Tobias took the elevator down to the parking garage, trying to push thoughts of babies and legacies out of his head. This responsibility shouldn"t have fallen on his damn shoulders. He"d been the younger brother"until he turned sixteen. Maximus had been nineteen when he died of a heroin overdose. Of course, his parents made sure the real cause didn"t hit the media, appearances being more important than the truth. Tobias had seen it coming. He"d done nothing. Unlike him, Maximus wanted more, wanted the love and warmth he"d seen in other homes. Their father said he was weak, he couldn"t cut it, and that"s why he killed himself. No one ever mentioned Maximus, like he never existed.
The elevator dinged, and Tobias stepped out into the secure garage. He dug the keys to his Mercedes out of his pocket, turning off the alarm system. Once behind the wheel, he tossed his briefcase onto the passenger seat and squeezed the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. Reflecting on a past that couldn"t be undone was pointless, and like his father taught him, emotions were for pussies. He needed to block that shit out, forget about the brother taken from him too soon. Trying to imagine an alternate reality would only break down his carefully maintained exterior.
He turned on the radio, hoping the music would drown out the noise in his head. Right now, he wished he could have fucked that blonde bitch over his desk to release the tension, but he refused to get involved with women in the office. Nothing was worth risking the reputation of the family business, certainly not a piece of ass.
Tobias hit the gas as he drove, the streetlights and bright signage disguising the fact the sun had set hours ago. At least leaving late thinned out the downtown traffic. His condo was only ten minutes from the office in one of the waterfront condos owned by the Bennett Corporation. There wasn"t much they didn"t have their hand in.
He nodded to the doorman as he walked to the elevator. Normally, he"d go out for a drink on Friday, maybe choose who he wanted to take home with him for the night. Today, he just wanted to crash. He"d pour himself a scotch on the rocks and drown out all the insecurities. Friday meant he could sleep in tomorrow, so he"d drink enough to keep all his nightmares at bay.
Adora Garcia had three major assignments due in the next two weeks, so her desk and laptop were going to be her best friends for a while. She"d been studying all morning, empty coffee cups and balls of scrunched up paper hiding her cellphone. When it began to ring, she remembered the promise to pick her mother up from work while her car was in the shop.
She drove out to the waterfront where her mother worked cleaning Tobias Bennett"s condo three days a week and every Saturday. Adora hated driving in the downtown core, but it was the least she could do for the woman who raised her single-handedly, working her fingers to the bone to provide the basics.
"Can I help you""
Adora had been wandering around the massive lobby of the condo, admiring the modern architecture, use of glass, and difficult angles. The security had apparently had enough of her presence. She was used to being questioned in stores when they assumed she was stealing something. Her absentee father had been a blue-eyed, white businessman who"d used and dumped her mother twenty years ago, leaving her alone and pregnant. Although Adora didn"t have her mother"s skin color, she had many of her Latin American features, including her long dark hair.
"I"m looking for Tobias Bennett," she said.
The security guard sauntered over, his thumbs hooked in his pockets. He looked her up and down. "Is he expecting you""
She was going to give him the whole story, but decided to keep it simple. "Yes."
He tilted his head. "You"re not his usual type, but who am I to judge" Top floor."
Adora bit her tongue and hit the elevator button. She"d grab her mother and get the hell out of this overpriced neighborhood. It was hard enough getting by without all the judgmental stares and stereotypes.
She wasn"t one of Mr. Bennett"s whores.
Her mother had told her all about the old bastard"s weekly escapades. There wasn"t enough money in all the world to pay Adora to sleep with him"not that he"d want her. She imagined a man in his position could have whoever he wanted. It made her sick thinking of all the beautiful young women who gave themselves to him in exchange for money or status. That would never be her. A degree in architecture would be her way out, a chance to make a real life for herself.
When she reached the penthouse suite, she softly knocked on the door. When no one answered, she turned the handle. She decided to slip inside and find her mother for herself. If she knocked too loudly, she could wake Mr. Bennett. Adora was used to finding her mother on the job. When she was younger, she"d helped her clean the condos and offices so they could get home sooner.