Authors: Vicki Lewis Thompson
HE GEEK TYCOON
© 2016 Vicki Lewis Thompson
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Ocean Dance Press, LLC, PO Box 69901, Oro Valley AZ 85737
the author’s website at www.VickiLewisThompson.com
nthony James Bainbridge IV
shut down his computer and gazed up at the woman standing in front of his desk. Charlotte Wingate was the love of his life, although she didn’t know that.
This morning her brown eyes flashed with indignation. “Tony, there’s a huge difference between a boob graze and a boob grab. This was a boob grab.”
“I know the difference.” He leaned back in his soft leather desk chair. He hoped to God he wasn’t blushing but his cheeks felt hot. “That doesn’t mean he did it on purpose.”
“Miranda said it was no accident. A woman knows when she’s been deliberately fondled.”
“Right.” Tony controlled the impulse to look at Charlotte’s breasts, which were rising and falling rapidly in time with her agitated breathing. He’d never fondled them and wasn’t likely to, although he’d been in love with her since he was five. They’d attended the same exclusive preschool and one morning she’d offered to share her crayons. He’d fallen hard.
Her hair had been lighter then, what people called honey blonde. Now it was a rich coffee color that fell to her shoulders in graceful waves that made his throat tighten with longing. She’d grown into a beauty. She’d dated the cool, popular guys and had even married one, although the marriage hadn’t lasted.
He’d never told her how he felt because she was out of his league. Stuck in his nerd persona, he’d settled for being her friend for twenty-plus years rather than face the inevitable rejection. But when he’d needed someone to head up the human resources department for the tech startup he and his three buddies had launched, he’d talked her into leaving Google to work for him. If he couldn’t be her lover, he’d settle for being her boss.
“So you’ll say something to Blake?”
“We can’t have that kind of thing going on at BMUS.”
“Nope.” Hearing the name of his company always made him smile. It was an acronym for Beam Me Up, Scotty, and when spoken it sounded like “beam us.” He and the guys had come up with it after several beers.
“Blake thinks he can get away with stuff because of his daddy’s money.” Charlotte made a face.
“Let’s not forget that his daddy’s money is helping finance this little company we all love so much.”
“I know and it’s a damn shame that Blake’s part of the package. It’s not as if we don’t know he’s a pain in the ass. And he’s been a groper ever since I can remember.”
?” Tony sat up and pushed his glasses against the bridge of his nose. He hated to think of Blake harassing Miranda but he
the thought of the guy’s sweaty hands on Charlotte.
“Years ago at one of the school dances. I gave him a black eye so he never tried it again.”
Tony settled back in his chair with a smile. “I remember him showing up in trig with a black eye. Said he had to fight off some guys trying to steal his ‘vette.” He should have known she’d be able to take care of herself. No white knight required for this woman.
“He begged me not to tell how he got it. I was more charitable back then.”
“Mighty mad at him, that’s for sure. I still remember the rush of adrenaline and suddenly my fist connected with his face.” She raised her hand and looked at it as if she still couldn’t believe she’d hit somebody. “Shocked the hell out of both of us.”
“Remind me not to make you mad.”
“Like you ever would.” She let her hand drop. “I can’t imagine you being inappropriate with a woman.”
No, she probably couldn’t. That was part of the problem. She saw him as mild-mannered Clark Kent, when in his mind he was the guy in blue spandex with a red cape and big red S on his chest. He and his team of geeks would save the world with their soon-to-be perfected health-conscious, informative veggie app. Maybe the S on his chest should be green for spinach. Spinachman. Women would go wild.
She glanced at his atomic wall clock. “Yikes, the morning’s almost gone. Don’t you have Rotary Club at noon?”
“Yeah. Want to go with me?”
“Can’t. I’m having lunch with a friend from Google.”
“Well, good. That’s good.” Charlotte networked like nobody’s business and her contacts in the tech industry would be pure gold when the time came to market the app. They didn’t have enough employees yet to justify a full-time HR person but someday they would. He had Google-sized dreams and Charlotte could help make that happen.
