Pipe Dreams Ch. 01byCia81©
The impulse to move was almost overwhelming. She stayed still, frozen between the cars. She wanted to leave but knew that if she did, if she tried to leave the property she'd be punished. Leaving the house might be forgiven, if he was drunk enough, but if he wanted her and she wasn't there...
She shuddered, her unnatural stillness finally broken. Wrapping her arms around her body did little to warm her in her thin nightgown. The rough concrete of the driveway hurt her bare feet. She heard yelling in the house and bit her lip. Now or later? Which would be worse? She shifted, rocking as she agonized over the decision.
A light was growing in the kitchen window. Was he trying to cook? The stove was broken; the gas wasn't going to the burners. She hurried back toward the house.
"Ow!" She bent down to grab her foot, blood dripping from a cut on the sole from stepping on a broken beer bottle on the ground. The explosion was loud enough that the neighbors a half mile away heard it clearly. When the police and firefighters showed up the house was burning fiercely and the teenage girl was unconscious in the middle of the grassy front lawn.
Chapter 1: They Meet for the First Time
Turning, Lina waved at the tall brunette that was rushing toward her. "Hey Maggie!"
Maggie was a little breathless when she finally got to the corner of the quad where Lina was waiting. "Whew, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to catch you."
"Are you actually going to class today?" Lina asked her.
"Oh yeah! Didn't you hear? The guest lecturer for this one is supposed to be a real hottie."
Lina made a sound of disgust. "You looking for a middle aged sugar daddy now?" She grinned when Maggie elbowed her and shot her a glare. They started walking toward the large red brick building that most of the business management classes were held in.
"No, thank you very much." Maggie fanned her red face, trying to cool off. "God, there is no way it should be so hot this late in September."
"This is weird. It's usually pretty cool by now. Indian summer I guess," Lina said with a shrug.
"Whatever. I can't wait for it to cool off. I got the cutest jacket for this winter, wait til you see how it looks on me."
"One, you are enjoying showing off all that tan skin in those tiny tank tops, don't act like you aren't." Lina laughed when Maggie just grinned and tried to look innocent. Her chest didn't exactly fit in a size small but Maggie had that tall, lean runner build and looked great in them. "Yeah, thought so. Two... I was with you when you bought that coat, remember?"
"Then I'm sure you agree with me!"
Lina laughed. Maggie acted like a typical rich girl, shallow and vain, but she knew her friend was very smart. She skipped class because most of the time she didn't need to be there. Lina went to every class and spent most of her free time studying. She was dedicated to her plan for finishing school and her career plan after that. She wasn't afraid to work hard to make her dreams come true. Her view was that if it was worth it, it was worth working for.
"So what do you know about this guest lecturer?" Lina and Maggie were both taking a business management degree track. Almost finished with their degrees, they both needed this entrepreneur class to graduate.
"Tara texted me, she said the guy was a total hottie with eyes to die for." Maggie held the door open for them both.
The air conditioning inside brought a sense of relief. It really was too warm outside. Lina shifted her backpack to one shoulder and the air felt cold on the sweaty spot that was uncovered. They walked up two flights of stairs to their lecture room. It was one of the out of the way classrooms since not many people went in for entrepreneurship classes. Lina couldn't understand why, Professor Paviels was an engaging teacher and he had a number of businessmen come in as guest lecturers. There was nothing more inspiring than hearing about the struggles of men and women with actual experience doing just what some of them were hoping to once they left college.
Lina knew she would be able to follow her plans through if she had the degree and the skills to back up her drive to succeed. Her dream in life was to be a social services administrator which amused Maggie. She didn't mind the low salary projections; she wasn't majoring in business for the prospect of raking in money hand over fist like many of the others in her class. Her goal, once she had some experience in the field, was starting a non-profit organization to help victims of abuse that had fallen through the cracks in the system. The idea was there but she wasn't quite sure where to focus her efforts. There were many needy groups of people who could use a hand up. She shook her head; she had plenty of time to think of that.
"What?" Maggie asked.
Lina looked up at her, her forehead crinkling. "What, what?"
"You stopped walking. Nervous to go in?" Maggie grinned as she waved at the door to their class in front of them.
"Oh," Lina rolled her eyes, "No, sheesh, it's just a guy Maggie. I was just thinking about something. Sorry if I kept you from your precious ogling time." Lina laughed at the superior look Maggie tried to use on her.
Maggie slipped one arm over her shoulders. "Fine, I'll forgive you this once. Just don't do it again." Lina pushed her away but they were laughing when they walked into the classroom.
Lina's laughter died as soon as she felt the stare of the man across the room. She sensed his scrutiny and it made her uncomfortable, sending her scurrying over to her usual seat beside Maggie. The ones they usually sat in were by the door so she was able to avoid all the eyes of the other people in the class but when she looked up she was caught in the piercing gaze of the man who had to be their guest lecturer.
On the short side for a woman, Lina was used to looking up to people. This guy was so tall even Maggie would have to look up at him though. He was leaning against the wall by the windows and his head was level with the six foot windows which meant he was at least a few inches taller than that when he stood up straight. He was well built under his suit too; wide shoulders tapering down to long fingered hands were nimbly straightening his tie as he continued to stare at her.
Lina couldn't bring herself to look away. His eyes were light, much lighter than his dark brown hair would make her expect. They were that odd shade some called ice blue but they were anything but cold. If anything they seemed to burn; the look he was sending her was intensely focused and fierce. When he licked his lips she almost expected him to rush forward and pounce on her.
That odd thought snapped her out of her trance. She blushed, feeling the fierce red stain creeping up her neck and burning her cheeks. She looked down at her hands where they clenched on the strap to her backpack so hard her knuckles were white.
"Ooof." An elbow driving into her ribs made her grunt and cringe. She looked at Maggie who had one eyebrow raised. "Why did you elbow me?"
"You didn't hear a thing I said did you?"
"Umm, no," Lina cleared her throat, "sorry."
Maggie grinned and leaned down to whisper in her ear, "I saw him staring at you. He's as hot as Tara said, isn't he? Did you catch a glimpse of his mouth before you got lost in those pretty blue eyes?" She sighed happily, "I love a guy with a soft mouth for kissing. His lips almost look pouty, don't you think?"
Lina risked a quick glance from the corner of one eye. She really hadn't noticed anything beyond the almost animal magnetism in his eyes. He was still watching her, his sharp looking white teeth sunk into a bottom lip that did look perfect for nibbling. She jerked her eyes away at that thought, completely shocked at herself. She didn't look at guys like that; in fact she usually avoided all men as much as humanly possible. She felt herself blush again. Great, she was probably the color of a tomato.
"Oh my god." Maggie laughed at her. "I didn't think anyone could turn that color."
"Shut up," Lina hissed. Thank god Professor Paviels started the lecture right then. Lina set up her laptop, hiding her face behind the screen while he introduced their topic for the class.
"As we will be covering how to start and grow a new venture in a risky business climate such as we are currently undergoing I have invited Alerkane Jacy to speak with us."
Lina frowned. Jacy... that was the name of a local millionaire family. This guy was their representative for a start up?
Professor Paviels was still speaking. "He has experience with this; recently starting up his own new business in the last five years, one which has grown steadily since that time."
The students clapped politely when the Alerkane made his way to the lectern. He didn't have any notes in his hands nor did he take any cards out of his suit pocket. He did make sure and sweep the classroom with his eyes, smiling warmly as he made eye contact with just about everyone.
"Thank you, Professor." Alerkane stood there facing them and Lina couldn't look away though she had fought to keep her eyes on his chin when he was sweeping the room and keep it there. She could do this. She needed the grade on her transcripts too much to leave or not pay attention, no matter how unsettled she felt.
"As Professor Paviels said, my name is Alerkane Jacy. Most of you know might know me as the current CEO of Jacy Industries. Several years ago I also..."
Lina jerked in her seat, her eyes rising to meet his sharply. He stopped speaking immediately. "Is there a problem, Miss...?"
"Devers," Lina said shortly. She brushed her hair out of her face and looked at Alerkane with narrowed eyes. "I thought you had a start-up company. If you are the Kane Jacy in charge of the multi-million dollar Jacy Industries started by you grandfather more than 50 years ago, how exactly does that qualify as a start-up?"
He smiled warmly at her. "Well, you'd be right if the company Professor Paviels mentioned was involved in Jacy Industries. However, the project spoken of is one I started with capital from my own funds and other investors; it is also in no way connected to Jacy Industries. It's registered under my partner's name, not under the Jacy name as well.
"It is a non-profit company, geared to taking troubled teens and putting them through an outdoor camping and hiking expedition course. The actual trips take place on a privately owned small ranch with trails and even animals for the teens to care for. Since we first began Okwa'ho, we've progressed to have eight groups go through the program this last year."
Lina was still trapped in his eyes but she couldn't help but feel a little impressed by what he was saying as well. She wouldn't have expected him to be involved with such an alternative company.
"Those families who can afford to pay for the program do; we have a scholarship style fee system set up for those who need assistance. We can't take everyone but we have a board to ensure those who are in real need and show the aptitude to benefit get the chance to go to Okwa'ho. In addition to the trail courses, we have different programs in place to keep the camp self-sustaining during the off season and provide funds for the summer session. We are looking to expand currently to new locations in Idaho and Wyoming."
Lina blushed and looked down when he finally looked away from her, embarrassed that her assumptions that Kane Jacy didn't really know what it was like to start a business from scratch like a regular person without his family connection. She had heard of Jacy Industries, most people in the area had considering that there was even a building at the college named for the family and had judged the man based on that assumption. Based on the fact that he was a local businessman and had agreed to be a guest lecturer, Kane had probably gone to school here in the past and knew the professor personally.
She decided to be quiet and listen the rest of the class and most of all, avoid that unsettling gaze. Maggie didn't have any compunction about asking questions though.
"So how did you get something like that off the ground? Where did you find the market?"
Lina sighed silently in relief when she felt the man's intense attention shift to Maggie. Thank god Maggie didn't have a shy bone in her body.
"It started with some friends actually. There was a group of teens creating a real issue in the small town I grew up in. Their parents all decided to teach them some responsibility the hard way and together we decided to take them for a survival week. They were provided with the bare essentials and taken on a trip designed to teach them what it meant to respect the world around them and what it meant to rely on someone else to keep you alive. It worked remarkably well. Two of the teens are actually working as guides now."
A voice spoke up behind her, "But how did that translate into a business?"
"A few different ways actually," Kane smiled, "The town is pretty close knit and wouldn't have made it without two brothers who were instrumental. One was the local probation officer for the county and the other was the game warden. They contacted me when the actions of the teens proved how effective the hike was. It turned out they wanted to know if we could do it again. There were a few kids from outside town that just needed a little intervention before they crossed the line into real criminal activities.
"I put up some money to hire the guides and the camp gear as well as things such as a basic business license and insurance. We did four more trips that summer." His hands waved about as he talked and most of the women in the room seemed captivated. Lina tried glancing up and then back down to be polite but she had to fight the urge to stare as much as they were.
Kane went on, "The high rate of success convinced state officials that this was a good alternative to placing kids in juvie. I put up the capital and they began a referral system as part of the local juvenile diversion system."
Despite herself, Lina was intrigued.
"The next year we focused on ways for the program to become more self-sufficient, earning money to defray the costs to run it. That is where the other brother came into play. He works for the state and had the idea to use the teens in the program to help maintain trails in the state parks. We got permission to use state land and a grant in exchange for grooming the more remote trails that weren't accessible to the equipment.
"With help from our investors we purchased the ranch and use that for the base camp after the first year." Moving around as he talked, some of Kane's hair had fallen out of the tie at his neck, he pushed it back absently with one hand. His suit pressed tight to his chest for a moment and Lina caught sight of the muscles he was hiding under the thick jacket. She wanted to touch them but as soon as she caught the urge she blushed and her gaze shot back down to her laptop.
"We have a year round staff to provide upkeep and to take care of the animals in the winter. This last year we added a few trips in the spring and fall that focused on ranch working while the summer trips mostly followed the sheep from the ranch off to their seasonal grazing. The hands take care of the shearing and we are also able to sell the wool."
"So why not put the Jacy name on it? Wouldn't that bring in more investors and exposure for the program?"
Kane moved out from behind the lectern. He stood in front of the class in a casual pose, leaning against the wood podium, yet he held their attention like none of the other lecturers had. He was young, only a few years older than most of them and a success, not just for his family business, but for his own endeavors. It was impressive and what most of them were hoping to experience with their own business ventures. Lina was taking notes as well.
"I have the luxury of not putting my entire financial well-being into the company start-up like so many entrepreneurs. Still, I guess I wanted to prove that anyone could do it; that I had the business acumen to succeed the way my grandfathers did.
"The biggest cornerstone to any successful venture is not just having the money to pursue it, though that is vital, of course. The one thing you cannot replace is a product or service you believe in and that your partners or investors can believe in too. You have to be willing to think outside the box and put a lot of time and effort into the company, especially in the first few years. Get rich quick ideas rarely pan out but if you're willing to work for it you can succeed and build a successful business. If you are willing to commit your time and resources and know your company's target groups and their needs, you can do well when starting your own business."
Professor Paviels began to clap at Kane's concluding statement and the students followed suit.
"We don't have a lot of time left but if there are any more questions I'm sure Alerkane would be more than willing to answer them if he can."
Lina listened to the few additional questions her fellow students asked but didn't pose any herself. She focused on putting away her computer and getting ready to go, keeping her eyes off the charismatic man at the front of the room. Her reaction to him was freaking her out and she had a study group meeting after class. She would have just enough time to grab a quick sandwich on her way if she hurried. Kane was very nice, answering questions for the next few minutes about his start up as well as his family business for the students. Looking at the clock she was just getting ready to stand up when he said something that caught her attention. "We haven't advertised this yet, but with the focus this winter on expanding the Okwa'ho camp program to two more states we have decided to offer an office internship program. It would be unpaid but the hours would be flexible and it would give the person chosen something to put on their resume after college."
Lina would have loved to get that internship but she was sure it would involve close contact with Kane Jacy. Something about him was unsettling, it felt almost as if he was the hunter and she was his prey. She had felt his eyes on her several times through his lecture but she avoided looking up to meet his gaze whenever she could as she waited politely for the professor to end the class. She was attracted to the man, something that had never happened to her before and that scared her more than anything. Truth be told, she just wanted to leave and forget all about Alerkane Jacy.
"If anyone would like more information please come up and get one of my business cards. You can contact my secretary in order to set up an interview. Thank you."
As soon as those words were out of his mouth Lina was out of her seat and heading to the door. Maggie knew about her study group so she wouldn't say anything, even if Lina didn't usually leave quite that quickly.
"What? Why would I do that?" Lina asked Maggie incredulously. She picked at the french fries on her plate, swirling them in her favorite fry sauce.
"You know it's perfect for you. A non-profit organization helping at risk teens with an experienced businessman? You know that is really close to what you want to do in the future and it would be invaluable for your resume." Her eyes narrowed at Lina who was trying to look innocent as she quickly stuffed more fries in her mouth to avoid answering. She should have known trying to look innocent and hungry wouldn't work because she could see Maggie wasn't buying it.
"Why don't you want to apply? You have taken every single course you could that might even remotely help you after you get a degree so you can work as a program administrator for social services. You said it's your dream before starting your own company. Not to mention the man couldn't take his eyes off you and he was even hotter than Tara said. How could you not be interested in getting some of that?"