Chapter 11: Make the First Move

It seemed Kelan Benedict’s warning had opened the Cochan family’s eyes to the possibility of Jessica’s potential, especially as a peace offering to Kelan. Over the past few weeks, Cynthia had suggested divorce from Conor more than once.

Each time Mr. Cochan was away on business, Cynthia would invade their apartment and try to broach the topic with Jessica. Jessica, however, staunchly refused to be a trophy for Kelan. 

But Conor knew deep down that it was not out of love for him that she clung to their marriage, but simple fear of Kelan.

One night, during one of Cynthia’s invasions of their apartment, she ordered, “Conor, be quick and  finish the dishes and get out! Jessica and I have things to discuss.”

As Conor dejectedly took to his task, he heard his wife start in on an old refrain.

“Mother, let me marry Nyman, and then I will consider divorcing Conor,” Jessica pleaded, still feeling like she was walking on eggshells with her mother.

“Silly girl, the Banks family could never stand up to the Benedicts. They may run the local bank, but they don’t have nearly as much capital! Besides, Nyman’s father is just a branch manager, not even real power in the banking world. If you shun Kelan like this, you could risk our whole family being targeted by the Benedicts. Our family would never stand a chance!” Cynthia’s voice even peaked at the end in fear.

Jessica couldn’t believe what her mother was saying. “So, do I even have a choice in this? You know what they say about women who have dated Kelan?” she looked pleadingly at her mother.

Cynthia really looked at Jessica and did her best to wipe the dollar signs out of her eyes. “What do they say? I’ve heard so much about his family’s wealth and power. Even the king respects the Benedict family as they supply coal that powers the kingdom, and provide honest work for the kingdom’s prison population in their mines. They are doing good work.”

“MOM!” Jessica was practically in tears, “The Benedicts employ slave labor. They use the prisoners because the labor is free! And Kelan has had a new girl on his arm every other month. Most are never seen again. Many say they end up at the bottom of the lake at his family’s rock quarry!”

Cynthia’s eyes widened. “Seriously? I… Oh, dear.” But after a while, she continued, “Well… Most of those rumors must be fake. He has been such a sweet boy in all of our dealings. And he is willing to invest so much in our family business. With the Benedict’s blessing, our malls will thrive again.”

Conor had enough of listening to his wife and mother-in-law talk about divorce and marrying his wife off to some oligarch and tossed his hands in the air before storming out the door to go find Yuri. 

Perhaps he could blow off some steam by shooting monsters on Yuri’s game system.

Yuri was deep in concentration on his game but answered after a few knocks.

“Oh, hey come on in! Mom is working late again, but you have to see what I have been able to do! Mr. Nuri is amazing! He has already got me set up with some serious advertising! This is going to be huge!”

Yuri then noticed Conor’s disgruntled look and asked, “Hey, what’s up? Things not going well at home?”

“My mother-in-law is doing her best to marry Jessica off to some oligarch and has no qualms doing it right in front of me. After all, these days I am just a failed pizza boy.” Conor signed, putting his head into his hands in shame, but somehow, he felt that telling Yuri about his personal issues wasn’t a bad idea. Yuri had become like a younger brother to him and he was brilliant for his age. It was often easy to forget he was still a teen. 

“The thing is, If I thought she would be better off with him, I might be inclined to see how feasible such a thing was. After all, it’s not like I am helping the family any. But that brute… Yuri, I wouldn’t wish him on my worst enemy.”

Yuri looked at him quizzically and asked. “Conor, I know your marriage is not… great… but… Is there anything that we can do to push Jessica into a position she doesn’t have to worry about Kelan? Perhaps, in a roundabout way improve your home life?”

Conor thought about it. “I am not sure. With billions in dragon coins, perhaps.”

“Mr. Nuri?” Yuri asked.

Conor just laughed. “Mr. Nuri might be able to help, but he isn’t my dad or a piggy bank. I think he is helping out only as a favor to my mother’s memory, so I can’t ask too much, you see? If only I had more money! As it stands, I don’t have much. What I do have, I kinda already committed to long term investments.”

“Once my game launches, you will! I promise it’s going to be huge! I asked Mr. Nuri if you would be compensated for introducing me to him and he assured me you would get your due!” Your said enthusiastically.

