In Debt to the Dom

By: Jan Bowles

Guilty Pleasures 1

Chapter One

Keaton Rivers settled back in his executive chair and stared at the slowly darkening skyline. From his top floor office at Goldstein Rivers, he had an uninterrupted view. At this time of day with the lights just starting to come on, the city of Chicago looked stunning.

He chewed on his pencil and idly flicked through the personnel files once more. One of the managing directors was leaving in little more than a month’s time, and, as CEO, he always liked to have a hand in their replacement.

So far, he’d narrowed the field down to three candidates. All holding senior positions within the company, they could all bring their own personal skills to the job. He needed to wrap this up before he took his annual month-long vacation.

He flicked a switch on his intercom and spoke. “Leanne, please arrange working lunches with the following—Robert Kincade, Martin Scott, Joe Magnusson, and Maddie James.”

“Yes, Mr. Rivers. Anything else?”

“No. I’m gonna call it a night. You, too, Leanne.”

He turned to the bank of windows and stared once more into the night, seeing without seeing, his mind deep in thought.

So why had he asked the fourth candidate, Maddie James, to lunch? To get her hopes up? He knew he’d already decided against her. At the age of twenty-eight, Maddie James was far too young for such a senior position. Managing Directors were usually in their mid-thirties. Maybe she’d get her chance in a year or two when she’d gained a little more experience, but not now.

The fact was he’d seen Maddie James several times around the office. Those pale green eyes and that wild hair, cascading around her face in a cloud of blonde, intrigued him. He guessed he just wanted to take a closer look to see if she lived up to his expectations. An abuse of his position, he knew, but what was the point of having power if he couldn’t occasionally use it to his own advantage?

* * * *

Maddie James walked purposefully across the restaurant, the heels of her black court shoes sinking deliciously into the luxurious deep pile carpet. Every table she passed was exquisitely laid with cut crystal glass and fine bone china. Floating lilies were large centerpieces on each and every one.

This was fine dining in the extreme, and she took a deep breath to calm her nerves. Meeting her CEO for lunch had caused her one long sleepless night. His rise through the ranks of investment banking had been legendary. Although the son of the then-current CEO, when his father had died, he’d taken on the responsibility with aplomb, breathing new life into Goldstein Rivers.

Now, she needed to pull all her resources together in order to impress him. The position of Managing Director might be the answer to all her recent problems. She really needed this job.

Maybe a miracle might happen after all.

Adjusting the lapels on her dark gray business suit, she finally reached his table. Keaton Rivers was deep in conversation on his cell phone. With a strong jaw, he had deep creases running up to his eyes. Her heart flipped in her chest. Close up, he was extremely attractive, with broad shoulders and a fine physique.

Combing a hand through his jet-black hair, he looked up as she approached and ended the call.

“Maddie, good to see you. Thank you for coming.” He motioned to the seat opposite. “Please sit down.”

Deep blue eyes held her transfixed as she sank into the soft velvet dining chair.

“It’s good of you to consider me for the position of Managing Director, Mr. Rivers.”

He nodded, and then stared at her for what seemed an eternity. He cleared his throat. “What would you like to drink?”

Maddie desperately wanted a large gin and tonic, but said, “Just a sparkling mineral water, please.” It certainly wouldn’t impress him if she had a lunchtime drink, and she desperately needed this promotion. Like, yesterday.

A stray tendril of her willful hair fell across her forehead, and she pushed it nervously aside.

The waiter took their drinks order and then handed them each a menu. As she scanned the expensive card, he spoke. “So, Maddie, tell me what you feel you can bring to the position of Managing Director at Goldstein Rivers.”

Placing his menu down, he linked his fingers together under his chin and leaned on the table. His eyes silently took in every detail of her face as he stared intently at her.

Feeling under intense scrutiny, she smiled. Keaton Rivers was certainly business-like. This was probably his way of seeing if she could cope under pressure. Well, she had pressure coming from all sides. Her sister for one, the sale of her house another, the money she hadn’t quite got enough of, and now the head of Goldstein Rivers interrogating her over a job. Pressure visited her on a regular basis. She was used to it.