Excerpt for A Broken Billionaire by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

A Broken Billionaire

By L. Loryn


Smashwords Edition


Copyright 2018 L. Loryn



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



~~~


“He said I was like a son to him.” Leo placed his hands on either side of the podium, warm brown eyes looking over the crowd of tearful people. His business partner died a week and three days ago. They were headed to meet with clients when another car T boned their limousine. He didn’t have his seatbelt on. It was difficult to get older men to wear seatbelts because it didn’t become a requirement until they were grown with kids. Leo always wore a seatbelt. Dying wasn’t on his agenda.

“And he was like a dad to me.” Determined not to cry, he focused on his date for the funeral as he forged through his speech. “I’ve had a father since I was born. My father taught me how to walk, how to balance a checkbook, how to hire an accountant to file my taxes properly. My father taught me how to invest my money. I didn’t get a dad until six years ago when I met Tony. We met at a business workshop. I was a child trying to get my life in order after a year spent abroad, he was a man trying to give back to his community. Together we started our nonprofit consultation business. Tony taught me how to have a cookout. That was the first thing on his agenda.” Gentle laughter erupted in the crowd, breaking stony faces. Leo smiled, too. “He taught me how to have compassion for others less fortunate than me. He also taught me the proper way to tie a tie. Tony may not have been the man who helped me take shaky baby steps, but he was the man who saw me cross from boyhood to manhood.”

His date nodded, a broad smile on her thin lips. He suspected her last name was Shannon. However, Shannon could have easily been her first name which he thought was Elliot. Her blond hair framed her long neck and horsy face. Her bushy eyebrows and her chin stole prime real estate from her more pleasing features, her blue eyes and sloping nose. While she had potential to be attractive in the face, her forgiving qualities were in her body. The black dress hugged her curves, managing to push her chest up, disguise her lower belly pooch, and tone her ass all at the same time.

“He will truly be missed.” He skipped the middle of his presentation when he felt tears burning the corners of his eyes. He could run a business. He had several million-dollar companies he called the shots for. He couldn’t run this business, the one he shared with Tony. Six years ago, Leo met Tony for a coffee date. It turned into a dinner date and the dinner date turned into a six-year business. Leo handled the money, Tony handled the clients, the workshops, the event schedule. Tony told Leo what time to show up and when to bring a date. Today, he would have told Leo to come alone.

The rest of the funeral proceeded as normal, several others took the podium to speak, women wiped tears from their face. Men blotted their eyes with handkerchiefs. Tony knew a lot of people from all different walks of life and they all had stories. A woman from his childhood spoke about how they used to steal peaches from the neighbor’s tree and eat them by lake in the woods behind their houses. Another man briefly served in the military with Tony; he chuckled through stories of basic training and MREs to keep from crying.

Elliot or Shannon squeezed Leo’s hand. Leo kept his attention forward. His eyelids fluttered. His secretary demanded he take a month off work. She cleared his schedule, shuffling and rescheduling meetings with a shell-shocked Leo sitting across from her. When he didn’t respond, she called his driver to take him home. In the limousine, he was paralyzed. Once at home, he drowned in casual sex and booze.

Cicily was a red-haired gymnast who performed on the Olympic team several years ago. She could put her ankles behind her head. Leo had no trouble pushing her knees back into the bed and burying himself inside her. It was a pleasure to satisfy her sexual appetite. He took her on every surface of the guest wing.

The twins, Amanda and Allison enjoyed several threesomes, sandwiching Leo between their tanned bodies and making out over his shoulder. He sent them home after two days and collapsed into his custom-sheeted round bed. He slept for a full twenty-four hours, took vitamins the next morning, and started his binge all over again.

Bailey was in for vacation. He turned her over his kitchen counter. Danielle was a secretary for a law firm downtown. She rode him on his white leather couch. Frances, or Fran, as she preferred to be called, made him taste her for hours resulting in many orgasms.

The funeral progressed on after everyone had their turn to speak. Closing words said and everyone filed back to their cars to proceed to the cemetery Tony wished to be buried in. Tony’s only present relative was his girlfriend of ten years, Ursula. A few years ago, she’d miscarried the only baby they tried for.

At the cemetery, Leo stood next to Ursula, cupping her hand in his as she buried her face in his crisp black suit. Leo saw no point in consoling words, so he stood as a silent presence. She sobbed more when the workers lowered Tony into his new home and could barely toss the first bit of dirt over his body. Leo tossed the second bit and guided Ursula back to her seat. She thanked him for being there, for being Tony’s business partner and closest friend. Leo forced a smile and returned to his date.

The other three weeks of his time off were forgettable. With dead eyes, Leo moved through the world. He was an invisible zombie, deftly weeding through crowds without attracting extra attention. A week after the funeral, he attended his long standing monthly appointment to retwist his dreadlocks. Even the hairdresser evaded conversation, retwisting the roots of his locks and using a razor to sharpen the edges of his hairline in awkward silence. He told Leo to take care, meeting his clients eyes for those sincere words. He promised his hairdresser he would try.

The week before he came back to work, he dropped by to pick up client files and his work laptop, ready to ease himself back into the nonprofit without Tony. The warehouse they purchased lived in Tony’s part of town, the working-class neighborhood. To feign normalcy, Leo drove his two-seater sports car from his inherited mansion in the hills the forty-five minutes to the office. The outside was ugly, both men agreed. The inside had potential, Tony saw it first and Leo came around once they worked the agent down enough on price. Tony and his crew of construction workers did the majority of the renovations. Leo and the office workers they hired focused on the furnishings.

The door opened to cubicles lining the walls with a lounge area in the center. Directly to the back sat two identical doors leading to two identical offices. The left one was Leo’s. The right office had been Tony’s. His secretary’s desk was inside to the left with a wall to wall bookshelf on the right.

“Mr. Carter. I wasn’t expecting you today.” Sheila looked up from behind her computer monitor.

“Hey. Yeah, I came to get my computer and some work to get started before I fully return next week. I know we have the Young Leaders of America Retreat in two weeks; I wanted to review what we have.”

“Oh! Right. Tony was handling it. Taylor and I are still rearranging your schedule to add his workload for the time being.” Sheila handed Leo a file folder.

“Indeed.” Leo opened the folder and flipped through the files. The Young Leaders of America Retreat was Tony’s favorite event of the year. It brought grade school children together to discuss business. Each year the children created a workable business plan. Tony and Leo select five plans to expand on with a small-scale model, dividing the children into groups of five and providing them with an adult mentor. “Do we have someone to replace Tony?”

“Well. I was thinking your new partner would be able to.”

“My new partner?” Leo’s dark eyebrow arched.

“Well yes. The executor of Tony’s will called last week to inform us Tony’s son would inherit his share of the nonprofit and his position as partner.”

“I’m sorry?”

Sheila took a deep breath. “Mr. Romano put it in his will for his son to inherit his position in this nonprofit.”

“Can he do that?”

“Not technically. However, usually business owners allow it because it is what their partner wants.”

Leo stared at Sheila and rumbled. “Fine. What do we know about this new guy?”

“Not much. Apparently he’s lived here all of his life only fifteen miles away from here.”

“Was he at the funeral?”

“No. He stopped by to meet all of us and seemed quite surprised he had anything to inherit.”

Leo snorted. “Well. Sounds exciting. I’m going to grab my laptop and go.” With a tight-lipped smile, he placed the file folder back on Sheila’s desk and stepped inside his portion of the room. He packed his laptop and the first five files on the top of the work mountain, tucking them in a different pocket. He came back to grab the file for the Young Leaders of America Retreat.

“I will keep you updated on Mr. Brown when he arrives and gets settled in.”

“Sure.” A grunt. “Thank you for holding down the fort.”

“Oh of course. We will discuss a bonus when you’re back here full time.” Sheila smiled, her hazel eyes sparkled as they followed Leo to the door.

“Uh huh.” Leo smirked and nodded. “You’ve earned it; we will.”




