Authors: Kristina Royer
The Dark Billionaire Romance
By Kristina Royer
© 2015 by Kristina Royer
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including emailing, photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
The barista handed me my coffee, but as I reached out for it, the lid came off in his hand. I screamed as the scalding liquid scorched my skin and stained my two-hundred dollar blazer which I had purchased specifically for the meeting I had to be at in twenty minutes. The violet-haired, piercing-riddled teenager looked horrified, her eyeliner-stained eyes averting to her manager who was distracted by paperwork in the back.
“Please don't tell my manager,” she croaked. “I can't lose this job. My mom will kill me when she gets out of rehab! I'll pay for your outfit—”
“That's not necessary,” I said, waving her off and patting the coffee-stained splotch with a handful of napkins. I looked at my watch and cursed under my breath. I had no time to change before the most important meeting of my career.
It was just my luck.
I hurried out of the coffee shop and covered my head with my briefcase to shield myself from the rain. I saw a taxicab and sighed as I waved at the driver to pick me up, relieved to not have to run eighteen blocks up the street. The taxi drove past me and ran over a puddle, splashing me with mud. Frustrated, I groaned and pulled off my heels for the trek to the office building.
It was not long before I discovered that running with heels in one hand and a briefcase being held over my head with the other was not very efficient. By the third block, I surrendered my curled hair to the elements and chose to carry my briefcase properly. Within moments, my silvery blonde locks were drenched and sticking to my running makeup in a wet mess.
I reached a crosswalk and inwardly cursed, looking at my watch once more and realizing that I only had ten minutes to make it into the conference room twelve blocks away. Suddenly, my cell phone vibrated in my pocket and I sighed, irately. Holding my heels in the crick of my arm and raising the briefcase over my head to protect the phone from water damage, I pulled it out and put it to my ear.
“Hello, Aaliyah?” the voice asked. It was my assistant, Patrick.
“Hi Patrick, I apologize. I'm a little bit late but I'll be there on time—” I started, but as per usual, Patrick interrupted me.
“Well that's why I was calling. They are doing some rewiring in the east building and the meeting was moved. You should have received the email that I forwarded you last night but it seems that you're nearly an hour late,” Patrick said, airily.
“What’s that?! I never received an email!” I scowled. “Why didn't you call me before?”
“I just assumed you were late,” Patrick replied. “We're in the north building. I can buy you ten but I don't think they're going to wait much longer after that. They already aren't seeming too pleased with your professionalism...or lack thereof, rather.”
“The investors are there already?” I screamed, turning on my heel and hastily brushing by some other pedestrians, earning a few dirty looks from on looking passerby. Out of frustration, I found it necessary to scream at them. “What? You've never seen an angry New Yorker before? Keep walking!”
“Oh dear, you've gone mad. Look, I'll try to stall for twenty but you owe me,” Patrick whispered. “I don't know if you got the memo or not, but billionaires aren't always the most patient people.”
“I owe you my life, Patrick,” I said, hurrying across the crosswalk before the pedestrian light became red again.
“Oh please, if your life was worth half of this favor I wouldn't be so annoyed. Try again,” he retorted.
I rolled my eyes and replied, “Fine, I'll buy you lunch for a month. Happy?” My bare feet ached, but determination motivated me to ignore the pain and keep moving.
“Much better,” he said. “See you in twenty. If not, well, I'll probably see you in that controversial column in the company newsletter. Bye for now.” With that, I heard a click and sucked on my teeth, angrily. I tucked the phone back into my pocket and rushed past a panhandler who called after me, begging for spare change.
I inwardly scolded myself, because I knew that I should have found something to give him but the businesswoman in me chose financial opportunity over charity. I realized how ironic it was that the very product I was selling was to assist homeless people, yet I had snubbed one. It took a special kind of businessperson to do what I had just done. It was a flaw that I made a mental note to work on later with my therapist.
The six investors inside of the conference room stared at me with stern looks as I unpacked my things from my briefcase. I gulped, nervously, and avoided their gaze, hoping that my presentation would be enough to make them forgive me for my lateness and disheveled appearance. However, the business world was not well known for being forgiving.
Clearing my throat, I opened my laptop and found the slide-show presentation file. I hovered the cursor over it and looked up at the investors with an anxious smile. I could not tell what they thought of me yet, but judging by the looks on their faces, my first impression was not what I had hoped it would be.
I took a deep breath and managed, “H-hi, m-my name is Aaliyah Barr, and I'm here to make you lots of money.” They raised their brows and murmured amongst themselves before I continued. “So, living in New York, we see a lot of waste every day. Restaurants pile up perfectly good food in dumpsters, grocery stores throw out food that hasn't even expired, and delis throw out the parts of the animals they don't use. Waste is everywhere, but we just
doing it.” My introduction had not seemed to sway them.
I pressed the button to click onto my presentation. The logo for my idea was on the screen and I saw their bored expressions become replaced by interest.
“That is why I created TrashCanDo, a website for businesses to announce what stock they will be purging so others can come collect it and donate it to charity. Businesses have far too much time on their hands to take everything they don't use to a charity and amazingly enough, employees aren't even
to do it! Far too much food is going to waste in New York every day and I want
to help me clean up the city,” I said with a smile.
Maxwell Morris, one of the executives for Country Bank, tapped his pen on his chin and looked at me, condescendingly. “Goes to waste? All of that is already going to charity. This is New York, Miss Barr. Homeless people eat all of that.”
