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Bastard In A Suit – Chapter Two [Online Ebook]

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My stomach sinks so fast I’m spinning. “Mr. Kingston, please, we know the product isn’t perfect yet but…”
Duke cocks an eyebrow. “That’s an understatement. The battery for starters–”
“Needs a lot of work,” I say. I cup my hand over my mouth, realizing I’ve cut him off. Jake’s face has turned pale. Damn it. I’m totally fucking this up. I take a deep breath. “But that’s why I…we need you.”
Amusement flickers in Duke’s eyes before they cloud over again. He’s enjoying this. I’m mad as hell but I keep talking. “With an experienced investor like yourself, we could fix the product’s…inadequacies.”
Forrest clears his throat. “Sir, we believe we’re on to groundbreaking technology here.”
“It’s too small.” Duke leans over the boardroom table, pressing his palms flat on the surface. My gaze goes straight to his arms. Jesus, they’re big. His biceps bulge under his jacket.
“Wearables are in right now,” Forrest says.
There’s a hint of desperation in his voice that makes me cringe. First rule of a pitch meeting? Never let them see you sweat. Ironic, maybe, since my entire body feels hot and clammy.
“Something this small will get lost,” Duke says. “Or forgotten. It will fall off whatever it’s stuck to.”
“Not if you help us improve the adhesive,” I argue.
Duke’s eyes bore into me. My throat goes dry. I don’t get it, but he does something to me. Turns me inside out. Makes me want things I definitely shouldn’t want. A burning sensation creeps up the side of my neck.
“The adhesive is only one of multiple issues,” Duke says. He walks to the wall of windows that overlook the city, hands in his pockets. I can’t take my eyes off his broad shoulders, his muscular, tapered back. My nails itch to scratch along that long, lean spine.
Jake silently pleads with me to keep talking.
“We agree that the product isn’t perfect,” I say. “If it was, we could have taken it to market and made a killing by now.”
Duke pivots.
I point to the iPad screen where the pulsing green dot continues to weave its way through the narrow corridors on the blueprints. Kyle has moved from the eleventh floor to the eighteenth—the Penthouse—and the signal is strong. “The MicroTracker is still on Kyle’s collar. It’s doing the job it’s supposed to.”
Duke remains unimpressed. “Any one of my tech employees could have developed this device.”
“Bullshit,” I fire back out of instinct.
My stomach sinks with mortification. I am never this brazen.
In my peripheral vision, I see Jake’s face redden. He’s pissed. And why shouldn’t he be? We’ve blown this meeting and it’s mostly my fault.
“Your technicians could have built the MicroTracker,” Forrest says to Duke. “But they didn’t. We did. You could have them build it now and start from scratch—but you’d be at Ground Zero. Our product is seventy-five percent there.”
And that is what I should have said.
If only I’d listened and let Forrest take the lead on this. Instead I’m floundering.
I used profanity—I swore at our potential investor. My stomach feels like it’s filled with lead.
I should walk away. Concede the win.
But there’s this weird tremor in my gut that tells me this isn’t over.
“Most consumers will not want this product,” Duke says with finality.
“The MicroTracker isn’t for most consumers,” I say.
The room goes so silent you could hear a feather drop. Duke runs his hand over his beard and seems genuinely curious for the first time. I stay focused and pretend the movement isn’t sexy as hell, that my heartbeat isn’t pinging off the walls.
“Kingston Industries is a company built on innovation,” I say, gaining confidence. I’m taking a risk, but I need to salvage this meeting or I can kiss my business aspirations goodbye. “
“And it’s only by taking risks on products with the potential to have a big upside that a company grows to dominate the market the way your company has done. We are that kind of product. We may be high risk, but the rewards could also be great if we succeed.”
A glimmer of interest glows behind Duke’s stony expression. “I’m always interested in great rewards,” he says, looking directly into my eyes now.
My stomach flutters. “No doubt we—I—have botched this meeting, and I’m not going to offer any excuses.” I swallow hard. “But if you’d just give us a chance to regroup and come back with a second pitch, I know we can impress you.”
Jesus. That came off cockier than I’d intended, but we could use a break here.
Duke doesn’t say anything. I hold his stare and pretend my core isn’t tightening in response to his raw sexuality. His eyes travel the length of my body. It’s so subtle, and yet I feel stripped bare. Naked and vulnerable. My skin burns so hot I’m afraid it might catch fire.
He runs his tongue over his bottom lip. “I don’t give second chances.”
The air pushes out of my lungs in a hard gasp. My eyes burn and I blink back tears.
“But I will agree to hear a revised pitch,” he says. “Tonight.”
My knees buckle with relief.
Jake tilts his head back and lets loose a sigh. Forrest’s grin stretches from one side of his boyish face to the other.
“Tonight?” I repeat.
Duke nods. “At dinner.”
My throat practically closes shut at the thought of having to do this again so soon. Facing Duke Kingston is like going before a firing squad.
He glances at his watch. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another meeting to attend.”
“Of course,” Forrest says. “And thank you, sir.”
“You won’t regret this,” Jake says, extending his hand. “We’ll look forward to dinner.”
Duke dismisses them and locks his gaze on me again. “Just you,” he says. “My secretary will call you with the details.”
A shockwave of thrill and fear ripples through me.

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