A Controlling Interest

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With a crooked, shaky finger, Mr. Nelson directed Reagan’s eyes toward a Christmas tree adorned in small brass bells and holly and centered along a windowed wall that showcased the entire San Fernando Valley. “Fifty years ago, right over there, I watched Audrey Hepburn share several drinks with William Holding as they looked out over the sparkling Valley.”

Reagan’s teeth were dry and sticking to her lips after smiling all evening. Most of their gloss was lost to politeness, but having made their way around to the two elderly men who cofounded GRG, the holding company her boyfriend worked for, she’d discovered they were like windows into L.A.’s glamorous past.

“I’ll tell you something else—-I know Audrey Hepburn was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, but wow… You don’t know the half of it unless you’ve seen her in person.” He diverted his gaze entirely from Brandon, who was standing at Reagan’s side, and spoke straight at Reagan. “From the minute she entered the room I couldn’t pull my eyes from her. I had trouble believing those perfect, nuanced features could exist off-screen.” He leaned closer to Reagan in a way that invited her to do the same. “It’s a lot like that with you, my dear.”

Mr. Nelson’s wife patted his back. “You’re embarrassing the poor child, Bill.”

“Nonsense! Was I embarrassing you, dear?”

“No, no. I know flattery is ninety-nine percent protocol, or least that’s what my mother liked to say. So I’ll accept that I’m one percent as pretty as Audrey Hepburn.” She was aware her cheeks were heating up and must’ve reddened, which surely revealed her embarrassment despite professing otherwise.

Brandon rescued her modesty. “It’s good for Reggie to hear it from someone else, because my opinion has been branded biased.”

“Brandon’s actually seen what I look like first thing in the morning and didn’t run screaming for the door, so his opinion is hardly credible.”

Mr. Fillmore, the other cofounder, guided a hand around his wife’s waist. “Well the Pimentel has always attracted the most beautiful ladies.” His wife leaned against him, drawing a hand over her husband’s chest. “And it’s where they behave like anything but.” Her hand then slapped against his chest as she gave him a look.

Mr. Nelson was quick to pick it up. “He’s not kidding. His eyes bulged and his finger wagged unsteadily towards the south, cheery wood wall of the hotel’s banquet hall, where a lone piano player played a jazzy version of “White Christmas”. “Right there is where I spotted Joanne Woodward for the first time.” He sipped his drink. “She had on dark sunglasses, but it was her, alright. And she was with Paul Newman.” He winked. “But you see, Paul Newman was still married to his first wife at the time.”

He then shifted his attention to Brandon, and practically yelled at him, “You need to catch me in the office and bring me up on all the mergers you own.” He finished by tilting back the last of his scotch, and Reagan watched his eyes roll about in his head and worried he might collapse. She nudged Brandon to lend a hand, but then Mr. Nelson’s pupils finally steadied, and what they focused on were her tits. His wife had been latched onto his arm throughout, and she shook the tweed jacket sleeve to get his attention and suggest they get some water.

“I have to watch this one like a hawk,” his wife murmured as she past Reagan, and led her husband to a table full of punch bowls and trays of Asian-themed, finger foods.

“Bill never could hold his liquor.” Mr. Fillmore chuckled and touched Reagan on her bare shoulder, in an I-know-you-understand kind of way. “But Bill is right,” he said to her boyfriend, “Reagan is both gorgeous and delightful. This is where I tell you to marry her, but I trust you’ll figure that out on your own. I like to think we hire our men bright.”

“You do hire them bright.” Brandon tightened his lips, grinning in a way that made light of his eager confidence. But then he looked to Reagan and the stupid grin melted away into total sincerity. “And trust me—-I know she’s one in a million.”

Now Reagan full on blushed. “You’re both way too nice.”

The aged hand pulled away from her shoulder, and then he leaned in on her. “Don’t let it get around, I have reputation to uphold.”

His wife then jumped into the fray, seizing Reagan’s hand. “I just love your dress. You could be a model in a magazine, darling. And the length is perfect.” She stretched out her own sexy stocking covered leg from under a short, black skirt. “I always say, if you have legs worth showing, let ’em know it.”

Mrs. Fillmore was in her fifties and still looked fantastic. She was clearly a second wife, or maybe even a third. She then pinched Brandon’s cheek. “And they made the right choice hiring you. I dare say, if your date wasn’t so drop dead gorgeous I might try to show you what us old gals are made of.”

