The Playboy Billionaire (The Romero Brothers, Book 3) (2 page)

BOOK: The Playboy Billionaire (The Romero Brothers, Book 3)
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“Granddad,” Carl interjected.

Zack silenced his brother with a raised
hand and spoke. “That. Is. Not. Fair.” His tone was cool as a jazz musician.

“Not fair?” The old man breathed in deeply
and sat back down with an unreadable expression on his face as if he was
searching for the right words.
 
“Zack,
I’m very sorry to have to be harsh with you…and your brothers but…this is not
easy for me.”

Emotion rose in Toni’s voice. “I love you
boys very much. You’ve been through so much in your lives, from the time I
discovered your father was my son and you boys were living out of his car after
he lost his job. I was so happy to rear you as my own. But life is not easy in
the so-called real world. There are people who would take pleasure in tearing
you down because of your success and everything that you’ve
worked
 
so
hard to achieve. You've seen
it yourself. The press isn’t interested in the good things you do to help
society, they just love a juicy scandal. They love to see you fall and fail so
that their lives look more liveable. They are happy to see successful people
hurt.”

“Don’t they think we have our own
suffering? They want to have what I have?” Zack shot back, arching a brow,
maintaining his emotion.

“They can walk a mile in my shoes then.”
Zack’s deep voice sharpened with a matter-of-fact tone. “Let them eat expired canned
food as a child because their father lost his job and their home and had mouths
to feed. Let them take the pleasure of being ridiculed at school because their clothes
were
ill-fitted
because your folks couldn’t afford to
buy clothes or cut your hair. Because that’s the path we took to get where we
are.” Zack was making a mockery of the situation. His subtle sarcasm was usurping
the conversation. His blood was hot. Fire burned in his veins. How dare they?
Whoever they were.

He was not going to let the naysayers or
future haters stop him from doing what he had to do.

That was the burning passion behind his
programs to create more jobs, heck, he even invented jobs so that every student
who passed his program had gainful employment, well-paying jobs.
Because jobs meant stability.
And stability meant no one’s
family had to suffer—the way he and his brothers did before they’d become
so rich and powerful that they became the city’s most hated targets of luxury.

“Listen, I’d better leave you two right now.”
Carl rose from his chair and touched his brother’s shoulder as a sign of
solidarity before walking out of the study.

Toni turned to face Zack. “Zack. You know I
love you, grandson.”

“Yeah. I’m just glad you don’t hate me or
I’d be dead right now with all that verbal lashing.”

In spite of himself, his grandfather broke
into a smile and Zack grinned slightly. He was still agitated as hell at all
that was happening when he should be focusing on the tour later today and the
National Winery Awards.

“I’m glad to see you still have your sense
of humor about it all. It would kill me if that…tape ever got out. Is there any
way…?”

“Granddad, I already told you. I’m not
negotiating with an extortionist. Period. If she wants to play
hard ball
, that’s in her court. But she will pay the
consequences, and I doubt she’d get rich out of a reality show from that
either.”

His grandfather grinned again. “Zack, I
really hope so, for your sake.”

“Now what’s that supposed to mean?”

Toni sighed heavily. He looked at the
fireplace and lifted his chin. Tears were moistening his eyes. “Zack, this is
very hard for me but I have no choice.”

“What are you talking about, Grandfather?”

Toni shook his head, full of remorse.
“Zack, I’ve already told you boys. I’m an old man. I don’t know how long I’ll
be around. Or how much longer, I should say.” He coughed. “I just want you all
to take things seriously. You’ve each come into your own, making valuable
contributions. Lucas with his Healthy Start Software Program; Antonio with his real
estate ventures. And what you’ve done with this vineyard. You’ve pretty much
grown it over the past decade to what it is today. Remarkable!”

“But?”

“But you will lose it all if you don’t get
serious about your private life.”

“Grandfather, let me handle my private
life.”

“Good. Now that’s the most sensible thing
I’ve heard all day.”

“I don’t get it. Where are you going with
this, Grandfather?”

“I’m giving you an ultimatum.”

“An ultimatum? What ultimatum? Why?” Zack
didn’t like the way this sounded. His hot defences shot up now and the heat in
his blood was burning inside his veins. Zack was a healthy man. He and his
brothers worked out hard at the gym, religiously. They took nothing for
granted. They were fit as mountain lions, yet a sick feeling settled in his gut
about what his grandfather was implying.

“Zack, I want you to settle down or leave
the company.”

“What?” Zack stood to full height, his eyes
filled with rage. “What’s that supposed to mean? You want me to get hitched to
keep my position?”

“Not exactly. I just don’t want you having
any more of these types of adventures with women unless it is the one you want
to settle down with. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. I don’t mean to get into
your personal life—"

“Too late for that!”

Toni held up his hand to silence Zack.
“Zack, please allow me to finish. I’m only asking that you focus more on your
business and what you are contributing to these wonderful programs that you
have and less on…dating. No sex for at least thirty days. Just keep away from
these women you meet.”

“What?” Zack could not believe his ears.
For the first time, his lobes burned as if ice frost had bitten them. “No sex?”
Zack chuckled humorlessly in spite of himself.
 
“You’re telling me when I can be with a
woman? This is ridiculous!” Zack began to pace as he fumed.

Zack never slept around. No way in hell.
But he always had a "girlfriend" for at least six months. He always
treated his women well and let them know the deal up front. He wasn’t in it for
the long run. They knew it and they wanted to be with him, just the same. Sex
was a four or five times a week pleasure for him, at the least. Sometimes four
times in a day, depending on his current babe. Heck, he was a healthy, fit man
who worked hard as hell.
 
