Billionaire's Tragedy (Standalone Book) (Billionaire Bad Boy Romance) (8 page)





I got to work on
Wednesday morning, I could see Carl grinning from all the way across the
newsroom. I picked up my mail and messages, hung up my coat, and grabbed a cup
of coffee before I headed over to my desk.

"What the hell are
you grinning at?" I asked as I sat down and turned toward my computer. On
the wall dividing my desk from the one in front of me was a huge box with a
bright red bow. "What the hell is this?"

"I think you have an
admirer," Carl said. "Open it, Liv! I've been waiting all morning for
you to get here!"

"What's this all
morning, Jackson?" I laughed. "You've been here approximately five
minutes longer than I have."

"Yeah, and that's
all morning!" he said impatiently. "Open the damn box, Moore!"

"Fine, fine," I
grumbled. "But if this is some kind of sick joke you cooked up to make fun
of the fact that I'm over thirty and still single, I swear, I'm gonna call your
wife and tell her all about your hooker habit."

"Right," he
nodded not listening to a word I said as he fixated on the box and waited for
me to open it.

"You're a real peace
of work, you know that, don't you?" I said as I hauled the box down off
the wall and set it on my desk. I tugged on the bow, and as it fell away, the
front of the box dropped in front of me, revealing an arrangement of beautiful,
winter flowers. There was an envelope sticking out, so I grabbed it and opened
it. I read the note, looked back at the envelope, and then swore under my

"Who is it from,
Liv?" Carl asked. "Who sent you those flowers?"

"That pushy gun guy,
Lincoln Redding!" I fumed. "Why on earth would he do such a

"I don't get it,
Liv," Carl said genuinely perplexed. "What's wrong with some good-looking
guy sending you flowers? What'd he say in the note?"

"It's not the
flowers that are the problem, Carl," I said. "It's the fact that he
also gave me a ticket to the stupid Washington Christmas Gala! You know how I
loathe those things. And, he said he was sorry that running into him was so
painful and that he hoped this would help take some of the sting out of our

"Whoa, what did you
do to him, Liv? And more importantly, what did you do to get him to give you
the ticket?" Carl asked suddenly looking very concerned. "Those
things are like gold in this town and no one can get their hands on them. Every
year, my wife tells me that if figure out how to get tickets to that ball, I'll
never have to mow the lawn or take out the trash again."

"I didn't do
anything to him! He's a rude man who doesn't look where he's going!" I
protested then held out the ticket. "Here, you want it? Take it. I have no
use for this kind of nonsense."

"Liv, if the guy
gave you a ticket to the hottest event in town, then don't you think he's going
to be more than a little insulted if you don't show up? I mean, not that I'm
not a dashing man or anything, I'm just saying."

"You know, this is
just unfair, Carl," I sighed as I looked at the beautiful arrangement and
remembered the way Linc had looked at me in front of the florist. His beautiful
blue eyes had flashed as he held me close after our collision. His body had
felt strong and hard against mine, and his arm around my waist had made me feel
like a woman for the first time in I don't know how long. I wasn't going to
admit it to Carl, or anyone else for that matter, but since the collision, I'd
fantasized about all the naughty things I could do with Linc Redding and had
slept more soundly than I had in months. "Why do these guys have to do
this kind of stuff and ruin everything?"

"What is wrong with
you, Liv?" Carl laughed. "You are like the anti-female. Most women
would die to have a man send flowers and a ticket to the ball, but you treat it
like he left a bag of burning dog poop on your doorstep! What is your

"It's not that,
Carl," I said slumping down in my chair. "It's just that he's a
completely arrogant idiot!"

"Liv, listen to
me," Carl said as he scooted his chair over into my cubicle. "You
can't keep running away from getting involved in life again. It's not healthy.
You need to get out and give people a chance. If they prove that they're asses,
then you'll have every right to turn tail and run, but to run away from
something simply because it's vexing? It's not fair. It's not fair to you. You
deserve some happiness."

