“Where are you?” Dean angrily asked.
Morgan calmly set down her suitcase by the front door, and turned to face Tabatha. “Hello Dean, how are you today?”
“Where are you?” he repeated.
“I’m at home,” she calmly answered.
“I just stopped off at your office, to drop off these divorce papers that I’ve signed,” he said angrily.
It was obvious, that Dean had discovered what she had done. She waited calmly, in silence, for Dean to continue.
“You can imagine my surprise, in finding out, that you don’t work there anymore.”
Morgan could hear him spitting out each and every word. She could tell that he was pissed with her for having made such a drastic change that would affect his financial future.
“You sold your business?” he asked incredulously.
Morgan smiled to herself. “Well no actually, I didn’t sell it. I gave it away. The employees now own the company. I’m no longer a shareholder at Morgan Gibson & Associates. Although, I’m sure that they’re in the process of changing the name by now.”
“I signed these papers in good faith, Morgan,” he snapped. “You said that you wanted an amicable divorce, and I was willing to give it to you, but I had no idea that you would do something so sneaky and underhanded as sell your business.”
“The key word there Dean, is that it was my business. Mine, to do with as I choose. I don’t answer to you anymore. I don’t answer to you when it comes to our marriage, and I certainly don’t answer to you when it comes to my business,” she said matter-of-factly.
“My lawyer is going to have a field day with this in court, Morgan. You are intentionally trying to screw me and I won’t stand for it.”
Morgan sighed and shook her head. “Dean, I gave you absolutely everything in the divorce settlement. I am sharing custody and playing nice. I’m sure the courts will find our financial settlement to be more than fair.” She glanced at Tabatha before continuing. “Dean, I’m just about to step out the door. I’m heading away for the weekend. The kids will be at your house after school. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time with them,” she added sarcastically. “I’ll be back on Sunday night. You’re welcome to drop off those forms with my lawyer. So if there’s nothing else to discuss, I have to go. I’ll see you in court next Thursday.”
She was just about to hang up when she heard his voice.
“Wait, where you going?”
“I don’t answer to you anymore, Dean,” she sang in a sweet voice before enthusiastically pressing the red button to end the call.
“That, felt really good,” she said to her friend. “Now, let’s get out of here. I am dying to see what that house in Texas looks like.”
Pulling up to the local commuter terminal to see a sleek, white jet sitting on the tarmac was a reality check for Morgan.
“That’s your jet?” Tabitha gasped.
Morgan tried to nod through her numbness.
“Really? I kinda thought it would be bigger,” Tabitha said in jest. It was just what Morgan needed to hear to settle her nerves. Since their first day meeting during the MBA program they had taken, the two women had been close friends. Mature students who had each grown disenchanted with their corporate jobs, they had found they had similar goals and styles of learning. Working together on assignments, they had pushed each other to excel. Their peers had called them over achievers. Neither Morgan nor Tabitha considered it the insult that it had been met to be.
“Thanks for tagging along this weekend, Tabby. This entire experience is a little surreal.”
The petite woman with sleek black hair gave her friend a quick hug. “What kind of friend would I be if I passed up the opportunity to jet off to see a Texas mansion?” she kidded.
Morgan smiled. “Grab your bag. It looks like they’re ready for us.”
A call to her former client, Jack Beringer, had the airline executive eager to walk Morgan through the intricacies of private jet ownership once he heard of her new asset. He had arranged to have the crew fly the Daussalt Falcon 2000, at the regional airport where he offered her access to maintenance crews and a fuel supply. He had also offered her wise counsel on how to optimize the jet by leasing it out to executives when it wasn’t in use. Morgan took the advice under advisement, promising to consider his proposal once she determined how often she would be using the luxury airliner for personal use.
This weekend, she was headed to Texas to see the primary residence of Jim Pattison. Next, she hoped to be flying to DC to meet Fitz. By spring, she hoped to visit the farm in Tuscany to take in the villa. Somewhere in between, Morgan wanted to squeeze in a shopping trip to New York to check out the condo with a view of Central Park, and a ski trip with the kids to Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia.
And Belize, she reminded herself as she walked across the tarmac. She was very eager to relax and soak up some sun on the private island off the Central American coast. Yes…she would make good use of the jet, now that she was unemployed and on the verge of a welcomed divorce.
