Billionaire's Love Suite: Chapter 1 first look

CATHERINE LANIGAN

Billionaire’s Love Suite

Chapter One

“Is it possible a man could be any more infuriating?” Shanna groaned as three more urgent emails appeared on her computer screen. All were from her new employer, Justin Yates.

She banged three quick replies. “I answered all these questions yesterday. Gees. Can’t this guy read?”

Shanna had not yet met Justin in the four weeks she’d been working for him, but she knew about his billionaire status and the fact that he’d recently inherited the Lux Hotel Chain upon the death of his father, Peter Yates, who was rumored to be a tyrant and bully to everyone he met. Shanna was beginning to fear that Justin might have inherited some of his father’s spurious traits along with the hotels.

She no more than thought the worst of her boss, when another email shot across her screen. She dropped her face into her hands and splayed her fingers across her temple hoping to hold her temper at bay. “Now he wants to cut the staff? Our problem is that we don’t have enough staff!”

“Two days ago I emailed you precisely the reasons for hiring more managers. Did you receive that recommendation?”

She punched the “send” button and within seconds came his reply, “Did not.”

Shanna rolled her eyes and shook a fist at the screen. “You are such a pain, Justin Yates.” She scrolled through her documents to find the file she needed to re-attach to her email back to Justin.

“I should have asked for more money.”

She had barely slept more than four hours a night since coming to work at the New York City Lux hotel.

She’d only had her resume out for one week after finishing her job at the Plaza Cote d’Azur when she’d gotten a response from Justin Yates via email. They had emailed each other back and forth negotiating her salary and benefits until Shanna had gotten everything she’d wanted. Shanna knew that revitalizing the Lux Hotels would be the biggest coup of her career. Despite the fact that Justin’s father, Peter Yates’ had possessed a horrific reputation as a heartless bastard, what the Lux Hotels did have in spades was incredible locations. In every city they stood, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver and Toronto, the Lux hotels had been built at the turn of the century when those cities were bustling but land was still attainable. Today, their prime locations were worth tens of billions of dollars.

Shanna clearly understood what she wanted to believe was Justin Yates’ passion to cling to the hotels. Being born to parents who ran a rustic Inn in Sedona, Arizona just north of Oak Creek Canyon, she’d lived and breathed the hotel, inn-keeping mind-set all her life. Her mother and her father, until his death, had taught her that caring for other people during the difficult times of travel and even to give a bit of respite in troubled lives, was a noble mission. She had always felt privileged to work in the hotel industry. Shanna knew that if she’d been born a Yates, she would have moved heaven and earth to retain the historic buildings for future generations.

However, eradicating the disparaging, caustic reputation of Peter Yates’ from the minds of the media and most Americans who’d read stories about Peter in Vanity Fair magazine and every newspaper including USA Today, would take a miracle. Even though it was through emails, Shanna had convinced the new heir to the Lux chain, Justin, that she was indeed, a miracle worker.

She was just about to turn off her computer, when she received an alert that she had another new email. She punched up her mailbox and cringed. “Justin. Again. Doesn’t he ever sleep either?”

She read the email requesting a meeting with her the following morning nine o’clock sharp. “Sharp. As in on the dot? As in assuming I don’t know what it means to be on time?”

Shanna frowned. Then scowled. Since coming to the Lux Hotel, she’d heard a great deal about her new boss as well as his autocratic and obdurate father. Justin was apparently a true man about town who had enough money to indulge all his whims. This was evidenced by the Lamborghini he kept in the hotel garage, the luxuriously appointed penthouse suite he occupied when he was in New York and the many luxury vacation trips abroad he billed back to the company.

Shanna knew that he was a self-made man because she’d investigated him at the same time she was certain he was checking out her references. She had also seen the stack of phone messages from various women he dated each time she placed a report on his desk in his absence. Just today she’d actually met one of his paramours as she’d walked out of Justin’s office. The buxom auburn-haired young woman, who teetered on six-inch high heels and wore a painted on purple silk dress, couldn’t possibly have had anything more substantial than air encased within the confines of her skull.

