He smiled when he saw Sheridan waiting for him. As soon as he cleared security, she rushed into his arms and hugged him. “It’s so good to see you,” she said and then pulled away when he gasped. “What’s wrong?” she asked in concern.
“The ribs.” He pointed to them and tried to smile through the pain. “They aren’t completely healed yet.”
“I am so sorry!” she exclaimed in regret.
“It’s OK. I’m all right.” He waved away her need to apologize.
“How is Eve doing?” she asked, taking his overnight bag to help him out. “And your son?”
“Eve is doing much better, thank God, and Evan is doing wonderfully. He has really been doing well since he has been around his mother,” he explained, pride shining in his eyes. “They are still in the hospital in Bermuda though. I want to wait till Eve is stronger before I fly them back home,” he said as they walked through the lobby toward the parking lot.
“I am so glad. You have no idea how much I prayed that all of you would be all right. With Father gone, you are all that I have left…you and your family.” She sobered at the thought.
Julian placed his arm around her shoulder. “Thank you, I appreciate it.” He smiled and then sighed heavily. “It is sad to say, but we are better off without him. He caused us nothing but pain and misery.”
“I know.” Sheridan’s voice trembled. “Still though, he was our father.”
“I understand how you feel. Even though he was a horrible man, a part of me is sad that he had to die in such a horrible state,” he said somberly.
“I am almost afraid of what to expect at the reading of his will today,” Sheridan said as she climbed into the limousine and then turned and tried to help Julian get in himself, gently, trying not to aggravate his ribs.
“Maybe we should have postponed this, Julian, till you are better.” Sheridan watched him in concern as he gasped when he finally settled in.
“No, I am fine. I just need to lean back to give my ribs a little room.” He smiled weakly.
“You are not fine, Julian. I can see the pain you are in,” Sheridan objected, trying to reason with him.
Julian took her hand and squeezed it. “I love you for being so concerned, but I want to get this over with so that I can get back to Eve and my son.” He smiled tenderly at the thought of them.
He had not wanted to leave her alone, but Eve had insisted that he take care of his family business, that that was important too. She promised, with a sweet and tender kiss, that she would be eagerly awaiting his return.
Julian raised his fingers to his lips. The memory of Eve’s kiss was an ever present reminder of how good God had been to him. “Let’s go; I can’t wait to get this out of the way,” he said stubbornly.
Sheridan sighed; she knew it was futile to try to change his mind.
“You know, Sheridan, I wouldn’t expect too much today. Father always has ways of sticking it to people, even one last time.” Julian looked out the limo windows at the landscape surrounding Harmony.
“I know. I don’t expect him to leave me anything besides my trust fund. Having women run the company was not something he approved of,” she said, her face tense with disapproval.
“Well, I have a feeling things are going to change drastically for the Crane family, starting with who runs what.” Julian smiled at her.
“Do you know something?” Sheridan asked curiously.
“Nothing in particular, but the last time I talked to Father about his Will, he was leaving me everything. Unless he has changed his mind recently, I don’t expect there to be any surprises.” Julian squeezed her hand. “He has this belief that one man should run everything, be in control of it all. My guess is that he hopes that the money and power will turn me into an image of him.” Julian snorted at the idea. “A few years ago, that might have just been the case.” He closed his eyes and breathed a prayer of thanks that he wasn’t the man he used to be.
When they arrived at Crane Industries, Karen Cullen rushed out of the building to greet Julian and Sheridan. “Mr. Crane, it’s so wonderful to see you back in Harmony.” She grinned.
“Hi, Karen.” He smiled. “How have things been going without me?”
“It’s been going. Not as smoothly as when you are here, but it’s been going.” She took his bag and held the door open for him and Sheridan.
Sheridan smiled her thanks and followed Julian into the building.
“Julian!” Ben Master, his lawyer, greeted him with a firm handshake.
“Ben.” Julian nodded. “I assume everything is set?”
“Yes, your father’s...” He paused and looked over Julian’s shoulder as a beautiful African-American woman entered Crane Industries. His eyes followed her as she headed for the elevators.
