Behind Closed Doors
“What the hell is all that noise?” I snapped, my voice booming through the thin walls of my spacious office.
No one answered, and the commotion outside my door continued as my hands moved to the sides of my head where a headache was quickly forming.
Ever since I’d officially taken over our family business, Cavenaugh Investments—for the East Coast division anyway—I’d been working in this oversize office that I’d inherited from my brother, which had originally been passed down from my father. Sitting here, where Jude and my father had once sat, was both terrifying and exhilarating.
Of course, all those feelings were dashed and tossed aside because of the incessant racket happening outside my door. Calming silence usually filled my afternoons, but it had been replaced with animated feminine screams, excited laughter, and squeals of glee.
I really should have listened to my inner monologue when I’d contemplated the idea of soundproofing this place or hiring a virtual assistant.
I needed silence. Dead silence. All the time.
It was how I operated and what I demanded in order to do what I did for this company, which was basically everything. My employees, although they might find it strange, knew this, yet here they were, causing a shitstorm right outside the boss’s door.
Who even allowed them in to the office?
Slowly massaging my achy temples, I sat stoically, hoping whatever pandemonium was happening outside would eventually die down. When it failed to dissipate five minutes later, I groaned, knowing I’d have to intervene.
Here comes the asshole.
I was already known in the company as the Dickhead of the East, never speaking to anyone unless absolutely necessary and barely acknowledging a single person’s presence. Now, I was going to have to yell.
Rising from the expensive leather chair, I brushed the front of my jacket, tightened my tie, and straightened my back, feeling my bones strain from being hunched over my computer for far too long.
Walking toward the door, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirrored wall of the old bar my father had put in ages ago, back when handing your business partner a glass of liquor was as common as lighting up a cigarette indoors. Although the practice might have gone out of style, neither Jude nor I could part with it. Business deals might be made over conference tables more than bottles of gin, but I still loved the look of it.
It had a special place in my memories as well. Sitting atop the sleek brown mahogany shelves were irreplaceable crystal decanters that my father had had imported from Ireland. This place, the office I’d inherited from him always reminded me of my father—the good, the bad, and everything in between.
Raising a hand to my dirty blonde hair, I tried to straighten out the indentations I’d made over the many hours. Seeing the dark circles and tired green eyes staring back at me, it was a wonder I was even awake at all.
When was the last time I slept?
When was the last time I was home?
I couldn’t remember.
Since Jude and his family had gone, that left me here. Alone.
He was in charge of our new West Coast division, and of course, he was making strides and handling it all like a pro, and he probably wasn’t even losing sleep over any of it.
Nothing ever seemed to challenge him.
Me on the other hand? I would be up at all hours, just trying to keep afloat. Of course, I’d never tell him that.
Or anyone else, for that matter.
To the rest of the world, I was just the asshole, the guy who didn’t give two fucks about anyone. And, mostly, they were right. I didn’t.
But this company? Well, that, I did care about. It was the legacy that had been passed down through three generations of our family, and like hell would I let it slip through the gutter on my watch. When the next generation of Cavenaughs took over, they would find this place solid and thriving.
Because of me.
This business was my family, my lover, and my only friend.
I’d made my fair share of mistakes, and now, nothing else mattered.
Nothing else would ever matter.
There had been a brief time in my life when the idea of walking into a room filled with happy, exuberant women was a welcome task. The old carefree Roman would have put on a charming, wolfish grin, immediately zeroed in to pick his target, and gone in for the kill.
But, unfortunately for me and the women I used to take home with me, those days were long gone.
My father had once called it my rebellious period. It was a period in my life when I’d thrown caution to the wind and abandoned every responsibility I had in a vain attempt to be someone else for a time.
See, the thing with growing up and knowing your inevitable outcome in life was that there was no guessing and no spontaneity. Everything, every tiny detail, was already hashed out into a nice, neat, orderly package for you, and you’d find yourself powerless to stop it.
As I’d watched my life slowly unfold while my brother and I were groomed from a young age to take over a life we’d had no choice in having, I’d decided to take another path, becoming the stereotypical rebel of the family. My parents believed Jude was the saving grace of our generation. With his gifted ability and talent for numbers, he was a shoo-in for the coveted top spot after my father retired. Why should I have sat around and waited for inevitable? It had been my chance to step out and discover who I really was—or at least have fun trying.
My father, of course, being the man he was, had spun my shenanigans into something more wholesome for the media, making me more of a modern-day spokesperson for the family and the company we were known for…but we’d all known what I was doing.
