“Do you know what’s going on?” 

Royce Kennedy looked at his sister, Elise, as she attacked him when he walked into their family’s office building. Elise worked in the back, not up front. He hated when she all but mauled him trying to get answers the way she’d been doing since they were kids.

“You know the same thing I do,” he said. “We got the same group text.”

He started to walk past her toward his office, which was next to his father’s. “Slow down,” Elise said. “And why are you so grouchy?”

He turned and looked at her. “Unlike you who gets to sit in the air conditioning, I’m outside sweating my balls off in the heat. I’m down three guys today and we are on a deadline, as you so often remind me.”

“Awwww,” Elise said, following him as he continued down the hall. “Poor baby had to get his hands dirty rather than bark orders and tell people what to do.”

He turned and looked at the smirk on his sister’s face. “Beat it, brat. I’ve got fifteen minutes before we meet and I need a damn shower.”

“I guess I never figured out how handy that shower would come in when you insisted it be put in the bathroom between your and Dad’s offices,” Elise said.

“That’s right,” he said. “Pampered princess sits at her desk and looks at papers and tells us what to do without actually doing the work. The rest of us don’t want to sit in dirty sweaty clothes any more than we have to.”

He shut his office door in his sister’s face to her laughter. They always talked like that to each other. For the past almost two decades it’d been just his father and the two kids. Their mother didn’t get the life she thought she was going to and decided to find someone else to give it to her.

He and his sister had fought to stay with their father and not their mother. They were of an age where their voices were heard and their mother was just as happy to only see them every other weekend. When she wasn’t trying to find a guy to give her what she wanted.

Royce walked over to one of the cabinets in his office where he kept a change of clothes. He didn’t often need to shower here, but there were times he’d come from a site and be a mess from the dust and dirt blowing around and then have a client meeting and didn’t want to show up looking like he walked out of a dust storm.

Most probably wouldn’t care all that much. They owned a construction company, so it came with the territory.

Maybe it was just one of those things his mother used to bitch about with his father. That his father came home dirty and stinking and she’d comment about it. Not that his mother ever bitched about the money they had. Never that.

Just that his father didn’t sit behind a desk for it but worked with his hands.

At least back then. In the past three years though, since his father’s heart attack, he spent more time in the office with Elise and managing projects or talking with clients, putting Royce on the site and doing the hard work. Like today.

Once he was in the bathroom, he locked the connecting door to his father’s office so that he could shower and get in the conference room on time. When Richard Kennedy called a meeting you got there when you were told.

“You made it,” Elise said to him when he walked into the conference room down the hall. If it was just the three of them he wasn’t sure why they couldn’t meet in his father’s office. “And you smell much better.”

“Bite me,” he said. He lifted his hand and pushed his fingers through his damp hair that he’d towel dried fast. 

“You’re both here,” his father said coming in. All six foot three inches of man that didn’t have the presence that he had years ago. His father lost a lot of strength and muscle after his heart attack and recovery. He was pretty sure his father lost a lot of his confidence too, but it was not something they ever talked about.

“After Royce showered. He stunk,” Elise said.

His father looked at his sister and frowned. Royce wondered if it was a memory of the words their mother used to say. 

“You’d stink too if you were outside working construction in ninety-degree weather. Do you want to switch with your brother for a week?”

Elise laughed. “I would break a nail. No, thank you. I love you both just the same though.”

His father laughed. He grinned and shook his head. His father would never get mad at Elise, he was sure, because she stuck by his side. She’d always been a daddy’s girl.

“You might not love me when I’m done talking,” her father said. “But I’ve got big news to share. It’s going to put a crazy amount of work on us, but it will pay off in the end.”

“You made a decision without us?” Elise asked.

“I still own more of the company than you two, remember that,” his father said.

When his father had his heart attack, he gave up fifty percent of the company, giving Elise and Royce each twenty-five percent, his father retaining half. His father had enough to decide on his own knowing that they’d never both go against him.

More so if it expanded the business. 

“What’s the news, Dad?” Royce asked

“I received a call from Grant and Garrett Fierce this morning regarding a business proposition they’d like us to go in with.”

“Not a job?” Elise asked.

They had worked with Fierce for years. They’d thought of hiring their own engineer here years ago but in the end decided it was better to contract with Fierce, knowing they were more knowledgeable and had many to choose from if one person was on vacation and questions had to be answered. It’d been a great relationship his father had for years and he and Elise decided if it wasn’t broke there was no reason to fix it.

“No. Grant and Garrett are looking to expand some themselves. They found a big commercial building they want to rehab and rent out for office space. Lots of options at this point. They already have Olson Law Firm on board as a partner and are looking to bring in two contractors.”

“Two?” he asked.

“One that does commercial construction that we don’t specialize in. And one for the office spaces and interior that we do.”

“This is a partnership for four different entities?” Elise asked.

“Yes. We will all put in the same percentage to purchase the building. Olson and Fierce will provide services needed free.”

“No way we are doing work for free,” Royce said. “It’s not the same thing as drawing up legal documents or blueprints.”

“No,” his father said. “But we will do the work at a discounted rate. After all, we will own a quarter of the building. It’s a rental property. Those are things that will be worked out more.”

“Who is going to manage all of this?” Elise asked. “Collect the revenue, pay the bills. All the things I do here. Someone has to do it for this property and assure there is enough money to cover everything. Staff to work on the building. The list goes on and on.”

“That is what Olson’s and Fierce’s will manage. There is a lot to figure out. This is a good business opportunity for us. Something I’ve wanted to branch out and do for years. It’s less risk when there are four of us. If you two don’t agree to it, then I’ll put the money in by myself.”

Royce wouldn’t leave his father hanging like that. Not when he thought it was a good idea. “I’m for it,” he said. “Which puts us at the majority even if Elise doesn’t want to. It’s no more work for her, as you just explained.”

“If that is the case,” Elise said. “Sure, I’m in.”

He snorted at his sister’s smile. “It’s going to be work for us,” his father said. “We have to manage our other work and this project. Elise will have to figure out the costs and they will be billed at a lower rate. We need to walk the property and figure out the estimates. The all-in project will be split four ways but not all cash if we are doing the work. The work for each office above standard costs will be passed onto the tenant in their lease. Does that make sense?”

“Yep,” Elise said. “That is on my end. They need the cash for the building, but the rest is going to come from our services. Got it.”

“When do we see the building?” Royce asked.

“I went and looked at it today with Grant, Garrett and Robert Olson. They haven’t firmed up who the other contractor is going to be. They are talking to two of them and will show them the building this week. Both are people we know, Royce. Either will be a good choice.”

He’d take his father’s word for it. “Okay. So not much more to do for a bit by the sounds of it. It’s all going to take time to even get to the work part.”

“It will,” his father said. “But I think everyone will move fast if they can. The hardest work is going to fall on you. You’ll have to oversee the jobs and the guys and deal with the engineers and their changes.”

It was the story of his life that the work fell on him, but he wasn’t going to let it go to his father either. 

And he hated to always deal with the engineers but bit his tongue half the time. He got along with everyone at Fierce that he’d dealt with. Most times. 

It’d be his luck that Chloe Grey would be put on this project, and though he got along with her, he also got tongue-tied for someone that didn’t have that problem much in life.

He’d get through it just like he did everything in life.

By picking up a hammer and smashing his way through.

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