Sean Donovan had learned that lesson early in life?somewhere around third grade, when he thought he could change the grade on his report card from a 75 to a 95. His father, Bruce Donovan, had been skeptical about the one grade on the report card that had been made in blue ink versus the remaining ones in black ink. The conference with his teacher had sealed Sean's fate, as Mr. Crutcheon had meticulously added up every one of Sean's test grades in his class. Then he divided and came up with the average grade. It was a 75.
"Numbers don't lie, son," his father had said to him with his solemn, you're-in-big-trouble voice.
Those three words had stuck with him all his life, and Sean had never tried anything as deceitful as that again. Luckily for him, his mother, Janean, had selected his punishment instead of his father. Janean's mind leaned more toward the manual labor type of punishment, while Bruce was standing stern on the corporal punishment ladder. It was his older brother, Dion, who was usually on the receiving end of their dad's punishment. Sean had never envied his big brother that.
As a Donovan, Sean was a descendent of men who began their fortune in oil refineries and then branched out into such areas as the military, casino ownership, real estate, mass media, and the one that had given the family name worldwide attention?philanthropy. His father was one of six brothers whose families stretched across the United States, and their father came from a family of four brothers and two sisters. To put it mildly, the Donovans were deep. They were well-known and respected. Which Sean sometimes thought of as a blessing and a curse.
While he loved his job as managing editor at Infinity magazine, a division of DNT, the Donovan Multimedia Network, there were days when he wished he would have done something else with his life. He'd gone to Columbia, his father's alma mater, and had majored in English with a minor in finance?even though he really had a deep love of history. That love probably wouldn't have lasted into a career, but sometimes, actually?days like today?he wondered what if.
Sean's office at Infinity was huge, located on the corner of the third floor of the Excalibur Business Center, which was owned by DNT. The walls were a rich mahogany color with chocolate-tone carpet lining the floors. The furniture was heavy and gave the room an old law firm feel. It could be considered somber and professional. The somber part would not be an exaggeration.
Sean held a piece of paper in one hand, while his finger skimmed down a column of numbers on another sheet that lay on the desk. Numbers do not lie, he said to himself once more.
Infinity was picking up major distribution numbers, which was a good thing. But so was Onyx, Infinity's rival magazine.
Onyx was owned by Sabine Ravenell, and it provided entertainment news about African American celebrities. Just last year they'd begun an up-and-coming segment that boosted their sales. Now, they were neck and neck with Infinity.
Actually, he thought, dropping the paper onto his desk and dragging his hands down his face, Infinity still had a lead on Onyx. But not big enough to suit Sean's standards.
"Bad news, huh?" Dion Donovan said, coming into Sean's office and closing the door behind him.
Sean had been so deep in concentration that he hadn't even heard the door open. Then again, his older brother rarely knocked on his door anyway, and Gayle, Sean's assistant, had long since stopped announcing him. He never gave her time to do so before barging into the office.
"Let's just say it's not good," Sean replied, sitting back in his chair. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "What are you doing here so late?" A glance at the clock on his desk told him it was past seven.
"Come on, man. You know I don't punch a clock around here." Dion had taken a seat, propping one ankle up on his knee and sitting back in the chair.
He looked a lot like their father, with his tall stature and serious dark eyes. But that's where the similarities ended. Dion was the epitome of good looks. He was every girl's fantasy, with his broad, sculpted body and chiseled face. In fact, Dion was considered the gorgeous brother, while Sean had succumbed to the comments that he should be a cover model with his so-called quiet and sophisticated good looks. He didn't much care for those comments. And to be frank, the attention made him uncomfortable. Dion, on the other hand, was more than content with all the fanfare his looks garnered.
"You don't punch a clock, but you've got a beautiful woman at home waiting for you. That should be enough to have you running for the elevator at closing time."
Three months ago, Dion had announced that he was in love with Lyra Anderson, the woman who had grown up with them. One month after that, Dion and Lyra were married in an intimate ceremony at the Big House?Sean and Dion's parents' house in Key Bis-cayne, Florida.
To Sean, Lyra was his little sister, and she had been since the day his mother had brought her home saying she was spending the night. Lyra's mother, who had just recently died in a car accident, had been on drugs and couldn't properly care for Lyra. So Janean Donovan had done the honors. But for Dion, Lyra had not been a little sister?she'd been more like the other half to his whole. Sean could see that in his brother's eyes each time he mentioned Lyra.
"She's working late, too. I'm picking her up in half an hour and then we're going out to dinner. You want to join us?"
Sean traced a finger along his chin. He needed to shave, he thought as he felt the usually lightly trimmed hair there. "Last time I checked, being a third wheel was no fun."
"You're not a third wheel. You're family. Plus, we can talk about what's bothering you."
He shook his head. "Nothing but the usual. Trying to keep a step ahead of Onyx."
"Yeah? Is Ravenell still riding you about selling?"
He nodded. "She is."
"But she doesn't call me or Dad," Dion said, leaning back to let his finger run against his chin as well.
