Home > The Beat Match (Showmen #3)

The Beat Match (Showmen #3)
Author: Kelly Siskind

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Weston Aldrich always dressed for success, from the shined tips of his Berluti shoes, to the crisp knot of his Christian Lacroix tie. Failure in business was for lesser men. A last-minute fumble when applying for a pharmaceutical patent? Fixed with a well-placed phone call and courtside Knicks or US Open tickets. An investor getting cold feet? He could sweet talk a vegan into buying a cattle ranch. He walked through life prepared, his mental rolodex one flip from solving the unsolvable. Which made his father’s shocking statement all the harder to compute.

“Biotrell is entertaining an offer from DLP,” Victor S. Aldrich repeated.

Weston stared at his father’s stark expression as those horrifying words sank in. The prospect was so absurd it was laughable. He’d been working toward the Biotrell merger for two years. Planning. Maneuvering. Clocking more hours than a video game junkie urinating in a bottle to secure a win. Like hell they’d lose this deal to anyone, let alone those shady bastards at DLP. “You must have heard wrong.”

His father straightened to his full six-foot-two height, his custom-made suit creasing as he crossed his arms. “Since I heard it from the horse’s mouth, I’d say my sources are accurate.”

Weston blinked, at a loss for words. An anomaly. His words usually worked just fine. They were pretty damn clever, actually. Up until one minute ago. “We’re the right company for this deal,” he said, his tie suddenly a boa constrictor around his neck. He jammed his finger into the knot and yanked it down. “Biotrell will remain intact if they merge with us. DLP will tear them apart. They must realize that.”

“DLP has promised to keep all their employees on.”

“Because they’ll say whatever they need to get the deal done.” Lie. Steal. Cheat. They made cesspool pond scum look appetizing.

“They may have found ways around promises before, but they’re saying all the right things now. And Mr. Farzad’s listening. But he still wants Biotrell under our umbrella. Seems he also wants something else, and he’s using talks with DLP to entice us to up the ante.”

Frustrated, Weston stared through the window, the sprawling Manhattan views doing zilch to calm his rising agitation. They’d been nothing but accommodating with Biotrell, working with their timelines, ensuring their workers wouldn’t lose wages, offering them enough cash to keep five generations of Farzads living like kings. This would be one of the largest pharmaceutical mergers in history. Why toss a wrench into their plans now? “If they want more cash, we’ll be hard-pressed to find it.”

His father joined him by the window, their polished shoes parallel, matching starched shirts as stiff as their stances. Their resemblance didn’t end there, as people never failed to remind Weston. They both had thick heads of hair—his father’s more gray than black these days; their blue-eyed glares could cut diamonds, and the Aldrich jaw was sledgehammer strong. They had bodies built for athletics and minds sharpened for business. Weston had been groomed to steer their company into the future, to take over when his father eventually stepped down.

Whatever had Biotrell playing hard to get had to be fixable.

“There’s no derailing this merger,” Weston said, unsure why his father was stalling. Victor S. Aldrich was as direct as a compass and twice as obstinate. “We’ll close this deal no matter what it takes.”

His father nodded sharply. “I’m glad you feel that way, son. It seems Mr. Farzad wants a personal favor from you.”

Now things were getting downright bizarre. “What do you mean personal?”

“You know his daughter Rosanna?”

“Yes,” he said slowly, the wheels in his head spinning to get ahead of this quagmire. Rosanna was a few years younger than Weston, founder of some cosmetics business, beautiful with a full mouth, dark hair, and striking eyes. A hellcat on wheels, last he heard. Something about a salacious video going viral tickled his memory. “What does Rosanna have to do with a deal that’s already been negotiated and tentatively agreed upon?”

His father stayed facing the window, his only movement a gentle tug on his jacket cuff. “Karim Farzad is a proud man, but all men are willing to admit weakness if it means helping their children. It appears Rosanna is heading down a bad path and Karim thinks you can help.”

Weston had no doubt Rosanna was one bad decision away from landing on a seedy reality show, but his father’s “helping children” comment had him biting his tongue. Aside from lavishing his wife with affection before Weston’s mother passed away, the man was as sentimental as a slab of granite. “How exactly does Karim think I can help his daughter?”

“He’d like you to ask her out.”

Weston sputtered out a laugh. “Excuse me?”

“You’re an upstanding man with an impeccable reputation. You have excellent connections and a bright future. Any father would be honored to call you his son-in-law.”

Weston searched the streamlined wood cabinets, his contemporary sculpture collection, the leather seating area around his coffee table, looking for a hidden camera or microphone or any explanation for this insanity. Surely this was some kind of sick joke. “I’m not marrying some girl I barely know. This merger’s a smart business move for both our companies. Karim knows that. His demand is nothing short of ludicrous.”

His father faced him, unruffled, serious as ever. “Marriage is the long game, if it suits you both. Karim’s only asking that you be open to the idea. But I’m not asking. I’m telling. Take her on some dates. Spend time together. She’s a beautiful girl. Asking her out is no hardship. She just needs a positive, stable presence in her life. Someone who enjoys quiet nights, not wild parties.”

Well, wasn’t that the kicker? If his father knew how Weston spent his nights, the man would have an embolism, or disown him, or both. If Biotrell knew, they’d have squashed this deal months ago, and Karim Farzad would never have made this insane proposal. Thankfully, that secret would never get out, but this request was appalling. “Women aren’t business pawns.”

“Rosanna’s aware of the proposal and has agreed to go out with you.”

Jesus. This was like some kind of villainous matchmaking, with Weston’s father pimping his son out to secure their financial future and market share.

Weston stalked to his chair and gripped the back of it, digging his fingers into the leather. His desk was tidy, papers neatly stacked, pens tucked into unobtrusive holders, keyboard and cell phone parallel with the dark mahogany edge. Everything organized and uncluttered, exactly like his apartment and daily life. Only two framed photos suggested Weston had a beating heart inside his chest: his best friend, Leo, who died nearly thirteen years ago, and his mother, who died a year later.

Weston had no intention of ever marrying. Losing the people closest to him had taught him one paramount lesson: love always ended in pain. He’d been forced to attend therapy. He knew the drill, why he still kept people at arm’s length. Emotional distance, fear of abandonment. He was so textbook the textbooks were jealous of him.

Label him whatever you wanted, Weston planned on a long life of bachelorhood, most of it spent in this towering office. But dating wasn’t marriage, and Karim couldn’t force the couple into a union that would end in divorce. Sealing this deal was Weston’s chance to make his mark on Aldrich Pharma. Prove he deserved to take over the family business and appease shareholders who worried he was being gifted the reins.

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