For three hours today I was a millionaire.
SIC is making good money – very good. The innovations that Ros and her team have developed are market leaders, no thanks to the useless fucker, Marco Gambatti, who purports to be head of sales. Well, no longer.
Part of the work of being Managing Director is to know who can make the grade and who is dead weight. Gambatti is dead weight and, as of yesterday afternoon, he’s out of here. This company has been carrying him for years, but as golf buddy to the owner’s son, he thought he was untouchable. He wasn’t. Gambatti is out, and so is the head of IT, David Rintz. He’s not an asshole like Gambatti, he just hasn’t been able to keep up with the way the world has changed. There are a lot of guys like him. But as of midnight on Thursday, I am the sole owner of SIC – and I can fire who the fuck I like.
I had to make a deal with old man Roberts to keep on his useless son for six months, for appearance sake, but that won’t change how I do business. I’ll just sideline him; he can sit in his office and play table golf for all I fucking care. But first I’m going to dispense some joy.
I punch the intercom to my PA.
“Susan: I want coffee for three in my office in ten minutes. Get Ros Bailey and Barney Sullivan in here, too.”
“Yes, Mr Grey.”
Since I expressed my views on her abilities as a PA, she’s upped her game. Now someone, ie. me, has forced her to give a shit about her job, she’s not a half-bad assistant. Not my first choice, but she’ll do for now.
The coffee arrives at the same time as Ros and Barney.
“Good morning, Mr Grey,” says Ros breezily.
She’s not intimidated by me – she’s the only one.
Barney shuffles in behind her and mutters something unintelligible. He’s very different when he’s talking about his work, so I don’t mind.
“Ros, Barney – I want you two to be the first to know that as of 48 hours ago, I am the sole owner of SIC.”
I wave away their surprise and congratulations.
“Barney, David Rintz has retired so I’m making you Head of IT.”
He’s speechless, one hand frozen en route to scratching his ear, and I can’t help a small smile escaping.
“Ros, I’m making you up to Director. You report to me now and no-one else.”
Her smile of surprise and delight is genuine, then it falls slightly. “What about Mr Roberts Jr?”
“On the record, he’s another director of SIC; off the record, he’s irrelevant and will be out of here in six months – your ears only.”
She nods her understanding; Barney is still sitting frozen in shock and disbelief. I wonder briefly if I should have asked Susan to bring brandy rather than coffee.
“We’re going to make SIC go places,” I say fiercely.
Ros stands up languidly and pours the drinks; I think she’s worried that Barney has gone into shock, too, because she puts four sugars in his coffee and places the cup in his hand.
“Thank you for this opportunity, Mr Grey,” she says.
Barney nods rapidly, a slow smile spreading across his face. At last! “Yeah, bitchin’!” he says, then blushes furiously.
And for the first time in a long time, I laugh out loud.
When SIC started making serious money, I approached old man Roberts with my buy-out plan. He knew it was the best deal he was going to get for his feckless waster of a son, so he took it. I paid him off and now own 100% of SIC. So I was a millionaire for about three hours before the sale was signed, sealed and delivered, and I’d paid off Roberts.
But I’ve already got my eye on another broken company – and this time the bank won’t hesitate in lending me the money I need. Not only do I now have a track record and bankable assets, they know their money will make a good return.
So this morning I was a millionaire – now I’m $5 million in debt. It’s a fucking head rush and I love it.
I leave work early – well, after 8pm, but that’s early for me. I’m meeting Elena for dinner. It’ll be the first time I’ve seen her since… since before the divorce. We both thought it would be a good idea to stay away from each other and avoid giving Linc any more ammo.
I suspect that I’m being watched: a couple of times I’ve seen a dark blue estate car in the staff parking lot. I know it doesn’t belong to anyone here, so I’m careful. And I don’t want to call out whoever is watching me: better they see nothing and have nothing to report.
Elena has chosen a small, intimate Spanish restaurant. Neither of us has been here before. I came on foot, making it almost impossible for anyone to tail me without me knowing. She’s waiting for me when I arrive. God, she’s beautiful. Her hair is a pale, silvery halo around her head and she’s wearing a thigh-skimming black wrap dress. I don’t know what I expected – something to say that she’s been through hell, but she looks… she looks like Elena.
She smiles when she sees me and offers me her cheek.
“Christian! How lovely. You look well.”
“And you, Elena.”
There’s an awkward pause. A thousand images cascade through my mind: dancing, fucking, talking… beatings… many beatings. She’s taught me so much – so much about myself.
“How are you?” she says quietly.
“Good, Elena. Really good. You?”
“Doing better. Now things are settled with Linc, it’s easier.”
“I’m sorry…” but she interrupts me.
“I hear you’re doing great things.” She raises a delicate eyebrow. “Is it working out how you planned?”
I nod. “Yes, pretty much.”
She smiles. “I told you! I knew you’d be great at this, Christian. You always do well. You’re a very special person.”
