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April 2nd isn't that far away....how about another sneak peek of Realism?


CHAPTER TWO

Joaquin

I pull my Range Rover into the parking lot of Edgewood Community College where I’ve been summoned by Mr. G, the head of the kiddie college that my son Max attends. My son’s a good kid, so I’m not sure why Mr. G wants to see me, and my son has said zilch.

I turn to my boy in the backseat. “You ready to go inside, mijo?”

My mini-me looks up from his tablet and smiles. “Yeah, Dad.” He shuts it off and sets it on the seat. I hop out and meet him at the front. Max may be seven, but he’s an old soul. I’m blessed to be his dad.

I’m a single father and have been since he was a toddler. His mother and I were never right for each other. She was the daughter of one of my father’s associates. She was a gold-digging whore, and I wasn’t going to let her lead me around by my dick.

She trapped me by getting pregnant on purpose, but she’s definitely not mother material. Melina hired a nanny when Max was barely a week old. I, of course, fired the woman because I grew up with nannies, and that wasn’t going to be the way my son grew up.

Max only sees her once or maybe twice a year, and it’s usually awkward and confuses my boy. His mom’s remarried now and someone else’s problem—thank God.  My cell phone rings as we walk through the halls toward the office of Mr. G. I look and see that it’s my secretary, Lauren. “Hold up, Max. I have to take this.” I swipe the screen. “Hey, Lauren.”

“Sorry to bother you, Mr. Pena.” I roll my eyes because I’m constantly telling her to call me Joaquin, but she refuses. “Your three o’clock appointment called and said that they could reschedule for four-thirty. Correct?”

“Yes, as long as they’re my last appointment. I promised Max I’d grill burgers tonight, and I don’t want to be at the office late.” Max smiles up at me, and I ruffle his brown, shaggy hair. I’ll need to make him an appointment for a haircut.

“You’re all finished after that. I’ll make the arrangements. Shall I have coffee waiting?” Lauren is by far the best secretary I’ve ever had.

“That would be great, thank you.” I disconnect and shove my phone inside the pocket of my favorite dove gray Tom Ford two-piece suit. My shirt is a dark salmon pink color, as is the pocket square, and I’m not wearing a tie. On my feet are my favorite Ferragamo Benson burnished leather loafers.

We turn the corner, and I notice a woman with lavender hair braided and hanging over one shoulder. She looks up as we approach, and I’m hit by some unknown force right in the solar plexus. Her eyes are a sparkling cornflower blue. She’s got lips made for kissing—made for kissing?

Her sun-kissed arms are covered in gorgeous, colorful tattoos. Her white t-shirt hangs off one dainty shoulder, black legging capris cover her legs, and hot pink Converses cover her feet.

“Iris!” Max runs past me to the beautiful little blonde who looks like her mom’s twin, but without the lavender hair and ink.

“Max!” She jumps up, and they hug each other. They move to the opposite bench, talking quietly to each other.

“Um … hi. I’m Mona.” The lavender-haired beauty holds out her hand. I take her hand, ignoring how soft and small it feels in my much larger one.

“Mr. Pena and Ms. Collins, I’m Mr. G.” I turn away from Mona and look at the short man with a major paunch and thinning hairline.

I don’t miss the way he looks at Mona, what with the tattoos and the lavender colored hair; she doesn’t look like a lot of the parents who bring their kids here. I hold my hand out, squeezing his hand a little harder than necessary. “I’m Joaquin, Max’s dad.”

“Pleasure,” he says and then holds his hand out to Mona. “Please follow me into my office.”

We both sit in front of his desk while the kids are led to one of the classrooms to give us some privacy. Mr. G sits behind his desk like he’s all high and mighty.

The man looks between the two of us. “Before we begin, will Mrs. Pena be joining us?”

Had the moron read Max’s information he’d see that she’s not. “His mother is on vacation with her husband. He lives with me full-time.”

