An Heiress For His Empire(10)

By: Lucy Monroe

They didn’t.

“No.” Viktor was done with the verbal games.

Madison gave him a look like she was questioning his right to make the pronouncement.

“That sort of relationship would be too uncertain for the health of Archer International Holdings,” Viktor pointed out.

Disappointment dulled the blue of Madison’s azure gaze, but she masked the emotion almost immediately. Viktor cursed silently.

Her father, however, nodded vigorously. “Precisely.”

“I think your daughter has already proven she is more than capable of her own decisions.” Maxwell’s admiration was annoyingly apparent.

“I won’t sign the contract,” Jeremy said in implacable tones.

The BIT CEO didn’t look worried.

Madison’s features had gone smooth with a lack of emotion once again as she stared at her father. “You believe I would agree to that kind of marriage?”

For once Jeremy seemed incapable of speech, perhaps realizing finally how little interest Madison would ever have in such a cold-blooded bargain.

“But then you believed the lies Perry spewed, didn’t you?”

“I never said that.” Jeremy’s voice had an alien quality.

Realization of his colossal error in judgment in the handling of his daughter must be settling in, but being who he was, Viktor’s boss wasn’t going to back down, either.

Madison pulled her copy of the contract from the stack of papers in front of her and stood. “I assume you aren’t going to do anything to mitigate Perry’s lies.”

“I have done it. Do you think this agreement is only about AIH? This is as important for you as it is the reputation of my company.” Jeremy clearly believed what he said, but then Viktor had made sure his company’s president saw things exactly that way. “Once you are married to a powerful man with an impeccable reputation, you can begin to live down your youthful excesses.”

“My life has nothing to do with your company.”

Viktor wasn’t about to let the conversation degenerate further and there was only one direction it was headed if the two kept talking. Down.

“Conrad will put out a press release categorically denying all of Timwater’s allegations,” Viktor inserted before another word could be said.

The media fixer looked up from his tablet. “I will?”

Severely unimpressed with the man’s lack of dedication to the protection of the company president’s daughter, Viktor let Conrad see his displeasure. “You will do a hell of a lot more than that. If you’d been doing your job properly to begin with, this situation would not have happened.”

“Protecting Miss Archer from her own excessive behaviors has never been in my job’s purview,” Conrad claimed in snide tones.

“Did you notice the loss of confidence in AIH articles in the online press this morning?” Viktor asked. “The first of which went live within thirty minutes of that tabloid hitting newsstands. Or did you think that was just a coincidence?”

The media fixer swallowed audibly and shook his head.

Jeremy didn’t look too happy, either. He’d been too focused on using the current situation to bring his daughter into line, and had ignored the bigger picture. Something that was anathema to him.

“Your job is to protect the image of this company and anyone affiliated closely enough with it to impact our reputation in the financial community,” Viktor reminded Conrad in a hard voice.

“Yes, sir.”

“Maybe it’s too much for you. Perhaps you’d prefer to move to a PR position working for a nursing home?” Viktor allowed the implication that was the only type of job Conrad would be able to get to hang in the air between them.

The usually unflappable media fixer paled, showing the man still had some of the intelligence he had originally been hired for. “I’m on it.”

“You should have been on it at four-fifteen this morning after the scandal sheet went on sale.”

Conrad didn’t argue. He’d screwed up.

“I don’t know what you spent this meeting doing on your tablet, but whatever it was, it wasn’t as important as getting ahead of Madison’s situation.”

“I was writing the engagement announcement.”

“I see. Not nursing homes then. Maybe you should be writing puff pieces for online dating sites,” Viktor opined.

Nervous laughter filled the room and Jeremy made a sarcastic sound of approval, but it was Madison’s genuine amusement that Viktor enjoyed the most.

“I’ll need your signature on a civil suit against Perry Timwater,” Conrad told Madison.