Read The Billion Dollar Contract: Proposals Online

Authors: Cynthia Dane

Tags: #Billionaire Romance

The Billion Dollar Contract: Proposals (2 page)

BOOK: The Billion Dollar Contract: Proposals
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They were all there to interview for one freakin’ job.

“This
sucks.
” More people lined up behind Jasmine. How many were there? Five dozen? More? How many of these people had more experience than Jasmine? A better degree?
I’ve been assisting the administrators of many fine offices these past two years, thank you!
Of course none of those had anything to do with working for such a prestigious company. Didn’t matter if Jasmine was looking to be a desk clerk for the damned mailroom in the basement.

As the minutes ticked closer to nine, more businesspeople wandered into the building and took the elevators behind Jasmine up to their offices. She didn’t want to be distracted by them, but standing so far in the back of the line it couldn’t be helped. Old men in suits. Young women in dresses. Older women in better suits and dresses. Some of them were by themselves, but others had mini-entourages taking calls and talking about what was on the docket for the day.

One such man looked considerably younger than the rest. At first he walked in alone, wearing a sharp suit with a blue tie that he adjusted in front of a grand mirror. This young man’s reprieve was cut short when two cronies in inferior suits caught sight of him and descended upon him like vultures. If he was surprised by this sudden appearance, he did not let on.

At least there’s some eye candy in this room.
Jasmine couldn’t see him well from so far away, but the man walked straight, with a confident gait. Already leagues above half the men Jasmine ever met in her life. The two people hanging off his arms were practically kowtowing to him, and every time he turned to open his mouth at one of them they shuddered as if he were about to fire them.
Who is this guy?
Jasmine hoped he wasn’t the man interviewing her. Especially if she had to be in the back of the pack.

She returned to staring at her résumé in her hands, wondering if there was anything she could add at the last minute to make her look like a better candidate.
No.
Two years at community college. Two more years at a low-entry state school. A degree in English. Flitting from one temp job to the next because it was all she could get to pay the bills at her crappy apartment.
Pretty sure the neighbors are stealing my Wi-Fi.
She had to pay extra for that.

“Who’s that guy?” one girl asked another. A finger pointed to the sharp looking man making his way to the elevators with an entourage fit for a celebrity. “I’ve seen him before.”

“Of course you have!” The other girl gasped as if her new friend had committed some great heretical act. “That’s Ethan Cole. You know.
The
Cole.”

“Hot damn. And I don’t mean his pedigree.”

So that’s one of the guys who own the building?
Damnit, Jasmine should have brushed up on the company’s history. All she knew about Jackson-Cole Inc. was that it specialized in many types of industries. Technology, manufacturing, education and publishing… there was almost nothing that JaCole, as it was usually called, didn’t focus on at one point or another.
It’s run by two men…
Ethan Cole was one of them. Somehow Jasmine didn’t expect him to be so young.

Mr. Cole glanced at the line. Then his head turned again, and it was if he…

Nah, he couldn’t be…
Looking right at me?

Jasmine held her paper up to her face. Not in embarrassment, but as a way to keep this man from staring at her for too long.
He’s not looking at me, right?
Why would Ethan Cole, of all people in the universe, care to look at her?
Oh no, do I have something on my face?
Jasmine pulled a compact out of her bag and checked. Nope. Just that tiny mole on her upper lip that her mother kept telling her was probably cancerous.

Someone said something to Ethan Cole, and before Jasmine knew it the man of the building entered an elevator with his entourage in tow. The last she saw of them was another quick glance in her direction before the elevator doors closed.

After that, she had no choice but to go back to fretting about this interview.

The hour until it was her turn dragged on. In that time, she saw people come and go out of an interview room as if they were parts of an assembly line. Most went in clutching their papers and making the sign of the cross upon their chest.
The economy’s really tough, huh?
The unemployment rate in the city was the worst on the coast. Some financial sources said that it was as high as 12% some months. No wonder so many people turned up for this crappy position. Not that Jasmine could make fun of them. She was there too, and just as eager to get a minimum wage job taking phone calls in a mail room.

