Leaving the family behind after everything that happened this summer was hard. Harder on Cade and Isabelle than the rest of us. I can’t imagine the void that has opened in their lives now that Maddie is gone.
Isabelle is devastated. I think having Ash and Dalton here has helped her but it doesn’t fill that empty hole Maddie left in her heart. She has helped me get my place organized, she’s much better at the whole decorating thing than I am. And it’s helped to distract her, temporarily, at least.
Mom and Dad saw me off Friday after a big family goodbye party at Grandma’s. Not that it’s really goodbye, I’m only a flight away, but Grandma Viv doesn’t travel like she used to. Georgia and Jim are still in and out of everywhere the family resides but Grandma and Grandpa are home now. That’s okay, I’ll be back to visit plenty.
They’re enjoying their retirement. With my sister Bri’s kid, little Lila, so close by and all the cousins, Grandma and Grandpa keep busy. Dad has taken the law firm there for Bradford Drake while Uncle Cade heads up legal here in New York.
I had wanted to stay in California and work with him. That didn’t happen. Dad refuses to be my boss. He doesn’t want to look like he plays favorites. Said it would be unfair to the other employees if I took a position without earning it.
I don’t want that either. I want to be respected by my peers. I want to know I can do the job as a corporate attorney just as well as my Dad and Cade. I don’t want a position handed to me because of my name. So I’m going to work under Cade and get my feet wet.
My feet got plenty wet this summer. After the storms and crazy summer we had on the island, I’m glad to have my feet firmly on dry land for a while. Not that I didn’t enjoy the summer we had but it could have gone a whole lot smoother than it did. Coming home was a blessing and a curse.
We jumped from summer soap opera to summer camp without blinking an eye. It was the best camp year we’ve ever had and it was cool to help the Segler’s do their baseball camp immediately after our own. Who’d have thought Hunter could actually hit a baseball out of the park! I guess Wyatt did, but then his mom isn’t the best batting coach for nothing.
Keeping busy had helped all of us get through Adam’s death and Maddie’s, all the publicity and excitement over Aiden’s decision to not go into football and then
Derrick and Callie’s wedding plans and Aiden and Riley moving to Arizona and their wedding.
“It must be in the water.” Sawyer muttered on the plane across the country. “Don’t drink the water. I’m not going to be the only single guy in the family!”
“You aren’t, dude. Relax.” I grumble just wanting to close my eyes and get some sleep. It’s a long ass flight.
Sawyer grabs me by the shoulders and gives me a shake. “How can you say that? We’re dropping like flies! Even Uncle Derrick has succumbed to their wily ways!”
Chuckling to himself, Ash has stayed quiet until now. “Derrick has been in love with my mom since that first football camp I went to. He’s been off the market for years. You can’t include him in your count.”
“But now it’s official!” This is really bugging him. “He’s getting married, Aiden’s getting married. Don’t think Hunter isn’t eyeing a ring as we speak to pierce Wyatt’s nose with. I’m telling you we’re a dying breed.”
When we were all on board the plane Cade made a point of going over the rules laid out for us. We will live in the same building but we have our own space. Cade and Isabelle are on the twentieth floor in the penthouse. Ash and Dalton will be living with Callie and Derrick on the nineteenth floor. It’s one of the bigger condos in the building. It’s a six bedroom condo and takes up the entire floor, similar to the penthouse but without all the bells and whistles.
Sawyer and I are roommates again. We’re on the fifteenth floor in a four bedroom condo. It’s classy and upscale, thanks to Isabelle, but nothing as opulent as the penthouse. Isabelle has determined she will be redecorating that first thing. She says Adam’s taste in decor is just as bad as his taste in women. Both are tacky and cheap.
She’s still bent out of shape about Chloe and her decision to not be there for Aiden for so long. At one time she and Chloe were friends but over the years, as Adam got worse, their friendship failed. I don’t blame her for feeling the way she does. Isabelle is a good person, one of the best. Adam harmed this family in many ways, hurting us financially was just the beginning of it.
Cade has been digging into the company end of the disaster he was handed. There’s mishandling of finances, of corporate property and tax evasion. We have a lot of repairs to do. We have been working with the government and between Cade and Georgia we have a deal with them to get us back into good standing with the IRS. It wasn’t a cheap or easy deal either.
Fucking Adam is still screwing the knife in the Bradford’s backs from the grave. Bastard! Cade is determined to see this through and bring us back to where we once were. Georgia has given him full control over the company now. Blake is on the oversight board and they will have to deal with any backlash to come.
Knowing us the way he does, Cade went over all of the rules again. No late night parties at the condo, no coming to their place to raid their refrigerator in the middle of the night. I have to report to work on time, sober, Monday through Friday and I have to work hard to prove I was the right man for the job. Nothing will be handed to me just because of my name. I didn’t expect anything less.
