When would she ever learn?
* * *
“Daniel,” Ashton Rollins called out to him on his way into meeting with some prospective clients on Tuesday afternoon at his favorite restaurant in downtown Miami.
Daniel stopped midstride. He’d been hoping not to run into Ashton until after the coup was a fait accompli, but he hadn’t heard from Joshua in a while and wondered how he was faring digging up dirt on their illustrious leader.
Daniel turned around and shook Ashton’s hand. “What are you doing here?”
“Meeting my father and some of the board members of Rollins Aeronautics. We’re discussing some products under development.”
Ashton shrugged. “Could be. Listen, do you have a few minutes? I’m a little early, so perhaps we could chat?”
Daniel didn’t want to talk, but knew it would not only be rude, but would raise a red flag. “Sure, I have a few minutes before my clients arrive.”
He joined Ashton at the bar. “Club soda,” Daniel told the bartender.
“I’ll have the same,” Ashton responded before the bartender could ask.
“So, what’s on your mind, Ashton?”
“Prescott George. And Joshua DeLong’s influence.”
“I don’t follow.”
“C’mon, Daniel.” Ashton regarded him quizzically. “You and I both know that DeLong has it out for me. Has from the moment we let him into the club. I don’t know why he has a beef with me. The only thing I can figure is it has something to do with my last name being on the wall.”
The bartender placed both their club sodas on the bar, and Daniel grasped his and took a swallow before replying, “You think a whole lot of yourself.”
Ashton snorted. “I’m aware that some members of the organization think I live a privileged life, but it hasn’t always been so.” His eyes became guarded and something flashed in them that Daniel couldn’t quite name. Guilt? Regret? Both? “You and I both know that.”
“If you’re talking about Mia, it’s best not to go down that rabbit hole, Ashton.”
“Why? We’ve never talked about her. She was important to both of us.”
“No, she was in love with you,” Daniel responded, tightly clutching his glass. The past was past. There was no rewriting history. Mia was dead, and no one or nothing was going to bring her back.
“You’ve always resented me for that,” Ashton surmised correctly, “that she loved me and not you.”
Daniel was surprised by the lack of malice in his tone. There had never been any love lost between the two men. Even when Ashton offered to bring him into Prescott George, they’d always had an uneasy alliance.
“Does it matter now?” Daniel inquired. “She’s gone. And you’re doing exactly what your father intended for you.”
Ashton frowned. “That may be so, but I’ve never forgotten her, Daniel. We were going to get married, for Christ’s sake. And I suspect neither have you. As a result, I always thought we had an odd sort of kinship because of that loss.”
Daniel regarded him. That was a spin on the situation if ever there was one. He sipped his club soda. “What is it that you want from me, Ashton?” He turned to the matter at hand.
“I’ve heard rumblings,” Ashton said. “Rumors that DeLong is coming after me. Is that true?”
“And if it were?”
“Do I have your support?”
Daniel stared him in the eye. “I won’t lie to your face, Ashton. You have competition. And they’ve made a telling argument as to why I should vote their way.”
Ashton stared at him warily. “Well, by your response, I guess I have my answer. It’s good to know I can count on friends like you.”
“We were never friends,” Daniel said.
“Allies?” Ashton questioned.
“And maybe we’ll be again one day,” Ashton responded. “For your sake as well as mine.” His eyes darted to the door. “There’s my father. I’ll be talking to you.”
And then he was gone, leaving Daniel feeling uneasy. He didn’t like the direction their conversation had taken, and not just about Mia. Ashton seemed resigned to a fight between him and Joshua. Perhaps he wouldn’t put up as much resistance as they’d initially thought? Was he, too, tired of the status quo? Or maybe Ashton was finally ready to come out from behind his father’s shadow and walk his own path. And if so, what did that mean for the future of Millionaire Moguls?