At the Billionaire's Beck and Call?(5)

By: Rachel Bailey


“Thank you.” She didn’t look pleased by the praise, though she didn’t look displeased, either. Her expression was too aloof for either, almost feline in the way her nose tipped up, the way her eyes blinked slowly. He liked it.

He sank his hands deep into his trouser pockets. “Have you had any problems?”

She raised a slim shoulder dismissively. “Nothing I couldn’t deal with.”

Ryder allowed a ghost of a smile. Perfect answer. He had to admit, he already liked her more than any woman he’d dated. Since he’d decided to marry her three weeks ago—immediately after the reading of his father’s will—he’d done a thorough background check and found that she seemed a good match for him. They both had high-profile, complicated families, and they both steered away from those families and the publicity surrounding them as much as possible.

But the bottom line was, this marriage needed to go ahead so he could buy her father’s company, including its stock in his own family’s company. If they had a connection, a spark, that was icing. Since—as he’d discovered at the recent reading of his father’s will—his father had split his majority share of stock in Bramson Holdings between his legitimate and illegitimate families, the stakes were high. His father had begun in food, then diversified into hotels when he’d realized he would need unrelated career paths for his sons. Ryder had always expected that his half brothers would inherit Bramson Hotels, and he would inherit Bramson Food Holdings, which he’s spent his entire working life strengthening.

Or that, as the legitimate son, he would get it all.

But what had happened after his father’s unexpected death was a mess. Neither he nor his half brothers owned enough stock in the parent company to hold outright control by themselves, turning the boardroom into a battle ground. Damn shortsighted of his father, but the upshot was, Ryder needed to fix this, fast.

His mother had stoically suffered the scandals and his father’s emotional neglect through her marriage and in return she’d been publicly humiliated after her husband’s death. One thing Ryder could guarantee—he would acquire enough stock to claim a majority in his own right and gain control of the board. Set everything to right again.

Macy’s father’s company was a key in that plan. Ian Ashley’s company owned a chunk of stock in Bramson Holdings. A chunk that Ryder himself would own, as soon as he could buy Ashley International. And then he’d be within sight of that clear majority of stock.

Time to place his proposition on the table. And to do that, he needed to see her one-on-one.

He knew her father hadn’t told her about the secret condition of sale, that he wanted the new owner to marry one of his daughters. Seemed he was an old-school businessman and wanted to pass the company to a male heir. Since he only had daughters, he wanted to sell to a son-in-law who would, in turn, produce a grandson to inherit. Initially Ryder had resisted the marriage demand that accompanied the contract of sale on principle, but his father’s will had changed everything. Now owning the stock that Ashley International held was nonnegotiable.

So, given that Macy was in the dark about her father’s plans, Ryder had decided it’d be best to ease into things—to ensure his offer didn’t come completely out of the blue. Of course it would still seem sudden to her—he couldn’t help that. But if he was right about her, she was practical enough to appreciate the offer on its merits—he’d be a faithful husband, he was financially stable even without the inheritance, and he’d be a good father. And, to ensure her assent, he was prepared to offer her whatever she wanted, be that a house on the French Riviera, a company of her own, or whatever else she desired.

He strode across the office to shut the door, then returned to the desk, leaning a hip on the edge. Macy didn’t bat an eyelash at the closed door, showing again that she was perfect for his lifestyle—unflappable.

“Macy, I’d like to see you somewhere away from the office.” She opened her mouth, but he spoke first. “Have a drink with me tonight.”

The pulse at the base of her throat fluttered and she didn’t quite meet his eyes. “I’m not sure tonight is good.”

Undeterred, he inclined his head toward the window’s city view. “Where’s the best place to have a drink in this city?”

She blinked. “Probably The Jazz Room. But I have no interest in mixing business with my personal life, Mr. Bramson.”

“Ryder.”

She drew herself up even straighter. “Ryder. If you’d like to discuss work matters, I’d be happy to—”

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