Here is Chapter one of Fierce-Cade. You can catch up on the Prologue here if you want.
Peace and Quiet
Ten Years Later
“Cade, honey. I need a favor.”
He turned and saw his mother standing in the doorway to his office. He hated being in the office above Fierce because he never got any peace. For as much as he talked and liked to socialize, when it came down to work, he wanted peace and quiet for that.
If his family wasn’t bugging him, then his intern was, or another staff member. Everyone got mad when he worked from home so much, but it seemed it was the only way he could get anything done.
“Hi, Mom. A favor, huh?” he asked, smiling. He knew better than to say he was busy or push her off. It never worked when he was a kid and worked even less as an adult.
Jolene Fierce walked into the room and sat by him on the couch. He worked better with his laptop on his lap on the couch with his feet stretched out in front of him on the coffee table than sitting at his desk on the other side of the room. When people walked by and saw his desk empty, they assumed he wasn’t in. The couch was his favorite place to be.
“It’s not a big favor. Just a little one.”
Nothing was little when it came to his mother. “What’s in it for me?”
He sent her the charming smile he’d perfected when growing up. She’d been his test subject where he learned to master what looks to use when he wanted or needed something.
She reached her hand over and patted his cheek. “Always looking out for yourself, aren’t you? You’ll get something out of it.”
He didn’t like the look in her eye right now. He wanted to say sneaky, but she never was. She was always upfront. In your face more than upfront, but still, there’d never been any secrets with her. She’d never had the ability to keep her lips sealed, much like him. “So what do I get?” he asked, humoring her.
She squinted one eye at him. “Your siblings loving what you’ll show them.”
“They already love everything I do,” he said. He was laughing, but it was true. Everyone had their niche at Fierce. Just because no one understood his or wanted any part of it, they still loved what he did. Too bad they didn’t realize the amount of work it took for him to do it.
Brody, the oldest, ran the bar. He was the loudest and the leader of them all. He had a way with people and had always been a night owl.
Aiden was next by just five minutes. They all were born just five minutes apart. Or as his mother often told them growing up, “pried out of her five minutes apart.” Aiden was the most confident, the most skilled, and a master behind the food at Fierce that had people coming from all over to sample his creations.
Mason was the quiet one. The shy one. The smart one. Science ran through his brain like food was cut from Aiden’s knife. Mason created and brewed all the beer for Fierce. His brewery was listed as one of the up and coming in the US, with beer distributed all over the East Coast, more than quadrupling revenue for Fierce in the past two years alone.
Him. He didn’t have any special skill other than running his mouth and being the entertainment for the family. Someone had to liven the rest of them up and he decided it was going to be him. Everyone was way too serious. Or as he liked to say, “tight asses.”
Ella. The business mind. The CPA and numbers behind the business. The only girl. The baby that they all had to protect. Or so they thought. She could protect herself, and at times, had protected him. Not that he shared that with anyone, least of all his mother.
“You’re so cocky at times,” his mother said.
“So I’ve been told. I guess it comes with my line of work.” He ran all the marketing and promotions for Fierce and was the family lawyer to boot. No one seemed to take him seriously as the lawyer, at least not until the last few years. “So why are they going to love what I do even more?”
“Several years ago, your father and I used Marshall Printing for all our ads. Do you remember them? You were probably too young?”
“The name sounds familiar.”
He remembered the old fliers around the pub when he was younger. Even though he’d always felt like he didn’t have his place in the family business, deep down he really did. He liked to come up with slogans and ads. It was a good thing because he and his siblings knew they were going to make his parents’ business huge one day and they needed all the bases covered.
“Well, they kind of fell behind the times and just couldn’t meet our needs when we were growing so much. Then you started taking over even when you were in college and your father and I let you run with it.” She put her hand on his arm, patting it, just like she did his face. Humoring him again. Guess he got that charm from her. “You did such a good job that we didn’t interfere.”
“Like you want to do right now?” he asked, lifting his chin.
She laughed back at him. “Of course. Anyway, you’ve got a lot of vendors. I know you do. But you see, Marshall Printing is back in business. Or I should say they’re overhauled now. They can do just about anything and everything that you’re getting from multiple sources. Probably some things you haven’t even seen before.”
“How do you know this?” he asked.
“I still see Paula Marshall now and again. Anyway. I was wondering if you could go over and just talk with Alex. Hear them out and discuss what they’ve got, what we need, and see what the cost is. Wouldn’t it be nice to get it all in one place? Assuring it’s the same shade of red for everything?”
This time he narrowed his eyes. His mother liked to play the card of “I’m not sure what you kids all do” but everyone knew that was a big whopping lie. She had her finger on every pulse and nothing got by her. Ever. “You know as well as I do it drives me insane when I can’t get the reds to match.”
“Exactly. When your father decided on red, years ago when he opened this pub, it was Marshall’s that printed the very first shirts.”
He sighed. She had him and she knew it. He was a closet sentimentalist. “Fine. I’ll give them a call and see if we can work something out. No promises though. I’m happy with some of my vendors.”
“But not all,” she pointed out. Again, she knew more than she let on.
“You’re a good boy, Cade, despite what everyone else says about you.”
He shook his head when she left and went back to work.
A few minutes later Ella appeared in his office. “What did Mom want?”
“Why?” he asked. “I don’t bug you every time Mom stops into your office and asks for something.”
She smirked at him just like his mother was doing minutes ago. “That’s because Mom only stops in my office to ask if I want to go shopping. She never comes and talks to me about work like she does the rest of you guys.”
“Then go shopping with her. Maybe she’ll talk about work then.”
“I go shopping with her every other month. Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop, but even I have my limit.”
