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Authors: Miller,Cassie-Ann L.

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He winces at me. “Please don’t ever say that.”

 

I laugh. “Why?”

 

“Because your brothers are douchebags.”

 

Chapter 3

 

I balance my coffee tray and the small brown pastry bag against my hip as I press the elevator button for the 7th floor. It’s barely 8:15 a.m. and I’m already at work.

 

I glance into the mirror on the elevator panel, adjusting the lapel of my grey custom-tailored suit jacket and ensuring that my peach chiffon blouse is neatly tucked into my slim-fitting, knee-length pencil skirt. I smooth over my flawless chignon with my palm and blot away a lipstick smudge with the tip of my finger. My impeccable reflection reveals none of the turmoil that I lived through last night. And that’s exactly how it needs to be. I can’t be falling apart in the halls or break down in tears over the fax machine. I need my game face right now.

 

I’m Madision Moretti – the boss’s daughter and it’s my duty to act the part.

 

The elevator doors open and I pause in the vestibule for just a moment to take in the sign. In big, bold silver-plated letters posted on the dark oak paneling.

 

Cartwright Moretti Stevenson.

 

The law firm my father has dedicated his life to building.

 

My father has been in the trenches for the past thirty years, putting in the work to turn this firm into what it is today. With around 40 lawyers here at our New York office, we’re not the biggest dog in town but we’re good.
Very good
. And under my father’s stewardship, we’ve expanded into Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Houston and Tokyo as well.

 

Yes – some would argue that my siblings and I suffered during our childhood as a result of my father’s manic work schedule. Yes, we did spend an unnatural amount of time with our nannies – because my mother has a jam-packed social calendar, of course – but my siblings and I have all turned out all right…so far.

 

At only 31, Michael is the managing partner of our Los Angeles office. Matt is 29 and works in the real estate department here at our New York office. My younger sister, MacKenzie, is off to college this fall. She’s convinced that she wants to be a professional ballerina, but we still have a few years to get her on the track to being a lawyer, so I’m not too worried. As for me, starting my summer internship here at my father’s firm nearly six weeks ago was one of the proudest moments of my life.

 

I poke my head into the open door at the end of the hall and see my dad sitting at his large, imposing mahogany desk. His favorite solid-gold pencil in hand, he scribbles feverishly in the margins of the thick document on his desk. He looks intelligent and professional and impressive in his signature three-piece designer pinstripe suit. Dashes of white have started to appear in his neatly-cut dark hair and the tight lines on his forehead denote the intensity of the concentration that he’s devoted to whatever it is that he’s working on so early in the morning.

 

I tap lightly on his door. “Good morning, daddy.”

 

He looks up at me and his eyes light up. “Good morning, Madison.” He waves his hand in the air gesturing for me to enter. “Come. Sit.” I push the door shut behind me and make my way to one of the dark leather armchairs in front of his desk.

 

“Did you have breakfast this morning? I got you a scone,” I say sliding the small brown paper bag and one of the coffees across the desk to him.

 

“Your mother would throw a fit if she saw me eating this,” he says breaking off a tiny piece of the pastry and sliding the bag back to me. His eyes twinkle with mischief as he savors the cranberry scone.

 

“Cholesterol still high?” I ask. I’m concerned about him. He works so hard and really doesn’t take the time to care for his health. He’s your typical Italian brick wall, health-wise, but I still worry.

 

“I’m working on lowering the cholesterol,” he says nonchalantly adjusting the glasses on the bridge of his nose.

 

“I really need to stop sneaking treats to you. And you need to come jogging with me,” I demand.

 

“Oh, nonsense. I feel as healthy as ever. No need to disturb up my routine,” he says waving me off before taking a sip of his coffee. “So, how are things going with you, Madison? How are you liking your summer internship?” He’s eager to change the subject every time his health or his workaholic tendencies are the topic of discussion.  I take the bait this time because, in fact, my internship is exactly what I wanted to talk to my father about this morning.

 

I started work at the law firm in May and I had high expectations for my internship. I had expected to get hands-on experience and work on real cases, but so far I’ve been handed grunt-work like any regular intern. I have other plans, however. I am, after all, the boss’ daughter. There
have
to be perks associated with that.

