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Authors: E. Hughes

Business as Usual

BOOK: Business as Usual
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Business as Usual

 
 

By E. Hughes

 

Copyright©2012 All
rights reserved.

 

All rights reserved.
This book may not be copied in print or in whole without expressed written
consent of the author.

 

Thank you for the feedback and
well wishes.

 

Other novels by this
author:

 

Disappear,
Love
by E. Hughes

(Free excerpt following this novel for your enjoyment)

&

Infatuation by E.
Hughes

 
 

CHAPTER 1

 

 
“Pack your suitcases, we’re going to China.”

 

I
blinked, and glared through a crack in the door at the imposing figure on the
other side before pulling it open, finally allowing my father to walk in. He
was fully dressed in one of his expensive business suits, hands clasped tidily
behind his back as he strolled into my apartment like it was two in the
afternoon. He wore an early morning scowl on his face. The wrinkles creasing
his bloodshot eyes revealed an overtired business man. What he needed was a hot
shower, a warm bed, and a good night’s sleep and not a trip to his daughter’s
apartment just before the crack of dawn.

“Dad…
it’s
five-o-clock in the morning, I haven’t even brushed my teeth,” I groaned,
wiping sleep from my eyes.

He looked around, inspecting the living room. A
stack of files and an open laptop sat on the table next to a cup of cold coffee
and a half-eaten bagel. I fell asleep on the couch hours earlier working on a
report for the Gold Dust Hotel, one of my father’s numerous companies. I was
Vice President of Executive Financing at two of our branches, one in Chicago,
the other in Atlantic City. I closed the door behind him, securing the lock to
my upscale downtown Chicago condo. The high rise building I lived in sat on
Michigan Avenue with a view of the city’s beautiful skyline and lake.

I walked to the open kitchen and gazed out at
my father as he sat on the couch with a grim expression on his face.

“Daddy, can I get you something to drink?” I
grabbed a glass from the cabinet. “I can warm some milk for you.”

“Thank you, but no,” he answered sternly,
lifting one of my reports from the table.

“Are these the Vegas projections?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“You don’t have a graph or a chart to go with
these numbers?”

I turned, gazing incredulously at the man.
At
5:30 in the morning?

“Dad?” I sighed… “If you don’t mind, I’d like
to finish my report before you start in on it. I fell asleep. But rest assured,
I’ll have it done before the meeting.”

“As long as it’s not the final draft…” he
frowned.

There was no pleasing him.

Dad worriedly wiped a hand across his bald
head. He was tall, dark, and muscular, with the countenance of a drill
sergeant, direct and plain spoken unlike the typical smooth-talking billionaire
business mogul on the brink of financial ruin. He kept everyone around him on
their toes. This particularly early visit was a prime example.

“I know you’re tired,” he started.

“You have no idea.”

I drank my milk then washed and dried the glass
by hand before returning it to the shelf.


Wo
men qu
zhong
guo
wei
shenme
?
” I asked.

“Sounds like your Mandarin is improving. It’ll
come in handy when you get to China.”

“My intonations need a bit of work. Daddy, why
can’t I give my report by video conference? We’ve done it a million times…” I
pleaded. I tossed the towel on the sink and skipped to the living room, a look
of hope radiating from my eyes. “
Danny’ll
be here this weekend
,” I beamed, parking my rear on the arm of the sofa.

 

Daddy
scoffed at the mention of Danny’s name. No one was good enough for his only daughter
especially
a working class man like Danny who was employed as a
registered nurse. I was supposed to marry well. With a proud grin on his face,
father rose from his seat on the sofa and strode toward me with outstretched
arms. At first, I thought he was offering
me
a hug, but as it turns out,
he was the one who needed it. Dad took a step back and gazed at my face, hands
resting on my shoulders. “You still have those big beautiful dark eyes,” he
smiled.

I shrugged his hands away, suddenly uncomfortable.
Daddy was hiding something. He had the same look on his face just before he
told me my dog died when I was eight years old.

“Elizabeth, I need you more than ever right
now. This whole meeting is riding on you.”

“Are we in some kind of trouble?”

“We’ll find out soon enough.” His lips were
flat and firm, his jaw tensing as he awaited my response.

 “Of course I’ll go. I just need a little
time to get dressed,” I sighed. “What time is our flight?”

 

Dad
grinned from ear to ear. He always got his way. Mother never let me forget how
much my father wanted a son. I spent my entire life trying to please him,
trying to measure up to what he wanted in a male heir. If that meant taking a
flight to China before dawn, then so be it.  

Dad shrugged and sat on the sofa again,
flipping through the pages of my unfinished report. “Eleven tonight,” he
answered.

I put my hands on my hips, frowning.

“Why did you wake me up so early? I’m so tired…
I feel like a zombie,” I yawned.

 “We’re going to Vegas for the meeting.
Afterwards, you’ll need a couple hours rest, then we’ll head over to the
airport for your flight to China. The meeting’s at 9 AM so you best get ready
so we can stay on schedule. We’ll take the private jet.”

 

I
pouted as I dragged my tired body upstairs. I wore my thick white socks
scrunched down to my ankles, an oversized t-shirt, and my hair pulled into a
sloppy ponytail. All I wanted was to sit in my apartment and work on my report
with a cup of warm coffee and some music. But,
nooo
he just had to drag me across the country for a stupid two hour meeting.

 

Dad
turned the television on and watched the stock market news while I showered and
got dressed. I chose a power suit. A long black pencil skirt and matching
blazer that framed my 5’6” figure. I pulled my hair into a sophisticated up-do
and put a pair of diamond tear drop earrings in my ears. When I was done, I
examined myself in the mirror. I wore a shade of crimson lipstick, an homage to
the “power” women of the nineties. The color contrasted against my smooth
complexion and dramatic “Elizabeth Taylor” eyebrows, as my dad used to call
them.

