I woke up to the smell of bacon. I tried to sit up and groaned at the pain in my head, blinking rapidly as I tried to figure out where I was. Shit. I had slept over. I rolled over and picked up my phone from the nightstand.
Fourteen missed calls. Ten from Serena, three from Marcus and one from my father. Double shit. My dad never called me.
Hurriedly, I grabbed my belongings and pulled on my clothes from the night before while I texted my driver.
I tiptoed down the stairs with my heels in my hands hoping that Brett wouldn’t hear me. I walked past the kitchen where he was making breakfast wearing only his boxers. It was definitely a sight to see but I had to get out of there. I opened the door as quietly as I possibly could and sprinted down the front steps of his townhouse nearly running into an elderly couple walking their dog. They looked at me with intense disapproval as I climbed into the backseat of the town car.
The driver pulled away from the curb and I pulled out my phone to check my voicemails. I listened to Marcus’s first. The first was at 6 am.
“Lupe, where the hell are you? Serena called me looking for you. Call me back ASAP.”
“Lupe. I’m not kidding; You need to call me back.”
“Lupe. Your father’s involved now. I can’t help you.”
This last message made me roll my eyes as my driver dropped me off outside my apartment building. Marcus was being dramatic as usual. I greeted the doorman and took the private elevator to my penthouse apartment.
Dropping my keys into the bowl on the table just inside the door, I was preparing to listen to Serena’s voicemails when I saw my father sitting in the armchair on the far side of my living room. I froze, feeling all of the blood drain from my face.
Serena, the tattletale, was sitting on the couch with a guilty look on her face.
“Papa? Serena? What are you doing here so early on a Saturday morning?” I said smoothly as if their mere presence didn’t scare me to my core.
“Don’t ‘Papa’ me, Penelope,” my father said sternly. “Sit down.”
I scowled at being dictated to in my own home but reluctantly sat down opposite him.
“I’m out of the country for only a month and you can’t behave while I’m gone? It’s absolutely unacceptable!”
“What are you talking about Papa?”
“Serena never asks anything of you and you couldn’t even attend the few events she asked you to go to?”
“I was at the benefit last night--” I countered.
“I am not finished speaking!” he thundered causing my scowl to deepen. “You went to one event Penelope! One! And that was only after a threat from me. And then you pull this nonsense!”
He shoved his phone in my direction. It was an article about me. There was a very fuzzy photo of me leaving the club with Brett the night before. You couldn’t make out who I was with but it was very clear who I was.
I sighed. “Papa I don’t see what the big deal is--”
“The big deal, Penelope, is that I am preparing you to take over the company. You are the future! Is this the image you want to portray?”
“That I’m an intelligent, independent young woman with a healthy sexual appetite?” I folded my arms across my chest. “Sure. I’m okay with that. And besides, we all know that everyone looks to Serena to be the ‘face’ of the company. She’s the one who’s good at talking up investors and planning benefits and all that stuff!”
My temper was getting the best of me at this point. “You raised me to be a thinker. To be a businesswoman, since I was a child. That’s what I went to college for. That’s what I went to graduate school for. Business. Not to stand around in a fancy dress laughing at corny jokes made by crusty old men; No offense Serena. So forgive me, father, for being exactly what you taught me to be.” Despite my best efforts, a tear slid down my cheek. I hastily wiped it away.
The look on my father’s face softened a bit. “Lupe, I just want what’s best for you and your future. It doesn’t look good on you or on the company for you to be on a tabloid cover. You’re a young lady and you should act like one.”
“Well, I guess it’s too bad I’m not a man. You would have preferred to have a son, wouldn’t you? Then it wouldn’t matter who the hell I slept with!”
“Penelope, you’re missing the point you father is trying to make,” Serena interjected. “We just want what’s best for you.”
I turned my glare toward her. “This is all your fault anyway.”
She frowned. “How is this my fault mija? I am simply trying to prepare you--”
“Oh my God. You’ve got to stop. Serena, you are young enough to be my sister! Please stop talking to me like you’re my mother! I don’t have one! I don’t need you. I never have and I never will.”
The look of shock and hurt on Serena’s face almost made me take back my words. Almost.
“Now. If you two, don’t mind I would like to shower and enjoy my day off in peace. Feel free to let yourselves out whenever you want.”
