CHAPTER TWO - OBLIGATIONS
2 YEARS AGO
The sunlight is blinding as it filters into the room and I curse myself for not closing the blinds before I left last night. I roll over and reach for the sexy little blonde I brought back with me. I usually don't let them stay the night, I usually send them packing after I get my fill, but for some reason for her I made an exception. Possibly from the copious amounts of alcohol I consumed and possibly because she lived in an entirely different country. Either way I was looking forward to one thing I hadn't experienced. Waking up next to a girl and fucking her senseless. Then I'll send her on her way.
So I reach out wanting to get one more handful of her soft skin only to be met by a cold bed. I open one eye and see the bed is empty next to me. Sitting up I look around the room for any sign of her, but there's nothing, it's like she was never here. Maybe I did send her away?
I wrack my brain trying to remember the events of last night. I remember approaching her and her friends. I remember drinking shots and dancing. The rest is a blur of images I can't piece together until I brought her back here and fucked her up against the wall, the back of the couch, the bed and up against the window. I remember that part clearly. The chick had some stamina, I'll give her that. That's probably why I'm disappointed I won't be having her again this morning.
I sigh and lay back on the pillows, running my hand down my face. I feel something cold hit my nose as I do so and I pull my hand away. I stare at my hand, blinking as I take in the gold band around my finger.
“Well that's new.” I mumble. I stare at it a moment longer before my brain clicks on.
“Fuck!” I say as I sit up in a hurry, staring at the wedding band on my hand. “No no no no no.” I squeeze my eyes closed and reopen them hoping I'm imagining it and it will magically disappear. It doesn't. But it has to be a joke. I remember the sexy blonde wearing fake rings last night due to a bet with her friends. Maybe I got in on the bet? Yeah, that has to be it. There's no way I would have gotten married. I'm not the relationship guy. I'm the eternal bachelor, the Hugh Hefner with his playboy bunnies. I fuck them and leave them. Always have and always will.
I sigh in relief. Yeah it was definitely part of that stupid bet the sexy blonde and her friends made.
My relief is short lived when I spy a piece of paper on the bedside table. I reach out and grab it, my eyes bulging out of my head as I read the words.
Groom: Chase Lewis Caldwell
Bride: Kate Rachel Collins
“Fuck!” I yell as I jump out of bed and pull on a pair of pants. I grab my shirt and throw it on, not bothering to button it up I run out the door barefoot with the paper in hand. I have no idea where to look, I have no idea what floor she's staying on so I bolt for the elevator. I press the button impatiently and wait for the elevator to arrive. It finally arrives and I take it down to the lobby, it's the longest elevator ride of my life. I need to find this chick, I need to get this cancelled or annulled or whatever the fuck you do when you accidentally get married while in Vegas.
The elevator doors finally open and I run to the reception desk. A hot little receptionist eyes me as I stop in front of the desk, taking in my chiselled chest under my open shirt. I'm used to it, I know I'm hot and I don't care if they check me out. Hell, usually I'd pull her away from her desk and fuck her in the nearest bathroom for looking at me like that. It's obviously what she wants after all, but right now I'm on a mission. She licks her lips and comes over to me.
“Good morning, how can I help you?” She purrs while batting her eyelashes at me.
“I'm looking for someone... a blonde woman that's staying here... I have something I need to give back to her.” I lie. “I'm wondering if you can help me find her.” I lean on the desk and throw her my most charming smile. She smiles, her eyes scanning my bare chest and licks her lips again.
“Sure... what's her name?” she asks. Her name? How the fuck am I meant to know that?! I think for a moment, trying to remember then internally curse myself for my own stupidity. I glance at the Certificate in my hands.
“Kate Collins.” I tell her. The receptionist types into the computer then frowns at me.
“I'm sorry sir, I don't have a record of anyone staying here under that name.” she tells me.
I curse under my breath. Did she give me a fake name? That would make the marriage illegitimate wouldn't it? But she was staying here with her friends, maybe it's under their names. I sigh and rub my hand over my face.
“She was with two friends, she's blonde, petite...” I tell the receptionist. The receptionist shakes her head.
