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          There were two agencies in New York that companies fought over to have as their designer for ads and campaigns. One company, owned by the Lucino family, was known as Just In Time, Inc. The other company, owned by the Dease family, was known as Two More Minutes, Corp.

Two More Minutes had been formed by Viktor Dease and built from the ground up. When he had married, his wife, Lorcana, had become a partial shareholder. When they had been blessed with two sons, one two years older than the other, Viktor had been wise enough to leave the future of the company in their hands.

          Though not very old, Viktor knew not to tempt fate. He wrote up a will and a trust for the company. When each of his sons turned twenty-one, they would each inherit fifty percent of the company, thereby making them the sole proprietors. Kenneth and Cameron, though children, loved their father’s company and looked forward to being in charge.

          Viktor acted not a moment too soon. Five years later, when Kenneth was twelve and Cameron was ten, Viktor was diagnosed with lung cancer. He passed away within another two years. Lorcana stepped in to take over the company, and though she led well enough, the employees found her to be an unpleasant woman to work with, and for, in equal doses. There wasn’t a single person who didn’t look forward to the day the two boys would grow up and take over . . .


(One year ago . . .)

          The boardroom had filled to the brim with executives. It was a power meeting to let one of the larger conglomerates in New York look for a new and unique style to promote their product. They had considered going to Just In Time, but something had swayed them toward Two More Minutes.

          Part of the reason might have been because the company was owned half by Lorcana Dease and the other half by her son Kenneth Dease. He had inherited his share of the company on his twenty-first birthday weeks before and had already made sweeping changes that seemed to be nearly revolutionizing the company.

          His younger brother, Cameron, was only nineteen. He would not inherit his share until he turned twenty-one as well. The not-yet-partner put in partial time at the company and the rest into college where he swiftly blazed through Business and Advertising degrees. Same as his brother before, he would complete his Bachelor's degrees within the coming year, marking a scant three years to completion; both brothers had graduated high school early as well. Though neither liked hearing 'prodigy' applied to them, they certainly ticked off the right boxes to earn the moniker.

          The power meeting had both brothers present and sitting in to observe and participate. The executives of the other company, be they male or female, couldn't have been happier with that arrangement. The brothers looked as alike as two peas in a pod, nearly resembling twins. Both had shimmering platinum hair and oddly piercing gray-green eyes, and a terribly devastating beauty.

Lorcana disdained sharing the spotlight with anyone, even her own sons, and dictated everything they did—up to and including the way they dressed. Or rather, she only now dictated to Cameron. She had lost control over Kenneth weeks before.

          The elder brother had taken swift advantage of the newfound freedom. While Cameron still had to wear his hair short and dress in a suit that did not do a bit of justice to his form, Kenneth had already started letting his hair grow and had immediately taken advantage of the family tailor to get a properly fitted suit for himself. He finally looked, and felt, like he belonged in the room.

          Anger and upset churned in Lorcana. As soon as Cameron turned twenty-one, the company would be completely out of her control. It was her company. She had married for it. She had given birth to two sons for it when she had hardly been able to stand her husband’s touch. Now she would lose it all.

          Still, her smile stayed calm and competent as she explained the campaign that she had displayed on the room's large computer screen. "As you can see, we went with a family theme."

          One of the executives drummed his fingers lightly on the top of the table. "It’s an old campaign."

          Kenneth and Cameron exchanged a quick look. They had tried telling their mother that the company wanted a fresh and modern look, but she was so set in her ways she could be the poster woman for cement retail. Their idea, or rather, Cameron’s idea, had been to get away from the family theme and move toward the young couple one. Their generation would start buying now, and continue buying through the future—if they could be hooked.

          Cameron cleared his throat. "If I may, we do also have a second idea for you to view."

          "Cameron, don’t speak until spoken to," Lorcana told him gently, but with an edge to the tone.

          He seethed and swallowed his anger. Kenneth just narrowed his eyes fractionally and slid the portfolio holding Cameron’s concepts across the table. One of the company's graphic designers had mocked them up on the down low to keep Lorcana from knowing. "Then allow me to speak for him. He and I have both discussed this idea. I find it to be a fresh new look that I believe you’ll like." He ignored the warning look his mother shot his direction.

          The executives gathered in closer to look at the offer, and they all began to smile. "This is just what we wanted," one female said. "Something new and young. Something to bring in all those ‘just legal’ youths that want to have a romantic dinner."

          Lorcana stopped behind her sons’ chairs as the conversation lifted in an excited buzz. "We’ll discuss this later," she warned quietly, her tone icy, and she continued down the line.

          Cameron and Kenneth exchanged another look. "For the love of god," Kenneth muttered, "hurry and grow up, Cameron, before one or both of us commits murder."



