Falling For Her Fake Fiancé

By: Sarah M. Anderson

One

“Mis-ter Logan,” the old-fashioned intercom rasped on Ethan’s desk.

He scowled at the thing and at the way his current secretary insisted on hissing his name. “Yes, Delores?” He’d never been in an office that required an intercom. It felt as if he’d walked into the 1970s.

Of course, that was probably how old the intercom was. After all, Ethan was sitting in the headquarters of the Beaumont Brewery. This room—complete with hand-carved everything—probably hadn’t been redecorated since, well...

A very long time ago. The Beaumont Brewery was 160 years old, after all.

“Mis-ter Logan,” Delores rasped again, her dislike for him palatable. “We’re going to have to stop production on the Mountain Cold and Mountain Cold Light lines.”

“What? Why?” Logan demanded. The last thing he could afford was another shutdown.

Ethan had been running this company for almost three months now. His firm, Corporate Restructuring Services, had beat out some heavy hitters for the right to handle the reorganization of the Beaumont Brewery, and Ethan had to make this count. If he—and, by extension, CRS—could turn this aging, antique company into a modern-day business, their reputation in the business world would be cemented.

Ethan had expected some resistance. It was only natural. He’d restructured thirteen companies before taking the helm of Beaumont Brewery. Each company had emerged from the reorganization process leaner, meaner and more competitive in a global economy. Everyone won when that happened.

Yes, thirteen success stories.

Yet nothing had prepared him for the Beaumont Brewery.

“There’s a flu going around,” Delores said. “Sixty-five workers are home sick, the poor dears.”

A flu. Wasn’t that just a laugh and a half? Last week, it’d been a cold that had knocked out forty-seven employees. And the week before, after a mass food poisoning, fifty-four people hadn’t been able to make it in.

Ethan was no idiot. He’d cut the employees a little slack the first two times, trying to earn their trust. But now it was time to lay down the law.

“Fire every single person who called in sick today.”

There was a satisfying pause on the other end of the intercom, and, for a moment, Ethan felt a surge of victory.

The victorious surge was short-lived, however.

“Mis-ter Logan,” Delores began. “Regretfully, it seems that the HR personnel in charge of processing terminations are out sick today.”

“Of course they are,” he snapped. He fought the urge to throw the intercom across the room, but that was an impulsive, juvenile thing to do, and Ethan was not impulsive or juvenile. Not anymore.

So, as unsatisfying as it was, he merely shut off the intercom and glared at his office door.

He needed a better plan.

He always had a plan when he went into a business. His method was proven. He could turn a flailing business around in as little as six months.

But this? The Beaumont freaking Brewery?

That was the problem, he decided. Everyone—the press, the public, their customers and especially the employees—still thought of this as the Beaumont Brewery. Sure, the business had been under Beaumont management for a good century and a half. That was the reason AllBev, the conglomerate that had hired CRS to handle this reorganization, had chosen to keep the Beaumont name a part of the Brewery—the name-recognition value was through the roof.

But it wasn’t the Beaumont family’s brewery anymore. They had been forced out months ago. And the sooner the employees realized that, the better.

He looked around the office. It was beautiful, heavy with history and power.

He’d heard that the conference table had been custom-made. It was so big and heavy that it’d been built in the actual office—they might have to take a wall out to remove it. Tucked in the far corner by a large coffee table was a grouping of two leather club chairs and a matching leather love seat. The coffee table was supposedly made of one of the original wagon wheels that Phillipe Beaumont had used when he’d crossed the Great Plains with a team of Percheron draft horses back in the 1880s.

The only signs of the current decade were the flat-screen television that hung over the sitting area and the electronics on the desk, which had been made to match the conference table.

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