In Bed With the Boss
Two years ago…
It was the moment.
And Tom Holloway knew it.
Across the black granite boardroom table, Helen Taka-Hanson waited, her beautiful face composed, showing him nothing. Behind her, beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows, the afternoon sun reflected off the tall buildings of North Michigan Avenue. Tom kept his gaze, level, on Helen. But he knew what was out there: The Second City. The Magnificent Mile.
Chicago. Tom wanted it. Needed it, really. A fresh start in a new town. He would be chief financial officer of TAKA-Hanson’s new hospitality division.
Which meant hotels. Contemporary luxury hotels on a grand scale. It was the biggest venture he’d tackled so far and it sounded good. Better than good.
And the job was his. Helen had already made the offer.
What he said next could blow it for him—more than likely would blow it for him. Which was why he’d left the crucial information off his resume. His disgrace had happened so long ago, it was easily glossed over now.
But Tom had learned the hard way that concealment didn’t work in the long-term. The high-stakes world of finance was too damn small. In the end, his past always found him.
Better to show his stuff first, let them know he had the chops, get all the way to the job offer. And then take a deep breath and lay the bad news right out there.
The offer just might stand in spite of his past. If it didn’t, if he lost the job, well, chances were he would have lost it anyway in the end, when the ugly facts surfaced.
Oh, yeah. A delicate moment, this. The moment of truth.
Helen said, “Well, Tom. You’ve heard our offer. Is there anything else we need to go over?”
Tom sat back in the chair, ordered his body to relax and told himself—for the hundredth time—that it had to be done.
“As a matter of fact, Helen. There is something else…”
She arched a brow at him and waited for him to go on.
He said, “I was fired once. It was a long time ago, my first job out of Princeton.”
“Fired.” Helen spoke the word flatly. “That’s not on your resume, is it?”
“No. And it gets worse.”
“I was young and way too hungry, working on Wall Street, determined to make it big and do it fast. None of which is any justification for my actions. I was discharged for insider trading. And then I was arrested for it. And convicted. I did six months.”
A silence. A pretty long one. Tom could feel yet another great job slipping away from him.
At last, Helen asked the big question. “Were you guilty?”
“Yes. I was.”
He might have softened the harsh fact a little. He could have explained what a naive idiot he’d been then. He could have told her all about his mentor at the time, who’d convinced him to pass certain “tips” to big clients. He could have said that the guy got away clean by setting Tom up to take the fall for him. That the same former mentor had been the curse of his life since then. Because of that one man, Tom had lost out frequently in a big way. And not just in terms of his career. It would have been the truth.
However, his former boss wasn’t the one up for CFO, TAKA-Hanson, hospitality division. Tom was. His prospective employer needed to know that he’d once broken the law—and then gone to jail for it. The why and the wherefore?
Not the question.
Tom sat unflinching, waiting for the axe to fall.
Instead, Helen smiled.
It was a slow smile, and absolutely genuine—a warm smile, the kind of smile that would make any red-blooded man sit up and take notice. From what Tom had heard, this genius of the business world, now in her late forties, had saved Hanson Media from collapse several years back, after her first husband, George Hanson, died suddenly. The story went that before she was forced to step in and save the family business, she’d been a trophy wife.
Smart and savvy and strictly professional as she’d been since he met her, Tom had been having trouble seeing her as mere arm candy to a tycoon. But now he’d been granted that amazing smile, he wasn’t having trouble anymore.
That face, that smile…
George Hanson had been one lucky man. And so was her current husband, TAKA-Hanson’s chairman of the board, Morito Taka.
“I prize honesty,” Helen said. “I prize it highly. So I think it’s time I repaid your truth with one of my own. I’ve done my homework on you, Tom. I’ve know all along about how you lost that trading job, and the price you paid for what you did. I’ve been interested to see if you’d tell me about it. And now that you have, I’m more certain than ever on this. Other than that one admittedly serious black mark against you, for which you’ve paid your dues, your record is spotless. I know you’ll make a fine addition to my team. I’ve got no reservations. You’re the man for this job.”
Tom’s heart slammed against his breastbone. Had he heard right? Had it worked out, after all? The CEO knew the truth.
And she’d hired him anyway.
He held out his hand. Helen took it. They shook.
When he spoke, his voice was firm and level. “I intend to make sure you never regret this decision.”
“I believe you,” said Helen. “That’s another reason you’re our new CFO.”
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