          The 3rd District. On the surface, it was a place where the sights and sounds of old America could be seen. Only the insides of the buildings had been modernized. All the exteriors stood the same as they had for over two thousand years. The only modern building in the District was the Enforcers’ Headquarters, the company owned by Rhianna Taber and Eric Mason.

          Enforcers protected the people of the 3rd District and had for centuries. Some people felt fairly sure Rhianna and Eric had run it for centuries too, but there were few who worried over it. The 3rd District was a place where magic gathered. No child born there was born without a special gift.

          It did not, however, make the people less 'human'—though some assuredly had less than human blood. They loved and they hated. They cried and they laughed. Eric Mason stood on the doorstep of a small home in the middle of the District and knew that the news he bore would only bring tears. He took a quiet breath and lifted a hand to knock.

          The door shortly opened by a slender young woman with surprisingly bright hair. It looked not quite orange and not quite red, and was instead an interesting combination of both that resembled rust. Her eyes glowed dark brown and filled with lively humor as she smiled at Eric. The smile turned a normally cute face into a nearly beautiful one. "Mr. Mason!" Like all residents, she knew Enforcers on sight. "Can I help you?"

          He cleared his throat. "May I come in, Sarah?"

          Sarah Davidson stepped back easily to let him enter. "Of course. I hope it is quick. I need to go to the airport and pick up my mother and father."

          He closed his eyes and cursed mentally. "Sarah, please sit down." He opened his eyes and saw the smile on her face fade. She was young, only twenty, but she held a razor sharp intelligence paired to a nearly psychic-level of astuteness. The look on her face implied she may already know what he needed to say, so he got straight to the point. "There was an accident."

          She slowly sank down to sit on the side of the couch. Her dark eyes seemed far too large for her face. "I see."

          He knelt in front of her and covered her hand gently with his. "Sarah," he said quietly, "I am sorry. The entire plane went down, and there were no survivors. There was a failure in the engines that could not be avoided. Rayna and I checked and double-checked and there is no mistaking the truth. Neither of your parents survived."

          She turned her gaze toward the window and then straightened her back. "At least they were together," she murmured. "They were such lovebirds. They’d have suffered without one another." She turned back to him. "The family company will fall to the shareholders, won’t it?"

          The Davidsons had owned a small but very profitable ad company that had worked exclusively with small businesses. It had been primarily owned by her parents, but shares had been split amongst investors. Among them was the Shaughnessy-Tavoularis Conglomerate, a company Eric knew very well indeed. "Yes," he admitted. "But there is an alternative."

          "What is that?"

          "Before coming here, I spoke with Mel Shaughnessy and Kalliope Tavoularis. You are the sole heir to the portion of the company owned by your parents. If you are willing to sell all of that to Mel and Kalliope, they will ensure the company is not dissolved entirely. It will continue to operate as it is, but it will be co-owned by Shaughnessy-Tavoularis."

          She let out a long breath. "So, in other words, I give up the keys to the castle that is rightfully mine in order to avoid being the princess devoured by the wolves of the wilds?"

          He had to smile. "I suspect Mel and his wife would resent that."

          "I suspect you're right." She got to her feet and walked over to the window to stare almost blindly across the landscape. The grief would come later. She would deal with it when she could. Right then her only choice was to accept the deal being offered so generously. Enforcers, and Mel and Kalliope, had gone out of their way to try to help her. The money would support her until she got a job, and she would not endure the guilt of seeing a few dozen people lose their jobs. "Alright," she finally said. "What do I need to do?"

          It was mostly a lot of paperwork, she discovered. Lots, and lots, and lots of paperwork. She met with Mel and Kalliope multiple times and was able to reassure herself that they would do a good job of maintaining the integrity of her parents’ company.

          Thankfully, the other complications of her age had been handled by Enforcers as well. At twenty, she was not yet a legal adult. The law raising the age of majority had been in place for many years, and it had eliminated the gap between eighteen and twenty-one. Enforcers had very persuasive lawyers on hand, though. Sarah, so close to being legal, was given her independence and would not need a guardian for her last year as a minor. Effective immediately, she was an adult.

          But because she would not own the company, she would not receive funds from it. She also wouldn't have a guardian to help support her until she got up and running. She would need a job to help pay for her living expenses as well as any further college courses she might want to take. The sale price of the company had been beyond generous, but that money would not last forever, and she had too large a practical streak to waste time.

          Eric helped yet again. He sent job offers her direction that he thought she might be interested in. Finally, she decided to apply for one. It was with the Dease ad company known as Two More Minutes. The position would be as receptionist and secretary to the owners. She would be doing clerical work, but at least she would be surrounded by something she loved.

          The night before she was due to start working there, she found herself looking around her new apartment and realizing that she was lonely. She could no longer turn and have her parents there to share her laughter and her odd sense of humor. And, finally, she let herself grieve.

©S. J. Garrett. All rights reserved. Do not reprint/publish without permission.

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