~~~~


“My god girl, how do you have so much stuff?” Coby’s best friend brushed hair from her eyes and put her hands on her swelling hips. “Maybe you should start doing minimalism or something because I can’t keep packing all of this every time you want a change of scenery.”

“I think this time it’ll be more permanent. Apparently my dear old dad paid this place up for about five years or something. Don’t know why he didn’t buy the whole building or at least the room.” Coby laughed, kind blue eyes sparkling. “Who knows. All I know is par-tay at my place when I get all moved in. Courtesy of my new trust fund.”

“So how much did you actually get?” She sat down on one of the boxes, elbow to knees, head to palm. Coby kept packing, dragging sturdy tape over worn cardboard box flaps.

“Well. This woman I’ve never seen before was there sitting across from me. She and I got exactly half and she seemed kind of mad about it. I didn’t know her. The guy divided up all the assets; I let her pick what she wanted so she got the house and the limousine and the newly acquired private jet. I got everything else. The apartment he paid for ahead of time, though. I guess he was planning it.”

“How did he die?”

“In a car accident. I wish I could’ve gone to the funeral. I feel terrible moving into this new place without even being able to thank anyone. And I’m the head of a business now? Co-head. There’s someone heading it with me. He was out when I stopped by the other day so I haven’t met him yet.”

“What’s the business?”

“Community Consultants, I think?”

“Wait, serious?” Trisha rose her eyebrows. “Oh my god. If that’s the business I think it is, I heard about the second partner dying tragically and the other one taking time off. I mean, Leo Carter. He was named top eligible bachelor in the city last year.”

“Great.” Coby rolled his eyes.

“I’m not done. He had an interview in a local business magazine which was pretty good. He talked about the importance of diversifying income and not putting all eggs in one basket. It quickly turned to his personal life and him settling down, though.”

“Why do I care?”

“Oh my god hang on. Okay, so the interviewer asked him what he looked for in a woman. And he said he preferred ‘person’ over naming a gender.”

“Oh, okay so he’s bisexual or whatever? Cute. Definitely not interested.”

“Look. I’m just saying he could be your type. Tall, dark, and closeted.” Trisha grinned.

“Wow. Ouch.” Coby chuckled either way. “Sounds like my type which is why I’m taking some time off from men.”

“Hoping your ex will call, you mean?”

“I meant taking time off from men.” Scowling, he stacked the boxes by the door, avoiding his friend’s eyes.

“You shouldn’t wait on him. He said he wasn’t ready for anything serious so you should move on. Legit. It’s been months and you’re too good to wait on some boy.”

“Yeah. Tell me about it. Are you camping over? I have the tent set up and the marshmallows. I figured we could order pizza, have it tonight and for breakfast while we watch the muscle guys pack my things.”

“Definite yes.” She kicked her shoes off at the door and pranced back to the mass of blankets Coby left in the middle of the empty apartment. They collapsed into the sheets at the same time, looking at the yellowed popcorn ceiling in silence. Coby moved into his current apartment two years ago after saving all his little restaurant checks, after begging for shifts and taking any extra he could. He handed over the three months of rent deposit with a proud grin on his face. The first night in the place by himself, he had no water and no lights.

“I need a pep talk.”

“Honey why?”

“Trish. I’m a server. This guy is some hotshot billionaire with twenty private jets and a private island. The only thing I have private is my dick.”

“Your dick isn’t very private.”

“Exactly my point. He’s going to think I’m stupid. Or annoying. Can he fire me? Can partners fire partners?”

“Okay, breathe. First, no. He can’t fire you. It would take a board of officials to fire you. Second, he’s not going to want to. This is a nonprofit for business. They work with people. You’re great with people. And third. No one needs twenty private jets.”

“It’s not a need, it’s a display of financial prowess. He’s winning.”

“You’re thinking too much. You still have a week, so let’s get you moved in, get you a nice new suit to go with your black card and new car and after we’ll discuss a plan for work.”

“I bet the suit has to be tailored. I need five tailored suits to go to work every day.”

“Stop thinking and order pizza.” Trisha chuckled, dropping his phone in his lap.

