Ash - the Sandstone Affair Part 1

BOOK: Ash - the Sandstone Affair Part 1
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Ash

 

The Sandstone Affair

Part 1

by

Priscilla West

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Copyright © 2012

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Warning: This work contains scenes of graphic sexual nature and it i
s written for adults only(18+).
All characters depicted in this story are over 18 years of age
.

Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Prologue

“Honey, we should talk about some options.” Dad’s weary eyes searched for mine.
“Stop it. Just stop it. You’re starting to sound like them.” My eyes wandered across the room, settling on the quietly beeping heart rate monitor next to the bed. I couldn’t look at him, especially when he started talking like this.
“You can’t keep going on like this, throwing away your money on an old man.”
“Dr. Vatel thinks the new treatment will work.”
“He said there was a possibility it
could
work, Julia.”
I studied the pattern on the linoleum tiles, trying to calm myself down. Every so often he’d bring this up again, and it never ceased to rile me up all the same. I think it was when the pain got bad for him. I tried to ask the doctors to increase the dosage on the morphine drip, but they said it was too dangerous.
“Stop talking like that.
 
I’m not going to lose you like we lost Mom. I’m going to continue paying for Glenvale and that’s final!” I stared down at my hands, trembling slightly. I gripped the plastic handle on the hospital bed, my vision starting to blur with wetness.
I needed to be strong. I needed to be strong for Dad. Mom made me promise that to her when she was in the hospital, when she lay in that antiseptic room just waiting for the disease to take her. It was hard on both of us, but Dad took the worst of it. I was too busy building up Lynx, the magazine company I founded, to have much time to think about her passing. Every day I would rush over to the hospital after work to check on her, but Dad was with her all the time. He practically slept in that hospital room. We tried every treatment that the insurance covered, but it wasn’t enough to save her in the end.
And now it’s happening all over again.
No. This time it’s different. Lynx is no longer the scrappy magazine operating out of a basement apartment. It doesn’t matter if Dad’s insurance won’t cover the new experimental treatments. Now, I can make sure he has the best treatment that money can buy.
“You were always so headstrong.” Dad chuckled lightly, realizing that he wasn’t going to win this argument. “So how’s your world?”
Thank God, he’s finally dropping the subject.
“Good Daddy, everything is good.”
“How’s the big story? Ready to go to press?”
“Soon, there are a few more things to sort out, but it’s getting there.”
“What about that handsome young man? Blake.” His eyes twinkled at me.
“You mean Mark? He’s the only one you met. He’s fine I guess, I don’t see him around that much. He’s been getting on my case, but at least he doesn’t hold the fact that they own the majority stake in the company over my head constantly.”
“You owe them a lot you know. Especially Mark.”
“I know.”
Blake and Mark Stone of Sandstone Ventures had saved Lynx in 2008 with an injection of capital, when the recession pretty much froze the news stands. No one was buying magazines. It was the right decision at the time to take their offer, but I couldn’t help but regret losing full control over Lynx. It was my company, my child, my life.
Even though Mark had never been heavy handed when giving me “advice”, I knew that ultimately they could force the company to go in whichever direction they wanted. I followed Mark’s advice when it made sense, but sometimes I had to ignore him.
Mark had never been able to convince me to give up my feud with the larger and more popular Ladies World. I knew that Sandstone Ventures had a stake in Ladies World, but that didn’t stop me from undercutting them, scooping the heck out of their reporters, and calling them out on their vapid articles.
I knew I should have given him a break, especially since he got my father into Glenvale when the hospital director had claimed that all of the beds were full.
“Mark’s a good man, Julia. Why doesn’t he come around anymore?”
“He’s very busy Dad, he was just being polite when he came to visit.”
Truth was, Mark had been adamant about visiting my father with me and insisted on speaking to the hospital director to make sure that Dad had the best doctor on his case. It was one of the only times in recent memory that he hadn’t hounding me about leaving Ladies World alone.
“Oh please, Julia, I saw the way you two looked at each other last time he was here. He can’t be so busy that he doesn’t have time for my lovely daughter.”
I had always been attracted to Mark, and he really went out of his way to help me out so he must have felt something for me too, but neither of us ever acted on those impulses. I guess he always seemed so composed and distant. Thinking about Mark’s square chin and piercing eyes was sending uncomfortable waves of heat between my thighs and I wasn’t quite ready for those feelings again. Nor did I want to have to justify my relationship status to Dad yet again.
“Listen Dad, I have to get to work. I’ll be around to visit later tonight okay?”
“Okay, bye honey.”
“Love you, Daddy”
 

Chapter 1

Something’s different today.
 
