THE CEO’s SCANDALOUS
The Launch of a New Dynasty Series: The Garrisons
When Parker Garrison strode into the conference room of Garrison, Inc., he noticed three things, despite the blinding sunshine that bounced off the water of Biscayne Bay and silhouetted the figures of his siblings, their mother and a few highly paid lawyers. One, there was no conversation. None. Not that he’d expected a party atmosphere at the reading of his father’s will, but it was unusual for a gathering of Garrisons to be quiet. They were, at the very least, an opinionated clan.
Two, his mother appeared relatively sober. All right, it was eight-thirty in the morning and even Bonita Garrison rarely hit the juice before noon, unless he counted the Bloody Marys she consumed in preparation for the Sunday family dinners. But since his father’s death two weeks ago, she’d leaned on her liquid crutch early and often.
Three – and most significant – John Garrison’s chair at the head of the mile-long cherrywood table remained empty. A situation Parker intended to rectify.
His sister, Brittany, practically choked when he eased himself onto the buttery leather and set his Blackberry on the table in front of him.
“You’re sitting in Dad’s chair?” Brittany demanded, tapping the digital device that was never far from his right hand.
“It’s empty.” Parker ignored the implication that he was muscling in on his father’s turf. Because he was. He was the oldest. He’d run the family’s umbrella corporation for the past five years, since his father gave him the CEO position as a thirty-first birthday present.
The rest of them had their hands deep in the Garrison affairs – they each owned one of the properties, whether it was the Grand hotel, a club, restaurant, or condo complex. But he’d earned this chair, and not just by birth order. With work, sweat, insight, guts and a few masterful decisions.
“It’s disrespectful,” Brittany hissed, tapering her brown eyes in disgust and leaning her narrow shoulders closer to make her point. “To the dead.”
Brooke reached over and touched her sister’s hand. “Relax, Britt. He has to sit somewhere.”
Parker threw a grateful glance at his other sister, marveling at how they were twins in appearance only. Brooke responded with a smile that softened her lovely features and accentuated the difference between the sweet sister and the scowling one even more.
Across from Brooke and Brittany, Stephen locked his hands behind his head and rocked his chair easily with a long, muscular body that practically matched Parker’s gene for gene, right down to the signature cleft that every Garrison sported on their chin. Stephen’s dark eyes danced with wry amusement, his flawless smile white against a face tanned from a recent escape on his sixty-foot cabin cruiser.
“Sit wherever you like, big brother,” Stephen drawled. “He may not be using the chair, but I have a feeling we’re about to feel the hand of our dearly departed father in every corner of this room.”
Parker frowned at the comment, and followed his closest sibling’s meaningful gaze to the imposing figure cut by Brandon Washington, the young and brilliant attorney who handled the family affairs. Brandon’s strong jaw was set as he moved papers purposefully in front of him, his large, dark hands steady and determined. At that moment, he met Parker’s gaze, and just beneath the burnish of his espresso-colored complexion, Parker could see...anger? Surprise? Dread?
Whatever Brandon had read in John Garrison’s will, the warning look the lawyer gave Parker held a clear message: you’re not going to like this.
Parker shifted in his seat, tamping down concern. What could the will say that Parker wouldn’t like? Nothing mattered to him except control of Garrison, Inc. The money, the properties, the estate – all were secondary to him, all one notch less important than the umbrella firm that invested the profits.
Let the others have their slices of responsibility. He held the biggest piece of the pie dish in his hand. Surely Dad wouldn’t have changed his mind about a decision he’d made five years ago, long before he’d known he’d die at sixty-two from a heart attack.
Still, he really didn’t like the vibe Brandon emitted. And neither, he could tell, did his mother.
Evidently, Bonita Garrison had picked up the same message, her fragile features drawn from mourning and worry. She pushed at an imaginary strand of jet black hair, a silver thread catching the light, the gesture one of pure nervousness as she studied Brandon for clues. Were there surprises in store for her today? Hadn’t she discussed every aspect of his Last Will and Testament with the man she’d married more than thirty-seven years earlier?
Maybe not, judging by the quiver of her delicate hands. Maybe she should have had a slug of Stoli before they gathered. Hell, maybe this event called for a round for the table. If only to numb the still-raw pain caused by losing a man deeply loved by each of his five children. A love, Parker thought bitterly, that didn’t exactly extend to their cool and distant mother.
