Appius glared at Bobby as he took the papers roughly from his hand. “Summarize!” he demanded from Bobby.
Niall glared at Appius, but said nothing.
“Despite my advice to the contrary, Eric does not wish to take control of your stock, nor does he wish to bleed your finances dry,” Bobby informed. “I told him that he should do both—by the way.”
Appius tossed the new contract onto the table. “What does my son want?”
“Peace,” Eric said. “Peace with my family—you included.”
Bobby sat down in the empty chair next to Eric. “Let me tell you the score, Appius.”
“We are not on a first name basis, boy,” Appius growled.
Bobby rolled his eyes. “Okay. Here’s the score, asshole. Eric will remain the head of the international division at NP, but those endless reports he used to have to do for you will remain a thing of the past. You will not interfere with his work in any way. He will have total control over the hiring and firing in that division. Eric turns 35 two months before you turn 60. During those two months, a transition team will be put into place to act as liaisons between Eric and you. At the end of those two months, you will step down as CEO. Out of courtesy, Eric will send you copies of all quarterly reports for the company and will accept suggestions from you—in writing—should you wish to give them; however, I get to read them first, and if there are any derisive comments regarding Eric or anyone else he cares for, I get to tear up your suggestions—or burn them, depending on my mood.”
Scowling, Appius looked at Bobby and then at Eric. “Why would I offer you any help after you steal my company?”
Eric sighed. “I’m not stealing it. I’ll be running it. And you have—as you said—spent more than thirty years running it. And running it well. I’m not fool enough to disregard that.”
Russell nodded approvingly in Eric’s direction, but said nothing.
“What else?” Appius asked, through almost-closed lips.
“There will be no removing Eric from the position of CEO until he decides to retire. After that, he agrees to appoint Appius, Jr. to CEO should he want the position and be qualified for the job. If not, Eric will choose the successor, looking to family members first—of course. And,” Bobby said with a smile on his face, “that will include Eric’s own children.”
“Unacceptable!” Appius seethed.
“Why?” Eric asked. “Why would that be unacceptable?” He shook his head. “Do you really think I’d hurt my brother? Or any of my siblings? Including Nora, I would do anything for any of them.”
“What of Nora in all of this?” Appius asked, looking concerned for the first time.
“I have covered her too many times while she’s been CFO,” Eric said quietly. “And even you cannot be blind to that fact.” He took a deep breath. “I intend to make Pam my CFO. I’ll offer Nora another position in the company, or she can stay on as Pam’s Deputy CFO. It will be her choice.”
“You would demote her!?” Appius raged, once more pounding his first onto the table.
Eric forced himself not to show a reaction to his father’s anger. “Yes,” he said. “She will probably be happy about it—truth be told. You know she never wanted so much responsibility.” He sighed. “I thought she was doing better too, but lately her work has been slipping again. Despite everything, I don’t want her to fail. And—if responsible for less—she would, perhaps, thrive.”
Appius glared at Eric. “Is there more to this renegotiated contract?” he asked through clenched teeth.
Bobby nodded. “Yes. You will not be allowed to have access to Eric and Sookie’s children—at least not for the foreseeable future. However, Eric will be allowed to visit with his siblings—away from your home, of course.”
Eric sat forward a little. “And I will no longer have you threaten anyone I love. You will stop Michelle Stackhouse’s book from being published.”
Appius smiled sinisterly, “Too late. Jade Flower finished it last month, and it will be released on Tuesday. It has already been shipped to the stores.”
“If one copy hits the newsstands,” Eric said, his own eyes now competing with the rage in Appius’s, “I swear to God that I will take everything from you.” His tone became cold steel. “Everything.”
Appius shrugged off Eric’s words.
“In addition,” Bobby said, slicing through the tension with his calm voice, “you are to hand over all of the fabricated evidence you have connecting Sookie to Felipe de Castro’s spying. And you are to sign an affidavit that indicates her innocence in the situation.”
“No fucking way,” Appius said with a sinister smile. “Your new wife will soon be in jail.”
“No,” Niall said evenly. “She won’t be. If you try anything along those lines, Appius, I’ll bury you.”
“You can’t do anything to me,” Appius grinned. “I have all the evidence I need to ensure Sookie goes to prison for quite a while.”
“You should think about de Castro,” Russell said. “I’m sure he’ll agree to profess Sookie’s innocence.”
“Why would he do that?” Appius asked, glaring at Eric. “After the way you have used and then tossed Freyda aside—especially now that she’s carrying your child—there’s no way he’d help you.”
