Blitzed by the BillionaireBy: Alice Ward
Uncle Walt took a sip of his wine and wiped his mouth with a crisp linen napkin.
“Slow down, sweetheart. Claudia and I met about four months ago. I flew a nonstop to JFK, then took the jumpseat on a flight back home for my weekend off. Claudia had been in the city presenting a paper. We spent the whole flight talking. I think you’ll really like her.”
“I can’t believe you’re going to introduce me to a woman,” I observed, my hunger finally outweighing my shock. I cleaned my appetizer plate while Walt continued.
“I can hardly believe it myself. But it’s happening. As for why I didn’t tell you earlier, I wanted to wait until I knew things were serious. Claudia’s amazing, but like I said, she isn’t the only reason I’m leaving the airline. The constant traveling is starting to wear me out. I’ve never liked spending so much time away from you and I can finally afford to do something about it. I have savings, my pension, and I’ve taken a part-time job at a local charter company. I’m thrilled about all of this, Em. I hope you are too.”
I studied him for a moment and then smiled. “If you’re thrilled, I’m thrilled. It will be nice to have you around more often. And I can’t wait to meet Claudia. Maybe we could all have dinner next weekend.”
“I’ll check with her and see what fits in her schedule,” he promised.
Ben scooted his chair away from the table and rose to his feet. “Excuse me, restroom,” he explained, tossing his napkin on the table. He left and my uncle turned to me with a scowl.
“Come on,” I groaned. “I just said if you’re happy, I’m happy. Can’t you just do the same in return?”
“Absolutely not,” Walt replied with a slight shake of his head. “I know this guy has you snowed. But he isn’t who he wants you to think he is, Em. He’s a slick talking cad. Trust me, I’m right. I can spot my own kind from a mile away.”
I was stunned into silence when he acknowledged his sordid romantic past. He gave me an amused smile and an eye roll of his own.
“You’re an adult now, Emily. I think we can speak openly about this. I think we should talk openly about it. I know you know I liked to sew my wild oats, so to speak. But unlike Benny, I never pretended to be someone I’m not. If there’s one thing I can say for myself, I never let a woman believe I wanted a serious relationship. I flat out told them I didn’t. But this guy… he’s a real piece of work, sweetheart.”
I pushed my shoulders back and stared back at him defiantly. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. And you’re making me angry. Ben is one of the good guys, Uncle Walt. He’s stable and wholesome, and you should see him with the kids. In fact, now that you’re going to be around more often, you should come to the club and watch a few games. I know you’re convinced that no man will ever be good enough for me, but if you’d just give Ben a chance—”
“I’m quite sure there’s a man out there good enough for you,” he corrected me. “I’m even more certain that Ben isn’t that man. I can see I’m upsetting you, so I’ll drop it. But only if you promise me something.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”
“Let another school year pass before you make any life-altering decisions.”
I narrowed my eyes and scowled back at him. “If Ben asks me to marry him, I’m going to say yes.”
“I get that. But—”
“Here we are,” Kevin sang, sidling up to our table with a large tray balanced on one arm. “Sorry for the wait,” he continued, distributing the plates around the table. I stared down at my steamed mussels and pasta, thankful for the interruption. I swirled linguini around my fork and felt a gentle, familiar hand on my back.
“Perfect timing,” Ben said, sliding back into his seat. “I’m starving.”
“Is everything okay? You were gone awhile,” I whispered while Walt was distracted by Kevin.
“I’m fine,” he insisted. He spread his napkin across his lap and sprinkled salt on his swordfish.
He’s up to something. But it has to be something innocent. I know him better than Walt. Besides, if he were a player, he wouldn’t have stuck around for an entire year.
Kevin carried the tray back to the kitchen and Walt turned to Ben with a somewhat forced smile.
“Emily invited me to come watch some of your games at the club. How many teams do you coach?”
“I coach one basketball, one football, and one baseball team,” Ben explained. “But I coordinate all three programs.”