I smacked the alarm clock’s button and stretch as I slide out of bed. Getting up before nine a.m. was a sin at best. My best dress hung ready for me in the closet. Black stockings, a slip, dress, heels and delicate gold earrings. A little lipstick and mascara was all I needed. I grabbed my laptop bag and portfolio and headed down stairs. A whistle coming from the kitchen.
“Lo, you look so professional! You should wear my trench over all that, it’s dreadfully freezing outside. The snow will be here any day, I can feel it.” Angelina grinned as Alex rubbed her belly before grabbing a cup of coffee. I blushed and thanked her. I still had forty five minutes before I had to leave, so along with a cup of coffee I sat and looked into the links that were attached to the email Neil sent to me last night. His companies’ numbers were amazing and I was in awe at the attention to detail his accountant paid to these audits. These were from his legal businesses I’m sure. They tend to be very scripted and bland at best. Finding a few mistakes I decided to add a few more points to my presentation. I was intrigued at what his accountant could do with his shell accounts. Alex joined me at the breakfast bar.
“Hey little chick, what ya got there?” I finished my last note and showed him the audits.
“Wow. He sent you some good information, I see. How’s that going to play into today’s meeting?” I leaned back and let the warm mug rejuvenate my hands.
“Well for one, he sent me audits of his legitimate businesses and a skeleton of what he’d like ours to look like. I like his ideas but shell corporations are for storing money not making money. He’s proposing methods that would allow us to simply share our earnings with him. Things will be pooled into a single account and I’d think his accountant and I would work to divide it all up monthly or however we see fit. Allowing us to go without being audited because we would cover his choice of costs as payment for a shell company. It’s sort of complicated. I hope his accountant is there so we can discuss the details further than just proposals today if we can find an agreed contract.” The grin that plastered my face was contagious as it made his way to his mouth too.
“I’m glad I have my sister back. This business needed you. Dad would be proud of you. I know I am. Don’t think just because I got the business dumped in my lap overnight that I haven’t seen you grow as a woman over the last few years. Howie is stronger than I’ve ever seen him too.” His eyes met his hands and a small sigh followed him as he stood and kissed my forehead. “I’ll be in the car. Wheels up in five minutes.” I finished my coffee and put on my borrowed coat. A scarf on top and my bag over my shoulder.
“Alex, Loreina, nice to see you two again.” Neil gave a firm handshake to my brother and a kind, gentle one for me. He offered to take my coat and I blushed a bit as I turned to let him help me take it off. He oozed chivalry. His fingertips grazed my shoulder and a shiver ran to my toes. That electricity was better than the coffee I just had. I took my seat seeing the long glass table had several papers in two stacks. I sat down my bag and removed my equipment and began setting it up. Neil let me have the floor first as slide shows and audits of my own financial plan showed our willingness to conform our business to whatever the shell company offered us. Truth be told we didn’t actually need one but if we wanted to stay on top in the North End lifestyle we would need to step it all up.
“Loreina I’d like to introduce you to my accountant Ronan.” I placed down my hard copy notes and shook the man’s hand as he entered the conference room, apologizing for being late. He took the floor as I finished up my proposal and sat to listen to his ideas. Truth be told they were garbage, I didn’t think he had ever worked with this sort of dealings. It baffled me how the emailed accounts and numbers had come from this guy. My eyes met Neil’s for a brief moment. As if I had sinned my gaze shot down to my legal pad and my pen jotted a few notes that were not legitimate.
“Loreina, what do you think of the proposal so far?” A fire-red blushed danced across my face. Alex’s eyes met mine, begging me not to be too blunt.
“Well Neil truth be told I don’t like it. I think he’s a straight shooter, an okay accountant but doesn’t know a thing about running a shell account.” I could feel Alex’s eyes burning a hole into the side of my head as I leaned over the table and pointed out several major red flags that would have the feds here before this meeting was over had they been live accounts. Neil leaned back and laced his fingers together to think for a moment. I could see the sweat rolling off Ronan’s forehead. “Let me show you what I’d do with those situations.” My legs folded beneath me and I took my seat again as I typed a live proposal. The remote controlled the monitor and shot the data onto the screen that hung at the end of the room.