I can tell the second I walk in the door to the office. Instead of the usual noise and chatter of reporters and designers brainstorming and teasing one another, or the frantic scurry of interns running photos to various cubicles, there is a hushed and focused pall across the room. I see Jeff mouth, “She’s here” to the layout manager.
 
Crossing the room in silence, acutely aware of the absence of clicking keyboards, I push this morning’s conversation with Daddy out of my head and put on my business face.
Janice stands up as I approach. That’s not normal.
“You need to wait here,” Janice says in a quiet but heavy voice.
 
I try to push past her.
“Why would I do that? I need to be in my office.”
“Julia. Stop!” Janice jumps between me and the door. “Just stop a moment.”
“What on earth?” I try to control my confused reaction. Janice has been my administrative assistant since the first issue of Lynx went to press.
 
She’s a good employee and an even better friend. When we’re at yoga, lunch or anywhere else she calls me Julia. But in all these years inside this office I have always been “Miss Sharp.”
“Julia, I don’t know what’s going on, but some lawyer from Sandstone came in today with security guards. They’ve been going through the stuff in your office all morning, I tried to stop them but...”
“Janice, what the hell is…”
“I’m sorry Julia, I have to let them know that you’re here.”
“Miss Sharp has arrived,” Janice says into the intercom and sits down looking at the desk. Before I can get a grasp on what any of this means, two armed security guards emerge from my office.
 
One reaches out toward me and motions me into the door.
“Did something happen here?” I ask the somber guard. “Have I been robbed?”
“Oh, someone was robbed, Miss Sharp,” the oily voice I recognize at once calls from the inner office. “But, it wasn’t you.”
“Mr. Allen.” I shudder when I say his name. As one of Sandstone Venture’s attorneys, and the personal lawyer of Blake Stone, Kenneth Allen is more of a pompous bully than an officer of the court. He’s been insufferable ever since I turned down his clumsy attempts at courtship.
“How nice of you to visit. What brings you here, and why have you commandeered my property?”
“You’re wrong on all counts, Miss Sharp,” Kenneth drawls, his voice thick with superiority. “This is neither nice nor a visit, and nothing here is your property. This magazine and this office are the property of Sandstone Ventures. Of course, if you had known that we wouldn’t need the added security.”
Kenneth is standing behind my desk, his meaty paws thumbing through folders he has pulled out of my drawers and placed all over. Red tags cover my computer, my file cabinet and even my lunchbox left over from yesterday. I pull at a tag to see the word “EVIDENCE” written across it.
“Evidence? Evidence of what?”
“I’m sure if you search your soul deep enough, you’ll figure it out,” Kenneth says. He talks to me like I’m three years old and it always sends me into a tailspin.
“Drop the act and tell me what is going on or get the hell out of my office.”
I hear the click of the office door as the security guard closes it, shutting out the prying eyes and ears of my entire staff.
 
Mr. Allen reaches into his briefcase and brings out three legal sized manila folders, placing them in a line. The last folder is red.
“We’ve been watching Lynx for some time, Miss Sharp. Or, should I call you, ‘Miss Shark?’
 
That’s what your staff calls you. We saw it all over their inter-office instant messaging. We also saw some… shall we say… irregularities in the account management. We aren’t sure what we’re looking at yet, but if it’s anything serious you will be the first person we notify.”
“Irregularities? That’s bullshit. Where’s Mark? Why isn’t he here telling this to my face?”
I can see the gloating fire behind Kenneth’s eyes. “Mark is no longer in charge of your accounts. He turned all the necessary documentation over to Blake last week.”
Another news flash that hits me between the eyes.
“Why would he do that?”
 
