I chose to take the second day of the convention off and let Luis’ team work their magic on marketing strategy and whatever else they do at conventions. Instead, I spent some more time with Antonio and his family, getting to know them a bit better. They were a really happy family, and they were very close. Anyone with a bit of intuition could tell that. At the same time, they got to spend some time with me and got to know me better.
Steve, being the only one with no Italian blood, was leery of the whole idea of being in the presence of a living god. Having not been raised with the idea of the old gods, someone like me belonged right next to Mickey Mouse and Mother Goose. Maybe that is why he was ok with me playing tag with the kids in the vines.
I spent the alone time I had in two ways. One was working on keeping the voices in check as much as I could. It was good that I didn’t have to really hide them when around Antonio and his family. They knew the stories and understood more or less that the voices were a part of me. According to Fran, it made me even more endearing, so I was happy for that perspective.
I spent the rest of the time thinking of Amphitrite. Even though we had not spent too much time together, there was a connection there. The gift I gave her worked better than I expected, and I think the connection we shared then had something to do with it all. I could feel the turmoil inside getting ready to boil over. I had hoped that the boost I gave her would help her throughout her ordeal. I reached out to her by phone a few times, and mentally a few more. But as expected, I was not successful. I had to trust in the process and our bond.
If not for the Master Plan being in full swing, I would have stayed as close to her as I could, in case I was needed. But I knew my place was with my extended family at this time. Even though I hated this business aspect of things, too many people depended on it to ignore. Wine was never a business for me, but a means to keep going. The mortals I was teaching in the early days started the notion of being involved on the business side of things. It was a means of making an offering to a god at a time when you had nothing to offer.
According to Luis, 42% of the convention exhibitors were part of the family, and they were all growing as a business, regardless of profit margins. That sounded good to me, so I stopped listening after that. I knew there would be all sorts of presentations and speeches at the meeting anyway, so I was trying to save my attention span for the next day. There would be a lot of speeches and presentations about profits and thank yous and some crying, too.
At first, I refused such foolishness. What does a god need drachmae, aureus, and shat for anyway? But there are times that it is best to accept something you do not need than to see the faces of the people you know and care for, turn sad. Over the years, that snowballed into a huge business.
I have tried to walk away from it all a few times because mortals concentrate on building wealth more than they should. I did not want them thinking that I was doing any of this for compensation. Eventually, I gave up trying to walk away from what I have created without meaning to. However, I did make it a rule that any involvement would be voluntary and without any paper record. Everyone was in for as long as they wanted to be a part of the family.
Even though those decisions were made with my reputation in mind, they became an ideal in even more ways. The mortals involved had the free will to make their own decisions, which was obviously very important to them. The lack of anything on record also became a form of a shield over the years. Offerings are just that, and there is nothing to trace them. And on the few occasions that some mortals left angry, there was nothing they could use to threaten the family that I had built.
Mortals always thrived in a community setting, and at its base, that is what I was offering. And thrive they did! By sharing with me, they shared with one another. That was why I called it a family. Everyone cared for one another, and everyone helped those that needed it. And once you did not need the help anymore, you started offering your support to others that did.
Eventually, the family grew to proportions that I never thought possible, and in that growth, leaders emerged out of necessity. Someone had to keep track of it all, and people stepped up and helped. At one time, someone who will not be named, attempted to take over. I stepped in and let the madness loose. Since then, I had made sure to be involved in who became part of the upper ring that helped with everything. My gifts made sure that this family would never get hijacked by those that would be kings ever again.
But enough of history. It is time for the present. I usually enjoy being right, but not this time. The Napa Valley Opera House was full of power suits, and business talk was in full swing. The stage was converted into the center of the meeting. At that center there was a huge executive table where I, Luis, and his team were perched. A big projector screen behind us showed a seemingly endless stream of presentations.
