The verbal slap came out of nowhere. It took a moment to recover. It seemed Tino shared none of her scruples about avoiding personal issues.
‘You have a proposition for me,’ he prompted.
‘If you’re interested?’
‘I’m always prepared to listen to a business proposal.’
‘I hear you’ve gone cold on our deal and transferred your interest to Clifton Steel?’
‘I’m always looking for possibilities.’
‘Have you ruled out my small engineering works?’
He kept her waiting so long Lisa wondered if he’d heard the question.
‘I haven’t ruled anything out yet,’ he said at last.
‘I do have other people waiting.’
‘Really? Your company’s in big trouble Lisa—your share price is falling through the floor.’
‘And I’ll recover the situation.’
‘Yes, if we can reach an agreement.’
‘And if you go to one of these other companies—can they come up with the cash in time to save Bond Steel?’
‘Probably not—’ She didn’t have the luxury of time to play cat and mouse with him. Reaching into her own briefcase, Lisa welcomed the chance to break eye contact. Tino’s stare was so penetrating he made her feel naked— and she needed a clear head to do business with him. ‘If you will just take a look at the figures I’ve been working on…’
‘You’ve been busy—’ He lifted the heavy sheaf of documents out of her hands.
Lisa watched tensely as he flicked through them, pausing occasionally to read one or other of the passages more intently. Finally laying them down on the table between them, he sat back again and folded his arms behind his head.
‘You need me, Lisa.’
Her business head urged caution. There had been no other serious offers. Zagorakis Inc was cash rich. Tino could write a cheque right now if it came to it. He was the best, her only chance to save Bond Steel. ‘What do you think now you’ve seen the numbers?’
‘I’d need to study these a little longer before I give you my final answer, but—’
‘OK, I’m listening.’
‘Not so fast.’ He straightened up, his expression hardening. ‘It’s me who’s listening, Lisa. It’s up to you to convince me that your proposal has merit.’
All the people relying on her to secure the deal flashed in front of Lisa’s eyes. ‘I’ll give you a brief run-down of the facts—’
‘No. You’re not getting the point. You’ve come here— disturbing me on my island… at my home. This is going to be on my terms, not yours. I’ll be generous. I’ll give you a working week to convince me that your scheme has merit. If you’re successful I’ll buy your small engineering works, and bail you out. If you fail the deal is off and everything’s in play: Clifton, as well as Bond Steel—’
‘No. Bond Steel’s not for sale.’
‘If you don’t deal with me—we both know it will go under.’
‘So, that’s it,’ Lisa accused tensely. ‘You’re just playing with me. I don’t believe you’re even going to look at those figures. You’ll keep me here where I’m safely out of the picture, and sit it out until Bond Steel goes down.’
‘And I can pick it up for practically nothing?’ He shrugged in agreement. ‘You know that’s good business, Lisa—and don’t forget I’ve given you an opportunity to change my mind.’
‘Five days? Five days to secure the future of my employees? You can’t toy with people like that. And don’t try telling me that jobs will be secure under your ownership. If you get your hands on Bond Steel, you’ll strip the assets and tip people out of work without a second thought—’ She shook her head. ‘I was wrong about you—I thought you had some small spark of humanity, but you don’t have any feelings at all, do you?’
‘None.’ It was true. There was very little he could get fired up about. Lisa Bond came close—but she was a page in his life he would turn very soon. He cared about his assets because they funded the project closest to his heart, and he cared about two very special and unique women. Apart from that, feelings were a luxury reserved for other people.