“Is Jus in there?” She’d asked with a breathy voice that would have given Marilyn Monroe pause.

“No, he’s away.”

“Oh,” she giggled. “I knew that.”

Shanna’s eyebrow clicked up a notch. “Really? Then why are you here?”

“I went to his old office off of Wall Street and they told me he was here now. I was jes hopin’…er…to leave him a note. Or somepin’.”

“I see,” Shanna said choking back a chuckle. She didn’t know a thing about her new boss, but he had to have a half dozen screws loose to even spend five minutes with this woman. “Maybe you should just give him a call on his cell.”

“Oh, he doesn’t like that. Emails either. I tried. He was fierce mad.”

“I’ll bet,” Shanna grumbled under her breath. “Well, good luck.”

The woman smiled back her displaying the most perfect teeth she’d ever seen, but there was no mistaking the forlorn look in her eyes. The young woman was truly disappointed.

Maybe she has some attributes, Shanna thought kindly as Kimmie looked down at the floor then to the door as if not knowing where to go. Suddenly, she felt sorry for the young woman. “Would you like me to get a message to him for you?” Shanna offered.

The red head flashed her a friendly, grateful smile. At that moment, Shanna saw what Justin must have seen in her. She was sweet. And Shanna liked her.

“Oh, thank you s’much! Could you just tell him that Kimmie was here. And tell him I said ‘thanks’.”

“Sure.” Shanna was dying to know what she was thankful about, but she didn’t dare get that personal. Plus, she didn’t really want to know all that much about her new boss, either. His love life was rumored about all over New York. He was a player. He used women like tissues and tossed them away just as easily. His lack of commitment to a woman was often likened to his lightening fast ability to buy and sell stocks within a few minutes time. Justin didn’t stick with anything for long. He traded off his women like he traded his stock.

Justin Yates was precisely the kind of man Shanna wanted as little to do with as possible. That was why, thus far, her job as his employee suited her just fine. They had only an email relationship. Justin was doing his thing and she was free to get down to business and take care of building her career’s sterling reputation.

Shanna believed that the feather in her cap of turning the Lux Hotels into strong profit making centers would make her a star in the industry.

She heard the “click” on the computer that alerted her to another incoming email. “Justin,” she groaned to herself. She read the email. “Send a confirmation about the meeting tomorrow. J.” it read.

“Testy. Testy.” It had only been sixty seconds since he’d sent the last email. Her anger spiked. If this was any indication of what she was going to be facing now that she was about to meet Justin, perhaps she’d jumped too soon into this job. She took a deep breath and calmed herself.

Shanna hit the Reply button on her computer to send a confirmation to Justin.

The second she hit the Send button, the networking window popped up on her screen. “Glad you are on-line,” Justin had replied. “Do you have newest bids from Allied Construction?”

“I do.” Shanna typed. “I thought we were going with Silver City Construction for the New York property.”

“I have not confirmed that. Tell me you have not sent out contracts.”

Shanna’s jaw dropped. “He thinks I’m an utter idiot!” Her fingers flew across the board in stern, purposeful strikes. “I have never taken it upon myself to make such decisions without the owner’s and the board’s approval. Ever. I would not start now. I will have all necessary paperwork ready for your perusal at the meeting tomorrow.”

“Nine o’clock sharp.” Justin replied and signed off.

“Ooooh! Can you be anymore maddening?” Shanna stuck out her tongue at the screen.

“I’m going to fire that woman!” Justin Yates growled as he banged his fingers against his Blackberry keys. “I’ve haven’t even met my new Director and she’s making me crazy already.”

Trent Wellington shot Justin an exasperated look. He grabbed the Blackberry out of Justin’s hands.

“Hiring Shanna Jackson is the best decision you’ve ever made, Justin,” Trent said carefully handing the Blackberry back to his billionaire friend and client. Confidently, he slid a thick manila file folder into his briefcase.

