Saturday, January 29, 2011
Book 1 of the BABY IN THE BOARDROOM series for Harlequin Romance will be released, April 2011. The series tells the story of the three Andreas brothers. Because wealthy shipping magnate, Stephone Andreas was a womanizer, Darius, Nick and Cade, all have different moms. All three hail from different parts of the United States. Darius from New York City. Nick from the beautiful beaches of North Carolina. And Cade from Texas.
All three have different business philosophies, different philosophies about life and women.
Book 1 is the story of rich, sophisticated Darius, and this is what comes before his story begins.
THE BABY PROJECT, Darius’s story
December 29, Darius Andreas stepped out of his limo. He didn’t look up at the blue, blue sky gracing New York City. He didn’t peer at his reflection in the glass wall in front of him. Tall, dark-haired and slim, he knew that in his expensive black suit, he was elegantly good looking. He didn’t need to check to be sure his hair was in place or his trousers perfectly creased. The woman who smiled at him as she walked by told him there was no reason to look. Everything about him said money, power, sex appeal. He wasn’t vain. Simply a realist.
“Good morning, Charles,” he said to the doorman as he walked through the glass double doors of the building housing the corporate offices of Andreas Holdings. He nodded at the security people manning the semicircle desk in the lobby and strode across the black and white marble floor. Head high, he walked the whole way to the back where a bank of private elevators awaited him. He swiped his key card, the doors automatically opened and immediately swished closed once he was inside.
He didn’t have to press a button. This elevator only went to the top floor. The executive offices for Andreas Holdings.
The bell pinged. The door opened. He stepped out into heaven.
This was where he belonged – at the helm of his family’s shipping conglomerate. He’d begun working weekends during his high school years because his father wanted him here. He’d worked every summer through college, and had gotten a job as a low-level accountant when he finally graduated.
But he’d risen through the ranks quickly. Not because his father was Stephone Andreas, the man behind the company. Darius had risen because he was smart, sharp, organized.
The pretty blonde receptionist looked up. “Good morning, Mr. Andreas.”
He smiled, nodded. “Good morning, Heather.” And walked on by. His heels clicked on the butter-yellow hardwood floors as he passed doors for vice president suites. Doors for conference rooms. Doors for media rooms.
He strode directly to the solid mahogany double doors, to the suite for the Chairman of the Board. His father was in New York again, and making a rare appearance in the office.
He didn’t knock, only opened the door. “Dad?”
Stephone Andreas turned from the wall of windows behind his desk. Late December sunlight spilled over him, washing onto the Persian rug, casting his tall, slender, darkly handsome father in a golden glow.
“Darius! Come in. Come in! How was your Christmas?”
He inclined his head slightly. “Fine.” He wouldn’t tell his father the truth. Since his mother’s death the year before, his life had been odd, disjointed. Holidays were the worst. He’d always set aside the day to be with his mom. Now, every holiday without her simply reminded him how alone he was.
His dad walked to the desk. “Good. Good. I’d worried you’d be alone –“ he peeked over – “with your mother gone. But Missy and I had such a busy schedule we couldn’t seem to fit you in.”
Darius forced himself to relax so he wouldn't say something he’d regret. Missy was his father’s twenty-eight-year-old girlfriend, someone he’d met, of all places, at his attorney’s office. She was younger than Darius. Younger, even, than Stephone’s other two sons, Nick and Cade, sons who were the result of two very public affairs his father had had while married to his mother.
He’d spent his childhood hating his dad, his adolescent years angry with his dad, his early adulthood wanting to be better than his dad, and now, in his mid-thirties, he simply wanted to get along with his dad. He knew someday he’d be chairman of the board of this company. And it wouldn’t be because he was smart, though he was. Lots of men were smart. Lots had ambition. But very few had a dad who could literally hand him a company. It had taken Darius nearly thirty of his thirty-six years to respect that, but he finally did.