I had been turning away from my family.
Or, at least, I had attempted to.
My brother though? Like always, he succeeded where I failed.
When he’d all but dropped off the face of the earth after the death of his fiancée, I had known my carefree existence was over. When our father’s health had begun to decline, there was no one but me to take over the family business.
Me—the cute but dumb one.
I would have laughed in the old man’s face at the irony of it all—his dim-witted son taking over while his favorite wasted away his talent in a hospital, doing janitorial duties. But instead, I proved him wrong.
I’d been walking the line ever since.
Every day felt like a slow crawl into hell.
The outside world had faded away as family and what few friends I’d had ceased to exist. Nothing mattered, except for what happened within these walls.
I’d become a robot of sorts, a drone to the establishment.
I wasn’t a complete ass though. Everything I did, every hour I spent, was to keep this company afloat, to ensure the job and security of every employee who walked through those doors. Even if I did end up being the enemy in the end, at least every single one of them could pay their rent, send their kids to daycare, and afford to keep their coffee habits going for another month.
Thanks to me—the Dickhead of the East.
And now it was time to be an ass once again. Turning the handle of the heavy wooden door, I pulled it open and stepped into a giant clusterfuck of female frenzy.
Pink and blue balloons were floating around the ceiling, their tiny ribbons creating a curtain of colors as I tried to make my way through the mayhem. Nearly every woman on the floor was gathered around my assistant’s desk with beaming bright eyes as they each waited their turn to hug and congratulate her for some marked accomplishment.
Did I miss something?
Glancing down with obvious curiosity, I instantly noticed her protruding belly and inwardly sighed. I’d missed a big something.
Bethany’s eyes caught mine as several women continued to ogle her pregnant belly. Surprise, followed by what appeared to be fear, swept across her features, and she suddenly cleared her throat, alerting the others of my arrival.
“Mr. Cavenaugh, I’m so sorry. Did we disturb you?” she said, barely able to meet my gaze.
“Why do you think I’m out here at”—I glanced down at my watch, sighing at the time—“three o’clock in the afternoon?”
“We apologize, Mr. Cavenaugh,” one of the ladies said, stepping up.
I recognized her from accounting. She proudly held her chin up, her eyes never wavering from mine. It was an odd reaction to receive from one of my employees. Was she new? Usually, it didn’t take long for the beware-of-the-boss speech to make its way to the newbies, furthering the healthy dose of fear from one staff member to the next. It kept things simple, clean, and easy. If they feared me, they wouldn’t bother me.
I wouldn’t win any Boss of the Year awards this way, but it helped me get things done, and in turn, everyone could keep their jobs.
“We were just surprising Bethany with a sweet baby shower that we’d been planning for weeks. We just wanted to give her a few things before this little bundle of joy arrived! We’ll move down to the break room momentarily. Won’t you join us?” she asked.
The way she’d said it made it feel like a dare, like I’d just stepped back into middle school and the dreaded Coke bottle had landed on me.
Truth or dare, Roman?
As if the attention hadn’t already been focused on me, it doubled in that moment. Everyone waited in hushed anticipation for my answer. My fingers dug into my disheveled hair as I tried to hide the nervousness in my demeanor.
How had I missed my assistant being pregnant? Shouldn’t that have been something I noticed?
Had she told me, and I’d forgotten?
I looked back at the group of women standing in awkward silence, waiting for my answer. The leader of the group—the blonde from accounting—smiled smugly, as if she already knew my answer. Her hand rested at the curve of her hip as it jutted out, accentuating her long, lean legs and pert round ass.
How I’d love to wipe that pompous grin off her face with a few lashings of my tongue. My dick twitched at the mere thought.
“No, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it. Sorry,” I replied swiftly, pulling my gaze away from the daring blonde with the chocolate-brown eyes. “And, Bethany? Don’t take too long. You have a job to do,” I added bluntly, turning quickly toward the door that led back to my office.
That led back to hell.
But, for now, at least it felt like my salvation.
Every bone in my body seemed to moan with exhaustion as I rose from the plush leather chair, cracking my neck to ease the tension that had slowly been building throughout the day. Flexing my fingers, I looked out to the panoramic skyline, noticing the brilliant orange sunset I’d seen hours earlier replaced with thousands of twinkling bright lights dotting the skyline.
What time is it?
Glancing at my watch, I groaned, realizing I’d been here far longer than planned.