“I'm sorry...” she says. I know I'm not giving her much. This is one of the largest hotels in Vegas, she would deal with hundreds of people a day.
“Wait... they were Australian I think.” I tell her. Her brows furrow for a moment as she thinks.
“3 Australian women checked out a few hours ago...” she says. My eyes widen, that has to be them.
“Did they say where they were headed?” I ask her. She shakes her head and gives me an apologetic smile. I sigh. “Yeah... thanks anyway.” I tell her.
I walk away from the desk, wondering what the fuck I should do. I head back up to my room, cursing myself for being such a drunken idiot. I look at the clock and realize I need to leave to catch my flight back home. I'll figure out what to do when I get home. I pack my bags and check out and make my way back to New York.
As I step out of the elevator on the top floor of our office building, I'm met by my little brother Ryder.
“Any idea why dad wants to meet with us?” he asks. I shrug my shoulders. Dad rarely calls us both in to see him. He's the head of our company, Caldwell industries and is slowly handing everything down to us. I'm taking over the corporate side, our marketing and advertisement agencies, production companies and the like while Ryder will take over the hotels, clubs, bars, restaurants and resorts.
The company was started by our great grandfather with just a few hotels, our grandfather expanded it to include the resorts, bars, clubs and restaurants and dad brought in the corporate side of things. Ryder and I have pretty much been groomed to take over the business since we were kids.
“No fucking clue, probably more bonding time.” I say. Its dad’s latest thing since mom died 5 years ago. Sporadically he will make us play golf or have fishing weekends away with him. Both boring as hell, but we go anyway.
We approach dad’s personal assistant, Verity, who smiles at Ryder and rolls her eyes at me. Yeah she can't stand me. I know that. She's fun to piss off and I like getting a rise out of her.
“He's ready for you.” Verity says.
“Thanks Verity.” Ryder replies with a smile. I flip her off as we walk past and she returns it making me chuckle. We walk in and dad gestures to the seats in front of his desk. He presses a button on the phone and speaks.
“Verity, can you come in too please?” he says through the intercom. Verity doesn't answer but a moment later the door opens and she walks in, closing the door behind her and taking a seat next to Ryder.
“What's this about?” I ask, knowing that if Verity is here, it wouldn’t be another lame attempt at bonding. Dad sighs and leans back in his chair.
“Your grandfathers will.” Dad replies. Ryder and I look to each other, then back to dad. Pops died a few months back, I thought this was all settled then. “It seems a clause was overlooked... it has to do with you two taking over the business.” Dad continues. That gets our attention and we both sit forward in our seats.
“What do you mean?” Ryder asks. Dad leans forward and taps his pen against the desk.
“It seems that your grandfather has put into his will, that you both need to be married by the time you're 30, to inherit all of the business.” He says. I sit back in my seat as Ryder jumps up.
“What?!” Ryder exclaims, running his hands through his hair. Dad shrugs but I remain silent.
“If either of you don't, you have to share half of your part of the business with James.” Dad tells us. James Caldwell. My younger cousin, spoiled little brat who was always our grandparents favourite. I knew pops would work out a way to give him what's rightfully ours. Dad sighs again as Ryder runs his hands through his hair for the millionth time. I don't know what he's worried about, he has 4 years before he turns 30. “There's more.... the marriage has to last at least ten years and produce an heir.” Dad continues. Ryder sinks back into his seat.
“Fuck.” He mumbles. There's silence in the room and I look at my watch.
“Is that it?” I say. They all look to me.
“Did you hear what dad just said?” Ryder asks me curiously.
“Yeah.” I shrug my shoulders.
“And you do realize that you are 30 in less than two months right?” Verity asks slowly. I roll my eyes at her.
“I'm aware.” I tell her. I'm met with silence as all three stare at me, their eyes blinking intermittently.
“2 months... to find a wife, I have four years and I'm freaking out! If I was you, I'd be losing it.” Ryder says. I shrug my shoulders again.
“Good thing I'm already married then isn't it?” I tell them. The looks on their faces is hilarious, but I don't react, keeping my face neutral. They stare at me, blinking, in silence and I wonder who will break first.
“Umm... what?” Verity broke first, should have called it. I look at her and shrug again, not replying to her stutter.
