Remington Marlow glared down at the phone on his desk as if it might jump up and bite him. His father was on speaker, spouting nonsense too early in the morning. He needed more coffee for this conversation.
“Damn it, Dad. This is ridiculous.” Slamming his hand on the desk, Remington Marlow picked up the handset.
The whole company didn’t need to know his business. Jackson Marlow might be his father, but he was out of his ever-loving mind to think Remi was going to just get in line with this cockamamie plan of him settling down. He was very happy his father was at the main office about five minutes away and not down the hall, because he would have done something rash, like throttle him. He hated arguing about his dating habits…again. It wasn’t like he was a kid anymore. He’d just had his thirty-sixth birthday.
“No, it isn’t,” Jackson declared. “I gave up the hope of an heir when I found out you were gay, but there are options out there, Remi.”
“Don’t you ‘Dad’ me. I watch the news and see the kids that need adopting—or you could even go with a surrogate. I’m not saying you need to have kids now, but I won’t have you fucking your way through all the men in Fort Wayne.”
“I have not fucked my way through all the men.” Remi rubbed his temple.
His dad sighed and continued his tirade. “I want you to settle down. Date a man. Get to know him. Fall in love and get married. I want you to have what I did. The years I had with your mother were the best times of my life and I would give anything to have them back.”
“I know, Dad. I know. I miss her too,” Remi agreed.
“Maybe I did wrong by you, giving you everything you ever wanted, making sure you got a generous monthly stipend until your billions release to you. Well, it stops now. You’re going to have to learn to live on your paycheck alone without any other money from me. I’m cutting you off if you don’t do something about your life. That’s final. You start actively dating someone and I will let your trust release in full on your fortieth birthday and I won’t stop your monthly allowance.”
“Is this why you put the clause into my trust? I understand payouts, but who makes a person wait until they’re forty for the final one?” Remi wanted to throw the phone across the room. He was so frustrated with the conversation. He was almost forty and his dad was still giving him an allowance.
“You’re lucky I didn’t add in a marriage stipulation from the beginning, Remi.” His dad threw more heat on to the fire happening right now in Remi’s body.
“I knew you were controlling, but this takes the cake.” Remi pinched the bridge of his nose. “You know Mom wanted me to have that money when I turned twenty-one. All of it. No allowance. Full control.”
“Yes, but I fought her on it. I wanted you to be more mature, and twenty-one is still too young to have that kind of money. When she died, I knew I’d done the right thing. You were even more self-destructive.”
“I’d just lost my mother, but that’s beside the point. You do know I’m a grown man, right? Running a multibillion-dollar company?” Remi dropped his face into his hand.
His head pounded. He’d drunk too much at the club the previous night and taken some twink home. Remi couldn’t remember his name, but he had a nice tight ass on him. That was worth remembering. His dad voice jolted him out of his hangover memory fuzz.
“I do. I also know you blow money like there’s no tomorrow.”
“You’re making it seem like we’re going to run out any day now.”
His head hurt, he wasn’t even awake yet and now he was thinking about his mom… Coffee. God, a cup of coffee would be so good right now, but he hadn’t had a chance to grab a cup yet and he couldn’t get his secretary Sara Jo to get it when he was on the phone. Fuck my life.
“You never know what the future holds, son.”
“You’re lucky I love you, old man.” Remi might be exasperated with his father, but he did love him. He would have to work at talking him out of this stupid idea that he needed to fall in love. Usually it only took a couple weeks to bring him around.
Remi was quite happy with his life. He didn’t want to settle down. He didn’t want to be someone’s sugar daddy. How would he know if a guy wanted him for more than his money? He’d made that mistake before. It had broken his heart when he’d found out that his bank balance was all that his ex had wanted him for.
When the flavor of the week heard his name, they were predictably all over him for a relationship. Fort Wayne wasn’t that big and, even in Indianapolis, the Marlow name was known in certain circles. He wasn’t a relationship type of guy—not anymore, not after Harry.
“You’re lucky that I love you back. I wouldn’t be throwing down an ultimatum if I wasn’t concerned. And don’t think you’re going to talk me out of it. As the executor of the living trust your mother and I set up for you, I’ve already had the lawyers draw up paperwork stating the new terms. There was a clause in the trust.”
