THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM -
I'm so happy for you and Burt," Jillian said as she hugged her older
sister. "I hope you two are as happy as Reginald and I are."
"You're not upset that we
eloped?" Janet bit her lower lip, nervous that the news of her sudden
marriage wouldn't fit into her family's ideas of wedding planning.
"Upset? Not at all! Honey,
if this is how you and Burt wanted to do it, then it's absolutely fine.
Besides, who cares what I think?"
you think Mother's disappointed?" Janet glanced over at Leticia who
was talking and laughing with Charles,
Francis, and Burt.
"I'm sure she is. You know how she
is about these types of things." Jillian's gaze followed Janet's just
as Fred walked up behind their mother and put his hand on her shoulder.
"But considering how she came back from New York a few months ago with the
news that she'd eloped with Fred, she really doesn't have much room to say
Realizing that Jillian had a very valid
point, both Jillian and Janet broke up into laughter.
Meanwhile, just a few steps away, Reginald
walked over to Burt who was in mid-conversation with his new in-laws.
"Burt, if you have a moment, I'd like to
have a word with you," Reginald said with a firmness that instantly let
Burt know that what Reginald wanted to discuss was quite urgent.
"All right," Burt nodded before
excusing himself from his present conversations. He followed Reginald
across the room, well out of earshot of anyone else in the family.
"Okay, Reginald, what is it? You made this sound important."
"It's very important."
Reginald responded, full of an almost businesslike seriousness.
"I...have a feeling that this isn't
about congratulating me on my marriage."
"Far from it." Reginald's
eyes narrowed as he looked at Burt. It was almost as if he were examining
him under a microscope -- every hair, every fiber, every pore. His gaze
was intense and it made Burt very uncomfortable.
"I take it that you don't approve?"
Burt treaded lightly into the conversation. For months
he'd been aware of some sort of tension between him and Reginald. Of
course, nothing too overt had been said, but Burt had always gotten the feeling
that Reginald didn't like him -- practically resented him. Burt had
found it odd because, at one point, they'd gotten along rather well. In
fact, they'd been darn near friendly. But since the announcement that Burt
was really the son of Reginald's long-dead uncle Landon, Reginald's demeanor
towards Burt had been down right chilly.
"How did you do it?" Reginald began, his arms folded
tightly cross his chest. "How did you manage to so easily convince
Janet into marrying you?"
asked her," Burt replied flatly. "Isn't that the customary way
of doing things? Down on one knee, ring held out.... Isn't that how
you proposed to Jillian?"
"That's not what I'm talking about."
"Then perhaps you better fill me in." Burt felt
his blood pressure begin to rise. He definitely didn't like the direction
their conversation was headed and wasn't sure he liked what he was sure that his
cousin was insinuating.
"This was all rather sudden, don't you
think?" Reginald began to slowly pace around Burt, practically
walking a full circle around him. "No one even knew the two of you
were engaged. But, then again, we all know how impressionable and
vulnerable Janet can be. I'm sure it wasn't hard for you to talk her into
running off to Davenport."
"For your information, Janet's the one who convinced me
to elope. I wasn't sure it was the right thing to do because I know how
much her mother would have wanted to throw another big wedding, but Janet
insisted. How could I have said 'no?'"
"Well, however you managed to pull it off, you really did
it, didn't you?"
"You just waltzed into this town a nobody -- just some guy
who picked up his downtrodden family and moved in to take care of a stable of
horses." Reginald stood still directly in front of Burt and stared at
him. "Then, suddenly, you're a Callison -- Landon's son. And
then you're wooing and romancing one of the heirs to the East Coast's largest
textile companies. Now that you've married Janet, you're a member of two
of the most prominent families in this town. You haven't just climbed the
social ladder, you've run right up it!"
"How dare you try to insinuate that I'm using Janet!
Besides, I'm every bit a part of the Callison family as you are. I'm a
Callison by blood! You've seen the documentation! You've seen
the reports and records that your own father's private detective found!"
and files and records can be altered and falsified to say whatever you want them
to." Reginald moved closer to Burt, getting practically nose to nose
with him. "I don't give a damn what those records say! You're
not part of this family and you never will be!" He jabbed his finger
into Burt's face to punctuate his point.
"Get out of my face!" Burt spat. "I don't
have to prove a damn thing to you! Your father accepts me! Janet
loves me! Those are the only things that matter."
"So," Reginald chuckled heartily with an air of
amusement, "you've worked so hard to land yourself in a rather cushy spot,
haven't you. How much will it take?"
"You heard me." Reginald's jaw tightened.
"How much will it take? I'm prepared to phone the bank first thing in
the morning. Exactly how much money will it take to send you packing out
of this town and out of our lives for good?"