Last Time: “You are the steward of Appius’s stock,” Bobby said to Nora. “And I believe his Will allows you to distribute it among family members as you see fit.”
“To back up Eric’s official position as CEO,” Bobby said, “you should give him 16%.”
Nora furrowed her brows. “But Daddy . . . ,” she started.
“Or I can just wait it out,” Eric said quietly. “Then I would get all of Appius’s remaining stock, plus the value of 37% the stock he no longer had at his death. And—make no mistake, Nora,” Eric said with a hard edge to his voice, “I will wait it out if need be.” He took a deep breath. “I will keep to the terms of the contract between Appius and myself until my thirty-fifth birthday. And then I will terminate it at 12:01 a.m. After that, I’ll just wait and take all I can. And then I will restructure.” He paused. “But trust me when I say that you would not be a part of that particular restructuring, Nora.”
Chapter 31: Restructuring, Part 2
Nora’s eyes widened at Eric’s threat. “If I gave 16% of the stock to Eric, what about the remaining 14% that Appius controlled?”
“Split it up,” Eric said. “Split it evenly between Pam, Alexei, Gracie, A.J., and yourself.”
“And after you step down as CEO? Will you keep the stock if I give it to you?” Nora asked Eric.
“No. That 16% will pass to the new CEO of NP, whom I still hope will be A.J.—if that is the life he chooses. According to the new contract, he would be first in line to have the job. If he decides he wants to do something else—be something else—the selection of the next CEO will be made by the entire family. Each member would get one vote.” Eric sighed. “It’s my hope that A.J. will want to take over, but he might not.” He smiled at Alexei. “His heart might lie in something else.” He squeezed Sookie’s hand. “But I won’t have my children excluded from their legacy either. As far as I’m concerned, every Northman—by blood or by marriage or by adoption—who wants to be a part of the company should be able to be a part.” He smiled over at Elsa. “And every Larsson too. It’s what our grandfathers wanted,” he finished, looking at Pam.
She gave him a little nod back, her appreciation glowing in her eyes.
“What of the rest of Appius’s estate?” Sophie-Anne asked, somewhat nervously. “Appius had a lot more assets and investments than NP. If Nora agrees to restructure the contract, will you lift the injunction on Appius’s Will?”
“As long as my trust fund is finally released to me, then yes,” Eric answered.
“So you aren’t going to fight for an equal part of the rest of the estate?” Neave Faeman asked with some surprise in her voice.
“You have standing to fight Appius’s Will,” Bobby said, looking at Eric. “You could get a part of the overall estate, a substantial one if you pushed it.”
“I don’t want anything more from Appius’s estate than the trust fund that has been held over my head for years.” Eric sighed. “I’m not even sure how large it is or even what’s left from the Larsson side of the family, but all of my grandparents put it together,” he said, looking at Elsa. “And I want to use it to strengthen their legacies and to take care of my wife and children.”
Elsa tilted her head a little. “Eric, why didn’t you ever ask me what was in the trust fund? I assumed you knew.”
Eric shrugged. “Appius told me that—from the Larsson side—the trust fund contained the inheritance rights to Larsson Publishing. After that was merged into NP, I figured the Larsson assets were almost gone—though Appius told me last January that the land by the lake in Sweden is a part of the trust fund. I’m not sure what John and Grace Northman put into it.”
“Eric,” Elsa said, “it was hoped by John and Johan—as well as Grace and me—that you would one day take over Larsson Publishing and Northman Publishing. They were always to merge with you; thus, we wanted you to have quite a bit of liquid capital to use to grow the companies.” She took a breath. “You are right that the trust fund contained inheritance rights to Larsson Publishing, but there is also a great deal of money in it—money invested in bonds. That way the trust fund would be comparatively safe from the fluctuations of the market. The money was meant to stay safe, but to grow. And it has now been growing for more than thirty years. I don’t have any idea how much is in the trust fund now, but when it was set up, there was over 25 million in capital alone. Johan included the property in Sweden—with the stipulation that we would have use of it through our lives. And he included Larsson Publishing. John left you his Manhattan home and the land upon which Northman Tower sits.”