“Ha haaaa!” Mr. Fillmore guffawed, his baritone voice waking up the whole room. bursa escort “Come on Barb, let’s let the kids mingle with the other youngsters.”

“Yes, and we should check on Bill. He really didn’t look too well,” she added, and after a quick peck on the young couple’s cheeks, she and the firm’s cofounder walked off.

Once alone, Brandon pulled Reagan in for a hug. He embraced her tightly, crushing their bodies together. She squeezed him back, but not quite as tight—-they were in the middle of his work party after all. He then moved his lips to her ear. “Fuck was I nervous. You have no idea how those two can be.”

“You did great,” she whispered back. “They really seem to like you.”

“Ha, they’ve never said a word to me before tonight. I’m pretty sure it was all you, babe.”

“Shut up already, and quit selling yourself short.”

He stepped back and looked her over. “No, really, that dress is… Well it’s hard not to notice the perfection inside.”

“Oh really? So you no longer think I look like I should be out clubbing?”

He shook his head and laughed. “I know what I said, but look around—-this is a very different crowd than at your office Christmas party. I mean, that is a form fitting dress and even I can’t pry my eyes from your cleavage. I half expected them to drop dead from heart attacks.”

“Ha. They were looking at me like a daughter.”

“Yeah, the kind of daughter who sends their dad to an early grave.”

He slipped a hand over her ass, knowing she was backed close enough to the wall to block anyone’s view. “There’s another couple of guys I need to show you off to. You ready?”

“More rich old men?”

“Not these guys. They’re a couple of young hotshots like me. They aren’t part of GRG. They’re mainly corporate financiers, but we’re merging a few assets together with their group.”

As he led her across the banquet hall into the attached bar, she spotted the four gentlemen from clear across the room. She’d actually noticed them earlier—-or at least the tall handsome blonde. She’d seen the blonde somewhere before, and his presence came with a very unnerving feeling, like bumping into an old flame.

“Have I met them before?”

“Doubt it. We’re just finalizing the merger now. Something wrong?”

“Oh no, I was just wondering if I’m expected to remember names.”

“Don’t worry—-these guys are way easier going than the partners. They seem to love the ladies, too, so they’ll eat you up. Honestly babe, the hard part’s over and you did fantastic.”

When they reached the men standing inside the hotel bar, Brandon shook hands as she displayed her sweetest, warmest smile.

“Doesn’t her smile remind you of Jennifer Garner’s? She’s got the greatest dimples.”

She rolled her eyes at her boyfriend. These guys were all truly good looking and probably dated pretty young women all the time.

First she was introduced to Steve, who had a dense build with an exceptionally puffed out chest, although he didn’t appear to be puffing it out. He was gaunt around the cheekbones, and under his brow, and it pronounced the muscles lining his thick, wide jaw. His ruggedly handsome face coupled with his black, black hair and shadowy, Italian eyes caused Reagan to see him as the well groomed, handsome villain in a Bond movie. He was six-two at least, and his hand was huge. It engulfed hers as they shook. She instantly knew he was the one in charge.

“Very nice to meet you.”

“Glad to meet you, too.”

The next two were Samuel and Kai, both around six feet, lean and well built. Samuel was black with high cheekbones that gave him a suave wisdom. Kai possibly had a hint of Asian descent that streamlined his eyes and smoothed over his cheeks. He also had a light thin mustache that hooked down into the corners of his smile.

Samuel introduced himself as he shook her hand, and said, “Wow, you are straight off the pages of Vogue.”

She looked to her boyfriend. “If one more person compares me to a model, I’m going to suspect bribery.”

Kai then took her hand. “Pleased to meet you—-and you can trust that nobody’s paid me when I say you are stunning. Your boyfriend’s a sharp guy and a very lucky man.”

She could feel her cheeks burning again. “Well you are all very handsome yourselves.”

Then a final hand appeared before her, and she looked up to see the tall, gorgeous blonde. She struggled to force a smile. She was sure she’d seen him before, and the memory seem to stem from a work related nature. But that was impossible, because Brandon had only recently met them and she knew by name all thirty-two employees at the design agency where she worked.

The way he looked at her didn’t help to alleviate her concerns any, either. He flashed his straight, white teeth, the corner of his mouth digging higher into his left cheek and exaggerating the angle of his strong jawline, and she read mischief in his brilliant-blue eyes. Definitely mischief, she wasn’t bursa escort bayan making it up. He knew her, that was for sure, but from where he wasn’t letting on. She then knew for certain that if she could remember him it would cause her horrible embarrassment.

