Chapter 1 | SAMPLE

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"The Cortez estate belongs to my grandfather." My volume rose. "She doesn't have any claim to anything that does not belong to my father. I don't want her anywhere near us, Marcus. Instruct your security team regarding this issue."

"Okay, sir."

"She won't be any trouble once we get the restraining order."

In my peripheral vision, I spotted a group of men and women approaching the corridor where I stood. I turned to see my cousin Mike had arrived with his friends.

"Sure, sir. I'll take care of it," Marcus said. "Good." I disconnected the call and went to greet our guests. My brother Enrique was getting married in two weeks. The event would be colorless without Mike's friends Arianna and Rosalinda, who had become more of a family over the years.

My gaze swept over them before going back to Arianna's face again. Something was off on her face. I looked at her, wondering why she appeared dull. She no longer sported her vibrant smile and her eyes didn't twinkle anymore.

"Mike! It's great to see you." I greeted my cousin with a hug and a pat on his back.

"Orlando! It's been a while, cousin."

"Arianna and Rosalinda, welcome to the Cortez estate." Arianna gave me a tight smile that didn't reach her eyes. When I realized I was staring at her, I turned to my brother. "I'm heading to the city. I have to meet the caterers and the wedding planner to make some final arrangements. Tell Papa I'll join him for dinner."

"Sure, brother."

Turning away from the group, I walked toward the heliport when my phone rang again. "Hello." I picked up, not seeing who it was.

"Sir, Mr. Waylon requests a meeting with you," Sheila, my personal assistant, said.

Waylon has to wait. I was in no mood to talk about business. "Schedule it after my brother's wedding, Sheila."

"I told him, but Mr. Waylon is pressing because he won't be available to meet for another three months."

I sighed in exasperation. When Waylon Group suggested a joint venture in a few parts of Europe, I agreed because it would bring us more profit. However, this meeting had been dragging out forever because of our tight schedule. "All right, fix it over lunch today. I'll be there by two." Enrique would flip if I missed the meeting with caterers.

"Will do."

My thoughts wandered to Arianna as I climbed into the waiting chopper. I had known her since childhood. I'd watched her grow from this cute little kid to a shy teen and into a bubbly young woman. Though we talked little, I knew all about her. Her carefree laughter and sharp wit were something I'd gotten used to recently.

After what happened in college, I locked myself away from everyone, focusing only on work. Dad, Enrique, or Mike tried to help, but nothing worked. I was closed off to the world with no intention of opening up ever again.

If it wasn't for Grandpa Cortez, I wouldn't even attend the weekly dinner. When I missed the dinner a few weeks in a row, he just came over to my apartment and demanded my presence. My family wasn't ready to give up on me.

The dinner was always a boring event with us all lost in our own world of thoughts and Grandpapa trying to randomly converse with us. Then a couple of years ago that changed. It was just another week and once again I was in the office with no intention of going to dinner. My cell phone kept ringing and I ignored it until I saw Grandpapa's landline number popping up.

"Where are you, son?"

"I'm working, Grandpapa. I'm sorry, I can't make it today."

The silence on the other end stirred my guilt. "I don't know how long I have, Orlando. Is it wrong for an old man to want to share a meal with his entire family once a week?"

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