“She’s costing me a fortune,” Justin Yates grumbled as he surveyed the stack of construction bids on his New York City flagship hotel and then handed them to Trent for his perusal. Justin looked down at the latest cryptic text message from Shanna stating that she had readjusted the figures on the on the new heating and cooling system. “Look at this. Another million dollars because she didn’t do her job right the first time.” “Would you calm down? She told us the figures were not exact. It happens.”

Justin pursed his lips tightly and then exhaled strongly through his nostrils. “I’m going to fire her, I tell you.”

“You really are nuts. Shanna Jackson single-handedly put the Shellingham Geneva Hotel back on the map, not to mention being responsible for the turnaround in the Plaza Cote d’Azur. She’s a genius when it comes to turning non-performing properties into gold mines. She’s the best of the best.”

“She’s also the reason I’ve been half-way around the world trying to find the capital to fund her refurbishing and marketing costs.” Justin rubbed his weary eyes and stretched his aching neck. He looked up at the airline departure board to check on their flight status from Bejing back to the United States. “Yep. I’m going to fire her.”

Trent stood up and planted his feet shoulder width apart and stared down at his intractable boss. “Maybe this isn’t for me to say, but we’ve been together for over a decade, so I think that gives me some leeway here.”

“Here it comes again, the ‘Justin you’ve got straw for brains’ speech.

“Hey, when we were at Harvard and rooming together, you listened to me all the time.”

“That’s because you could get girls faster than anyone I’ve ever met.”

“That’s right. I helped you out then and I’m helping you this time,” Trent said with firm conviction.

“I didn’t need all that much help, as I remember,” Justin replied sarcastically. “Once I got my feet wet, I swam pretty darn well,” he said remembering the steady stream of co-eds that he dated briefly and then moved on quickly after becoming bored and impatient with their overly possessive attitudes. Justin knew that most of the girls he was attracted to saw his famous family name and instantly started doodling their name in front of his before the first date was over. Justin had great plans for his life and none of those plans including being a “catch” for a social climber.

“Need I remind you that you are under the gun here, buddy? Your father’s Will specifically stated that you have to turn the chain around in one year or the entire kit and caboodle goes on the auction block and the money goes to charity?”

“I know,” Justin said morosely. As he raked his hand through his hair it felt like his nerves were on fire all the way from his scalp to the end of his hair. He was well aware of his father’s Will. Justin had been a very late-in-life child to his father and his new wife, Jeanine. Justin’s mother had died of cancer when he was ten. She had been his sole comfort all his life. She was the kind of loving and giving person that all children should have. His father, Peter Yates, was exactly the opposite. Cold-hearted, distant and single-minded, his father lived to work. Once Jeanine was dead, any joy his father had experienced in his life died with her.

Justin’s father was trapped in the past and that included his business practices and the way he thought his hotels should be run.

When Justin graduated from Harvard he begged his father to let him take over the hotels and his father adamantly refused. Peter thought Justin’s only duty in life should have been to get married and give him an heir to the family fortune. Justin explained that without some changes, there would be no fortune to pass down and therefore, there was no reason for Justin to marry.

Their argument had been heated and ugly. It ended when Justin slammed out of the house, promising never to see his father again. Justin struck out on his own. He went to Wall Street and became an investment banker. He worked his tail off and was not shy about using his family name to his advantage. Though he never had his father’s backing, his initial clients didn’t know that. They trusted Justin and it paid off for them and him. In a decade, Justin was close to a billionaire.

That fact and the fact that he had never married had made his father royally angry. His father’s only course of action to bend Justin to his way of thinking was to create provisions in his Will that he knew Justin would have to accept. There was always one secret ambition that Justin held close to his heart and that was to one day own the nearly century old hotel chain that Justin’s great-grandfather had founded, The Lux Hotel Chain.