“Welcome, Ms. Gibson. “I’m Paul Tillbury,” the captain greeted as he stood alongside the crew.
His greeting reminded Morgan that reverting to her maiden name should be added to her to do list.
“Good afternoon,” she replied. “Thank you for accommodating us in such short notice.”
“Let me introduce you to your crew. This is first officer, Neil Branson. In the cabin today, Chrissy Heart will be looking after you. The captain waved her toward the stairs. “After you, ma’am. As soon as you’re seated, we’ll be ready to take off.”
Morgan ascended the stairs with Tabitha close behind. Inside, Morgan froze when she saw the spacious cabin with seating for ten. Lavish opulence surrounded her. When Tabitha led her toward a roomy leather seat, she willingly sunk into the sumptuous chair.
“This is incredible,” Tabitha crooned as the jet began to taxi toward the runway.
Before they could reach full speed, Morgan quickly fired off a text to Fitz to let him know that she was spending the weekend in Texas. She would message when she could.
Just as the wheels lifted off the runway, she hit send, and quickly switched her phone to airplane mode. Morgan knew that she had just experienced the smoothest takeoff in her all of her flying experience.
When they reached cruising altitude, Chrissy appeared with an assortment of imported mature cheeses and breads that were perfectly paired with a red wine. Next, came a platter of oysters that were accompanied by fresh cut lemon and two glasses of prosecco.
Morgan raised her hand when a plate of cut fruit was set in front of her. “This has been incredible, Chrissy, but if I eat much more, you’ll have to roll me out the door and down the stairs.”
The steward smiled and then excused herself to the galley, reminding her new boss that she was just a holler away, if anything additional was needed.
When Chrissy disappeared, Morgan released her seatbelt and stood to stroll around the cabin. She walked amongst the seating area, feeling the silken pillows as she admired the intricate carpets. “This looks like a television,” she observed as she picked up a remote. With a click of the button, the screen came to life.
“Oh, let me take care of that,” Chrissy exclaimed as she rushed toward the screen. “Is there a particular movie you’d like to watch? If you have a list of favorites, I can make sure we have them available on future flights.”
Morgan slowly handed over the remote. “I didn’t have anything in mind. I was just looking around.”
Chrissy smiled before giving her boss a ten minute guided tour of the cabin, highlighting each luxurious feature, including the seating area that converted into a bed. When she was done, Morgan took her seat in stunned silence.
Tabitha leaned over and whispered in her ear. “She either heard or saw us from the galley. That’s not at all creepy.”
Morgan made a mental note to guard her privacy on future excursions.
Before they knew it, the jet was touching down at the William P Hobby airport where they taxied toward a small terminal building. When the door was opened, Morgan stepped forward, to see a chauffeured driven car waiting at the bottom of the steps.
“Did I arrange this?” she wondered aloud.
The captain, who had emerged from the cockpit, leaned forward and whispered in her ear. ”When you call to book a flight, all of your travel arrangements are made. It’s a part of the service.”
Morgan smiled weakly and shook his hand before descending the stairs. Being a billionaire would take some getting used to.
When the car pulled through the iron gates and up the drive of their destination, all conversation between the two friends ceased. Speechless, the two friends looked out the window in awe as they approached the 16,000 square foot home. Pulling through a brick archway, the car came to a stop in the pebbled courtyard.
Morgan pulled out the file of information she had been given on the house.
“It says here that the six bedroom home was designed by Curtis & Windham architects. Apparently, New York interior designer Bunny Williams is responsible for the interior.” Morgan read out the remainder of the description before flipping the key between her fingers.
“Maybe we should go take a look,” Tabitha suggested.
Morgan nodded. Her feelings of loss for the man who had once been a client, were set aside. It was time to see how a billionaire lived.
Stone blended with wood on the exterior of the English style country home. The massive double doors opened up to a second set of even larger double doors that opened to the most massive foyer Morgan had ever seen. Dark wood and rich carpets gave her the immediate impression that they were entering a man’s abode. The double height-living room with massive sinker cypress trusses and banks of tall casement windows we’re an odd compliment to the hunting trophies of moose and deer hanging around the room.
