Thank you to Team Harpy: Dawn, Stephanie, May, and Mich. Love you all long time.
Thank you to my readers. Without you, I am nothing.
Apparently Sunday is subjective as it is Sunday in Australia where Mich is.
Let's check in with Edward.
"We are about to lose a major sale due to your extracurricular activities!" Grandfather blusters as he storms into my office.
"What are you talking about?" I have no patience for his outrage today. I snuck away last night and spent it with Bella and got up with the birds to fly back here in time.
"I'm talking about the Eleazar Denali who is at this very moment sitting, very unhappily I might add, in my office. This whole deal is about to fall through due to your blatant disregard for your job."
"Send him in." I keep my tone casual. One of us panicked is enough.
"I don't think you are grasping the urgency of the situation, Edward. Did I make a mistake in appointing you as my CEO?"
"No. You didn't. And if you would send Mr. Denali in, you will see why."
He straightens up from his position of leaning over with his finger in my face. "You'd better not screw this up or I'll have your head on a platter."
"Hopefully, not one of Grandmothers. She'd be most displeased."
His glare tells me he doesn't appreciate my humor, then he leaves to go fetch the complainant. Tough crowd.
I stand up as Mr. Denali enters and button my suit jacket before shaking his hand. I motion for him and Grandfather to take a seat, then sit behind my imposing desk.
"I hear you have some concerns regarding Cullen, Inc's takeover of your company."
"You bet your ass, I do. I've emailed you several times and have had no response to the changes I proposed in the contract. Now, if your inattention is any indication then I'd hate to see what you would do to my company once you have control."
"I apologize for my lack of response but let's get real here. If your company was being run correctly, we wouldn't be in a position to buy you out. I did receive the proposed changes and have forwarded them to our lawyers. If I remember correctly…"
"Why don't you just pull up the email instead of trying to remember." He interrupts me.
"There's no need. You want to make sure that we retain at least seventy-five percent of your employees, the others are let go with a generous stipend and that all the 401K's are left intact."
"I'm not sure that's entirely possible. While it may be just the poor leadership that has brought you to this point, it also could be the people you have chosen to employ."
"I will pull out…"
"Go ahead, then you'll have to file bankruptcy, all your employees will lose their jobs and we will take control then but at a much lower price." I shrug. "It's no skin off my nose. Either way, I intend to own your company. With your consent or not. Doesn't really matter to me." I say, harshly.
He doesn't like that one bit. I soften my tone.
"I understand your desire to protect your employees. I admire it, even. I can't promise anything, but I do assure you I will do my absolute best to save as many as I can. So, do we have a deal?"
"It's not like I have a choice, do I?"
"Oh, there's always a choice, it's whether you make the right one that matters."
"When do I sign?"
"Well, if you can hang around for a little while, today is as good a day as any."
He nods then stands up and reluctantly shakes my hand and Grandfathers. I escort them both to my waiting area.
"I'll have Alice lead you to the boardroom."
Alice gets up and cheerfully leads the way while Grandfather re-enters my office.
"Good work, my Boy."
"I do love to start my day with a corporate takeover." I actually would have rather started it with Bella underneath me but if I had woken her up, she would have begged me to stay. This is a close second though.
"You were lucky."
"Luck has nothing to do with it."
"Neither does cockiness but you seem to have that in spades."
"It's in my DNA so what do you expect?"
"I expect you to be present and you haven't been lately."
"I'm exactly where I need to be when I need to be there. I don't have to be chained to my desk. That's what cell phones and emails are for. Now, go join Mr. Denali while I get the lawyers to get those papers ready."
He stops by the door on his way out to impose upon me some parting words. "Whatever you have going on will catch up with you and I'll be here to gloat at your failure."
"I have no doubt you will."
He forcefully shuts my door at my parting shot and I aggressively pick up the phone to demand the lawyers put a rush on it or I'll have their heads. Maybe a bit harsh but you know what they say about shit rolling downhill.
My phone rings. "What?" I bark.
"Is this a bad time?" Bella hesitantly asks.
I feel all my tension seep out of my body.
"Yes, but hearing your voice makes it all better."
"Just a screwup at work. One of my own making, I'm afraid. I'm stretching myself too thin."
"Well, you know what I think about that, but I won't add to your plate today. I just called to say that I appreciate you surprising me last night and how sad I was waking up by myself." I can hear her pout over the phone.
"I'm sorry but I barely made it to work on time. I just had this intense need to see you last night. I hope you didn't have any plans."
"Never apologize for wanting to see me." She's shy Bella again. She usually is when anything approaching the topic of feelings comes up.
"I'll remember that. I have to go take care of this now."
"Okay, I'll see you Saturday?"
"No. Friday. I can't wait until Saturday."
"Well, now see, that's only two days away!"
"It's two days too long but I'll make it." I smile.
"And I'll make it worth your while, Mr. Whitlock."
My smile dims.
"Friday. Bye Masen."
I hang up then take a deep breath. My office phone rings, and I answer. "Whit… Cullen." Shit.
"Sir, the papers are being delivered to the boardroom as we speak."
I stroll down to the boardroom where Mr. Denali signs over his business and makes a tidy sum for it. All this fuss and he still got his way. He's gone before the ink dries and I pass the papers to Alice to send up for finalization and we have a new hotel line here at Cullen, Inc. Not bad for a morning's work.
