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Prodigal Son(7)
Danielle Steel

Her father had always been very generous with them, but Peter didn’t want to be beholden to him, and never had been. The only way to survive with a man like Gary Tallon was to be independent of him, and Peter no longer was. That was a very dangerous position to be in, and he didn’t want to hurt Alana’s feelings when he said no, but she could already see it in his eyes. Peter had no desire to move to L.A., and stay in her father’s guest house, or worse, be supported by him while he was out of a job. For a long moment, Peter said nothing, while Alana went on. Her long blond hair fell heavily past her shoulders while she lay on the deck chair in short white shorts with a pink T-shirt. He could see her nipples through the shirt, and her long legs on the deck chair. She flew to L.A. every three weeks to get her hair colored, and every three months, they wove in extensions to thicken her mane of silky blond hair. After fifteen years in New York, she was still deeply attached to L.A., and everything about it.

“Daddy says you can work for him, if you want to. Or you can just take it easy for a few months. He’s going to call you about it. And there’s a Lycée in L.A., so the boys will hardly notice the change, and they love Grampa Gary,” she pleaded. He was the only grandparent they had, and their grandfather doted on them. They were the sons he had never had, and they loved meeting all the rock stars in his business. He arranged backstage passes at every concert they wanted to go to. For them, it would be like moving to Disneyland. But for Peter, it sounded like moving to hell, and selling his soul to Alana’s father, which was something he was determined to avoid at all costs. He was going to extricate himself from this mess. He didn’t want her father’s help, however well intended.

“I appreciate it, sweetheart,” Peter said calmly, “but I need to stick around here while everything gets settled. I can’t just run off to California, and live off your father. And I need to see what opportunities open up here.”

“Daddy says there won’t be any decent jobs for you here for the next year or two. We might as well be in L.A. until things get better. He says there’s nothing for you here. Why not work for him? He’ll find something for you to do.”

“I don’t want a mercy job, Alana. I want a real one, in my business. I don’t know a damn thing about the music business. I have nothing to offer your father.”

“You can help him with his investments,” she said, still pleading, but she could see she wasn’t winning.

“I’m sure he’d be thrilled,” Peter said cynically. “I just lost him a bunch of money when Whitman folded. He doesn’t need me for his investments.”

“He wants to help us,” she said quietly, with a look of determination in her eyes. This was a battle she didn’t intend to lose. “We’re not going to be able to afford a decent place to live, once you sell the apartment,” she said with a tone of desperation. “What are we going to do?”

“I’ll figure out something,” he said softly. He felt beaten as he sat watching her. He was beginning to realize just how unhappy she was going to be without money, and he didn’t want to be on the dole to her father. Peter had no idea how long it would take him to get back on his feet. And her father was right, it might take him a year or two to find something in his line of work. People were being fired at all levels in the financial world. “I want us to stay here,” he said firmly, as Alana looked at him with sorrow in her eyes.

“I want to go home,” she said quietly, and just as firmly. “I told my father we would. You can’t support us here, and I don’t want to move to some shit place where we’ll all be miserable. They boys will hate it, and so would I. That’s not fair to them when my father wants to help us.”

“I grew up simply in a small town. It didn’t kill me,” Peter said, feeling frantic and as though he were about to drown. He knew that if he let him, his father-in-law would swallow him whole and own him, and Alana was setting him up for that.

“We could move to the country for a year or two,” Peter said, sounding desperate.

“You hated growing up in a small town,” she reminded him unkindly.

“For very different reasons. I had trouble in school, I was dyslexic, and I had a brother who made my life miserable. And I didn’t get along with him or my parents. Our kids might be happy in a small town. It might be good for them. There’s more to the world than just New York, L.A., and Southampton. Maybe this would be a good time for them to see that. At least for a little while.”

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