Adam arrived last, the only missing sibling of the five, slipping into the conference room in his usual quiet, detached way, shaking back some of his long, dark hair. He’d have to see a barber if he wanted to be taken more seriously than just the owner of a nightclub – even if Estate was one of Miami Beach’s hottest spots. As birth order would have it, Adam was the youngest of the three Garrison men, but sat dead center in the family once the twins came along to claim the joint spot as “babies.”
When the lawyer cleared his throat and stood, Parker ended his musings about his family. They’d all work out their various issues and problems, he felt certain. And he’d work out his problems – like the current decline in the Garrison brand that translated into unhappy investors, business partners and patrons.
He’d solve that, as long as he had the lion’s share of control. He turned his attention to Brandon with the confidence of a man who rarely lost his focus. That legendary focus had gotten Parker where he was today, and it would keep him there far into the future.
Hadn’t Dad assured him of that?
Brandon droned legalese. Next to him, Stephen shot a look of impatience to Parker, who curled his lip in a half smile of response. Brittany doodled on a pad, tempting Parker to kick her under the table and tell his flighty little sister to pay attention. Brooke watched the lawyer, rapt, as did Adam. His mother shifted in her seat, and sighed under her breath as assets were divided and doled exactly has they had all expected.
Suddenly, Brandon stopped talking. He inhaled slowly. He looked at Bonita with no small amount of pity and then leveled his gaze directly at Parker.
“The next section is in regard to the controlling shares of the parent company, Garrison, Inc. Mr. Garrison stated that they are to be divided among his six children.”
Parker flinched. Brittany blinked. Stephen leaned forward with a quiet, “What?”
Did he say six?
The lawyer must be putting in too many billable hours.
“Uh, there are five of us, Brandon,” Parker corrected, a little smile tugging at his lips. “See?” He crooked his head toward the table. “Five.”
Brandon responded with a long, silent stare, underscored by a nervous laugh from one of his young associates.
“Five in this room,” Brandon said deliberately. “Six in all.”
For a split second, no one said anything as shock rolled off the room’s residents, bounced all over the table and left a palpable change in the air. Parker scowled at the lawyer, trying to process what he’d said.
Then chaos erupted when Stephen bellowed “That’s preposterous!” and Brittany let out a surprised shriek and Brooke half-stood to demand an explanation. Through it all, their mother breathed so hard she damn near growled. Only Adam was quiet, but even he wore a expression of complete disbelief.
Brandon held up a hand, but they ignored him. The noise level rose, the undercurrent of incredulity and fury elevated with each question and demand.
“Stop!” Parker said with a solid thwack on the cherry wood. “Let him finish.”
As it had for most of his thirty-six years, a single command brought his younger siblings in line. When the room was finally silent, he said, “Obviously, this begs for an explanation.”
Brandon nodded and read from the document. “The controlling shares of Garrison, Inc. will be divided among my six...” he paused and raised an eyebrow for emphasis. “children. The division is as follows: Fifteen percent, in equal shares, to Stephen, Adam, Brooke and Brittany.”
Parker’s chest tightened as he waited for Brandon to continue.
“The remaining forty percent will be split evenly between my son, Parker, and my daughter, Cassie Sinclair, who will also be given full ownership of the Garrison Grand-Bahamas property.”
Blood sang in his head nearly as loud as the eruption that filled the room again.
“Cassie Sinclair is his daughter?”
“The manager of the Bahamas property now owns it?”
“And twenty percent of the parent company?”
“She’s not his...”
Bonita Garrison stood slowly, her face ghost white, her hands quaking. Her children quieted, as all eyes turned toward her.
“The son of a bitch,” she said to no one in particular. “The cheating son of a bitch. I’m glad he’s dead.”
She pivoted and walked out of the room, her shoulders quivering as she tried to hold them square. A barrage of questions, accusations and outraged calls for the truth exploded in her wake.
Now, Parker thought bitterly, it sounds like a typical Garrison family gathering.
But his pulse drowned it all out, and he had to physically work to control a temper he’d long ago conquered.
No damn wonder Brandon had given him that silent warning. And no damn wonder his father had stayed so deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the Bahamas property.
