1- Not for sale
Sterling looked at his son sitting beside him and cleared his throat. For years, the Bradley's have hoped to add to their multi-billion dollar empire and to get Elon out of their hair. And today was the day he wished for it to happen. He looked down and tapped on the Manila folder sitting in front of him. "Show him the numbers you came up with, son."
Sterling's son nodded, then looked at Elon and sat straighter, hoping he'd be able to talk some sense into the old coot. He picked up the Manila folder and firmly held it in his hands. "Sir. With all due respect, I ask that you rethink our offer. We are willing to pay well over what this hotel is worth; on top of that, we're also willing to pay ten years' worth of what you would have made if you were to keep the hotel. It's an excellent offer." He began saying, then stopped to study the look in his eyes.
Seeing he wasn't about to budge, he continued speaking, "I've run your numbers throughout the years, and what I've found might surprise you. Especially at this location alone," he added while nervously rolling his eyes over to his father. He didn't know why he was so nervous. The Bradley's have been trying to buy The Kensington hotel chain for half a century, and with this hotel alone, they wanted the most as it resided in the most beautiful area of Maine alongside the beach. "I've calculated the numbers for just this hotel. With the number of rooms and suites, not including banquets, weddings, food, and drinks, you should be averaging about two-hundred-million a year. You're not even near that, even if you were to include the others."
"You don't know a damn thing," Elon barked, reaching across the table and snatching the folder away from the hands of Sterling's son. He had no idea where his numbers came from, but out of curiosity, he opened the folder and started looking at the numbers he came up with. His brows furrowed as he scanned and flipped through the papers, then he shook his head. "These numbers you came up with mean nothing to me. You're mistaken."
"Well, they should mean something to you. It shows you've been losing money for the past three years," Sterling gloatingly noted. "I'm not sure if you're aware of this or not, but from what I've witnessed, you've got a lot of homeless people hanging in and outside your hotel. And from what numerous sources have told us, your manager is the one to blame. This hotel is an elegant one, sir. And with its location and how it's right off the beach, the last thing you want is homeless people scaring your guests away."
"You worry about your hotel properties. I'll worry about mine," Elon growled, angrily pushing the folder back to them. "I'm well aware of what my manager has been doing, and soon enough, she'll learn the consequences if she continues doing what she is."
"Consequences? If she were one of my employees, I'd immediately fire her," Sterling noted. "I'm not sure where you found her, but I'd be worrying about what else she's doing. With as much money as you're losing, who's to say she isn't stuffing her pockets, also?"
"Keep your thoughts to yourself," Elon ordered. "I know my manager very well, and the one thing she would never do is steal from me."
"She's already stealing by giving away what she is. That doesn't concern you?"
"As I stated earlier. You worry about your hotels; I'll worry about mine."
Three years ago, when Elon's granddaughter turned twenty-one, he wanted to allow her to make more money than what he was already paying her and promoted her to the manager position at his Kensington Hotel location in Portland, Maine. Not long after, Elon heard rumors she was placing the homeless in available rooms and was allowing them to order food without paying. When he confronted her about giving away rooms, food, and drinks, she apologized and claimed she wouldn't do it any longer. But that conversation only went in one ear and out the other as she continued doing what she was. Instead of placing them all on one level as she had been, she discreetly scattered them throughout the hotel, thinking nobody would ever figure it out—nobody meaning her grandfather.
Had the manager not been his grandchild, Elon would have fired her on the spot. And instead of reprimanding or firing her as he should have, he looked the other way, hoping if he were to show her the numbers of where they were and where they should be, she would come to her senses and realize she was losing money for him. He showed her, and she seemed to understand what she was doing to his empire, but nothing ever changed.
"You do know your manager has been sneaking the homeless into your hotel through the back door. And before you deny she isn't, I suggest you see for yourself," Sterling informed, sliding another folder across the table. "All the evidence you need is right here."
"What are you, a fucking spy?" Elon groaned while angrily pulling it to him.
Sterling found humor in Elon's question and chuckled. "I'm not a spy, but maybe I should become one? This was quite fun gathering evidence for you to see," he mocked with a shit-eating grin.
Elon wanted to reach across the table and smack him silly to make Sterling's grin disappear, but instead, he looked down, opened the folder, and began flipping through the photographs. When he saw what Sterling was trying to show him, he felt his blood starting to boil. Unsure if he was pissed at his granddaughter for the secretness or if he was upset with Sterling for spying on her, he slammed the folder shut, pushed the folder to the side, then folded his hands together, and glared at the two men who were eyeing him with enormous cocky smiles on their faces. He knew what they were thinking and thought they felt they had Elon right where they wanted him, which was right to the point of where he would sell, finally.
