The Takeover - T.L. Swan
The phone buzzes on my desk. “Hello,” I answer.
“Hi, Tristan Miles is on line two for you,” Marley replies.
“Tell him I’m busy.”
“Claire.” She pauses. “This is the third time he’s called this week.”
“Pretty soon, he’s going to stop calling.”
“And your point is?” I ask.
“My point is we paid the staff out of the overdraft this week. And I know you don’t want to admit this, but we are in trouble, Claire. You need to hear him out.”
I exhale heavily and drag my hand down my face. I know she’s right; our company, Anderson Media, is struggling. We’re down to our last three hundred staff, having downscaled from the original six hundred. Miles Media and all of our competitors have been circling like wolves for months, watching and waiting for the perfect time to move in for the kill. Tristan Miles: the head of acquisitions and the archenemy of every struggling company in the world. Like a leech, he takes over companies when they’re at their lowest, tears them apart, and then, with his never-ending funds, turns them into huge successes. He’s the biggest snake in the snake pit. Preying on weaknesses and getting paid millions of dollars a year for the privilege. He’s a rich, spoiled bastard with a reputation for being acutely intelligent, hard as nails, and conscience-free.
He’s everything I hate about business.
“Just listen to what he has to say—that’s all. You never know what he might offer,” Marley pleads.
“Oh, come on,” I scoff. “We both know what he wants.”
“Claire, please. You can’t lose your family home. I won’t let that happen.”
Sadness rolls over me; I hate that I’ve found myself in this position. “Fine, I’ll hear him out. But that’s it,” I concede. “Schedule a meeting.”
“Don’t get excited.” I smirk. “I’m just doing this to shut you up, you know?”
“Good, mouth officially shut from here on out. Cross my heart.”
“If only.” I smile. “Will you come with me?”
“Yes, for sure. We’ll stick Mr. Fancy Pants’s checkbook where the sun doesn’t shine.”
I giggle at the idea. “Okay, deal.”
I hang up and go back to my report, wishing it were Friday and I didn’t have to worry about Anderson Media and the bills for a few days.
Only four days to go.
Thursday morning, Marley and I power down the street on the way to our meeting. “Why are we meeting here, again?” I ask.
“He wanted to meet somewhere neutral. He has a table booked at Bryant Park Grill.”
“That’s odd—it’s not a date,” I huff.
“It’s probably all part of his grand plan.” She holds her hands up and does an air rainbow. “Neutral ground.” She widens her eyes in jest. “While he tries to fuck us up the ass.”
“With a smile on his face.” I smirk. “I hope it at least feels good.”
Marley giggles and then falls straight back into her coaching. “So remember the strategy,” she instructs me as we walk.
“Tell me it again . . . so that I remember it,” she replies.
I smile. Marley is an idiot. A funny idiot nonetheless. “Stay calm; don’t let him ruffle my feathers,” I reply. “Don’t say an outright no—just keep him on ice in the background as an insurance policy.”
“Yes, that’s a great plan.”
“It should be—you thought of it.” We arrive at the restaurant and stop around the corner. I take out my compact and reapply my lipstick. My dark hair is twisted up into a loose knot. I’m wearing a navy pantsuit with a cream silk blouse, closed-toe high-heeled patent pumps, and my pearl earrings. Sensible clothes—I want him to take me seriously. “Do I look okay?” I ask.
“You look hot.”
My face falls. “I don’t want to look hot, Marley. I want to look hard.”
She scowls as she falls into character. “Totally hard.” She punches her hand with her fist. “Iron maiden snatch style.”
I grin at my gorgeous friend; her bright-red zany hair is short and punky, and her pink cat-eye glasses are in full splendor She’s wearing a red dress with a bright-yellow shirt underneath with red stockings and shoes. She’s so trendy that she’s actually edgy. Marley is my best friend, my confidante, and the hardest worker in our company. She hasn’t left my side for the last five years; her friendship is a gift, and I have no idea where I would be without her.
“Are you ready?” she asks.
“Yes. We’re twenty minutes early—I wanted to get here first. Get the upper hand.”
Her shoulders slump. “When I ask you if you’re ready, you’re supposed to answer with, ‘I