Coby’s night with Trisha was doctor prescribed. Once the pizza and breadsticks and two-liter sodas arrived, they kicked their feet up and ate until their bellies were bulging and they joked about joining the gym tomorrow despite both of them being runners. They fell asleep in each other’s arms, curled together for body warmth under a blanket tent. Coby woke minutes before the movers arrived and knocked on the door. Trisha slept through the knocking, waking when Coby ripped the tent down and splashed her with sunlight. He packed the last bit of his things with cold pizza hanging out of his mouth and basketball shorts sagging on his hips. Trisha flirted with the men, squeezing their biceps as they bent to lift boxes. What should have been an hour job extended to two hours because the men stopped to finish the rest of Coby’s pizza, soda, and the three watery beers he had in the refrigerator.

Trisha went home when the movers left. Kissing Coby’s cheek, she promised they would hang out soon. Coby followed the movers in his little blue compact car. His new apartment had valet. The movers rolled right past the entrance and around to Coby’s side of the building. Confused by the valet, the car rolled to a stop. The valet held his hand out for the keys. Coby shook his hand. After a chuckle, the valet requested his keys. Blushing, he handed them over and entered through the front entrance to his apartment.

Ever since eighteen, Coby had lived in apartment buildings, but this one was different. This place resembled a hotel more than an apartment complex. The twenty-four-hour lobby was well stocked with employees. The host at the front desk rolled his eyes up to look at Coby, studied him, and rolled his eyes back down to his book.

“Hey. So, I live here now?”

“Sure.” The man flipped a page.

“345 A.”

“Elevator to the right, third floor. We’re glad to have you rent with us.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Frowning, Coby stepped away and followed his directions up to his room. The movers already had stacks of boxes at the inset door. Coby unlocked the deadbolt and the doorknob. The fully furnished apartment was impeccably designed, complete with best seller novels on the side table and a spread of magazines on the coffee table. Hardwood traveled over the floors, covered with a circular rug in the living room and fading into tile for the kitchen and bathrooms. A bar counter and three espresso stools separated the kitchen from the living room. Shattered clear glass covered the bar top and all the other surfaces in the kitchen, lightening up the dark decor. Slide screen doors off the kitchen led to a screened patio.

All three bedrooms contained a three-piece set: a bed, bedside table, and dresser. Two bedrooms shared a bathroom. The master bedroom had a master bathroom the size of the smaller bedrooms and was well-stocked with fluffy towels, bath salts, and shampoo. Coby wandered back into the living room when he heard the movers stacking the boxes inside. He requested the boxes labeled bedroom go to the master bedroom, the kitchen boxes go to the kitchen, and the rest left in the living room. The furniture he offered to the movers since he no longer needed it. He tipped them for their help and watched them disappear down the hall.

The large space reminded Coby he was alone. He found old cookies and a beer in the kitchen. After idly checking the date, he plopped down with his beer and cookies and opened his first box, unwrapping decorative living room items. Halfway through the box, he heard gentle knocking.

“Um. Hang on.” A gulp of beer and he tiptoed to the door, looking through the peephole first. The girl outside the door held a wiggling orange jello mold and wore a smile and designer short shorts. He opened the door. “Hello?”

“Hi! Hey. I’m Alyse.”

“Hey. I’m Coby. Well. Jacob, but my friends call me Coby.”

“Nice to meet you, Coby. I brought you a jello mold?”

“Yeah thanks? I think?”

“It’s a joke.” She giggled, “Because we have time to make jello molds? Maybe it’s only funny to me?”

“I don’t get it.” He smiled.

“It’s okay. It’s probably just funny to me. So welcome to the neighborhood!”

“Thanks! I moved in a few hours ago.” He paused, “Which you know because of the jello mold.”

“Correct. How’d you get this place? I heard the waitlist for a place here was two years long.”

“Funny story. The dad I didn’t know I had died and left me it.”

“Oh.” Alyse let herself inside, placing her housewarming gift on the table. Coby opened his mouth to protest as she strolled over the door threshold and into the fully furnished living room. “Oh. You’re the son of Tony? Oh my god I love Tony.”

He rose an eyebrow as she leaned against his counter and kept yammering away. Resigned to let her stay, he sighed. “Yeah. I’m Tony’s son.”

“I’m sorry. I guess this is awkward. I didn’t see you at his funeral?”

“I didn’t know about it.” Coby shoved his hands in his pocket, shoulders rising to shield his ears.

“Well. It was a nice funeral. Damn, I’m really sorry for your loss. I’m sorry more because you never met him?”

“Not once.”

“He was amazing. When my mother kicked me out and took my inheritance, he encouraged me to start a business with the couple thousand dollars I had.”

“Sounds amazing.” Torn between throwing her out of his place and inviting her to sit down, he stood glued to his spot.

“He was. I can tell you about him, if you want? Since you never got the chance to meet him. We could get the concierge to bring us wine and something to eat.”

“Concierge? Does it cost money?”

“Sure, but it goes on your monthly rent.”

“I don’t--” Coby shook his head, “We can go out for food.”

“No, silly. I will put it on my tab.” Before Coby could object, Alyse ordered wine and a spread of different Chinese meals to be delivered in an hour. The wine came up right as she ended the call. Coby took it.

“Thanks. This is all new to me.” Coby thumbed the label on the wine.

“Oh, you get used to it.” Fishing the bottle away from him, she poured two glasses of wine and carried them to the couch. She curled into it, kicking off sandals and tucking her feet in the cushions. Coby settled next to her, mimicking her movements and leaning his folded legs against the back of the couch. “So where should we start? Let me tell you when I first met Tony.”

“Sure.”

“I actually met him downtown because he was helping my father build a new office. He was the contractor doing all the work while my father signed the checks. I thought he was so cute. And okay, I’ll confess, I tried to see if he would sleep with me.”

“Gross.”

“He was cute! He turned me down, which made him better? Anyway, then when I moved here I ran into him in the halls. And okay I tried again. He said no. Again. I sound really desperate.” She chuckled.