“I’m Patrick, glad to meet you.”

“Yes. It’s a pleasure.”

“So are your eyes blue or green? I thought they were blue, but now that you’re closer, they seem almost green.”

Her boyfriend slid a hand up her back. “They are blue, but it’s the strangest thing, they change color when she’s embarrassed. It’s like blushing.”

“When I get emotional,” she corrected. They also turned when she became horny, but she wasn’t telling Patrick and his workmates anything about that.

“What’s got you so emotional?”

The boldness of Patrick’s question caught her by surprise, and she deflected, “My lack of drink.”

Brandon laughed. “Alright. Anybody else? This rounds on me.” He stayed a moment longer to get their orders and then left for the bar.

Trying to disengage Patrick’s forwardness, she asked Steve, the large chested guy, about the nature of their company, and he explained, “We started doing mostly auditing, business analysis and risk assessment for larger holding companies like GRG, but our capital grew, so we rolled it into some companies we were assessing, leveraged several sizable yields and became small time players ourselves. Now we’re merging our acquisitions in with GRG in hopes of growing our holdings.”

Patrick chimed in. “Yeah, we’re hoping these old farts can fill up our pockets as fast as they fill up their Depends.”

Reagan laughed, but quickly put her hand over her mouth to silence herself. She then removed it and giggled. “Sorry, I’ve been in dignified mode all night. I forgot I’m allowed to laugh at jokes that are actually funny. So why are you boys all by your lonesome in here when the party’s out there?”

“Well…” Steve began, and then looked at his buddies before continuing. “The ink hasn’t dried on the contracts yet. Our lawyers kind of ran into an issue, so we’re laying low until we can get it resolved.”

“Oh no! Well let Brandon know. He’ll straighten it out. I know he will.”

“I hope he can, because these tight-assed blue-hairs didn’t even provide an open bar. What’s that tell you?”

“He can help. He’s really good, and they love him here. You guys should enjoy the party, and I’m sure Brandon will cover your drinks, too.”

“Sweet!” Kai chimed in.

Patrick then graced her bare upper back with his hand. “So Reagan, how about you? We’ve learned you’re not a model, but I’ll go out on a limb and say you are involved in fashion in some way. Maybe advertising?”

Talk about hitting the nail on the head. “What makes you say that?”

“That dress, the sleek bob cut, and just a hint of makeup. You seem very dialed in.”

He was scaring her now. Who the fuck was he? “Impressive! I actually do work for a design agency, and we handle local ads for Sacks, Barney’s of New York, and a few other fashion staples.”

He smiled again, driving his left cheek up into his face to form the sexiest dimple.

“So where are your dates?”

Kai’s subtly Asian eyes went moony, “Couldn’t find a sitter at such late notice.”

She turned to Samuel, the dark skin on his face tightening away from his mouth in a smile, making his cheekbones appear even higher. “My girlfriend’s at her sister’s. Her sister just had a kid, and she’s helping out.”

Steve took a deep breath, his chest actually puffing out now. “I’m single as of last month.”

“Oh shit! I’m sorry.”

Patrick waved his hand dismissively. “Nothing to be sorry about. I got my wingman back.”

Steve shook his head. “I’m your wingman? See, I always thought of it the other way around.”

Kai then butted in. “Oh great, we’re back to this game. If this is how it’s going to be again, I’ll lament your girlfriend more than anyone.”

Brandon returned with the drinks and Patrick’s hand slid discreetly from her bare back. So he’d known it was a tad inappropriate or he wouldn’t have felt the need to remove it. She even felt a prick of irresponsibility for allowing it, and stammered, “Honey, Steve says there’s an issue with whatever deal they have with GRG. Do you know anything about it?”

“First I’ve heard. What’s up?”

Steve smiled and half rolled his eyes like it was no big thing. “The deal as discussed had a few hiccups going to contract. My lawyers are saying there’s a cap on our percentage of Titan Matrices. And those are the guys we brought to the table.”

“Fuck! I have a pretty good idea who might be behind this. I can clear it up.”

“Nice!”

“Maybe I can even get a few handshakes tonight.”

“No, that’s alright.”

“No, really, I’d rather knock it out now than have it waiting for me to deal with in the morning.” He kissed Reagan on the forehead. “Reggie, would you mind staying here with escort bursa our friends while I bust a few skulls?”

