He looked disappointed. He had to know I was avoiding whatever it was he wanted to say and I felt bad about that. I wondered how long it had taken him to work up his nerve and come in here so that he could say it. I felt like a terrible person, but wouldn’t it be worse to lead him on….Kind of the way I felt that Aaron had me?
“Sure Robyn, let me know if you need any help.”
I smiled at him, “I will, Gary. Thank you.”
He left and I tried to refocus on the task I was supposed to be working on. My mind drifted back to that day Aaron didn’t show up at the restaurant and Gary had taken his place. I had never asked him why he didn’t show up….was that the beginnings of him not wanting to be seen out with me? A man in his position, with his amount of money was under constant scrutiny. His photo was taken at least a dozen times a week and I wondered…was he worried about a photo being taken with a co-worker…or just a woman not in his social circle?
He’d gone out in public with me ice skating and to the carnival at the park. He’d gone to the jazz festival…maybe those weren’t places where he thought the paparazzi would be lurking. Maybe it was only the fancy restaurants and bars and parties he was worried about. Would it be a crime if a photo of us turned up together? Was it that since I worked for him that he was worried about the impropriety of it? If that was the case, why didn’t he just say so instead of making me feel like maybe I’m just not good enough?
I opened up another window on my computer and typed in his name. I got millions of hits again. This time I typed in “society pages.” That gave me hundreds of thousands of hits and thousands of photos to look through. I found that oddly, throughout the years, Aaron had been mostly photographed either alone or with his male business associates. There were a few photos with women, but after reading the captions, I found that those too were business meetings. Had he never been in a serious enough relationship with a woman that he was comfortable being seen with her in public? It had to be hard to go through life being that uptight and worried about what everyone else thought of you.
I sighed and switched the computer back to my work. I’d obviously gotten nowhere with having a relationship with him, but he was still my boss…I had to get back to work before I screwed that up too.
“I don’t have to sell my company to you.” The old man slammed his drink down into the table like an insolent child. It was after nine o’clock and I’d been trying to reason with him for over an hour already….I sighed heavily. I really wasn’t in the mood for this tonight. I was having a hard time keeping Robyn and her sexy, cornflower blue eyes out of my head as it were. This should have been a quick and easy two-drink deal. I was trying to stay calm and be patient. Harvey Hamilton was a nice man. I didn’t want to pull any punches with him if I didn’t have to. I looked at him and marveled at the fact that he just looked like someone’s grandfather yet he ran one of the most lucrative businesses in the U.S. and Canada.
I’d gotten to this point with him purely by happenstance. My acquisitions officer had been approached by the old man’s children. Two obviously rich, spoiled grown-up children who together owned sixty-five percent of the stock in his company. I didn’t meet them…yet, but Doug had told me they were incredibly hard people to tolerate, much less like. The old man had probably given the stock to them as a college graduation gift…thinking they’d be as proud to be a part of it as he was. I could see in the faded blue of his watery eyes that he now knew it was a mistake.
“No, Mr. Hamilton…you don’t. But the harsh truth that you and I both know is that I don’t need you to sell it to me. Your children have already set their price and I have my acquisitions department working up those numbers. Once I make that purchase…and I’m positive at this point that I will, I will own controlling stock in your company.”
“You’re a billionaire. You own controlling stock in your own company and God knows how many more and you’re barely old enough to shave. Why do you need mine?”
“I don’t need it, sir. But, it’s a sound investment and….”
“Of course it’s a sound investment! It’s been in my family for generations! My grandfather built it with his own two hands…literally. His work has been showcased in museums…hell the park in upstate New York turned one of its boathouses into a museum just to showcase his work.” I worried the old man was going to have a heart attack, he was so agitated. At last he just said, “It should stay in my family.” The first two sentences were angry, the last, pleading. My heart was not completely cold. I felt bad for the old man. But he was the one who raised the children that were willing to sell him out, not me. The consequences of that failure were his to bear obviously….not mine.
“Mr. Hamilton, I’m sorry that this is hurting you. But what you’re going through is something you should work out within your family. Your company could be torn apart if you refuse my offer.” I was not feeling up to being compassionate tonight. I had my own problems. That was the best he was going to get out of me. I didn’t need his approval, once I owned controlling stock I would just take it over. It was messier that way, but doable.
“Only if you choose to tear it apart,” he said, “Let me ask you this young man. What if one day the children you’d loved and nurtured turn against you and threaten to destroy what you built with your own hands….”
“But you didn’t build it,” I said, my tone obviously less patient. “You told me yourself that it was handed to you the same way you handed it to your children….”
The old man pushed back angrily from the table and stood up. He leaned down close to me and said, “You don’t understand a thing. Yes, my granddaddy founded this company and my daddy made improvements, but I made it what it is…and I did that through hard work and something you might not know anything about, boy…compassion. I expanded my own company without destroying someone else’s. You aren’t the businessman that the magazines and papers laud you to be. You’re just another snake in the grass waiting to strike. If you want my company Mr. Winters…come and get it!”
He left me sitting there in the bar, a couple of interested business people looking at me, wondering what kind of Ogre I was for upsetting such a nice little old man. It was the second time that day I’d been walked out on. The first time was Robyn and I hadn’t stopped wondering what kind of Ogre I must be myself since that encounter.
“Can I get you anything else Mr. Winters?” the little cocktail waitress startled me; I hadn’t even seen her walk up.
“Yes, a scotch on the rocks,” I told her. I didn’t know what the hell to do about Robyn and I knew what the businessman in me would likely decide to do to Harvey Yard ell…at this point I just wanted to be numb.