Unfortunately, the elderly Alphonse Megami was somewhat of a traditional man, and he liked to do business with traditional people. Much to my amusement, he’d mistakenly thought I was gay. That was the tabloids fault. Some asshole of a photographer had done an almost hilariously bad photoshop job that made it look like I might be holding hands with another man. The scandal barely made waves, but it was enough for Alphonse to bring it to my attention. I thought a few real paparazzi shots with a sexy supermodel on my arm and a libel lawsuit against the seedy little news rag would dispel that illusion.
To do proper business, Alphonse needed more. Part of it was his talk of ‘traditional values’, but I knew the other half was a desire to express his control over the negotiations. When billionaires clash, influence is more important than money. It’s fun to see what silly hoops you can make a powerful man jump through, and Alphonse was the one with all the power in this particular arrangement. His stipulation was simple and he stated it clearly. For this deal to go forward, I had to do one little thing.
I had to get married.
Settling down had never been part of the plan, and I detested the idea of putting anyone through what would come of that. Mr. Megami was providing a way out of all the responsibilities I’d caged myself into. This was the first legitimate offer I’d been made since privately painting the crosshairs on my own corporation. It was too tempting to pass up.
Some would undoubtedly wonder why I did it, when the ink dried… After all, I was a billionaire on paper when you added up the assets of my company. Why sell out? A few weeks later they would understand…
I regretted that I couldn’t do it alone. I’d built this whole business on the back of brash and impossible decisions. People used to joke that I was running my company as if there were no tomorrow, but that didn’t mean I could act freely. For example, I could never sell even a fraction of my stock without crashing the company’s value on the market. As the largest shareholder, they would see any movement of my position as a sign of weakness. The losses would be staggering, and could put the entire future of the company in jeopardy. Worse yet, the declining value would leave me with too little in liquid funds to accomplish my life’s work.
Megami Corporation was only answer. They had the cash reserves to liquidate my position instantaneously. My paper wealth would become real over night. Unfortunately, his offer came with a hard deadline, and my rendezvous with Alphonse drew ever nearer…
It was the right move. I knew that much. I could handsomely reward everyone who had stuck it out with me over these years, cut my ties, and move on with enough accumulated resources to last the rest of my life and support a charitable organization with my name on it that would help people for generations upon generations. That’s what I wanted now more than anything. A legacy, and time to take a walk in the park. The pieces were all in place…all but one. I still needed a wife.
My thoughts drifted back to Kiona Walker. A panderer I was not, but it wasn’t lost on me that a prominent African American businessman like Alphonse Megami might look favorably on Kiona. Surely, he would take steps to ensure our relationship was real. Thankfully, the mystery woman had completely and continuously fooled my entire company – and importantly, she’d won over my assistant in less than a half an hour.
Kiona was many things. Clever. Opportunistic. Adaptable.
Someone had paid her well to infiltrate my company and gain my respect. That much was certain. She was an actress worthy of my grudging respect.
She was perfect for the role.
That evening, I was still trying to shake the sight of Cole’s smile from my head. There was something about the way he had been apathetically part of the meeting – obviously, he hadn’t wanted to be there. But then he’d turned his attention to me, and for a brief moment I felt the weight of his crushing gaze…and I wanted more of it.
Cole Andrews was the hottest guy I’d ever met. My keystrokes betrayed me as I pulled up the company staff page, then clicking his headshot to pop-out a full-sized picture. There he was, with his thick brunette hair, piercing blue eyes, and chiseled cheekbones. But despite his physical handsomeness, there was his trademark crisp stare – not even the faintest trace of a smile. I’d never seen a picture of this man smiling, and if the tabloids were to be believed, nobody had. He looked perpetually distant at all times, simply going through the motions at any given time.