 I packed only a few accessories, business
suits for work, and a couple of dresses for the evening into my suitcase. It
was Wednesday. With Danny coming for the weekend, my trip to Vegas as well as
China would be short and sweet.

I was just about finished packing for my trip
when I heard the television. The volume had been turned up loud. I looked over
the balcony from my bedroom at father. He sat on the edge of the sofa, remote
control in hand, gazing at the screen. Then I heard his name.

“Byron Energy’s stock is holding steady after a
series of lows at the start of the New year…”
the reporter said.
“Recovery
has been slow for the energy giant after scandals rocked the company’s CEO,
Eugene Byron a little over two years ago…”

Dad tapped his foot on the floor and rubbed his
upper thigh. I hated seeing him like this. For a very rich man, Daddy was
almost broke. And he was scared. After a vicious Wall Street rumor nearly
destroyed his anchor company, Byron Energy, daddy used all of his personal
assets to buy millions of shares in order to keep Victor Hampton, the bitter
old executive fueling the rumors from taking a controlling share. Victor had
designs on dismantling Byron Energy…if he could get his hands on it.

 

Victor
claimed Byron Energy was hiding a mountain of “debt” from investors and was in
so much trouble that it was soon to be acquired by AmeriAsia, an overseas land
developer. Ironically, the same investor Daddy and I were going to see in Vegas
about the budget for the Gold Dust Hotel. He was Daddy’s longtime friend. We
spent the weekend with the AmeriAsia investors at Daddy’s cabin two months ago.
It was at my father’s insistence that I learn to speak Chinese to accommodate
his friend and son, both of whom spoke fluent English. I didn’t understand why
at the time, but it all was starting to make sense now.

 

The
Vegas deal meant everything to my father as he struggled to rebuild the
corporation and his good name. And I would do anything to help him.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

Despite
an interior the Queen of England would envy, the private plane to Vegas was the
ride from hell! I could barely steady my laptop as the turbulent flight shook
the entire cabin for almost an hour. When I started to feel the rumblings of an
upset stomach, a flight attendant who seconds earlier had been thrown aside as
she traveled from one end of the plane to the other, offered Dramamine. I
declined. I had work to do and couldn’t risk falling asleep. Not that it was
possible anyway.

Dad reclined on a sofa chair a few seats ahead
and chatted nonstop with two of his assistants about company business. I
managed to finish my report nonetheless. I had ten minutes of free time between
landing and boarding the limo that awaited us. Without time to freshen up, Dad
ordered the driver to the hotel, so I could put my suitcases away, then the
Concord Business Center where my father’s accounting team and the AmeriAsia
investors awaited us.

The facility was a consortium of offices in a
mall that included travel by escalator up to various businesses and conference
rooms.

“Where are we going?”

“We’re going up to the fourth level,

Dad said. “To the
Honeymooners
conference room.”

I followed him to the escalator and climbed on
thinking how weird that sounded. I wondered if Danny was there waiting to
surprise me with a marriage proposal and if Dad was in on the secret. My heart
fluttered. For the past two years, Danny and I had been in an on and off
relationship. He lived in Florida and could only visit a few times a year for a
few weeks at a time because of his schedule at the hospital some days working
twelve-hour shifts accruing enough flex time to spend a few weeks at my house
in San Diego. Our relationship had been gradual. It was only a matter of time
before I moved to Florida or Danny moved to California so we could be together.

I chewed on the idea until Dad and I reached
the first floor. As I started toward the escalator leading up to the next
level, Dad stopped and waved for his assistants to continue on without us.
 

“Elizabeth, I need to ask you something.”

“What is it, Daddy?” I answered, feeling a bit
worried. He looked like he was ready to faint.

“A long time ago you told me you would do
anything to help me. Is that still true?”

“Of course it’s still true! Why would you ask
me that? Is something wrong?”

“No,” Dad said, “I just want you to know how
much I love you.”

I wanted to wrap my arms around him. He looked
so serious.

“You’re not dying are you?”

Dad laughed and shook his head. “Nothing that
tragic. Honey, I have something to tell you,” he started.

I chewed my bottom lip, waiting for Dad to drop
the bombshell he had been keeping from me. I wondered if it had anything to do
with my mother or the old Byron Energy scandal, subjects we never discussed.

Suddenly Dad’s cell phone rang. Rick and
Candace, his two assistants were on the line. They had already made it
upstairs. He gave instructions for them to wait at the Cafe for us and told
them that we would be attending the meeting alone. When he hung up, he looked
at me and said “We’ll talk a bit more after the meeting.”

Dad left me a befuddled mess as I followed him
to the escalator, riding each one to the top until we reached the fourth level.

There were four conference rooms. Ours was at
the end of a long narrow tunnel with glass windows overlooking the lower
floors.

When Dad and I walked into the
Honeymooners
conference room moments later, to my surprise the only people who showed up for
the “big” meeting was Mr. Yu and his strikingly handsome son, Ethan Yu, whose
cute face was the first thing I saw when I walked in the door. I let out a
little sigh. Both were investors from AmeriAsia, the land developers from
China. I wondered where the rest of Dad’s staff was and why members from our
accounting teams hadn’t shown up. The room seemed eerily quiet and tense. I’d
known Ethan since I was a kid. It came as no surprise to me that he would grow
up to become an even shrewder businessman than his father. We’d spent an
inordinate amount of time alone at the weekend retreat while Daddy and Mr. Yu
fished and went bird watching. The two men left us at the cabin for hours while
they played golf. We had gotten somewhat close, enveloped by a comfortable
silence that concealed a slightly muted attraction.

BOOK: Business as Usual
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