“Who’d have guessed that?” Stephen said to him, softly enough so only Parker could hear. “The old man had someone on the side.”
Parker closed his eyes in disgust. Not because his father had an affair. And not because that sin created a sixth Garrison child. But because, for some reason he’d never know or understand, John Garrison had decided to slice Parker’s world in half, and give the other portion to some hotel manager living in Nassau.
Some hotel manager – now owner – who was his half-sister.
He pushed his chair away from the table, determined not to let the bubble of anger brew into a full boil. Instead, he cut his gaze to Brandon’s, ignoring the chaos around them.
“We’ll talk, Brandon,” Parker said. “But I’ve got a company to run.”
Brittany let out a tiny snort. “You have part of a company to run.”
He refused to dignify the comment, but scooped his PDA off the table, nodded to Stephen in particular and the table in general. “Knock yourselves out, kids.”
Without waiting for a response, he left the room, grateful that unlike the rest of them who would have to travel to various Garrison properties, his office was just down the hall on the twenty-second floor of the Brickell Avenue high rise that housed the corporate offices of Garrison, Inc.
There, he would find sanctuary and maybe the privacy to sucker punch a wall with no witnesses.
He’d tell Anna to hold every call and appointment. What he needed to do was assess the situation and figure out a solution. That’s what he did. Cold, calculating and calm, Parker Garrison manipulated every move of a multi-million dollar empire, so he could certainly control his insanely bad mood and maybe his father’s ridiculously poor judgment.
He ignored the provocative smile of Sheila, the heavily made-up receptionist who manned the front desk of the plush executive offices of Garrison, Inc. He continued directly to his corner office, resisting the urge to rip off his tie and howl in fury, his blood temperature rising with each purposeful stride toward privacy.
As he turned the corner, he expected to see his assistant at her desk, efficiently gatekeeping his world as she’d been doing for a few months since he’d promoted her from the Human Resources department. But Anna’s desk was empty, with no sign of light or life.
At nine in the morning?
Wasn’t anything like it was supposed to be today?
Inhaling sharply, he pushed the door to his office open and closed it without giving into the temptation to slam, swearing softly on his exhale.
That’s when he heard the humming. Not a normal hum of activity or a printer or even the refrigerator from the wet bar in the corner. No this was more like a screaming buzz. But that wasn’t all. The humming barely drowned out...
He paused for a minute, then looked toward the source, behind the partially opened bathroom door discreetly tucked around the corner of his spacious office. Singing?
If you could call that singing. More like a sinfully off-key soprano belting out something from...West Side Story. She felt pretty? Oh so pretty? It was hard to tell with the whine as loud as a jet engine drowning it out, and the total flatness of the notes.
Propelled by curiosity and still fueled by a losing battle with his temper and control, he continued toward the sound, the soft warmth of shower steam tumbling from the open door, along with something that smelled like flowers and powder.
He paused at the eight-inch gap in the bathroom door, leaned in to be sure he wasn’t imagining things, then just stood there and stared at...
No. That didn’t do them justice. These were works of art. Heaven-sent. Endless, bare, tight-thighed, smooth-skinned, strip-club worthy legs spread about a foot apart, slipped into three inch heels and topped off by a barely-covered-in-silk female rump stuck straight in the air.
He gaped, mesmerized and only slightly deafened by the noise, which was caused by a blow dryer aimed at a cascade of dark hair that hung upside down and grazed the marble floor of his private bathroom.
She couldn’t sing her way out of a paper bag, but if he stood here listening and looking too much longer, he’d need a paper bag for hyperventilation.
Suddenly, she jerked to a stand, whipped her still-damp hair over her shoulder and faced the mirror, giving him a wide open shot of a pink lace bra that barely covered one very sweetly curved cleavage.
“Oh my God!” She yelped and spun around, slapping her hands over her and hardly covering a thing. His gaze dropped lazily, taking in the narrow waist, the flare of feminine hips, the low bikini cut of delicate pink panties cupping an alluring apex between those lovely thighs
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
The question yanked him back to her face, her appealing features tinged with the shade of her matching underwear, bottle green eyes bright with embarrassment.
“What am I doing here?” He didn’t mean to smile. Or stare. But, he was human. And she was...unbelievable. “Last time I checked, this was my office.”