Authors: Kristina Weaver
Complete, Standalone Romance Novel
PLUS Bonus Book: UNSCRIPTED
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This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to events, businesses, companies, institutions, and real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
I’ve finally done it. I’ve acquired the last company I’d set my sights on eight years ago and now I have it, adding one of the last - not quite the last - but one of the last, pieces to my plan.
“You must be very proud of yourself Marshall. Stealing an old man’s company right out from under him.”
I smile, lift an eyebrow and wait for Gareth Knox to wind down and stop embarrassing himself. When he finally stops talking, God help me, I turn to the board anxiously waiting and sigh deeply, letting them see my rueful expression.
“Knox Communications has been a well-established, leader in the field for years. However, and I say this with the utmost respect to Mr Knox Sr, the company has lost half its total earnings the last five years and with the way the economy is going at the moment, the decline will only get worse unless some drastic steps are taken. Knox Jr doesn’t agree, mores the pity or I rather suspect something would have been done before a company of such high standing hit so close to bankruptcy.”
I take a deep breath and take my time meeting all ten sets of eyes. I want them to know I mean business, my only interest here is the bottom line and I will not tolerate outbursts like the one Gareth Knox couldn’t withhold.
“I haven’t, nor have I ever stolen a thing in my life. This ship is sinking and without the buy-out I closed on with Sr this morning, half your workforce would have been jobless a month from now. Now, that aside I will not tolerate mutiny on one of my ships. If you don’t want to work for Knox as a subsidiary of Marshall Holdings, please, leave now and save us all any further unpleasantness.”
“You son of a bitch!”
“And on that note I am accepting your resignation as CEO. Effective immediately.”
I walk out to the sounds of cursing and Gareth’s yelling, my step light as that very last piece - before the most important - falls into place.
I love my job, love the wheeling and dealing and the thrill of intense and intricate negotiations. Have since I walked away from college on the dream that I could take the ten grand my great uncle left me and make something big happen.
It hadn’t been easy, not one step of the way, but I’d taken that ten gran, sunk it into a derelict shell in down town Washington and worked like a dog to get the thing up to code and looking like a million bucks.
Then I’d flipped it and more than doubled my money. I’d kept the ten aside, taken the profit and bought two more houses. Again the same thing. Soon I’d had enough cash to invest in apartment buildings, which again I had totally overhauled.
Those I didn’t sell, choosing instead to keep them as a profit making investment that is still to this day putting by bank so way over the black that everything I touch immediately turns green and starts spitting more money at me.
I’ve diversified so much that my portfolio is a smorgasbord of variety. Real estate, banking and investment, clothing, shipping, you name it Marshall’s got it.
I am obscenely rich. In the worst way. So rich that last year I dropped five hundred mill building a specialized facility for the study and research of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS to most, and I didn’t even dent my bank account.
The only thing I enjoy more than making money is using it to do better for those who can’t afford it.
And now that I have achieved not only my goals for financial freedom but to take from those who tried to ruin me when I was a child, I can focus on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, my ultimate prize.
“Everything is on track. All we need to do now is slide Chris in as the acting VP and get rid of any pro Knox board members.”
I keep walking as Gabe, my right hand man falls into step beside me, his long legs easily keeping up with me as we make it to the bank of elevators and get on, ready to leave and tackle the next hurdle.
“I want Knox and those three board members, Tyrone, Miller and Grahams out by close of business today. Get Chris on that now before he proceeds with the restructure and for God sakes, do something about the fucking décor in this place. People can’t work properly in a place that looks like a prison.”
Gabe chuckles and starts flipping through emails and messages, which are many for a man as busy as myself. I get at least fourty emails a day and if not for my PA Barb and Gabe I’d never get through it all.
“What’s happening with that Give Back Housing project?”
We’ve reached the lobby and I stride out of the building as he starts giving me an on the fly report about one of the new housing estates I’ve been involved in.
If things run to schedule I should be cutting the ribbon on a three block neighbourhood that will house pensioners and single mothers from low income families.