I frown. I don’t like her talking like this. It makes me feel… uncomfortable. “I’ve got a good team now. That helps.”
“How very humble of you!”
She’s laughing at me and I can’t help giving her a rueful smile. It feels good talking to someone who knows all my secrets, all my flaws, all my limitations. She’s the only one.
I relax and tell her about SIC and about my plans for the new company.
“You know, you really should change the name,” she says casually.
“To Grey Independent Communications. Let the world know that you’re coming.” She shrugs. “I would.”
The thought had crossed my mind and I’d dismissed it, but as she says it I think, Well, why not? I find I like the idea: GIC.
The wine waiter returns with a second bottle of Chablis. He’s a little too attentive to Elena and it makes me pissed. Elena smirks at me. She knows that I know that she knows. She sees everything.
As we finish the meal I’m feeling off balance again, anger pulsing through me. Fuck! I need to control this.
Elena throws me completely with her next question.
“So, when shall we resume your training?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your Dom training. We were… interrupted.”
I stare at her and a feeling akin to revulsion unnerves me. “I… I don’t think of you like that anymore, Elena.”
Her surprise and displeasure are evident.
I swallow and close my eyes. “Seeing you in hospital… so… broken. I can’t be responsible for anything like that. Ever again.”
She sighs. “You weren’t responsible, Christian. It wasn’t your fault: it was inevitable. And… you weren’t the only… diversion I had.”
She’s shocked me and a cruel smile plays on her lips. I thought what I’d felt… what I still feel for her… is love. But seeing her like this, playing with me, taunting me, I feel nothing but anger.
“Have I shocked you, Christian?” she laughs.
“Surprised me, yes. But that’s all.”
“There’ll be no more… training, Elena. Of any sort.”
There’s a pause, a beat, before she leans back and says, “I see. Have you met someone else?”
I hesitate: this really is none of her fucking business, but honesty with Elena is a habit.
“No. I tried the clubs – it didn’t work out.”
“So… what’s next? A man like you has needs, Christian.”
I shrug. The truth is I don’t know. I haven’t had the time to really think about it. I run every morning and evening and I work a lot. There’s been no time for anything else. But just hearing her say the words has my cock hardening against my will. She’s always been able to do this to me: from the very first moment I met her.
She smiles. “Well, I may yet be able to help you, Christian. A… friend of mine… has set up a new service for people with our specialised tastes. It’s discreet, all the members are by invitation only and, for a reasonable fee, introductions can be made. How does that sound?”
I’m surprised and intrigued. “Tell me more.”
By the time I call the waiter for the check, I’m feeling excited by Elena’s offer. It could well be the answer to my problem – although until this evening, I was barely aware that there was anything missing in my life.
I pay and am standing to help Elena with her coat before I remember the reason we were meeting tonight.
“This is for you.”
She looks pleased, and then surprised when I hand her an envelope. She reads the figure on the check I’ve just given her and her eyes open wide with surprise.
I shrug. “It’s the $100,000 you loaned me, plus interest, plus something to… we’re even now Elena; I don’t owe you anything.”
She looks me in the eye. “I understand, Christian. Thank you for dinner. We must do it again sometime – as friends.”
“Yes, I’d like that. Take care of yourself, Elena.”
“Oh, by the way. Happy birthday for tomorrow.”
She kisses me briefly and leaves.
Fucking birthday. I hate birthdays.
“Don’t be so grumpy, Christian!” bawls Mia. “You’ll love the surprise we’ve got planned.”
“I don’t like surprises,” I reply, uncharitably.
My family have insisted on driving me. Elliot has smugly refused to tell me anything. Bastard. And he’s also cried off for today. I’m meeting him for a drink tonight but I’ve had to promise the day to my family. I have no idea where we’re going and it makes me pissed.
So I’m intrigued and surprised to see that we’ve driven up to a site that looks like an abandoned industrial estate. A sign says Seattle Area Soaring Society.
“Surprise!” yells Mia. “We’ve booked you a flying lesson! You’ll love it, I know you will!”
I can’t help smiling at her enthusiasm and it does sound kinda cool.
An hour later I’ve had the intro, the safety talk and I’m strapped in to a sailplane that looks like it’s seen better days. But I don’t care because I have this enormous fucking grin plastered across my face as we bounce across the field.
The feeling is indescribable as we glide over fields and I can see the city in the distance. I’ve never felt so free, except perhaps when I’ve been sailing alone. My teacher talks me through the basics and lets me have the rudder, explaining about wind speeds, thermals, ridge lift and leeways. The time passes so quickly, I can’t believe it when I’m told the hour is up and we have to go back to the airfield.
Mia comes running up and throws herself at me.
“How was it, Christian? Did you love it? Did you?”
I kiss the top of her head. “Amazing! Just fu… just amazing!”
She smiles and hugs me tightly.
“Mom and dad will be so happy,” she says softly.
Happy? Is that how I feel? I don’t know. But I do know that I’m going to do this again. And soon.