Trading Hearts is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons in coincidental. Photo courtesy of www.islandhideaways.com.
“I hope I’m not keeping you from getting ready for work,” Brian said hesitantly as Natasha entered the living room. “I just wanted to drop off invitations for you and your employees to attend our annual Christmas Eve party.”
King Properties was famous on the island for its Christmas Eve blowouts, when it feted all the individuals and companies it had worked with during the year at its most fabulous villa.
This year Emerald Bay House was the location for the party and for months she had been looking forward to attending. Now the thought of spending time in Michael’s presence, and at that particular villa, made her queasy.
She raised an eyebrow. “Really? Christmas Eve is two weeks from now. You could have mailed the invitation or gotten someone to drop it off at my office,” she replied coolly.
He gave a small smile. “I guess I’m pretty transparent, right? I needed to talk to you and I didn’t want to do it at your office. The walls have ears and all that.”
She smoothed the hem of her roomy dress, specifically chosen to camouflage her swelling stomach. “I hope Michael…Alan isn’t wasting your time by sending you here.”
He shook his head and Natasha noticed that he was wearing his blond hair longer than usual, and that his starched designer shirts and tailored slacks had been replaced by a colourful polo shirt and jeans.
Brian caught her perusal of his attire and grinned. “I’m on holiday, the first one I’ve taken in about four years. Jasmine wants me to go Christmas shopping with her in Miami for a few days.”
Natasha rolled her eyes. “Good luck with that,” she drawled. “You were saying?”
“I wanted to apologise for my part in all this,” he started. “I know you think Michael deliberately deceived you but that isn’t the case.”
She signaled for him to go on. “Only the board members of King Properties knew Alan…Michael owned the company. He and I go way back, when his father worked for mine here in Barbados.”
“Michael and his family left for New York and he made it big on Wall Street. He’s a financial whizz-kid and made a killing in hedge funds at Goldman Sachs before starting his own investment firm. That boy must have been on the cover of Black Enterprise five times,” Brian added proudly.
A confused frown appeared on her face. “So how did he end back up here working construction?”
Brian chuckled. “Well, he may be worth a few billion dollars but he still likes to get his hands dirty. Michael always had a love for building and it made sense to invest in property in Barbados, with foreigners longing to get their hands on a piece of the rock. He also has investments in Ocho Rios, Jolly Beach and Rodney Bay and he’s done some work at all those properties.”
“When we set up King Properties seven years ago we agreed that it would be best if I became the face of the company. You know what it’s like here; no one asks questions when a white man owns property,” he said sheepishly.
Natasha hated to admit that there was some truth to his claim. “So he used his middle names to prevent people finding out his link to the company?” she queried.
“Exactly. At first it wasn’t an issue because Michael was always overseas and more like a silent partner, but when he came home to see Emerald Bay and oversee negotiations for the mall project, well…”
She nodded absentmindedly. “So, he doesn’t actually live here, then?”
His lips curled in a smile. “Well he was pretty comfortable at Emerald Bay till you came along, but his real home’s a duplex penthouse off Fifth Avenue.”
Natasha’s head began to spin as it digested all this new information. How was she going to break the news of her pregnancy to Michael without appearing like some desperate gold digger? she wondered.
Goddard continued. “He had planned to return to New York when the relocation aspect was finalised but you changed all that. And I didn’t like it one bit,” his tone becoming serious.
She smiled wryly. “Let me guess, you were enjoying being the boss, right?”
He chuckled. “And then some. Being the head of a powerful company like King Properties is addictive, and having Michael here meant I had to surrender some of the control. I put my selfish desires before our friendship and I’m not sure if things will ever be the same between us.”
Natasha had to find out. “Did he approve that letter Jasmine sent to my father?”
Brian blushed, embarrassed. “No, he knew nothing about it. Trust me, my ears are still ringing over the tongue-lashing he gave me.”
She nodded. “I appreciate you coming here to explain. I don’t know yet what will happen between Michael and me but at least now I know the truth.”
Brian rose and grasped her hand. “Then my job here is done. And please, consider coming to the party. Michael’s in Ochi right now but he’ll be back in time for the party. Then he’s leaving for New York on Boxing Day to spend New Year’s with his family.”
She walked him towards the front door. “I’ll bear that in mind. We’ll RSVP as soon as possible. And don't forget Kim is the point person for liaising with the event co-ordinators.”
Natasha closed the door behind Brian and leaned against it, sighing heavily.
“I guess I’m going to a party,” she whispered to herself.