“Ladies and gentlemen,” I said, walking to the front of the room.
“Why did you request this meeting, Carter?”
I glared at Bruce. He was an older man in his fifties with squinting blue eyes, wrinkles around his eyes, and thinning white hair. He was tall and gaunt, like the survivor of some horrible plague, and he always made me uncomfortable.
“I have an announcement to make. It will affect the future of this company.”
There was a general murmur around the table. I caught the eye of my biggest supporter, Nelson Pitts, and nodded to him. He nodded back.
“Get on with it, Carter. Our time is important,” Bruce said. His cronies snickered and I ignored him.
“Yesterday, I got married.”
There were more than a few surprised faces around that table. I grinned at them, enjoying the moment.
“Is this some kind of joke?” Bruce asked.
“Not at all. You’ve been begging me for years to clean up my image, and I decided to finally listen. As of yesterday, my secretary Evelyn is now my wife.”
There were more murmurs and some people looked genuinely angry.
“Is this a stunt?” Bruce asked.
“We fell in love a couple months back when she was consoling me over my latest media scandal. I know there’s a slight age difference, but we’re very much in love.”
Bruce shook his head, looking totally shocked. “This is insane, Carter, even for you.”
“Nothing insane about it. I’m sure more than a few of you in here have fallen for your secretary at some point. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am the victim of love.”
I was laying it on a little thick, but that was okay. These people didn’t care about subtlety, only about what was best for the company.
“How do you think this is going to help? The media will go crazy with this story,” Bruce said, shaking his head. “You’ve signed your own death warrant.”
“No, Bruce, I haven’t. The media is going to see a new version of me, a calm and professional version.” I smiled at him and I could tell he understood what that smile meant.
It meant that the professional version of me was going to slit his throat.
“This is more impulsive foolishness from you, Carter,” he said. “I hoped for more from you. This will never work.”
“You’re very wrong, Bruce. Evelyn and I are going to do a lot for this company, and the scandals are all behind me. This is the new era of Valor Tech.”
There was more murmuring and discussion of how to deal with the media fallout, but I didn’t stay for any of that. I said what I wanted to say, dropped the bomb I’d been so excited to drop, and so I left. I headed back toward my office, smiling to myself the whole way.
The look on Bruce’s face had been incredible. I wanted to bury that smug bastard, and couldn’t wait to begin putting the nails in his coffin.
The only problem that kept nagging at me was my new stepdaughter, Emily. I shouldn’t think of her as a stepdaughter, since she was barely ten years younger than me and gorgeous as hell. I knew I was going to have to exercise some serious self-restraint with her, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to.
And I wasn’t sure if she was going to play along. The last time we spoke, she was willing to help, but she was clearly reluctant. I didn’t know how long that was going to last, or if she was going to lash out. I trusted Evelyn, and she said that Emily would help, but I wasn’t so sure. I needed to keep an eye on her and be positive that she was going to play ball.