“I just don’t understand, Father!” Lydia demanded with a slam of her hand. A loud thud resonance throughout the large, minimalistic office on the peak of the skyscr.a.p.er.
Claymore Conglomerate was located in the heart of the city. A few decades ago, they began branching into different parts of the manufacturing world. It did not take long for them to secure a position in the business world, as something more than an armament manufacturing company.
Wealthy beyond compare, the Claymores were a force to be reckoned with.
“Sweetheart, I’ve already explained it multiple times,” Leonard Claymore stated in a patient voice, though his smile had become a grimace. His thin, sterling silver glasses rested upon the tip of his nose. He was looking over important doc.u.ments in regards to their overseas subsidiaries when his daughter stormed into his office.
“Then explain it to me one more time,” Lydia said. She saw her reflection on the glass desk of her father. It was bullet-proof, and meant to function as a shield in case something happened.
Lydia appeared exhausted. She had just left a tiring meeting with her mother, about the Claymore company that she didn’t want anything to do with. But she had no choice to attend. Lydia was still her mother’s option as the heiress.
“Why didn’t we take Adeline out of the Marden estate when we had the chance too?! Ten years ago, we could’ve just taken her in, we have enough resources—”
“Sweetheart,” Leonard Claymore stressed. He took off his glasses and patiently folded them onto the desk.
“Addison’s will specified for Adeline to live with her relative,” he said. “We can’t interfere with the wish of the dec—” he cleared his throat. A lump had formed, just speaking of the events from ten years ago.
“We can’t interfere with the wish of the deceased,” he finally said.
“I just don’t understand why Aunt Addison left Adeline with the Mardens!” Lydia bickered, even though there was nothing that could change the past. Looking at her beloved best friend now, she couldn’t help but wither with guilt.
Back then, Adeline was as cheerful and rambunctious as Lydia. Now, the tables had turned, and their personalities were swapped. It was Lydia’s turn to be loud, and Adeline’s turn to be quiet.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Lydia g.r.o.a.n.e.d.
Lydia took a seat upon one of the leather chairs facing his desk. It was almost as if his perfectionist of a security had expected her arrival today. He probably did, considering how the chair was already set up in front of her father’s desk.
“You have to view it from the perspective of your Aunt,” Leonard explained. “Kaline’s relatives would be far less accepting of Adeline, considering Addison’s bloodline.”
Lydia sulked. “But you’re Adeline’s godparents…”
Leonard could no longer maintain his smile. He, too, was burning with guilt at times. When Adeline was born the day after Lydia’s birth, he had sworn to protect the child as if she was his own. Kaline had sworn the same thing. If either the Roses or Claymore was injured, either party would take in their children.
Leonard Claymore never thought it would actually happen, until that snowy night a decade ago, when everything took a turn for the worst.
“It was within Addison’s will,” Leonard stressed. “You remember me with the lawyers didn’t you? We fought in court, but nothing could overturn the wishes of a will. Eleanor is childless, has blood-ties with Adeline, and was more than willing to take her in.”
Lydia frowned towards the ground. She had never seen her Father look more disappointed than the day of the court trial. They had pulled strings to ensure the judge was on their side, but then things went skewed. She didn’t know how it happened, but it did.
She would never forget the victorious sneer on Viscount Marden’s face.
“And this wedding?” Lydia mumbled. “Are you going to accept it, Father?”
Leonard slipped his glasses back on. In the corner of his eyes, he saw his daughter picking at the leather chair. He’d need to get that replaced, knowing her habit was destroying things.
“If it makes Adeline happy, then I am more than willing to give my blessings,” Leonard responded. Someone would have to walk her down the aisle.
It was difficult to believe that Adeline would be the first to get married, just as Kaline and Addison were the first in their friend group. The memories of his closest friends formed a lump in his throat. No matter how much he reminisced of the past, he would never live within it again.
Leonard Claymore could still remember their mischievous high school days. Back then, Kaline was spontaneous and wild, a complete contrast to the calm and collected Addison. They were a match made in heaven. The school’s goodie-two-shoe and the school’s bad boy. What could possibly go wrong?
“But Adeline doesn’t seem happy,” Lydia mumbled. “Addy seems… puzzled when she’s near him, like a lost lamb.”
Leonard raised a brow. “Does Adeline follow him like a lost puppy?” he mused.
If he recalled correctly, Kaline used to do the same thing. He would pull a prank upon, somehow get caught by Addison, and trail behind her to convince her to not tell anyone.
“No, of course not. Adeline is much stronger than that,” Lydia stated.
Lydia pressed her lips together. The high society and her socialite friends would sharply disagree with her statement.
Adeline Rose used to be known as The Thorn of Kaline, and for a good reason. Though, the past would always remain that way. It had been, what? Five years? Five years since she put her claws away, and finally gave in to the Mardens’ teachings.
“Sweetheart,” Leonard calmly said. “Have you made it clear to Adeline the Claymores will always welcome her with open arms?”
“Even if it meant going against the Luxtons?” Lydia responded in a dark and irritated voice. She noticed the unpleasant glint in his eyes.
“Are you willing to go against the entire Monarch that dictates the West?” Leonard returned in a pleasant voice. It was above him to banter with his daughter. She would frequently throw temper tantrums with her blunt words. He was used to it by now.
Leonard set the doc.u.ments aside and decided to look over the reports for this month. Pen in hand, he began to quietly read through everything.
“If Adeline wants to leave the Mardens, she will always have a home in our estate,” Leonard stated.
Lydia angrily plucked the leather covering near the corner of her chair. She glared upon the innocent furniture, wishing it would just burn into pieces. “And if Adeline wants to run from the Royal Luxton Castle? Will you let her come here?”
Leonard’s pen froze. He lifted his gaze from the paper, to find his daughter was intently staring at him. He had spent his youth with Kaline, forming an unbreakable bond.
Even now, he could still hear the faint laughter in Kaline’s voice. No matter how serious that man was, he could never keep a straight face in front of Leonard Claymore. That is, until that frigid October, minutes before Adeline was born.
“Promise me, Leo,” Kaline had said. “Swear to me you will keep my daughter safe.”
Leonard had blinked in response, before flashing a signature smile. “You idiot, of course I will keep my goddaughter safe. Even if it costs me my entire life and fortune.”
Kaline had glanced into the distance, an ominous smile upon his face. “Just as I would do the same for your lovely flower, Lydia.”
Leonard had laughed in response. The day before Halloween, Lydia was born, and the day of Halloween, Adeline was born. But for the sake of friendship, he had boarded the first flight to Kastrem, to be present during Adeline’s birth as well.
“Of course, you idiot. If not, I’d crawl from my grave and give you a scuffle,” Leonard had said.
The two had laughed it off, before passing liquor to each other, and shotgunning it like the old days.
And if only both of them knew, the promise would be broken, less than a year after Kaline and Addison’s death.