Chapter 4 – Julian
“And I thought Alyssa was a wonder at scheduling.” I sit down at my desk with a huff while Vern attempts to not quiver in his loafers before me. “Count your lucky stars that I don’t take your head off right here and now.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Marcus.” To his credit, my executive assistant is a wonder at keeping his composure even when I’m pissed as hell at him. “There was nothing else I could do. The Monroe meeting was already scheduled in advanced, and the lawyers couldn’t…”
“Whatever. Couldn’t do it any other day. I get it.” Sighing, I pull a tablet from my top desk drawer and pretend to get ready for my important meeting coming up in ten minutes. “There have been worse gaffes before. But do we really have to deal with the lawyers and the Monroes in one day?”
“Actually, sir, the lawyers are already here.”
I roll my eyes as I stand up and straighten out my tie. “Tell the lawyers they have to wait. Monroe isn’t going to hang around when there’s baby shit to take care of back on the east coast.” For all I know, though, this is the man’s first real vacation from a screaming baby, nanny or no nanny in his house.
Vern stiffens where he stands. “Ms. Pendleton is with them.”
My hand hovers above the off switch on my computer monitor. “What?” I spit.
“She’s here with the lawyers. Should I…?”
“Tell them to keep waiting. I have a more important meeting to get to.”
“You’ll be happy to know that Ms. Lieberman is not with them. I asked. She doesn’t plan on attending.”
“I’m sure Preston will be happy to hear that.” Are we really still doing this? Alyssa is here? With her lawyers? With HR? In some damn office we’ve holed them up in until I can finish signing papers with Monroe and his lawyer?
Yeah. His. Sure.
It’s quite evident of me to say that my guard is already so down with the thought of Alyssa being around that I am less than prepared to see the sophisticated blond woman sitting in the conference room, flanked by two bodyguards and a timid lawyer.
It takes me about five seconds to realize that Mr. Monroe is not in attendance. Instead, I’m graced with the presence of Mrs. Monroe, and she is more than capable of taking care of this meeting on her own. Normally, I wouldn’t question a last minute change like this, especially knowing that she’s involved with her husband’s enterprises, but… didn’t she literally give birth recently? The hell is she doing on the other side of the country?
“Mr. Marcus,” she greets me with a smile and the nod of her head. It’s only after I’ve completely entered the conference room that she gets up and offers to shake my hand. Her black dress is tailored in such a way that I would never guess she was still losing the baby weight. The only reason I could tell – if I hadn’t known already – that she is in a delicate disposition is from how she carries herself. There’s an urgency to her movements that suggests she’s in a hurry to get back home.
“Mrs. Monroe. Forgive me if I’m surprised at your sudden presence. I was expecting your husband.”
“I’m sure. It’s my team’s fault for not getting back to you about the change. Damon came unexpectedly down with a cold, and his doctor refuses to let him travel, let alone in a plane. So, here I am. Hope you don’t mind – everyone’s given me a thorough rundown on the events here, and I’ve had quite a bit of time holed up in a hospital room doing my own research and study.”
We both sit down at the same time. “I do hope that it’s not too much of a bother.”
“Bother? I flew from the east coast to Portland, Oregon. Nothing’s a bother at the moment. But if we may, I’d like to get started.” She then introduces me to her lawyer. Nobody mentions the bodyguards, so neither will I.
“Quite. Let’s get started.”
This isn’t exciting business underway. What it is are lawyers going over the terms and the Monroe camp signing off on them in front of me. After this is taken care of, Bradley & Marcus will have full run of whatever money the Monroes have sent our way. All we have to do is deliver on their investment. Something that I would’ve said was in the bag a few weeks ago.
Now? Both Preston and I are in way over our heads with this lawsuit.
Well, I’m not sure about Preston. He only comes into work half the time now. The other half he spends at home or finds himself a new weekend-only girlfriend.
I’m good at putting my head down and getting work done, however. It’s easy for me to charm Alice Monroe and make her laugh while we sign the final papers. I can briefly forget about Alyssa now that the promise of millions of more dollars start coming down the financial pipeline. When this meeting is over, I should be able to wander back to my office and get right back to work.
Except I have another appointment after this meeting. With another lawyer.
I can’t charm Alyssa. I can’t even hold my breath when I walk into the other room and see her sitting between two men in suits, her own dress clinging so tightly, so provocatively to her body that my brain can’t handle it. And my cock! God, why doesn’t she rip that bodice off right now and taunt me some more?
