Page 34 of Unexpectedly Yours

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Exhaling, Josh pulled himself up, tugged at the cuffs of his dress shirt and quickly surveyed his charcoal gray suit jacket for stray pieces of lint. Josh knew he’d be the youngest in the room and his father would try to use that to his advantage; intimidation was always in Dad’s arsenal, but Josh wasn’t going to back down this time. This project needed more vetting before they dumped millions into the purchase of the land, much less anything else.

Pulling up to his full height, he steeled himself and walked into the office. Around the large conference table, his father had taken the dominant place at the head and was chatting with the investors about his upcoming trip to Australia. He dropped in information about people they were going to see and invitations he and his mother had garnered from the “important folks” down under. The man was all ego, and Josh didn’t know how he could stand himself.

“Oh, good. You’re here,” his father said.

Josh noticed his father didn’t make any effort to introduce him to the investors, which was another power play. The only person Josh knew was the architect. He’d worked with Anton on the renovation of his loft. The man was brilliant and Josh knew he wouldn’t want to cut corners; of course Josh didn’t know if he’d go against the man hiring him. They all knew Will Campbell, knew his reputation and knew he was the only important one in the room.

“Did you bring the report?” Dad took a sip of coffee.

“Right here.” Josh raised the folder so everyone could see. “I have some concerns.”

His father looked up and an uncomfortable silence settled over the room. Josh had challenged him. And no one ever challenged Will Campbell.

“Concerns?” His voice was colder than usual.

“The report is incomplete. We need more information to establish whether the land is suitable for the project.”

“There’s no contamination, is there?” One of the investors posed the question, and just like Josh had, he thought it was all about the dirt.

“The soil seems fine, but we don’t know what’s underground. The engineering firm needs to run some additional tests.”

His father leaned back in the large, leather executive’s chair, steepling his fingers. “I wasn’t aware you were an expert in these things, son.”

Josh had put up with a lot from his parents over the years and if this had been a year ago, he would have gone along and not rocked the boat, believing his father did what he thought was best. Now Josh knew his father did what was best for Will Campbell and no one else.

“Certainly not an expert, but I was with... a friend... this weekend who is an engineer, and she felt the report could be more thorough.”

“She?” The emphasis on the word was dripping with such condescension that Josh almost didn’t want to respond. “Strange conversation for pillow talk.”

Josh leveled his gaze, hoping his father would take the hint and not go there.

“Okay,” he said, smirking. “What does your ‘friend’ the engineer say?”

“That there are other tests that should be run. They aren’t expensive, relatively, and would give more detail regarding the suitability of the site.”

“I see.” Josh’s father jotted a note on the paper in front of him, not even bothering to look up. “Is that all?”

God, his father was being such a dick. He’d turned to the investors, and if Josh didn’t know better he’d think the man was rolling his eyes. Josh was a partner in this firm, and for over ten years he had put late nights, blood, and sweat into this company, and he was being dismissed.

Josh did a survey, looking around the gorgeous room that was the site for meetings when his grandfather started the company fifty years ago.

Everything was finished and polished to a high-gloss shine. The room gleamed but nothing looked real. Nothing at all.

“Josh, I don’t know if—”

“Can the tests be done quickly?” Josh turned to the voice and saw the elder of the two investors leaning on his forearms. The man had just cut off his dad. Nice.

“A couple of months,” Josh said. “But the long-term savings will be worth it.”

“I think,” the gentleman said, “we should ask for the tests. With all the problems inherent in a project this size, we don’t want any surprises when we break ground.”

Anton nodded. “I agree. This area has given developers problems before.”

“But what about the zoning changes?” Will asked, seeming to sense the changing tides in the room, and making his voice sound more reasonable. “We need to get the permits in before those go into effect. If we don’t grab the land, we’re screwed.”

“We’ll be more screwed if we buy the property, and we can’t build on it.” Anton closed his portfolio and threw it in his bag. Josh had to keep from smiling. He loved winning against his old man. He did. “I’m sorry, Will. Call me when you have something to work on.”

The investors were next, one of them patting Josh’s shoulder like he was about to get in trouble for cutting class.