“Yes, I know. How you talked Mom into letting you set up payout terms as well as allowing you to change it as you saw fit, I’ll never know. I’m not happy, Dad.” Remi couldn’t express that enough.
“I didn’t think you would be. But I love you and want you to be happy.”
Damn it. Remi didn’t want to date. He loved his dad and knew he was coming from a good, if misguided, place. They were getting ready to expand the company. He had enough on his plate with that. He took his work seriously. Sure, he liked to have fun and that took money—more money than he could make pulling a paycheck from the company. The small gift he’d gotten from his grandfather when he’d died wouldn’t last forever, and he’d already gotten his allowance for the month. His money in the trust wouldn’t release to him in full until he was forty. He only had a few more years, which was probably why his dad was pulling this crap now.
“What if I decide to say ‘fuck it all’ and live off my paycheck?” Remi sat back in his chair with a slight grin on his face. He could do it. Would it be easy? No, but he was smart enough to figure it out.
“I’ve seen your bills.” Jackson snorted. “I’ll give you a week to make your decision. Just remember… You don’t get your trust money for four more years, unless I deem you unfit to get it at that time and make you wait even longer.”
He’d had his heart ripped out before and he wasn’t going to let it happen again. As much as he might want what his father’d had, it wasn’t in the cards for him. His father had met his mom when they had still been in high school. Money had never come between them, not like it had with him and Harry. Remi’s heart just couldn’t take that kind of abuse. He was fine by himself and he needed to convince his father to leave his personal life alone.
“I am happy, Dad.”
“No, son, you’re well fucked. That doesn’t always equal happy.” Jackson sighed into the phone. “Money can help, but it won’t keep you warm at night or coddle you when you’re sick.”
“A bit crude dad, but sex does make me happy.” Well, as happy as he could be.
“No, it means you are satisfied for the moment. I want you fulfilled for a lifetime.” His dad’s voice was almost a whisper.
“And if I can’t find that?” Remi whispered back.
“I want you to at least try. Is that really too much to ask?”
“Yes, it is. You might think you know my life, but you don’t. And I don’t have time for this. I’m in the middle of negotiations to take over the steel company. You know having a place to pull our metal from could cut cost in the fabrication end of the company. It’s a big deal and searching for a guy to date isn’t going to be that easy.” Remi blew out a breath. He was getting upset again.
“The steel company isn’t going anywhere. The deal is almost done. If you can take the time to go find a fuck-buddy, you can find the time to date. I want to see you at least try. I don’t want you to end up like me, an old man who lost his love and will die alone. You’re almost forty and I’m not getting any younger. If you have kids, I’d like to still be able to be a good grandpa.”
“Fuck.” Remi rubbed his chest. His dad wasn’t pulling any punches.
“Yeah, I got deep on you. After your mom passed, I was a wreck. She was my soul mate. I’m lonely. I don’t want you to hit sixty and still be looking for one-night stands. I want you to have someone to come home to, who will love you as much as your mother loved me.”
“Emotional blackmail.” Remi laughed. If he didn’t, he might cry. Thinking about his mom made him emotional. Thinking about her with little sleep and no coffee? It was going to kill him.
“I’ll do what I have to.”
His father had to be grinning on the other end of the line. Remi could hear it in his voice.
“Dad…” Remi sighed in frustration.
“Fine. Whatever.” He understood where his dad was coming from and it sucked. Remi hated that his father was alone. He tried to see him as much as he could, because it really was only the two of them against the world, but he knew he was no replacement for his mother.
“All right. We still on for dinner later tonight?” His dad sounded hopeful.
“Yes, I’ll bring the wine.” Remi wasn’t going to stop seeing his dad, no matter what.
Jackson cleared his throat. “Love you, son.”
“Love you too, Dad.” He hung up the phone and sat back in his chair. The headache he’d been fighting all morning was growing stronger. He closed his eyes, rubbing his temple.
What the hell am I going to do?
