Page 87 of Coercion

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Finn flashes a big smile at the nearby guests.“It’s going extremely well if the bruises are any indication.”

“Somebody deck you?”

“The shoulder slaps have gone from vigorous to competitive.”

I purse my lips.“You poor thing.”

He puts on a long-suffering expression.“It’s the price I pay for being so beloved.I should start telling people this isyourfault.”

“Ha, ha.Yes.I’m to blame for making your company even more absurdly large.”

“We’re a corporation, not a company, Leblanc.And it’syourcorporation now, too.”He raises an eyebrow at me.

“I’ll believe it when my name is on the building.”

“Be careful what you wish for.”Finn shoots me an exaggerated warning look and moves off to circulate among the guests.

My feelings about event planning aside, I’m proud of this party.The official Hughes relaunch wouldn’t have been possible without all the work we put in.All the workIput in.I didn’t want to acknowledge it at first.Those meeting-room victories felt good, but it made me wonder if I was just using them as an excuse to keep being a violent monster.

Except I never punched anyone during the meetings.More importantly, I never pushed anyone into a bad deal.Every partner and investor I’ve signed since that conversation in Finn’s office got what they wanted and then some.Hughes Industries made it through the fallout of the news and is in an even stronger position than they were before.Even Finn’s doing well.

Bristol says that using my innate skills to help people onlyfeelssimilar to being in the ring because I was also good at knocking people out.I’ll take her word for it.

I start making my way to my family’s table.Finn’s correct.The shoulder-slapping is on another level.The combination of guests means that some of these people are beside themselves with joy at how much money they’ve made, some of them are happy as hell to still have incredible jobs, and some of them are proud of us.

It means a lot.It does.But I have a lot to be proud of now.Bristol and the twins, first and foremost.I’m proud of my mom for starting over.I’m even proud of my brothers.They’ve put an astonishing amount of work into being obnoxious assholes who are constantly bothering each other.

Sinclair materializes out of the crowd and catches me by the elbow.“Nice speech.Are you taking up a career in inspirational bullshit?”

“Aww.You were inspired by me?Sin, you’re gonna make me cry.”

He laughs.“You’re pretty inspiring for a stubborn prick.Do you happen to know who came up with the guest list?”

“Not me.”

Sin scans the crowd around us, eyes bright.“I want to buy that lady a drink.”

“I don’t think it was one person.There’s an entire department behind Hughes Industries events.Why?Is this some weird sex thing?Are you turned on by exceptional guest lists?”

“I won’t be shamed for taking pleasure in sex.”

“You fucklistsnow?Jesus Christ, Sin.”

He spreads out the fingers of his free hand and gestures around us.“I don’t think you understand what you’ve got here.This party has everyone.”

“Yeah.It’s a huge fucking party.”

“No.I’m pretty sureallthe Morellis are here, and most of the Constantines.I wonder what’s up with that.”

“Nothing’s up with that.They all got invited because rich people live in a small world.”

“Not all rich people hate each other.”

I give Sin an incredulous look.“At least half of them married each other.They don’t hate each other anymore.”

“Maybe not.But there’s something in the air.”

“That’s alcohol, Sin.And canapés.”