All That She Wants

By: Olivia Thorne

1





It had been the worst goddamn year of my life.

Betrayed by the woman I was supposed to marry, and to the worst enemies I had: my own family.

Obstructed and frustrated at every turn in the biggest business deal I had ever embarked on.

Miserable, lonely, bitter, angry, with failure seemingly waiting for me around every corner.

And the constant reminder of how I had failed – failed to see my fiancée for what she really was, even up to the point when she plunged the knife in my back. Me, the guy who can look at a $5 billion business and see all the angles, all the flaws, all the opportunities – I got played. And had my heart ripped out for good measure.

And then, just like that, it all turned around…

…and became the best year of my life.

Don’t get me wrong; there was still hell to go through.

But for the first time in ages, I caught my first glimpse of heaven.





2





I was in the back of the Bentley, watching the lights of downtown Los Angeles go by, and trying to ignore my right-hand man Sebastian as he droned on about pointless details.

“I need you back on the plane by midnight if you’re going to make the 9AM meeting tomorrow in New York,” he said over the limo’s backseat speaker.

“Remind me why you scheduled a meeting for 9AM on a Saturday?” I asked grumpily, though I knew exactly why.

And, of course, Sebastian told me. In detail. As he always does.

“Because you need the go-ahead from the regulatory commission, and the supervisory meeting is Monday morning, and if you don’t have DeWeiss in your pocket by then – ”

“Yeah, yeah, okay, fine.”

Words, words, words.

Wait, that was Hamlet. What was that Macbeth line…?

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day…

“Connor,” Sebastian yelled.

“What?” I snapped, yanked out of my daydream.

“Do I have your word you’re going to be in and out of there and back on the Gulfstream by midnight?”

“YES. It’s not going to take that long. All I need to do is look over some accounts.”

“I never can tell with you.”

“What do you think’s going to happen?” I smirked. “That I’m going to meet a woman?”

Sebastian paused – and then launched in, full force.

“I wish you would.”

“What, in a consulting firm at 6PM on a Friday? Not likely.”

“I don’t care WHERE you meet her. No, scratch that, just don’t make it a whorehouse or a strip club. Or a Republican Party fundraiser.”

“Yeah, okay, thanks,” I said, sorry I’d even brought it up.

“On second thought, libertarian Republicans are fine. In fact, regular Republicans are fine, just make sure she’s not anti-ME.”

Full disclosure: Sebastian is gay. Very gay.

I snorted. “Anybody who talks to you longer than 15 seconds is ‘anti-you.’”

“Love you, too, Connor,” he said sarcastically. “You know what, I don’t even care, go find a nice Mormon girl – you just REALLY need to get over that bitch.”

“Got the message; you can quit anytime you like.”

“Really? ‘Cause I’ve been telling you FOREVER – ”

“Aaaaanytime now.”

“Seriously, you need to stop marching your pity parade through town and get back in the saddle.”

“I think you’re mixing your metaphors.”

“You need to do a little mixing of your own. Just make sure you do it AFTER your meeting with DeWeiss tomorrow morning, and NOT before.”

“You don’t need to worry about that.”

Sebastian snorted. “Based on the last eight months, a reasonable person might agree – but I’m ALWAYS worried when YOU’RE in the equation.”

“That’s why you make the big bucks.”

“That’s one of the MANY reasons I make the big bucks.”

“Go home, I can handle it from here.”

“Fine – but I’m staying up and waiting for a call until you’re on that plane.”

“Suit yourself.”

“I will.”

“Good.”

“FINE.”

“GOODBYE,” I snapped, and hit the hang-up button.

I love the guy and, honestly, it would take a fleet of assistants to replace what he does for me – but Jesus he can be a pain in the ass.





3





The Bentley pulled up outside the Exerton building just a few minutes before 6PM.

Before I could reach for the door, my bodyguard and chauffeur already had it open for me.