This has been my passion since the day I walked into the one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the state and witnessed the suffering of children, mothers and the elderly.
Those lives are ruled by poverty and fear of the gangs that run rife. Appalling to think that a mother with three kids and no man is forced to support them all working seventy hours or more a week, just to get shook down by some little punk who wields a gun.
I’m not altogether altruistic though, never think that. I’d gotten to that neighbourhood following Remy Harrow, a woman I have wanted since I was seventeen and invisible, a woman who probably doesn’t even remember me, if she even knows I still exist.
As a social worker she travels all over the state, doing what she can for families in need. I understand that, fuck, I lived that life not too long ago myself, but I find it unacceptable to have my woman traipsing around in that shithole.
So I’d bought the neighbourhood bit by bit, greasing palms and calling in favours to get it, every last mile.
And I’ve spent the last year and a half working my crews to the brink, rebuilding and turning the place into a gated community. All that’s left now is for the people to move from the cramped apartment building I’d moved them to and ensure that as a safe area, the community gets adequate policing to keeps the gangs at bay.
Now that that is done and I can be somewhat assured of Remy’s safety while she does her job, I can move on to the real issue at hand, my Holy Grail. The one goal I’d set higher than the others and done all of this for.
I can move ahead with ruining Remy’s life so that the only option, the only person she has to turn to is me.
I’ve wanted her for years, have worked tirelessly to get here and now that I have, I have no intention of stopping. By this time next year Remy will be mine.
My wife. My slave.
God what a freaking day!
“Did you see that place Rem! It is freaking awesome. Mrs Childers gave me a tour of the three bedroom that was built on her old property and I swear it’s bigger than my apartment.”
I smile and listen to Liv as she starts rhapsodising about that gated community that was sponsored by a billionaire mogul who’d seen the place and went nuts about pensioners and single parent mothers having to live that way.
I’d agreed, wholeheartedly with that assessment since it’s my job to go into that shit-pile everyday to check up on the families and report on the home and welfare of all the kids under my care.
Hell, I’d bought a bottle of cheap wine and gotten drunk to celebrate when they’d temporarily moved them all to an apartment building and started bulldozing things to the ground.
Not having ever lived in such circumstances I’d been shocked and remained so at the lack of basic amenities that most people actually live with on a daily basis. Things like hot water, a yard to play in and above all else, safe streets.
I’d been on the verge of quitting like Brian wanted because just a week before, a gang member had threatened me if I reported their use of little kids to run their drugs.
And then Mr Chase Alexander Marshall had announced his intentions. It still freaking boggles my mind to think that a man can be so rich he bought three freaking blocks of prime real estate in Washington and then tore it to the ground with the intention of not only rebuilding and giving the families homes, but that he’d struck a deal and started a campaign with Washington PD to safeguard those who need it.
The anti-crime and drug campaign is a solid one that went all the way to the Hill and came out the other end victorious.
Not only didn’t I have to quit my job, but the news had given me a new lease on life. Such a lease that I’d finally told my husband Brian that I want a divorce.
He’d refused of course and gone straight to my parents with the scandal. So my lease had been short lived and unsuccessful but for that one brief second I’d felt good enough to conquer the world.
Now I’m going home to a man I loathe, a man who thinks nothing of taking his mistress to the very same country club I’m forced to attend on weekends for the ritual Sunday brunch with our parents.
And every Sunday I am forced to choke down my breakfast and my gall when Brian loves up on me and puts on a show for them all, pretending to give a shit about me.
Image. The bane of my existence and the one thing I have never cared about, well, I suppose I care enough to hate it but there you have it.
That’s all my life is.
I’m the wife of an up and comer, the next big thing in politics. Arm candy from a good background and a father who sees nothing wrong with that.
Stupid. That’s what I am since I did this to myself. I’d spent senior year and all of college mooning over my boyfriend and putting on the image so that he could get where he wants to be and use my wholesomeness as a cover.
Ex QB and golden boy, soon to run for senate and still too immature to realise that there’s more to life than parties, prestige and bragging about his last game.
As if it didn’t happen years ago.