“What??” Julian turned to see what he was looking at.
“Um, excuse me; I’ll meet you in the boardroom in a few minutes. There is something I have to do first.” He headed for the elevators and stepped into the one next to the elevator she took.
“What the hell?” Julian asked in confusion as he watched the doors to the elevator close with Ben inside. Shaking his head, he headed for the boardroom.
In the elevator, Ben Master stood, his heart pounding with anticipation. He pushed each button to make certain it would stop at every floor. Each floor, he got out and checked if she was there. Each time, he was disappointed.
Feeling foolish, he decided to give it up and head back down to the lobby. Staring up at the ceiling, he staggered a bit when the elevator stopped. His heart stopped when there before him stood the woman he had been searching for.
She smiled politely and stepped into the elevator, pressing the ground floor button.
He smiled weakly as his heart pounded wildly in his chest, and he couldn’t help but stare at her shocking resemblance to Julian’s wife, Eve.
She shifted under his gaze and finally parted her red lips and spoke. “Are you all right?”
Ben blinked. “Uh, yes, why do you ask?”
“I’m not sure, you seem a bit…” She paused, searching for the proper word.
“I’m fine, really.” Ben smiled. “My name is Ben Master.” He extended his hand in greeting.
“Tracey Rozz.” She placed her hand in his.
Julian drummed his fingers impatiently against the long, gleaming, solid wood boardroom table. “Where the hell is Ben?” He turned to Sheridan, who shrugged in response.
A moment later, Ben Master entered the room, a broad smile on his face.
Julian glanced at him sideways. “What was the hold-up?”
Ben sat down next to him and leaned closer. “I think I have found my Eve.” He grinned.
Julian raised his eyebrows. “I beg your pardon?”
Ben laughed. “I just met the most incredible…”
Alistair Crane’s lawyer, Palmer Harper, cleared his throat loudly to get everyone’s attention. “I see that everyone is here.” He surveyed the group consisting of Julian, Sheridan, and Fox. He pulled out a piece of paper and looked at it for a moment. Looking at Julian, he said, “Your father had me write a new will the night before he died. He requested that everything be left to Fox Crane.”
Fox grinned in delight.
“But…” Harper smirked at Fox’s enthusiasm. “He died before he had a chance to sign it, so it’s useless. His old will still stands.” He pulled out a tape and put it into the VCR as Fox’s face fell in disappointment.
Alistair Crane’s face appeared on the TV screen, and everyone’s attention turned at the sound of his voice. “If you, my sorry excuses for offspring, are listening to this, the unthinkable has happened, and I have passed on to claim my throne on the other side.” Alistair laughed. “Oh, don’t look so shocked, I am the most powerful man on earth. Why not continue after I leave it?” he smirked arrogantly.
Fox snickered. “I have a feeling he might just do that.”
Julian frowned. “Give God a little credit, Fox. Father may have been a force to be reckoned with here, but there…let’s just say, I think that father has finally gotten what he deserves.”
Returning their attention to the TV screen, they continued to listen to Alistair insult them. “Julian, my miserable excuse for a son, you better have given up on that ridiculous piece of black trash you have been chasing after. She is so far beneath us Cranes; she isn’t fit to shine our shoes. Get rid of this foolish notion that you ‘love’ her. She does not deserve to breathe the same air as us.” Alistair’s nostrils flared angrily as he slammed his fist onto the desk. “Find yourself a decent woman, for God’s sake…one that won’t taint our bloodlines! Be the man I raised you to be, so that you can run this empire properly, without some sniveling whore robbing you blind every time you turn your back.”
Julian’s face turned red with anger, his heart pounding madly in his chest, as the uncontrollable rage at his father’s words rose within him. “If you weren’t already dead, Father, I would kill you with my bare hands for that,” he snarled at the face on the screen, desperately trying to control himself as his knuckles became white from the fierce grip of his clenched fingers. “You arrogant son-of-a-bitch, you deserve the hell you are rotting in!”
Ben reached out and placed his hand on Julian’s tense shoulder. “Relax, Julian. The pig is dead. Don’t let him get to you the way he obviously intended.”
