Read Rulers of Deception Online

Authors: Katie Jennings

Tags: #Gone With the Wind, #nora roberts, #Dallas, #scarlett o'hara, #epic drama, #dynasty, #Drama, #soap opera, #dramatic stories, #hotel magnate, #family drama, #Danielle Steel

Rulers of Deception (6 page)

“All right, I’ll head back to the hotel in a few minutes.” Linc hung up the phone and shot his friend an irritated look. “Veronica Diaz of all people wants to talk to me.”

Surprise flashed over Greg’s face, which he attempted to hide as he slipped the basketball into his gym bag. “That’s cool, man.”

Linc chewed on the news for a moment, weighing the pros and cons in his head. “On the upside, I might be able to play this in my favor. Give her a tour of one of the new mid-range hotels, hype up the affordable luxury talking point, show the world how charming and likeable I am…”

“She’s great. Whatever angle you choose, she’ll do a good job putting it together. Look what she did for the Hiltons, and they were a lost cause.” Greg hefted his bag over one shoulder and reached out to slap Linc’s arm affectionately. “Let me know how it goes, okay?”

“Will do.” Linc watched his friend lope off to his car before walking in the opposite direction toward the hotel. He needed a quick shower in the gym first before getting to that meeting with McAllister. Then he’d head back to his desk and the message he knew was waiting there from Veronica.

Maybe this could be a good thing, he considered. Veronica Diaz was no trashy tabloid reporter, nor was she low-level like the dirt-bags that spread Jorja Hale’s lies a year earlier. She was up in the ranks, fairly well respected from what he knew and notorious for doing in-depth interviews with celebrities and high-profile politicians.

Only time would tell if she’d be an asset or a liability.

 

 

Reed McAllister wore
his success in the form of a flashy red corvette and a Rolex Yacht Master watch that cost twice as much as his childhood suburban home in Cleveland. Everything else about him was casual comfort and good, old-fashioned-handshake enthusiasm.

Grant accepted that sturdy handshake the second McAllister entered the conference room, his presence larger than his tall, lanky frame and more youthful than his graying hair and handsomely aged face portrayed.

“Good to see you, Mr. McAllister.”

“When am I going to convince you to call me Reed?” McAllister grinned, warm and cheerful. His white T-shirt and faded jeans matched his laidback mood. “You know I like my business friendly.”

Grant’s lips twitched into a smile. “And you know I like my business professional.”

“That I do. Either way, I’d say we’re doing some damn good business.” McAllister settled into one of the conference chairs and swiveled around to face Grant, who took a seat across from him. “My son should be here in a minute. He’s eager to meet all of you.”

With a nod, Grant began shuffling through the paperwork he’d brought for the meeting. Even though he’d already organized it an hour earlier, he needed something to do with his hands to help avoid small talk.

Thankfully, a trim, professional-looking man about his age entered the room and stole the focus of attention.

“Ah, Daniel. Have a seat.” McAllister waved his son toward the table, turning to Grant. “Grant, this is my son, Daniel. Someday he’ll take over for me, if he’s lucky.”

Daniel offered Grant a forced smile as he took a seat beside his father, wincing in irritation at McAllister’s words. Grant noted he had the same russet-brown hair as his father, worn neatly trimmed and combed to the side, though the resemblance ended there.

Where Reed McAllister’s eyes were a sparkling, charming blue, his son’s were a dull, colorless gray tucked into an unremarkable, humorless face. His lanky figure was covered in a meticulously neat stone-gray business suit, the sky-blue tie he wore knotted tightly at his pale, slender throat.

Grant extended his hand politely over the table. When their hands met, he held on long enough for their eyes to meet as well. What he saw worried him. “Nice to meet you.”

“So you’re the manager here?” Daniel asked, eyes narrowing as they released hands. When Grant nodded, he continued. “How are you involved in our business, then? I don’t want to waste my time meeting someone who doesn’t matter. Where’s the CEO of your company? That’s who I want to talk to.”

One of Grant’s brows slid up, his irritation dulled only by the sight of his sister standing in the doorway, a dark smile on her face. “She’s right behind you.”

Daniel turned in his chair. He tensed up the moment he saw her, as if it was the first time he’d witnessed a black mamba in a jungle full of garden snakes.

Madison swept into the room on razor sharp heels, her high-collared, no-sleeve black dress skimming just above her knees. She stopped before Daniel and held out a hand, glittering gold bracelets clicking together on her wrist.

“Pleasure to meet you, Daniel. Your father has talked so much about you.” Her voice dripped propriety while her eyes burned holes into his. “I believe I’m the person you wish to speak to.”

Daniel blinked and accepted her handshake. “H-hello.”

“Daniel, this is Madison. She runs the company,” McAllister supplied, wondering why his son hadn’t remembered that detail. He’d told him a dozen times.

“Who had to die for you to get this gig?” Daniel wondered aloud, his hand falling from her grasp.

Madison’s chin lifted as she stared down her nose at him, equally insulted as she was amused. “A brilliant man who trusted me with his legacy. Now, Linc should be joining us—”

“I’m here, I’m here.” Linc stepped into the room and shut the door, a bright smile lighting his face. “It’s one o’clock on the nose, I’m not late.”

“Hey there, champ!” McAllister jumped up to shake Linc’s hand and pat him on the shoulder. “How’d you like that wedding gift I sent over?”

“Don’t tell my sister, but it was even better than the gift she got me. How’d you know I love Aerosmith? And front row seats, too.” Linc winked, shooting a playful glance at Madison.