“You do.” He sipped his wine.

“The point is it opened the door for real conversation. He helped me move in and used to bring me extra food all the time. I think he purposely made extra, but he said it was going to go bad if I didn’t take it. He bought me a gift for Christmas and my birthday every year. He celebrated the New Year with me sometimes, too.” She raked her fingers through her hair. “Wow you really didn’t know him, did you?”

“Not until a week ago when I heard some guy named Tony left me half a fortune.”

“Well. He was single for a long time before this woman started coming around. She was nice. When my mother stole my money, they took me in and paid my rent for a few months while I got back on my feet. Tony helped me set up an account and get a job, things my father never taught me. His girlfriend, Ursula-- she couldn’t have children. They tried once but she had a miscarriage and almost died. I guess after they started the consulting business and the yearly weekend project they do with kids. It’s called Young Entrepreneurs of America or something, I can’t remember.” She waved a hand.

“Tell me about his business.”

“The consulting business? He started it a few years ago with this guy named Leo.”

“I’ve heard of Leo. He’s the top sexiest bachelor of the year or something.” Coby’s eyelids fluttered. Alyse chuckled.

“Something like that. Tony loved him. I’m surprised he didn’t inherit Tony’s estate. I guess he didn’t because you did. Anyway, he started the business with Leo a few years ago. Leo is the money and the connections and Tony is the heart. Tony started it because he wanted other people from his world to know about business. I’m sure Leo does it for a tax write-off. Leo owns half of the city and doesn’t have to work a day in his life if he doesn’t want to.”

“I’m sure working breaks up the monotony of being rich all the time.”

“I guess so. For a while Leo was hard to reign in. Tony used to have him over all the time. He made up things for them to do together like fix windows, rearrange furniture, anything so Leo wouldn’t do illegal things.”

“So, he found a new son?”

“Well--”

“He found a new son. I guess I wasn’t good enough for him to care about, so he found a new son and you were his little princess to take care of. Was it nice?” Coby hissed.

“Look. Maybe he wasn’t allowed contact with you. I can’t imagine Tony being the kind of guy who wouldn’t take care of his kid. I know he loved you. He had to. He left you half of his fortune after all.”

“I’m the new partner, too.”

“You mean for Community Consultants?”

“Yeah. I’m taking his place.”

“See? He must love you. If he didn’t, he would have given it to his girlfriend.”

“What’s the kid’s project?”

“It’s a weekend where all of these elementary or middle school children get together and develop business plans. Leo and he grade them and five kids are awarded a monetary scholarship.”

“Interesting.”

“It’s pretty cool, yeah. The whole reason he started the business was because he wanted to help kids and teach them they can become anything they want. He never went to school for business or anything. He learned on his own and he wanted to share his knowledge with young people.”

Coby bit the inside of his cheek, sucking his lips around his teeth as he stared into his reflection on the theater sized flat screen television. Alyse squeezed his knee.

“I promise he cared about you. I promise. I bet he did everything he did because he couldn’t for you.”

“Yeah, he probably did. My mom never mentioned my father. Ever. Fuck. I didn’t know he lived ten minutes from me. It’s so crazy, I probably saw him. You know? I probably saw him around the city and never knew he was my dad.”

Alyse shrugged, the corner of her lips quirking into a light smile. “Maybe he saw you grow up and never said anything because your mom did a good job?”

“Maybe. I wish I could have at least gone to his funeral. I feel like an outsider. I’m walking into this world where everyone knew him, loved him, and I didn’t even know about him until last week. It’s crazy.”

“It is. His funeral was beautiful. Leo gave an amazing speech. I didn’t even know Leo could say something so eloquent. There’s truly a first for everything. Well, I should get going so you can get unpacked.” Alyse downed the rest of her wine and uncurled from the couch. Coby walked her to the door.

“Yeah, it’s been a long day. Thanks for coming over and for the jello mold and for talking for a bit. Maybe we could grab coffee or something and talk about anything but my dad?”

“Yeah! Sure, sounds like a plan. Knock on my door. I’m right across the hall.” Tucking her hair behind her ear, she stood in the doorway, lingering before hugging Coby.

“I. Thanks. For the hug?” He patted her back, awkwardly attempting to comfort her.