The idiot nods. “Yesterday, there was a situation with your kids. It was snack time, and the children weren’t with the class, so one of the aides went looking for them. She found the two of them by the bathroom, and they were kissing on the mouth.” He crosses his arms and looks between us.

Before I can respond, Mona chimes in, “And???”

“Ms. Collins, we don’t tolerate that sort of behavior here.” The fat prick scowls at her.

Mona leans forward. “I understand that, but did either of them appear to be in distress?”

“Well no, but they’re seven years old, and they shouldn’t even know about that stuff.” Mr. G stares at Mona with a judgmental look on his face.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mona tense, gripping the armrests of her chair. She looks ready to snap, and I do the only thing I can think of and put my hand on her knee. I don’t miss the way she freezes, and I certainly don’t miss the way she trembles under my hand.

I remove it and ignore the fact that it made my dick twitch and my pulse race a little. I open my mouth to speak, but Mona chimes in again. “They shouldn’t know about that stuff? I beg your pardon, but people kiss in cartoons. My daughter sees her grandparents kiss. I’m not going to make her feel ashamed that she did it.” She stands. “I will talk to her about sneaking off with her friends, and she won’t do that again.”

“Ms. Collins, I can see you’re upset, but the kids aren’t in trouble. We just wanted to make you aware of what happened, and maybe you both could discuss with them what is and isn’t proper behavior in school.” He stands from behind his desk. “I want you to know that your daughter is a joy to have in our creative writing class. She’s got a natural gift.”

We follow him into the classroom that’s off his office and find Iris and Max sitting together coloring. Mona sits across from them. “That’s a great tree, Max.”

My boy smiles up at her. “Your hair is pretty.” He’s a charmer, that’s for sure.

Mona reaches across the table and grabs Max’s arm. “Thank you. Iris, come give me a hug goodbye. Uncle Miles will pick you up and bring you to the studio, okay.”

“Yes, Mom. I love you.”

I walk around the table, ruffling Max’s hair. “I’ll be back after my meeting to get you. I love you, mijo.”

As soon as I leave the classroom I spot Mona up ahead, but I don’t rush to catch up with her; there’s no point. Like I said, she’s not my type. Plus, my focus needs to be on my son, not pussy.

I head downtown to my office. I have to prep before my meeting. My partners and I keep things flexible, which is great and I’m able to get off at a reasonable time so I can still be a father to my boy. My father is a workaholic, and growing up I watched as my mom grew to resent him.

They both began screwing around on each other, and that led to a nasty divorce. Now they live on opposite sides of the country. Dad is on marriage number four, and Mom is on marriage number two, but things are rocky.

When I divorced Max’s mom I swore, I was never going to get married again. She reminded me exactly why I wanted to always stay single, but I’ll never regret my boy. Once I reach the office, I park in the garage and head to the elevator, taking it up to my floor.

I share a floor with a marketing agency, but they’re on one side, and I’m on the other. My partners and I have had our own brokerage firm for the past three years. Before that, I worked for my father’s firm. When he decided to retire down in Florida, his partners became mine, and his clients followed me.

Our receptionist for the office greets me from his desk. “Good morning, Shane.”

“Morning. I love that suit; it’s my favorite,” he says with his usual flourish. The man basically runs the office and is my personal shopper. He and Lauren are the backbone of the company. I’d be lost without either of them. He flirts with me a little, but it doesn’t bother me; he’s harmless.

I shake my head and head toward the back. Lauren stands as I approach. “How was the meeting?”

“My son and a little girl snuck off, and when they found them they were kissing on the lips. Iris is his best friend I guess. Anyway, the guy was a pompous ass. Iris’ mom let him have it.”

“My boys were rascals like that when they were his age. I’m sure it was harmless.” Her boys are in their early twenties, and even though I’m thirty she treats me like one of her kids, but not in an obnoxious way. “I’ve got the conference room set up for your meeting. When they arrive, shall I bring you coffee?” She follows me into my office.

“That would be great.” Lauren hands me my messages and then closes the door behind her, letting me get to work.

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