Excerpt: The Antonides Marriage Deal
Book 3: Beware of Greeks Series
“Your father’s on line six.”
Elias Antonides stared at the row of red lights blinking on his desk phone and thanked God he’d declined the ten line option he’d been offered when he’d begun renovating and converting the riverside warehouse into the new Brooklyn based home of Antonides Marine International nine months ago.
“Right,” he said. “Thanks, Rosie. Put him on hold.”
“He says it’s important,” his assistant informed him.
“If it’s important, he’ll wait,” Elias said, reasonably confident that he wouldn’t do anything of the sort.
Aeolus Antonides had the staying power of a fruit fly. He was as charming and feckless a man as had ever lived. As President of Antonides Marine, he enjoyed three hour lunches and three olive martinis, playing golf with his cronies and taking them out in his thirty foot sailboat, but he had no patience for day-to-day routine, for turning red ink into black, for anything that resembled a daily grind. He didn’t want to know that they would benefit from some ready cash or that Elias was contemplating the purchase of a small marine outfitter that would expand their holdings. Business bored him. Talking to his son bored him.
And chances were excellent today that, by the time Elias had dealt with the other five blinking lights, his father would have hung up and gone off to play another round of golf or out for a sail from his Hamptons home.
In fact Elias was counting on it. He loved his father dearly, but he didn’t need him meddling in business matters. Whatever his father wanted, it would invariably complicate his life.
And he had enough complications already today — though it wasn’t much different from any other.
His sister Cristina, on line, two, wanted him to help her set up the financing for a bead store.
“A bead store?” Elias thought he’d heard everything. Cristina had variously wanted to raise rabbits, tie-dye t-shirts and go to disk-jockey school. But the beads were new.
“So I can stay in New York. Mark’s in New York.”
Mark was her latest boy friend. Elias didn’t think he’d be her last. Famous for racing speedboats and chasing women, Mark Batakis was as likely to be here today and gone tomorrow as Cristina’s bead store aspirations.
“No, Cristina,” he said firmly.
“But — “
“No. You come up with a good business plan for something and we’ll talk. Until then, no.”
His mother, on line three, was arranging a dinner party at the weekend. “Are you bringing a girlfriend?” she asked hopefully. “Or shall I arrange one.”
“I don’t need you arranging dates for me, Mother,” he said even though he knew his words fell on deaf ears.
Helena Antonides’s goal in life was to see him married and providing her with grandchildren. Inasmuch as he’d been married and had no intention of ever being again, Elias could have told her she was doomed to fail. Besides, wasn’t it enough that he was providing the financial support for the entire Antonides clan to live in the manner to which three generations of them had become accustomed? Apparently not.
“Well,” she sniffed, “You don’t seem to be doing a very good job yourself.”
“Thank you for sharing your opinion,” Elias said politely.
He never flat out said he wasn’t marrying again. His mother would simply have argued with him. It wasn’t worth arguing about. But he’d been divorced for seven years, had purposely made no effort to find anyone to replace the duplicitous avaricious Millicent, and had no intention to.
Surely that should have told his mother something.
“Don’t go all stuffy on me, Elias Antonides. I’ve got your best interests at heart. You should be grateful.”
As that didn’t call for an answer, Elias didn’t supply one. “Mom, I’ve got work to do.”
“You always have work to do.”
“Someone has to.”
There was a dead silence on the other end of the line. Finally Helena said firmly, “Just be here Sunday. I’ll provide the girl.”
His sister Martha, on line three, was broke again.
“If you want me to do a good job on those murals,” she told him, “I really should go back to Greece.”
“Inspiration,” she said cheerfully.
“A vacation, you mean.” Elias knew his sister. Martha was a good artist. He wouldn’t have asked her to cover the wall of the foyer of his building, not to mention one in his office and the other in his bedroom if she were a hack.
But he didn’t feel like subsidizing her summer holidays either. “I’ll send you some photos. You can work from them.”
“You’re a killjoy, Elias.”
“Everyone knows that,” he agreed.
Martha’s twin, Lukas, on line two, told him the same thing. “What’s wrong with going to New Zealand?” Lukas wanted to know.
“Nothing’s wrong with it,” Elias said patiently. “But I thought you were going to Greece?”
“I did. I’m in Greece,” Lukas informed him. “But it’s boring here. There’s nothing to do. I met some guys at the taverna last night. They’re heading to New Zealand. I thought I’d go, too. So do you know someone there — in Auckland, say — who might want to hire me for a while?”
“To do what?” It was a fair question. Lukas had graduated from college with a major in ancient languages. None of them was Maori.