“You look so much like him. It feels like we have him back, that’s all.” She retreated, smiling. “So. Bye now! Have a good first day at work when it happens.” A wave and she skipped across the hall, disappearing inside her apartment.



~~~~~


Once moved into his new apartment, Coby visited his new office and met Taylor and Sheila. Pictures of Tony with his arm around young ambitious children covered one full wall of the huge office. The ultimate dad, Tony wore a polo shirt stretched over a growing belly in every picture. His dark curly hair thinned from picture to picture. Papers littered Tony’s desk, little sticky notes and fat file folders. Coby organized the file folders, stacking them on the corner. He collected the sticky notes and went through every single one with his new secretary. She divided the work into things Coby could do and things Coby should wait until Leo returned to tackle. Most of the sticky notes were easily handled. The file folders had to wait.

Coby’s first day of office work left him tired in a different way than physical work. Restless legs warred with an exhausted mind, and he amended his daily schedule. He ran before work, put in his eight hours or longer, and collapsed in his bed at night, tired physically and mentally. After a week, his new schedule became habit.

“You know what we need here? A shower.” Coby strolled into his office, stopping by Taylor’s desk.

“No, I don’t think so.” Taylor chuckled.

“Why not? It’s so tiring showering at home and then coming to work. I could kill two birds with one stone, really. So, I was thinking I should pick up cupcakes and a cake for Leo’s return.”

“Hmm?”

“Cake. And cupcakes. To welcome him back? And let him know we missed him. Not me, of course, but you guys. You missed him, right?”

“Oh, of course. I missed watching him bend over and his grumpy face when he doesn’t get his way. So cute.”

“Right. Well. Where I’m from, we welcome people back to work after they’ve been off awhile. I’m going to stop off and get the whole office cupcakes tomorrow morning.”

“I could-- Never mind. Sounds good. Can you review payroll this pay period? Jim needs a work order for his laptop, and third quarter is approaching, so there is a meeting with the accountant. Oh, and you need to write out tax receipts for everyone who’s donated to the business.”

“Right-o. I’m on it!” He mock saluted Taylor and disappeared into his office. Pay period occupied most of his time; he made sure everyone got their appropriate pay and was shocked to find how modest a paycheck Leo and he received. It was more than Coby made at any other job, but it wasn’t excessive, probably pennies to Leo. He snuck in the work order and contacted the accountant, asking for available appointment times. The tax receipts he prepared for the next day. After a glass of wine and a good conversation with Alyse, he fell into sleep.

He rushed into the grocery store the next morning, drumming the counter. The deli worker sauntered over, drooping eyes regarding Coby’s exuberance. Coby stumbled through his order, the half sheet cake with ‘Welcome Back Leo’ in orange letters and twenty-four cupcakes, twelve chocolate with creamy yellow icing and twelve vanilla with rich chocolate icing. He deposited the sweets in the lounge room and sent a text announcement to the group.

By the time Leo arrived, the cupcakes were gone. The cake was intact until he laid eyes on it. Sheila cut into it, handing Leo his name in a napkin.

“Welcome back. How are you feeling?” Sheila cut a piece for herself, taking a strip of edging and eating the icing with a fork.

“Fine. I caught up on contacting clients. The only thing left is to revamp the event coming this weekend. How is the new guy?”

“Mr. Brown? Aside from having no business experience, he’s amazing. Everyone loves him. He handled payroll, put in some work orders, and is now working on the tax receipts for donors. He brought the cake. Insisted on it.”

“I see.” Leo cut through the spongy white cake and puckered his lips at the sweetness.

“I suggest you check your mail and then resolve the plan for this weekend. And make an appointment with the accountant. Mr. Brown already emailed him, you all have to finalize the meeting date.”

“Of course.” On their way out of the lounge room, the office housekeeper pranced passed them. She tossed her long dark hair over her shoulders, exposing her neck to Leo.

“Welcome back, Mr. Carter.” She purred, touching his shoulder.

“It is good to be back, Amy. I trust you’ve kept all of my plants alive and well since I’ve been gone?”

Sheila glanced at the ceiling.

“Oh yes. They’re pruned to perfection, but I could give them another look this afternoon.” Amy pressed her chest into Leo’s crisp blazer and her hips into the flat front of his slacks. Amy pet through Leo’s dreadlocks.

“I will let you know if they need more assistance. Until then, please, enjoy some of my welcome back cake.”

“Thank you, but I can’t. I’m on an all carb diet.”

Sheila blinked, “Cake is carbs.”

“Right. Well, I’ll let you know about the plants, Amy. Thank you for all of your hard work.” Leo rubbed a hand from between Amy’s shoulder blades all the way to the small of her back. She giggled at the touch.

“You’re always welcome, Mr. Carter.” She bit her lip, looking Leo over. She moved through the room with her eyes on him, bumping into the counter and a chair. Leo ignored her, closing the lounge door as he left with Sheila.

“She’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. You two keep up and she’ll get angry one of these days and try to sue you for paying her to have sex with you.”

“Except I’m not paying her to have sex with me. I’m paying her to water the plants, sweep the floor, and clean the windows.” Leo lowered his voice as they walked back to his office.

“And sitting on your cock in your office is a bonus for her or for you?”

“For her, I think. I am a giving kind of man.” Leo grinned.

“Be careful, okay?”

“I will. And if all else fails, I will call my lawyer and pay her more money than she can imagine to keep her mouth shut.”

“Or you could go on a date and potentially get a girlfriend.”

“Or boyfriend.”

“Or boyfriend.” Sheila sighed.

“Maybe one day. Right now, it seems like the bitches like me for my money.”

“Be quiet. You’re ridiculous. I will tell Mr. Brown you will be at his office in about an hour?”

“Perfect. Tomorrow we can talk about your raise.”

“I-- yes. Yes, we can.” Smiling, Sheila sank down at her desk, burying herself in organizational work.

Leo closed the door to his office and worked through a month of unanswered emails. The majority of the emails consoled him for his loss, the others informed him of the new scheduled time of their meeting or thanking the company for all they did. He wrote back, slapping his preprogrammed response in the email body. Once his virtual mailbox was manageable, he sat back and thumbed through his notes for the event coming up. The scrawled notes revealed Tony’s excitement over the project. Every year Tony fired idea after idea at Leo over coffee. Leo recorded them out of courtesy while reminding Tony the program didn’t need changing. This year Tony wanted a list of available business concepts for the children too nervous to think of something on the spot. The list of potential businesses spanned over three pages. Sighing, Leo snapped the file folder closed.

“Emails are answered. Thank you for handling the clients you could.” He dropped two sticky notes on Sheila’s desk as he walked past.

“No problem.”

“You can take a break for an hour when I return.” Leo exited his office and went one door down to his old partner’s office. A placard with “Jacob Brown” replaced Tony’s faded one. Leo knocked three times and stepped inside the lobby. Nodding to Taylor, he continued past her desk and knocked on Coby’s office door. Three knocks and the door swung open. Leo stepped forwards, right into Coby.

“Mr. Brown--”

“Can I help you? Oh. Hi-hi.” Blushing, Coby stepped backwards into his office as Leo took a step backwards as well. “Hi.”

“Excuse me.” Leo chewed over his words. Coby had Tony’s unruly dark hair, sharp jawline, and expressive eyebrows. Except his eyes. Those were different. Beautiful sky blue, flecks of wispy white clouds. “I came to discuss the event this weekend.”