"Don't get all
sentimental-" I began as I felt a catch in my throat rise and threaten to
escape. I looked at him, feeling more vulnerable than I had in a long time.
"I know. I know. But I don't like the guy; he's annoying and entitled and
he's being pretty presumptuous assuming that I'll just run right out and buy a
dress for this thing. I don't have time for this kind of nonsense, Carl. I
don't know how to do girl things and I'm too old to learn."

"Oh please, you are
so full of shit!" he laughed as he slapped me on the back. That's what I
loved about Carl, He knew how to take a moment of raw vulnerability and turn it
around so I'd feel more comfortable, while not losing the message. I often told
him he should become a therapist. "I've seen you all dolled up and you
look spectacular! Why don't you get a dress and then outsource everything

"Outsource? What the
hell? Fly to India and have someone make me look like a girl?" I laughed.

"No, I mean go to
one of those fancy spas and have them do all the work," he spoke as if he
were talking to a small child. "I've seen Trina do it a thousand times –
and seen the cash flow out of our bank account. She always looks like a million

"This is
insane," I said shaking my head. "Fine, I'll find a dress and go to
one of your fancy spas so I can look like a girl."

"That's the spirit,
Liv!" Carl said as he slugged my shoulder.

"Ouch, that
hurt!" I said as I rubbed my shoulder and pouted. "You really
shouldn't be hitting a girl, you know."

"Toughen up,
buttercup," Carl grinned as I groaned at his terrible rhyme. “Besides,
this fits in nicely with all of the reporting you've been doing for the
features section and might get you entry into some of the future events, you
know? Consider it a good reporting tool."

I simply nodded in
response. I didn't want to go to the event, but Carl was right: I needed to
make a little more effort to fit in around here if I was going to have access
to the people who would make it easier to report the news in Washington. I
sighed as I picked up my phone and texted Bix a simple message. "Go
shopping w/me?"

Her response was
immediate and to the point, "Thursday afternoon, 1pm. Come to the

I quickly replied,
"K. Be there," and then let it go.


had just scooted back around the dividing wall to his own desk when Frank came barreling
through the newsroom with a stack of papers in his hand. He was yelling,
"Olivia, Olivia! Get your things together and get over to the GRIPTech

I shot Carl a look and
then said, "What's up, Frank?" I asked as I began shoving a notebook
and a couple of pens into my bag. I carried more office supplies than I'd ever
use in my lifetime, but there was something about adding more that made me feel
fully prepared.

"I need to do an
interview with the CEO over at GRIPTech," he said as he looked at the
papers in his hand. "Stuff's coming over the wire that he bribed the senators
who were shot on Sunday and there's speculation that he might be responsible
for the shootings."

"Linc Redding?"
Carl and I said in unison.

"You think he had
people shot?" Carl asked.

"No, not me,"
Frank sighed. "Other sources are naming him as someone of interest and he
called the office saying he'd do an interview, but only if you wrote it."

"Who, me?" I
said in a shocked voice. "Wait, that arrogant jerk called and asked
specifically for me?"

"Yes, Olivia, tbu if
you keep asking me questions, I'm going to assign the story to a reporter who
can handle it," Frank warned. "Get your things together and get your
tail over to the GRIPTech building, ASAP!"

"Yes, sir," I
said giving him a mock salute. I looked at Carl and shrugged. If Linc Redding
wanted me to interview him, I would interview him all right. I just hoped he
was prepared for a real interview and not some fluff piece that stroked his ego
and talked about all the wonderful things he owned. I rolled my eyes just
thinking about how he would probably show me around his offices.

"Nice flowers, who
sent them?" Frank asked.

"No idea," I shrugged.
"Some anonymous admirer."

"They ask you

"No, it was done to
torture me. And I'm annoyed beyond words."

"If it's someone
asking you on a date, you should go," he said. "You spend too much
time working, it's not healthy."

"You're the one who
sends me on insane interviews!" I protested.

