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Prodigal Son(10)
Danielle Steel

“Not that I know of,” Peter said honestly, not totally reassuring him. “Your mom’s probably right. Things are going to be a little tough here for a while, and you’ll be comfortable with Grampa Gary.”

“What about you, Dad?” Ryan looked worried. “Where are you going to be? Will you come out after you do everything here?”

“Of course.” Peter smiled at him and put an arm around his shoulders, but Ryan wasn’t fooled. “I just can’t come to L.A. yet. There’s too much for me to take care of here right now. And I feel a little weird letting your grampa take care of us. That’s my job. I just have to figure out how I’m going to do it. But I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“I want to stay with you,” Ryan said stubbornly, as much to support his father as to be with his friends.

“You need to be with your mom and Ben. I’ll be there soon,” Peter said quietly. He knew how much he was going to miss them. “I’ll try to wrap things up here quickly.” Ryan nodded, but they both looked distracted and unhappy while they finished the game.

Peter hated what the upheaval was doing to all of them, and he was worried that their marriage wouldn’t survive it. He knew Ryan wasn’t wrong to be concerned about it too. He had picked up the same nuances Peter had. Alana was making moves she had wanted to make for a long time, but had had no excuse to. Now she did. Peter wondered if her loyalty was greater to her father or to him. He didn’t know if he wanted the answer to that question right now. It was clear to him that she missed her old life, even more so now that theirs was about to disappear, and in her mind, she had nothing to stay for. It made Peter feel lonely thinking about it. And he hated the worried look in his son’s eyes too.

Peter met with realtors, attorneys, and art dealers all week. And Alana packed. The four of them had dinner together every night, and Ryan got quiet whenever his mother and Ben talked about L.A. He asked his father again if he could stay in New York with him, but Peter thought it was best if Ryan went to L.A. with his mother and brother. And he promised Alana he would come to L.A. as soon as he could, for a while anyway, but he was not promising to stay. It satisfied her for now, and she knew how persuasive her father was, and in his current circumstances, Peter had no other options. If he wanted to be with his wife and sons, he would have to accept her father’s offer on his terms.

Alana and the boys left New York on October 18, eight days after Peter had walked out of his office for the last time. And their departure was wrenching for Peter. He was depressed as soon as they left. Several journalists had called him, wanting interviews, and he declined them. He had nothing to say, and there were to be hearings and investigations in the coming months, about why the business had gone down, just as there were about Lehman Brothers.

A week after Alana and the boys left, the stock market took another plunge and sank even lower. People were panicked, several more smaller banks folded, and customers began to doubt the stability of even the largest banks. Everyone wanted either liquidity or Treasury bills, and no one felt safe with the investments they had left. It was a terrible time. And so far there had been no offer on either the house or the apartment. It was a good time to buy, if you had any money, and a terrible time to sell. Peter was asking considerably less than he had paid for either of their homes.

And every time he called Alana and the boys, they sounded happy in California. Her father was seeing to it that they had a wonderful time, and even Ryan seemed to be adjusting. The boys liked their new school and were making friends after only three weeks there. Peter had never felt so lonely in his life. He agreed to fly out to L.A. for Thanksgiving, a month after they had left, and to stay as long as he could. He had done all he was able to for now in New York. The art dealer had photographs of all their paintings and sculptures. Both homes were on the market. And his cars had sold for a fraction of what they were worth. Peter didn’t even care. All he could think of now was where they would live if the apartment sold. He wanted to provide an alternate solution to L.A., one that would appeal to Alana, but he had none. And she was already saying that the boys needed to at least finish the school year in L.A. It was obvious that she had no desire to come back to New York, and Peter could see it in her eyes when he got to L.A.

Alana was excited to pick up the threads of her old life, seeing her old friends and getting involved with the local scene. She had volunteered at two charities people had suggested. She was busier than she’d been in years. Her father was lavishing love and attention on her and the boys, and couldn’t do enough for them, and she looked happier in his guest house than she ever had in their palatial penthouse in New York. Alana had come home.

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