“Lucky guess.” McAllister motioned for Linc to take a seat beside Grant. As they sat down, Madison slid into the chair at the head of the table.

“Marshall said he might drop by as well, but we can get started without him as he tends to run on his own schedule.” Her eyes met McAllister’s with a polite smile. “So it looks like construction on the New Haven location is going well.”

McAllister nodded. “That’s a great hotel, right near Yale. We get lots of parents coming in visiting the students, some business traffic, tourists.”

“I intend to go visit in a few days, get a feel for it. I’m sure it’s transitioning smoothly into our new program.”

“The board is tickled pink at the success of the first two hotels. I don’t think they believed me when I said it was a great idea to merge with you guys.”

Madison reached over to grab his hand, sincere in her gratitude. “Thank you for giving us a chance, Reed. Despite everything.”

“Your family was the reason my dad got into the hotel business. Did I ever tell you that he met Cyrus once at your casino in Vegas back when it first opened? Said he’d never met a man more ambitious or fearless in his life. It was that conversation that inspired him to open up his own hotel in an old boarding house in Cleveland. And look at where we are now.”

“My grandfather was a very inspiring man.” Madison released his hand, pride glowing in her eyes. “It’s important for me to remember him not for his sins, but for his strength and his inability to accept defeat.”

McAllister smiled. “The Vasser name still stands strong, just like Cyrus. I’m not worried for the future.”

Daniel let out a mocking grunt, drawing all eyes to him. When he saw the others staring, he rolled his shoulders and looked at his father. “You’re not worried about the future because you’re going to retire soon. But this is
my
future we’re talking about here, and you’re throwing it to the dogs by giving our company to these idiots.”

Grant’s brows rose and Linc bit back a flash of temper, while McAllister looked embarrassed. “Daniel, the merger with the Vassers was unanimously agreed upon by the board. You just don’t know enough about the business yet to understand why it was a smart move.”

Anger tightened Daniel’s features. “If I was in charge—”

“But you’re not yet.” McAllister frowned. “We’ll discuss this later. Now is not the time.”

“I understand your concern, Daniel,” Madison interrupted, looking briefly to her brothers before facing Daniel again. “But I can assure you our company and our name is solid. Your hotels are turning more profit under our brand name than they were before.” She lifted out the paper showing the reservation numbers and handed it to him. He accepted it but didn’t take his eyes off her. “I feel that once you get to know us better, you’ll change your mind.”

His eyes narrowed. “We’ll see about that.”

“Why don’t you just get it all off your chest?” Linc invited with a hard grin. “Tell us why you think we’re idiots and maybe we can come to a resolution.”

“Daniel…” McAllister warned, sending an apologetic glance to Madison and the others. “Maybe we should just have this meeting another time.”

“No, I have something to say,” Daniel decided. He tossed the paper back at Madison. “You want to know why I think this merger is a bad idea?”

“Enlighten us.” Linc crossed his arms and sat back in his chair. “This should be good.”

“I read about your family. The murders and suicides. The kidnapping and corruption. Do you think I should believe that you three are saints in a family clearly filled with nothing but sinners?”

“It doesn’t matter what you believe. All that matters is the truth,” Grant put in.

Daniel sneered. “You’re telling me that there will never be another Vasser like Cyrus, the murderer? What about her?” He nodded in Madison’s direction, though he had a hard time looking her in the eye. “How do I know she’s not plotting to steal our company out from under us and push us out? Or that she’s not doing something in her personal life that’s going to hurt the company?”

“My company and my family are all I have. I would never do anything to hurt them,” Madison replied smoothly, wishing for nothing more than to wring the bastard’s neck then and there. She withheld the urge and offered up icy civility instead. “Your father understands that. In time you will too.”

She rose to her feet, offering a hand to McAllister. “I have other matters to attend to. Give my regards to your wife.”

Before McAllister could reply, Madison left the room, leaving behind only the scent of her sultry perfume. Grant and Linc stood as well, shaking McAllister’s hand in turn.

“We’ll be in touch,” Grant said, offering Daniel a curt nod before following Madison.

McAllister looked at Linc, a flush of embarrassment rising on his neck. “I apologize, Linc. I don’t know what gets into him sometimes.”

“I’m right here, dad. You don’t have to apologize for me.” Daniel got to his feet and eyed Linc with distrust. “I’m still not convinced this is a good idea but since I have no power to stop it, it looks like you win for now.”

Linc managed a stiff laugh. “What did I win? Something I already won a year ago when your dad agreed to the merger?”

Daniel said nothing and stalked from the room. McAllister bowed out after him, and a second later Marshall walked in, confused.

“Did I miss the meeting? I’m only a few minutes late.”

Linc chuckled, swiping a hand over the back of his neck. “It was more of an interrogation than a business meeting. In fact, I wish I’d been a few minutes late myself.”

Marshall frowned, anger bunching in his broad shoulders. Linc could almost see his uncle’s generous mustache quivering with indignation. “I knew this merger was a bad idea.”

“It’s not,” Linc sighed, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “We’ve just hit a speed bump, that’s all. It’ll figure itself out.”

Marshall didn’t look convinced. “If you say so…I don’t like all these changes.”

“I know.” Linc patted his uncle on the back and led him from the room. “Look, if this one doesn’t figure itself out, then you get to say ‘I told ya so.’”

“Hmm, I like that.” Marshall wrapped his arm over Linc’s shoulders. “I like that a lot.”

 

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