“Anyway, you don’t need me at the Rotary luncheon.” She waved her hand in his direction. “You’re the face of the company.”
“I may be the face but you’re the mouth.”
She laughed. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Please do.” She had the most beautiful mouth in the solar system – full and pink. He’d spent way too much time fantasizing about it.
“The point is the Rotarians are interested in you and your socially responsible think tank, not your support staff. And FYI, we could use some more investors. Another three or four multi-millionaires and we wouldn’t be so afraid to fire Blake Pearson. See ya.” She started out of the office, her hair swaying against her shoulders.
He’d only touched it once when they were nine and she’d managed to get gum stuck in it. He remembered the silky texture and how much he’d hated using scissors to get the gum out. “Charlotte?”
“What?” She turned back to him.
“Want to grab some pizza tonight?”
“Sure. I’ll ask the others.”
“You know what? Let’s just go by ourselves.” He couldn’t say what had made him suggest such a thing. She’d been beautiful every single workday for six months, so why this sudden urge to be alone with her? She’d probably question the plan.
She chuckled. “Sick of the endless arguments over toppings, are you?”
“You have no idea.”
“Then let me know when you’re ready to leave.”
“Will do.” He waited until she’d left his office before releasing a deep sigh. She hadn’t questioned the plan because it would just be two friends getting together after work.
If any other guy in the office had suggested a twosome for pizza she might wonder if it was supposed to be a date. In his case, that thought wouldn’t enter her mind. He’d hidden his feelings very well for a long time. She didn’t suspect a thing. Sometimes he fantasized pulling her into his arms and kissing her just to see what would happen. He’d probably end up with a black eye and a pair of busted glasses.
He was about to leave for his obligatory luncheon when Rylan Krause walked into his office. The guy was a genius when it came to designing software. He was a crucial member of the team, but more important, he was a loyal friend.
“I know you’re on your way out the door.” Rylan had been putting in some long hours recently and shaving had become optional. “Charlotte told me you have that Rotary thing.”
“Afraid so.” He envied Rylan his scruff. The guy could get away with it, whereas the face of the company could not. The men Tony’s father knew, men who’d made the startup possible, shaved every morning and sometimes again before dinner.
“This won’t take long. Just wanted to make sure you were going to tell that asshole to keep his hands off Miranda. If you don’t, I will, but it’ll carry more weight coming from you.”
“I’ll say something, but it’ll have to be after I get back. Did you see what happened?”
“No, fortunately, or I might’ve hit the guy. I overheard Miranda talking to Charlotte. Miranda’s a straight shooter. Not a drama queen at all. And we can’t afford to lose her as a consultant.”
Something in Rylan’s voice indicated that more than the app was at stake. But he was right that losing Miranda would be bad. The app’s functionality depended on accurate data about fruits and veggies, which meant hiring a consultant who knew fresh produce inside and out.
Miranda Travers was a respected nutritionist, a woman who knew her rhubarb from her rutabaga. She was supplying them with info on every fruit and vegetable on the planet, including the health benefits of each and a plethora of recipes. She was a find and he couldn’t let some sleazeball scare her off.
He thought fast. “I’ll take Blake to the Rotary meeting. That should please his dad and on the way back I can broach the subject of his unacceptable behavior with Miranda.”
Rylan nodded. “Good plan. Wish we didn’t have to deal with him at all, though. He can’t write code worth a damn.”
Tony could easily picture Rylan’s frustration. The Krause brothers had been his close friends since freshman year at Caltech and a natural choice for this startup. Frazer was the more levelheaded of the two while Rylan’s brilliance at software design was sometimes undercut by his low tolerance for frustration. “Give him busy work and convince him he’s a valuable member of the team. I hate this as much as you do, but we have to be realistic. His father’s providing fifty percent of our financing.”
“Forty-seven-point-six percent. I worked it out.”
Tony laughed. “So did I, but he’s still our primary backer.”
“Find us some more multi-millionaires at the luncheon, dude. Preferably ones with no idiot sons who need a job.”
“You’re not the first person to suggest that.”
