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Business Deal

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Chapter 2 - What would you do?

Melissa lay in the bath for an hour, constantly topping up the hot water. Her mind in perpetual motion. Nothing was easy. Since her father died six months earlier, life had been difficult, more than difficult. She'd had a protected childhood, she could tell that now, and knew that it had left her grossly unprepared for all that was currently being thrown at her. But one thing that Melissa wasn't was bitter, she knew that toward the end of his life her father had made some bad decisions, not least in inviting Ryan Porter into their world. But she wasn't one for blaming anyone or wallowing in self pity. She had to deal with this mess, no one else could.

Despite her safe and protected upbringing, she'd always shown an interest in the family business, and had always intended to take over the helm, that had inspired her in qualifying with honors from the best business school in London. Again despite a healthy allowance through university, she'd worked part-time to keep herself in additional luxuries. She knew she'd been lucky having such a doting father. Since her mother died in her early teens there was nothing he wouldn't do for her. But she now knew that all that she knew was helped by the security of her family name and wealth. 

Yes, Melissa now realized that her life had definitely been viewed through rose tinted spectacles. The minor projects she'd been involved with during those early days at the business had never even begun to highlight the poor business man her father had become. And she rued the day that she'd let Stanley Wharton snub Liam Harts' offer and team up with Ryan Porter. The man who'd literally torn her life in two, just days after her father's funeral.

Dried off and in her pyjamas, she'd turned on some music and opened a bottle of wine. She wasw just about to sit down when the doorbell rang.

"Mr Hart!" she exclaimed opening the door to him. It was the last thing she wanted or needed after the day....no week....no few months she'd had. All she wanted was time, space and her wine, the last thing she'd expected was a visitor. Her throat was tight and a knot seemed to immediately develop in her stomach. 

"Call me Liam," he murmured stunned by her appearance. With a clean scrubbed face, still damp, tied back hair and thin cotton pajamas she looked about fifteen, even though his investigations had revealed she was twenty nine. It was disconcerting to be so off balanced by her, to be floored by her lack of defensive guard, especially as he'd come here with the intention of getting the truth out of her. "You really need to get better staff Ms Wharton, no one should give out your address to a stranger."

She shrugged, "it's hardly relevant as I'm about to lose all claim to the business. I'm sure it's something the new owner will take advice from."

He nodded, but said no more, his eyes were wide, knowing icy blue eyes. Sighing, taking a deep breath she asked "do you want to come in Liam?"

"Well, I don't want to discuss business on the doorstep Melissa......can I call you that?"

Nodding, she turned and climbed the stairs to the upstairs apartment reluctantly, then instantly became aware of his gaze on her. Suddenly the clinging jersey pyjama bottoms and vest top seemed too revealing.

He held his breath as she headed up in front of him, he'd never been a bum man, but hers in those ridiculously clinging pyjama's, sitting so low on her hips, yet just covering her curvy bottom instantly turned him on, as did the inch of pale smooth flesh displayed between the two items of her scant clothing. 

As she continued to climb, he followed behind, watching the fabric coat her every move. He could tell she was naked beneath them, and the realization sent a bolt of heat through his body that almost grounded him.

Liam grabbed the hand rail, then shook his head angrily, he was here for a reason, he couldn't let her wily body disrupt his chain of thought. He'd never let anyone disturb his calm or disrupt his business brain, he wasn't about to start now with this overindulged spoiled girl.

"Can I get you a drink?" she finally turned to him in the comfort of her living room, gaining confidence in her own domain. 

He saw her glass of wine and nodded, "I'll have whatever you're having."

She watched him as she filled a glass, his blue eyes taking in every inch of the apartment, he was a strong figure, dominating the room, his well cut suit only enhanced his broad shoulders and long legs. In any other environment she'd have oggled this man, instead her heckles were rising and she was becoming more nad more aware of his predatory power.

Handing him the drink, she stared at him, "So what do you want?"

He held her gaze as he took a drink of the wine, "I believe it's a question of what you want."

Melissa scoffed, "hardly, if I had my way I'd want nothing from anyone, let alone you."

His eyes flared and she could sense the contained anger, "well through your own mismanagement you do need me, you want me to save you from your own greed and foolishness."

Taking a deep breath she fought the desire to smack his very smug face, "I don't need anything from you." It was a struggle to retain her composure. "In all honesty you are getting a fantastic deal. As well you know."

"On the contrary I have no desire to expand my business at this moment in time. In fact I have some big things happening in the US that I was expecting to sink all my spare time and money into. If I become your knight in shining armor I will have to significantly reduce that."

"Don't flatter yourself Hart. Your're no hero here, this is a legitimate business deal and you know it."

Allowing a smug smile to grace his face he took another slug of the wine, then turned to her, "you want me to pull you out of a financial hole? Weeks after I offer you a merger you want me to invest the same amount but not take control of the company. What is in it for me? I could risk some big developments in some sort of sympathy to you."

She sighed with exasperation, "I didn't say you couldn't take control. I relinquish all control and interest. I've just asked for your assurance that you won't change the structure for five years. I'll walk away, I'll let you sit in my office, run my business, because it'll be your business. I just need you to honor the staff and the customers, they deserve that. That sounds like you win to me!"

Liam shook his head, "if you hadn't borrowed an extortionate amount of money against this much-loved business then you wouldn't need me to bail you out."

Seeing red she turned on him, "whatever happens I lose. Don't you see that? I've spent the last five years rescuing and keeping this business on track. I've had no holidays, no life......I've eaten, breathed and slept Wharton's, and now I lose it all. As I say, you win Liam. Can't you see that? No amount of gloating or lecturing change the facts."

He shook his head, "firstly you have mortgaged the business purely for your own gain. Also I have to give up what may be the best diversification opportunities that I've ever seen in America, so I think we work out about equal."

"All I want is your guarantee and the deal's yours. Those are my terms."

He was watching her intently, he foudn her fire and anger refreshing, even it was misplaced, he was in a place in his life where no one challenged him, no one made him fight, argue, it was having a weird affect on his libido. "I think I need something from you, at the end of the day, I am giving you what you want."

She shrugged, "what could you possibly want from me?"

As she uttered the words she instantly saw a look of lust flash across his face as his eyes raked up and down the length of her. She shook her head squaring up to him.

"No! No way! I am not for sale!"

He shrugged, he wasn't sure where this change of angle had come from, the words surprised him almost as much as her, but he'd started a rolling ball and he wanted to see how far he could push this rich girl, how far would she go for money? "I am heading to New York on Friday. If you join me, then I can discuss plans to finance the changes there, with you as my hostess and organizer I can woo even the surliest director via his wife. These business meetings are best followed with lots of wining and dining, and for that I need someone with me, you fit that mold. If I travel alone, then I push my own interests and leave you to find your own way out of this million pound hole you've dug."

Shaking her head she tried desperately to control the hammering of her heart.

"I'll send you tickets, by courier tomorrow" he announced as he made for the door. "First class of course." At the top of the stairs, he turned to look over his shoulder, "oh and Melissa? If you do come I will own you for the week. Be prepared."

The look in his eyes caused her heart to pound uncontrollably. He meant every word he said.

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