“This is the way to go. Anything else is suicide.” I crossed my arms and took a few steps back and let Neil’s eyes process the information and compare it to the notes Ronan had passed out.
“I like it,” the words seemed so far away. Shock replacing my smirk. “It’s a deal.” Neil stood and reached out to shake Alex’s hand. My hands scorched with nerves. He said yes? I was in shock. Neil’s hand stuck out to me over the table and I reached over to meet it. We landed a gold mine of a shell with this man’s company. The rest of the meeting flew in a joyful blur.
“Also, Loreina. I understand you have no permanent office?” I was gathering my papers into their respective folders as the meeting came to an end. Oh no. He was going to think this was a pipe dream if I couldn’t find somewhere private to process accounts everyday. My head shook a slow no, before I could come up with a sorry excuse.
“Well, I’ve just had an accountant’s office open up. You may use our facilities if you wish, be a part of weekly and monthly meetings if you’d like. The business behind mine, it’s yours. I need you to be successful in order to make this work. Just tell me what you’ll need. You have my email. In the meantime, I’ll expect proposals to be live Monday and accounts will go live the following Wednesday. Alex, I’ll call you later this afternoon, we need to schedule a meeting to discuss our roles as leaders here.” And with that, he grabbed the stack of papers and left. Ronan quickly followed him as I felt I had embarrassed him, the look in his eyes said I was right. He hasn’t a clue what we do. And that’s very dangerous in a world surrounded by crime.
“You crazy woman,” I held up my hands defensively as Alex rounded the table and scooped me up in a bear hug and spun me around, “YOU DID IT!” I just laughed as he tickled my sides making me kick an innocent rolling chair to the wall.
“I just told the truth. Alex, this is huge. I will have to take him up on that office offer. You don’t understand how much room we have to grow. I can move out of the North End if I want to. The Irish don’t control Somerville anymore. It’s as safe as home. This is a huge opportunity for us all to make a lot of money.” He put me down as the happiness faded.
“No,” I knew this was coming. “You can’t be so far from us. What about Johnathan?” I blinked a few times. I hadn’t thought about him since the day I went rogue at the gun range.
“I haven’t seen him in almost four months, this cat and mouse game will go on forever. He’s probably bored of it and chasing some other poor skank. I can’t live in the shadow of your protective wings forever Alex. I have to learn to care for myself again.” he cupped my face in his massive hands and his six foot three frame towered my five foot two.
“You’re all I have besides Angelina, the baby and Howie.” I turned my head, I couldn’t take it. His eyes had a way of turning into dad’s. His jawline clenched and threatened to make me cry.
“This isn’t the time or place to discuss this, you know.” And with that he let go. I hung my bag on my shoulder and decided to leave ahead of him for the car, wanting to take the stairs to clear my head.
The fire exit staircase doors opened with little effort. They were a lonely shade of grey, my heels echoed every step I took. I didn’t hear anyone else’s steps so they must have been vacant. As I circled around to the third floor another door opened and Neil glided through. His step is so elegant and effortless.
“Well, hello Loreina.” His deep voice echoed through the corridor and I stopped and smiled as he joined me on my slow decent to the ground floor.
“Hi there. I was just taking the scenic route to the car. What are you doing in the common man’s exit?” my words seemed to sing again and again over our clapping foot steps through the tall tunnel of concrete and steel.
“I hope you’ll seriously consider my offer to take that office.” I nervously grabbed the railing, not that I needed to have support but I suddenly didn’t know what to do with my hands.
“Truth be told I was going to email you tomorrow morning and accept it.” He smirked, pausing on one of the last steps, letting me take the lead before we reached the first floor entrance.
“It makes me very happy to hear that. I’ll have it ready for you Monday at eight a.m. but show up whenever you like.” he casually shrugged one shoulder and with that he exited into the lobby. Excitement bubbled over inside me and I did a little happy dance as he made his disappearance into the crowd.