 

“Well, that’s sort of what I wanted to talk to you about, daddy. I haven’t worked on anything
meaningful
since I’ve been here. And I was hoping that maybe you could help me get involved in something more substantive than document review.”

 

“Madison, we’ve been over this. You know that all interns at this firm have to pay their dues regardless of who their father is.”

 

“Well actually, that’s not true. Because from what I heard, one of the interns is working one on one with Spencer Harrison.” Spencer Harrison is the founder and CEO of DisSpence Development Group, one of the firm’s largest clients.
I
should have gotten that case. Not Amber Roberts.

 

“That’s a special circumstance. Ms. Roberts is fully fluent in French. Spoken and written. We require that particular skillset in the file. That’s why she’s been assigned to Mr. Harrison’s case.”

 

“Well daddy, I’d like to find myself in one of those
special circumstances
that require the use of
my
special skillsets. I mean, I’m your
daughter
. Everybody I know who works at their parents’ companies enjoys the perks of being the boss’s kid. Why can’t you do the same for me?” I’m pouting now but I don’t care.

 

“Madison, I love you very much and I really hate to be harsh with you, but quite frankly, you are not here working at this law firm because you are my daughter.” His expression is stern and unyielding. “You are here because you have excellent grades and you have proven that you are a hard worker. You should take pride in that. And you should also note that, the moment any of that changes, I will not hesitate to have you let go from the firm just like any other intern who falls into delinquency. You’ve gotten one foot inside the door, now you have to climb your way up the ranks like everybody else.” His eyes are narrow slits now. “It was through hard work, Madison. I rose to where I am through hard work. Not through favors or connections. The fact that your father’s name is on the door does not entitle you to special treatment. The fact that your father’s name is on the door means that you have to work harder than everyone else to prove that you deserve to be here and that you didn’t just ride in on my coattails.”

 

“But daddy–“
”Madison, I don’t have time for your whining right now. I have work to do.” He turns his attention back to the documents on his desk.

 

The message is clear – this discussion is closed.

 

With that, I push up to my feet fighting back the tears threatening to rivet down my face. I stomp out of my father’s office, the sound of my anger echoing through the room as my quick steps clatter across the highly polished wooden floor.

Chapter 4

 

I don’t bother to say hello to my father’s secretary, Ms. Harvey, as she’s settling into her desk just outside of his office. I avoid eye contact with the other assistants now busy near the coffee station. I ignore the dreary face of the mail guy as he makes his first round of the day with his mail cart. But then, I hear my name ring out from inside of one of the open office doors and I have no choice but to stop.

 

“Maddie,” my brother strolls out of his office and drapes his arm around my shoulder. “How’s my second favorite sister doing?” Matt jokes, guiding me into his office as he pushes the door shut with his foot.

 

“Hey,” I mutter in response.

 

He slides into the chair behind his desk. “I saw the cover of the
New York Flame
this morning. Are you okay?”

 

Fuck! Just when I thought my morning couldn’t get any worse, a reminder that the failure of my pathetic attempt at a relationship with Chase DuBois is plastered across the front page of one of New York’s most salacious gossip rags.

 

I shrug my shoulders as I ease into one of the upholstered chairs, refusing to make eye contact with Matt. Even though he’s my brother, I don’t want him to see how utterly humiliated I am by the tabloid stories.

 

“Talk to me,” he demands as he grabs the tumbler of scotch sitting on the edge of the table, leans back in his office chair and crosses his feet on top of his desk.

 

I try to divert the conversation. “Isn’t it a bit early to be drinking alcohol?” I ask glancing at the contemporary digital clock adorning the wall above his bookcase. It’s 9:12 a.m.

 

He smirks. “I close the door to this office and it’s whatever time I want it to be.” I chuckle a bit but I’m jealous of my brother. He has his own office so if he ever has an emotion to work through, he can close his door and have a moment to himself. Me, on the other hand, my desk is in cubicle-land with the other interns and there is absolutely no privacy there.  I think my brother notices my distress. “Take a few minutes to calm down,” he says gently as he leaves his seat and moves into the chair next to mine.