Conor chuckled, remembering the gold coins Mr. Nuri would be investing for him. They were now a sizable value, but if spend wildly, they would be gone after a single trip to the mall for Jessica and her mom. But given enough time, those small seeds could provide a real income for him and Jess. Deep down, he was not only confident in that, but had a sense of certainty.

“Until then…” Yuri continued, “What is it Jessica needs? Or perhaps what does the family need that Jessica can bring to the table?”

Conor liked where Yuri’s head was at. 

The family would never accept help from him directly but, perhaps, if an idea came from Jessica…

“A new ad campaign would do wonders for the mall,” Conor finally said.

“Do you know anyone who does that?”

Conor thought, then he felt his chest warm around the pendant he wore under his shirt, and an idea came to mind. He remembered a previous time the pendant had warmed and Mr. Miros! “I think I know just such a person!”

Conor and Yuri played through several levels of his game while Conor contemplated how Peter Miros might help the Cochan family malls. After a few hours, Conor had a rough idea in mind. He just hoped his mother-in-law was not still at the house, or the plan would never work.

Conor returned home and to his relief, Cynthia had left for the evening.

Catching his wife’s hand, he pulled her to the table, “Jessica, I have an idea for you.”

“Oh, you, the perpetual failure has an idea?” she said still standing. The words hit Conor with an extra barb to his heart and pride.

Conor then noted she had not committed to sitting down to discuss with him yet.

“Ok, I admit, I have indeed had many issues, but most are … well, never mind. But this idea is going to work. I am sure, I promise! This one you don’t even need to involve me. But I think it will help your father, and the family malls.”

Jessica let out a long sigh before reluctantly sitting down at the small table in the kitchen. After all, the family did need new ideas, so why not listen to Conor and see for herself if it would be useful. “Ok, you have five minutes. Let’s hear this grand scheme.”

Conor took a long breath and then explained how he had heard about a guy with a new advertisement business that specialized in stock photos. If Jessica approached him and offered to allow him to use the mall for as many of his stock photos as he could make, he could likely provide a discount on marketing materials and create a new ad campaign for the mall. With recognizable areas of the mall in many stock photos, it would attract people even through other companies’ ads.

Jessica’s face went from a bland sense of boredom to genuine interest as she listened intently to Conor’s proposal. In the end, she was rather impressed and … surprised.

“And how am I to fund this venture?” Jessica hasn’t forgotten her main problem.

“Well, we could use some of the gold dragon coin the priest gave me as an inheritance.”  Apparently, that was the wrong choice of words.

Jessica’s interest flashed to anger as she spewed venomous words, “You think I should just use that money so you can get credit?! What about all the expenses I have had to pay out to cover your stupid ideas over the years?! What about my paying our rent these last four years?! What about my paying for our food?! NO? You still own me for so much suffering! If you want this idea to work, how about you fork over that gold coin you kept. I know you still kept one of the two coins. You still have to pay this months rent, and you think we will magically have enough to also pay for this too?”

Conor recoiled at her words, feeling frustrated more than ever. He threw up his hands. “I am trying to do right by you Jess and invest in our future! Take the idea and claim it as your own if you want! I am just trying to help! Can’t you see that?!.”

Conor tried to school his expression as he tried hard to calm down, “I am just trying to make a difference for us! Shouldn’t we have more faith in each other?!” 

She glared at him and said coldly, “My faith in you dried up a while ago. You have yet to do anything to change that.”

With the last words, Conor went to his room and slammed the door, a bit harder than he should have. 

Sleep was difficult that night as he lay awake thinking of what his life would be like if he made different choices and what he could do to improve his future.

‘Make the first move,’ the calm, soothing voice was like a whisper across his soul, resonating with deep wisdom and power.

“Make the first move,” Conor said to himself as he finally dozed off. Make the first move…… Tomorrow, he vowed, to do just that.

 

Thank you for reading Rejected Billionaire by Drew Archeron. If you are enjoying this tale, the rest of the chapters are serialized on Amazon Kindle Vella, Goodnovel, and Meganovel.  Check out https://linktr.ee/AuthorDrewArcheron to find the rest of the tale from your favorite reading app.

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