“What’s up hon? I thought you’d be happy about today’s move.” Liv asks, pulling me back to the present.
I sigh and lean back in my chair, looking over the small office Liv and I share and wish for the millionth time that some schmuck hadn’t decided that light grey and mustard were a colour combo made in heaven.
“Oh I am Liv, really I am. I just hope this whole project is a success and that the powers that be don’t lose interest and let that place turn into a crime hub again. I saw the place Polly Bates moved into and it was great. A little two bedroom with a yard and a small porch out back. Nothing fancy but a lot better than what they had.”
She starts talking about every house she saw, again, and I tune her out to focus on the issues plaguing me lately. Brian and his mistress. My folks and their cold refusal to help me. The endless lectures I get from them all. And the misery that is slowly starting to eat me alive.
“He’s so hot though!” Liv gushes and I zone back in, raising a brow.
“That Marshall guy. You remember I told you I got to meet him at the ribbon cutting ceremony? Well he is HOT with capitals and freaking glitter too. Dirty blonde, not exactly my thing but that face of his more than makes up for it. And his eyes!” she goes all dreamy and I roll my eyes.
I’ve never understood why women get so dramatic about the colour of a man’s eyes. They’re just eyes and most of the time they’re nothing special. I myself have a set of aqua orbs that others seem to go mad for and yet when I look in the mirror, it’s all just blah.
“Rem! You don’t understand hon, his eyes are two different colours! One is this really dreamy golden colour like maple syrup and the other one is a mix of grey/blue that made my knees weak. So freaking-”
“Hot. Yeah I know.” I snort, catch the peanut she throws at my head between my teeth with a snap and a grin of victory.
“God. You’re getting really mean the longer I know you. Is that ass still making you miserable? Go ahead and divorce him already.” She mutters, throwing a dart at the photo of Brian that hangs on the board on the right wall.
His face and shit eating grin are a pincushion of tiny holes, proving not only her accuracy but how much she detests my husband.
“You know I can’t. My parents would disown me. About the only way I could get them to see things my way is if I had proof that Brian is cheating. And even then I don’t think they’d care. Apparently a Harrow always stays the course.”
I second that and dig a box of peanut butter cups out of my drawer, taking great delight in the first bite when I remember them all commenting at dinner the other night that I need to start watching my figure.
My words die when the phone on my desk starts ringing and I hold up a finger, answering with a smile.
Instead of getting Sylvie the receptionist from hell I hear a masculine cough and what sounds like a sigh.
A shiver races down my spine at the sound of that voice and I pause, pretending for just a split second that I am free to hear the husky sensuality there before I clear my throat and start breathing again.
“Yes. What can I do for you?” I ask, rolling my eyes when another dart sails by, pegging Brian square in the left eye.
“This is Chase Marshall.”
“Oh Mr Marshall, Hi. Er, sorry. I was actually about to call you and offer our appreciation for the great-”
“Your supervisor gave me your number. We should get together to discuss the programmes your department will be working on for the families who live on the estate. I’d also like to get your opinion on a youth centre I’m considering.”
At that I feel a smile bloom and this time when Liv lobs her next dart I don’t frown. I’m getting a chance to meet the great Chase Marshall, a man I’ve recently idolized to the point of obsession? Rock on!
“Uh, okay. I have appointments till late tomorrow afternoon, but I can meet you for a quick lunch?”
I’m reshuffling as I speak because I’m pretty sure forty five or less minutes is not going to cut it with all the ideas I have stored in my brain. The youth centre is actually something I’ve been thinking about and then there’s the park and-
“Sorry, but it will have to be tonight. I’m inundated with meetings all through tomorrow and the next day. I’ll set up a dinner for say, seven?”
“Good then. I’ll email you my address and send a driver.”
“Driver? No, I have my-”
The line goes dead without so much as a freaking goodbye and I’m left starting at the dead phone and the next dart that hits Brian’s crotch. Deeply.
“Please tell me you’re having dinner with that hunk of burning love.”
Gosh I am. Now I just need to find a way to explain why I’m missing my anniversary dinner.