Love in the Boardroom
- Genre: Romance
- Age: 18+
- Status: Completed
- Language: English
- Author: Zehyna Perez
I had survived day three of hiding from my father. Everyone in my family is obsessed with marriage, ostentatious weddings, and contracts that push you toward success hastily. After returning from Dubai, I talked to Ben about who would take over my father's business, as he has recently refused to continue with it.
Benton walks into the office, angry, and throws the papers he had in his hand onto my desk.
"I'm sick of the secretary you hired. We should fire her."
"What did she do now?"
"I asked her to bring me latex gloves, and she brought me dark coffee. You know I hate dark coffee. Damn, if only she would listen to her superiors, she would do her job much better. She's an idiot."
"Benton, you could have told her to bring you something else. People can make mistakes."
"She's been making mistakes all damn week."
"Do what you want with her, I don't care. We can find someone else."
"That's what I wanted to hear," he says with cynicism.
I've known Benton for as long as I can remember, and I know he doesn't like incompetence, especially when it comes to coffee. We've spent our lives going from party to party and from exotic places to even more exotic offices. We've never been involved in financial problems, and it's hard for me to believe that sometimes my best friend feels inferior to people.
I grab my things and leave the office with my head held high. The employees lower their heads out of respect, and I run into my father with a cigarette in his hand and the darkest sunglasses he has. That's not a good sign because when he takes them off, he smiles at me so cynically that I know what he's here for.
He wants me to get married.
He wants me to marry a woman I don't know anything about.
I indicate that we enter the office where I was just seconds ago, and he nods without responding. The man who helped bring me into the world is dominant, cold, and sometimes affectionate. I've seen him as my father since I was four years old, before that, I hated him. He spent all day telling me what to do and how to act, making me study accounting, math, physics, and commercial sciences. I was only five years old at the time. What normal child would want to know anything about that at that age? None.
I allow myself to sit on top of the desk, and he sits on the chair in front of me.
"You can't run away from your father forever, Jack."
"Mr. Lather in the office."
"I'm your father, not a poor idiot who works for you," he spits out disdainfully. I shrug and let him continue talking because he can't do what I want. "Alana is a beautiful girl, the daughter of two businesspeople. Doesn't that sound perfect to you?"
"Not really," I make a face. "Does she know anything about managing businesses?"
"No, she's a model. She's good for the family's image, and you're good for her family's image. We both win."
"I don't want to get married. I don't want to be with someone who doesn't act or think the way I do."
"Mr. Lather," he says to mock me. "It's decided. Tomorrow morning I'll sign a contract with her father. The marriage will last four years. After that, you can do whatever you want."
"Tell me you're kidding."
"Business is business," he says as he stands up, opens the door, and looks at me for the last time. "I want you at home this afternoon, you will meet your future wife."
I wait for him to leave and curse under my breath; I am furious. Who gave him the right to do something like this? I don't want to get married, I don't want to know anything about marriage, and I don't want to be told that I have to be with a super beautiful woman for the sake of my company. I haven't liked anyone more than Belinda in the last few years. And it should be noted that Belinda stopped liking me because of her insecure and self-loathing attitude. She was feeling bad most of the time.
There were days when she was fine, she could be okay for a month, a few weeks, or even a few days. Until the point where she would start feeling bad constantly again, and I got tired of it. I can't tolerate a person like that. It's not in my psychological nature to do so without being one.
I see the notifications on my phone and realize that I'm late for the parking lot. Benton and I agreed to meet at twelve downstairs; we'll go out for lunch and then head to my parent's house. Or, well, at least he knows we'll go out to eat, not that we'll be going to my parent's house.
During the summer vacation, I hooked up with several girls, some prettier than others. I made each of them sign a confidentiality agreement that specifies that if they get pregnant, they won't contact me, let alone talk about me being the father. To my luck, no one objected to those rules, and I had a great time with each of them.
I see Benton with the same secretary from before, and I freeze when they kiss. It's not a gentle or common kiss; it seems more like something forced. And I smile.
"Am I interrupting?"
Both of them clear their throats and shake their heads. The girl runs away, and I burst out laughing at the sight of my friend fixing his pants.
"You're an asshole, you could have waited."
"Wait? One of your whores isn't going to make me wait. We have to go to my father's house; we have dinner with them and my fiancée."
Benton looks at me seriously and shakes his head, confused.
"Didn't I tell you?" I pretend that I've known Alana for a long time, and my friend shakes his head even more confused than before. "I'm getting married; she's a beautiful girl."
"Your father is going to marry you."
I scoff, and he clicks his tongue knowing that he hit the nail on the head.
"I know, he doesn't understand that getting married is not a good idea. I haven't lived enough yet."
"You know he's not going to listen to you. He never listens to anyone."
"I know, he already signed the contract with Alana's family. My bachelorhood ends here."
"How long does the contract last?"
We get in the car, and I toss my phone in the back seat.
"At least four years."
"The only option you have is to act like the biggest idiot on planet Earth. Her parents are going to hate you, and they won't want their little girl with a man like you."
"Everyone would want to be with a man like me, but I understand what you're saying. Will you help me?"
"You know I will."
A smile appears on my face. Precipitously, I thought I would be married in a couple of months, that I would hate having a woman in my house, and that the nights of drinking with Benton would be ruined because of Alana. I don't know her, and I don't know what she looks like, but based on my tastes, she must be a pretty woman.
As the day approached its halfway point, I decided it was time to get ready. I let my best friend dress up as formally as possible, while I dressed quite casually, with a sweatshirt, sneakers, and my favorite jeans. Lunch flew by as we sorted out some contracts, reviewed paperwork, and made sure each location was in order. I own several publishers and had wanted to start a modeling agency, but knowing that Alana is a model has made me lose interest.