I don’t want anything handed to me. I’m not Adam. Boy, did he screw up. Georgia was angry with him, but more than that, she was disappointed with him. He hurt her and she isn’t the kind of lady you don’t cross. I’m not like my Uncle Adam. I’m not a fool and I’d rather work my ass off and know I did my best, than have it all handed to me because of my last name.
I’m a Drake, like Cade and Dad, I don’t take the privileges I’ve been given for granted. This company is where it is because of the smart and talented people who work here. Not because of a name plate that’s on the door. I’ll earn a corner office with a view and I’ll get the respect for it because of what I do.
“It’s not that simple, Sawyer.” Cade explains over his coffee and eggs. “Adam made a lot of mistakes here. The employees are disgruntled, and angry at how he did things. It’s up to us to change that.”
That doesn’t sound so bad. I’ve always been able to get along with most people, even the idiots. Getting people to like me has never been a big problem. I’m not Aiden who was considered a god on campus, or Roan who is just a punk. I’m laid back, easy going and I bust my butt to prove my worth.
“We’ve got a meeting first thing with the management team in the morning. We’ll go straight there.” Cade already has my first month of training planned out. “Then we meet with the board of directors, they want to meet you and I’ve got some updates on our progress in repairing the damage Adam caused.”
Adam was a real slimy piece of work. The way he screwed the family, cheated the company out of millions not to mention poor Georgia and what he did to her and Chloe. He was ready to basically sell his son to the highest bidder. And that doesn’t include what he did to Riley. That was the last straw.
“We’re in good shape now, right? We’ve replaced the funds Adam stole.” I thought that was behind us. “Adam’s gone. The board should be relieved that we can go forward.”
“Financially, yes. But people tend to remember being screwed. It’s going to take years to repair our reputation. And the employees who knew Adam remember what happened. They’re going to question every one of the family until we can gain their trust again. Just remember, some might not be as welcoming as you might hope.” Cade isn’t making me feel warm and fuzzy about my first day.
I’m beginning to feel like it’s the first day of school and I’m the kid that the bully is waiting to beat the shit out of for lunch money. There has to be a way to win these people over. It can’t really be as bad as it sounds.
It’s not as bad as it sounded. It’s worse. Walking into the huge skyscraper building in lower Manhattan, I expected to see the stares, the whispers about the new guy, even the jealous glares from those who want my job, who want me to fail. What I got was worse.
Cade and I rode into the office together, listening to the morning news reports that include the latest on Adam’s death. It included Derrick’s wedding, and Aiden leaving for Arizona. And Chloe’s death. Aiden is now an orphan sort of. Not that he’s alone. There’s no way to be alone in this family.
We ignored the press outside the building and headed to the elevator after the secretary at the front desk murmured a hello to Cade as she passed him his messages.
“Damn it! Sawyer, head up to the thirty fourth floor. Last conference room on the left. I’ve got to deal with this before I get up there.” Cade hung back, swinging into a main level office. He’s obviously not happy with whatever the message was.
Whistling as I waited for the elevator, I have no reason to not try to be polite and professional to anyone else waiting with me. I stepped onto the open car once it arrived and just as the door began to close, I could hear a voice rushing and impatiently yelling out.
“Hold the door, God dammit! Hold the door!” Her demand was met by a few growls from a couple of men and an eye roll from an older woman, when I put my hand out to hold the door open for her.
The bombshell, frazzled and annoyed, is absolutely stunning. Tall, model thin, long legs that go on for miles, a little black skirt and silk cream blouse with a strand of pearls around her neck. Not an inch of skin that should have been seen available on her. Her dark hair is slicked back into a tight roll at her neck and her eyes are hidden behind a pair of glasses. She looks at me, giving me a once over and ignores me, as she steps in and turns her back to me.
“Fortieth floor.” No please, no thank you. No manners at all. I hope she’s not one of the managers I have to deal with.
I pressed the button she requested but when she said nothing else, my back went up. I was brought up with manners. If I didn’t use them Georgia would slap me upside the head. And I would have earned it. Knowing that, my mouth got the better of me.
“I held the door for you and pressed the button for you. It’s customary to say please and thank you when you ask for something. You’re welcome, by the way.” My version of the slap.
Her head spun around. Tilting down the dark glasses she once again looked me up and down. “I don’t need to be corrected by a mailroom suck up, who wants to kiss up to management!”
Well, she certainly told me!
All eyes suddenly turned on me. The silence in the metal box was suddenly deafening. She didn’t respond further but turned her back to me and ignored everyone. Figures but I caught the older lady nodding to me as she got out on her floor and two more ladies got on.
“I heard the boss has a new assistant today.” One of the women whispers in front of me. “I wonder if he looks like the rest of the Bradford’s. Those sexy green eyes and hot bods are all Bradford.”
“I don’t think so. I thought I heard it was a Drake starting. I bet he’s a dick, just like Adam.” My eyebrows rose as I listened silently to the discussion.
