Southern Winds (Chapter Two)

by Cathy

Julia and Greg’s marriage had been arranged by their families as a socially acceptable match. Greg had just graduated from Annapolis when they were married. Greg was then shipped out to sea, leaving his young bride alone. Julia was young, beautiful, and very lonely when she met tall, handsome, rich Asa Buchanan, and he swept her right off her feet! Julia fell madly in love with Asa and thed had a very passionate affair that lasted several months while Asa was in New Orleans making some oil deals. Asa, of course, did not bother to tell Julia tha he was also married, with a pregnant wife back home in Texas. Julia was planning to divorce Greg and run away with Asa when she found out the truth. Asa and Julia had a terrible fight, and Asa left for Texas, never looking back.

Greg returned on leave a month after Asa left town. Julia vowed to make up for her indiscretion – – – she would do everything possible to make Greg happy. When Julia found out that she was pregnant, she at first believed that the baby was Greg’s, but after seeing the baby, she realized that Brent was really Asa’s son. Greg, however, never suppected that the boy wasn’t his. Julia had kept the secret all these years out of shame, but she felt she owed it to Brent to tell him the truth.

“Who is this Asa Buchanan? What kind of a man is he?” wondered Brent. Questions swirled around and around in Brent’s mind. He had always felt that he and Greg had notheing in common. Now he knew why.

Brent called his lawyer and asked him to engage a good private investigator to find this Asa Buchanan. The lawyer called back the next day and told Brent that Asa owned Buchanan Enterprises, but had retired from general management and his grandson, Cord Roberts, was now running the company. The lawyer also informed Brent that Asa, his son, Bo, and his grandsons, Cord, Kevin and Joey, were all living in Llanview, Pennsylvania.

Brent decided that maybe it might be a good time to go looking up relatives in Pennsylvania. He needed to make an extended trip to Llanview if he wanted to find out about his real father, Asa Buchanan, and the other members of this new family he never knew he had.

Brent had been very lonely growing up as an only child. The thought that he had two half-brothers he had never met filled him with regret and longing. He had always envied his friends who had siblings. Now, as a grown man finding out that he had brothers after all, made him feel cheated that he never had a chance to grow up with them. Brent felt both grief and anger at his mother for keeping this from him all those years. Brent realized that his mother did the best she could but that didn’t change the fact that he felt cheated out of knowing his real father and his brothers.

Brent called Phil Grayson, his vice president and best friend, into his office. “Phil, I am going out of town for awhile and I need you to take charge around here for me, buddy.”

“What’s going on Brent? I know you have had a real difficult time with your Mom’s death and everything, but I get the felling something else is bothering you. Is there anything I can do to help other than just take charge of the company?” Phil asks.

“I just need to get away for awhile, Phil,” Brent said. I have some folks up in Pennsylvania who were friends of my mother’s. I want to go look them up. I think they can help me deal with her death. Can I count on you to take care of Hamilton Shipping for me?” asked Brent.

“Sure, you can depend on me, chief. I’ll take care of things on this front. You take all the time you need, just keep me posted as to where you are in case I need to get ahold of you. Remember: You need anything, just sing out and I’ll come running.” Phil assured Brent.

“Thanks Phil. I promise I will be in touch,” Brent said as, with a laugh, he left the office.

Brent headed over to Hamilton Publishing, thinking, “I better let Uncle Cliff know that I’m leaving town. If I don’t, he will be very suspicious.” Brent had always gotten along well with his Uncle Cliff.

Cliff Hamilton was Greg’s easygoing younger brother. Cliff was only twelve years older than Brent and, while growing up, Cliff had been Brent’s hero. Brent had no intention of telling Uncle Cliff anything about his newly revealed parentage. But he wanted Uncle Cliff to know that he was going to get away for awhile to come to terms with his mother’s death.

Brent found his Uncle Cliff sitting behind his desk playing solitaire on his computer. “Hi, squirt. How have you been holding up? I haven’t heard form you in a couple of days and I have been worried about you,” asked Cliff.

“Oh, I’m holding up pretty well, Uncle Cliff,” said Brent. “Actually, that is why I came by. I’ve decided that I need to get away for awhile. Mom had some friends up in Pennsylvania and I think I might go visit them for awhile.”

“That’s interesting. Where about’s in Pennsylvania are you going, kid?” asked Cliff.

“I think the name of the town is Llanview, Uncle Cliff. It’s not too far from Harrisburg, I think,” replied Brent.

“That’s even more interesting,” said Cliff. “I know you don’t know much about the publishing business, but I have a favor to ask of you,” said Cliff.

“Okay, Uncle Cliff, I’ll bite. For you I would do just about anything,” Brent said with a big, teasing grin on his face.

“Well,” said Cliff, smiling back at Brent, “Hamilton Publishing has been having some negotiations with The Banner — a newspaper in Llanview — about doing a special monthly supplement for them. I need to meet with the publisher of The Banner, Victoria Lord Carpenter, but I just have too many things going on here to get up there.”

“I’d be happy to help, but what good could I be when I don’t know anything about what’s going on?” inquired Brent, looking confused.

“Don’t worry kid,” said Cliff. “I have the whole proposal already drawn up. All you have to do is present it to the lady. I understand that she is a real pretty single lady and you usually don’t have much trouble making a good impression on them.”