Well... they hoped, anyway.
And he was ready to diminish those cocky smiles on their faces.
"Again. This hotel, including my other hotels, is not for sale. Now get the hell out of my face before I have you two idiots thrown out of here," Elon barked. He quickly shoved his chair back, stood fast, then marched his way over to the door and evilly glared at them while extending his arm out the door, waving for them to leave. "We're done here."
Sterling leaned to his son, whispered, then they both stood and collected their materials. While the two were heading to the door, Sterling extended his hand as he approached Elon and grinned. "It's been a pleasure. If you change your mind, call me."
"Pleasure my ass. Just an FYI, if I ever decide to sell anything of mine, which I can guarantee will never happen. You'll be the last one I call. Now get the hell out of my face."
Elon slammed the door after Sterling exited the room, then walked over to the table, sat back in his chair, and looked to the folder he set aside earlier. The only folder the Bradley's left behind was the one with the pictures of his granddaughter being sneaky. He opened the folder, looked through the pictures, then removed one out of the bunch, and frustratedly rubbed his face as he stared at it.
He set the photo down, then sat in the room for the longest time, thinking. After hours of decision-making and trying to figure out what he needed to do with his granddaughter, he picked up his phone. "Tell Mercedes to meet me in the conference room, please," he ordered. His brows quickly drew together after hearing their response, and then he felt the blood in veins flow faster than they were moments earlier and snapped at the poor kid who answered, "What do you mean she left for Antigua?"
"I'm sorry, sir," Eric nervously apologized. "That's what she said to me and the other employees before she left, which was about two hours ago."
"Thank you," he groaned while hanging up.
With the phone still in his hand, he closed his eyes and took in a long and profound breath as he thought back to when Mercedes was born and his promise to her when he saw her for the very first time. From the time she was born, she was grandpa's girl. Not momma's. Not daddy's. But grandpas. Everywhere Elon was, no matter what he was doing at the time, Mercedes was right alongside him, always trying to help, with her also telling him she wanted to be just like him when she got older. That all changed once she turned sixteen, got her driver's license, and started hanging out with different people.
The wrong people.
Elon saw how Mercedes's new friends brought her down a road he didn't care to see and tried talking to her about it, and he thought his talks with her were working, but then she got arrested. And it was happening quite frequently. She was spiraling out of control, and when it got to the point where her parents couldn't control her anymore, he intervened. He sat her down, had a long heart to heart talk with her, and thought the best way to keep Mercedes out of the hands of the law was to give her a job at his hotel. He ended up offering her a position many were coming in and applying for. She took his offer, but not long after, she started coming in late or not show up for work at all. Blaming it on her brother, Bentley, for taking the car that their parents insisted they share.
Elon didn't want to hear any more of Mercedes's excuses for why she was late or why she was a no show and did what he felt was right. He bought her a car. It worked for a while. She was on time, showed up for every shift, and without thought, she was staying away from the friends who were bringing her down.
Mercedes finally realized where her life was going and quit hanging out with those she thought were her friends. She cleaned herself up, started hanging out with her old friends, and made sure to always be at work when her grandfather needed her there. Everything with Mercedes was working perfectly until Bentley smashed up his car, took her car away from her, and refused to give it back, causing her to miss work again.
Mercedes and Bentley quickly became enemies. Well, more than they already were. Bentley was jealous of Mercedes' relationship with their grandfather and would always give her crap about how close they were. Bentley and Elon weren't very close. For years, Elon tried including Bentley in everything he did as he would with Mercedes, but Bentley just wasn't interested. Bentley wanted everything handed to him, whereas Mercedes was always willing to learn the Kensington ways of making money and would do what she could to earn it if she wanted something bad enough.
Bentley never gave Mercedes her car back. He kept telling her if she wanted another vehicle bad enough, that she needed to get it from the person who got a car for her the first time, insisting it was his turn to have something from their grandfather. It upset Elon for what Bentley was doing to Mercedes as he tried helping him too. He tried getting him to hang out with him and tried teaching him how to make money, but he outright refused to do anything with him. For whatever reason it was, he never knew, and it broke his heart.
Mercedes had some pride, and instead of her asking Elon or even her parents to buy her another car. She took the money she had been saving and went out independently and bought herself a beater vehicle that would get her from point A to B. One; she knew Bentley wouldn't take away from her if he were to smash up another car.
