Over at Sawyer Group, Nicholas was still in the meeting when he got a call from Andrew. As soon as he heard that Gregory had gone missing, he stood up abruptly and walked out of the conference room with a steely expression, announcing through gritted teeth, "Dismissed!"
There was no hiding his anger and hostility. The sheer incompetency! What's the use of keeping the staff if they can't even keep an eye on a toddler?!
He looked more mutinous than he had seconds ago as he boarded his car. Just as he was about to rush back to the manor, his phone rang with an intrusive trill.
It was an unknown number, Nicholas noted, but he was in such a daze that he mispressed and answered the call instead of rejecting it.
As soon as the call was put through, an awkward female voice filled the other line, stammering, "H-Hello, President Sawyer. It's me, Tessa, the violinist who performed at Young Master Gregory's birthday banquet the other day. Do you still remember?"
She heard no response, but what she did hear was her heart thumping wildly in her chest. She wasn't so presumptuous as to think Nicholas would still remember her after their brief meeting on the yacht, but then again, that wasn't her priority at the moment.
Clearing her throat, she explained promptly, "President Sawyer, Gregory has come to the orchestra building to look for me all on his own. I was concerned that you might be looking for him, so I figured I'd give you a call. If it's not too much trouble, could you please come and bring the little one home?"
Nicholas' gaze darkened ominously at this as he said icily, "I see. I'll be over right now. Thank you." Then, he hung up the phone decisively and gave his assistant a call, snapping irritably, "Find every bit of information you can on a woman called Tessa Reinhart right now—her childhood, her accomplishments in school, every single detail there is to know about her!"
Keeping his phone, he stepped on the accelerator and sped over to the Heavenly Chorus Orchestra company building.
At the speed he was driving, Nicholas managed to get to the building in record time, having taken a mere hour to complete the otherwise two-hour drive there.
When he stormed through the main entrance of the orchestra building, anyone could see how stormy his face was.
At the sight of him, Tessa straightened up and greeted him stiffly and awkwardly, "P-President Sawyer!"
Trevor, on the other hand, looked rattled as he kept quiet, not daring to so much as let out a breath.
In stark contrast to their uneasy demeanors, Gregory was happily seated down, his little legs dangling over the edge of the chair as he looked entirely relaxed.
The vein near Nicholas' temple was throbbing dangerously, and his voice sounded somewhat disembodied, as if it came from the depths of hell, as he demanded darkly, "Gregory. Sawyer. I don't know where you keep all that audacity, but how dare you run away from home!"
Tessa and Trevor jumped at the thunderous volume of his voice.
Gregory, however, seemed completely at ease as he turned his head away haughtily, sneering, "It's not my fault that you didn't keep your promises, Daddy. You told me you'd bring me to see the pretty lady, but you went back on your word, so I have no choice but to come here alone." He spoke softly, but that did little to hamper the hurt and accusation in his words.
Nicholas was taken aback by the forward protest, and for a second, he wasn't sure if he had the right to argue. He couldn't deny that he had been stalling Gregory, hoping that he might eventually forget about the promise, though Nicholas couldn't very well admit this.
As such, he took a deep breath and walked up to Gregory, intending to talk some sense into the boy. "You have to cut me some slack here, kid. I've been really tied up at work, but I did try to free up my schedule to bring you to see Miss Reinhart. You shouldn't have run away from home. All of us were worried sick!"
"Hmmph!" Gregory scoffed, then added primly, "As if I would believe you. You were cooped up at home for the past three days, so don't tell me you were busy working! Don't think I don't know that you see me as a dumb kid who will fall for your lies! I'm already four, and I wasn't born yesterday. You can't keep spinning lies to humor me!"
Amused by this, Tessa sputtered aloud before she could stop herself.
Meanwhile, Nicholas blinked in surprise, but he, too, was amused. The rage that had welled up in him seemed to disappear after the little guy's grumbling. Having calmed down, Nicholas went on to cajole the child, saying, "Okay, so now that you've seen the pretty lady like you wanted to, don't you think it's time for you to go home with me?"
Naturally, Gregory refused to entertain the idea of leaving, given the Herculean effort he had put in to track down his favorite pretty lady. He slithered down from his seat and stumbled over to Tessa on his little legs, then scoffed at his father contemptuously once more as he snapped, "You can go home on your own if you want to, but I want to stay here with the pretty lady. I will not be going back!"
As soon as he was done with his announcement, he wrapped his little arms around Tessa's leg like a stubborn baby sloth.
Presently, Nicholas' gaze flickered over to Tessa, his eyes so cold and dark that they evoked a barren winter land, but there was an inquisitive gleam in them nonetheless.
Tessa blanched, and she grew a little flustered. Knowing that Gregory was throwing a childish fit, she quickly joined in Nicholas' efforts to change the little fella's mind. "Sweetheart, I know you really like me, and I'm flattered. But this isn't the right way to go about it. Besides, I still have work to do—right, Mr. Oswald?" She shot Trevor a meaningful look.
Trevor had no idea what was going on at the moment, but he went along with her bluff as he muttered hesitantly, "O-Oh, yes, that's right, Young Master Gregory—our Tessa still has plenty of work lined up for her today, and she won't be able to keep you company."
Disappointed to hear this, Gregory lowered his head sadly as he mumbled, "Oh, okay..." However, he had not completely given up. He bit down on his bottom lip, then stared at Tessa with bright eyes as he asked softly, "Then maybe we can have lunch together, pretty lady. What do you say?"
"Well..." Tessa was working up to another rejection, but when she saw how piteous the little guy looked, she couldn't bring herself to say no to him. Then, she caught sight of Nicholas' dangerously stormy face and thought, There's no way he'd agree to this. As such, she sighed and said firmly, "I don't think that's going to work out, Sweetheart."
Upon hearing this, Gregory sniveled, and his eyes turned red as tears glistened in them. His shell-pink lips quivered, and it looked like he was about to cry at any given moment.
Tessa's heart twisted at this, and she quickly shot Nicholas a pleading look, hoping that he could intervene and calm Gregory.
Nicholas seemed equally distressed as he pinched the space between his brows, caving into his child's tantrum. "Then do you promise to go home with me right after lunch?"