“Whatever,” Lukas said. “Or I could go to Australia. Maybe go walkabout?”
Which seemed to be pretty much what he was already doing, save the fact that he wasn’t confining his wandering to Australia. “You could come home and go to work for me,” Elias suggested not for the first time.
“No, thanks,” Lukas said not for the first time, either. “I’ll give you a call from Auckland to see if you have any ideas.”
Ted Corbett — on line one — the only legitimate caller as far as Elias was concerned, was fortunately still there.
“So, what do you think? Ready to take us over?” That was why he was still there. He was eager to sell his marine outfitters business and just as eager for Elias to be the one to buy it.
“We’re thinking about it,” Elias said. “No decision yet.. Paul has been doing some research.”
Paul Johanssen, his projects manager, loved ferreting out all the details that went into these decisions. Elias, who didn’t, left him to it. Then they would run the numbers and see how they came up. But it was Elias who was going to have to make the final decision. And he wouldn’t make it without seeing the operation in person no matter how good the numbers might be.
He took his time with Corbett, but when he finished, the light on line six was still blinking. Probably the old man just walked off and left his phone on, But Elias punched the button anyway.
“My, you’re a busy fellow,” Aeolus boomed in his ear.
Elias shut his eyes and mustered his patience. His father must have been doing the crossword to wait so long. “Actually, yes. I’ve been on the phone all day. Now I’m late for a meeting. What’s up?”
“Me, actually. Came into the city to see a friend. Thought I’d stop by. Got something to discuss with you.”
“I’m coming out at the weekend,” Elias said. “We could talk then.”
“No. This won’t take long. See you in a bit.”
Typical Aeolus. Didn’t matter how busy you were, if he wanted your attention, he found a way to get it. Elias pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling a headache gathering force back behind his eyes.
When Aeolus breezed past Rosie and into Elias’s office an hour later, his face was wreathed with smiles, and Elias’s headache was raging full bore.
“Guess what I did!” Aeolus kicked the door shut and did one of the little soft shuffle steps that invariably followed his sinking a particularly tricky putt.
“Hit a hole in one?” Elias guessed. He stood up so he could meet his father head on.
At the golf reference, Aeolus’s smile grew almost wistful. “I wish,” he murmured. He sighed, then brightened. “But, metaphorically speaking, I guess you could say that.”
Metaphorically speaking? Since when did Aeolus Antonides speak in metaphors? Elias raised his eyebrows and waited politely for his father’s news.
“I found us a business partner!”
“What!” Elias felt as if he’d been shot. He stared at his father, appalled. “What the hell do you mean, business partner? We don’t need a business partner!”
“You said we needed ready cash.”
Oh hell. He had been listening. “I never said anything about a business partner! The business is doing fine!”
“Of course it is,” Aeolus nodded. “Couldn’t get a partner if it weren’t. No rats want to board sinking ships.”
Rats? Elias felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. “What rats?”
“Nothing. No rats,” Aeolus said quickly. “Just a figure of speech.”
“Well, forget it.”
“No. You work too hard, Elias. I know I haven’t done my part. It’s just . . . it’s not in me. I — ” Aeolus looked bleak.
“I know that, Dad,” Elias gave his father a sincere sympathetic smile “I understand.” Which was the truth. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not a problem.”
Not now at least. Eight years ago it had cost him his marriage.
No, that wasn’t fair. His father’s lack of business acumen had been only one factor in the break-up with Millicent. The truth was that he should have realized what Millicent’s priorities were and never married her in the first place.
“But I do worry,” his father went on. “We both do, your mother and I. You work so hard. Too hard.”
Elias had never said why he and Millicent had called it quits, but his parents weren’t fools. They knew Elias had worked almost 24/7 to salvage the business from the state it had slid to due to his father’s no-so-benign neglect. They knew that the financial reality of Antonides Marine did not meet the expectations of their son’s social-ladder climbing wife. They knew she vanished not long after Elias dropped out of business school to work in the family firm. And within weeks of the divorce being final, Millicent had married the heir to a Napa Valley winery.
No one mentioned any of this. No one spoke her name, least of all Elias. But shortly after Millicent’s marriage, the fretting began — and so had the parade of eligible women, as if getting Elias a new wife would make things better, make his father feel less guilty.
As far as Elias was concerned, his father had no need to feel guilty. Aeolus was who he was. Millicent was who she was. And Elias was who he was — a man who didn’t want a wife. Or a business partner.
“No, Dad, ” he said firmly now.
Aeolus shrugged. “Sorry. Too late. It’s done. I sold forty percent of Antonides Marine.”