Eric’s eyes widened. “I thought Appius owned those properties.”
“No,” Desmond corrected. “When Appius wanted to change the location of Northman Publishing—to build a new structure and to expand—he went to John and asked to use the property in Midtown. And John and Grace both wanted you to have the family estate since Appius wanted something different for himself.”
“Oh my God!” Sophie-Anne said. “You could kick out Grace!”
Elsa nodded. “Yes—you could,” she said with a smirk. “And the bitch would deserve it, too,” she added under her breath.
Eric sighed and looked at Bobby. “As soon as the trust fund gets released to me, I want the house signed over to my grandmother, Grace.”
Sookie squeezed his hand and smiled proudly at him.
“You cannot buy her love, Eric,” Nora said cautiously. “I don’t think that even your giving her the house will soften her heart toward you.”
Eric looked at his stepsister. “I know,” he said simply. “But I won’t have her worrying that she’s going to be evicted either. She’s lived in that home for more than five decades.”
“You can give it to her on the condition that it comes back to you in her Will,” Bobby said in a low voice. “It was your grandfather’s home too,” he reminded. “And though Grace may no longer wish for you to have it, John Northman would want that.”
Eric sighed and looked at Sookie. “What do you think?” he asked.
“I think I love our home,” she smiled. “And—no offense,” she said, looking at Sophie-Anne, “but if that house is anything like this one, I don’t think I’d want to live in it. Too big.”
Eric smiled and kissed his wife’s cheek. “I love our home too,” he whispered. He looked up at Bobby. “Put in a clause that the property can’t be sold and must be passed on to Johan. Other than that, make sure there are no strings when I give it to her.” He paused. “Also, put in a clause stating that I’ll pay any property taxes on the home.” He looked at Desmond. “Do you know how they have been getting paid each year?”
He shook his head.
“Appius paid her taxes,” Neave informed.
“And the rest of it?” Eric asked. “Grace’s bills and expenses?”
Neave looked at him, once more surprised. “You would take on that expense?”
Neave nodded, a look of respect making its way to her face. “There’s no need. John Northman left Grace enough money to maintain her, and Appius’s Will includes an annuity for her as well.”
Eric closed his eyes. “Now I understand a little bit better why Appius didn’t want me to get ahold of the trust fund.” He sighed. “I can’t believe that I own the plot Northman Tower stands on!”
“Plus, Appius probably didn’t want you to officially have Grace’s house until after she’d passed away,” Bobby observed. “He was probably afraid that you would kick her out.”
Pam shook her head. “He never knew you at all.”
“No,” Sookie sighed. “And that was his loss.”
The room was silent for a minute.
“As for the property in Midtown,” Neave shared, “Appius calculated that the worst you might do was charge NP rent for use, but he was never worried about your doing more than that.” Neave shook her head a little. “Ironically, on some matters, Appius trusted you very much, and he knew you’d never do anything to hurt NP.”
Eric rubbed his temple with his free hand. “What about this house?” he asked.
“Sophie-Anne and I have been made co-owners according to the terms of the Will,” Nora informed. “It is to pass to A.J. from us.”
“And the rest of Appius’s property and money?” Eric asked.
“According to the Will, 40% of the remaining estate goes to Sophie-Anne; the other 60% has been left to my discretion to distribute,” Nora responded more quietly. “However, Daddy did leave some suggestions in a letter to me.”
“What suggestions?” Pam asked.
“That Gracie, Alexei, and Appius, Jr. get at least 10% each. That you,” she said looking at Pam, “should get nothing since you sided with Eric. That Eric—of course—get nothing. And that I take the rest for myself,” Nora said sheepishly.
“And do you intend to follow his suggestions?” Eric asked.
Nora sighed. “I know that he was awful—unimaginably cruel—to you, Eric. I realize that now.” She shook her head. “But a part of me wants to follow his wishes. It’s all I have left to do for him,” she said, her eyes lowering.
“What about the other part of you?” Sookie asked.