Despite all his work on Wall Street and the name he’d made for himself, all Justin had ever wanted was to run the hotels.

The problem was that though Justin was the best there was when it came to balance sheets and investments, he had not spent the last ten years learning the hotel business. His secret dream was the ambition of a lonely child. He didn’t know how to market, advertise or expand the hotel business. He didn’t know if he should or should not shut down food and beverage. He didn’t know how to manage the staff and he didn’t know what other people looked for in a luxury hotel. He only knew what he liked and that didn’t count for much when millions of dollars were at stake.

In the past three weeks since his father’s death, Justin had been going through a crash course in hotel management, and he was being taught by his new Administrative Director, Shanna Jackson.

Justin didn’t understand that hotel staff personnel were a nation unto their own, though he’d read this in one of Shanna Jackson’s first emails. She had told him that each and every person on staff was essentially a care-giver. It was critical that the staff understood that the patrons walking in the hotel front doors were often sleep-deprived, hungry and irritable from jet-lag or traffic. Good staff understood that they needed to act as quickly as emergency room attendants to their guests. Saving sanity was part of the “mission” of a great hotel. Justin hadn’t known any of this. He hadn’t met Shanna Jackson yet, but she was already becoming indispensable in many ways. Unfortunately, she had submitted initial renovation budgets that called for tens of millions of dollars to be spent to completely overhaul every property in the chain starting with the New York City hotel first. Justin had known updating was necessary, but he was shocked at the kind of expansive changes Shanna adamantly believed were necessary to not only compete but to thrive in the future.

When Justin had gone to the credit markets in the United States for a loan, they had turned him down flat. They thought several of the hotels should be demolished and the land sold. The idea that his family’s legacy could wind up as a parking lot not only saddened Justin, but it angered him to no end.

He looked at Trent. “I never thought I would find myself caught between the rock and a hard place.”

“You could have put up your own cash for the renovations,” Trent offered looking down at his shoes. He knew Justin’s response before he closed his mouth. “First rule of financial independence. Always use someone else’s money.”

“I know that.” Trent took a deep breath. “So, buddy. You’ve got this first round of financing secured here in Bejing.”

Justin nodded solemnly and then rubbed his weary blue eyes. “They did. Securing funding for anything right now is nearly impossible. But I don’t like shelling out a half a point higher interest than anyone else is paying. Still, it was that or walk away empty handed. They should be real damn happy.”

“Hey, half the businessmen I know would love to trade shoes with you, pal. It’s not so bad.”

“Yeah.”

“So, you said Shanna’s been giving you solid pointers about the business. And even though you don’t like it, you didn’t turn down her idea to renovate the hotels. You didn’t fire her before this. Instead, you drag my butt over here to China to find the money. You must believe that her ideas are sound and that they will work.”

Justin sucked in a huge breath. “I do. Frankly, I’ve believed the same thing for a long time. Anyone who looks at the hotels can see how dated they are. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out."

“So, why blame her for anything?”

“I don’t…exactly.”

Trent eyed him sharply surveying his friend’s face. “I get it. She’s smarter than you, huh? That’s what’s got your goat.”

Justin smiled impishly and nodded. “Ah, but I was smart enough to hire her. It’s just that she’s knowledgeable about something I should have forced myself to take the time to learn years ago. It’s my own fault and I know better. I should have seen this day coming and prepared for it. I was too angry at my father. I had to prove to myself that I could make it without him.”

“Yeah, that pride thing. Bitter pill. Took many of them myself.”

Trent wasn’t saying anything Justin hadn’t already told himself over the past weeks. Despite all his success, he’d allowed anger and pride to steer his course, when he should have looked further into the future. After all, his father was bound to die sometime. The thing was, Justin, in his youth and inexperience, had imagined that as contentious and bull-headed as Peter was, it would have been just like him to live forever.

Justin swiped his hand over his face, felt his beard stubble and rubbed it thoughtfully.

“Have you met her?”