“When?” Ryder asks. I turn to my brother.
“2 years ago in Vegas.” I reply nonchalantly. They stare at me, blinking, expectantly. I stare back, matching their blinks.
“And who is she?” Dad asks slowly. I wonder for a moment why they are speaking so slow today, but instead of questioning it, I shrug my shoulders again.
“Some blonde.” I say with a wave of my hand. I’m met with Silence. Blinking.
“Does some blonde have a name?” Verity asks again in slow motion.
“Yes.” I answer. More silence, more blinking. I wonder what they are thinking. And who will snap first. My money's on Verity, she's a feisty little thing.
“And her name is?” Ryder asks, joining the slow talk crew.
“Why would I know that?” I ask seriously. I'm met again with silence, and that blinking thing. Do they have some eye disease? It's obviously contagious if they all have it. Fuck, I hope they don't pass it on to me.
“She's your wife...” Verity states the obvious.
“Yes.” I reply. I can sense that Verity is becoming exasperated.
“Ok. Can you find out her name?” Dad asks slowly.
“Of course.” I tell him.
“Good. Then we will find her.” Dad says.
“Why?” I ask curiously. Dad leans back in his chair, I can see his jaw tighten.
“What do you mean why?” Dad asks, his teeth are clenched and I get the feeling he’s frustrated. Lack of sex maybe?
“I mean, why do we need to get her involved?” I ask. Silence. Blinking.
“She's your wife... she needs to be here, or you need to annul the marriage and marry someone else in less than 2 months.” Dad says incredibly slowly, annunciating each word clearly. I sit forward and rest my elbows on my knees.
“Or, I could just show them the marriage certificate, prove that I'm married without her.” I say, liking my suggestion more.
“Why hasn't she come to you? You said it was two years ago.” Verity asks. I shrug my shoulders.
“She probably doesn't know we are married.” I say. I'm pretty sure she doesn't know. Otherwise she'd be here living the high life on my money.
“Wouldn't she have woken up wearing wedding rings?” Ryder asks.
“No. she was already wearing them when we met.” I say. Their eyes widen and they stare at me again.
“She was already married?” Dad asks.
“No. it was a bet with her friends that men wouldn't hit on her if she was wearing wedding rings.” I explain.
“And of course you hit on her anyway.” Verity scoffs.
“Of course. She was hot.” I smirk at Verity. And I had overheard their conversation before I hit on her, otherwise I would have stayed away. But I don't tell them that. Verity gives me a look of disgust. Dad clears his throat.
“Well, we still need to find her.” Dad says.
“Again, why?” I ask. More silence. More blinking. It's starting to get irritating. Maybe I'll be the one to snap. I sigh. “The way I see it, I have been a happily married man for the past two years, I only have 8 more to go. Why ruin a good thing by bringing a wife into the picture?” I ask. Silence. Dead silence. And that fucking blinking. Ryder breaks the silence.
“And how do you propose producing a child without your wife?” Ryder asks. I smile wide, having thought of just that when Dad made the announcement.
“Easy. In seven and a half years I adopt a child. Voila, instant family.” I say. Dad looks at me, his jaw clicking like he's trying to hold back. He turns to Verity.
“Get the name of the wife, hire a PA to find her, and while he's at it get him to find any nanny we hired when Chase was a baby.” Dad says. Verity stands and I look at dad confused.
“What? Why?” I ask, wondering why he would want to see my old Nannies. He stands.
“Because I want to know which one dropped you on your fucking head!” Dad says. He storms out of his office and I can't help but chuckle. I guess dad was the one to snap. Verity leaves and Ryder and I follow her.
“You're going to give dad a coronary.” Ryder says. I smirk. Ryder's about the only one who gets me. We've always been close in spite of the 4 year age gap. It's always been me and him against the world.
“I honestly thought Verity would be the one to lose it first.” I say. Ryder chuckles and shakes his head.
“You really never looked for that chick?” Ryder asks. I shake my head.
“I checked with the hotel when I realized that we got hitched but she'd already gone.” I tell him. Ryder nods in understanding.
“Well I better get back to it.” He says. We fist bump and he heads towards the elevator as I walk the other way to my office.