 

I close my eyes and take a deep breath to center myself.

 

“So, are you gonna talk to me about it?” he asks when I finally open my eyes.

 

I shake my head. “No.”

 

“Are you gonna talk to Michael? He’s an entertainment lawyer. He’ll know what to do.”

 

I shake my head again. I’m a big girl. I don’t need my brothers fighting my battles. That would only make me look and feel even more pathetic than I do now.

 

I throw a glance over his shoulder and gaze out the window. Olivia Hunter-Wiley smirks down at me from a fifty-foot billboard across the street. Oh the irony…

 

Matt shrugs before tossing back a mouthful of scotch. “Okay.”

 

We sit in silence for a few moments as he refills his glass.

 

He’s the first to speak. “How’s your internship going, by the way?”

 

I purse my lips trying to figure out how to explain my feelings to Matt without coming across as a total loser. “I hate being a grunt,” I confess in a voice that sounds way whinier than I intended.

 

Matt eyes me and a smile spreads across his face revealing his deep dimples. Those dimples that have gotten him – and this law firm – into so much trouble in the past. “Maddie, we all start out as grunts. You think I was offered a Cuban cigar and a back rub on my first day? You don’t get special treatment around here just for being the boss’s kid. Didn’t dad give you the speech? ‘
The fact that your father’s name is on the door does not entitle you to special treatment. The fact that your father’s name is on the door only means you have to work twice as hard as everybody else to prove that you really deserve to be here
’.” Matt’s imitation of our father cracks me up. He chuckles along with me.

 

“You got that speech, too?” I ask, amused and surprised.

 

“Of course I got ‘the speech’,” Matt says shrugging his shoulders. “Michael did, too. You grew up in Michaelo Moretti’s household – you should know that he’s a tough love kinda guy.”

 

“I just thought…” I can’t bring myself to admit out loud that I thought I’d get preferential treatment here at my father’s firm. But that’s not the kind of dad we grew up with. Hardly anything came from him on a silver platter. Still, it doesn’t seem fair. Matt screwed up big time when he started working at the firm and dad bailed him out.

 

“I know what you’re thinking, Madison. You’re thinking that dad didn’t kick me out when I got into trouble out in California. You think that’s unfair.” My siblings and I are close enough that we can virtually read each other’s thoughts. It gets annoying, though because that makes it impossible to keep secrets from one another. “I got punished big time, Maddie. You know the terms of the undertaking that dad made me sign. You know how much I had to give up.”

 

I cringe when I think about all the drama that my charming, lecherous brother provoked nearly three years ago when he started fucking our clients left and right after moving to Los Angeles to help Michael set up the California branch of the firm. Matt and Michael tried to fix the mess on their own with the help of Stella Goldberg, one of the associates in the real estate department. But they were in over their heads and Matt eventually broke down and asked dad for help. Our father handled the situation professionally, summoning Matt back to New York, forcing him to sign a very strict
Good-Conduct Undertaking
and instituting a firm-wide policy banning employee-client relationships to save the firm from other such potential catastrophes in the future. To top it all off, dad had to pay out a heap of hush-money to save the firm’s reputation.

 

“Don’t worry, kiddo – working here gets somewhat better over time.”

 

My brother pats the top of my head and I swat his hand away. “Matt, you’re messing up my bun!” I complain. He laughs and leans forward to grab the scotch from the corner of his desk. I take a deep breath. “The other interns – they hate me.” I snatch the glass from him and take a gulp. I wince as the alcohol burns its way down my throat.

 

He chuckles bitterly. “They’re jealous.”

 

“That doesn’t help me, Matt. I feel like an outsider in my own father’s company.”

 

“Join the club – it’s actually not so bad – having all the employees scared of you.”

 

“Man, you’re a jerk, Matt. I’m serious – I don’t get why I have such a hard time making friends.”  I hate that he would joke about this. He knows that I’ve always had a really hard time making new friends. People seem to think that I’m a snob, but in reality, I just have a hard time fitting in.

