Ethan & Adrienne
“We have a situation.”
Ethan looked up from the contract notes his lawyer provided the day before. Something, something, real estate and taxes… something… Brain fog was thick that morning. He had stayed up much too late and now paid the price. Didn’t help he was meeting with the real estate contacts in an hour and desperately needed more coffee. The cup he had at home hadn’t been enough. He needed at least two more.
For some reason, his business partner Adrienne was in his doorway, speaking. How was he supposed to pay attention to her and the contract?
Adrienne leaned against the polished wooden door as if she were about to pass out at any moment. “The coffee machine is broken.”
“Don’t tell me bad news like that.”
“It is!” Adrienne’s eyes were as red as Ethan’s, but at least she got away with a healthy dose of makeup to cover up the worst of it. “I tried twice, Ethan, and even got Scott from the corner desk to try it and… he says it’s totally unfixable. We need a new one!”
“Then have a new one delivered.”
“I will just as soon as Todd gets back from the dry-cleaning run! Where’s Mandy? Maybe she could run to Starbucks for us.”
Ethan glanced at the text flashing on his phone. From Mandy, his assistant. “Held up at the bank, sir! I promise I’m trying to get this done as quickly as possible! Your representative Mr. Stevens says it should only be a couple more minutes!” That was ten minutes ago. Ethan knew how it went at the bank. His “rep” would spend five hours dawdling just so Ethan had to pay him more.
“Mandy is indisposed, just like Todd.”
“Are you…” Adrienne took in a deep breath. “Are you implying that there is no way for us to get any coffee right now?”
“Broken coffee machine and two indisposed assistants who usually do our coffee runs… sounds like a mess, Adrienne?”
“That’s it. I’m making Nadia do it.”
“Nadia’s setting up the conference room since both Todd and Mandy are out.”
“Then Scott can do it!” Adrienne pulled her phone out of her sweater pocket. “They do deliveries from Starbucks, right? Especially for us!”
Adrienne was absolutely incorrigible when she didn’t have enough coffee and they had a big meeting to get ready for. Can’t believe I used to want to wake up to this every day. The Ethan of several years ago, the same one who fooled himself into thinking he was in undying love with Adrienne, would have divorced her within three years. Probably. Good thing they never ruined such a good business relationship with more of the silly sex stuff.
Even though it was that silly sex stuff – not with Adrienne – that kept Ethan up way too late the night before.
“I’m calling Amber to bring us some coffee. I have a Keurig at home. Or she could…”
Ethan stood up. “I’ll go get us some coffee.”
“What? Nonsense. I’m sure Amber…”
“No need to involve your girlfriend. Besides, I can’t get any work done while we wait. Maybe a walk and some cold air outside will wake me the fuck up.”
“The meeting is in half an hour!”
“And I’ll be back within half an hour. I’m sure you and Nadia can finish setting up without me.”
Ethan removed his jacket and tie. Two things he could easily put back on once he returned. “It’ll take me ten minutes, max.”
“Ten minutes at this time of day at Starbucks?”
In the small closet by his personal bathroom was an everyday rain jacket and a baseball cap that was generic enough for nobody to comment on. Once Ethan donned both, he looked like any other mid-management asshole grabbing a quick breakfast and coffee. Never mind that his trousers were Armani and his silk shirt custom-tailored Valentino. Nobody paid attention to a man’s trousers. Nobody who mattered, anyway.
“My God.” Adrienne rubbed her eyes. “You look so… pedestrian.”
“Good. I’ll be back in ten minutes.”
“This is how you would’ve dressed if we ever got married, isn’t it?”
He pushed past her in his own doorway. “Imagine how I dress at home.”
Adrienne’s mouth turned in disgust. That’s right, Adrienne. Sweats. Worn-out T-shirts. Bare feet on the floor. Ethan could hear the retching in the back of her brain right now. Ms. Upper Class All Girls’ Private School probably didn’t own a proper pair of pajamas.
Which was why he did not tell her where he was going.
Starbucks was far at the end of the block, and would definitely take more than ten minutes to get their order – even if Ethan ordered ahead through the app. He often saw the lines. He’d be lucky to make it back before lunch!
There were other places to get coffee around there, though. Places Adrienne would never approve of, so help her God.
Ethan didn’t mind a little fast-food coffee, though. He had grown up testing the new coffee services springing up in every hamburger joint since they started rolling out when he was a kid. Rather amazing how much the quality improved over the years. When fast food went from appealing to the lower class in desperate need of a cheap meal to trying to rope in the middle class masses again… yes, quality did drastically improve. Enough to satisfy Adrienne’s delicate taste buds, although she would rather eat dirt than ever consent to drinking coffee from a place that mass produced its thousand calorie meals. Starbucks was as mainstream as she got.
“Mr. Cole.” The doorman tipped his hat to Ethan. The blast of Halloween weather almost knocked Ethan’s hat off his head. “Heading out for a moment?”
“Should be back in ten, Carl.” Ethan lowered his sunglasses and rechecked for his wallet. “Just heading across the street.”
