“Remember those photos from the party last time? It seems like not only is she indecent, but she also can’t act the part of Mrs. Norton properly either. What a disgrace to the family.”
“What on earth is Mr. Norton thinking? What exactly did he see in her? And all that talk about the V.M Fund… Unbelievable.”
The ruthless comments flooded Vivian’s ears, leaving her hot with shame.
Never had Vivian felt so out of place until this moment. Indeed, the upper-class social circle never had a place for her. She did not even know what gift would have been appropriate for such an occasion. Vivian rationalized that she deserved to be shamed.
Finnick, enraged by the remarks, was all ready to defend Vivian. However, the elder Mr. Norton beat him to it.
Evidently pleased with the gift in hand, he beamed at Vivian and said, “This is the best present I’ve received thus far. In fact, it’s very much my favorite. You’re too lovely, Vivian. Please accept my sincerest gratitude.”
The room instantly fell silent. Everyone was dumbfounded at the elder Mr. Norton’s high praise.
Exchanging incredulous looks, the indignant crowd sneered at the elder Mr. Norton’s explicit bias toward Vivian.
Did the old man seriously praise the gift like it’s some priceless artifact?
Mark could not help but throw in a jibe. “Finnick, why don’t you consider sponsoring your wife a little? Look at this sad massager that probably costs just a few thousand dollars – it’s rather unbefitting for a company president’s wife, don’t you think?”
Finnick coolly replied, “Well, I prepared this gift with my wife. I’ve always trusted her judgement, and it has evidently been the right choice – look at how happy Grandpa is. And also, a good gift isn’t just about the value – the sincerity behind it matters too. Not sure if you can understand that though.”
“Oh, shut up!” Mark was ready to throw hands.
The elder Mr. Norton was not ready to deal with a fight today. “Oh come on, this reunion is so hard to come by – don’t be at each other’s throats all the time, alright? You two are already grown-ups, so don’t act the same way as you did when you were still kids. It’s embarrassing.”
The mention of the old days hushed the brothers up immediately.
The old man was right – the brothers were indeed at odds with each other ever since they were young. When one became ranked first in school academically, the other wanted to dethrone him. When one got into car racing, the other followed suit.
Amidst the commotion, Ashley fumed silently to the side. The elder Mr. Norton’s liking toward Vivian was much to her chagrin. But since she was under the scrutiny of others, she kept her composure.
Meanwhile, she relished the joy of knowing that the old man really believed that her pregnancy was real. Becoming a soon-to-be mother really granted her more tender loving care from the elder Mr. Norton.
Amongst artful laugher and chatting, the seconds ticked away swiftly. In a blink of an eye, it was already past eight.
The elder Mr. Norton addressed the crowd. “It’s getting late, so I suppose it’s time for everyone to return to your own rooms. It was nice seeing all of you today. I’m getting old and tend to feel lonely occasionally, so I do love to have company around at times. Thank you for being here today.”
With that, everyone bade farewell and returned to their individual rooms.
Vivian was about to slip away when the old man called her back.
“Vivian, stay and talk to me,” he said.
Hearing the exchange, Finnick wanted to stay behind too. But his request was turned down by the elder Mr. Norton with a tease. “Tsk… You don’t feel safe leaving your wife with me?”
“Grandpa, that’s not what I mean,” Finnick replied.
“Ah, then perhaps I am obstructing you two from spending some alone time tonight?”
Vivian flushed at the innuendo. “Grandpa!”
“Vivian, let’s go to my study and ignore him.” The elder Mr. Norton then strode ahead and disappeared into the room.
Vivian gave a reassuring look to Finnick and followed the old man.
Finnick knew that Mr. Norton would not do anything to Vivian, but his unease could not be quelled. Not knowing what the conversation would be about unsettled him.
Mark observed the scene at the side and smirked.
He could sense that something was off between the two. There seemed to be a lack of affection in the way they looked at each other. Looks like a talk with Vivian tonight would be good.
In the study, the elder Mr. Norton increased the temperature of the heater.
He then gestured for Vivian to come closer so that they could have a proper conversation.
As the air around them warmed, the old man began the conversation. “Having your past dug out against your will, then getting framed by your sister… The past few days have truly been rough for you and Finnick.”