Joseph nodded in agreement and assured jovially, "The megaproject arrangements have already been made, and the paperwork should be in order as well. Gideon, I'll have someone go over to Lancaster Incorporated for the signing tomorrow. Now, does anyone else have any ideas for Elias and Raven's wedding?"
"There won't be a wedding," Elias suddenly said.
Everyone at the table turned to gape at him in shock.
Joseph frowned. "Don't be ridiculous. Of course, you'll have a wedding." He assumed that Elias was only upset because he had to settle for Raven instead of Iris, as had been previously agreed.
Elias countered matter-of-factly, "We'll skip the wedding and go on our honeymoon instead."
"That won't do," Joseph said grimly.
"Grandpa, don't I get a say in my wedding?" Elias asked.
Leonard was exasperated, slammed his palm against the dining table, and snapped, "This isn't for you to decide."
He had found Elias to be an eyesore since Joseph brought the kid home fifteen years ago, mostly because he hadn't known he had an illegitimate child until that moment. He had cursed Tessa Windham, Elias' birth mother because she left Elias to be raised by the Mortimers and never showed up personally to explain herself.
Leonard was even more aggravated because Tessa had promised him she would get rid of the child before Elias was born. All that talk about how she shouldn't wreck her own life was a farce. She just left the kid on our doorstep and ran.
Meanwhile, everyone was taken aback by Leonard's sudden outburst except Elias, who looked at him calmly and pointed out, "I don't think you get to have a say in my personal affairs."
"You'd do well to remember your place, Elias." Leonard barked.
Elias shot back, "I never forgot my place."
Leonard looked stormy. "As long as you're living under our roof, you have no right to decide whether there is to be a wedding or not."
"As I said, you don't get to have a say in this," Elias said impassively.
"How dare you call yourself a Mortimer?"
"I never said I wanted to be one."
The air at the dining table was charged with angry energy. One spark and the place might blow.
Joseph looked thunderous as he snapped, "Will the both of you save the argument for when I'm six feet under?"
Leonard's wife, Vivian Smith, quickly reached out to tug on her husband's sleeve as she whispered, "Calm down. Our in-laws are still here."
Leonard grew even sourer when he heard this.
At that moment, Cayden cleared his throat loudly and quickly changed the subject. "Grandpa, Dad, Mr. Lancaster—there's something I'd like to announce while everyone is present."
Everyone looked at him curiously. Aria was the only person at the table to smile as she anticipated what Cayden would say.
As expected, he said, "Aria and I have known each other for a while now, and things are going well between us. We originally planned on getting married in the coming months, but after seeing that Elias and Miss Raven have already gotten their marriage license, we figured we could hold both weddings at the same time. All that's left for us to do is set a date."
Gideon and Lori grinned from ear to ear after they heard this. They could not believe their dreams had come true. Over the last two years, they had urged their daughters to get close to the Mortimers in hopes that one of them would catch Cayden's eye. Finally, their plans came to fruition, and it was all they could do not to leap out of their seats and dance with joy.
They had every reason to be elated by Aria's engagement to Cayden. After all, he was the firstborn Mortimer, which made him the first in line to his family fortune.
Iris, on the other hand, was filled with jealousy. She had always hoped to marry Cayden and felt it was unfair that she lost out to her sister.
A sudden thought crossed her mind, and she frowned as she shot a deadly glare in Raven's direction.
Now that Aria and Cayden were about to get married, the Lancasters' procurement of the megaproject no longer depended on Raven. But the tramp has already taken my bungalow and sixty million worth of our fortune. The mere thought made Iris want to let out a torrent of profanities.
Meanwhile, Joseph was over the moon to hear that his oldest grandson was set to marry Aria. He agreed heartily, "That's wonderful. All this good news is overwhelming."
The Mortimers and the Lancasters had grown close over the last two years after Aria and Iris frequented the house. This gave Joseph plenty of chances to assess Aria and Iris, and Aria had made a rather charming impression on him. She was intellectual and elegant, with a pretty face to match her graceful demeanor. Word had it that she studied abroad in France for two years and majored in International Finance. All in all, she was quite the package.
At this rate, I won't have to worry about my grandchild's weddings anymore.
Then, with a broad grin on Joseph's face, he said, "Very well, then. How about I hire a professional wedding planner to sort out the details for both weddings? You can pick your theme after that.'
Elias was stubborn. "Grandpa, leave us out of this. Raven and I will be traveling instead of going through the traditional wedding."
Joseph's brows furrowed.
Cayden chuckled and interjected, "Grandpa, Aria, and I will leave it to you to plan our wedding."
The old man nodded. He glanced briefly at Elias and let out a sigh. He knew that the boy never felt like he belonged with the Mortimers even though fifteen years had passed. Alas, he could do nothing but feel sorry for his grandchild. Every family had its problems, he liked to tell himself.
Joseph looked at Raven and hoped this marriage would turn out well for Elias.
Meanwhile, Cayden smiled at Aria and said to everyone, "Aria, we'll go and get our marriage license when we have the time."
"All right," she replied sweetly.
"But we'll need to pick out the rings and a few more pieces of jewelry before that. There's also the dress fitting that we have to get done ahead of everything else; it'll take a while for custom-made wedding gowns to be ready, after all."
Aria's smile grew even more radiant. "Whatever you say."
Cayden's gaze flickered to Elias before he turned his attention back to Aria. He said emphatically, "I have seven houses under my name, so you can pick out whichever one you like, and I'll have it transferred to you."
"Thank you," she said graciously.
He smiled. "There's no need to thank me. I'll personally fork out fifty million for the wedding preparations."
Cayden attempted to make a point. He had as good as announced that his wedding would be lavish, but he was capable enough to fork out the money on his own without the rest of the Mortimers' help.
Meanwhile, Iris' eyes nearly popped out of her head when she heard all that Cayden was prepared to do for the wedding. She could barely contain her jealousy. I'm just as pretty as Aria is, and I'm younger, too. Why didn't Cayden choose me? This is infuriating.
Once Cayden had made his grand announcement, he met Elias' indifferent gaze and said to Joseph, "Grandpa, if Elias insists on going on his honeymoon, then perhaps the family should pay for it."
Elias was being outright humiliated by him at this point.
"No, thanks," Elias replied unaffectedly.
Joseph's chest tightened. It had been fifteen years since Elias came to live with them. As his grandpa, it might be impossible for him not to notice how the boy had been treated since Elias was young.
"Listen to me, Elias," Cayden said. "A wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, especially for women. You have to do right by Miss Raven and give her the wedding she deserves."
Elias remarked blithely, "You do not need to concern yourself with my affairs, Cayden."
Instead of being angry, Cayden said good-naturedly, "Miss Raven may be an illegitimate daughter, but you still have to do right by her. Every woman dreams of having a romantic wedding. You wouldn't want her to wallow in self-pity, would you?"
The rest of the Mortimers were stunned to hear the truth of Raven's background.
Raven was also admittedly astonished, but she regained her composure quickly. Of course, Aria would have mentioned this to him.
Compared to Aria and Iris, Iris' bark was worse than her bite, but Aria was the truly vicious one.
Aria seemed oblivious to Cayden's statement as she spoke up congenially, "Raven, why don't you talk to Elias and see if you can get him on board with the idea of holding your wedding alongside ours? I'm sure a grand event like that would be the talk of Elmstead's high society."