I turned on my heel and marched up the stairs to my bedroom, slamming the door behind me like a child. I showered quickly and crawled into bed, immediately dialing Marcus.
“Is niñera there?” I asked in a small voice.
Marcus shouted something in Spanish and I heard shuffling on the other line.
“Cariña?” Maria’s soft voice came over the phone.
“Niñera? Te necesito. I need you,” I whimpered, finally letting my tears spill down my face.
“I’m on my way.”
Fifteen minutes later, Maria was holding me in her arms as I cried, as she had done so many times before.
By Monday morning I had mostly recovered from my disaster of a weekend. Marcus was right per usual. My social status as an heiress had once again trumped my status as a businesswoman and paparazzi followed me all weekend long; Even out to my father’s mansion on Sunday evening, where I suffered through a painfully awkward dinner with father and Serena.
I spent all day Saturday in bed with Maria and Marcus watching novellas and eating the delicious food that Maria had brought over. She listened to my grievances about my father and encouraged me to try to see things from his point of view. I, of course, rolled my eyes and pouted but agreed to try.
Her words echoed in my head as I marched through the lobby of our office on Monday morning. I stepped into the elevator and the two people inside scrambled out mumbling apologies to me. I rolled my eyes and pressed the button for my floor. I had a reputation for ruling with an iron fist but I was no Miranda Priestly; I could ride on the elevator with others.
The elevator dinged, alerting me that I had arrived at my destination. The doors slid open and I stepped out to see Marcus standing there with a wide grin. I crossed the marble lobby, enjoying the sound of my stilettos clicking on the floor, and handed my bag to Marcus. He handed me my tablet and began detailing my schedule for the day.
By the time we reached my office, I knew it was going to be an exhausting day. I sat down at my desk and smiled as I reached for the piping hot cup of coffee in front of me.
“Thank you, Marcus. Can you make sure that I get all the details for the acquisition meeting in the next twenty minutes?”
“Of course Miss Marino.”
“Is there anything else?” I asked, opening up my laptop.
“Yes. You have a guest.”
I looked up. Marcus was grinning at me. “A guest?”
“Yes. I’ll send her in.”
He turned and walked toward the door.
“Marcus! Who is it? I don’t have time for guests!”
He didn’t answer and disappeared out of my office. I rolled my eyes and groaned. A few moments later, the door opened again and a small face poked around the door.
“Do you have time for me Auntie Lupe?”
A wide grin broke onto my face as my sweet cousin Aiden came flying into the room and jumped into my open arms.
“I always have time for you precious one! Where’s your mommy?”
“Here I am!” My cousin Alicia entered the office wearing a tiny black mini skirt paired with a crop top and sky-high stilettos. Her curly hair was pinned up save a few tendrils that sprung free at the base of her neck and around her face.
“Leesh!! I squealed hugging her tightly. “What are you doing here?! I didn’t even know you were in town.”
She sat down in the chair opposite my desk and frowned at me. “Of course I’m here! The Summer Summit is this weekend.”
“Oh! That’s right! Serena and Father are forcing me to attend,” I said with a sigh.
“Forcing you? You don’t want to see Ryan?”
“Ryan’s here? I thought he was in Houston.”
Alicia shook her head. “He and Gabi moved here last week.”
“That’s great! I haven’t seen him since your wedding.”
I felt a small hand tugging on my blazer and looked down to see Aiden smiling up at me. “Can you have lunch with us, Auntie Lupe?”
“Not today munchkin,” I said sadly, pinching his little nose. “I have a ton of work to do.”
Alicia stood up. “I’ll take that as our cue to leave! I’m going to drop Aiden with the nanny and then stop by my dad’s office to see Ryan. Text me later?”
She took Aiden by the hand as I nodded and gave her another hug.
I sat back down to work with a smile on my face. Alicia was my favorite cousin but I rarely got to see her due to her busy schedule as a pop star.
Reviewing the files Marcus gave me about our latest acquisition took less time than I anticipated. It was a small design firm that specialized in custom kitchens and bathrooms. Their numbers were good and they had a strong client base so I could only assume that my father had made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. There was a note at the bottom of the file that said: “hotel remodels”. So my father wanted this firm to redesign our hotels. Interesting.