We arrived at my parents' house around seven. One table. Two families who barely know each other. And a marriage in the middle. I ended up going to the kitchen and heard the voices of two women talking cheerfully. When I entered, I saw my mother and Alana's mother conversing. Their eyes rested on me and my attire, then on Benton and how he had come dressed.
"Mr. Lather!" Alana's mother approached my friend with a big smile, and I restrained myself from laughing. My mother has opened her eyes so wide that I think she wants to kill me, but it's okay, I never told her to do everything my father wants. "You are more handsome than your mother told me."
"Alana will be down in a second, she went to the powder room," she continued without letting Benton finish. I coughed and approached her with delicacy.
"I'm Jack Lather, a pleasure, Mrs. Anderson, but I think you're mistaken."
"Oh, excuse me. I thought..."
"My best friend Benton, you can come to him for anything you need, he's also my right-hand man."
"Excuse my incompetence, you are very handsome."
"Thank you," I limited myself to responding.
Old hypocrite. I'm sure she would have said that to any guy who walked in through that door. At first glance, she has let herself be carried away by appearance and put on a new face when she saw my attire, so I suppose she didn't think it was a good idea what I put on.
My mother wants to throw something at my head, she looks at me as if I had gone crazy, and the woman who seconds ago was flattering me now can't stop glancing at Benton, which makes me feel uncomfortable.
"Hey man, I'm going to talk to your dad."
"Why don't you go to my room? I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Much better," he said, widening his eyes in desperation.
I approached to help Mom and put my hands on the plate she was preparing. I rarely cook with her, she doesn't like other people meddling in her food. I've gotten so used to cooking with Benton that lately, it feels strange to see Mom cooking and not doing anything.
Alana's mother gets up from her chair and goes with my father and her husband. For a moment, I allow myself to breathe with tranquility, I look at my mother and wash my hands.
"Do you like her?"
"She's an arrogant woman."
"Imagine what her daughter must be like," I say with irony, and Mom laughs.
"Her daughter is not like her."
"I want to believe you, but I can't."
"Jack, try not to make a fool of yourself and go change, I know you did it on purpose."
"I don't want to get married," I blurt out.
"A businessman makes sacrifices for his family."
"Shit, now you sound like my father."
I leave the kitchen in a fury and hit one of the paintings on the way to my room. My father and Alana's parents watch me with their eyes wide open, and I click my tongue. Mr. Anderson didn't find the hit I gave very funny, but it makes me feel even less like marrying his daughter. How did I end up in this situation? I thought Mom would be on my side, that she would tell me it was okay not to get married, that I was too young, or something like that. But she agrees because she thinks it's a necessary sacrifice for the family.
However, I want to believe that deep down Mom doesn't agree with my marriage and will say something to save my ass as she always does. I open the door to my room and see Benton with Alana, one in each corner of the room. I don't know what they were looking at, they're both focused on their phones. This scene makes me want to let out an ironic laugh because Benton is the last person I want to see right now. I pause for a second to observe what she looks like physically and smile because she's exactly the opposite of my type. Dad knows my tastes in women. He knows I prefer them to be short, with dark hair and dark eyes, but she's not like that.
Alana is tall, not taller than me but still, she has reddish hair and green eyes. She's a beautiful fair-skinned girl, but she's not my type. I don't feel any physical attraction towards her, so I don't understand how we'll spend four years in the same house without me wanting to kill her.
Both of them put their phones down to look at me, and Alana scans me more than she should, clicks her tongue, and puts on a bored expression.
"Are you Jack?"
"Who else could I be?" I say frustrated. "Are you an idiot?"
The girl frowns and flips me off, which makes me smile. I expected her to be more delicate, to want to show me a thousand photos of her latest shoot or to talk to me about the latest shoes that have come out. I close the door behind me and lie down on the bed. The girl doesn't take her eyes off us, as if she's expecting a reaction that isn't going to happen.
"I missed last night's race, my mother kept insisting that I help her look for my dad's papers. But we didn't even find them, it was a waste of time. Did you see it?"
"No, I was busy with some paperwork I had to fill out."
"Right," Benton responds, looks at the girl, and makes a disgusted face. "What? Why haven't you stopped looking at us? I know we're both very attractive, but it's uncomfortable."
"No one has said anything to me since I arrived, and I'm going to marry Jack in less than a week. I just thought it was rude of him not to include me in the conversation."
"In a week?" I shout louder than I intended. Alana nods and smiles, but it's not a happy or cynical smile, it's rather a sad one and it reminds me that we're both in the same situation and instead of making her feel understood, I'm making her feel much worse. "I thought it would be in a few months."
"My father wants us to get married quickly, he says it will help me. He may be right and I'm making a big deal out of this. But I have a boyfriend and I like him, I don't want to pretend I'm with you. I mean, I don't even know you, Jack."
"I don't intend to get married either, I like my bachelor life. I had no idea you had a boyfriend, I don't agree with this marriage, and apparently, you don't either. But it's what our families need and to a certain extent, I can understand it. What I do know is that our parents are sacrificing our happiness for theirs."
"A woman always has to make great sacrifices, my dad tells me that all the time," she mentions with an ironic laugh. Alana's father sounds like a man who is very similar to mine. I'm starting to understand how both parents became very good friends. "At first, I thought he was saying it for my good, now it sounds sexist."
"I'm sorry to interrupt your conversation about how your parents are assholes, but you guys need to come down, it's time for dinner."
"We're coming," I reply.