Nora shook her head and gave Sookie a little smile. “That part wants to do the right thing.”
“And what do you think that is?” Sookie followed up.
“Splitting the 60% not going to Sophie-Anne evenly—six ways,” she answered. “Ten percent each to Eric, Pam, Alexei, Gracie, A.J., and me.”
Eric ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t want anything from Appius’s estate. And—with my trust fund coming to me—I won’t need it.” He looked at Sookie and then back at Nora. “If you split the remainder of the estate equally, I would ask that you take the 10% you were going to give to me and set up a trust for Freyda de Castro’s child.”
There was silence among the group for a few moments.
“Do you know anything about Freyda’s condition?” Sophie-Anne finally asked.
Eric sighed. “As you have—no doubt—heard from the gossip columns, Freyda has apparently had a nervous breakdown.”
“Yes,” Sophie-Anne said. “Did she really try to commit suicide?”
Eric nodded. “Pills—the doctors don’t think they affected the fetus, but they won’t be sure until the child is born.”
“That poor baby,” Sophie-Anne said.
“Freyda was a victim of Appius too,” Eric said. “She was already unstable, and he used that to his advantage.”
Tamara shook her head. “I can’t believe that the man I married—” she looked at Sophie-Anne,” the man we married—could do that.”
Sophie-Anne shook her head in answer. “I can’t either, but—then again—there were many things I didn’t know about Appius. And he was good at putting on appearances.”
Tamara nodded in agreement and then turned to Eric. “Where is Freyda now? Do you know?”
Eric nodded. “She was staying at Felipe’s home when she made the attempt upon her own life. Now, she’s in a mental facility for the duration of her pregnancy—at least. According to Felipe, she still maintains the belief that I’m her child’s father.” Eric shook her head. “And her learning about my marriage to Sookie and the birth of Johan further spurred her insanity. Several times . . . .” He stopped midsentence and looked at Sookie, concern etched on his handsome face.
“Several times,” Bobby picked up, “Freyda tried to sneak into the hospital when Eric was in his coma.” He sighed. “Of course, with Bill Compton still out there, we had a lot of security in place, so Freyda was stopped before she could get anywhere near Eric, Sookie, or Johan, but that didn’t stop her from trying. The last time it happened, she had a knife on her and was ranting about how she needed to kill Sookie and Johan in order to get Eric to love her again.”
“Dear God!” Sophie-Anne gasped.
“She was arrested, but was released into Felipe’s custody with an ankle monitor and with the understanding that she’d get help. And Felipe—to his credit—arranged for a live-in counselor for her. It was two weeks later that she tried to kill herself,” Bobby finished.
Sookie squeezed Eric’s hand. Because of Freyda de Castro and Bill Compton, her and Eric’s decision over whether to keep permanent guards had been an easy one. Of course, Debbie Pelt had been fired immediately after the shooting; Tray and Rasul had very much enjoyed doing that. And Alcide had been even happier to call the police so that they were waiting for her when she was escorted from Carmichael Plaza. He was especially happy that he’d been the one to help the police find the money trail showing her payoffs from Appius.
Alcide had been glad to wipe his hands of Debbie Pelt once and for all after learning about how she’d been using him to hurt Eric and Sookie. And Alcide had taken over Miranda’s fulltime position too, now that she’d started working privately for Eric and Sookie.
“What will happen to the child if Freyda cannot raise him or her?” Sophie-Anne asked.
“Her,” Eric informed. “Felipe told me that Freyda would be having a girl.” He dragged his fingers through his hair. “Despite being an underhanded bastard in many things, it’s clear that Felipe wants to help Freyda, and he seems to have finally come to the conclusion that I didn’t do anything to lead her on. She’s just,” Eric sighed, “unstable. And Felipe now recognizes that he made an error in trying to cover that up.”
“Claudine, my granddaughter, is taking care of her in the mental facility,” Niall informed the others. “Freyda has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Claudine will put her on a full medication regimen after the baby is born. She believes that Freyda can eventually become stable again, though she doesn’t think she will be able to care for her child for a long time. Felipe, however, has agreed to do that.”