"Right, get moving,
kid," he grinned as he swatted my head with the papers. He turned and
said, "Jackson, you got my poll numbers for the presidential

"Coming right up,
boss," Carl said as he hit print and waited for the sheets to emerge.

"I'm off, you
guys," I said as I grabbed my bag and headed for the coatroom. "If
I'm not back in two hours, it means there's something seriously wrong."

"And, we should call
the cops?" Carl grinned.

"I wouldn't go that
far, Jackson," I said over my shoulder. "But look into it!"

I grabbed my coat,
bundled up and headed out the door. I hailed a cab and told the driver take me
over to the GRIPTech offices. On the ride over, I began jotting down questions
to ask Linc. The first one was, "Why did you send me those tickets?"
I scratched it out and wrote, "How are you connected to the senators who
were shot at the Capitol on Sunday?" I followed it up with, "Why are
you so incredibly unpleasant?" I'd see how he answered that question and
then let the rest follow from there.





was already pacing in front of my desk when I arrived at the office. "We
need to neutralize Russo's speeches, Linc," he said as he cast an eye
toward the television screen on the wall and watched to see what was coming up
next. "He's going to bury us if he gets the upper hand."

"What's his game,
Brant?" I asked as I sat down and began sorting through the papers on my
desk. "What is he up to?"

"I'm not sure, and
that makes me extremely nervous," he replied as he continued pacing.
"Hey, it's back on."

"Welcome back to
Washington This Morning
, I'm your host,
James McDonald, and I'm here with President of the AWN, Davis Russo to talk
about why gun legislation is an unwise idea in the current climate. Mr. Russo,
you have spoken out about gun control legislation for your entire tenure, but
after the shooting this weekend do you still stand by this position? There are
reports that the gunman used a gun that was stolen from a family member and was
illegally transported from Virginia to the D.C. area. Aren't there laws that
could help us contain this kind of illegal possession and make it more
difficult for those who are mentally ill to get a hold of weapons and do this
kind of damage?"

"I'm glad you asked
that question, James," Russo said. He was wearing a dark blue suit with a
light blue dress shirt and a blue tie; he looked every part the conservative
businessman. He turned and looked into the camera as he spoke. "Folks,
we've suffered a terrible tragedy this weekend. Brave men and women who serve
the citizens of their states were gunned down by a man who had a bone to pick
and rather than engaging in productive debate, he chose to utilize a stolen
weapon to shoot and kill people who were simply trying to do their jobs.
Fortunately, quick acting law enforcement officials were able to contain the
perpetrator and eliminate the threat. This is the benefit of having well-armed
police force – and precisely why we need guns in this country.

“What I ask you is
whether we want to be shaping laws based on the illogical act of one man or
whether we want to think about the benefit and well-being of all responsible
gun owners in this country. The Second Amendment protects our right to own a
weapon, and if we allow legislation such as HR 8212 to dictate the way in which
owners are required to secure their weapons through smart technology, then we
have lost the fight for freedom. It's a terrible, terrible tragedy to lose our
respected representatives, but we cannot let fear push us to make irresponsible
financial decisions that will affect millions of weapons owners."

"Mr. Russo, the CEO
of GRIPTech, has said that the cost of converting weapons to smart technology
will be off-set by a tax credit to make weapons safer. How do you respond to
that, sir?"

"James, Mr. Redding
has said that his smart technology will be affordable for individuals in every
tax bracket, but what he has failed to note is that the tax credit is limited
to five-hundred dollars per owner. It may cover one weapon, but many gun owners
have more than one weapon, and to convert them all puts the price of following
the law out of reach for too many Americans. It doesn't make sense," Russo
said as he shook his head sadly. “And, you know as well as I do that it’s
bordering on unconstitutional as it essentially eliminates the number of guns
people can own.”

Watching Russo talk, I
was reminded that he had all the qualities of the best snake oil salesman. He
was slick and persuasive and he did bait and switch better than anyone I'd ever
met. He just seemed incapable of telling the truth.