So for the years he would spend awaiting his turn as leader, he’d appreciate his father. Even if it meant tolerating hearing about his dad’s affairs, knowing that his mother had pined for him until her dying breath.
Darius sat on one of the sleek mahogany chairs in front of the desk. But his father laughed. “No, come here.” He motioned for Darius to come around to the tall-back leather chair.
Confused, he rose. Walked around the side of the desk.
His dad patted the big chair behind it. “Sit. Here.”
Cautious, he ambled over to the chair, folded himself into it.
“How does it feel?”
“It’s fine.” Panic filled him. Nothing angered his father more than things that were broken. Broken chairs. Broken equipment. Broken people. He had no tolerance for weakness.
“Why? Are you having trouble with it? Did you call maintenance?”
“It’s not broken. It’s fine.”
Darius spun the chair around to face his father. “Then what?”
“Are you that slow?”
“What am I supposed to figure out by sitting in your—“ He paused. His mouth fell open. “You’re—“
“I’m turning over the reins.”
Joy bubbled through him. The sweet feel of success. He could hardly take it in.
Still, he wouldn’t take anything Stephone said for granted. He wanted clarification.
“You’re making me CEO?”
“What about Franklin?” Their current CEO was only fifty-something. Too young to retire.
“He won’t be coming back. Seems he had a heart attack over the holidays.” Darius’s face fell in horror, but his dad batted a hand in dismissal. “He’s fine. It was mild. But he got this bug up his behind about not wasting the time he had left.” He paused, smiled at Darius. “And I caught it.”
This was so unexpected that Darius’s heart clenched. He’d be taking over everything? “You’re resigning as Chairman?”
“No. I’ll still be Chairman, but I want to pass that on to you too. Just not now. You’ll have enough on your hands over the next few months just getting to know the ins and outs of the company. There are lots of subsidiaries and divisions that you don’t know much about.”
True. But Darius didn’t care. He was a quick study. More than that, though, he wasn’t afraid to hire good people to work under him. A trait his father hadn’t shared.
“But for right now, I want to spend some time with Missy. Time in on the beach. Time as a family.”
That was odd. His father had never wanted to be a family with his wife or any of his other mistresses, but if he suddenly wanted to play house with his current mistress, Darius wouldn’t criticize. He would simply see it as his good fortune.
He took a breath, glanced up at his father. “I don’t know what to say.”
Stephone laughed and grabbed the top coat that sat on a small table to the right. “I’d tell you to say thanks, but you’re going to find some surprises for which you may not thank me.”
“If I tell you, they won’t be surprises, will they?”
Darius swallowed back his retort. He didn’t like the idea that bad things awaited him, meaning there was trouble in the company, but he knew his dad had been neglecting the company since he'd met Missy. Making Darius CEO was probably the smartest thing Stephone could do. Wisely, he kept his mouth shut. But as his dad reached the double mahogany doors, he rose.
His father turned. For the first time in years, Darius noticed how old his father looked, how tired. He sucked in a quiet breath. Whether he disagreed with his father’s lifestyle or not, this was a huge promotion. A wonderful opportunity. A vote of confidence. “Thanks.”
He laughed. “I told you, you might not want to thank me.”
Darius shook his head. “I don’t care what shape the company is in. I can fix it.”
Stephone waved his umbrella at him. “I’m counting on that.”
Darius smiled. His dad smiled back. Then a shadow fell over his father’s face. He drew in a breath and caught Darius’s gaze as if wanting to tell him something else. But he shook his head and grabbed the door knob.
“Goodbye, Mr. CEO. Take good care of my legacy.”
Darius’s father died that night in an automobile accident with his live-in girlfriend. And suddenly Darius wasn’t just taking care of a business that he quickly discovered was on the verge of bankruptcy, he had two angry half-brothers to contend with and some unexpected news at the reading of the will.
Read about it in THE BABY PROJECT, available from Harlequin Romance in April 2011.
Copyright 2010 susan meier.