He didn’t want to have his heart broken again, but he also wanted to give his father what he wanted. Shit. He was going to have to date and show his dad that he was serious. He could live without the money. This ultimatum was about more than money. But where the fuck was he going to find someone suitable to date? He was happy being a playboy. Sure, he really didn’t get out as much as he had in the past. He was settling down in his life, just not in the way his dad wanted him to.
Remi would have to think about it later. The first thing he needed was coffee before he went over his notes. He pushed his chair back and waved at Sara Jo as he passed.
Remi loved running the fabrication shop. It was all his. He’d built it up to where it was. They had been losing potential profit because they needed to pay other shops around town to do their steel work. And now he was going to expand his division even more, so they wouldn’t have to spend so much on the metal they were working with. Usually his dad would take care of adding on to the company, but the fab shop was his baby and he’d had the idea to add on when one of the steel suppliers was having a cash flow issue. His company took in small walk-in projects, big company projects, work for the construction end of the company and unique things. They were now the go-to shop in town.
The coffee was in the breakroom located in the middle of the building so the detailers—the ones who drew up the blueprints and made sure a steel structure would stand on its own—could get to it just as easily as he could. He at least knew everyone’s names, even if he didn’t see or talk to each of them every day. He trusted his staff to get the job done.
Sara Jo was in the middle of planning a cookout for the company, one of her duties as his admin. It was something Remi liked to do to show appreciation for all the hard work everyone did. It had been a rough couple months with hot jobs and overtime. The shop was crazy when the local General Motors plant shut down so they could get in and do some repairs and put in additional ducts. There was always so much to do for shut down work. The railroad needed steel or a local school needed handrail before they opened the doors for students. Being a metal-job shop meant they got all kinds of projects. Someone had walked in just the other day and wanted a custom fire pit. Those kind of jobs were fun, but they had to work them in on days when they also were juggling big jobs such as building a tower for the high school, so the band instructor could see the full field or the football coach would watch the players, or getting steel over to the college that the construction division needed to fix the roof.
They all needed a break. If they didn’t get it, safety could become an issue. If Sara Jo hadn’t been in the middle of working on the cookout, he might have asked her to get his coffee, but he tried not to ask her for menial favors too often. His legs weren’t broken and he could serve himself. He only sometimes asked in a coffee emergency, like now.
Remi retrieved some of the much-needed brew, headed back to his desk and shut the door. He had a couple of deadlines he was working on and wanted to get the drawings together for the people he had a meeting with for one of his pet projects, to update the abandoned upstairs of the historic Embassy Theater building. Closing himself in with work would keep his mind off his personal problems.
After what seemed like only a few minutes but was probably longer, there was the knock on his door that pulled him out of his concentration.
“Come in,” Remi called.
Sara Jo ducked around the door. “Hey, bossman, do you have a minute to talk to Elros Carter?”
Remi tossed down his pencil. “Yeah, sure, I have a few minutes.” He rubbed his eyes. The headache from the morning was gone, but his eyes were tired from pouring over the theater-project drawings. He knew the name, Elros Carter, but couldn’t put a face to it.
“Want me to refill your cup?” Sara Jo smiled at him.
He looked at his coffee mug and thought about it for a second, “No, I’m good. I think I’ve had enough for today.”
“All right. Remember… Your meeting is at one-thirty.” She gave him a small smile.
“I thought it was at one?” Remi looked over his calendar.
“It was, but it was moved back because Mr. Johnson had a conflict.” She tsked at him, like he should have remembered.
“All right, I guess I have more than a few minutes for Mr. Carter. Send him in.” Remi waved her off.
Sara Jo nodded then opened the door, admitting a tall black-haired guy with the darkest brown eyes Remi had ever seen. Man, he’s tall. He had to be at least six foot three and had a lean body. The type of guy he’d usually go for.
Now he put the face with the name. He must really be tired. He knew who Elros was. Remi employed ten detailers, and he knew all their names. When Elros had been hired, Remi had made sure to work with one of the other detailers to keep himself out of trouble.
He didn’t date people who worked for him. There was a reason for that. It was called a lawsuit, and he wanted nothing to do with one of those. But a plan started to form. He knew it was a bad idea, but it could get his father off his back. And, really, he wouldn’t be breaking his dating rule, not if it the whole thing was made up.
A fake boyfriend? That, he could do.