“Bit early for your #3 treat, isn’t it, sir?”
Ethan shared a knowing smile with his building’s doorman. “It’s never too early for a quarter pounder with cheese.”
“Whatever you say, sir.”
“Need some coffee?” Ethan called over his shoulder? “It’s a bit chilly out here!”
Carl the doorman didn’t say anything besides raising his hand in acknowledgement.
The building of Thomas-Cole was deep in the heart of downtown, where businessmen rushed, heiresses shopped, and tourists gaped in awe. This meant every corporate service in America had their main shop or restaurant within a five-block radius of Thomas-Cole. And the biggest McDonald’s in the city had their two-story restaurant almost immediately across the street. Honestly, it was one of the reasons Ethan bought his building when his business first really took off. Being in easy proximity of a McDonald’s was a good sign of financial growth. And fast food was one of his greatest comforts in a fast-paced world.
Some things never change. Like buying French fries when he was stressed. Or getting cheap coffee when his breakroom coffee machine died and his assistant was too busy to make a Starbucks run.
Adrienne had always hated that about him when they dated. Now she tolerated it or flat-out didn’t care. But that was one of the things that ultimately drove them apart as a couple. Adrienne could never connect to what it meant to have those comforting things from when one was poor and trying to scrape by. Because when Ethan was a poor kid living in the “ghetto,” as they called it back then, he ate half his dinners at the local McDonald’s because it was all he and his father could afford in the ‘90s. Back when the décor was ’92 chic and Ronald McDonald grinned at you from every window. Whatever happened to the characters, anyway? Ethan could barely keep up with the slogan changes.
One of the funniest things about becoming one of the richest men in the country was how few people recognized him. Ethan was his own brand of celebrity in business circles, but the everyday man and woman had no fucking clue who he was, and he loved it. Karen the dayshift manager at this particular McDonald’s had no idea that one of her regular customers was the Ethan Cole of Thomas-Cole. She had probably never heard of Ethan Cole, even though she stared at the Thomas-Cole building name every time she left work. Then again, she probably still read it as Jackson-Cole.
He forewent the food and bought three coffees, one of them just the way Adrienne liked it. When he received his order, he stood alongside a construction worker speaking in Spanish and a woman with a walker. Neither of them looked twice at him.
Damn, that felt good sometimes.
He spent extra time wrapping everything around the cups so no logos or text showed. Ethan then helped himself to the first sip of hot coffee that instantly rejuvenated his brain. The air outside probably helped, too.
“Welcome back, Mr. Cole.” Carl was still smiling when Ethan returned, a small cardboard carton carrying three cups in his hand. “Had a pleasant excursion?”
Ethan handed him one of the coffee cups. “Back to work, right?”
Carl thanked him for the drink while Ethan hurried to the executive elevator. Back to being the biggest bigshot in the building.
“Oh my God! There you are!” Adrienne was half dead in her desk chair when Ethan strolled in, still dressed in his rain jacket and ballcap. “Did you bring it?”
He gently placed her large cup of coffee on the desk. “I trust it will be to your satisfaction.”
“Take that ridiculous thing off your head.” Adrienne swiped the cup off her desk and held it up to her nose. “What is this? Doesn’t smell like my usual.”
“You’ll like it. Trust me.”
Ethan made sure to stay behind to make sure his business partner drank the coffee. He wanted to see the moment she shrugged her shoulders and continued to guzzle it.
Ah, there it was.
He stepped out, bumping into Fatima, Adrienne’s receptionist. “What did you give her, sir?” she asked in awe. “Because no way did you get back from Starbucks that quickly.”
“It wasn’t Starbucks. That’s all I’ll say.”
Yes, because everyone knows Karen at McDonald’s recognizes my face. There wasn’t an assistant under Ethan’s current or former employ who hadn’t made weekly runs across the street for his favorite #3. “I’m wild and crazy. Just don’t let Adrienne know.”
“Oh, I won’t. Trust me.”
Ethan returned to his office and changed back into his businessman’s uniform just in time for Adrienne to storm down his door, finally jazzed on caffeine.
“Where did you get this shit?” she cried. “I feel like I’m ready to take over China!”
Ethan rolled his eyes at his reflection. His tie tightened around his neck. “Let’s start with Dao Jiang’s real estate enterprise, hm? I hear from Nadia that they’re downstairs.”
Two texts awaited Ethan on this phone. The first was from his assistant Mandy, who exclaimed she had been freed from the bank’s clutches and was rushing back right this moment. The other was from his wife, Jasmine, who apologized for keeping him up so late the night before. Oh, but they should totally get their own sex swing. That sounded great.
Ethan had no idea what had kept Adrienne up so late, but he knew that his excuse was totally worth it. He finished his coffee on the way to the conference room, where three delegate from a Shanghai real estate firm were so jetlagged – yet much too professional to say so – that they looked across the street and immediately sent their assistant over to grab some McDonald’s coffee for everyone. Their treat.
Adrienne politely declined. Her tastes were too refined.
READ THEIR STORIES HERE
|Ethan & Jasmine
|Adrienne & Amber