To an outsider, the two similar men rubbing their goatees in the same way might have been strange. To them, it was the norm. Sean and Dion were very close, as were the other members of the Donovan family that resided in Miami with them. It was no wonder they had similar mannerisms when they spent so much time together.
Sean shrugged. "I don't know what's in her head." Dion chuckled.
"What?" Sean asked quizzically. "Private joke?"
"Man, how can you know so much about numbers and sales and distribution and know absolutely nothing about females?"
"I know that she's working my nerves by constantly asking to buy Infinity. I've told her a million times we're not interested in selling."
"She keeps asking you because she's got a thing for you," Dion said, his eyebrows hitching up and down as if he were waiting for Sean to catch on.
When Dion's mind wasn't on Infinity, it was most likely on sleeping with women. Or at least, that had been the case before Lyra returned from L.A.
And now that Sean knew what his brother was thinking, he had to frown. "Then I'd hate to break the bad news to her," he said. "Ravenell is not my type."
Dion laughed so hard Sean thought he would fall out of the chair. Sabine Ravenell was likely in her early forties, but that was a modest guess on his part. In her younger years she'd been an actress and had a couple of adult movies that garnered her some fame. This put her name on the charts and built her fan base, which consisted mainly of college boys looking for the next best thing to a Playboy magazine to keep them company at night. Now, she still had the vivacious and bawdy attitude of a woman of her background. Did she have a thing for Sean? Probably. Did he give a damn? Of course not!
"Right," Dion said, still trying to regain his composure.
"But her sales are looking good," he said contemplatively.
"How'd you get your hands on her sales figures?" It was Sean's turn to smile now. "I have my connections."
Dion nodded. "Yeah, I guess the same way she seems to know what's going on in our camp. Listen, the real reason I stopped by was to ask if you've had a chance to speak to Parker."
Parker Donovan was their cousin, son of Reginald and Carolyn. Uncle Reginald had always had his hands more into DNT, so it made sense that his sons would follow in his footsteps. Parker did a lot of scouting for new programs, while Savian focused on upcoming business ventures and spotlighting entrepreneurs. Regan, the youngest of Uncle Reginald's children, and the only girl, worked at Infinity, heading up the fashion and entertainment portions of the magazine. She, along with Camille, who was married to Adam Donovan of the Las Vegas branch of the family, were currently developing a reality TV show that would center around the life of a fashion designer. Meanwhile, under Savian's watchful eye, the men were charged with developing a show that would transform Infinity magazine's print success to television.
"I had a message from him when I came back from lunch, but I haven't had a chance to call him back."
"You actually took a lunch?" Dion asked with another raise of his brows.
Sean was getting tired of his brother's assumptions and innuendos. "What does Parker want? Since you're in here at this time of night asking about him, it must be important."
"He wants to talk to you about adding the relationship column to the magazine show. Says the online version is getting lots of traffic."
That was true. Sean had seen that for the past three months there had been a rise in the mail coming in for the "Ask Jenny" column. Then eight weeks ago, after their monthly meeting, he'd decided to expand the column from its quarter page to a full page to see what would happen. The change had gone over well.
"There's a good following there. Do you read the column?" Sean was curious, since his brother usually kept his finger on every inch of the magazine. As editor-in-chief of Infinity, it was his job to know everything that went into the magazine as well as the feedback they received.
"I've read it. Jenny sounds like she's been through a lot?knows the ropes," Dion said with a slight chuckle. "It's just what women in the twenty-five to thirty-five demographic are looking for. Honest and brash."
Sean was nodding as he listened to his brother, thinking about the last "Ask Jenny" column he'd read recently. "Real," he said. "That's the tone I picked up when I read it. She sounds like a real woman, with real issues of her own."
"Right. So let's think about how that might play out on television. Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz have shows?why shouldn't we look into putting our own relationship guru out there?"
"It definitely has merit," Sean agreed.
"Good," Dion said, standing. "So I'll tell Parker you're going to talk to her, and we'll met up later this week to see if it's something to really look into."
"Wait a minute. I'm going to talk to who?"
"Jenny, or whatever her name is that writes the column. Is it really Jenny?" Dion asked with a quizzical look on his face. "That's probably not smart to have her real name out there."
Sean was standing now, pulling his suit jacket from the back of his chair and slipping his arms inside. "No, her name's not Jenny. And why aren't you or Parker talking to her? Better yet, why not just call her into a meeting with all of us?"
Dion was at the door when he turned to give Sean an appeasing look. "She's not going to bite you, Sean. You know, if you weren't my brother, I might start to question this aversion you have to women."
Sean tossed a teasing jab at his brother, his fist landing on Dion's biceps. "You know better," he said. "I can talk to women just fine. I do it on a daily basis."
"Yeah, but those women aren't analyzing the good, bad and ugly truths about men. Good luck with that one," he said, then walked through the door.
"Man, I'm a Donovan," Sean said, following his brother out to the elevators. "I don't need luck."