It was always going to happen; Franny just didn’t think it would happen quite so soon…

‘Hello son.’

‘Mum. Wha…a. what are you doing here?’

‘Grabbing a coffee.’ Leila had that sunny demeanour, one that disguises the way she feels to the outside world, but her children know so well. She got word of Logan’s date and decided to make an appearance. She’d overheard the staff talking about her son’s relationship and hired someone to keep a close eye on what it was she might be up against. He was smitten, was the report back, the girl did not come any a family she knew, most certainly not from the right side of the tracks… according to her. A quick once over just now, told Leila what she needed to know about Logan’s girlfriend; working class. She’ll be damned if this hussy comes anywhere near the family fortune, a fortune about to crumble.

‘In Starbucks.’ His mother never set foot in a Starbucks all her life, he didn’t even think she could find her way into one, but here she was, sunny disposition and all. Logan knows that look all too well.

‘They make coffee, don’t they?’

‘Amongst other things.’ In the pantry at home were stacks of her favourite Jamaican Blue mountain coffee, a cup of which he knows she had this morning.

‘Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?’ Leila sat down in the empty third seat she wasn’t invited to have.

‘My girlfriend.’

Franny almost choked on her coffee. What the fuck!

‘Francesca, my mother Leila Sterling.’ Logan knew she must be doing somersaults in her head at the introduction, but it is what it is, no time like the present; he did tell her he wanted to introduce her to his family.

‘Mrs Sterling. Nice to meet you.’ Franny extended her hand to greet the woman with the coldest of smiles. On sight, Leila Sterling does not like her.

‘Lovely to meet you too.’

There was a chill in that slight handshake, Leila Sterling judged and dismissed her in the mere minutes they have been in each other’s company. There was nothing lovely from her end; game recognises game.

‘So what’s good here? Is there a menu?’

Logan almost laughed. ‘I’ll get you a coffee. Americano?’

‘Yes please. I’d love to get to know Francesca whilst you do that.’

Franny returned her own half measured smile, Leila Sterling had no desire to get to know her. There was a slight sneer in her look, no question, wondering what on earth her son was doing with a woman like her, without pedigree or position.

‘So, how long have you and my son been seeing each other?’

The way she said the words, ‘my son’ gave her away. Oh Mrs Sterling. ‘A few months. It’s very new.’

‘Interesting.’ Leila nods, ‘and how do you feel about him.’

‘We’re happy.’

‘Is happiness enough?’

‘We are in love.’ Franny offered, her tone with a hint of appeasement.

‘My dear, happiness is not a luxury my family can afford. Wealth and happiness, true happiness, often times do not go hand in hand.’ She corked her head to the side slightly, studying Francesca a bit. She has gumption, she’ll give her that; she did not flinch at her words and Franny knew just what she meant by them. ‘And love is a fool’s errand.’

‘I’ll keep that in mind.’

‘You’d do better to.’ Leila saw Logan returning to their table, her fact-finding mission not quite complete, but satisfactory enough. ‘It was lovely meeting you Francesca, I hope we can have a proper sit down soon.’ Charming as ever.

‘Here you are mom.’ Logan placed a to-go cup of Americano before her, message received.

‘Thank you darling. I shall leave you and your lovely girlfriend alone to enjoy the rest of your date.’ There was a bite to her tone Franny did not miss. ‘Bring her over for dinner soon.’

Logan was almost caught off guard by his mother’s charm, but he appreciated the effort. ‘Thanks for stopping by mum.’

Mother and son exchanged a kiss on the cheek before Leila Sterling made her exit, looking everything like a sore thumb amongst a regular crowd. Her security detail who’d been standing by the door waiting on her held it open. Several people gaped in awe, recognising her.

‘I hope she was at least a little nice to you.’ Logan knows what his mother is like, sure she’d been charming, but he knows what she is like when she thinks no one is watching and that’s the problem.

‘She was perfectly lovely.’ Happiness or not, Franny won’t let it ruin her relationship with Logan. They have a good thing going and for all intents and purposed, they love each other. Logan is kind and thoughtful and a good person. Her mother always impressed upon her the importance of that, a good person. Leila Sterling is just someone she will have to deal with as long as she is in a relationship with Logan. She doesn’t know where this will lead, but she would like to find out. They are more than having fun, this means something to the both of them. She’d hate for his mother to come between them.

Leila tossed the coffee in the bin before getting into the back seat of the waiting town car, she’d never had a coffee from Starbucks, and had no intention of starting that tradition any time soon. She had to see what her son and his girlfriend were up to and what she meant to him. They are in love with each other, that much was obvious, but this is not the woman she wants for him and if she is to save Sterling, Logan will be her ticket. Her phone pinged with another email from the family lawyers, the clock is ticking and any day now the world will know the real story behind the Sterling brand, but she is determined not to let it happen…

One day this will all be yours ma petite.’ Her grandfather would say to her as she watched him work in his office, the same office she sits in today. She was the apple of his eye, only grandchild from a useless son, for want of a better word. Her father was lackadaisical, never had to work for anything, money was handed to him and he burned through it without a care. He was not interested in the family business he was to inherit, not even a little bit. Together with her mother, they travelled the world, the darlings of the highest echelons in any society whilst she was raised by her grandparents until they passed away. A day she’ll never forget. She missed them. Every day.

Sterling is her life, she grew up in the factory, watching her grandfather build upon his parent’s legacy whilst her parents traipsed the world on trust funded dime. Sterling is a giant in the luxury leather goods industry, a small and very exclusive cluster, a collectors’ item with a royal warrant. She had so much fun watching her grandfather work hard and build on a legacy. Watched him work long hours in the factory, involved in every aspect of the brand, just like his parents before him and grand and great-grand. Claudine Sterling, his great grandmother founded the Sterling luxury leather goods company in the 1800s. Her office in Bond Street is the same one Leila sits in today, the chair her grandfather sat in was hers, everything stayed intact from her day and her grandfather promised that she, Leila would carry on that legacy, not his son.

Her parents treated her like a bother, the minute she was born they dumped her with her grandparents and resumed gallivanting the world in the family private plane and yachts. Her father never had any hope for the business, and when he inherited it, he sold off parts of it to fund his gambling habit, amongst other things.

The death of her grandparents shattered her. Her grandfather left sterling to her in his will, not his son, though he stayed on as caretaker chairman until Leila was of age. He did enough damage whilst chairman, selling off a large stake in the company and then gambling the money from the sale away. When Leila assumed her position as chairwoman after graduating university, as stated in her grandfather’s will, the real mess her father put the company in became clearer. Sterling was on the brink of bankruptcy. Before she had a chance to confront him, he died suddenly. Heart attack. If he didn’t die, she probably would have killed him out of raging anger.

Leila tried to buy back the stake he’d sold by taking out loans from the bank. Now the loans have come due. The market for luxury goods was dwindling and Sterling is barely hanging on despite its stellar reputation. Any day now, their dirty secret will be out for the world to see. Her grandfather had tied her children’s trust securely, but Sterling was a sinking ship. A brand without money. Of all her children Logan is the one whom she can rely on to help and she has just the plan. It does not involve little miss working class there. Too bad because they seem a nice couple.