The people coming out of the interviews did not look much better than when they went in. Some were relieved, heaving huge sighs and wiping the sweat off their brows. Some, however, disappeared into a bathroom and came out with puffy red eyes. Jasmine had been to a lot of interviews in her day. At last count she was at thirty for the previous year, which had run over into January. People were out trying to make a difference with their New Year’s resolutions. Now they left the Jackson-Cole Building utterly defeated.

And it was Jasmine’s turn.

The man who called her into the room was old, and ragged, yet wore a sophisticated suit that was good enough for a department store mannequin.
Mid-management. Important enough to control my life but not enough to have any sway in the company.
Jasmine kept this in mind as she shook hands with the man and walked into a small, gray room with one table and two people looking like they already needed a Tylenol and a hard shot of something. If they were the only people doing interviews that day, then they had every ounce of Jasmine’s pity.

“Hello…” The woman with a tight hair-bun and thin lips looked down at a file before her. “…Miss Jasmine Bliss, is it?”

Jasmine sat in the chair before them, reminding herself to sit up straight and never stop giving off a pleasant aura. “Yes. Bliss. Just like the word.”

The interviewers exchanged glances that suggested they hardly believed her. Jasmine was used to that. Growing up with such an odd last name rarely had its perks. Kids made fun of her, and adults weren’t much better. Worst of all, it wasn’t even her parents’ “real” last name – they changed it when they got married. Warren and Smith were their original names. Jasmine’s mother told her they decided on Bliss because they were too high to consider anything else.
Hippie parents. No wonder I’m poor.

The interview was nothing special. In fact, Jasmine would put it on par with every interview she had the year before. And since that year yielded no jobs outside of the temp variety, she had no faith that it was going to make a difference in her life by the time she walked out of that room later. Oh, the interviewers were polite enough. They asked the right questions and Jasmine offered the right answers. But she didn’t doubt that over half the applicants she saw that day made sure to give the right answers as well. She didn’t stand a chance, and they all knew it.

At least I know where I stand with the universe.
Jasmine sulked her way to an empty table in the main atrium. By now most of the applicants had been interviewed, leaving behind a cavernous maw to consider her thoughts in. If she had the extra change she would buy something from the vending machine by the restrooms. She had long given up on being able to use her bus ticket to go back home. It was expired, and she would have to gather the strength to walk before it got too dark in the afternoon. Her stomach growled to inform her that it was lunch.

“Excuse me, Miss?” Jasmine looked up from her useless résumé to see a young man dressed in his Monday-morning-at-the-office best. Clean shaven. Shaky. Surely he was somebody’s pawn in the larger scheme of things.
I’ll kill him for his job.
By the way people salivated around there, anyone would. “I’m sorry for interrupting you.”

He better not be hitting on me.
Anywhere else in the city and she would say that out loud. But she had no idea if this man was tied up with the interviewers and didn’t want to make an ass of herself. “It’s nothing. You didn’t interrupt me at all. What is it?”

“I’ve been asked to escort you up to the executive offices. It has to do with a job.”

Jasmine perked up at that. “Job? Well, why didn’t you say so?” Before she could run off with this fellow, however, she looked around the atrium and wondered if there were enough witnesses around in case this guy tried something funny. For all she knew he was lying about escorting her somewhere.
Escorting me to my death.
Wasn’t there a serial killer on the loose a couple of years ago? Was that guy ever caught? Jasmine looked this guy over again and decided she and her spray mace could take him on if he tried something funny in the elevator.

“Does this have to do with the administrative assistant position I interviewed for today?” she asked as they waited for the elevator. “Because I didn’t see anyone else be escorted somewhere.”
Did they already make a decision?
Did Jasmine win by some luck of the cosmos? Hooray minimum wage and no benefits!

