My First Time with Dad's Billionaire Boss

By: Lia Lee

Chapter One


The sultry moodiness of Billie Holiday wafts from the speakers as my eyes drift over the gallery. The bright sunlight filtering through the large front bay windows could make even the most lackluster art shine right about now. It gleams across the glossy wooden floors, and the air smells of autumn and freshly brewed coffee.

If I were alone in my gallery with the art and Billie, this morning would have been perfect.

But I’m not.

This is one of those times when my business feels like work. I try to rein in my irritation as I look down at the printout in my hands—the plans I was emailed this morning.

“Yeah, this isn’t going to work, Roberto.” The plans are for an upcoming installation we’re planning for the gallery, and they are absolute trash. I shake my head. My curator, Roberto, used to be the best, but for the last few months, he’s been off his game. I know he’s dealing with personal issues, and I sympathize, but this is really unacceptable. Five years ago, I would’ve fired him for such a lack of detail in his work, but… well, I’m not the man I used to be.

I look over the layout some more. “It’s a fucking mess.”

“It’s not that bad,” Roberto says, on the defensive. I hold his gaze, and after a moment or two, he looks away. “I just think you’re being overly critical here, boss.”

“Overly critical. Really?” I point to several places on the print-out. “This looks like some junior in art school put it together. Come on, man. You’re better than this. So, do better.”

Roberto rolls his eyes. “Vanessa’s art is all over the place. You know that,” he argues. “There’s no theme, no unifying concept, nothing—”

I glare at Roberto again, and he snaps his mouth shut. “And that’s what we’re going to push here—her work is always fresh. Always surprising. Play that up. Get rid of the straight lines and boring lighting. We’re not hosting a Whistler exhibit, man. Think Pollack. Think beyond the norm. Vanessa’s work might be subjective, but it’ll sell. You know who she is, who she’s married to, and who her friends are. So, get it done.”

Roberto is usually argumentative, but when he knows he’s wrong, at least he has the sense to shut up. And this is one of those times.

I look through the catalog of pieces that Vanessa Duchamp will be showing here in a few weeks. They’re good. This show will definitely draw a crowd, and press coverage, which is always welcome.

I glance around. This place, the gallery I started, the gallery that carries my name on the front window, is my legacy. Every detail—from the dark wood floors to the exposed, glossy black ductwork above and the sleek steel handrail that leads up to the loft and my office—was personally approved by me.

I expect a lot from those who work with me, and Roberto knows that.

“Do you understand what I’m saying here?” I ask him. He pulls the catalog of Vanessa's work over to where he’s standing at the other side of the reception desk.

“I get it,” he says, finally conceding. “I’ll draw up some new ideas and have them to you before I leave today. I was wrong—you’re right. Her work would look ridiculous displayed the way I had it planned. I just—”

I cut him off because I know what he’s about to say. His wife, Karla, recently found out some test results. The cancer’s back. She’s already undergoing another round of chemo. “No need to explain. I know. Clear heart, clear mind, okay? Just take some deep breaths, sit down, and try to let the inspiration come. It will, man. You’ve never failed me before now, and I know that you’ll come back to me with something brilliant.”

Roberto goes to say something else just as I reach for my cup to take a much-needed sip of espresso. I am running on about three hours’ sleep, and unfortunately, I hadn’t lost any of it the fun way. I’d been awake, my memories haunting me worse than any nightmare ever has. It’s been five years, and I know my grief should be buried by now, but her face is not one to forget so easily.

I know I’m being a bit of an asshole to Roberto, though, given the situation, and I know my rough night is partly to blame. One of these days, sleep will come easily again. Anytime now would be great. But despite our personal demons, this here is business. My business. And the show must always go on.

At that moment, the gallery’s glass front door suddenly opens, and a gust of wind sweeps in, bringing a flurry of leaves and the smell of traffic exhaust with it. It’s like watching something in slow motion: Roberto had leaned one of our newly acquired pieces against a nearby wall, and the incoming breeze catches it and sends it crashing to the floor. It hits the wood floor with a loud smack and then slides a little bit, just to add insult to injury.