Composure, Julian. Don’t be a slobbering, lovesick fool in front of the woman suing you for half of what you have.
“Alyssa,” I say, fingers tightening on the back of the chair I refuse to sit in. “I had no idea you would be here today.”
Her chin only slightly quivers before she speaks. “I wanted to make sure that my terms were heard. I want to offer you a deal, Julian. We’ll make the lawsuit go away if…”
One of her lawyers puts a silencing hand on hers. “Let us handle this, please, Ms. Pendleton.”
She nods. “Forgive me. I would like to see this ended as soon as possible.”
I finally sit down. Beside me, my company’s head lawyer is already taking notes and looking over whatever written terms Alyssa’s team has handed him. “Mr. Marcus,” he mutters, “I say we hear them out.”
Alyssa glances at the younger lawyer next to her. The way they exchange glances…
Are they sleeping together?
It’s the first place my head goes. I’m not proud of it. I’m not even dating her right now, so I have no place to get jealous if she flashes the young, somewhat handsome attorney a mild smile and he grins back at her. He definitely has the hots for my Alyssa.
How dare he.
I imagine them on a date together, his laugh atrocious and hers forced. I imagine them back at his shabby apartment that he can barely afford, where they have lackluster sex – she realizes that I’ll always be the best she’s ever had, and he thinks he’s scored because he got her to fake an orgasm.
My eyes narrow. My arms cross against my chest. Fuck this little asshole.
“On behalf of Ms. Pendleton,” he says with a teenager’s voice, “we are willing to settle out of court. Ms. Pendleton is asking for a meager sum compared to what would be awarded in court.”
Not what I wanted to hear, but exactly what I expected. I hold Alyssa’s pristine gaze as I ask, “And how much does Ms. Pendleton want?”
Her mouth doesn’t move, and it’s not her voice I hear, but I know she’s thinking the number anyway. I know her well enough by now.
“Two million,” her older lawyer says matter-of-factly. “To account for any taxes procured by the government after the settlement is finalized. Ms. Pendleton wants at least a million dollars to her name.”
I lean back in my seat. “That’s quite the amount to get her by for a long time.” I blow through a million in two months. So I might have to hold off on getting a couple new suits and jet-setting around the world when Preston inevitably convinces me to go on the rebound. Boohoo. “What else? What’s in it for me if I agree to this?”
“Ms. Pendleton will drop her involvement in the suit.”
“Julian,” my lawyer says. “Without her in the suit, we have a much better chance against Ms. Lieberman.” He’s right. Together, those two ladies could’ve brought down my company’s reputation – and some of its income. But without Alyssa sitting in the courtroom to back up Cher’s stories, dear Ms. Lieberman has a shallower case against Preston. We could probably convince her to settle out of court, too, but Preston can use his own money for that. Thus far, Bradley & Marcus haven’t been drug too far through the mud. Only a few corners are muttering about our possible sexual harassment and misconduct lawsuit. And they’re good ol’ boys. They’ve been settling out of court with their office mistresses for years.
Not a club I ever thought I’d be a part of. Sounds like something that should die with my father.
“Is she sure that’s all she wants?” I cock my head to the side. “Because it doesn’t sound like a lot.”
“Ms. Pendleton doesn’t want much. Enough to get her by for a while until she can find a more suitable job with her upcoming degree. She would prefer to go peacefully, and does not wish to harm the reputation of Bradley & Marcus. We’re sure that this is beneficial for everyone in this room.”
“Is that what you want, Alyssa?”
The young lawyer lightly touches her arm and whispers something into her ear. Probably telling her to not answer me, the rat bastard. Get your hand off her!
She catches the frown on my face. “It’s what I want, Julian. I don’t want a lot, and I don’t want to cause more drama than I already have.”
“In that case.” I stand up. “That sounds fine. Take it from here.” My lawyer nods as I step out of the conference room, putting Alyssa behind me.
It’s not the last time I’ll see her, though. Not today. I’m going to make sure of that. Because Alyssa and I have another round of begging and groveling and pleading to go through. She’s given me three chances, and I fully intend to make my second chance count.
First, however, I need to make sure that Mrs. Monroe is professionally sent off before she heads back to her private jet. If only I could find her…