Another said. “He was nice to look at, but I heard he sucked in bed.”
Ouch! Sucks for you Adam!
Well this is an interesting way to get a feel of the environment. The angry, mannerless woman next to me grumbled her opinion under her breath, something about cutting off a select piece of the newbie’s anatomy and tossing it out the window.
“I don’t know what crawled up your ass, Max. At least you’ve got the cozy office upstairs!” The first woman scowled at the grumpy one. “Some of us won’t lower ourselves to sleep with the boss for a raise!”
The woman turned tyrant and laid into the other as if she was under attack. When Cade said Adam screwed over the employees this was not what I had expected. I’m feeling a little unsettled about taking on this job right now. This woman could, and I bet would, cut off my dick.
“That should have been my job! I’m the one who did ninety percent of Adam’s job around here and yet when he proved to be incompetent and a murderer, I made sure that he didn’t send this place into bankruptcy! Did they even bother to look at me for the position? No, they bring in a snot-nosed, rich brat, straight out of school, only because he has the right name!” Ouch! Someone has certainly gotten their nose out of joint already.
“Be careful, Maxwell. The walls have ears around here.” One of the young guys reminded her.
“I don’t care! I’ll tell him right to his face what I think when I get the chance. I’m tired of being taken for granted!” As the door opened, the lovely grumpy one got off and as the door closed again everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
“Looks like Mad Max is on her warpath early this morning. I feel bad for the guy. He’s got no idea what he’s in for. See you at lunch!” One said, getting out on the next floor.
One by one, people got on and got off as I rode in silence. The people talked and shared the same stories in the ride up. All wondering who the new guy was and how Mad Max was going to eat him up.
Interesting. I’m curious if Cade knows who Mad Max is and what position she holds. I wonder how she’ll respond, knowing I’ve already caught her show and I’m not impressed with her professionalism.
I don’t like hearing the bitching. Not because it’s about me, but because it’s about the company. I’ve got pride in what my family has built and accomplished in Bradford Drake. It bothers me that Adam has severely damaged our reputation. That’s a lot of work on my shoulders and Cade’s to change it.
From what I got on the ride up, all the employees talk and the gossip here is exchanged in the elevator instead of the ladies room. And they say plenty. None of it was good except for the talk about the new deli down the street with an awesome hot pastrami. I’ll be trying that for lunch.
Word certainly does travel fast. By the time I got to my floor and down the hall to the conference room, I’d heard about someone who was having a baby, the latest on the Mets, Yankees and Jets for the year. There’s a new love affair on three, a break up on ten and a fiftieth anniversary on twenty.
I learned my grumpy friend’s name, Mad Max, is known as Madeline Maxwell. She has been with Bradford Drake for three years. Smart, professional in her work, and burned horribly by Adam. No one likes her. No one cares that she is pissed off. They think she’s just mad Adam dumped her for some woman with money.
So she has bad taste in men.
I wandered a bit aimlessly looking around and working in the office. Wanting to get a better feel for what I’m in for, I opened my ears, kept my opinion to myself and learned plenty. Plenty Cade should know about. Heading down the hall, I found my destination and opened the door.
In the room is a sweet older woman who I’ve met several times over the years. She was Mike’s administrative assistant for a while then Adam’s. Now she works for Cade. She is organized and the best lady outside of the family I’ve met.
“Hi, Miss Martha!” Announcing myself, I watched her face light up.
“My, my, the prodigy has become a man. Look at you, boy! You grew up on me. And don’t you look handsome in your suit!” She closes the gap between us and pulls me into a motherly hug. “How’s your grandma doing?”
“Good both of them. They’ll be coming to visit eventually. You still married?” I ask as she takes my hand and guides me to my seat.
“Of course. You still haven’t asked me to leave him for you!” She teases with a wink.
“You know you’re too good for me.” I kiss her cheek and the woman blushes.
“Don’t I know it, you scoundrel.” She laughs and looks up as the door opens.
“Sorry, I’m late. I had a fire to put out in acquisitions. Did you just get here?” Cade asks as the older woman gets a fresh pot of coffee and a tray of pastries to set on the table.
“Thanks, Martha. You remember Sawyer, my nephew. He’ll be taking the empty office on fifty. Please let Madeline know to expect him this afternoon for training.” Cade absently directs her.
“Of course, Mr. Drake. Shall I send the others in as they arrive?” Martha gives me a wink and a smile.
“Yes, please.” Cade accepts the mug she pours for him and continues working without looking up. “Sawyer, let’s review this before we start. That’ll be all, Martha, thank you.”
Without a word, Martha disappears and Cade busily begins lecturing me on the acquisition problem from earlier and how we’re to solve it. The morning gossip behind me for the moment I focus on the job at hand.
Mad Max is just going to have to wait until this afternoon.