Authors: Sadie Keynes
opyright © 2016 by Sadie Keynes
All rights reserved
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Sadie Keynes Author
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I can feel butterflies fluttering in my stomach as I step off the train and onto the platform.
You’re a fraud Clara,
screams a voice in the back of my head,
you fluked your way through school and now you’ve lucked out again, but now your luck has run out.
Butterflies? Feels more like a hive of angry bees.
I check the new watch my Dad got me to celebrate my success. Still only 7:30am, which means I’m an hour early, but at least I’ll have some time to settle my nerves.
The huge glass fronted building is the first thing I see when I leave the station. I strain my neck to look up at its sky-piercing pinnacle. Crowds of commuters jostle me as I stand transfixed by its awe-inspiring beauty.
I make my way to the coffee shop a few doors down from the station. When
I open the door the queue is already huge but the conveyer belt of silent commuters mostly just pick up their much-needed lattes and get out leaving most of the tables free.
Perfect. I can sit down and try to get my head straight
The last thing I need right now is caffeine, so I pick up a hot chocolate and a muffin and sit down at a table tucked away in the corner.
I know I need to eat something, but after one bite of the muffin, its sticky blueberry-sweetness almost making me gag, I push it to the side.
It’s time to focus,
I think, reaching into my bag for the booklet of notes I was sent a week ago. Of course, I have already read through it so many times I practically know it by heart, but right now I need to be sure that I’m prepared or the doubt eating at my mind could be my downfall.
My hand grasps and empty space in the bag. The folder is gone, along with all the paperwork I was supposed to complete before today. I feel my heart stop for a moment.
Tears start to fill my eyes as I stare into the bag. That’s it. It’s over. Over before it even had a chance to begin.
Congratulations, Clara, you’ve managed to fall at the first hurdle. Might as well just give up and go home now before you make a fool of yourself.
“Excuse me, Miss, did you drop this?” says a deep voice with a rural drawl that sounds out of place in a city where most guys are trying to sound as upper-class as possible.
I look up to see a man holding a folder, its black cover embossed in gold with the words “Greene Earth Renewables”
“Yes!” I can barely contain my joy when he passes me the folder and relief washes over me, “It must have fallen out of my bag. Thank you.”
I take a sip of hot chocolate and look up to see the man has taken the seat opposite me. Wow. He. Is. HOT. I almost choke on my drink as I take in the dirty blonde, slicked-back hair, and his tanned, chiseled features. The suit he is wearing seems perfectly tailored to show off the contours of his thick arms and chest.
“You might if I sit here?” he asks.
Yes, I do mind. I need to focus, not stare at some hot guy for an hour.
“Sure, no problem,” I reply, “I’m Clara.”
“Kyan. So you work at Greene Earth Renewables then?”
An unusual name. Somehow that name combined with his rugged good looks gives me a sense of déjà vu. Have I met him before?
“Yes. Well, sort of, today is my first day.
“Wow, congratulations. How are you feeling?”
Nervous. Really, really nervous.
“Excited, I guess. It’s pretty much my dream job. I get to apply all the finance knowledge I gained at college and hopefully save the Earth a little bit at the same time.”
“You’re into all that environmentalism stuff then?”
“Yeah. My real dream is to get involved in bringing renewable energy to developing countries, like solar power for remote villages and stuff.”
“It’s awesome that you want to make a difference. Me I’m not sure how much longer we’ve all got so I just want to enjoy it while it’s still here. Live for today, you know.”
Urgh, another selfish ‘carpe diem’ jerk.
I pause for a moment to consider why I’m telling this guy I’ve just met all about my hopes and dreams while I know nothing about him. I guess something about him just makes me feel completely at ease. His clothes and look scream money, but his voice, and his demeanor are so relaxed he could be a Texas farmhand, just breezing from town to town.
“Have we met before?” I ask, changing the subject before we get into an argument about whether saving the planet is worth doing.
“I doubt it. I would’ve thought I’d remember you,” replies Kyan with a grin that reveals perfect, white teeth. I hope he doesn’t notice my cheeks flushing red.
“A lot of people think they know me. Guess I’ve just got one of those faces,” he continues, “So have you met the big guy, Mark Greene?”
“Yeah, had my job interview with him two weeks ago.”
“That’s great. I have an interview with him this morning. Any tips you can give me?”
“Well, he’s quite…intimidating. I would say just be honest and straightforward, that’s what worked for me.”
“Thanks for the advice,” says Kyan.
I wonder what job he is interviewing for. He’s a couple of years older than me so probably not a graduate level job like the one I applied for. I’m about to ask him when he checks his watch and stands up.
“I should head off, need to do some preparation for the interview. It was great meeting you Clara, maybe I’ll see you in there.”
“Yeah. Good to meet you, Kyan.”
“Who knows, maybe someday soon we’ll be working together,” he says with a smile as he turns to leave.
As I watch him walk away, I find myself absent-mindedly chewing the blueberry muffin I had pushed aside earlier, my churning stomach completely forgotten. Somehow, Kyan had managed to make me feel completely relaxed. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I know that’s not the last I’ll be seeing of him.