It’s like trying to put together a puzzle where none of the pieces match in any way. I’m drowning in new information and none of it makes any sense.
Stop. Calm down, Julia. Breathe. You need to think.
“Because Mark is in charge of functioning properties, and this magazine no longer meets the criteria. Blake is in charge of acquisitions, transfers, merges and – in your case – closures.”
A surge of fury and something else, betrayal, clenches in my stomach.
“Closures? You’re closing Lynx?
 
You can’t do that! I still own forty-nine percent of this company, dammit. You can’t just come in here with some bullshit charge and then shut us down! I have some time for legal recourse.” This can’t be happening.
Kenneth opens the first folder. “You’re right, Miss Sharp. Of course, you’re always right, aren’t you? Enclosed is a copy of the injunction barring Lynx Magazine from any independent publication, action or pursuit until the terms of closure are finalized. The magazine can function
only
under the direction of Blake Stone until your time for rejoinder is finished.”
I stare at the stack of legal nonsense in front of me. I need to sit down but the only chair in the room has a box filled with files in it. I grip the back to steady myself as Kenneth opens the second folder.
What? There’s more? I’m trying to clear my vision.
“What you see in this document is the closure of Lynx Magazine, and transfer of contracts, staff, projects in development and all resources to another of Sandstone’s properties.”
Kenneth smiles like a hungry alligator.
“Everything here, except for one element, will be transferred to Ladies World under the direction of Valerie James. And finally,” Kenneth clears his throat, smiling broadly as he opens the red folder. He pretends to offer it to me then pulls it back. The security guard has both my arms behind my back so he knew I couldn’t take it in the first place.
 
“Well, I can see you’re upset. I’ll just read it.”
“Yes, please do” I snarl.
“Julia Sharp, by executive order of Blake Stone, Co-President of Sandstone Ventures, due to the pending closure of Lynx and transfer of its resources to a magazine that already has an editor-in-chief, your position has been declared redundant and your services are no longer required. Pursuant to contract section V paragraph 3A – you are hereby terminated from your position.”
He hands the folder to a guard and sits down behind my desk while his superior smile still gleams. I look around the silent room, struggling to hold back the fire that I feel building up in the pit of my stomach. A loud throbbing noise fills my ears as I try to contain it. The flames build in intensity until they sear a hole through my chest, surging forth in an uncontrollable torrent.
“I built this company from nothing! This is my company.
I
landed those stories while eating ramen in a basement!
I
stalked those celebrities to get those interviews.
I
hustled my ass off to sign on those advertisers! And you think that Valerie James over at Ladies World will know what to do with it? You can’t just come in here with some trumped up bullshit and get rid of me!”
Kenneth nods and the guard starts tugging at my arm.
“These gentlemen will walk you to your car. Good day, Miss Sharp.”
I struggle against the guard’s grip, trying to get away. “This isn’t over, if you think it’s going to be that easy to take Lynx away from me, you’re wrong!”
I’m rushed through the door and look to see the entire staff, some with mouths hanging open, watching me being escorted from the building like a petty thief.
 
The guards don’t let me go until I’ve been deposited in the front seat of my car.
I slam my hands against the steering wheel. What the hell just happened in there? Why was there no warning of this? It didn’t make any sense! Mark made no mention of this when I last saw him. Those goddamn wolves. Was this the plan all along? String me along with promises of independent governance and then send me out the door with some bullshit, so they could have Lynx to themselves?
No. It can’t end like this. Maybe it would’ve been better if we had gone bankrupt in 2008, I could have taken that. We would have fought the fair fight and lost. But this, this is something else.
I look at the red folder the guard gently placed in the passenger seat on top of my old mail and Daddy’s hospital bills. Shit. How am I going to pay for Glenvale now? There’s no way insurance is going to cover a private hospital like that. I feel the first hot tears begin to pour down my cheek. Daddy. I can’t lose him too. Not when I had missed so many of Mom’s last days because I was caring for my struggling company. No. I need to be strong for Dad.
I’m pretty sure Kenneth Allen is watching me from my own office window.
 
I want to flip him off and drive out in a show of bravado, but I can’t seem to get my arms to move. I grip the steering wheel until my knuckles are white, imagining my hands around the throat of Kenneth.
The tears keep coming, one after another until I put my head on the steering wheel and collapse in a heap of breathy, heaving sobs.
Oh my god. What am I going to do?
 

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