He was late. Fifteen minutes late and counting...
I tapped my fingers impatiently against the timber table, as though that might help to magically make him appear in a puff of smoke and magic. I’d agreed to drive all the way out here too, to meet with him, which was a highly fucking unusual thing for me to do. Because my name was Henry Archer Powers the third, attorney at law, heir to a legal empire, and I charged in increments of five minutes.
But this client was special, whether I liked it or not. Powerful, especially in this town, and he had the power to make or break my legal career. I was waiting on Andrew Matheson - movie mogul, owner of one of the largest, most influential movie production companies in Hollywood. His movies shot straight to the top of the box office rankings like it was a requirement. The biggest A-listers starred in his productions. His budgets often ran over a billion. There were no two ways about it: Andrew Matheson was a powerhouse in this town. He was like a lighthouse: you couldn’t miss him if you tried to.
As the minutes ticked by, I became more impatient, and I placed a call to my personal assistant, Anne. I didn’t have the whole day to waste, even for Andrew Matheson. Time was money, and money was the language I was most fluent in. I had a shit-ton of it. My family had shit-tons of it. But there was always a shitload more to make.
Just as the phone started ringing, an imposing shadow fell over the table, and I rose as I immediately recognized the source of my irritation. I hit the disconnect button, and forced a smile onto my face, stretching out a hand. “Afternoon, Henry Powers.”
“Powers,” he shook my hand without attempting to return the pleasantry, or even bothering to introduce himself. But I knew his type. Often dealt with them. He was a self-important egomaniac, who thought that his own shadow eclipsed the sun. And while I had money, he had mountains of money. He was one of the richest men in the country. And for some reason, he wanted to meet with me today.
“You must be wondering why I called this meeting.” Matheson didn’t apologize for being spectacularly late. Or for being a prick about the whole thing, in fact. But I knew his type... and this was business. So, I let it slide... letting him think that he had the upper hand. But that was what made me dangerous.
“My father mentioned that he’d run into you recently at some sort of school reunion. That you went to school together years ago?” I thought that perhaps my father had suggested that he meet with me, as I’d recently taken over complete carriage of the law firm that my father and his father before him, had painstakingly built up from the ground. The firm had turned into one of the most prestigious boutique law firms specializing in entertainment and sports law in the country.
I’d been making a name for myself, representing clients ranging from football players and rock stars to Hollywood A-listers. But the boss of a movie production studio was a whole different story.
Andrew nodded his head and looked at me as though his eyes were a giant X-Ray machine, scanning me from head to toe, weighing me, trying to detect the merest hint of a shadow in my ability and character. “That’s part of it.” His eyes narrowed as he seemed to deliver a silent verdict. “Although I’ve given your father some work over the years, I’ve always used a range of firms. Splitting my liabilities. But something... interesting has come up recently.”
My eyebrows rose. And my bullshit radar was on high alert. “Interesting... risk-wise?” I ventured a guess.
Andrew smirked at me, still piercing right through me with his calculating gaze. “I’ve heard good things about you around town, kid. And I have a proposition for you.”
That piqued my interest. He had my undivided attention now, if he didn’t already have it before. “What kind of proposition?”
“I need something from you. And in exchange... I’ll give you something in return.” He smiled at me like he was the devil. And somehow, I just fucking knew that I was about to sell my soul to him, too.
“What do you need from me?”
“Let’s call it... a favor. A rather unusual one, might I add.” He had that calculating look in his eyes again.
I was getting impatient, wishing he’d just cut to the damn chase, instead of talking in riddles.
“You need to be clearer than that, please.”
Andrew had an amused smirk on his face. “I think this is going to work out just fine.”
“I don’t want to be rude, but...”
Andrew held up a hand in a patronizing gesture. “Here’s the deal. An offer that you can’t refuse, really.”
My eyebrows shot up to my forehead, as my bullshit radar starting pinging on high alert.
“I will shift all of my contracts to your firm - every single one of them. I’ll sign an exclusivity agreement for a period of two years,” Matheson finally laid his cards on the table.