John Inaba. Former Special Forces, U.S. Army. Fourth degree black belt in ninjutsu. On first glance, he looks more like a Hollywood actor than a bodyguard. Which would be a deadly mistake on your part if you tried to fuck with him.

Twenty-nine years old, he’d been with me the last three – ever since that situation in Brazil. I guess I should have taken the hint when my father was kidnapped five years ago, but… I’m a little stubborn sometimes.

I stepped out and gave Johnny a look. “You’re kind of blowing my cover.”

He shrugged. “I don’t have a uniform on. They’ll just think I’m a sedan service or something.”

It was true; he was dressed in a regular suit. He could follow me anywhere inconspicuously – which he was about to suggest in three, two, one –

“I’m really not comfortable letting you go in there by yourself,” he said.

“It’s a business building, not a slum. We’re in LA, not Mexico City. And there hasn’t been anything on the radar in over six months.”

“That doesn’t mean there’s not something on the horizon,” he pointed out.

“Too bad. I can’t exactly waltz in there incognito if I have a bodyguard with me.”

“You can tell them I’m a… a consultant.”

“A consultant for what, breaking arms?”

He grinned. “Whatever needs getting done.”

“Look, I’ll be in and out, an hour tops. Speaking of which, go get yourself an In ‘N Out burger. I know you’ve been thinking about it ever since we landed.”

Johnny sighed. “You do know my weakness.”

I laughed. “That’s my gift, knowing people’s weaknesses. Go on – I’ll text you when I’m finished.”

“Just promise me you won’t leave the building until I get here.”

I held up my hand like I was taking the Presidential Oath of office. “I swear.”

“Yeah, right,” he said, and gave me a sideways glance as he got back in the Bentley.

“First Sebastian, now you – why does nobody trust me?” I asked as I backed away towards the Exerton Building.

“‘Cause we know you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said as he shut the door. He hung out, though, until I was safely inside the building.





4





Exerton Consulting.

Bane of my existence.

I was the primary stockholder in LMGK, an international consulting firm. The board of directors had been making noise for years about acquiring Exerton – a much smaller company with some top-notch contracts.

Only problem was, I was convinced that there was some rot in the middle of the woodpile.

For one, their Executive Compensation department was run by a halfwit named Klaus Zimmerman. The worst kind of asshole – supremely confident yet inherently lazy. I’d seen a report he’d put together for one of my friend’s companies, and it just stank to high heaven of cooked numbers.

Then I’d actually listened in on him during a conference call.

It constantly amazes me how far some people can fail upwards.

Which was another problem: any organization that lets a guy like that stay on as an executive is a corporation that needs a major gutting and overhauling.

Not one you pay top dollar for in a buyout.

I’d raised my concerns – loudly – but LMGK’s CEO and the board were obsessed with acquiring Exerton. Which is stupid beyond belief: never, ever be so attached to something that you can’t walk away from it at a second’s notice.

That goes for businesses… and people.

Everybody else thought I was being overly cautious, overly demanding. They didn’t stop to wonder if that was one of the reasons I was worth over ten billion and they weren’t, but… oh well.

At 22% of outstanding stock, I didn’t have a controlling share in LMGK, so I couldn’t torpedo the buyout alone. And everybody wanted it but me. Next Monday was the big day when the final decision would be made. Which meant that I stood to lose, oh, fifty million if the stock price tanked. Which I was fairly sure would happen, sooner or later.

I could have just sold the stock, but… fuck that.

Nobody tells me no.

I fought them so hard and so long, they finally gave in out of exhaustion. LMGK’s board agreed I could scuttle the deal – if I had proof.

Exerton’s CEO, a guy named Dave Westerholtz (another problem; nice guy, but not CEO material) was so damn eager to have the buyout go through that he was willing to give me carte blanche in looking at the Exec Comp records.

Which should have been another warning sign since, strictly speaking, it wasn’t legal. Those reports were the property of the corporations that had paid for them. I was a shareholder in some of their competitors, so I doubt they would have appreciated my going in and looking at what they’d paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for. Their lawyers surely wouldn’t.

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