"How do we counter
this, Linc?" Brant said as he stopped in front of my desk and looked down
at me. "How do we dissect this mess without giving him room to twist
everything so that it benefits him?"

"I'm working on
it," I muttered as I tried to play out all of the possibilities in my
head. If we attacked Russo, we'd make it looked like we were attacking gun
owners at large. If we let him say whatever he wanted, we'd look like we'd been
cowed and had something to hide. If we tried to take the high road, we'd be
accused of looking down our noses at the working class. We couldn't win. Russo
was holding the conversation hostage, and without a way to fight back, we were
also being held hostage.

"What if we pin the
shootings on him?" Brant asked. "I mean, he's spewing a Wild West
message that his followers are obviously taking literally. What if we ride out
and head him off at the pass by pointing out the fact that he's encouraging
people to shoot those that they disagree with?"

"It won't
work," I told him, shaking my head. "He'll turn it around and say
that we're angry because my parents were shot by a crazed man with a gun and
that people like me are the last ones to be deciding gun legislation. He'll
paint me as an unbalanced, emotionally overwrought son who misses his

"Well, don't
you?" he asked.

"Yeah, of course,
but I'm not my trauma and you know that," I said. "We need to strike
back in a way that shows what we're most interested in is keeping people safe
from the violence that can be prevented. We can't get mired in the argument
about who gets to have guns or who gets to decide who gets to have them. We've
got to find a way to rise above it all. Turn it into capitalism at its best, my

"You're a piece of
work, you know?" Brant laughed as he threw up his arms in momentary

"Hey! I know what we
can do!" I picked up the phone and quickly dialed the
number. Brant flashed me a confused look as I spoke into
the phone, "Hey Frank, this is Lincoln Redding. What would you say if I
said I want to give your newspaper an exclusive interview about the shooting on
the Hill this weekend? I'll answer all questions related to the shooting and
I'll let the reporter ask questions about my parents. There's one catch, though
– I want Olivia Moore to do the interview. If she can't, then I won't do it.
Great. Send her over; I'll be here waiting."

"You're a
genius," Brant said as I hung up. "How the hell did you come up with

"I figured that if
we got ahead of the discussion and talked about what's at stake, we'd be able
to beat Russo at his own game," I smiled. "Plus, I like Moore. She's
a diligent reporter."

"Uh huh," Brant
nodded. "Sure. She's a hottie, isn't she?"

"Go to hell," I
laughed. "She's smart and stubborn, and she'll do a good job of following
up and putting Russo on trial so that we don't have to."

"So, you're going to
use her to get what you want?" he asked. "I'd be careful with that,
Redding. Hell hath no fury, and all that jazz."

"Whatever, she's
smart and she knows how to write," I said waving him off. "Go figure
out how to rework the contracts so that we don't lose our shirts if the vote
goes south and then tell me how you managed it."

"Gotcha, boss,"
Brant said as he saluted and then left the room.

I called the front desk
and told them to have coffee brought up, and then remembered her complicated
order the first time we'd met. I called the desk back and told them to make
sure the tray had a pot of decaf and a pitcher of skim milk in addition to
everything else. The way this interview would go might be a roll of the dice,
but at least getting her coffee right wasn't going to be.


was ushered into my office just a few minutes after Brant had exited. Her fiery
red hair was pulled back in a low ponytail at the nape of her neck and her
bright green eyes fixed on me before she looked around and took in the room.
She let out a low wolf-whistle as she scanned my office and then said with a
playful grin, "This is some room, Redding."

"Thank you, I think."
I wasn’t sure she had intended it as a compliment. I walked around from behind
my desk and shook her hand. "I didn't do the decorating. I just bankrolled

"Oh, of course, you hire
the minions to do your bidding," she said in a brittle tone. She walked
over to the wall of windows running along the outer edge of the office and
looked out. "You've got quite the view of Washington here, don't you? I
knew you were a big-wig, but I don't think I had a clear understanding of just
how big."

"I'm not that
big," I shrugged, feeling defensive. She was criticizing my wealth, and it
made me profoundly uncomfortable. "It's just an office."

