I risk a glance up at her. She’s sitting in between a matronly but stylishly dressed woman and an overly fussy looking man. All three of them are diligently scribbling notes down as talk continues around the board table. Bailey’s wearing one of the suits that I bought her weeks ago, and I make a note that her wardrobe really needs some new pieces. She had asked if she would have some time to do some sightseeing here, and maybe I’ll carve out an hour tomorrow so we can hit The Magnificent Mile. Perhaps an hour and fifteen so we can hit La Perla, too, and I can fill her lingerie drawer.
As if she knows my train of thought, Bailey locks her eyes with mine. I dare not give the slightest hint as to where my head is at, so I merely drop my gaze to my notepad where I continue to doodle.
We finish around six. Most of the board members plan to head out in small groups for pre-arranged drinks and dinner plans. I’d been invited to and declined several, including one from my father to join him and his two closest cronies.
I shake hands, exchange farewell pleasantries with a few, then move toward my father.
His eyes come to mine, the same silver-blue ones I bear. We have the same hair as well, but while my dad’s is still thick and wavy, he now sports flashes of silver at his temple. He’s a good-looking man, still muscular and fit, and I imagine his mistress appreciates it.
“Declan,” he says in that deep baritone voice I’ve also inherited. “Sure you won’t join us for dinner?”
“Regrettably,” I reply with a respectful dip of my head, “I’m going to pass.”
My father frowns, clearly displeased. It’s not that he wants to spend time with me. Rather, he wants me to watch him in action. He’s forever prepping me to take over my role as head of this empire, and he believes I still need molding.
“Very well.” The flat press of his lips makes it clear he’s unhappy I’m bucking his authority. And because he has to leave me with the impression he’s in charge, he adds, “I do expect you at dinner tomorrow tonight. Your mother misses you.”
“Of course,” I reply with another dip of my head, fighting the urge to snicker at that last comment. “See you in the morning.”
No, my mother doesn’t miss me. It’s a nice sentiment to state in a boardroom where others might be listening. It makes it seem as if we’re a tight-knit family, but the truth is far from that. My parents led a very jet-set life as I grew up under Leonie’s care. They didn’t miss me then, and they sure don’t now.
It’s fine. I don’t miss them, either, but why would I? They’ve never given me a reason to.
Moving past my dad, I settle my gaze on Bailey, who waits patiently by the door. Her expression is coolly professional, her posture that of someone ready to leap into action if I request something of her.
“Let’s go,” I say as I reach the door. A few more board members stop me to shake hands and invite me out. I offer my preplanned excuse that I already have plans.
Which I do.
Between Bailey’s legs.
But there’s something that needs to be done first, and that’s dinner. When we reach the elevator, I ask, “Have you ever had Chicago pizza?”
“I haven’t,” she replies, clutching the strap of her purse, which is big enough to house her iPad.
“Then I’ll take you out for the best we have,” I reply as the elevator doors open. My hand goes to her elbow, giving the slightest touch to guide her inside. “Then perhaps a tour of the city.”
Bailey’s head snaps my way as I hit the lobby button. “Actually… I have work to do tonight. Surely you want these notes cleaned up and put into a presentable report for you to reference tomorrow, right?”
“Actually, no.” She blinks in surprise. “I won’t need them tomorrow. I’ll be running most of the meeting since it’s focused on expansion. So those can wait until we get back to Vegas.”
“Oh… okay.” She nibbles on her lower lip, clearly pondering something confusing her. I patiently wait her out. “So… a tour of the city?”
“Via car,” I clarify. “We’re not dressed for walking, and it’s far too cold without the proper attire. But I’ll be able to show you the highlights before we return to the hotel.”
She hadn’t seen the Chicago Blackwood yet. We flew in this morning, and our driver took our bags to the hotel. Our board meeting was at company headquarters several blocks from the original Blackwood, which was the foundation for our hotel chain. While there are many beautiful hotels around the world that sport my name, none compare to the original one in Chicago.