Come Away With Me(9)

By: Ruth Cardello

Against his will, Gio chuckled. “She wasn’t that bad.”

“Not to you.”

Losing some patience with the topic, Gio said, “I’ll call her. She knows the score, though. I never lied to her.”

“Lied to who?” Nick Andrade, Gio’s very silent business partner and younger brother, asked as he sauntered into the office in his custom gray Corneliani suit that had never seen the inside of a boardroom. “You broke it off with Miss Cosmetics already? Damn. I’m going to miss her. She was gorgeous.”

Rena made a sound of disgust deep in her chest. “I don’t know which one of you is worse.”

Nick smiled suggestively and wiggled his eyebrows in the disarming manner that won him more female attention than was good for him. “That’s because you won’t give me a chance to show you how good I really am.”

“It’s a struggle, but I take it one day at a time.” Rena rolled her eyes dramatically. Gio would have told Nick to back off, but the two of them had bantered like that for as long as he could remember. And Nick was smart enough to know that if he ever actually made a play for Rena he wouldn’t live long. Either Gio or Kane would put a quick end to it.

Nick’s eyes narrowed. “Luckily, I didn’t come here for you. I came to see Gio.”

Years of frustration with his brother’s disinterest in the family company surfaced as a barb. “Putting in your one day of work this year? It’s only September.”

Plopping down in a chair in front of Gio, Nick propped his feet up on the leather antique chair across from him. “I may come to work every day now. I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I love it, Gio.”

Gio reached down and shoved his brother’s feet to the floor. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“The Barbie doll of a chauffer you hired for me. She can drive me anywhere. She thought I wanted to come here, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her no, so here I am.” His smile grew wider. “Then I met my swimsuit model of a secretary and I knew it couldn’t be an accident. What do you want, Gio? I’m in. Just tell me I can keep them.”

Gio looked across at Rena and frowned. “Get rid of them.”

Rena turned on Nick. “I hope you’re happy. Two very nice women are about to lose their jobs. Why? Because—”

Nick’s expression darkened. “Because my brother has no sense of humor.”

Gio sighed. “You don’t have to fire them. Transfer them.”

She nodded, glared at Nick one final time, and left.

Nick stood. “You’re always in a bad mood, so this is probably a ridiculous question—but did something happen I should know about?”

The question hit too close to the truth. In no conceivable scenario would he discuss what was bothering him with his brother, so he chose a topic that needed addressing. “I didn’t close the Westport deal.”

“No?” Nick’s surprise was genuine. Then he relaxed and said, “I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. You always get what you want.”

Gio returned to his desk and sat. “Not always. I can’t seem to keep you out of the papers.”

Nick shrugged. “She said they were separated. Her husband only leaked the story because he was caught getting his own on the side. Does it really matter?”

“Her husband is an old buddy of one of the bidders for the land lease. He outbid me, just to screw with us. So, yes, it matters. I don’t care if you never sit in a board meeting or answer one goddamn email I send you. You make sure your personal life does not affect this business. Are we clear?”

Nick’s face reddened with anger. “Crystal. Cogent is all that really matters. It’s all that ever has.”

As the two brothers faced off, Gio glimpsed the past in his brother’s eyes. Nick never understood the decisions Gio had made for the family. He likely never would.

Nick stood at the door as if he wanted to say something more, then turned and strode out the office.

Gio let out a long breath. As children, he and Nick had dreamed of running the family business together. Only two years apart, they’d once been close. He didn’t normally waste time regretting the part he’d played in changing that.

The past was where it belonged.

Dead and gone.

A light knock on the door broke his thoughts.

“Miss Bennett is here to see you.”

A few moments earlier, as she’d entered the Cogent Building, Julia had smoothed her hands down the tan slacks of her security uniform and struggled to come up with an excuse for her behavior the night before. Her hair was neatly braided. Her makeup was minimal. Hopefully Mr. Andrade would understand that she hadn’t been herself last night.

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