“Thank you all for joining us,” Jacob’s father, Levi Cohen said from his position at the head of a large conference room table. He had requested the family and extended family meet together and hadn’t told them why. The Barcelo Maya Palace resort had become the family’s temporary home and office until they could purchase homes. The resort had been more than accommodating to the multi-billionaire and his family. “I don’t just mean ‘thank you for joining us for this meeting,’ I mean thank you for coming with us to Mexico.”
There were mumbles around the table like, “of course,” and “good to be here.” All Jacob could think was I didn’t have a choice. He wanted this meeting to be over so he could go find Maryam before her family left to move out of the resort and back onto the yacht.
His patience was wearing thin. She still hadn’t answered him, and they had less than a day before she would leave port. Today was his last chance. Jacob planned to try one more time to get Maryam to stay with him.
Captain Arnold would launch tomorrow to start the first of many charter tours around the globe for however many years he continued employ with the Cohen Enterprises. He was paid handsomely to live on a luxury yacht and sail around the world over and over. If a person wanted to make his living as the captain of a yacht, there weren’t many nicer than the Lady Bountiful.
Jacob fought the urge to look at the clock or check his phone again to see if she’d sent him a text. Meeting his father’s gaze, Jacob determined to give his full attention to the meeting and worry about Maryam later. Not an easy task until his father shocked everyone in the room.
“I’m giving away all my money.”
Murmurs travelled around the table, some angry, all confused.
“Let me explain”—he held out his hands— “Sarah and I have decided to give each of our sons their inheritance now rather than wait until we die.”
That started a different kind of chatter, excited rather than disgruntled. Jacob wondered what that meant. An equal distribution between each of father’s six sons? How much would he keep for himself and mom? How rich would Jacob become at the ripe old age of nineteen? He’d once joked that his father had so much money, they could divide the fortune among all the sons and they’d each be billionaires. Could that really be possible?
“Some of you have been a little distracted with weddings and having babies”—Father glanced at his first grandson, Ishmael, lovingly nicknamed baby Ishy by all who found him irresistible. Lyle and Mirium had finally arrived in Mexico now that baby Ishy was strong enough to travel. They had taken the private jet rather than brave the high seas.
Liam was sitting beside Lyle with David Ashish next to him, their heads close together, whispering. Their wives, Shira and Rachel were on the other side of David, heads together as well. Something was up with the four of them.
David’s mother and father, Cassandra and Daniel Ashish sat to the left of his best friend, Jacob’s father, who had mother at his right.
Nicholas and Adele had a place of honor beside their parents, the implication of which was not lost on Jacob. He could tell Liam and Lyle knew exactly why their father was singling out Nicholas; he was being groomed to take over Cohen Enterprises and the older brothers didn’t like that.
Sam didn’t seem to have a problem standing in his younger brother’s shadow. They all had their role in the business and in the family. He sat confidently with his bride Leanne, who looked the part of a studious graduate with an advanced degree. The only way Sam was able to convince her to leave her university in Jerusalem was to encourage her to pursue a PhD at a major university in the United States. They had both been accepted at the University of Houston and planned to head that direction within the next few weeks.
Leanne sat beside their oldest sister, Ruth, who had married Zach before flying to Mexico and were officially on their honeymoon. Jacob had no idea what their plans were from here.
His father continued. “Some of you may have noticed I’ve been quietly liquidating assets in Jerusalem and throughout the Middle East. I have started endowment funds at various institutions mostly in Jerusalem since that’s where I lived most of my life. I wanted to leave a legacy there and a good name should any of you choose to move home.”
Move home? Jacob thought. Not a chance. He knew what was in the Middle East, a lot of sand and rocks. He wanted fresh water and trees. Lots of trees.
“We are in the process of disbanding Cohen Enterprises.” Father shocked the group again. “I don’t want any of you to feel beholden to any of our companies. Most of them will be divided into shares and you will each have the option to use part of your inheritance to purchase those shares should you choose, or to receive your inheritance as bonds and go your separate ways.”