“Yeah? C-come in. Please. Sorry.” A smile touched his lips, showing off dimpled cheeks and putting extra glitter in his eyes. He flattened his lean frame against the door as Leo moved inside and closed the door behind them both.

Leo placed the file folder on Coby’s desk and adjusted his tie, feeling overdressed in his slacks and blazer while Coby wore a loose shirt and jeans. Coby jammed his hands in his pockets.

“Forgive me. I should properly introduce myself. I’m Leo Carter. You can call me Leo since we’re business partners now.” Leo attempted a smile, dark eyebrows relaxing and full lips quirking up at the corners. Coby appreciated the effort, smiling even more for the both of them.

“Yeah. I’ve heard a lot about you, most sexiest eligible bachelor of the century or something.” When Leo extended his hand, Coby returned with a firm handshake. “I’m Jacob Brown. Most people call me Coby.”

“Or something. It’s nice to meet you, Coby.” His hand lingered and his fingers stroked Coby’s palm when the handshake ended. Words left him after their greeting. Leo offered a shy smile, a nervous chuckle and hooked his thumbs in his belt loops as he studied Coby’s face. He memorized his features, the soft brown of his smooth eyebrows, the long lashes framing his hooded bedroom eyes. Coby flushed and smiled again.

“The, uh, project?”

“Yeah. Yes. Right. I wanted to ask if you were willing to fill in Mr. Romano’s position. He helps me judge the children’s business plans and is one of the group leaders when we divide the kids up. We can find someone else if you don’t--”

“I want to. I love working with kids.”

“Great. Wonderful. I have a few things left to complete today. So, I’ll be in my office. If you need anything.” Leo didn’t recognize his voice. Still deep and warm, but unsteady.

“Cool. I’m going to finish the tax receipts.”

“Awesome. Great. I’m going to go. Yeah.” Leo walked backwards to the door, giving Coby plenty of space in his own office. He closed the door behind him, rubbed his temples, and growled softly. Taylor smiled.

“Mr. Carter, is everything all right.”

“Yes.” He muttered, shaking his head.

Back in the lobby of his office, he dumped the file folder on Sheila’s desk, nodding for her to take a break. In his office, he collapsed in his leather chair. He buzzed Amy to his office. As he waited, he finished several emails and cleared off his desk.

“Mr. Carter.” Amy knocked once and pushed the door open, standing in the doorframe in what she considered a business-appropriate miniskirt and a tucked in blouse.

“I need some assistance over here.”

Giggling, she pushed the door until it clicked closed. Heels clattered against the hardwood floor of his office as she scurried to his desk. He sat his laptop on the floor, stacking several file folders on top of it, and grabbed Amy’s waist. She sat down in his lap, arching her back to press her chest into him and pressing her lips into his muscular neck. She moaned gently.

“I want you.” She whispered, painted lips caressing the shell of his ear. He rumbled, closing his eyes.

“Take what you want.” He spread his legs apart, cock already growing between his thighs.

“I always do, daddy.” A finger trailed down his chest as she pressed her hips into him, rubbing herself against him and curling her hips back to tease. She kicked off her heels and stroked her bare thighs over Leo’s slacks, wrinkling the creased line. Nimble fingers unbuckled his belt and untucked his shirt. He put his hand on her side, keeping her in place as he helped her fish out his cock. Another soft giggle and she snaked away from him, sinking between his legs. She tossed her long wavy hair all to one side and licked his cock from the base to tip.

Groaning, he slouched in his chair, spreading his legs further. His thick fingers raked through her hair and down the side of her face, cupping her cheek as they hollowed. Her hands pet the insides of his thighs, dipping into his pants to cup his balls and squeeze him.

“Leo! Leo, I don’t know---” Coby forced Leo’s office door open so hard it slapped the wall. His words died when he saw the peak of Amy’s dark curls over the surface of Leo’s desk. “Oh--- Right.” He sucked his teeth.

Leo groaned, swatting Amy away and jamming himself back in his slacks. His cheeks burned as he scrambled to his feet, working his fingers through his thick dreads. One hand on his hips, he paced the room before looking at Coby.

“Maybe I should go and let you two get back to it?”

“No. No, it’s fine. What’s going on?” Leo sighed, dragging his dark eyes up to meet Coby’s.

“I can’t make a business plan.” Coby glared at him, articulating each word.

“I can show you. I need some air; do you want to grab coffee?”

“I hate coffee.”

Amy shimmied her skirt back down over toned thighs and sat on Leo’s desk to put her shoes back on.

“Then we should go for sandwiches around the corner.”

“I don’t eat sandwiches.”

“Do you want dessert?”

“No.” Coby shook his head and exited the office. Leo hissed.

“I guess we can continue now?” Heels back on, she strutted over to Leo and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “I can get you to relax?”

“No. You should go. Home.” He unhooked her arms from his shoulders and created distance between their bodies. He tucked his shirt back in and fastened his belt.

“Are you firing me?”

“Not yet.” Leo growled, “So leave and I won’t have to.” He breezed past her, following Coby to the adjacent office. Leo knocked first.

“If you’re tall, dark, and a slut, you can go away right now.”

He opened the door. “You’re upset.”

“You’re damn right I’m upset. I just walked into my partner fucking one of the staff. How much do you pay her to sit on your cock?” Coby crossed his arms. “It’s gross. And it says what kind of person you are-- one with no morals or appropriate boundaries. Which figures since you have more money than you know what to do with. Was my dad like you? Hiring pretty women just to look at their asses in their inappropriate attire?”

“Stop. Please? Let me take you for coffee and we can talk about business plans.”

Coby growled, steely blue eyes boring into Leo’s.

“Fine. But only because I want this event to be amazing. Let’s go.”

“Yeah. There’s a coffee shop on the corner. We can walk there.” Leo led Coby out of the building and down the street to the local eatery. Once they were talking about business, Leo found his confidence, fluidly explaining the seven main parts of a business plan. He put Coby’s drink and his own on the company card and settled in the back of the shop to continue their discussion.

Coby’s stormy look faded as Leo continued talking about business. The darling way his face lit up as he rapidly reviewed each section of the plan and how they work together. Leo dove into the explanation, giving several examples of how to find a target audience, tips for developing a product line, and strategies for building a financial plan. Coby liked Leo’s voice, the commanding qualities along with the natural rhythm. The deep baritone kissed Coby’s ears. When Leo finished his initial explanation, Coby asked questions. Their conversation extended past the sunset and into the night, after one coffee refill for each of them and Coby exhausting all possible questions.

“I guess I should head home.” Coby blushed.

“Yeah. Damn it’s been hours. If you’re hungry, we could pick up something to eat first and then I could have my driver drop you off?”

“My car is at the office.”

“Oh, well, I can have my driver pick you up tomorrow morning, too?” Leo smiled, shoulders shrugging.

“That’s really generous of you, but I probably shouldn’t?”

“Why not? I usually drive my town car.”

“I don’t want people to see me with a driver?” Coby squinted. “Obviously.”

“All right. Dinner another time, then?”

“I’ll think about it. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah. Have a good night. It was nice talking to you.”

“You too.” Coby waved him off, jogging back to the office. Cursing himself, Leo lingered at the coffee shop, giving Coby time to get back to his car before he left.