She could see Patrick’s smile grow, and her words caught in her throat as she told her boyfriend it would be fine.

“Great! And I’ve got a tab at the bar, so whatever you need, guys. Reggie, make sure they’re taken care of, OK.”

“Rock on!” Patrick exclaimed, looking totally amused and giving her the once over. A tingle caused her to retract her belly, even though she had no belly to speak of.

It seemed like only seconds after he left that some of the politeness surrounding her slipped, and she realized the guys were more than a little concerned about the merger. Kai then spoke up, “Think he can do it?”

Steve shook his head. “Doubtful. If my hunch is correct it’s that Jacob dude who wants Titan for his portfolio. And guys like Jacob eat pussies like Brandon for breakfast.” He then snapped his attention to Reagan. “No offense. Brandon’s a great guy, but you know…”

Patrick’s hand returned to her back. “What do you mean no offense, man? What wasn’t offensive about that?”

It was good Patrick said something, because her hackles were raised so bad she might’ve said far worse.

“You’re right. Sorry Reagan, we’re getting into bed with a new set of partners, so you can imagine we’re all a little on edge. And Brandon’s a nice guy, and it’s nothing personal, but he’s so nice it tells me he hasn’t been screwed around the block yet.”

“You know what, Reagan, Steve has a hard time separating business from pleasure. Why don’t you and I take a walk and let these guys discuss their newest bed partners.”

His hand circled her back in a let’s get a moving way. She would’ve stepped free of it, but Steve’s comment burned and she needed to be away from him, and so for that moment it slipped her mind just who she’d be getting away with.

They began walking, but before taking two steps, Steve grabbed a hold of Patrick’s arm and stopped him. He didn’t say anything, he just locked eyes with Patrick and shook his head in warning. Patrick only smiled, clearly unfazed. They didn’t need to speak in order for Reagan to understand what was being communicated. Patrick was not to seduce their new partner’s girlfriend, and she found it horribly insulting he thought her naïve enough for it to even be an issue.

“Relax dude,” Patrick said, shrugging Steve’s hand off his shoulder. “I know what I’m doing.” He then led her towards the other end of the bar, while she secretly hoped Steve would not relax, and in fact stew on it until her boyfriend returned, announced everything was straightened out, and proved Steve to be the big, over-bearing asshole he was. She even gave him a flirty little wave as they left, placing a cherry atop his piles of concern.

“Let’s step inside here for a minute.” Patrick extended an arm, presenting a darkened room attached to the north side of the bar. A velvet rope blocked it off, and from the rope hung a sign.

-Breakfast 7AM to 11AM

-Lunch 11:30 AM to 2PM

“It’s closed.”

“Yeah, but it’s got a better view.”

He wasn’t kidding, a long window made up the back wall of the room and offered a view down the hillside and a panorama of the lit up Valley floor.

“I should probably stay here in case anyone is ready for another drink.”

“Speaking of, it looks like you could use another.”

She hadn’t realized she’d been steadily sipping on her White Russian since it arrived, and now sipped at a tumbler of milky ice.

“I should probably slow down.”

“Slow down?” He took the final sip of his bourbon. “I’m empty too. Sit the next one out and join me this round.”

“Fine, but put it on Brandon’s tab. He’ll kill me if I let you guys buy your own.”

Patrick stepped away and she pulled out her phone. Illuminating its screen was a message from her boyfriend.

-Sorry babe. You hanging in there? Jacob is really digging in his heels. I might need my senior on this. Don’t let the guys know any of this, tho.

She tapped at the little screen and texted back.

-I’m fine. Take as long as you need to do whatever it is you need to do.

She thought for a second about Steve’s comments and how badly she wanted him to eat his words, and sent a follow up.

-Don’t hand it off to Hal, OK? You can handle Jacob without your senior taking all the credit again. I know you can. Love you!

Patrick returned with the drinks, and presented hers by rattling the ice inside the glass. He then raised his. “To pleasure before business.”

She didn’t like the way he said pleasure, and offered, “Here’s to your successful merger.”

He paused before drinking. “Those are probably the most prosaic toasts I’ve ever heard, how about we just toast to your green eyes.”

He drank before she could object—-leaving her cheeks to burn once again and surely her eyes richened into a shade of malachite. He pursed his lips like there was something more he wanted to say and invited her to wonder what. She hated to admit it, but he was charming in his own arrogant way, and it stirred her to confront his cunning smirk, “What? What’s so funny?”

“Nothing.”

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