Brent looked at Cliff and grinned. “You know me pretty well, Uncle. I will meet with your pretty publisher and give her the old Hamilton charm to see if I can get your deal done. My plane leaves tomorrow afternoon. Get me a copy of the proposal and an appointment with Ms. Carpenter as soon as you can. I want to get your business taken care of right away so I can concentrate on the things I need to do.”

“Brent, I sure do appreciate this, I owe you one, kid. You take care and let me know what happens,” Cliff said as he gave Brent a big hug.

Brent put his attache case under the seat on the plane. He had two seats in first class — he always bought two seats together so he had enough room to spread out his six-foot-two-inch frame. But even in first class there never seemed to be enough room for his long legs. As he buckled his seat belt and smiled at the pretty, dark haired flight attendant, he was thinking about how he was going to approach meeting his father, Asa, once he got to Llanview.

Brent had received briefings from Phil before he left about all of the Buchanans. “I think I will just study the ones on Asa, Bo and Cord to start out with,” thought Brent. “It is going to be confusing enough, without trying to remember everything about everyone.”

It was unlikely he would have any dealings with Kevin, Joey, or Drew. In the beginning, and since Clint lived on the West Coast, he thought he probably would not even meet him for quite awhile.

Brent opened the attache case and was all set to settle into reading about his long-lost relatives when he saw the folder with “Hamilton Publishing” printed on the cover. “Crap,” thought Brent, “I forgot about that little favor for Uncle Cliff. Well, I guess I’ll read it first. I can get to the Buchanan stuff after I get to Llanview and get settled.”

Brent opened the folder. There was a note stapled to the report from Uncle Cliff. “Kid,” the note said, “here is everything you should need. I made an appointment for you to see Ms. Carpenter at 9:00 p.m. tonight. I know that is a little late, but you are the one who wants to get this business out of the way. Besides, if I know you, you’ll end up convincing the widow lady to have a late dinner with you.”

Brent asked the driver sent by the Palace Hotel if he would take his bags on to the hotel for him. The plane landed two hours late due to mechanical problems, and it was already 8:45 p.m. — Brent had only 15 minutes to get to The Banner office to meet with Victoria Carpenter.

Despite his joking with Uncle Cliff, the last thing Brent had on his mind was the prospect of getting involved with a woman. On the other hand, he was sure that Ms. Carpenter was acquainted with the Buchanans. He thought that if he could convince her to go out for a late business dinner, he might be able to gather some information about Asa and his family from someone who actually knew them. Besides, Brent figured that it wouldn’t hurt to start making friends in Llanview, especially if they were as pretty as Uncle Cliff said she was.

Brent walked into the lobby of The Banner newspaper where an elderly gentleman was sitting at the desk looking at the security monitors. The man greeted Brent with a big smile, “Well, hello, sir,” the old man said. “How are you doing tonight? You go right on up to her office, sir. I know that she will be glad to see you.”

Brent was about to ask where Ms. Carpenter’s office was when he saw the directory and realized it was on the 6th floor. As he entered the elevator, a young woman gave him a big smile. “How are you this evening, sir?” she asked.

“I’m fine, thank you, a confused Brent replied.

“These have got to be the friendliest people I have ever met,” thought Brent. “This is all very, very strange.”

Viki Carpenter was sitting at her desk wishing that she hadn’t made the appointment to see Brent Hamilton on this night. She had been going through her office, cleaning out the bookshelves and the drawers in her desk. It had needed to be done for a long time, but Viki hadn’t anticipated that there would be so many memories of Clint in everything she went through. It hurt so badly to look at all these pieces of their lives together, not just as a married couple, but as co-workers and best friends. Viki missed Clint so much that she felt physical pain from it. “I don’t think this ache in my heart will ever go away,” she thought. “Oh, God, I have to pull myself together before Mr. Hamilton arrives. Maybe he can take my mind off Clint long enough to get some business done.”

Just then, Brent knocked on the door to Viki’s office. “Please, come in, Mr. Hamilton,” she answered in a soft, feminine voice.

Brent opened the door and saw a beautiful blond woman sitting at a desk, wearing a pearl grey suit and a light blue blouse that perfectly matched her gorgeous blue eyes. “WOW,” thought Brent, “maybe I have been selling the publishing business short. None of my business associates at Hamilton Shipping look anything like Victoria Carpenter.”

Brent noticed that Ms. Carpenter’s expression had suddenly changed. She seemed embarrassed and flustered. Brent was about to ask what was wrong when she recovered her voice and said, “Clint, what are you doing here? I mean, I didn’t know you were in town. Do the kids know you are back?”

“Something is very different about Clint,” thought Viki. “He has on an imported dark blue suit and Italian shoes. Has Lindsay changed him that much?”

A very bewildered Brent said, “I’m sorry, Ms. Carpenter, but you must have me confused with someone else. My name is Brent Hamilton. I’m representing Hamilton Publishing and we have an appointment tonight. If there is some problem, I can come back tomorrow.”

Viki just shook her head. She couldn’t believe that this was not Clint. “This Brent fellow looks just exactly like Clint,” Viki thought, as she finally managed to find her voice again.

“I’m sorry Mr. Hamilton,” Viki stammered. “It’s just that you look exactly like my ex-husband, Clint Buchanan.”

Now it was Brent’s turn to be stunned, as he stared at his former sister-in-law.

Previous post: