This story does not provide instant gratification to the libido. The author will carefully build the characters in the following chapters and the plot may be intricate. If you're not the type who wants to know the characters of a story or feel their world, please read something else. But if you do read this, I hope you find a good story.
This is the zero hour. Elizabeth told herself as she straightened her back in front of her antique dresser mirror. Smiling to herself despite the nervousness she tried to keep under wraps, she felt quite confident that today would turn out well. Giving her long red mane one last sweep, she headed towards the door to the waiting company car that would drive her to West Pharmaceuticals.
The sun was a welcome sight to Elizabeth even as it rays fell on her skin a little harsher than she wanted. She remembered exactly how Chicago was like in summer -- wet and a little too hot for her taste. But she wouldn't trade the years she spent here as a child to the ideal California weather. Somehow, looking back, she never really minded being out in the sun as a kid. After all, you haven't truly lived in Chicago if you haven't soaked up the sun in the sands of Montrose Beach.
Uptown has changed quite a lot since the last time she was here. When she was a little girl, she already thought that having too many buildings surrounding some of the most beautiful beaches in the world was not good. But she really wasn't surprised now that Uptown had become highly commercialized. This was where her father had started West Industries and had lived his dream of a comfortable life with his loving wife. Until their death.
How long has it been since her parents died? If she were to believe her uncle's word, it had to be almost fifteen years since she left the city. Her growing up years were hazy to her, remembering only that the loss of her parents brought her tremendous sadness and left her with a big hole in her heart.
Was her uncle right in suggesting a comeback? Home, he said, would do her good. But what was home like? As if she couldn't trust her own memory, she heaved a sigh of anticipation as the car rounded a bend into the modern glass building that had been one of the more famous landmarks in the north of Chicago for close to thirty years now.
The building was an impressive 15-storey edifice with two wings: East and West wings. The east wing was a residential cluster that housed entertainers on regular stints in Uptown and mostly working professionals. The west wing housed the West Industries, with the corporate offices of West Pharmaceuticals occupying floors 9 to 15.
Elizabeth held her breath as she pushed the elevator button to the ninth floor.
At about the same time Elizabeth entered one of the main offices, the hustle and bustle of the usual Monday meeting could be heard from the central conference room on the ninth floor. Only today, there wasn't anything usual about Nathan's Monday morning mood. He couldn't understand why, after five years of relative rise in sales figures, he still felt quite nervous reporting to the new CEO. Sure, they had not recovered from the crisis that started ten years ago, but at least, West Pharmaceuticals had almost paid its debts.
Almost, Nathan corrected himself. He knew very well that he might not be happy with the perceived success if he were the CEO. Being the general manager though, he was more patient and understanding about the figures, having painfully worked everyone in the company to reach their target.
And that was the problem. Nobody had the slightest idea who was going to take over the top position. It was bad enough that the present CEO took joy in working anonymously, for reasons the board won't disclose even to him.
Well thankfully, we'll get to meet this new dude, he thought. But damn, they gave him nothing, not even a name.
As if his silent query was answered, the heavily padded door was opened much to the abrupt silence of the room. It wasn't a total surprise when a tall and graying and ever so imposing man entered the room. Robert Siegfried West, vice-chairman of the board of West Industries.
Nathan almost laughed in relief, it was a given that Bobby would one day be CEO. After all, the man acted on behalf of the reclusive boss and was known to be gentle despite his hovering height and large frame. Respect was the first word that came to mind whenever his name was mentioned.
Nathan ran events quickly in his mind as he strained to listen to Bobby. The former West Industries, once touted as America's up-and-coming business giant was now merely a mediocre drug company, a beverage manufacturer, and a dog food maker. Even with shares in real estate and publishing, West Industries was less than a shadow of its former self. At least this time, Nathan thought, the CEO would have a face.
"In a few minutes my dear colleagues, our CEO will be joining us."
Whoa! Nathan couldn't believe what he heard.
"Our CEO? Not our new CEO?" He blurted out before he caught himself.
"That's right, Nate. It's about time you met her..."
"Her?" a chorus of voices asked. But before anyone could react any further, Karen, the executive assistant, peered through the door.
"She's here," she announced.
Stunned silence. It was probably the most awkward of situations that anyone in the room had ever been in. Then a very young-looking redhead entered, tentatively at first and then suddenly, confidently as if she owned the building.
"Ladies and gentlemen, chairman of the board and CEO Elizabeth West."
"Ginny..." Nathan blurted in a low, almost painful voice. But this did not escape Elizabeth as her eyes shot at him, more confused than angry at the vaguely familiar name he called her.
"Ah...Mr. Nathan Pierce," recovering quickly as she walked towards him extending her hand, "it's good to finally meet you in person. Please, call me Elizabeth."
Nathan stared open-mouthed and automatically took her hand as if someone pulled the string to lift his. He cursed silently at himself, numb and speechless and not in control of his own body in front of the boss.
"Gin...Miss West," was all his suddenly parched throat could utter.
What followed was a blur to Nathan. After introductions were made, Elizabeth jumpstarted the meeting by making clear that unlike in the past, she was now going to be more active in the affairs of West Industries.
"More importantly," she said under a steady voice, "I will be concentrating on rebuilding West Pharmaceuticals. Bobby and I feel that we must step up if we want to get back what we lost."
Looks of disappointment and surprise that could only come from bruised egos met Elizabeth before she could say anything more. Sensing the impact of her words, she felt the need to clarify things. No words seem to want to come out of her mouth as she struggled to find the right thing to say.
"I'm sure what Miss West meant..." Nathan spoke to her rescue, "was that she'll be bringing her expertise into our team. We've been trying to get us out of the rut for years now so I guess a different perspective will do us good."
Shit! Elizabeth scolded her self. irst day on the job and I've made enemies.
"Thank you Mr. Pierce, I obviously didn't say it better."
Although shaken, she wished that she didn't appear inept while she went through the motions of announcing changes in the operations, listening and reacting to sales reports, and hearing out marketing pitches.
Normally, Elizabeth had the gift of grace under pressure and poise under heat. She had been in many situations when she had to defend her statements. Being a debater in college had solidified that inner strength, always turning things around to put the burden of proof on her adversary.
But right now at this very moment, all she could think about was the hard stare that Nathan Pierce directed at her. From the moment he shook her hand in a tight but gentle grip, she felt strange and sad at the same time. The intensity she saw in those eyes reminded her of something, and alarmingly... some time.
Perhaps the most startling was their color. She could swear they were grey when he looked at her as she approached him. Now, stealing glances at him she could see fiery blue gems that seemed to scorch her own eyes.
On top of that, he had the most interesting charming face she'd ever seen. He wasn't drop-dead gorgeous by her standard, but his was a face you wouldn't get tired of looking at... even if he aged 30 years. Hmm...he would be a handsome devil even when he's a grandpa. She thought and smiled. Then as if by cue, she snapped out of her reverie when her uncle called her attention.
"Elizabeth, I believe we've covered all salient details for today. Would you like to adjourn the meeting?" Bobby asked looking concerned at her.
"Oh one more thing, Miss West," Nathan injected, "we owe to look at our patent division. I recall filing a request for a change of law firm to represent us?"
"Yes, I haven't forgotten about that. Sheffield & Anders seems a pretty decent firm and we can also look at Bennett & Rockefeller. In the meantime, until we sever ties with Wilson & Sons, I say we go to B & R on consultation basis." She didn't know why, but she sure was nervous as hell as the telltale sign of restless hand movements began.
Thank you for reading this chapter. Chapter 2 is in the works and I hope you can give me your invaluable comments and suggestions. I write to make you happy. Please vote for this story...it takes just a few seconds. Thank you.