During that time of Mercedes driving around the city in her new piece of shit car, she got a whole new outlook on life as her eyes opened more to her surroundings, and she started a new hobby. She was helping the homeless. Elon found out about the charity work she got herself involved in and became curious. He was interested to know why she wanted to hang out with such dirty people who begged for food, money, or whatever it was that they wanted. He never trusted them. Elon felt some were there to con people into getting what they wanted, and with as beautiful as his granddaughter was, he feared for her safety. He finally became interested to see what she did for them and went along with her once to watch her with them. To see for himself and witness everything Mercedes did out of the goodness of her heart was one of the biggest reasons he never reprimanded her for bringing the homeless into his hotel.
Elon didn't like the homeless hanging around his hotel, and he knew it looked terrible. It bothered him to know it was Mercedes, not another employee, to be the cause of him losing money, and he sat there wishing it was someone who wasn't family, that he could fire. But the longer he thought, the more he understood what she was trying to do. And it all stemmed from what he taught her growing up. Which only made it all the harder for him to decide what to do with her. He knew if he were to demand her to stop hanging out and helping the unfortunate, it would go over like a fart in church.
The longer Elon thought, the more he knew what he needed to do, even if it meant pissing off some people he didn't want to upset. He looked down at the phone that was still in his hand, brought it closer to him, then scrolled through his contacts.
"It's me," Elon heavily sighed as he leaned back in his chair. "Are you available right now? I need to discuss some important matters and to make some changes to what we discussed not too long ago."
"Hey, Mercedes? Why on earth would you reserve us a room at this resort, rather than the one your family owns?" Mercedes's friend, Alona, asked, looking confused as they walked into the resort's lobby.
Mercedes stopped walking and smiled as she looked around the lobby. "Because," she emphasized, not giving any reason as she studied the looks of the hotel.
"Because? What kind of ridiculous answer is that? Your granddad would flip the fuck out if he knew you were staying at his archenemy's resort."
"I know. But I have my reasons as to why I decided to stay here."
Alona's eyes quickly squinted. "Which is?"
Mercedes smiled. "I'll fill you in later. Right now, I want to get us checked in. Then I want to get my bikini on, order us some piña coladas, and head down to the beach to relax. I want to watch the water dripping off the hot men's bodies as they exit the water, all while sipping my cocktail out of a coconut. Not to mention I need some rays to turn my horrible snowy-colored-looking skin to that beautiful sun-kissed color my skin hasn't seen for a while."
After they checked in, got settled into their room, and changed into their bikinis, they explored the resort before heading down to the beach. As they stood waiting for their drinks, Alona looked at Mercedes. "So. Why are we staying here instead of your granddad's resort?"
Mercedes turned her back and leaned it against the bar as she looked at the men walking around. "Curiosity about my granddad's competition. The Bradley's have been trying to buy his chain for years, and I'm wondering why? Their resorts are just as beautiful from what I see, and I'd hate to say it, but this one by far beats ours down the road. If anything, my granddad should be trying to buy from them."
Alona looked at her with curiousness in her eyes; Mercedes noticed and smiled. "I'm smarter than what the Bradley's think I am. Not too long ago, I noticed someone following me, and they were taking pictures of me. They were taking pictures of me letting in some people through the back door of the hotel."
Alona cut her off, rolling her eyes. "Homeless people again?"
"Yes. The homeless. Anyway, after I caught someone taking pictures of me, I knew it was the Bradley's and that they're up to no good. I know they're trying to get me in trouble with my granddad, so now, I feel it's my turn to get back at them. Not only did I want to come here on vacation. I came here knowing this was the Bradley's most prized resort. I want to see if there's anything I can bust them with that'll get them to sell it to my granddaddy."
Alona shook her head, grabbed her drink, and pushed Mercedes's coconut drink closer to her. "You're in over your head. I highly doubt you'll find anything wrong. So now that we're here, let's have some fun, okay?"
Mercedes looked around, thought about what she said, then sighed while turning around. "I guess you're right. But while we're here having the time of our lives, I'm still going to keep my eye out. I'm almost positive they're up to no good."
"And what if they aren't?" Alona asked as they headed over to a couple of non-occupied lounging chairs on the beach.
"Then, I'll have to come up with an excuse as to why I'm still allowing the homeless to stay in my granddaddy's hotel after he asked me to stop."
"And what is your excuse?"
"I don't really have an excuse yet. But the reason I'm doing this is that I overheard my granddad talking to an attorney about his will one day, and it upset me after hearing he was going to gift Bentley his hotel chain. My brother has never wanted anything to do with him, and he's going to give Bentley something my granddad knew I wanted?"