The only thing that was keeping me sane, pun intended, was Antonio sitting to my right, and Fran sitting next to him. It was not something I did often, but I had already grown attached to the old man. He was all smiles and excitement, and he had not stopped telling me old stories and asking me questions. Even at his age, there was no limit to his thirst for knowledge, and it was amazing to see. I had never seen a kid in a candy store, but that saying would fit him just perfectly.
Fran came in prepared with a satchel, reference books, legal pads, and a dozen pens and pencils. She was intent on squeezing out as much information as she could, in preparation to make the best decisions for her family business. I felt a bit bad for her every time I looked over to see her sitting there slack-jawed with a pen in hand over an empty legal pad. The amount of information that was shared was just too much. When she turned and noticed me looking at her, she mouthed the words “too much. I nodded and made my eyes go cross-eyed. She blushed a bit and chuckled at my gesture, but noticeably relaxed a bit after that.
In all honesty, I was more looking forward to the festival tomorrow. I was antsy and wanted to spill the beans to Antonio, and I almost did. But Luis, sitting to my left, knew me well enough to cough loudly, interrupting me before I gave the secret away. He even had to pull me aside once early in the day to remind me that though the purchase and takeover were already agreed-upon, they would not be legalized until later that afternoon. Luis himself had created a presentation to be rolled out at the end of the day as a surprise to all.
Naturally, I got all excited when Luis’ phone chimed, and I rubbed my hands together as he stood up and walked away to answer it. I could not see his face, but I could tell by the way he snapped to attention that this was not a good call. After a few minutes, he hung up and turned toward me.
“What is going on Luis, some last-minute detail is throwing off the buyout?”
“Not exactly, sir. That was Lady Amphitrite.” When he saw my face start to twist with worry, he added quickly, “She is alright, she prevailed through her trial and is in Inarajan, Guam. Her trial weakened her, and she’s stuck there for a while, but she said that she’s alright.”
I looked down at all the papers scattered around me, wiped my brow with one hand, and then the other as I sat there, deep in thought. If Amphitrite called to say she is alright, then I would have to trust in that. Trust in her strength and ability. There was too much at stake here, and I could not simply walk away.
“Luis, did the call come from her phone?”
“No, sir, but the number she called from did show up as Guam.”
“And you are sure it was her?”
“Yes, sir. I have the number of many people, but not many people have mine.”
“Then do your track thing, Luis. Same as you would for me. Put a team on it and make sure she’s safe.”
“Yes, sir. Will do, sir. Do you want them to give her a message?”
“No. Tell them to keep their distance. Give her time to do what she needs to. No interference. Just make sure she’s not in danger.”
“I will let them know, sir. I’ll put a team right on it, and they should be there by nightfall.”
“Good. And make sure the jet is ready and waiting tomorrow. We are flying out right after the party.”
“Those are the orders I gave already, sir. I had a feeling you would want to be wheels up as soon as possible.”
I nodded at Luis and almost jumped when I felt a hand closing over mine. In my distress, I had forgotten that Antonio was sitting next to me, listening to everything that had just happened. When I turned his way, he patted my hand gently and looked up at me. “If you are talking about who I think you are talking about, then worry not. A sea goddess right by the sea is as safe as can be.”
I patted his hand back and nodded. “Grazie, Antonio. I will go to her once my business is concluded here tomorrow.”
“You care for her, don’t you?”
“I do. She and I have history that has yet to be written.”
“I hope to read it someday.”
“You will, Antonio. You will.”
Luis’ phone chimed once again, but this time it was a text. He looked down, and a faint smile crossed his lips. “Congratulations, master. Nouvelles Règles is now yours for 23% of its estimated value before all this.”
I let out a soft sigh and patted Antonio on the back gently. “Congratulations, Antonio. You are now the owner of not just one vineyard, but two.” His eyes went wide with shock, but before he could say anything, I stood up and grabbed the mic in front of me. With a wild smile and a wink at Antonio, I turned it on, and dove into the presentation. Dionysos style, of course.
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