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Bastard In A Suit – Chapter Eight [Online Ebook]

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Eight hundred thousand dollars.
That’s the amount of money Duke Kingston has offered to buy us out of our company. It’s more money than I’ve dreamed of—a drop in the bucket for a billionaire, to be sure—and yet, something doesn’t sit right.
Duke levels me with a look of cool annoyance. “Is there a problem?”
Heat crawls up the side of my neck. I’m sure he can see through me, somehow knows that I fell asleep thinking about him fucking me. I lick my lips and force myself to look away from his scrutiny. “The potential for this product is enormous.”
“It’s a generous offer,” he counters.
Not if he knew the scope of the project. The trouble is, he didn’t listen to our revised pitch, and that’s not something I’m willing to admit to Jake and Forrest. “It’s state of the art technology.”
The mogul tilts his head. “It’s inadequate.”
His silver tie shimmers in the sunlight that streams through the boardroom windows. The heat is stifling. I use a folded piece of paper to fan myself, but it’s pointless. Being in the same room as Duke turns me so claustrophobic I can scarcely breathe.
“It has room for improvement,” Forrest says.
Duke lifts his gaze. “It’s a complete…”
“Failure?” I cut in, throwing his words back at him.
His stare penetrates me, putting me in my place. “Yes.”
I refuse to weaken. “Then why offer eight hundred thousand dollars?”
Forrest kicks me under the table. I know he’s keen to take the money and run. But eight hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money, even for a man like Duke Kingston, and there must be something about the product that intrigues him enough to want to buy us out. That leaves us with room for negotiation.
As long as I don’t blow it.
“And if we’re not willing to let the product go for that amount of money?” I challenge.
“On the chance someone else might offer higher?” Duke’s expression hardens. “That would be foolish. I must stress that this is a one-time deal. I highly doubt you’ll find a better offer.”
It’s true Kingston Industries is one of the top tech companies in Chicago, perhaps the whole United States. But he isn’t the only potential investor and I’m not convinced his competitors wouldn’t make a similar—or better—deal. Especially if they know that someone else is into it.
Jake clears his throat. He’s looking quite worse for wear this morning, unshaven, blood-shot eyes, and I have half a mind to ask him just how late he was up drinking his sorrows away last night.
But I can’t exactly claim to be pure as snow at the moment either, so I sit silently as Jake asks his question.
“What are your intentions for the device?” Jake half-croaks.
“Strip it down,” Duke says.
Jake’s face pales. “Strip it down? You mean roll back all the work we did to make it what it is?”
“Eventually it could be a useful product,” Duke says, completely dismissing the look of horror in Jake’s eyes.
“There’s no one that knows it better than us,” I say, an attempt to divert the conversation before Jake gets emotional. Showing weakness isn’t the way to impress Duke—I know that first hand. “If we agreed to a buy-out, who would work on the device?”
Another kick comes at me from under the table.
I ignore it and focus on Duke. He strokes his beard, as if contemplating. My heart races. Selling the MicroTracker outright isn’t a perfect scenario, but for three college grads, it should be a dream come true. Problem is, I’m not ready to let control of the product go.
“What if you hired us to work on the project?” I say, my voice sounding strangely confident in my own ears.
Duke whips his head to me. I’m wearing a soft, V-neck sweater.
Duke’s gaze slides down the front of my sweater briefly before returning to my face.
“This is my offer,” he says calmly, as if he knew it would go this route from the very beginning. “I will purchase the MicroTracker for eight hundred thousand dollars, payable in one installment. In addition, you will each have a job at Kingston Industries, with the sole purpose of turning the device into something that can eventually be taken to market.”
My pulse spikes. “What’s our annual salary?”
“One hundred thousand dollars.”
Forrest barely contains a gasp. “Each?”
Duke continues as though he hasn’t heard the question. “After three years, your contracts will be re-evaluated.”
Holy shit.
It’s not an excessive wage, but a cushy job at Kingston Industries fresh out of school is at the top of every IT student’s bucket list. We’d be the envy of our classmates. I’d be able to rent an apartment with a real hot water tank. Maybe buy a condo on the North Side.
I am totally in, but in my peripheral vision, I see a pale, unshaven Jake chewing on the inside of his cheek. Getting him on board will be a tougher sell.
Duke stands and smooths the creases out of his steel-gray jacket.
“I’ll leave the room and give you a moment to discuss my offer.”
“Thank you, sir,” Forrest practically gushes.
At the door, Duke turns. He looks at me, but the warning is intended for us all. “If you try and leverage this to get a better deal somewhere else, or take advantage of my generosity in any way, I will make sure you never work in this industry again.”
A chill ripples through my spine.
Duke Kingston is a cold asshole, but I can’t help but stare at his backside as he leaves the room. It should be fucking illegal for an ass to be that firm.
“That went well,” Forrest says, rubbing his hands together. He’s like a kid in a candy store and Duke has offered him unlimited lollipops.
“He won’t give us credit for the innovation,” Jake says. “Rich motherfuckers like him think they can take everything, take all of our work and pretend it’s theirs.” His eyes have dark circles under them and it’s clear he hasn’t been sleeping.
Seems this breakup is more serious than I gave credit for, but now is not the time to worry about Jake’s love life.
“Jake has a point,” I say. “We’ll be nothing but salaried employees.”
“So what?” Forrest says, with a snort. “We’ll have enough money to create a new product. Something bigger and better than the MicroTracker.”
Jake sneers. “No, we’ll be stuck in this building working as slaves for the billionaire that bought our product.”
“There are worse places to be enslaved,” I say, and my mind takes me right back to the storage room at the restaurant. I shake my head to re-set my thoughts and rest my hand on Jake’s arm. “I know it’s not ideal.”
“It blows,” he says, flinching away from my attempt to calm him. “First Marissa’s trying to ruin my life, and now Duke Kingston is joining in.”
Forrest glares at him. “Seriously dude, you’ll have more money than you dreamed of. And we’ll have jobs. Am I the only one that’s clued in to that important fact?”
Not even close. I’ve already begun mentally scrolling through the real estate ads in search of an upscale loft. Maybe something above a hip coffee shop. I’ll buy new furniture, get a real coffee table, something antique and sturdy. The kind of piece my mom would admire.
Jake shakes his head. “I’m not going to take this deal,” he says. “I’m not going to just take it in the ass from this rich prick.”
Forrest makes a face. “Good Lord, so now you’re going to screw all of us out of a deal, Jake. What is wrong with you?”
Jake makes a smug face. “I have morals, I have values, unlike some.”
“This isn’t about your ex-girlfriend, dude. Get it together,” Forrest whispers harshly.
The two glare at each other and I wonder just how much they talk to one another about things I’m not privy to. I wonder what they say about me…
But none of that matters. I have to find a way to keep this deal from falling apart.
And then it hits me. “What if we make him a counter offer?”
Jake’s eyes light up. “Now that I like. Make him hurt a little for a change.”
“Fine,” Forrest says, conceding at last. “Negotiate.”
I’m anxious but also a little excited.
Negotiating with Duke Kingston could go one of two ways—impress him or piss him off. I exhale a deep breath. We have no choice but to hope for the best.
Forrest rests his hand on my shoulder, all serious now. “You know we trust you, right?”
I nod.
But I also happen to know that they have no good reason to trust me. I’m under Duke Kingston’s spell and it will take a miracle for me not to bend to his every whim.

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