There was no place better to be during the fall season than New York City. I’d experienced fall at Harvard, in Texas, and in too many other states and countries to bother mentioning. Growing up as the son of a Fortune 250 company owner, I had traveled a lot.
The traveling made me uniquely qualified to make the sweeping statement that there was no place better to experience the season than right here in the city I’d called home for the last five years, and planned to call home for the next fifty—at least.
Once the next fifty years were done and I was seventy-seven, then perhaps the allure of retiring to Florida would become too much for me to handle, and I’d move. But for now? New York was stuck with me.
Whatever arguments could be made for any other city in the world during fall, New York kicked their ass. The weather was cool enough to drink proper beer again, not that watered-down shit I hosed my insides with during summer. I could drink whiskey neat without it being warm and making me look like a total idiot. The mosquitoes were finally gone, and the fall concert scene was fucking brilliant. It was goodbye to the golden-oldies arena tours, and hello to the greats.
And yet, none of those things mattered right now because I was stuck inside one of the sixty-something-story skyscrapers that formed the skyline of my beloved city, and I was about to fire an incompetent fuck for being, well, an incompetent fuck.
The fuck ranted on and on. “I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do. I’ve done more than you’ve asked of me, actually. Half the shit I do isn’t even near my job description.”
I turned away from the view outside my fifty-eighth-story office window calmly, and I arched an eyebrow. “Really? You’re arguing that you’ve done everything I asked of you? You think you’ve done more than I expected?”
I picked up a thin stack of paper files from my desk and looked him square in his weaselly eyes as I dropped them back onto it one by one. “Jefferson, you forgot to make the trade. Khartoum, you lost the client two million because you didn’t do your homework. Collins, you know what you did to Collins.”
The investment banker I was berating worked at my dad’s firm—my firm one day. His name was John, but incompetent fuck worked just fine.
He heaved out an exasperated sigh, his hands flying to his hair. “Those kinds of things happen. If I didn’t have to—”
I lifted a hand, frowning so hard that the line between my eyebrows felt like the Grand Canyon. “Are you actually trying to make excuses? And did I hear you right? These kinds of things happen? Because they don’t. Not on my watch.”
“If I wasn’t doing the work of five people, it wouldn’t have happened,” he insisted stubbornly. “You can’t expect us to work eighty hours a week and not make mistakes.”
I scoffed, shaking my head. “I work more than eighty hours a week, and you don’t see me making mistakes like that.”
“Well congratu-fucking-lations, Kaden. But I’m not you. I didn’t grow up in this game. I’m doing the best I can, but realistically, it’s not feasible to do everything you expect me to do.”
“More excuses.” I flicked my wrist, fighting to stay calm. “You’re not performing how I expect anyone on my team to be performing. That’s it. End of story. I’m not interested in excuses.”
“Look, you’re focusing on my mistakes only. I’ve done some good work here. Think about it. I landed the Donnelly account, I got Smith out of that bind with the SEC, and I made Parker five bar.” Frustration came off him in waves.
Christ. If the guy wanted a cookie for doing his job on Donnelly and Parker, he came to the wrong place. As for the other thing… “Smith wouldn’t have been in a bind with the Securities and Exchange Commission if it wasn’t for you. All you did was pick up the phone to call your investigator friend to clear up a misunderstanding you caused.”
His shoulders slumped, hatred burning in his dull brown eyes as he clenched his fists. Aggravation was written all over him. It might as well have been stamped on his forehead. “You’re wrong. That wasn’t my fault. What do you know about it, anyway? You weren’t even there. You were probably off partying with your billionaire boys’ club friends on a yacht somewhere.”
“There is no club,” I shot back calmly, tempted to roll my eyes. If this idiot thought he was going to get a rise out of me by insinuating I was nothing but a rich party boy, he was going to be disappointed.
I’d been dealing with shit like that all my life. It rolled off me like water from a duck’s back. I knew that I kept my head down and I worked hard, just like I always had. I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone, John included.
“I wasn’t there because I was doing what you should have been doing in the first place. Working. I heard about every single thing that went down with the SEC. Who do you think drew up the reports?” I pointed my thumb at myself. “Me. I drew them up because you went missing for two days after.”
“I was sick,” he protested loudly, throwing his hands out to his sides.
“You were hiding,” I retorted, turning my back on him to look out over the city once more. His face was begging for a punch, so it was best I didn’t look at him right that minute. “Now, I’m not looking for any more excuses. If you want to keep working here, give me one good reason to keep you on.”
There. Human resources would be proud. I was doing a stellar job pretending I hadn’t already made up my mind that he was about to get fired, no matter what he said. The reality was that he just wasn’t Marx Incorporated material.
Our people couldn’t be afraid of working the hours we did. They couldn’t cower in a corner after they fucked up, feigning illness, and they definitely couldn’t come to me with bullshit excuses. John had done all of those things on several occasions, and I was over it.
He also complained regularly and loudly. I didn’t like complainers. Toughen the fuck up. That was my motto. Complaining wouldn’t get you anywhere in life. You had to grab life by the proverbial balls and squeeze every last drop out of it. John didn’t have the grab or the squeeze in him, which made this an easy decision for me.