"Right," she
nodded. "Only, I spend my days in a cubicle the size of your coffee table,
so to me it's a big deal. Plus, look at this furniture! It's amazing!

"No idea," I
muttered as I moved toward the seating area on the far end of the room, opposite
from where my desk was. I'd set the area up as an alternative to a formal
conference table and found that it offered a more productive workspace than the
typical business meeting space. My employees liked it, too, but as I looked at
it through Olivia's eyes, it felt large and pretentious. The chairs were soft,
but sturdy half circles that allowed those sitting in them to either lean back
or sit up to take notes. Each chair had its own desk area that could be moved
around to accommodate the individual, and all of the furniture could be moved
around to accommodate any number of people. Today I'd set it up so that Olivia
and I would be facing each other over a small oval coffee table that held
refreshments. It was intimate, maybe too intimate. Sitting this close to her
made me feel vaguely uncomfortable, like she was judging me even further.

"I appreciate you
coming here to talk with me," I said gesturing to the chair she was to
occupy. "Coffee or tea?"

please," she said as she sat down and began pulling out her notebook and
recorder. "I'm going to take notes, but I'm also going to record this. Is
that okay with you?"

"That's fine,"
I said as I poured her a cup of coffee and then asked, "Cream or

"Just cream,
please," she said as she flipped open her notebook and made a note on the
top of the page. As she sat bent over her notebook, I stared at her, trying
hard not to sneak a glimpse of what lay just below the scoop neck of her
t-shirt. In jeans and a t-shirt, she was quite lovely; I could feel the blood
beginning to flow away from my brain as I imagined brushing the stray pieces of
hair away from her full lips before...

"You really are a
pig, aren't you?" she said with obvious disgust. "Perhaps I should
have worn a full burqa so that you wouldn't be tempted."

"Look, I'm
sorry!" I shot back. "I didn't do it on purpose, it was just-"

"Yeah, right." She
shook her head. "Look, I have to do this interview or I'll get fired from
my job, so let's just agree that we don't particularly like each other and get
on with it. Oh, and you can quit looking down my shirt while we talk,

"You are literally
the most unpleasant woman I've ever met in my entire life," I said as I
held out a cup of coffee. "This is yours."

"I'm unpleasant?"
she scoffed as she took the cup, sipped it, and then added more cream. At that
moment, I wasn't sure if I wanted to strangle her or kiss her. "You are
the rich bully who pretty much does what he wants when he wants and assumes
that everyone will bow down before him, praising his name and being awed by his

"Where in the hell
did you come up with that nonsense?" I was outraged by her assumption, so
I aimed low, "You think I'm some kind of self-centered billionaire leading
a cult of sycophants, don't you?"

"Well, if the shoe
fits..." she trailed off with a knowing look.

"Lady, you are
beyond obnoxious," I spat. "I'm no such thing, and to have someone
like you – a rude pushy woman who doesn't look where she's going and has no
sense of decorum-“

"Oh, oh, oh!"
she shouted. "I'm rude and pushy? You're the one who shoved me out of the
way at the coffee shop and you're the one who was too absorbed in his phone or
whatever you were doing to pay attention to the space you were taking up on the
sidewalk! I'm not the problem, Mr. Redding: you are!"

I opened my mouth to fill
her in on how I perceived her behavior, when Brant stuck his head in and asked,
"Everything okay in here? The reception desk called and said they can hear
you all the way up front."

"We're fine," I
growled. "Ms. Moore was just expressing her opinion about a few

"Okay, well,
then," Brant said as he ducked back out of the room. I turned and looked
at Olivia who was now sitting across from me with a smug grin on her face as
she sipped her coffee.

"Temper, temper, Mr.
Redding," she said. I saw red, but I knew I had to stay calm if we were
going to progress beyond the name-calling.

"Let's call a truce
and do the interview, then after that, if you are still so inclined, you can
recommence with the name calling," I said gruffly.

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