The man glanced at her repeatedly until the elevator dinged and opened. They stepped inside, and with a brisk push of the button the doors closed again. “It does have to do with a similar position, yes. But I don’t think it’s exactly that one.”

“Huh.” Jasmine turned to the mirrored walls and preened. Hair in place? Check. Makeup flawless? Check. Dress falling in the right places and making sure she was ready to talk business? Oh, check.

Even though this young man said something about the executive suites, Jasmine still did not anticipate what she saw when the elevator doors opened.

Such an office was unlike anything she had ever seen before. Her eyes went straight to a flowing fountain spurting out of the wall opposite the elevator, its marble tiles reflecting the pure water as it pooled behind a bench of granite. An elegant sign read “Do Not Toss Coins Into Fountain” but a few pennies glistened at the bottom anyway.

But any office could have a fountain. When Jasmine stepped into the hall and turned around, she discovered something more.

Chandeliers made of gold and crystal. Mahogany desks with secretaries wearing department store designers and dresses off the high-end boutique racks. Exotic oil paintings decorating the walls. Silk and sheer curtains cordoning off alcoves of espresso machines and complimentary sandwiches from the café downstairs. The pleasant chirp of poised workers answering phone calls and fielding questions from visitors. Jasmine had worked in many offices before thanks to her temp jobs. She was used to grime, overflowing wastebaskets, sour moods, and water cooler gossip that could destroy careers if people weren’t careful.
Is this another planet?
When the woman behind the foremost desk hung up her phone and flashed Jasmine a pair of perfectly white teeth, she nearly gagged.
She’s a princess.
Yes, princesses wore sleeveless silk tops, tight pencil skirts, and had their hair done by Paul Mitchell himself. This woman in particular had luscious red locks caressing her smooth skin as she said hello with an equally silky and smooth voice. It wasn’t fair. Jasmine would cut off her right arm if being asymmetrical made her half as beautiful as this woman.

“Afternoon.” She didn’t have any cleavage, but Jasmine wouldn’t pretend that this woman didn’t have the perkiest breasts in the universe.
Maybe that’s my problem.
She glanced down at her own. A fair size, but nothing she liked showing off in the locker room back in high school. “What can I do for you?”

“This is the woman I was sent to fetch,” Jasmine’s escort said. “You know. The one the boss wants to talk to.”

The way he said it sounded so official.
The boss wants to talk to me?
Jasmine stood up straight and tried not to look smug. Especially after the secretary picked up a phone and asked the person on the other line if they were ready to see the young woman they asked for.

An affirmative came through.

“You may go in to see Mr. Cole.”

Jasmine nodded before doing a double take. “Wait… did you say Mr. Cole?”

The secretary looked at her as if she were deaf. “Of course. Where do you think you are?”

Hell.
Anxiety had long since seized up Jasmine, and she was unable to divulge what she thought about going in to see one of the most powerful men in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

I have an interview with
the
Ethan Cole.

It was all Jasmine could think as she was escorted to a back office, its doors gilded in gold.
Oh my God.
This wasn’t happening. There was no way someone like Jasmine could be singled out for an interview with one of the richest men in America. Unless, of course, she was not singled out. She was probably one of many…
but would he personally interview so many people in one day?
Something bubbled in Jasmine’s throat.

The door opened. Before Jasmine knew it, she entered the private world of Ethan Cole.

He sat behind a desk. Not just any desk, since that wouldn’t do. This desk was the king of desks, stretching from one end of the room to the other, trimmed in the same gold as the door, blocking the bottom view of the window behind Ethan. The sunlight streaming through the top portion illuminated the man as if he stood before a stained glass window in the Church of Damn He Looks Good
.
Sophisticated. That clean cut suit sat perfectly on his body, drawing attention to every line of his form as he wrote something with a slim black pen in his hand. It wasn’t until the doors closed behind Jasmine that Ethan finally looked up.

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