First Chapters: The Two Week Arrangement

 

Chapter One

Dominic

 

“Been out with anyone lately?”

I shake my head at Oliver’s question, eyes not straying from the screen of my laptop. “You know I don’t have time to date,” I say, more than a little exasperated that we’ve had this conversation approximately six thousand times. Just because Oliver is in a happy relationship doesn’t mean he needs to force monogamy down everyone else’s throats. 

“Come on, man. You without pussy is like macaroni without cheese.”

My vice president, ladies and gentleman.

“Fuck’s sake, Ollie. Do you have to be so crass?” This recurring conversation is wearing me thin. I’m about three seconds away from kicking him out of my office.

Oliver only scoffs as he wanders to the far end of the office and reaches for a crystal cut glass from the bar cart. The glass decanters hold fine aged scotch and the best gin money can buy, but I rarely touch the stuff. It’s there for two purposes, on the rare occasions when I’m entertaining clients, and for Oliver. The man drinks like a fish, but he rarely lets himself get intoxicated by some miracle of metabolism. But I take no issue with it. It’s well after six, and technically speaking, our workday is over.

He doesn’t even bother asking me if I’d like a glass; he simply pours himself two fingers of scotch and then joins me again, sinking into the plush black leather wingback across from my desk. He takes but one sip before continuing the criticism. 

“Don’t be such a priss, Dom. You must have forgotten?”

“What’s that?”

He smirks. “That I know all of your quirks.”

I roll my eyes. That’s a polite way of putting it. At least he hadn’t called it a sexual deviance again. The memory of that conversation makes me shudder. It’s true that Oliver knows me well. I’d be the first to admit my best friend and VP has gotten me out of some unseemly situations over the years, but that doesn’t mean I want to discuss my sex life with him. Even though we have been friends since we graduated from Princeton, there are certain boundaries I like to maintain. In some ways those years seem like only yesterday, and in others, they feel like a lifetime ago.

“You know the only two ladies I have time for are Emilia and Lacey.”

He sighs, deflated. “Yeah, yeah. I know.”

I would appreciate it if Oliver didn’t always forget the two little girls waiting for me at home to read them bedtime stories and check for monsters under the bed. Children certainly aren’t on Oliver and Jessica’s radar at this point in their relationship.

They weren’t on mine, either.

“Besides, there will be time for fun and games later. The internship program begins tomorrow,” I remind Oliver, eyes skimming over the schedule my assistant has compiled for me.

Oliver drums his fingers on the arm of the chair. “Damn, that’s right.”

A handful of the best and brightest recent college graduates from all over the nation were selected out of more than a thousand applicants to join Aspen Industries on a trial basis. For the next two weeks, they will be responsible for learning our current business model and executing the forward motion of our hotels into a more modern format. It’s not the first time Aspen has offered this internship, but it may be the last. Outreach initiatives like this have proved successful from the media standpoint; but employee retention from these internships has never impressed me. I guess that’s the one thing I inherited from late Phillip Aspen: perpetually low expectations.

“Since when did we believe in internships?” Oliver grumbles into his drink.

Once again, Oliver has read my mind. Despite my misgivings about the program’s success, I admittedly need a new Director of Operations. Desperately. This internship, with some tweaks, will allow me to select a candidate who’s fresh and hungry–not someone so set in their ways that they refuse to do things my way.

“We need to reevaluate our operations if we’re going to survive in this market. Internships are an excellent way of bringing in new blood without losing money on new hires that prove to be financial risks.”

“That was pointed,” Oliver laughs.

“Terry wasn’t a new hire. Terry was a very old hire that needed a wake-up call.”

“I was talking about Kylie.”

“Oh.” Kylie was our brief Director of Operations, after Terry’s resignation.

“Why did we fire her, anyway?”

“She had some unreasonable expectations.”

Oliver raises his eyes in question, but he knows better than to ask. I do not condone unwarranted sexual advances from my employees at our philanthropy events, no matter the blood-alcohol content. I also do not mar a decently capable woman’s career by broadcasting her actions to my friends and coworkers after she throws herself at me. Instead, I quietly fire her with a sizable severance package and an emphatic good riddance.

“So that’s what you’re trying to find out of this? Our Director of Operations? Look, Dom, I respect your choices and God knows, I let you make most of them. But college graduates don’t necessarily have the experience we need at the helm of our entire operation.”

I smirk. “I’m glad my father didn’t have those sentiments when he hired you as a consultant fresh out of university.”

Oliver raises his hands in surrender. “Point taken. And I’m glad you decided you needed a vice-president to help you run this shit-show.” He lifts up his glass in congenial cheers. I mime the gesture in return.

Ping.

An email grabs my attention. It’s our Marketing Director, proposing the updated social media branding for my approval. I examine it with a critical eye–each stroke of text, each pigment of color. It’s classic, but still somehow fresh, and doesn’t stray from our brand. I decide that I like it and shoot her off an email telling her as much.

“Do you ever stop working?” Oliver is leaning so far back into the chair that I have to look over my screen to make eye contact.

“Nope. Shouldn’t you be headed home soon to Jess?”

“She’s off on business,” he sighs, genuinely discomforted by her absence. I smile. True love isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Oliver and Jess are a thriving couple to all inquiring eyes. But as their friend, I know exactly how deep their codependence goes. I can tell that as soon as Oliver leaves my office, he’ll be on the phone with her, asking about her day.

He’s fucking whipped.

“Well, chin up, brother. Tomorrow should be interesting, right?”

“For you, maybe,” Oliver argues. “I don’t have the luxury or energy to enjoy the company of young attractivos.” I smile at Oliver’s choice of words. He hasn’t lost any of quirks since settling down. If anything, his propensity for made-up words has only been encouraged by his other half.

“You should enjoy the next two weeks, though.” Oliver tips his glass toward me.

“How so?”

“Get yourself some new blood,” he grins devilishly.

Ah, yes. Back to square one. How do we always end up here?

“Aspen Hotels needs new blood. Dominic Aspen is just fine,” I respond firmly. Oliver doesn’t object, only slides out of the chair and places his glass on my desk, temptingly close to my hand.

“Goodnight, Dom.”

“Goodnight, Oliver.” He has his phone in his hand, dialing Jess before he’s even out the door.

Classic.

I run my hand through my hair and eye the clock on the far wall. Past dinner time. I don’t have much of an appetite, but I know I should eat. I should also go home early for once, relieve the nanny, and see my beautiful daughters before they’re tucked away in bed.

Yet, here I sit. Staring at the drops of scotch at the bottom of someone else’s glass.

Dominic Aspen is just fine.


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