“We may have to so something about those,” Tabitha observed.
“The hardwood floors are antique,” Morgan commented. “They’re reclaimed from North Carolina tobacco barns.”
“Good to know,” Tabitha observed before touring to the next room of the house.
“It’s impressive,” Morgan observed as they entered the den. “The woodwork and fireplaces are stunning, but it’s clear to see that a man lived here.”
Tabitha nodded. “Machismo is the word that comes to mind,” she said as she ran her hand over a pool table. “When did your rich guy die?” she queried. “Everything is spotless and free of dust for furniture that’s been sitting idle for months.”
Morgan referred to the notes David Cooper had provided. “My understanding is that there’s a staff of six, including a butler,” she read.
“Well, where do you think they are?” Tabitha wondered.
The two women gave themselves a self-guided tour of the main floor that led them through the gourmet kitchen complete with custom cabinetry and English black slate counters. Designed for hired service, the kitchen came complete with a Dutch door that allowed for pass through service to the rear terrace and pool. Glancing through the window, Morgan could see movement in the rear yard.
“Perhaps we’ve found them,” she said dryly.
With a view of the pool, they walked over flagstone pathways, through the garden gate toward voices. Voices, with distinct southern accents.
Standing at the entrance to the outdoor living area, Morgan admired the sparkling pool where four adults sat lounging in the sunshine.
“I do hope we’re not interrupting,” she said boldly enough to make all four sunbathers jump in surprise. “I’m Morgan, the heir to Mr. Pattison’s estate. That makes this my house, and my pool that you happen to be lounging around. Who might you be?” she pointedly asked.
“Oh ma’am,” one gentlemen explained as he jumped to his feet and quickly fetched a robe. “My name is Phillip and I’m the butler of the house,” he added with a subdued smile.
“Not anymore,” Morgan said firmly. “You’re fired.”
The smile instantly faded.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Tabitha whispered.
Morgan noted the empty wine bottle on the table. “You’re lazing around when you’re being paid to work, drinking wine that isn’t yours. In my books, that’s theft.” She turned to the two women and one man who now stood by their poolside loungers. “And who might you be?”
The short blonde spoke first. “Housekeeping, ma’am.”
The second woman repeated the first.
“I’m the chef,” the plump man added.
Morgan surveyed the crew. “Mr. Pattison entrusted you with the responsibility of this house. You’ve completely abused that confidence. You have thirty minutes to gather your things and leave.”
When the uncomfortable confrontation was over, Tabitha rummaged through the refrigerator to find the two women something to eat. With a tray of goodies assembled, they made their way through the house in search of the elusive wine vault that had been referred to in Morgan’s notes. Finally discovering the spacious room on the lower level, they settled at a round table in the wine tasting room before embarking on a hunt for a bottle of red wine.
“There’s a dumb waiter over here,” Morgan exclaimed as she investigated the unique intricacies of the vault.
“There’s a case of wine from the Bordeaux region over here. Is this a good place to start?”
Morgan inspected the label of the vintage bottle from France. “You know, there are some priceless collectables in here. We should probably find out if this is one of them,” she cautioned.
Tabitha googled the name and year on the bottle before scrolling through the results on her phone. “It’s listed here as $95 a bottle and appears to be in wide circulation including a number of restaurants in New York.”
Morgan scanned the wall of bottles. “That’s probably a bargain bottle in this collection,” she sighed. “Crack it open and let’s see how it tastes.”
It wasn’t until the plates of food had been cleared and Tabitha had poured the final drops from a second bottle, that Morgan opened up and confided in her about a man named Fitz.
She spoke candidly about how they can connected online and then gradually developed a friendship that more recently had blossomed into more serious feelings. She spoke of his humor and intelligence that she found most attractive. When pressed for details, she described what he looked like.
“How old is he?” Tabitha asked when Morgan took a break to drain her glass.
“Twenty-two,” Morgan sheepishly replied.
“Holy hell!” Tabitha exclaimed. “Are you serious?”
Morgan just nodded and grinned.
Tabitha stood up and grabbed a new bottle of wine and two fresh glasses. “Do we care at this point if this bottle is priceless?” she giggled.
“Hell no,” Morgan laughed. “Pop that cork and pour me a glass.”