That got Jacob’s heart racing. Go separate ways? Leave his brothers? Never have to deal with Liam again for the rest of his life? No longer have to live in his shadow? No longer have to obey father’s rules in order to keep him happy?
Jacob envisioned taking Maryam by the hand and confidently travelling the world alone together in search of their dream forest where they could build a big house with lots of windows and a kitchen where the family could gather and they could raise babies together. A tiny smile pulled at the corner of Jacob’s lips.
Over the past week he’d done some research about the American continents and decided he wanted to head north first. There was a place called the Great Lakes and they sat regally between the countries of Canada and the United States. Rivers and valleys and waterfalls and more fresh water than there was oil in Saudi Arabia. That’s where he wanted to explore. If he couldn’t find Maryam’s dream forest there, then it didn’t exist.
“There is still a lot of work to be done in the estate planning process,” Father continued, pulling Jacob again from his fantasies. “But suffice it to say you will each be very wealthy men when all is divided. What you choose to do with that wealth will be completely your decision.”
If Jacob had a hard time holding still at the beginning of this meeting, he now could barely remain seated. He had to go find Maryam.
“At the behest of sounding greedy, Father, how much are we talking here?” Liam did indeed sound greedy, but he said what everyone else was thinking.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if each of my sons”—Father gulped— “Were billionaires by the time all is divvied up.”
Liam sat back with a smirk and tucked his hands behind his head. Lyle whispered something to Miriam and she giggled. Sam and Leanne spoke quietly to one another in calm, serious undertones.
Nicholas barely twitched a muscle. He already knew. That didn’t surprise Jacob. He was father’s right-hand man and had been for years.
“Now for the bad news…” Father glanced around the table at every person but paused longest at each of his sons. “I was not happy about what happened on the yacht.”
Not everyone in the room had sailed on the maiden voyage of the Lady Bountiful and were privy to details about the argument. Some people murmured or looked around the table.
“I’m disappointed with the impropriety I saw, the arguing, the fighting, the infidelity.” Father didn’t turn his head toward Liam, but others did and everyone in that room knew exactly who father was talking about. “I do not intend to evenly distribute my fortune and I will not be disclosing to any of you what the others received.”
“Oh, that is a bunch of effing garbage!” Liam rose from his seat and threw his pen down, creating a divot in the polished wood. “You’re playing favorites? Based on what? Because my little brother’s a prude? Because we threw a couple punches?”
“Hmm… I guess some of my sons will be billionaires.” Father pursed his lips and diverted his gaze.
Liam must have realized his tirade wasn’t helping because he leaned against the wall near the door and folded his arms, glaring at their father. No one else spoke.
“I have an announcement to make also.” Daniel Ashish cleared his throat. He glanced over at David and then around the table at his daughters. “We don’t have as much money as the Cohen’s, but we’d like to give each of our daughters, and our son, part of your inheritance. Ruth, David, Rachel, Miriam, Leanne, and Adele, you’ll each get $500,000 immediately and divide the rest of our wealth after your mother and I pass away.”
“Thank you, Father, that’s very generous.” Ruth shifted her gaze. “And Mother, also, thank you.” All the girls nodded. David’s brow furrowed.
“I also have one other gift,” Jacob’s father said. “Zach, we promised we would help care for you if you came with us. You have been a great friend and I’d like to offer you $500,000 as well.”
“Thank you, Mr. Cohen. That is greatly appreciated.” Zach nodded.
“Let me get this straight”—David looked around the room— “I’m the only person in this room who didn’t just become a millionaire with the stroke of a pen?”
“Sorry,” Shira said, folding her arms across her chest. “Levi didn’t have any daughters for you to marry. You’re stuck with me for a wife.”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it,” David said. “I’m just frustrated.”
“I encourage all of you to take into consideration what you want from this wealth you’ve been given, and choose to do good in this world.” Father stood and glanced around the table. “That’s all for today.” He helped Mother to her feet and together they strode past Liam, who still glowered by the door to the board room.
Soft conversations resumed around the table after their father left and Jacob was the first to follow, hurrying through the resort to go find his bride. Maryam would surely accept a marriage proposal now that he was a billionaire.