“TV producer and star of The House Flipper, Jamie D’Alessandro was indicted this week in Los Angeles on charges of fraud and grand larceny.
“An appraiser there claims D’Alessandro owes her more than forty-thousand dollars for work she did on some of the homes he flipped. If convicted, D’Alessandro could face up to two years in jail. This comes just weeks after controversy began swirling around D’Alessandro’s plans to demolish an historic home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The two-hundred year old house, used as a headquarters by Union General Stillwell during the Civil War, was the home of famous confederate spy Josette Beaumont, once known as the Virginia Rose.
“D’Alessandro, son of the late real estate mogul James D’Alessandro, maintains the home is too badly damaged from decades of neglect to safely renovate. He plans to replace it with an upscale hotel.
In other news…”
“This doesn’t look good.”
Jamie muted the television and quirked a brow at his chief financial officer. “I’ve been in worse messes.”
“Ashley—sorry, the plaintiff. She’s making your life hell.” Len Goldman kicked off her low-heeled shoes and settled into a leather wing back chair. “Why don’t you just pay her off?”
“Because it’s bullshit. We were engaged at the time. She wasn’t interested in collecting payment as long as there was a half million-dollar rock on her hand. Now that I’ve called things off she wants compensation.”
“Jame, you could go to jail.”
He pulled a face. Rising from the leather sofa in his office, he strolled across the room to gaze out at the night sky. Even at eighty stories up, there were no stars to be seen, just the New York skyline and the artificial lights of the other Manhattan high rises.
“That doesn’t concern you?”
“Nope.” He swirled the contents of his glass, then tossed it back with one gulp. “What good is my father’s money and his team of New York attorneys if they can’t keep me out of jail for something I didn’t do? Hell, they kept me out enough when I was younger for things I did.”
A shadow of a smile crossed Len’s face. “I suppose they did. Now what about this place in Virginia? The other board members and I are concerned about the image of D’Alessandro Development.”
He turned and faced his mentor, the woman who had held the company together after his parents’ unexpected deaths and been a surrogate parent to him over the years. “Lenora. You’re not serious.”
“It doesn’t look good, Jamie. When you acquired the property, you assured the Daughters of the Confederacy and the local historical society you wouldn’t tear it down.”
“It was a mistake. I should have listened to the appraiser, but I thought it would be great for the show. It would take millions to restore that thing.” He strode across the room to refill his glass. “And I never said I wouldn’t demolish the house. I said I didn’t intend to demolish it. Intentions change.” He lifted the brandy decanter toward her in silent question.
Len shook her head, indicating her half-full glass. “You know damn well people don’t see it that way. They just see some hot-shot kid from New York with more arrogance than brains—”
“I’m thirty-three, hardly a kid.”
“Have you even seen the house?”
Jamie settled back onto the leather sofa, resting an ankle on one knee. “I’ve seen pictures.”
“It’s just…I know you hate to hear this hon, but your father—”
“I know. You’re not your father and no one expects you to be. But Jimmy was a self-made man. He didn’t earn his millions overnight like you did; he had to work for it. And he believed to his dying day that a personal touch made all the difference. He was never too big, too busy or too important to do things for himself.”
Jamie absorbed her words and the sting of her underlying message. Unspoken words like spoiled brat and too big for your britches hung in the air between them. Few people were bold enough to talk to him that way. He studied the contents of his glass, swirling the amber liquid, listening to the ice clink against the sides. “I have nothing to gain by going to Virginia.”
“First hand knowledge. You know this business as well as any appraiser. Hell you’re probably the only heir in New York who has actually done manual labor. I know what you can do with an old house, Jame. If you haven’t seen it for yourself, how do you know it’s not worth renovating?”
“Because I don’t care. I don’t know what it is, Len, but lately…nothing interests me. I know you think I’m a spoiled brat, but I feel like there’s nothing left. Like it’s all done. My father spent his life building his fortune—building all of this,” he gestured to the ceiling. “When he died, I became a billionaire. At twenty-three.”
“No one could blame you for feeling that way. You never had the chance to find out what you wanted to be when you grew up. It was thrust on you as Jimmy and Regina’s only child. You’ve spent the last ten years learning the business from the ground up, you’ve proven to the world that you are your father’s son, you are a chip off the old block. Maybe it’s time to take a breather.”
“I don’t need another vacation; there’s no place I haven’t already been.”
“Then don’t take one. When the pressures of it all got to your father, he used to say the best medicine was to get your hands dirty.”
He reached to set the glass on a side table. “Are you suggesting I take up gardening?”
She chuckled. “No. Do what you’re really good at. Go fix up a house somewhere. Disconnect completely. Forget about New York, forget about real estate. Forget about Ashley and the lawsuit.”
Jamie considered her words for a few moments. Disconnect? No cell phone, no computers. Nothing? As unreasonable as the idea sounded, it held a certain appeal. He released a sigh of defeat “Fine. Call off the bulldozers. I’ll go to Virginia.”