Staring at the charts and projections for the upcoming months, my eyes felt like they were about to cross themselves. Normally, I didn’t suffer from burnout, but Holden’s month-long hiatus had turned my already sixteen-hour workdays into twenty-hour ones, and a person could only go so long without sleep. Plus, I’ve done this tour before. Ten years ago, starting up Kendrick Advancements had robbed me of plenty of sleep. The four years had been brutal.
However, six years later, Kendrick Advancements was a Fortune 500 million-dollar company, and I was the owner and CEO. Kendrick Advancements didn’t have a board of directors, nor was it a publicly traded company. I owned it all, and I ought to. After all, it’s been my baby since the day that I realized I’d never be able to work for my father without killing him.
Evander Kendrick was an asshole.
Technically, I was the third Evander Kendrick down the line, and I planned on stopping that insanity as soon as I had children. While I didn’t have an issue with the name Evander, I did have an issue with it being associated with Evander Kendrick of Kendrick Marketing. I was constantly having to differentiate myself from my father, and I hated it. It was bad enough that I had to correct people when they commented on how beautiful my sister was.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t have a sister.
My mother, Geraldine, had died while birthing my younger brother, Holden, and my father had mourned her all about ten minutes before he’d left us to be raised by nannies. As I understood it, my parents’ marriage hadn’t been a love match between two love-struck kids. No. It’d been a business arrangement made by their fathers to combine the Kendrick and Potter last names and fortunes.
So, since my father had never loved my mother, her death hadn’t been as tragic to him as it had been for me and Holden. Only three years older than my brother, I’d done my best to be the parents that he’d needed, but it’d been a rough go. Children with money and no structure were barely a notch above wild animals. Still, Holden ended up coming out okay. In fact, he was my CFO and the only person that I considered family. My father and his latest gold-digger could go eat a dick as far as I was concerned. At only thirty-three, Alana Flatts had no business being engaged to my father.
Now, while my father’s company was raking in millions per usual, Kendrick Advancements had surpassed his net worth three years ago, and in a few years, I was going to take the company into the billions. Did I need that kind of money? Hell, no. No one did. Still, ambition and success were powerful drugs, and I thrived on the high of breaking through those glass ceilings.
However, as much as I was married to my company, I’ve never put it before my brother. So, when Holden had approached me last month to discuss him taking a month-long vacation, I had listened. While my brother was every bit as dedicated and ambitious as I was, he was also in a serious relationship, and Maxine had recently miscarried. While they weren’t married and the pregnancy had been a surprise, Holden had been over the moon with the news. So, when Max had miscarried, it’d done a number on him.
A month after the loss of their baby, Holden had noticed Max staying at her sister’s more and more, and he hadn’t been about to watch the woman that he loved drift away from him. So, Holden had come to me, asking for a month off, and I had granted it. I had even given him leave to take more time if he found that he was going to need it. However, instead of needing more time, he’d come back on the promised date, and he had come back an engaged man.
Happy for my brother, I hadn’t complained once about his absence as I transitioned everything back to him this week. All I had to do was get through tomorrow night, and I could finally get some fucking sleep. If nothing else, I could sleep in on Saturday for a few hours.
“Hey? Got a second?”
I looked up at my brother’s voice, thankful for the interruption. My eyes were really beginning to burn. “Yeah, what’s up?”
Shutting my office door behind him, he said, “I just wanted to let you know that it’s okay if you call in sick on Monday.”
I flipped him off and the idiot just grinned. I had to fly out of town on Sunday, and he knew it.
Taking a seat in one of the chairs positioned in front of my desk, he made himself comfortable, smiling like a loon. If I’d known that he was in here just to give me shit, I would have lied and told him that I was busy. While I liked that my brother was happy enough in life to have a good sense of humor, I didn’t appreciate that humor when it was at my expense.
“Oh, c’mon,” he chuckled. “It’s not that bad.”
“Says the man who has never had to attend one of these meetings,” I replied dryly.
Holden leaned back in his seat. “Hey, I object-”
“You’re not a lawyer.”
“-I’ve been to every single one of those meetings,” he stated.
I cocked my head. “Yeah, the office meetings.”
Holden snorted. “Yeah, because Max would have no problem with me going to a strip club for a ‘business’ meeting.” He finger-quoted the word business. “I’m happily committed, thank you very much, and I plan on staying that way.”
My lips twitched because the man was so ridiculous sometimes. Still, he wasn’t lying. Maxine Willis was a very lucky lady. I knew my brother well enough to know that he loved her dearly and would never do anything to cause her any insecurities. They’ve been together for five years, and the only reason that they weren’t already married was because Maxine had wanted to focus on her career first. Though an honest accident, Max getting pregnant had shifted her priorities a bit, and now she was looking forward to marrying Holden and starting a family with him.
“Don’t give me that shit,” I grumbled. “Max trusts you.”
Holden kept smiling. “Of course, she does,” he agreed. “However, the last thing that I want to do is smell like another woman or spend the next three days trying to wash glitter off my body.”
I shook my head. “You only get glitter on yourself if you’re engaging with the strippers, Holden.”
“Bullshit,” he argued. “I’ve been to my fair share of strip clubs in college, and glitter is the devil. It’s on your clothes the second that you walk into the place.”
“Did you come in here just to warn me of the dangers of glitter?” I asked, glancing at my watch, seeing that it was way past quitting time.
Holden leaned forward and dropped the papers that he’d had in his hand on my desk. “Those are the final numbers for tomorrow’s meeting,” he answered. “Also, don’t underestimate the perils of glitter. Have you ever tried to get one of those tiny flecks out of your eye?”
I just stared at my brother. “No, Holden. I’ve never had any struggles with glitter.”
“I’m just saying,” he continued.
“Duly noted,” I sighed as I ran my hands through my hair.
Twice a year, I had a group of investors come into town for a bi-annual fiscal review, and they were addicted to a strip club downtown, and the responsibility fell on my shoulders to make sure that they always had a good time. While the club was classy and successful as far as strip clubs went, our arrivals were always treated like something big. Nothing pumped up the excitement levels in a strip club more than a group of men who had more money than sense.
“You know, you can always have Richards or Barker take them,” Holden pointed out.
“True,” I agreed. Being the boss, I could assign anyone this after-work-hours task, but most of my senior staff were married, and I wasn’t trying to cause any drama in my company where there needed to be none. I was single, so I was the safest choice. Plus, being the CEO, it made the client feel like a priority to have me entertain them. “However, I’m not looking to have the castle stormed by a bunch of angry wives.”
“Yeah, and what’s going to happen the day that you get married?” he posed.
“You assume that I have the time to get married,” I countered. “Since I only leave my house to come to work, and only leave work to go back home, when do you suppose I’ll be meeting my future wife?”
“You’re surrounded by women all the damn time,” he argued.
“No,” I corrected. “I’m surrounded by colleagues and other men’s wives all the damn time, both of which are strictly off-limits for me.”
“That’s not true,” Holden continued to argue. “You meet baristas, waitresses, cashier, etc. all the time. If you would just pay attention, you’d see that they’re always giving you googly eyes.”
“Googly eyes? Really?” I deadpanned.
“Paid companions aren’t the answer, Evander,” he replied, even though he was wrong.
“Paid companions are always the answer,” I countered.
Holden stood up, done with my stubbornness. “Just be careful with the glitter,” he said before walking out of my office, and all I could do was shake my head.
What grown man was terrified of glitter?