The Billionaire's Proposal

By: Avery James

Chapter 1

As Maggie Walsh walked into the K Street offices of Haven Communications, she tried to tell herself that she was overthinking things. Sure, this was the morning she’d been dreaming of and dreading since she’d taken a temporary position at the firm at the beginning of summer. And sure, the conference room blinds were drawn, but that didn’t mean that she’d be receiving bad news. It just meant the Haven sisters wanted some privacy when telling her whether or not she’d be joining the staff on a permanent basis. They hadn’t risen to the top of the DC political scene by being indiscreet. They’d done it by handling impossible problems with skill and tact. They had a clientele of the richest and most powerful men and women in the world, and no mater what the crisis, they always got the job done.

Maggie liked to think that she’d lived up to their example over the past few months. In her trial period with the firm, she’d proven herself to be diligent and resourceful. She’d worked nights and weekends. She’d put her almost nonexistent social life completely on hold. She’d done everything within her power to make this work. Now she just had to trust that Amy and Callie Haven would see things the same way.

Maggie took a breath and looked at her reflection in the glass between the conference room and the hallway. She straightened her posture and checked to see if the bun in her hair was straight. She knew it was. She had spent a half hour in the bathroom downstairs making sure every last detail of her appearance was exactly the way she wanted. She gave her reflection a wink. You’ve got this. Remember what you want to tell them. Then she opened the door.

“Good morning and thank you for this opportunity,” she said as she stepped into the room, taking care to project confidence and cheer. But when she looked across the room, she didn’t see her bosses. She saw four toddlers sitting on the conference table, grasping crayons that looked almost as big as their adorable little hands. They were intently coloring on loose-leaf paper and manila folders. She recognized the children immediately. She just wasn’t sure why they were in the room. The brunettes were Amy’s kids, the little blonde was Callie’s and the youngest, a little redhead, was their friend Charlotte’s.

“Is it just me, or are our clients getting younger and younger?” she said as she tried to make sense of the scene.

There was an old woman in the corner wearing a floral dress and several bracelets on each wrist. Either this was a practical joke, or Maggie was in the wrong room. “You flatter me,” the woman said. “You must be the smart, hardworking young woman my nieces are hiring this morning. I’m Violet. I’m sure my reputation precedes me.”

Maggie couldn’t help but smile. The woman was right about one thing: her reputation preceded her. Maggie had heard more than a few stories about the Havens’ free-spirited aunt. “I hope that’s me,” Maggie said, “but I think I’m in the wrong place. Is there anything I can get for you before I go?”

“If there are any strapping young men in the office, send them my way,” Vi said.

Maggie laughed. “I’ll see what I can do,” she said.

“Don’t go stealing them away,” Vi said. “And tell my nieces that their children are ready for their trip to the zoo.”

Maggie stepped back into the hall and made a beeline for her friend Abby’s desk. “I’m guessing you knew that Amy and Callie weren’t in the conference room,” she said.

Abby’s eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face. “I’m sorry. You just looked so serious on your way in. I couldn’t help myself. I’m so excited for you! Amy and Callie are waiting for you in Amy’s office. You’re going to be a permanent member of the team!”

“We don’t know that yet,” Maggie said.

“You better make it or I won’t get that referral bonus,” Abby said.

“Is that why you told me I should work here?” Maggie asked. “And here I thought it was for my professionalism and my sparkling personality.”

“Nope, my reasons were purely selfish,” Abby said. “I wanted my best friend to also be my work wife.”

“I’m more of a work fiancée at the moment,” Maggie said.

“Why did Amy ask me to prepare files for you if you’re not sticking around?”

“You mean the files they’re coloring on in the conference room?”

The smile disappeared from Abby’s face. “Gotta go,” she said as she sprinted into the conference room. It was Maggie’s turn to laugh.

“Maggie,” Callie called from down the hall, “come on in. We’re ready for you.”