“I swear to God, Ben, I would have killed him had he said that to my face.” Julian tried to take his advice and relaxed a little. “I am so glad that Eve didn’t have to hear that. She has been through enough because of me.” His heart broke at the abuse she had had to endure from his father because of her race.
“Yes, it is a good thing she wasn’t here. No one should have to go through that.” He thought of the woman he’d met in the elevator. ‘To think, that someone would actually think less of her because she wasn’t white.’ Ben shook his head in amazement.
“Sheridan, my wayward daughter,” Alistair smirked, “if you insist on staying with that Lopez-Fitzgerald, I will have no choice but to disown you. This is my will, that unless you drop him immediately, you get nothing!” He pounded his desk to punctuate his remarks. “And I want you to live the rest of your miserable life knowing that I hold you responsible for your mother’s death. I would still have my wife if it weren’t for you! I would still have my wife!” he roared in an almost demonic rage as his desk rattled from the blows his fists dealt it.
Julian leaped from his chair and yanked the TV off the stand, slamming it onto the floor, setting off sparks and smoke that made everyone shriek in surprise. “Enough, I have heard enough of this garbage!” he roared. “I refuse to listen to another word.” His eyes blazed with anger as he stared at Harper, while Sheridan wept quietly. “You will tell us the bottom line, and you will tell us now!” He moved towards him threateningly.
Palmer Harper backed up and held up his hands in surrender, clearing his throat nervously.
Sheridan tried to compose herself after hearing what her father had said, as Julian clutched his ribs, in obvious physical pain from what he had just done.
“He is a sick and evil man, Sheridan. Don’t lose sleep over what he said. It wasn’t your fault; it never was.” He wiped the tears from her cheeks and then kissed her forehead.
“Thank you, Julian, but you shouldn’t have done that; you must be in terrible pain.” Concern masked her face.
“Don’t worry about me. A little pain to shut him up is worth it.” He sat down gingerly, leaning back and trying to breathe through the pain.
Harper began, nervously, clearly rattled by Julian’s display of anger. “Sheridan gets nothing if she insists on marrying Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald.”
Sheridan gasped. Even dead, her father was still determined to ruin her life. “I don’t care,” she spat. “I don’t need his money, and I am certainly not going to give up Luis for it.”
Julian reached over and squeezed her hand in support. “Don’t worry, Sheridan. I won’t let him get away with this.”
“Julian Crane,” Harper continued. “You get everything…the company, the real estate, businesses…everything owned by the Crane Empire.”
“If he gets everything, what do I get?” Fox asked, confused.
“You get to be the next Crane heir, since Ethan is no longer a Crane,” he explained, and then turned to face Julian again. “You have to groom Fox to take over after you, Julian.”
Fox rolled his eyes. “Whatever! What makes you think he will stick to grandfather’s demands?”
“Well, you can always take this to court,” Harper offered hopefully.
“No, thanks.” Julian got up. “Fox, you and I are going to be working very closely together from now on. You are my firstborn son. It is only right that you are the next heir. But I am warning you, there will be some serious changes made in this business.”
After the meeting, Julian sat in his chair and pondered the things that had just taken place.
Everyone had left except for Ben Master, who sat next to him. “Julian, this is a huge responsibility you are taking on. Are you sure that you still want me as your legal representative? My firm has very little experience with such a huge corporation.”
Julian absently reached out and patted his hand as if he were a child. “You’re just the man for the job, Ben. You have a face that I know I can trust.” He chuckled suddenly. “Come to think of it, Ben, you rather remind me of myself.”
Ben laughed. “Minus the money, right?”
“Oh, I don’t think you are going to be complaining about your income for a very long time to come.” Julian grinned and reached to shake his hand. “First thing’s first, I am flying back to Bermuda tonight, so I will see you when I get back.” He got up and headed for the door.
“That’s fine. I have a few things to do anyway.” Ben grinned as he thought of Tracey Rozz.
Julian raised his eyebrows curiously. “Well, I would love to hear about it, but right now all I can think about is Eve.” He smiled and left the room.