“Does Felipe still blame you for—uh—anything?” Sophie-Anne asked Eric.
Eric shook his head. “No. From what I can tell, he doesn’t. And, once Freyda is more stable, he’s promised to try to help her to understand that any fantasy she may have of me is not healthy—or realistic.”
“Apparently, much of that fantasy was Appius’s doing from the start,” Bobby scoffed. “He was the one who encouraged her to pursue Eric in the first place. And then he made sure that there was someone close to her who kept encouraging her insanity.”
“What do you mean?” Nora asked.
“Apparently—Victor Madden has been in Appius’s pocket for nearly two years,” Bobby stated flatly.
“What?” Nora asked with surprise.
“Franklin Mott—when he was caught—gave up all he knew about Appius. One of those details was that Appius decided to get revenge on Felipe for putting spies into NP. He bought Madden,” Bobby said.
“Victor was well-placed to help to fuel Freyda’s fantasies about me,” Eric said. “He also made sure that Felipe thought that I was continuing to lead Freyda on.” He sighed. “However, from the time that Mott spilled all the information he knew—including evidence proving that Madden was on Appius’s payroll—Felipe has been reasonable. And Russell is helping with Felipe; he won’t be a problem.”
“Do you believe Felipe will let the little girl be a part of our lives? She is—for better or worse—A.J.’s sister. She’s a Northman,” Sophie-Anne said, sitting up straighter. “And no matter what Appius did, the Northman name can still mean something good.” She looked at Nora pointedly and then at Eric. “In fact, I think it can mean something very good with you at the helm of NP.”
“I don’t know how much of a relationship we will be able to have with Freyda’s child,” Eric said honestly. “As I said, I believe that Felipe will be reasonable, but much will depend on Freyda’s state of mind. And, though I regret it, I don’t believe I can be involved in the child’s life much at all—lest it feed Freyda’s delusions.” He looked at Sookie. “And I won’t risk that.”
Sophie-Anne nodded. “I will call Felipe tomorrow and initiate a relationship for our end that does not involve Sookie or Eric,” she said decisively, looking at Nora. “May I tell him that 10% of Appius’s estate will be put into a trust for the child?”
Nora nodded and then sighed as she looked at Eric. “Is there anything else in the contract you want us to adopt?” she asked, thumbing through the document. Her decision to go along with Eric’s plans had obviously been made.
“Appius threatened to blackmail me with a lot of things over the years,” Eric said. “And I have a feeling that his so-called evidence is in the safe in his office.”
Nora nodded—almost imperceptibly. “Yes. I have seen some things in there—about you and others.”
“I want everything he’s ever held over my head to be burned,” Eric said simply. “And I want to be the one to burn it all.”
A tear slipped down Sookie’s cheek as she literally felt the emotion in her husband’s voice. She leaned against him again, wishing that she could push her strength into his body.
Nora thought for a moment and then looked at Neave, who had been carefully reading the new contract as they’d been talking. “Is it as Eric said?” she asked the attorney.
“Yes,” Neave responded. “This contract nullifies the previous one between Eric and Appius Northman. It makes Eric Northman the CEO, Pam Northman the Deputy CEO, you the CFO, and Tamara Davis-Northman the Deputy CFO. Salary details are also given and are reasonable. In addition, the new contract calls for the stock to be distributed as indicated by Mr. Burnham and Mr. Northman. It contains the stipulation that Eric is to pass the position of CEO to Appius Northman, Jr. and sets various contingencies if Eric dies before that time or if Appius Jr. does not wish to take the position or if a majority of the family thinks Appius Jr. is unfit for the role. The only further stipulation is that Eric Northman be allowed to take or to burn any materials he chooses from Appius Northman’s safe. It is,” the shark-like attorney stated, “fair. And—compared to what Mr. Northman could do—it is preferable.”
Nora nodded. “Where do I sign?”
“You want no amendments?” Desmond asked.
Nora shook her head. “No—let’s do this now and get on with things—with healing.”
Eric nodded at his stepsister. “Thank you, Nora.”