Eric leaned forward. “He will help me. It’s the ‘how’ that is still up in the air.”
“What do you mean?” Appius asked gruffly.
Eric sat back. “As I indicated earlier, I know that you are the father of Freyda’s child.” He looked at Bobby, who produced a file folder, which he slid over to Appius. “In that file are copies of all the emails you have exchanged with Dr. Sheraton, as well as photos of Freyda going to see you in your office. They clearly tell the tale that you hoped our DNA was enough alike to make it seem as if I were the father of Freyda’s child—even though you are the actual father.”
Appius looked down at Eric’s evidence, which consisted of the emails, plus articles regarding DNA testing differences between children and their parents and grandparents. Although Appius’s instructions to the doctor were not explicitly stated, it was clear that the doctor intended to falsify his paternity report, and it was clear that Appius was paying him to do it.
“You will also see a page outlining sworn testimony we received from Dr. Sheraton himself, so it is too late to try to intimidate him into silence. In fact, I imagine he is planning to relocate even as we speak,” Bobby said. “And I’m guessing that if it comes down to a choice between facing the Medical Board and betraying you, the good doctor will do the latter.”
“There is also a sworn statement from Warren Daniels, a computer specialist with the FBI,” Bobby smiled. “As you can see, it explains how he altered a video at the behest of Lorena Krasiki in order to make it appear as if Eric had slept with Freyda in his home. Agent Daniels has agreed to testify that Agent Krasiki had a personal grudge against Sookie Northman, because of her jealousy over Sookie’s past relationship with a lover of hers. And—when confronted—I would imagine that Lorena would turn on you faster than a snake could smile,” Bobby added with a grin.
“So,” Eric said, sitting forward again, “if you agree to give me any evidence you have of supposed crimes that anyone I care about may have committed, I will let you spin the Freyda thing as you wish with de Castro. You could paint yourself as the ‘poor, rich seduced man.’ You can say that you didn’t confess earlier out of the hope that Freyda and I would get together or because you didn’t want to hurt Sophie-Anne. You can say that it was a mistake, but that you will take responsibility for that child. And you will make sure that Freyda gets the psychological help she needs. Though not mine, her child is innocent.” He regarded Appius with a strong, steady gaze. “And if I ever hear that you have mistreated that baby—or any other child you might have—as you mistreated me, God himself won’t be able to save you from my wrath!”
“I thought you’d learned not to threaten me, boy,” Appius said with pure hatred in his tone.
“I’ve learned a lot from you,” Eric said firmly, “and I don’t want for any other child to learn the same.”
“As of today, Freyda’s child is old enough for DNA testing,” Desmond said. “And we certainly have enough evidence to make you part of that testing, Appius.”
Appius glared at the lawyer. “Even if the child is mine, what I choose to do with it is up to me.”
“No!” Bobby said. “It is a term in the new contract. You are to see to the care of the child, which involves seeing to the mental health of the mother.”
“I know that you have encouraged Freyda’s delusions that I am her child’s father. And even from a television broadcast, it’s clear to me that she’s disturbed. Hell—she was hanging on by a thread before all this happened.” Eric sighed. “I know —better than anyone—what you are willing to do to gain your revenge against me, but getting her pregnant? Subjecting a child to Freyda’s insanity and your revenge?” Eric shook his head sadly.
“You have no idea what I would do to hurt you,” Appius said in almost a whisper. “You have no idea what I could still do.”
“No!” Eric said forcefully. “In this contract, there are provisions to protect those I care about, and you will be giving me the trust fund immediately. My morfar’s property will be mine. And my mormor’s pension will be established separately from the company so that it is secure. According to the new contract, you cannot fire Pam or cause harm to Alexei or Gracie or anyone else I care for in order to get to me. If you do,” Eric paused, “you will forfeit all your remaining stock to me.”
Appius looked down at the contract. “Anything else?”
Eric shook his head.
“I’m not going to sign this,” Appius said coldly. “I will exhaust every goddamned cent of my fortune to find a way out of the stipulations of my father’s Will. Hell—I’ll even liquidate NP if it comes to that.”
“No. No you won’t,” Copley said in a quiet voice.
Appius looked up at his old friend. “And what do you intend to do about it, Cope?” he challenged.
“What I should have done the first moment I sensed you were mistreating Eric,” Copley said. He shook his head. “I know you understand blackmail, Appius. I know that you have used it many times to make Eric fall in line. And now it will be used to make you fall in line.”