“Come to think of it, dragging Pearson along to the lunch won’t increase your odds. Maybe you should leave him here. Frazer thinks we should get him alone and give him a wedgie. After all the times it’s happened to us, we know how it’s done.”
“No wedgies. His dad has an entire law firm at his beck and call. I’ll take him with me.”
“I’d rather follow through with the wedgie plan, but okay.” Rylan polished his glasses with the tail of his plaid shirt. “I’ll go tell Frazer we have a couple of hours when we can actually accomplish something. He’ll appreciate that.”
“All the more reason I should get Blake out of here. Is he seriously interfering with your progress?”
Rylan inspected his glasses and put them on before answering. “I hate to admit this, but I’m struggling and Pearson makes a great excuse for my mental block. The app is a killer concept, especially with the healthy eating craze going on, but I won’t lie to you. The execution is turning out to be a bitch.”
“Do we need another beer and brainstorming session at Picasso’s?”
“Maybe. But if you get Pearson out of here for a while, that’s going to lower the stress level for all of us.”
“Consider it done.”
“Thanks. We’re buying the beer next time.”
“Damn straight.” That was another thing Tony cherished about his three friends. Because of his wealthy family and his trust fund he had more financial resources than all three of them put together. He’d had the money to buy this building and the connections to find renters for the bottom two floors. He’d also tapped his dad’s well-heeled cronies to line up investors.
Because of that, his three friends had voted him in as CEO, which made him the boss, but he didn’t consider any of his buddies employees and consequently they didn’t treat him any differently than they had before. They still kidded him about his Maserati. He’d bought it primarily for the sound system but at the last minute had ordered the ragtop for the coolness factor, which effectively cancelled the excellence of the sound system because of road noise. But at least the four of them could cruise the 101 in style.
They hadn’t done that lately, though. As Rylan left, Tony felt a twinge of guilt for suggesting to Charlotte that they go out for pizza by themselves. If Blake was affecting company morale, shouldn’t the CEO take steps to boost everyone’s spirits? The regular pizza nights had become a tradition and by making it exclusive this time he was violating tradition and losing an opportunity to rally the troops.
He decided to table that weighty decision until after the Rotary lunch, which was even less appealing now that he had to invite Blake. His parents were close friends with Blake’s parents so Tony had known him a long time. He’d always been a PITA.
But Blake’s dad had been enthusiastic about the tech startup and eager to invest. Tony now saw that eagerness for what it was – an opportunity to involve his underachieving son in an enterprise that likely would take off. That insight didn’t change the fact that Tony and his friends had accepted an enormous amount of money in exchange for giving Blake Pearson a shot at becoming a successful adult.
After today’s incident Tony didn’t see a lot of hope for that plan, but he texted Blake and within minutes they were headed out to the meeting in Tony’s car. Blake had wanted to take his Ferrari, but Tony thought that under the circumstances he should drive. He didn’t want to be in the passenger seat when he told Blake that he’d better lay off the groping or he’d be sued for sexual harassment.
Two hours later Tony was forced to admit that Blake had made the Rotary meeting easier to tolerate and potentially more profitable. Although Blake had hogged the conversation, he’d spent most of his time bragging about the company he worked for. If he’d claimed to be a brilliant addition to the team, so what?
Tony didn’t care who got the credit if the app was a success. Making money while also providing a worthwhile product was reward enough. A bestselling app would give them the financial freedom to expand, and his team had the potential to go big. In the beginning they’d brainstormed several promising ideas and had settled on the veggie app as the most doable in the shortest timeframe.
With Blake claiming the limelight, Tony had been able to sit back and relax for a change. But when the meeting was over, so were the fun and games. Tony had twenty-eight and a half minutes, give or take, to broach a touchy subject. Touchy. Haha.
“That was great!” Blake settled into the passenger seat with a sigh of satisfaction. “Those are my people.”
“You know what I mean. Guys who’ve made it. Guys like us.”
Holy delusional dickhead, Batman.
“I highly approve of your ride, by the way. It’d be my second choice after the Ferrari, which makes sense. The guy who engineered the powertrain for this car used to work for Ferrari. My dad knows him really well.”