“Who? Shanna? Yeah.”

“What’s she like?”

“Pretty, I guess. Very buttoned up. Too much glasses and uptight clipped up hair for me, but she’s razor sharp, man. Brilliant.”

“That’s been my impression. No nonsense. Exact. Her recommendations have been dead-on.”

Trent lifted his head back, opened his mouth and his eyes opened as the dawn came. “I get it. She actually is smarter than you.”

Justin scowled. “Possibly.”

“So, don’t fire her. Just suck her brains dry, get all her input and then let her go. You’ll come off looking like the genius, the hotels will be secure and you go on about your business.”

Justin smiled wanly and nodded.

“That thought had crossed my mind.”

Trent rocked back on his heels satisfied. “So, that handled, what are you going to do about the other part of your father’s Will?”

Justin stared at his best friend. “I’ve been trying to ignore that.”

“I get that.” Trent smiled. “Producing an heir in a year can’t be all that hard. Want me to help?” Trent laughed raucously and then seeing the stern, withering look in Justin’s icy blue eyes, he instantly stopped and planted a serious look on his face.

Justin glared at Trent. “I told you that in confidence.” Trent looked around at the terminal filled with native Chinese. “I think your secret’s safe. They don’t parlez Anglaise.”

Justin’s eyes tracked from Trent’s face to the people around him. “I can’t marry just anybody. She has to be intelligent, mannered, caring, sweet, thoughtful, beautiful, sexy would be good.”<

“Yeah, I’d pick that one for the heir part. It’d help.” Justin’s gaze wandered past the glass window to where the airliner sat outside and up to the blazingly crystal blue sky and the puffy white clouds they would soon fly above. “The thing is, with all the women I’ve known and dated, I’ve never met the girl of my dreams.”

“That’s because she doesn’t exist.” Trent cleared his throat as he stepped out on that personal limb he seldom ventured onto when it came to Justin. “Look, Justin. You never really got hooked into a woman because you’ve got this ideal person up on a pedestal and none of us find That Girl. We all settle for someone we can have. That’s how it works.”

“Not for me,” Justin ground out his conviction through clenched teeth.

“So then tell me, why work so blasted hard to save this chain when you aren’t going to fulfill the second proviso of the Will anyway?”

“I’ll find a way around it,” Justin replied looking Trent squarely in the eye. “I have lawyers working on it as we speak. They’ll find a loophole. There’s always a loophole.”

“Yeah? Funny. I thought your father hired Bernstein and Goldman because they drew up iron-clad contracts.” Justin bit the inside of his cheek to keep his frustration in check. “I found a guy who is better. Leon Turnbull.” Trent saw the fire in Justin’s usually cool eyes. He took a half step back and shrugged his shoulders. “Wow. He’s the best. Glad to hear it. So, that’s not a problem.”

“No.”

Just then they heard the announcement that their section was boarding. Justin rose and gathered his briefcase and carry on.

Trent walked alongside Justin as they handed their boarding passes and passports to the gate attendant. They thanked the man and entered the jetway. “Justin, I was thinking that if this Shanna is giving you all these great pointers about the hotel business, if I were you, I would do everything in my power to make that woman happy so that she never goes to the competition again.”

“Anything?”

“Hell, I’d even marry her,” Trent said taking his seat near the window.

“Okay so now, you’re the one who’s nuts. I’ve only emailed her and left instructions through my staff for her. I haven’t even talked to her on the phone.”

Justin sat down in the aisle seat, which he preferred because his legs were so long and he could stretch out a bit more.

Trent took out his eye mask and stuck a pillow behind his head. “You’re right. It was a dumb idea. Well, buddy, see you in the US.” Trent pulled the eye mask over his eyes shutting out the world.

Justin stared at Trent wishing he could simply put on a mask and close out the world like that. Instead, he knew that sleep for him would not come for a long time. Not until he figured out a way to a break his father’s Will, secure his hotels and make his childhood dreams come true.