He cleared his throat behind me, but I didn’t turn around. I was bored of this. It was midday, and the city outside was thrumming with an energy I couldn’t feel from all the way up here. I was desperate to get down onto the streets for just a couple of minutes to grab lunch and a coffee.
Being out on the street energized me, recharged me. All morning, I’d been dealing with shit and screw-ups. My office was a sanctuary in this building, but the events of the morning had tainted it.
My one occasional concession to my “I’m actually only twenty-seven” side was a walk along the sidewalk, blending in and becoming anonymous. It allowed me to breath and regroup before coming back to the firm I was being groomed to take over when the time came.
Not that my dad was anywhere near turning over the reins. The man would probably come back to the office to check on a few last things before his own damn funeral. He was a machine.
John, however, wasn’t. And he was starting to eat into the few minutes I would have for my walk before my next round of meetings this afternoon. Hooking my hands into my pockets, I turned back to him. “Well?”
He glowered at me, his eyes narrowed. “I’m a good worker, and you know it. That’s why you should keep me on. My mistakes aren’t that bad in comparison to my billables, and I’m signed up to be a mentor when the new recruits come in next week.”
This guy planned on mentoring some of our fresh blood? I nearly snorted. Whoever he would have ended up mentoring wouldn’t have lasted long either. They would have been taught wrong from the get go, and they wouldn’t have stood a chance.
No, I couldn’t let him near our new recruits or our clients. What I was about to do was a public service, really. “That’s not good enough. You’re fired, John. You have two hours to pack your shit and get out of the building. If you’re still here after that, I’ll have security escort you out, with or without your stuff.”
“You’re going to regret this,” he spat after a moment of stunned silence. It was clear he hadn’t been expecting me to fire him, but he should have.
“Don’t threaten me,” I replied calmly. “It makes you look pathetic. I’m not concerned. You’re not performing, and you refuse to take responsibility for it. If you don’t plan on making yourself better, we can’t help you here. In order to make yourself better, you need to acknowledge you’re not where you should be, and you’re not doing that. So it’s game over. Goodbye, John.”
Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out, I was tempted to add. But that would be juvenile, and as much as I wanted to act half my age sometimes, I couldn’t. Not in this situation and not in many others.
John didn’t put up much of a fight. He glared at me some more before turning on his heel and storming out of my office, a string of muttered curses ringing out behind him. I didn’t give a shit about being sworn at or threatened, so I stuck to my word instead of having him thrown out right away.
While he was packing, I swung by my dad’s office. John had been a liability to us for months, and now, I needed to let my dad know I’d taken care of the problem. He liked to have his finger on the pulse at all times. There would be hell to pay if I didn’t tell him what I did right away.
Our offices were all chrome and glass, with huge flat-screens mounted on almost every flat surface. Our clients never came back here to the offices and the bullpen, where every employee had at least two computer monitors on his or her desk.
It was loud and pulsing with frenetic energy. I loved it here. My dad’s office was on the far side of the building from mine. It took up the corner and several hundred square feet around it. There was a large window out to the bullpen, allowing him to keep an eye on his minions.
I knocked on his door as I walked in, crossing the expansive space to lower myself into one of the two leather chairs across the desk from him. My dad looked up, annoyance sparking in his deep blue eyes.
“Don’t sit,” he snapped. “Whatever you want to talk about, you shouldn’t be in here long enough to have to sit.”
Well, okay then. I came to a stop behind the chair I’d been about to sit in and put my hands on its backrest. “John Honeyball. I wanted to tell you I just fired him.”
“What?” He frowned, his ice-cold demeanor shifting to severely irritated. “Why the fuck would you do that?”
“Because he was a liability,” I returned confidently. My dad was not a gentle man. Even as a child, he never mollycoddled me. He was all business, all the time. I wasn’t intimidated by him, but I did respect him.
At fifty-four, Dad was still as imposing as ever. I was tall at six-two, but Dad was an inch or two taller still. I’d inherited my eyes from him, but I got Mom’s blonde hair, whereas Dad’s was almost jet black. It was flecked with graying streaks nowadays, but that only added to his air of authority and power.
He was a tough nut, as evidenced by the hard gleam in his eyes and the angles of his face being sharp enough to cut glass, but I held my own against him. “He was a liability, and he has been for months. He fucked up the Christie deal last night. It was time for him to get out before he started causing real damage.”
“I’m aware of the Christie deal,” Dad bit out, the familiar coolness seeping out of him. “I’m also aware that he was a liability. What I meant was why the fuck would you fire him now when the new recruits are starting next week?”
“We needed him gone now,” I replied. “Who knows how much more damage he could have caused in a week? It’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it. It’s only one week.”
“It’s one week, during which you’ll be taking on all of Honeyball’s work on top of your own.” There was no arguing with Dad when he used that tone of voice.
Fuck. I didn’t understand why he was being such a dick about this, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t do John’s work on top of my own. I would get it done and do it faster than anyone else would have been able to do it. “Fine. Consider it done.”