My eyes widened, as that was the last thing I’d expected to come out of this conversation. I knew that a deal like that meant millions of dollars per year in billable hours. To have Andrew Matheson as an exclusive client, would mean that I literally wouldn’t have to take on any other client, at least for the next two years. But I also know that Andrew Matheson was no saint. That there would be a price to pay. And I was wondering what the hell he wanted from me, to be putting such a hell of an offer on the table...
“In return for?” I got straight to the point.
Andrew had a lazy smirk playing on his face just then, and he leaned forward across the table, crossing his hands together as he leaned on his elbows. “I have a daughter. She’s dropped out of college. She wants to be an actress.”
I was puzzled as hell by that answer. Because I still didn’t know what the hell Matheson’s daughter had to do with the deal that he’s put on the table.
“And? She needs legal representation?”
Andrew laughed at me, as though my answer had been the funniest thing he’s heard this week. He shook his head at me. “No, that’s not it. I’ve agreed to cast her in a supporting role. But only after she proves that she has work ethic. That she can commit to turning up to a job each day and stay on schedule. Because in my line of work, billions can be at stake.”
I was confused as fuck by this conversation. And I was only getting more and more confused by the second... “So, what does this have to do with me?”
“Everything. I’m asking you to give her a job at your firm for three months. Treat her like your other employees - no special treatment.”
My jaw dropped. And that never fucking happened. Nothing took me by surprise, ever. I quickly regained my composure.
“What skills does she have?” I asked the question, even though I knew that the answer probably wouldn’t make any difference.
Andrew smiled again, and he looked just like the devil incarnate. “She’s never worked a day in her life. But she’s completed a few semesters of college. Arts. Literature and shit, I don’t know.”
“So what you’re saying is that basically, she can read and write? That’s it?” I was wondering why the hell he wanted her to work at my office, to begin with.
Andrew nodded. “I’m sure someone as resourceful as you will find something for her. But I have to warn you; there are two major conditions attached to this deal.”
My eyebrows shot up again because this conversation was getting more and more bizarre by the second. “What is that?”
“You don’t touch her. Ever. Not so much as a hair on her head. She’s off-limits. Understood?”
I frowned and nodded quickly. Because Little-Miss-Spoilt-Princess didn’t sound like my type, at all. “That shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t make a habit out of fraternizing with my staff.”
“Good. Remember that.”
“How old is she?” I asked as an afterthought.
“Twenty-one,” Matheson smirked.
And inwardly, I was conflicted. Because I hoped to hell that I didn’t just agree to a babysitting job. But the deal was simply too good to pass up...
“Okay, what else?”
“Secondly, you can’t fire her for three months. She does her time, regardless of how hard she fuc... regardless of her performance.”
I could feel the frown digging in between my eyebrows. “If she does something illegal, I’m afraid I’ll have to let her go.” I stood my ground firmly. Because in my line of work, ethics were important. And I wasn’t about to tarnish my unblemished reputation for the sake of a spoilt brat who had no clue how life worked.
“Fine. Unless she does something completely illegal, you can’t fire her. And we’re not talking speeding tickets here; it has to be really serious before the ability to terminate kicks in.”
“Okay. I can live with that,” I said, but I hoped to hell that it wouldn’t come to that.
Andrew smiled cunningly again. “It would be good if she could... work closely with you for a while, perhaps. The role that I have in mind for her is a supporting actress role – a lawyer. So it would be good for her to observe, and study for the role at the same time, so to speak.”
I nodded, but inwardly a little voice was telling me that there was probably a hell of a lot more that Matheson wasn’t disclosing to me. Although that said, the deal was simply too good to pass up. It could make my whole legal career.
Andrew stood up abruptly. “She’ll start in two weeks. She’s on a ski trip in Gstaad, Switzerland, with some friends at the moment. Three months. That’s the deal.”
I nodded. “Let’s put something in writing.”
Andrew smiled and nodded at me in return. “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”
And so it happened that my soul was sold that day. Little did I know that the deal of a lifetime would be the thing that changed absolutely everything. Because what I didn’t know back then was that my life was about to get turned upside-down, completely...
Because Eden Matheson was a force of nature. A destructive little cyclone. And what I also didn’t know, was that the deal of a lifetime would cost me my heart. Because there was always a price to pay, and in this case, the price was much higher than I’d thought.
But I’d have to walk quite the path to find that out for myself...