My stomach audibly rumbled in protest to the lack of concern for my well-being, and I began gathering my things for home.
What an odd word. There were so many quotes, songs, and poems about the simple four-letter word. It empowered people, ignited wars, and gave hope to those who were lost.
But, as I walked through the halls of the darkened building, on my way to the place I called home, there was nothing remotely close to hope. The large apartment I rented in a sought-after Manhattan high-rise was more than most people would ever have in their entire lives, yet when I entered, I felt hollow.
There was only ever one place in my life that truly felt worthy of the word home.
Our family’s country estate.
Tucked far away from the city, it was like stepping back in time. Long forgotten was the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, replaced with long, winding paths through the rose garden with our mother and evenings on the porch, searching for fireflies.
It was where I felt most at ease, like a child rather than a walking, talking insurance plan for the future of our family. But just like my short-lived childhood, the beautiful house lay barren, like a ghost town, covered in white sheets and layers of dust.
Much like my memories of the place.
Stepping into the elevator, I pressed the button for the lobby and watched the doors shut. The lights slowly blinked, showing my descent. I rocked back on my heels, willing myself to stay awake for just a bit longer.
The familiar sound of the doors opening slightly startled me but spurred me into action. I now felt the emptiness in my stomach, reminding me it had been far too long since my last meal.
Time for food.
And maybe a hefty dose of vodka to effectively shut off my brain for the night.
Leftovers and drinking alone.
What an amazing life I’d made for myself.
When there had been two of us here to run things, I could fit in my extracurricular activities with ease, stepping out for the evening at a decent hour without a twinge of guilt. Granted, those activities had mostly been limited to the four walls of my bedroom, but it had been a good life.
No strings. No responsibilities after leaving the office.
But now that Jude had started business on the West Coast, basically doubling our workload, I felt like I was paddling up a river, going the wrong way.
With only one oar and maybe a broken arm.
If I told him this though, he’d be here in two seconds, ready to help and lead where I had failed. He’d uproot his family, tearing them away from the life they’d built in Southern California, just to be here for me because I’d asked, even after everything I’d put him through.
He was a better man than me, and because of that, I’d never ask. Otherwise, my father would win. His belief that I’d eventually fail and the entire company would crumble at my feet?
Yeah, I don’t think so.
I was so lost in my thoughts and possibly consumed with ravenous hunger that I nearly missed the leggy blonde sitting on the upholstered bench near the exit. Her familiar Cheshire Cat smile though caught my attention.
“You keep long hours, Mr. Cavenaugh,” she said, lifting one beautiful, long leg over the other.
I watched in fascination, wondering what those legs would look like wrapped around my neck. Remembering her brazen attitude with me earlier, I took a step back.
This was exactly the type of female I liked—strong with a no-bullshit attitude and a body that could keep me entertained all night long.
“Are you keeping tabs on me?” I asked casually.
My fists clenched at my sides. Suddenly, food was the last thing I hungered for, but I would not cave to her bold attempts. This wasn’t the first time I’d been hit on by a member of my staff. I might be known as an asshole, but that hadn’t deterred a brave few.
All of whom, I had easily turned down.
This one though…
I took another glance as her eyes followed me. I could see the smirk forming at the corner of her pouty red lips. Lips I knew would feel goddamn perfect around cock.
I wasn’t above one-night stands. Hell, they were my definition of a normal, healthy relationship, but none of them ever involved an employee. I’d learned early on to keep my dick out of business, and unfortunately, that rule still remained firmly intact.
“Well, I appreciate the sentiment, but I really do have to be going,” I announced firmly, sidestepping her, as she rose from her spot on the bench to stop me.
“I knew you’d say no to the baby shower,” she said, the smirk on her face growing to a full-out grin.
“Then, why did you bother asking?” I asked curtly.
“I guess I was hoping you’d surprise me.”
“And now?” I asked.
“I guess I was hoping for the same,” she simply stated, taking a step closer. I could feel the heat from her body radiating off her smooth tan skin. “I was hoping for a surprise.”
As my jaw twitched in restraint, I purposely stepped back. Taking a full breath, I tried to ignore the soft jasmine scent that encompassed her.
“Keep waiting,” I answered, finally walking away.
The doors swung behind me as I exited the building. Fresh, cool air hit my face, clearing my senses and reaffirming my decision to leave her behind.
No good could come from falling in bed with an employee.
Copyright 2016 J.L. Berg