Having a
healthy
mutually-beneficial
sex life with his current
woman was a huge deal in his life. If he couldn’t have it for a period of
time—like say a month—he wouldn’t be able to sleep well at night.
He loved women.

He showered them with anything they desired
and showed them a real good time—treating them like the goddesses they
were. He expressed his emotions more with his actions not words. To him, sex
was love in motion. Seducing the right woman was his thing. He loved the way
the physical contact drove up his body’s oxytocin levels in his brain.
The feel-good drug.
Sex to Zack was a fundamental necessity.
Toni was asking his grandson to starve himself of much needed affection the
entire month? Was Toni going insane? Or did he want Zack to go there?

Of all the crazy, ridiculous, unreasonable
things his grandfather had schemed in the past, this was the lowest and most
insane.
He did not…could not believe he was having this
conversation with his old grandfather.
This had to be the worst thing a
man could listen to, next to his father wanting to have “the talk” with him.

Zack Romero was a grown man, for heaven’s
sake.
An affluent businessman and influential citizen.
He didn’t need to take this from anyone. Not even the patriarch of the Romero
dynasty.

Toni sighed deeply again, pain reflected in
his eyes. This must have been hard for him but it was Zack who was feeling the
sucker punch to his gut like an iron fist striking his flesh. “I’m sorry, Zack,
but I still have voting power in the estate and am head of the board. If I find
out that you have not done what I think is best for you, then I will have no
choice but to suggest your removal from the board.”

 
CHAPTER TWO
 

Blue Monroe fiddled with the cream-colored
cotton vest as she pulled it over her head and secured it over her curves. The
darn thing was a little too snug, she observed looking into her full-length
mirror in the bedroom of her apartment.

“You do realize that’s the third change of
clothes you’ve done in the last ten minutes, right?” Blue's eighteen-year-old
sister, Courtney, teased her. Courtney stood in the doorway with her hands on
her hips and a playful scowl on her face. “You really like this guy, don’t
you?”

“Courtney!” Blue turned to face her sister.
“That’s not fair. I’m just trying to make a positive impression. You know how
badly we need this work.”

Courtney rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah,
sure. Whatever. You like him!”

“No. I don’t
like
him. And he certainly doesn’t like me. I just hope he gives me
the job.”

“But I thought you already had the job. You
said that rich guy Toni Romero hired you, didn’t he?”

“Courtney, he’s not some rich guy. He’s the
founder of the Romero Corporation and Realty. His grandson heads the winery and
vineyard and pretty much nurtured it from the ground up to what it is today. He
told me he wanted me to film the documentary, but Zack, his grandson, has the
final say.”

“Oh. Well, I’m sure he’ll like you.”

“Courtney, it’s not about him liking me as
I want him to understand what my company can do for his image. This is the
first real gig for my new production company.” Blue swallowed hard. It sure was
the break she was looking for. She was fired from Channel 31 News after her conniving
ex-boyfriend played a cruel joke on her and stole her cell phone and used it to
record a private conversation between the Romero family some time last year in
their boardroom. He was getting back at her for ending their tumultuous
relationship as kindly as she could. He was emotionally abusive and Blue was
sure she did the right thing. But what did he do? Set her up to get fired! Ugh.
The recording showed up online and the rest, as they say, was history. She was
just glad that Toni Romero, although his grandsons were harsh towards her,
forgave her in regards to the scandal.

Blue had accumulated a lot of enemies
during her time working at Channel 31. She was an investigative reporter, her
first real job after graduation from the Communications and Media Studies
program at the college. She had a tough time trying to prove
herself
.
She ended up getting the worst assignments. Like uncovering racketeering
schemes from organized crimes and worse, intervening in marriages by exposing
cheating politicians. One in particular, a powerful ex-Senator Ryan Aitkin who
was up for some lifetime achievement award, was the absolute crud assignment.
She knew he was a cheat. The man was as slimy as they came. Blue shuddered at
the thought. But now, word got out he was out to get her for trying to ruin his
reputation. As if SHE ruined it. Yeah, right.

She reluctantly took the story about Aitkin
having an affair with a female subordinate in his office and an intern, on
another occasion.
His poor wife.
Still, meddling in
private affairs just wasn’t what gave Blue oomph for life. She wanted out of it.
Being fired was probably a blessing in disguise. Now she could start her own
business. A small production company called Blue Monroe Productions. It was a
simple title but it worked. Her name happened to be unique so she didn’t mind
using it.

“Shouldn’t you be heading to class now?”

“It’s summer school.”

“But you have an exam today, right?”

“I know. I studied hard last night and
during the past few weeks thanks to your whip-cracking.”

Blue grinned. “You’re a smart girl,
Courtney. I know I push you hard but education opens the doors to a lot of
wonderful things in life. Education and knowledge are the gateway to
achievement.” The tears almost welled up in her eyes.

Their parents fought so hard to give them
good educations.
Extremely hard.
They’d sacrificed
everything. And now look where they were.

“And pray for me that I do get this
assignment with Zack Romero and his winery. Your fall tuition is due soon,
isn’t it? August?”

“Yeah. I know. Look, Blue. You’ve done so
much for me already. I can always get a job and work for a year before heading
to college, you know?”

“No. Absolutely not!” Blue was adamant. She
flung her jacket over her arm and grabbed her
bag
 
and
keys from the countertop.
“You are going to college this year not next year, even if it kills me. I’ll
come up with the fees. Don’t you
worry.
Okay?” Blue
reassured, her voice almost on the verge of cracking. Courtney was a brave one.
So brave but she knew it wasn’t easy for them. They had to get by on what they
had.

“But you’ve got the rent to pay and the
production expenses with your equipment and stuff.”

BOOK: The Playboy Billionaire (The Romero Brothers, Book 3)
9.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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