If you want a dose of reality, come home a day early.
Gio Andrade walked through his secretary’s empty office and into his, shaking his head with disgust as he went. He double-checked the time on his watch. Barely seven o’clock. She should still be here. Someone should be here. Rather than call her, he sank into the antique leather chair placed behind the custom Carpathian elm desk that had sat in this office for generations.
Perhaps it was the combination of three weeks of travel and spending so much time in hotel rooms, but he was tired. Bone tired and in a foul mood. He’d gone on site in northern Canada to make sure the project met its deadlines, and it did—something that normally would have energized him. Instead, he felt distracted.
He didn’t consider himself an emotional man. Ever since he’d taken over the family’s company, his success had come from his ability to remain detached. Cogent Energy Solutions had been born in the oil wells of Texas, but Gio had taken it in a much different direction. He was an investor, not a developer. He found potential energy sources—like the Utica Shale veins recently discovered in North America—that others considered economically unfeasible to reap, financed the breakthrough technologies that would make harvesting them possible, contracted with companies who needed those sources, made a huge fortune, and then got out before the environmentalists even knew his name.
Until this past trip.
What is wrong with me?
His cell phone vibrated in his breast pocket. He checked the caller ID and groaned. It was his cousin Madison Andrade. Again. Her calls were becoming more frequent. He’d answered the first couple. Forwarded the next few to his secretary, Rena. Now he let her calls ring through to voice mail. Part of him was beginning to admire her tenacity, even as he remained unwilling to consider her request.
He placed the phone down on his desk and started sifting through the large pile of mail that had accumulated in his absence. Rena had opened and dealt with most of it, but one square ivory envelope was still sealed. He picked it up and turned it in his hand. He already knew what it was. Madison had told him to expect an invitation to Stephan Andrade’s wedding.
An Andrade wedding.
What a joke. We may share the same last name, but that’s all we have in common.
Gio crushed the invitation, still unopened, into a ball and threw it in the wastebasket beside his desk. My mistake was reopening any communication with that side of the family. I have Luke to thank for that.
Gio didn’t speak to Luke often, but that lack of contact had more to do with their schedules than anything else. Of his three brothers, Luke was the easiest to get along with. He was a respected doctor and someone who never asked for anything, so Gio had been hard-pressed not to accept his request to join him at a high-profile function a few months earlier.
The event ended up being an engagement party for a couple he didn’t know, much less care about. The unpleasant bonus had been the presence of two uncles he’d spent nearly a decade avoiding. He’d left as early as he could without seeming rude, and had made his excuses while interacting as little as possible with any of his extended family.
I should have told Luke I was out of the country that week.
I should have lied.
Gio’s phone beeped to announce the message his cousin had left. By going to that party, I mistakenly gave some family members the wrong idea.
Now they think I care. I don’t.
The days when what they do or say have any relevance to me are long gone. He would have said as much to Madison, but she had done nothing to him. As the frequency of her calls increased, however, he began to feel pushed into an uncomfortable situation. No one likes to shove a puppy away, but when it starts humping your leg, you have to.
Gio covered his eyes with one hand at the image. Oh, my God. I am tired.
Still too tense to consider heading home to bed, he loosened his tie and strode over to the office bathroom. His office was his home away from home, and the shower and assortment of clothing in its large closet was evidence of that.
He changed from his Kiton suit into his workout clothes and running sneakers. He’d had a full gym installed on the top floor of the Cogent Building, and he’d made it available to all his employees.
Not that anyone would be taking advantage of it that night, since the building was apparently empty. He took that irritation to the treadmill and started running, welcoming the initial discomfort as his tight muscles were pushed to stretch and perform. Pain is weakness leaving the body. Best to work through it.
As I always have.
An hour later, after completing a long run and doing a circuit of weights, Gio grabbed a towel and headed back down to his office. His blood was pumping and his mood had improved. Half-smiling, he considered calling one of his usual friends with benefits.