“I advocated that Eric destroy you right off,” Russell said threateningly. “But he refused. Now it will be a pleasure to participate in your destruction—since you refuse to see reason.”
“Destroy me?” Appius asked defiantly.
“Yes,” Russell sat forward. “We will begin by exposing all the lovers you have had over the years—both female and male.”
“We have photographic evidence of you with several men, including your wife’s brother,” Bobby said. “Of course—in this day and age, that kind of scandal would only last a week in this city. But when it is added to what you did to Freyda, it would last quite a bit longer.”
“Then, prepare to see your mother’s name dragged through the mud with mine,” Appius said harshly, focusing his words on Eric.
“If one word about Stella hits the tabloids, I swear to God you will pay,” Russell threatened.
“You can’t do a goddamned thing to me,” Appius returned.
“But I can,” Copley said quietly. “You and I both know that I can.”
“You’ll end up in prison right next to me,” Appius threatened.
“I know,” Copley said with a sigh. “Maybe I deserve to go there for profiting from the pain of others.”
“What are you talking about?” Desmond asked.
Copley sighed. “As you know, Appius and I used to be partners in several real estate ventures and some,” he paused, “less than reputable hedge funds. Right before the housing bubble burst, we obtained some information we should not have been privy to. It saved us both billions.”
“We did nothing illegal,” Appius said vehemently. “We simply acted on a tip.”
“We shouldn’t have been involved in those hedge funds to start with, and you and I both know that the ‘tip’ wasn’t legally obtained,” Copley said.
“You’ve gone soft. Our shifting from those investments to capital did nothing to hurt the economy as a whole,” Appius insisted.
“We’ll never know that for sure,” Copley said. “And it doesn’t matter. The government is looking for poster boys to take the fall for the economic crisis—to make the American people feel that it’s doing its job.”
“You’ll lose everything,” Appius said. “Paul and Amelia will lose everything.”
Copley sighed. “You’re right. And that’s why I selfishly hope that you will do what’s right and sign the goddamned contract! You owe Eric, Appius. You owe him a life!”
“My sperm already provided that,” Appius said sarcastically as he rose from his chair.
Russell leveled a glare at him. “I will admit that you are more powerful than I am,” he said. “You have slightly more money and slightly more influence; however, I will do my level best to destroy you in any way I can if you don’t see reason and sign the goddamned contract.”
“So will I,” Niall said. “And the Brigant name is not to be trifled with.”
“Nor is the Carmichael name,” Copley added.
“And I’m sure we will soon be able to insert de Castro to the list,” Russell added.
“And at least one Northman,” Eric said in a quiet voice. “On my own, I might not have much to fight with, but I have so much to fight for now.” He leveled a steady and certain stare at Appius. “And I will win.”
Appius shook his head. “No. You never will.”
“Please,” Eric said, “just sign the contract. Then we’ll tell de Castro you are the father of Freyda’s child. Then we can get her some help.” He sighed. “I know you can be a good father. I’ve seen it with Nora and Pam. I’ve seen it was Alexei and Gracie. And I’ve seen it with Appius, Jr. They all love you. And I can see that you love them. And I know that part of you could love Freyda’s baby—your baby.”
“That little bastard was meant to be yours,” Appius said through clenched teeth.
“And maybe I was meant to be Peder’s, but that’s not how things worked out,” Eric responded.
Appius slammed his empty glass onto the table, causing the glass to shatter. However, Eric didn’t flinch; he kept his eyes fixed on his father’s.
Desmond shook his head. “It’s not logical for you not to sign the new contract,” he said in a reasonable tone. “Eric is, after all, giving you what you want in a lot of ways. He will be NP’s steward until Appius Jr. is ready, and we both know that Eric will be good for the company. Just look at what he’s done for the international division in a few short years. And he’s not even asking that you include him in your Will. All he wants is the trust fund that was always meant for him and the opportunity to live in peace with his family and do a job that he’s good at.”
Appius turned on his heel and walked toward the door of the private lounge.
“You have 24 hours,” Bobby said. “If you don’t agree to sign the contract by then, you can expect for hell to be released upon you.”
Appius kept right on walking.
A/N: Hello all! So many of you celebrated when Eric finally confronted Appius. I don’t know how, but this scene morphed into this battle between these powerful men. (By the way, the Un-Series becomes about strong women in many ways.) I pictured this scene as being something out of The Untouchables (without the bat). This is the “old guard” trying to deal with one of its own. The only question is: how will Appius react?
We’ll soon see.
Thanks for all the comments about the last chapter.
Until the next,