 

“Because you act like a prissy, stuck-up princess all the time.”

 

I grimace at him and just then, his phone starts to ring. He answers it and speaks for only a few seconds before hanging up. “They need me in conference room two,” he announces, raking his fingers through his thick black hair.

 

I get up and walk out of his office with him.

 

“Are you at least working on any interesting cases?” he asks.

 

I look up at my brother who is about six inches taller than my five foot seven frame. “Mostly menial stuff aside from helping Liz on a labor law file she’s working on.” I reach over and turn down the collar of his white shirt.

 

“Liz? Michael’s Liz?” he asks, adjusting his blue and white striped tie.

 

I throw my head back and laugh. “Michael doesn’t have a ‘Liz’ – at least that’s what he’d say if he heard you.”

 

Elizabeth Clark comes from a long line of politicians. Her father served as lieutenant governor of New York State in the late 80s, her older brother made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in the last election and she has two relatives in the United States Senate. Her family has been setting the stage for Liz’s own political future before she even knew how to tie her shoelaces. They’ve been trying to “mate” her with Michael ever since they were teenagers, all this with the very enthusiastic support of my status-hungry mother. Unfortunately for my mother and the Clarks, Michael is more interested in freakishly long-legged blonds looking for one-night stands, not petite brunettes interested in political marriage.

 

“Poor girl – she’s thrown everything but the kitchen sink in her pathetic quest to hook Michael.” Matt’s laugh is vile and spiteful.

 

I sneer at him. “You’re saying that she’s only working with me so that I’ll put in a good word with Michael.”

 

“Doesn’t seem like a stretch.”

 

“You’re an ass, Matt.” I push him lightly.

 

As we approach my cubicle, I see five of the other summer associates huddled around one of the desks. Amber Roberts is at the center of it all, peeling a red Cartier box out of mail packaging that the mail guy just dropped off on her desk. Ruth Salvador, Luke Daley, Nadia Chester and Hailey Lundeen gather around her oohing and aahing.

 

I lean into my brother and whisper, “You see what I have to deal with? They’re like a fucking posse and I’m the outsider.”

 

Matt eyes them with venom but he discreetly gives my hand a firm, supportive squeeze. “Ugh – That Amber Roberts – Pure trailer trash,” he grumbles, his brown eyes flashing at her with distaste.

 

“Sure,” I mutter under my breath, rolling my eyes at him. I’ve seen that look on his face before. He must think I’m an idiot but I can read between the lines. That’s the look of resentment he gets every time he craves to sink his teeth into a fresh piece of ass that he can’t have. Matt is notorious for shoving his dick into inappropriate places. I know to take his comments about Amber Roberts with a grain of salt. There’s more to the story.

 

“Oh my god,” Hailey pants pulling a clenched fist to her chest as Amber removes a glimmering bejeweled, solid-gold fountain pen from the box.

 

As Matt and I walk by her desk, Amber looks up, cheeks flushed, and our eyes meet for a fraction of a second. I turn away quickly. I hope she didn’t see my curiosity but I’m sure it was written all over my face.

 

Matt snaps his fingers at the group, jerking me back to the present moment. “Back to work! Back to work!” he barks. The interns quickly slip into their respective cubicles. I give my brother a quick ‘thank you’ smile as I sit behind my desk and he disappears down the hall. Both of my brothers have always been so protective of Mackenzie and me and, in moments like this, I love them for it.

 

I power up my desktop computer and log into my personal email account. The first thing that pops up is a media request from a gossip blogger asking for my comments on the
New York Flame
article about Chase dumping me for Olivia. I quickly scroll through the first page of my inbox and notice at least three other similar requests. Infuriated, I yank the power cord out of the wall and the screen goes blank.

 

I bury my face in my hands and try to take deep breaths.

 

But then I hear his laugh – his deep, conceited, pompous laugh.

 

I raise my eyes slowly to catch a glimpse of Chase strolling down the hall, gently tapping the ass of some giggling busty, long-legged secretary.

 

And just like that, my morning goes from
bad
to
hell
.

 

BOOK: Dirty Neighbor (The Dirty Suburbs)
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