I love it when a girl is into me and she hasn’t even seen my bank balance yet. That’s pretty much how I justify lying to most of the people I meet.
The pinnacle of steel and glass looms before as I cross the street. I like to show up early for my meetings. It gives me the edge, especially in a high-stakes negotiation like this one. I find it puts them on the back foot. It’s only fair when you’re meeting at their offices: they’ve got the home team advantage so I need to even the odds.
Sometimes you have to do everything it takes to get ahead. Like if you see a cute girl with a folder in her bag with the company logo on it and you steal it to get a bit of insider info. In fact, I gave it back so it isn’t even stealing, more like borrowing.
I do feel a little bad about lying to her. So young and innocent, full of dreams on her first day at work. It isn’t like she asked if I was a billionaire CEO, so I technically didn’t lie about that. I do have an interview today at Greene Earth too, well, sort of.
So what if I twist the truth a bit to give me an advantage. I’ve heard it said that in war the first casualty is truth and, believe me, business is no different. With the right investments a man can conquer the world, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.
I go through the revolving door and cross the huge lobby. A statue of Mark Greene, the ruler of this little kingdom, looms over his subjects: the well-dressed men and women who wander in and out of this great glass castle. Some of the best lawyers, accountants and investors in the city all working to make Mark Greene one of the wealthiest people on the planet through his investments in renewable energy. Not wealthier than me, of course, and twice my age, but who’s counting?
I stop for a moment to take in the vast tastelessness of the huge slab of marble that has been carved into a very generous likeness of Mr. Greene. I wonder if he had the sculptor reduce his waistline for flattery or just to save a few bucks on the cost of the stone.
“Excuse me, sir, do you have an appointment?” says a voice from next to me.
I look down to see a small, middle-aged woman with a clipboard and beady eyes staring at me through round glasses.
“Yeah. I’ve got an appointment with Mark Greene.”
“Oh. Mr. Ellis, forgive me, I didn’t recognize you. I’ll tell Mr. Greene you’ve arrived. ”
“Please, let me show you to our executive lounge. I think you’ll be impressed.”
I follow the woman to the elevator. If Greene is this desperate to impress me, these negotiations should be no problem.
The doors open and we step in. My guide hits the button for the fiftieth floor. Should have quite a view from up there.
As the elevator begins its ascent I find my thoughts going back to the girl in the coffee shop. What was her name? Clara?
Why didn’t you get her number!
Maybe I’ll get Greene to throw it in as part of the deal. That would be a pretty good sweetener.
Even though I’ve been here before, the lobby still doesn’t fail to impress me. Sure, some might think the huge statue of Mark Greene flanked by solar panels and wind turbines is a little tasteless but you can’t deny that the scale of the place is pretty breathtaking.
As I approach the front desk I can feel those butterflies start to return.
“Hi, I’m here for my first day.”
The receptionist hands me a security pass and tells me to head to the twentieth floor.
As I wait for the elevator I notice my hands hurting and realize I’m gripping the folder so hard my knuckles are turning white.
Here you are, Clara. Time to face your destiny. Chase those dreams.
When I reach the twentieth floor Mark is already there to greet me.
He’s slightly overweight and entering his late forties and, even though he’s only a little over 5’9” tall, Mark Greene is still an imposing figure because of the sheer force of will that emanates from the man.
“Ah, Clara. Glad you’re here,” he booms, his bald head already shiny with sweat even though the day has just begun.
“Good to be here,” I reply, hesitantly holding my hand out to shake his.
How are you more nervous now than you were in the interview?
Of course, I know the answer: I thought I had no chance of getting the job in the interview so I breezed through it with no problem. I was pure confidence that day because I didn’t care. Now I feel like I need to prove myself.
“You’re straight in at the deep end today I’m afraid. My assistant is sick, some kind of tropical disease, very nasty. Anyway, I need you to come to a meeting with me right now. It’s a big one, a joint venture with…” he continues talking while I zone out.
An important meeting? On my first day? I was hoping to spend the day learning how to use the photocopier and finding the coffee machine. I can feel my legs turning to jelly.
“…and, unfortunately, my assistant had all the numbers but I’m sure you’ll be able to understand them. OK?” He thrusts a stack of papers towards me.
“I…yes…OK,” I stammer in response, “I’ve brought the folder, with the paperwork I was sent, I–”
“Oh yes, that. That’s just what we send out to prospective employees to get them…excited. You don’t want to listen to any of that. I’ll get someone to recycle that for you right away.”
Greene keeps talking as we take the elevator to the fiftieth floor but I say nothing. I’m too busy desperately poring through the stack of papers Greene has given me to say anything anyway.
“…yes he’s the CEO of one of our main competitors but we have the opportunity with this joint venture to really turn things around and try to make a difference.”
All the charts, graphs and tables seem to be blending into one as I race through the pages.
Why did you get yourself into this, Clara?
I hardly even notice Greene open the door to the meeting room and usher me inside. When I look up I can’t do anything but stop dead with my mouth hanging open. The CEO we are meeting with, it’s…he’s…
“Clara, this is Kyan Ellis,” says Greene.
“Nice to meet you, Clara,” says Kyan in his familiar drawl.