* * *
Tuck stared at his brother across the table in the meeting room.
“I told him I needed to get away,” said Dixon. “He wouldn’t listen.”
“I heard.” Tuck didn’t see any point in hiding anything. “I overheard the two of you talking in the library. I heard what he said about me as a vice president.”
“Were you surprised?”
Tuck hadn’t been surprised. But he had been disappointed. “Nobody wants their father to have such a low opinion of them.”
“We’re talking about Jamison Tucker.”
“He likes you just fine.”
“Yeah,” Dixon scoffed. “Well, we all know why that is.”
“Because you’re the anointed one.”
“I mean the other.”
Dixon stared at him in silence and obvious confusion.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Tuck.
Dixon drew back. “Who’s having an affair with Margaret?”
“What?” Dixon was clearly shocked. “What on earth makes you say that?”
“Because it’s true. Margaret gave it away to Amber.”
“It’s not like Amber to gossip.”
“She wasn’t gossiping. Wake up, man. Do you know what you’ve got in Amber? The woman will practically take a bullet for you. She has more character than you can imagine.”
Dixon’s intelligent eyes sized him up. “Got to know her pretty well while I was gone?”
Tuck was not about to give away anything that might embarrass Amber. “Got very frustrated with her at one point.” Then his mind jumped back in the conversation. “What affair were you talking about?”
“Whoa. No way.”
“You knew about it.”
Tuck knew no such thing. “Who thinks Mom had an affair?”
“What? When? And he’s living in a glass house, by the way.”
“Three decades ago.”
“Clearly that’s relevant.” Tuck knew their father’s affair had gone on right up to his heart attack.
Dixon carefully enunciated his next words. “Thirty years ago. In the months before you were born.”
Everything inside Tuck went still. “Are you saying?”
“How do you not remember that huge fight we overheard?”
“Are you saying I’m not Jamison’s son?”
“You are his son. He did a DNA test years ago.”
“Then, how is that the thing? Why would it make him hate me?”
“He doesn’t hate you.”
“He has no use for me.”
“My theory,” said Dixon, “is that he looks at you and remembers you could have belonged to someone else.”
“That’s really messed up.”
Dixon scoffed out a cold laugh. “Up to now, you thought we were a normal, functional family?”
Tuck came to his feet as everything became clear. He’d never had a chance. He’d been fighting for something he couldn’t possibly win. He had to get out of here, leave the company, maybe leave the city. Maybe he’d leave the state and the money behind and find his own life and career.
There was a brisk knock on the door before it opened to reveal Lucas.
Lucas didn’t miss a beat when he saw Dixon. “You’re back.”
“Good. Tuck, Gena wants to join us at ten.”
“Who’s Gena?” asked Dixon.
“Our new finance director.”
“Why do we have a new finance director?”
“Harvey quit,” said Tuck.
“He missed you.”
“What did you do?” Dixon’s tone was decidedly accusatory.
“Nothing,” said Tuck, heading for the door. “Hasn’t that always been the problem?”
“I’ll try to get him back,” said Dixon.
Tuck halted, a flash of anger hitting him. Dixon intended to reward Harvey for his disloyalty?
Tuck opened his mouth to protest, then decided not to waste his breath. Dixon was back. Tuck’s father was never, ever going to accept him. And what Tuck liked or didn’t like no longer had any relevance.
“Whatever,” he said without turning. To Lucas he said, “Dixon can take the ten o’clock.”