Chapter 1.1 : A Wake-Up Call

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I wake up to the sound of my phone ringing. Cursing at myself for forgetting to turn off the ringer, I sit up in bed. The two women I had taken home earlier from the club are lying on either side of me, fast asleep. I try not to wake them as I get up off the bed.

The screen of my phone guides me in the half-darkness of my bedroom. I make my way to where it lies forgotten on the carpet, among the discarded clothing. When I see Marcus's name on the caller ID, I don't hesitate to swipe to answer the call.

"What is it?" I say, snatching up a robe that is hanging on the back of a chair on my way to the balcony. If my CFO and best friend is calling me at 3 am, it's a conversation that requires privacy.

"The board is calling for a special meeting on Wednesday," Marcus says. "They want to remove you from the CEO position."

"They can't do that." I shrug into the robe before stepping out onto the balcony. Saldana doesn't have the numbers—"

"It's not just Saldana," Marcus cuts in. "It's your aunts."

Shit. Between his two aunts on the board and Saldana — who had never been subtle about his dissatisfaction with me as CEO — they had enough votes to actually fire me.

"Why?" I force my half-asleep brain to wake up and try to think back on everything that's happened in the company the past few months. The clothing company I ran, Marin Elizondo, is in great shape. The new product line had a successful launch last month. There are no problems with our suppliers or our distribution chain. I could not think of anything they could fault me for.

The silence that meets my question is so long that I wonder if either Marcus or I had fallen asleep.

"It's you," Marcus says. "Your lifestyle."

"Excuse me?"

"Tia Carmen believes your reputation as a serial dater is bad for the company's brand."

"You're not joking, are you."

"I wish I were. Our recent marketing campaigns have been targeting younger shoppers. Debauchery is not a good look these days, at least not with Amanda Gorman and Greta Thunber's generation."

"Fuck." I run a hand down my face. I work hard. I'm good at my job. Brilliant, if I say so myself. Not being able to commit to a relationship was an unfortunate result of the time I dedicated to work.

It isn't as if I never tried to find my way into respectable married life. I have. I was engaged to Guillerma Ramirez for six months, after all. Gigi was fun while we were dating. The moment I slipped that ridiculously large diamond ring on her finger, she wouldn't stop haranguing me about spending less time at work and more time with her. It strained our relationship so much I had no choice but to break up with her.

It was the mess with Gigi that made me wake up to the truth— sticking to short-lived affairs was the only thing that made sense, it suited my lifestyle. And if I can't have a steady relationship, I'm sure as hell not going to become a monk. Work hard, play hard had always been my unspoken motto since my university days.

But I knew Marcus was right. How could I have not seen this coming? Sure, I frequently made the tabloid websites and society pages with my unending string of girlfriends. But I thought that so long as I did my job, it didn't matter what I did after hours.

"I'm sorry," Marcus said. "I'm sure this could have waited until morning."

"No, no, you were right to call me. So the board is meeting on Wednesday. I assume it won't be officially on the schedule until Monday? Because I haven't been informed of it."

"Yes. That fulfills the 48-hour rule for calling for a special meeting. Just."

I nod to myself. "That should be enough time."

"Time for what?"

"I don't know. I'll think of something." I turn toward my bedroom. I hadn't turned on the lights so I could barely make out the figures of the women sleeping in my bed. "Go back to bed, Marcus. I'll call you in the morning."


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