Olivier (Chicago Blaze #9) - Brenda Rothert

Chapter One


“I don’t like surprises.” The irritation in my voice is rising by the second. “This isn’t what you promised me.”

“I know, and I’m sorry about that.” Tony Giovanni’s tone is pleading. “But if you’ll just sit down with me and take a closer look—”

“Tony, I was clear that I expected full transparency when we discussed me buying into your company.” I glance at my watch and lean forward in the backseat of my SUV, asking my driver Ben, “How much longer?”

He meets my gaze in the rearview mirror. “Should be about twenty more minutes, Mr. Durand.”

I exhale hard and lean back. Ben knows I’m not pissed at him—he’s a retired Chicago cop who knows the fastest route to any destination in the city. I’m running late because my last meeting ran over.

“This deal is almost done,” Tony says from the other end of the phone. “All we have to do is sign.”

I clench my hand into a fist. “The financials would have been a technicality if they’d shown what you told me they would. But your P&L statements were way off. You lied to me about your profits from the past three years.”

Tony huffs a sigh into the phone. “I wasn’t lying. I was just making my best guess.”

“Your best guess?” I can’t help but let out an unamused laugh. “Here’s some free advice—next time you request millions of dollars to save your dying company, know the numbers. You’re either incompetent or a liar, but frankly I don’t care which, because I don’t do business with either.”

“Please, Mr. Durand. I need that money to stay afloat. I may have embellished the details, but—”

“You didn’t embellish. You lied. The deal’s off.”

I end the call and toss my phone on the seat next to me, then rub my forehead. I invested countless hours for a possible ownership stake in that plumbing supply company, and I have nothing to show for it.

Some days I wish I could focus all my energy on being the owner of the Chicago Blaze, the NHL team I bought a few years ago. That’s where my passion truly lies. I don’t work for money anymore—I’ve got plenty. I’ve always liked the challenge of turning around struggling companies. The money I make from my two tech companies allows me to invest in passion projects, and I enjoy taking something that’s broken and putting it back together.

But sometimes deals fall through. I have a mantra in business that’s never failed me—always be willing to walk away.

Hell, that mantra applies to life in general. I think about using it as the theme of a speech for the speaking engagements I do, and I start taking mental notes.

“Well, shit,” Ben mutters, slowing to a stop. “There’s an accident ahead. Scratch that twenty-minute ETA.”

“What’s going on? Can you see it?” I pick up my phone and text my assistant Jack to bump back the meeting I’m heading to.

The sound of a woman screaming sends Ben scrambling to unbuckle his seatbelt.

“I have to go up there. I might be able to help.”

Ben retired from the CPD after an injury that left him with a pretty bad limp. I don’t want him hurting himself trying to run towards an accident.

“I’ve got it, Ben,” I say, as I rush to unbuckle my seatbelt and jump out of the car before he has time to argue.

The sound of the woman screaming is amplified now that I’m out of the car. I move to the shoulder of the road and break into a run, my dress shoes squeezing my toes as I sprint.

“Somebody help! Please!” the woman’s voice cries.

Her shouting makes me run faster. I channel my early-morning treadmill sessions, pumping my arms and running as fast as I can, my heart pounding and my quads burning.

Orange flames finally come into view, and I slow as I take in the absolute chaos of the accident.

There’s a full-size conversion van with a smashed front end, skid marks showing it crossed over from the other side of the road. Two men are helping kids out of the van. And about fifty feet away, a small car is completely flipped over, tires in the air and flames alight beneath it.

“There’s someone stuck in there!” The woman who was screaming runs up to me and grabs my arm, frantic.

“How many people?” I take my suit jacket off, my mind switching into Handle-This-Emergency mode.

“I don’t know. No one has gone over there but there has to at least be a driver. I’m afraid