I grab my phone and select the photos app to a picture I took last night of Bella and me. I smile as I trace the lines of her gorgeous face.
She's a distraction for sure but I can't stay away from her or my music.
But I have got to get a hold on this.
Or I'm going to go up in flames and who knows who I'll drag down with me.
"So, you know how I asked to write some originals?"
Bella perks up.
"Well, I have five completed which I figure are enough to maybe lay down in a few weeks for a sneak peek digital copy or something."
"That's perfect, Masen!" She throws herself at me in excitement.
"You haven't heard them yet. They could be awful." I point out.
"Oh, I know they'll be great. When do I get to hear them?"
"Hold on. I mean, I have to share with the band, and we have to practice."
"Then let's go." She starts to drag me from my chair.
"Masen!" She makes a grunt of frustration.
"Let me get the sheet music to the guys tonight then I'll give you a private show next weekend."
"I have to wait a whole week?"
"I want it to be a surprise." And I want to make sure it doesn't suck but I don't say that.
"I don't like surprises." She says. Well, that doesn't sit too well for me…
"Well, I love them, and I love giving them, so you'll have to put up with that if you're gonna put up with me."
"I'm beginning to wonder why I do."
"Cause I rock your world? Both onstage and off, of course."
"Cocky, aren't you?"
"Yes, very but you can attest to that." I smile.
"So damn cheeky."
"Yeah, well, my Ma likes you. And Nessa liked you."
"I do seem to have that effect on the ladies."
"You'd better not be affecting any ladies but me up close and personal." She warns.
"Definitely not. I'm all yours."
"Yeah, that remains to be seen. But back to my point."
"You mean you have one?"
She glares at me.
"I see I'm pushing my luck." I mimic zippering my mouth closed.
"My Ma wants you to come over for dinner." She grimaces.
"Is that bad?"
"No, well, I mean, it could be."
"Are your parents hard to get along with? I didn't get that impression with your mother. I mean, she's hesitant but lovely."
"No, no. It's not just them. It's all the local family. Two of my brothers and their significant others. Sam has children so they'll be there. My Pop's Ma as well. Oh, and I have an aunt and a couple of cousins that would probably be invited. But all the pasta you can eat."
That is a lot of people. People who might recognize me. But she looks so hopeful...
"You had me at pasta. Tell Renee I accept."
"Really? You'd subject yourself to that for me?"
"Yes. I'd subject myself to just about anything for you." I tell her honestly.
As expected, she avoids my intense gaze and fiddles with something in front of her.
"Yeah, well, you don't have to."
I put my hand on hers to still it; making her look at me. "I know that. I want to. Okay?"
"Okay." She acquiesces, then changes the subject.
I chuckle internally; at myself for wanting her to believe me and at her for being so reluctant to believe me- a liar.
I'm so twisted.
I wait until I hear the shower turn on before grabbing my phone, dialing quickly.
"Bella, baby? Is everything okay?"
"Why wouldn't it be?" I ask.
"Well, you don't call that much anymore so I figured something must be wrong." She guilts me. Italian mothers, I swear. Right up there with Jewish mothers with the guilt trips.
"Everything is fine. Well, except I told a little white lie that I need your help with."
"Bella Marie, we don't lie."
"It was a fib. Very minor, Ma."
"Well, what was this fib you told?"
"I may have told Masen that you had invited him over for a family dinner."
I take the phone away from my ear at her squeal. Thank God I don't get that excited about every little thing like that.
"And? Did he accept?"
"Yeah." I bark out an incredulous laugh. "I couldn't believe it."
"How many people is he expecting to be at this family dinner?"
"All the locals including Aunt Carmen and her two. Ma, he didn't even blink."
"That is a very good sign."
"I know. I'm kind of blown away. So, when is a good time to do this?"
I hear the pull of a kitchen drawer, the squeak of our old kitchen chair, and the comforting rustle of notebook paper.
"No, weekends are no good. We're usually doing a gig because his day job doesn't allow for much more."
"Well, what days are usually good for him?"
"Thursdays, he usually comes up here to…" I trail off, not wanting to finish that sentence.
"I'm well aware of what he comes up there to do."
"Anyway, Thursday will be great, Ma!" I keep my tone bright cause I don't want to have this conversation again.
"Okay, I'll gather the troops and we will make a feast fit for a king."
"Of course you will, Ma. You make the best pasta on the West Coast."
"Well…" I can practically hear my Ma preening. She takes great pride in feeding her family. "I have a lot to do before then so I'll check in with you later."
"Okay. Bye, Ma. Thank you."
"Anything for my baby girl."
I smile as I disconnect.
Good family, good food, and Masen all in one place. I just hope the latter doesn't run away when he gets a load of the former… cause my family is craziness personified.
Playlist: Champion- performed by Carrie Underwood. Written by Carrie Underwood, Ludacris, Chris DeStefano, and Brett James (2018).
Spread Too Thin - performed by Spread Too Thin. Written by Jared Watson (2012).
Invitation- performed by Britney Spears. Written by Britney Spears, Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter, and Nick Monson (2016).
Next up is dinner at the Swans. I will have photos of the Swans up before Wednesday in my group.