Just like that, Maggie was breathless again. When she reached the office, she sat down in one of the chairs facing Amy’s desk. Amy was standing by the window, looking down at K Street while Callie took the chair next to Maggie. Amy turned around and looked at Maggie, like she was sizing her up, making some final determination. She turned to Callie and said, “I think you’re right.”

“I always am,” Callie said.

“Maggie, before we go any further, we wanted to tell you what a pleasure it’s been having you with Haven for the past few months. We have a few things we’d like to discuss before you become a permanent member of our team. We realize how much we’ve asking of you over the past few months—long hours, high stress and even higher pressure. We’ve asked you to make sacrifices, and you have. We think we’ve gotten a good idea of what you can do here at Haven.”

“We still have one question,” Callie added. “What do you want?” She let the question linger, like she and Amy expected some philosophical answer.

“That’s a big one,” Maggie said. She gave a nervous laugh. “You mean besides world peace and gender equality and heels that don’t make me want to cry?”

“Yeah, give it a shot,” Amy said.

“I’m sorry,” Maggie said. “I’m not very good at talking about myself. I always find it easier to talk on behalf of my clients. I like the job. I like it a lot, and I think that one day I’ll love it. I look up to both of you very much. I think I can be an asset to the company. I think I fit the culture.”

“We agree,” Amy said. “You have the job, Maggie. You’ve had it since your first week here. This meeting is about understanding what you want from it. Callie and I see a lot of ourselves in you, and we want to help you on your journey. In order to do that, we need to know what you want.”

Maggie looked at Amy, and then she looked back at the door. “Someday, I want to have what you have. I mistakenly thought this meeting was in the conference room, and I ran into your aunt and your kids. They were wonderful. I want to find a balance between doing the job I love and having a personal life. I’m just getting started here, but I want to work here for as long as you’ll have me. I’m twenty-six and figuring stuff out, but I want to live a big life, one full of love and hard work and adventure.”

Amy and Callie nodded to each other. “We have your first assignment. How much do you know about Stanton Howard?”

“The hotel magnate?” Maggie asked. “No more than most people. He’s rich, old, somewhat reclusive.”

“His mistress is threatening to sell her story to the tabloids,” Callie told her.

“Why would the tabloids care about him? I didn’t even know he was married.”

“He is, but he has an interesting arrangement with his wife. They live on different continents, and lead separate lives in order to uphold an image.”

“And you want me to kill the story?” Maggie asked.

“That’s my job,” Callie said. “We need you to deal with another problem. Stanton is afraid that the bad publicity will harm his company’s reputation, and he wants us to help him prepare for his son to take over as the figurehead of his business.”

Maggie furrowed her brow.

“What is it?” Amy asked.

“It seems like an overreaction to a simple sex scandal,” Maggie said. “If he and his wife are separated, and all he did was have a mistress, this isn’t exactly newsworthy.”

“That’s all he’s said so far, but I think you’re right. There’s something he isn’t telling us,” Amy said. “We’re looking into it. You know how it is sometimes. The clients try to outsmart everyone, including the people they’ve hired to fix their problems. We just need you to get the son to D.C. He wants the son to take over the business, but the son, Gavin, seems to have other ideas. He’s a bit of a rebel. He’s holed up in a hotel Stanton owns in Key West. We have a little over a month to make him palatable to Stanton’s board of directors. Once he takes his father’s place as head of the company, we’ve done our job. We need you to bring Gavin back here by Monday. We’ll take over from there.”

“How soon do you want me in Key West?” Maggie asked.

“Today. All you have to do is get him and bring him here. We’ve already set up a plan for rehabilitating his image. He’ll enter into a marriage of convenience to show that his womanizing is behind him. He’ll attend all of the right events in town, and he’ll make the right friends. He’ll take a position at his father’s company. When it comes time for a vote, he’ll be the obvious choice to replace his father. He’ll do what he’s told. Abby prepped his file for you, and she’ll tell you everything else you need to know.”

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