Tabitha was happy to oblige, pouring a generous portion into each glass before taking her seat. “What does he look like?” she curiously asked.
Morgan smiled widely as she retrieved a photo from her phone and showed it to her friend.
“Holy hotness, Morgan! He’s gorgeous.”
Tabitha studied the image of the young man with thick black hair cut short on the side, with wavy lengths on top. Black rimmed glasses framed his dark blue eyes. His smile was warm, but flirtatious and it brought out a dimple in his right hand cheek.
“He has strong features,” she finally said as she handed back the device. “I can see why you’re attracted to him.”
“We should call him,” Morgan suggested excitedly. Without hesitation, she hit the icon that would connect them by Face Time. “I want you to meet him,” she gushed.
A second later, Tabitha heard a warm male voice on the line.
“Well hey there beautiful. I didn’t expect to hear from you tonight. Why are you calling so late?”
The goofy grin on Morgan’s face was comical.
“I was just telling my friend Tabitha about you and I had to call. Fitz, meet Tabitha,” Morgan invited as she turned the camera to face her friend.
Tabitha gave the handsome stranger a shy wave and a smile before Morgan shifted the lens.
“Where are you?” Fitz asked.
Tabitha recognized a look of panic on her friends face. It was obvious that she hadn’t yet told Fitz the entire story of her inheritance.
“We’re at a wine tasting bar,” Morgan explained.
“It looks fancy,” she heard Fitz say. “And …does this mean that you drunk dialed me, Morgan?”
The smile on her friends face that was brought on by talking to this hottie, made Tabitha smile. After years of loneliness in a dying relationship, Morgan deserved to be happy.
“What are you drinking?” Fitz asked.
Morgan held up one of the bottles that they had drained.
Fitz sighed. “That makes me want to take you out on a date.”
Tabitha smiled and listened in as the two talked and laughed together before Fitz suggested the two ladies get some rest.
“Call me tomorrow…afternoon when you’re sober, and you can tell me about your adventures,” he invited.
With a quick kiss at the camera, Morgan said goodbye and put down her phone.
“I can tell that he cares about you, Morgan. He doesn’t seem to care that you’re a little older than he is.”
“It hasn’t bothered him one bit. He thinks I’m beautiful and age is just a number. Right from the beginning he’s been more mature than most thirty year olds I know.”
Tabitha had witnessed that. “You haven’t told him about all this yet, have you?” she asked with a wave of her hand at their surroundings.
“No,” Morgan admitted.
“Have the two of you met in person yet?” Tabitha asked.
Morgan shook her head. “We planned to, but then everything with the estate happened, and then the divorce. I thought we should wait until after the court date this week to make sure that Dean doesn’t change his mind and contest the divorce. That could draw things out for months and I didn’t want to meet, get my hopes up with Fitz, and then have to put him on hold until summer.”
Tabitha was pleased that in all she was dealing with, her friend was thinking with her head, and not with her heart.
“If everything goes well at court, I was thinking of flying to DC to see him,” Morgan explained. “Maybe it’s just as easy to invite him to New York. I can check out the condo there and tell Fitz a little bit about the inheritance.”
Tabitha poured them each a final glass of wine. “Well, at least you know that he’s interested in you, and not your money.”
Morgan nodded. “I don’t want to lie by omission, but I do want to make sure his feelings are authentic.” Morgan took a sip of wine. “I suspect that when it comes to friends, family, and the general public, I’ll have to be very wary about why people want to be in my life.”
Sadly, Tabitha agreed. Morgan’s money would make her a target.
Tabitha picked at the crumbs left on their dinner plates. “You know, if you hadn’t fired that butler today, a late night snack would be appearing in that dumb waiter right about now.”
Morgan laughed and then groaned. “I’m starving. Let’s go find a snack and then find the bedrooms. I just want to crawl into bed and dream about Fitz and his really big cock tonight.”
Tabitha gasped and then laughed at her friend’s candor. “I don’t even want to know how it is that you know that,” she stated as they gathered the dishes, wondering where in this massive house, they should be washed.
Together, the two friends stumbled up the stairs to gradually find the way back to the kitchen. Tomorrow, they had work to do we they figured out how to make the home reflect Morgan’s style, rather than that of a Texas oilman.