“No Eric. Thank you. Given what you have been through, you don’t have to be kind. Yet that is exactly what you are doing—exactly who you’ve been the whole time. I’m sorry I allowed myself to be manipulated into thinking otherwise.”
Eric nodded again, this time with a little smile on his face. He still didn’t really trust his stepsister, but the fact that she was cooperating and seemed truly contrite was promising.
Desmond stood up, the master copy of the contract in his hands. He handed it to Neave, who quickly scanned it to make sure it was the same as the draft. When the attorney was done, she nodded toward Nora.
“This new contract will require the signatures of Tamara, Pam, Eric, and Nora,” Desmond informed. He looked at Neave. “Are you willing to witness?”
The attorney nodded.
“Good,” Desmond said, looking at Thalia and Amelia. “Are you two willing to act as witnesses as well, since you aren’t related to anyone here? Yet at least?” he answered with a twinkle in his eyes. Amelia and Pam had recently become engaged.
Both Thalia and Amelia nodded in agreement.
Desmond first walked over to Nora and showed her the four places she would be required to sign. The first signature negated the original contract between Eric and Appius. The second one indicated her acceptance of the position of CFO at NP. The third agreed to the distribution of the stock as had been discussed. The fourth allowed Eric to go through the contents of Appius’s safe.
Next, Desmond had Pam sign the contract, accepting the position of Deputy CEO with the understanding that, in practice, she and Eric would be Co-CEOs and would receive the same salary and benefits. Third, Desmond asked Tamara to sign the document to accept the Deputy CFO position.
And finally, the lawyer walked over to Eric, giving him a subtle wink as he put the document in front of him. Desmond held out a pen to Eric.
“I have one,” Eric said in a scratchy voice, as he pulled out the pen that had once belonged to the first of his ancestors who had stepped foot onto American soil—his namesake, Erik Northman.
After years of trying to give the heirloom to his father, Eric now understood why John Northman had given it to him in the first place. It was an object of legacy—of hope—and Appius had been so mired in the past and in his bitterness that he didn’t deserve the heirloom. Eric planned to pass the object onto his son. Meanwhile, however, he had decided to carry it—to remind himself that someone with nothing could end up with the world.
He looked at Sookie. Yes—the whole fucking world.
She gave him a beautiful smile. They’d had a last conversation about their future late the previous night after Johan had gone to sleep. But—in the end—as was true of everything that was just about them, their choice was easy. Eric wanted to stay on at NP, and he wanted to be CEO, especially if Pam was at his side. And, since they would be sharing duties, neither of them would become overwhelmed.
Sookie’s only concern had been that Eric would be at work too much and would miss Johan growing up. However, once the idea of Pam being his Co-CEO was raised and once Tamara agreed to join NP, that worry had dissipated. In fact, Eric planned to work from home at least twice a week, and his team had proven to be well-able to handle themselves in his absence.
Sookie hadn’t yet decided whether to return to work on a fulltime basis. Her abrupt exit from NP the previous January—since she couldn’t very well give her notice—had left Sam in the lurch, despite the fact that Sookie had been well ahead of her deadlines at the time. However, being married to the boss had its perks. Sam had hired her back on a freelance basis, sending her some of the more challenging manuscripts. The best part was that she’d been given permission to work from home on any projects she took on.
Sookie nodded at her husband and placed her hand on his thigh since he’d had to remove his hand from hers to take out his pen. She knew that the gesture would steady him just as it always steadied her.
Eric signed the first line Desmond indicated. That line negated the contract between Appius and himself. The second line he signed made him CEO of NP. The third related to the selection of the next CEO when he stepped down. And the fourth related to his agreement to pass along the 16% of stock from Appius’s estate to the next CEO.
Eric sighed. With four signatures, the last weights of the past were almost off of him. And once the contents of Appius’s safe were dealt with, he’d be able to step fully into the present and look forward to the future—his future with his family.
A/N: Well—we are back w/ this one! I hope you liked the chapter. I really appreciate the support that this story is still getting!
Until the next chapter,