I shook my head, quick with my rebuttal. “I knew you'd say that,” I replied, pressing the button to go to my next slide and display the statistics. “In fact,
of this waste doesn't get used, even by homeless folks. They are driven out of alleyways every time they attempt to collect foodstuffs. The rest of it is taken to a landfill to rot.”
Surprise adorned the investors' six faces and Patrick gave me thumbs up from the back as he took notes. Liam Manning, a young, handsome billionaire who had made his fortune in the pharmaceutical industry, chewed on his lip, deep in thought. I fought to avert my gaze away from him in order to maintain my composure and stay on task, but then he spoke and I felt myself drown in his warm, smooth Australian accent.
“So I'm not opposed to the green industry. A lot of my colleagues would probably say that it's saturated, but they have money in oil, so I wouldn't listen to them,” he said, earning several dark looks from the other investors. “That being said, I want to make money. What are you making money on here? Web traffic?”
I pressed the button for the following slide and answered, “I knew you would ask that. Here's the catch: the business pays for the service the charity workers provide by collecting the food. They pay a service subscription fee of one hundred dollars a month, which seems like a lot, but they can write it off on taxes and for a business, it isn't—”
“So you're making people pay for a service they already receive from the city?” interrupted Cheryl Hadley, an investment banker from Detroit. “Is this a joke?”
I frowned and said, “A lot of businesses would think this is worth it for positive public relations or even just to keep impoverished individuals from going through the trash in their alleyways. Many New York restaurants are consistently concerned about their appearance—”
“Cheryl raises a good point, but I think a lot of businesses will like the charity aspect. This is New York. P.R. is everything,” interjected Maxwell. I nodded in agreement with him, only to be let down by his following statement. “The thing is, your business name and your logo don't read as charity. It reads as a waste collection service more than anything. Not a fan of the logo. The business model isn't so bad, but you gotta change that logo.”
I looked at my logo in the corner of the slide and nodded. The small green trashcan and bold blue bubble letters perhaps did not come across the way that I had hoped. Immediately, I quipped, “I am more than willing to work on the name and logo with help from a professional team. I agree with you, Mr. Morris.”
The investors scribbled down some notes and Dennis Green leaned back in his chair, skepticism evident in his expression. “Have you sold any of these subscriptions?”
“I—I have sold two,” I muttered. “But I have only been operating for—”
“Two?” he retorted and chuckled. “That's two hundred dollars a month gross and you think you're going to get us rich from this? You're crazy.”
“I have to admit, I expected more from someone from Hoffman,” Klaus Hauser added. “I can't invest in you. I'm sorry. I just cannot take the risk on a project like this, especially overseas where I can't properly monitor you.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but the disapproving looks from five of the investors made it difficult to argue. “I'm sorry to hear that,” I croaked. “I hope that one of you sees the value in the business model and we can move forward.”
“I won't be investing either,” Cheryl said. “I don't know what Hoffman is trying to do with this, but I can't be a part of it.”
I was beginning to feel the pressure, but that was when I worked best.
“Please, before you make any rash decisions, let me add that I have only been the head of this project for a month now. Before I was put in charge, it was a small business and it thrived in Chicago and Los Angeles. However, their business model was different and I had to change it, which explains these low numbers,” I explained. Patrick winked at me from the back as the investors gave me a look of pleasant surprise.
“What was the model?” asked Jonathon Cruz, the only investor that had not yet spoken.
“Yes, and what were the numbers?” added Dennis, readying his pen to take notes.
I pressed the button to the next slide, which displayed the successes of the previous business model. “Well, as you see, they netted over six-hundred thousand in their first year, but we estimate with our business model, we will net twice that.”
The investors nodded, approvingly, and scribbled down some notes. Liam looked up from his yellow pad of paper and narrowed his eyes. “What was their business model? If it was as successful as it was in the first year, why would you change it?”
“Well, they were, er—” I felt myself growing nervous as his deep blue eyes seemed to bore a hole in me. I flushed and cleared my throat. “Th-they only collected a service fee per every pickup, rather than offering a subscription. This led to a lot of one-time business. The service subscription should help deter loss of future business.” I looked around the room, anxiously. I had never struggled speaking in front of investors before, but Liam was quite unlike most of the elderly businesspeople with whom I usually worked.
He nodded and scrawled something in his notes before looking up and asking, “Will the one-time service still be offered? Subscriptions scare off some people.” He looked at me with his blue eyes once more and I felt my heart in my throat.
“Y-yes, the one-time service will be offered but we are encouraging the subscription just for repeat business reasons,” I replied.
“If this is so profitable, why isn't Hoffman investing?” asked Maxwell. There it was: the question I most feared.
I cleared my throat and said, “Hoffman Industries does not wish to invest in any more web-based services at this time.” I knew that my answer would not satisfy them, but I was only disclosing as much information as necessary.
Cheryl chuckled, “So Hoffman sent you to ask us to invest money in a company they don't even believe in enough to make an investment in? You tried, dear, but we won't be doing business.”
“Cheryl's right. I can't risk any more capital in the web,” Maxwell said. “Country Bank can't invest. My sincerest apologies…”
“Tha-that's alright,” I stammered. Patrick was mouthing at me in the background that I blowing it. I knew that I was blowing it. I was going to be ruined. I had to fix it. “We've done a lot of search engine optimization and—”