~~~~~~


The rest of the week leading up to the event was madness. Coby buzzed around the office, taking advice from anyone willing to entertain him. Leo checked and rechecked the reservations and the attendees. Thursday night, Sheila and Taylor kicked them both from the office, demanding they get a full night’s rest in preparation for the long weekend ahead. After agreeing to meet at the hotel in the morning, Leo and Coby went separate ways.

Leo drowned himself in a round of casual sex with a standby friend. She brought Chinese take-out and her favorite brand of condoms. The night started with a warm up session, Jeanne riding him to her own orgasm and Leo bending her forward to take his. Intermission included an eggroll, fried rangoon, and sharing noodles. Leo had a beer. Leo pounded Jeanne into his marble counter, lying her on her back. His thumb massaged her to her next orgasm. He flipped her onto her belly, changed condoms, and finished. Jeanne took a shower, casting her clothes aside and wiggling into one of Leo’s designer shirts and a pair of his designer briefs. Leo sat naked on his couch, shoveling greasy noodles into his mouth. Jeanne sank down beside him, kissing his shoulder.

“Am I spending the night, baby?”

“No, I’ve got work in the morning. I needed to blow off some steam.”

Jeanne stroked his dark chest, fingers combing the coily hair dusting his body. “You work so hard.”

“I do.” Jeanne helped him finish his plate. “I’ll call my driver around for you.” Leo thumbed the threads of his shirt. “You have a collection of my shirts.”

“Six. When I wash them, they stop smelling like you.”

“You should bring them back.”

“I’ll consider it, but they’re my favorite shirts on hot days.” She chuckled, tiptoeing to the kitchen. She picked at another eggroll. Leo buzzed his driver. With thirty minutes to spare, Jeanne ate a plate of fried rice and meat. She collected her things, kissed Leo’s cheek, and danced out of his apartment and into his limousine. Leo went right to bed once Jeanne was gone. The release exhausted his body and settled his mind for sleep.

The next day, he tossed his weekend bag in his town car, drove himself to the hotel, and checked into his hotel room. The first year they did the program, Tony and Leo had to share a room. Every year since, they had enough donations to cover their room and board, too. Leo dumped his bag in the corner. He spent the morning organizing packets for the children and informational pamphlets for the parents, holed up in his room. At noon, Sheila delivered lunch and a list of things he forgot. At five, he met Coby and the two secretaries in the lobby. The secretaries were posted at the check in desk, giving the children and parents room cards and schedules.

“Mr. Brown.” Leo nodded to Coby.

“Mr. Carter.” Coby smiled, “You look good in casual clothes.”

“Thank you. How is everything?”

“Right on schedule. I did add a middle schooler and his parents yesterday. His mother called frantically. Apparently, he needs this as extra credit or he may fail?”

“You called to reserve another room?”

“I did, yeah.”

“Good.” Leo touched Coby’s back. “So far, so good. Excuse me. I’m going to go talk to the other business owners volunteering their time.”

Coby shivered, “Yeah.” His voice puttered. “I’ll be over here.” Leo bowed at the waist and stepped away. Coby hovered at the check in table, watching Leo approach the four other professional men already engaged in conversation. They greeted him with open arms, exchanging hugs and laughter. Coby caught buzz words: his father’s name, his last name, talk of revamping the business-- any business. He heard friendly challenges wagered. One sharp silver-haired man promised to school Leo on the classic art of business, scoffing at his new age theories. Leo chuckled, reminding him the secret art of success was adaptability. Coby couldn’t erase his smile as he tore his eyes away from Leo and focused on the people checking in.

“Dr. Peters and Rex? You guys attended last year, didn’t you?” Taylor, Coby’s secretary, clipped a name tag on Rex’s collared shirt.

“Yes ma’am. We attend every year because I want to start my own business. I want to be an aunt-trah-preen-newer.” His chin jutted forward, “Last summer I had a lemonade stand and the average amount I made was $15 an hour. I used Mr. Leo’s technique of value selling to list the qualities that made my lemonade better than Ryan’s lemonade.” He paused to suck in saliva collecting in his mouth. Mr. Peters scrawled their names down on a check in form. “I used all-natural sugar, fresh organic lemons, and pure water to say why my lemonade should cost more. The stand I got from the garage and repainted. I also made cookies and gave a discount on getting lemonade and a cookie. Cookies are very cheap to make. They cost five cents per cookie and I sold them for 25 cents because 25 cents is an easy price. It’s just a quarter.” He sucked saliva back again.

Coby smiled. “Hey, wow. That’s really smart.”

“Yeah. Mr. Leo is real smart and nice. I hope I get him again for my group captain.” Rex pushed his glasses back on his freckle dusted face. Dr. Peters chuckled, beaming down at his son.

“Hey now, all of the instructors are smart and nice. If you get Mr. Leo again, you will miss a good opportunity to improve further.”

“Yeah. Okay, I don’t want Mr. Leo. I want to learn new stuff. Let’s go get unpacked and start my business plan. You pick the business this time, dad.”

“Of course. Go on ahead to the stairs.” He squeezed his son’s shoulder. He thanked Sheila and Taylor and looked at Coby. “You’re the new Mr. Romano?”

