“Son of a bitch thinks he can just do whatever the hell he wants because he’s got money. What does he know? Nothing. Spoiled rich kid hasn’t had to earn anything his entire life. And this office? He wouldn’t have a damn thing if Cora wasn’t up there running the show,” Jack yelled, jamming his finger into the ground floor elevator button. “I don’t know how she puts up with him.”
“Easy, Jack,” JR murmured, shoving his hands into his suit jacket pockets. “That’s your paycheck you’re mouthing off about.”
Both men rode the rest of the flight down in silence, acknowledging each other with a nod goodbye as they parted toward the parking lot. Their dark suits fused with the blackening sky as they marched toward their sports cars, clouds hanging over heavily threatening rain.
“Jack’s pissed. You should see him; stomping off like a kid headed to time-out,” Graham smirked, staring down ten stories.
After the men’s cars darted out onto the street, no cars remained in the private lot below the building. The asphalt was quickly darkening with the light rain and the neatly trimmed palms and hibiscus waved gently in the breeze.
“Yes, well, lack of respect tends to make a man sour,” Cora sighed, cleaning stacks of paperwork off the boardroom table. A Mississippi drawl coated her tongue even after four years of working on the west coast.
“I agree. He’s being childish,” Graham concurred, taking a seat on the corner of the room. He rubbed the spot between his eyebrows gently and kicked his feet up onto the glass surface of the table.
“It wasn’t him being disrespectful I was referring to,” Cora stated, tossing scratch pages into the trash can. She knocked his feet off the table as she passed, throwing a scowl in his general direction. “You weren’t even listening to what they were saying, Graham. No wonder they’re angry. You barely even acknowledged their presentation.”
Heels clicking, she exited the board room and entered the main lobby of the top floor. Pristine, sparkly clean glass showcased the growing thunderstorm on the horizon and the fading sun. Slamming the folders down onto her overloaded desk behind the counter, she leaned heavily against the edge to ease her throbbing feet.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? Cora, what they were presenting was crap. They always present crap. For God’s sake,” Graham stated, following closely behind. “You have said it yourself a million times.”
Glaring up at his face, she inched herself down into her chair and removed the high heels from her feet. The pumps glossed black with shine and care, not a speck of dirt coating their surface.
“Doesn’t mean you can’t at least pretend to have a little respect for your employees,” she said. She rubbed her calves lazily, her favorite khaki pencil skirt riding up her thigh. A simple black, silk blouse kissed her skin with coolness. “Show some respect for the little guys and stop being such a jackass just because you’re grumpy about Nicki.”
Growling deep in his throat, Graham wadded up the closest piece of paper and lobbed it into the trash can on the other side of the room. His suit jacket had been abandoned in the boardroom, a grey shirt and black tie lining his chest and shoulders. Youth highlighted his face in the particular movement of office athleticism, reminding Cora he was still several years from thirty.
“Nicki isn’t a problem,” he grumbled, turning back to stare down at Cora. Defensiveness practically oozed from his pores along with a tinge of alcohol, something Cora didn’t mention aloud.
“You never have taken rejection well,” she smiled ruefully. “I can’t remember a single time Graham Cane took ‘no’ for an answer.”
Barking a sharp laugh, he bent down to pick up one of the pumps beside Cora’s chair.
“How do you wear these things anyway?”
Snatching the heel from his hands, she tossed the pair underneath her desk and continued to file away the notes from the meeting. Her loose bun hung low against her neck, several waves escaping the ebony chignon and spiraling around her ears.
“Don’t change the subject,” she chirped, as he stood to pace in front of her desk. “Millionaire or not, you’re an open book.”
“But only to you, my dear Cora,” he replied, spinning to point a finger in her face. “Only to you. And that is why I beg you not to share my latest refusal with the man of the hour.”
As if signaling his presence, the elevator door dinged to allow entry, the doors sliding open without a sound.
A mirror image of Graham leisurely strolled his way across the marble floor and waved easily at Cora. His faded t-shirt bore the image of one of his favorite rock bands, the fall of his jeans hitting just right above his tennis shoes.
“Black has always been your color Cora,” he smiled. Turning to his brother, he sighed dramatically. “What’s so important you couldn’t just call, Graham?”
“Good to see you, too, Louis,” Graham snapped sarcastically. “I’m great. Thanks for asking.”
Ignoring the retort, Louis approached Cora’s desk and laid an envelope directly on her planner.
“Jesus, not another one,” she whined, snatching the envelope and slamming it shut inside a drawer. “You two go away. Go talk. I have phone calls to make. Appointments to confirm. Chocolate to eat.”
“Do watch those hips,” Graham stated, gesturing for Louis to follow toward the office. “We have an appearance to uphold.”
He patted her shoulder gently as he strode away.
Louis followed casually, slower, observing the new paintings lining the walls.
“God, these are beautiful, Cora,” he smiled, before disappearing around the corner.
“Heard Nicki shut you down,” Louis mumbled, throwing himself down into the cushioned office chair across from Graham. “Must suck to suck.”
Rolling his eyes, Graham placed himself neatly into his chair and laid his cell phone aside.
“Does everyone know? God,” he groaned. “Suffering through it in public once was bad enough.”
Smirking, Louis gestured to the open notebook in the middle of the desk.
“This what this is about? Needing a new fix?”
Graham paused, eyebrows drawing deeper down around his charcoal eyes.
“No,” he stalled. “Not exactly.”
“Fine,” Louis laughed. “You don’t wanna talk business then talk about Nicki. I wanna hear the scoop from you. Not some witness who comes stumbling into my place.”
Leaning back, Graham tucked his arms behind his head and glanced off out the windows. Rain was pummeling the ground in waves and thunder echoed heavily across the glass walls.
“Pretty simple. I thought things were great. We went to the New Year’s Eve Ball. I got down on one knee. She said no. Need to hear anything more?”
Jaw hinged open in disbelief, Louis stared for three painful seconds at his brother.
“Shut the fuck up,” Louis balked, breaking out into deep, booming laughter. “Graham. Man. I am seriously so sorry especially if you’re hurting but that’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you, brother.”
Nodding silently, Graham swiveled gently in his chair, allowing his brother to laugh at his expense.
“So I’ve been told. Convenient considering no one ever mentioned before how much they disliked her,” he sighed, pushing the notebook toward Louis across the glass surface of his desk. “Now that we’ve got that over with-“
A light knock cut him short, followed by the door gently opening.
“Graham, Louis…your Dad is here,” Cora hissed, eyes wide. “What do I do?
Shrugging his shoulders loose, Graham waved her forward rhetorically.
“Let him in,” he stated. “Let’s get this over with in one sitting. Come laugh at me old man! I know that’s why you’re here,” Graham yelled, loud enough to be heard in the lobby.
Copyright © 2016 Pearl Bayou