“There’s never a limit to shopping, Ella. She’s just bonding with you. She’s outnumbered and so are you. It’s that girl thing you two do that the rest of us don’t get. That and the spa.”
“You go to the spa just as much as I do,” she pointed out. At least she didn’t rub his face in the fact he probably shopped more than her. He had an appearance to keep up since he was out in the public more than the rest of them.
“Shhh. Don’t say that so loud.”
She shut his door. “You think you can hide everything, but you’re not very good at it.”
“How do you know I go to the spa?”
There were no secrets in his family. Or he should say very few of them between his siblings. He should be used to it by now, but probably never would be.
“You go to the same place I do. Don’t you think they’d mention it?”
“Shit. No. I thought that was one of those confidential things.”
“Cade,” she said, shaking her head. “That’s a doctor’s office, not a spa. Especially when they all brag about how charming you are to them.”
“Don’t be jealous that they like me more. They probably thought complimenting me would get you to be nicer.”
“I’m nice and you know it.”
“You could have fooled me right now standing there with your arms crossed.”
She dropped her arms but laughed at him. “Anyway. Seriously, what did Mom want? I heard her talking about the vendors. Are you changing them? Do I need to change any projections?”
“Calm down. You know, I used to think it was Mom that had her finger on every pulse, but it’s you. You get that from her. Geez, I’ll let you know if you need to change anything. She asked me to go talk to Marshall Printing. I guess they used to do all of the pub’s stuff years ago. Now they can do everything that I’m sourcing out through multiple vendors. She asked as a favor that I listen to what they’ve got to say.”
“Hmm. That’s odd.”
“Just that she’s never taken an interest like that before. Not to the point of asking you to work with someone.”
“She isn’t asking me to. She just wanted me to see what they have to offer. I’m supposed to ask for someone named Alex. I’ll give them a call later.”
“Alex Marshall?” she asked.
“Yeah. I guess. Why?”
It sure didn’t look it to him though when Ella stormed out of his office.
“Ella, darling,” her mother said. “You just caught me grabbing some lunch. Do you want to join me?”
She’d run downstairs fast to see if her mother was still in the building, ignoring the looks she got when her heels made a racket on the stairs. Her mother was in the bar talking with her new daughter-in-law, Aimee. Brody and Aimee had gotten married just a few weeks ago. She’d watched her mother crying at the wedding, going on and on about how her oldest was finally getting married.
Then she listened to her mother talk about Aiden’s engagement and his wedding to Nic four months from now in December. Not to mention Mason’s engagement to Jessica and going on and on about future grandchildren.
The three brothers were all engaged or married to employees that worked for them.
All women that her mother had a hand in finding for them when she never used to take an interest in the business after the daily operations were handed over to Ella and her brothers six years ago.
Brody and Aimee, she let that one go. Nic and Aiden made her suspicious. Mason and Jessica blew her radar up. Now she was positive Cade was the next on the agenda.
“Sure, Mom. I’m hungry. What are you in the mood for?”
“I think I’m going to have a cannoli for lunch. Do you want one?”
Ella fought from grinding her teeth. She had such a weakness for sweets and her mother knew it. “No, thank you. I’ll just have a grilled chicken salad, Aimee,” she said before Aimee went to hand her a menu.
“Raspberry vinaigrette, right?” Aimee asked.
“You know me well,” Ella said. She often ordered something down here or came and visited Aimee when she needed a break.
“I’ll take the fish tacos with fries,” Jolene said. “And can you tell them to give me a container of the cheese dipping sauce that goes with the pretzels? And don’t forget the cannoli. You really should have one, Ella. You could use a few pounds on you.”
“What no woman believes ever,” Ella said, frowning. She was thin, but not skinny. If she let herself go, she’d put weight on and not in muscle, but in boobs. It always went there first and she hated it.
Aimee laughed. “I know. You like to dip your fries, Jolene. They know in the kitchen too.”
“How’s work going, Ella?” her mom asked. “You look like there’s something on your mind. What is it?”
“Nothing,” Ella said. “Well, not really. I just heard you telling Cade about Marshall Printing.”
“Always were my smart girl,” her mother said. “You’re trying to adjust your budgets or whatnot, aren’t you?”
Ella snorted. Her mother acted like she didn’t know the first thing about the books, but she knew everything. “You know me. I want to stay ahead of the game.”
“All you kids have something special that makes you unique. Well, no one is as unique as Cade.” Her mother waved her hand. “Never mind. Anyway. Yes, Paula told me her daughter, Alex, took over the business. Guess she went to Duke like you and Cade. Imagine that. She majored in graphic design and has given the business new life. She said Alex would be annoyed if Paula reached out to us, but she’d told Alex to get over it, that she was reaching out to all her old clients.”
“Hmmm,” Ella said. “Have you met Alex before?”
“A long time ago. She’s about five years younger than you guys. I remember her being around when I’d pick things up for the pub. Cute kid, always keeping to herself or helping out, just like you kids did.”
“Didn’t I hear you say something about an Alex Marshall winning some teen beauty pageant years ago? Bragging on how you knew that little girl and how beautiful she was. Such a talented dancer and so sweet.”
“You don’t forget anything, do you, Ella?” her mother said proudly. “Yep, that’s Alex. I guess her grandmother coaxed her into those pageants so she could get scholarship money for school. The business was barely holding together for a long time.”
“I’m glad to hear they’re turning it around. Or that Alex is,” Ella said smiling.
She was on to her mother, but for now she’d keep it to herself. If there was one thing she learned from her mother, it was to be sneaky.
Maybe her other brothers would enjoy seeing Cade set up. That had merit for all the times Cade got on their nerves. The question was, how would they feel if they knew they’d been set up themselves, and could they keep it from Cade?