“Yeah. I’m his son actually. Jacob Brown.” Coby shook Dr. Peters’ hand.

“Well, Mr. Brown. It’s good to see a young face. I can’t wait to see what you have to offer. And thank you for the thank you letter and tax receipt. We hung the letter in our office. I think you’re going to be a great asset to Community Consultants.”

“You’re welcome and thanks. I’m loving it so far.”

Dr. Peters moved on, meeting his son at the stairs and following the excited boy up to their room. The kids fell into two groups; either they were talky or they were shy. The shy ones reminded Coby of himself. He assumed Leo was a talky child. Coby checked on Leo and the other men, briefly interjecting in their conversation. He added the little he knew about business, garnered a few warm laughs, and then made his way back to the check in counter.

“We don’t have a room? I called yesterday to make sure Carmen was on the list to participate and I was told we would have a room.” A woman towered over Sheila, breathing fire with her words.

“Ma’am. Here comes a partner right now. Please, let me discuss the situation with him.” Unruffled, Sheila beckoned Coby closer. “Mr. Brown. Ms. McManus called yesterday, but she seems to be left off our room list.” Sheila avoided placing blame on the fuming woman, Coby, or the hotel staff.

“Oh. Shoot right, Mrs. McManus. I spoke to you yesterday about Carmen’s extra credit?” Coby offered her a genuine smile. “Let’s see what we can do to get you situated. Can I see the room chart?” Taylor passed it over and Coby flipped through it. Aside from three attendees who called to say they were running late, everyone had been checked in. The hotel had no vacancies according to Sheila who already called the front desk. Coby knit his eyebrows together, thinking. Mrs. McManus tapped her heeled toe on the ground.

“Well?”

“Sheila. Give Mrs. McManus and Carmen my room. And assign me to Mr. Carter’s room, please. I will call room service and have my bags moved and the room cleaned.”

Pacified, Mrs. McManus took her information, clipped the name tag on her daughter and snatched the key card from Coby’s hands. An hour after she checked in, everyone met in a large meeting room for an opening speech from Leo. The chairs were in a circle around a raised platform with several chairs on it. Coby and Leo sat in the middle, a secretary on either side, and the business owner mentors divided around them.

Leo commanded attention when he spoke, words dancing from his lips in perfect harmony. He introduced everyone, urging Coby to stand beside him as he thanked the participants and explained the plan for the weekend. Smiling, he encouraged Coby to speak. Coby said a few shy words, waved, and took his seat again. Leo instructed the young leaders to pick their business and work on their plans to present Saturday morning. He reminded them of the instructors available to help and dismissed the kids and parents to work. Leo was a highly requested assistant, moving from one child to the next, helping them pick their businesses and suggesting silly names. The children giggled and Leo smiled. The other men were approached with questions, all except Coby because he was unfamiliar. Coby waited, drumming his fingers on the arm of his chair, checking and rechecking his phone before addressing one child working on his own.

“Hey Daniel. How are you coming?” Coby squatted in front of him.

“I’m comin’. I wanna have a business like y’alls, helpin’ people learn.”

“What kind of people? Kids or adults?”

“Kids. Because I have trouble with math and I wanna make math fun for people.”

“Yeah? How are you going to do it?”

“I wanna hire smart teachers and have different ways to learn.” Daniel nodded.

“It sounds interesting. How are you going to make money?”

“Wanna get a loan first. The kids are gonna have to pay a little bit, but I wanna work it out so it’s not too much.”

Coby smiled. “I like it. Keep at it! If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask, okay?”

“Yeah okay!” Daniel smiled up at Coby.

The kids worked for a solid two hours on their plans, in a space allowing them to get up and walk around as needed. Leo concluded the night when the kids were too restless to continue working, promising they would have time in the morning for changes and finishing touches and bidding them all good night. He left to go to his room, taking the stairs up to the third floor. Coby rushed after him.

“Hey Leo. I-- Well. We’re sharing a room now?”

“Hey. Wait. What?” Leo stopped in the stairwell, turning back to Coby. His dark eyebrows threaded together, wrinkles in the middle.

“The late parent? I guess the hotel couldn’t make a room reservation, so I gave her my room and decided we could share.”

“I only have one bed in my room. Because it’s a single suite.”

Coby stared, pressing his lips together. “I didn’t know.”

“You can still stay with me. There’s a chair I can sleep in.”

“No, no. I should sleep in the chair since I’m the one inconveniencing you.”

“I can’t make you sleep in a chair.” Leo sighed, “Come on, we’ll figure it out.” He jogged up the stairs and led Coby to his room. Coby’s aged duffle bag sat right next to Leo’s designer overnight bag. He handed Coby the second keycard. Coby twirled it in his fingers.

“Do you shower at night or in the morning?”

“Morning.” Leo unpacked his clothes.

“Perfect. I shower at night.” Coby dug out briefs and a shirt, disappearing in the bathroom. Leo surveyed his clothes for the next day and stripped down to underwear for sleep. He programmed the thermostat to 62 degrees and burrowed in the thick comforter on the full-size bed. The white noise of the shower lulled Leo to sleep.

Coby didn’t rush his shower. He emerged, toweling his hair with goosebumps down his body. He bit his bottom lip when he noticed Leo asleep already. He tiptoed around the room, grabbing extra blankets from the closet. He draped the sheets over his head and bundled up in the recliner. He nuzzled into the curved back of the chair and closed his eyes.

Leo woke to piss, stumbling to the bathroom and emptying his bladder. He tramped back to the main room, wrapping his dreads up. Sighing, he approached Coby, digging in the blankets and stroking his cheek.

“Hey. Come to bed with me.” His sleepy voice cooed, rumbling over his words. Coby’s lips brushed Leo’s palm.

“Mm. Okay.” He uncurled his body and trudged to the bed, collapsing into it. Leo climbed into the bed after Coby, body curving around him. Leo pet Coby’s shoulders and down his arm. “Good night.”


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