasses from his pocket.
Dustin closed the door and locked the car, then took the bag from Ronald and followed him down the wooden walkway to the large yacht at the far end. Sigmund and Franz were on deck when they arrived, waving to the older man who waved back. He may not have Haden with him, as he had hoped, but he did have loyal workers and followers, just as Dustin had said.
“Welcome aboard,” Sigmund said in a thick German accent.
“Thank you,” Ronald answered, shaking his hand as he stepped onto the back of the ship. “I hear we’re in for smooth sailing.”
“Yes sir, that’s what they say. I think you may need your sunblock this weekend.”
“That sounds good to me, so long as I can enjoy something other than a phone and a boardroom.”
Ronald turned and took his bag from Dustin, then shook his hand and handed him an envelope from the front pocket of the leather satchel.
“Take this and enjoy your weekend with that girlfriend of yours,” he told the man. “I don’t want you thinking about work for three whole days.”
“Thank you, sir, and I suggest you follow your own advice. You need time off as well.”
“That I do,” Ronald said with a deep sigh.
He watched his driver head back down the pier before turning back to the men responsible for taking the ship out to sea. He had hoped that Haden would have woken and followed them to the ship, but the pier remained empty except for Dustin.
“Shall we get under way?” Ronald asked, forcing as much enthusiasm into his voice as he could.
Sigmund nodded, realizing that the older man’s son was once again standing his father up. He watched Ronald walk into the parlor of the ship before turning to his partner and shaking his head. Haden wasn’t earning very many points with the couple, or with his own father. His party lifestyle was beginning to consume his every thought, and it was reflecting on his normal activities.
Ronald removed a bottle of water from the refrigerator behind the bar, then sat down on the plush sofa. He unscrewed the cap and placed the bottle to his lips as his phone began to buzz. With a heavy sigh, he removed it from his pocket and pressed the button, then frowned when he saw the message from his son.
Dad, sorry I missed the trip with you. I’ll hire a boat to bring me out to you, just let me know where you’re anchored. Love you. H.
Well, at least he was awake, even though it was after noon, Ronald thought, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the sofa. In one way he was looking forward to seeing Haden, but in another he was dreading the outcome of the weekend. With a determined set to his jaw, he stood from the sofa and walked down the narrow passage to his room. He wasn’t going to back out now. He had to open the boy’s eyes, and make him see the error of his ways, before his father was too old to enjoy the man he knew his son could be.