The Billionaire's Impossible CEO (ebook)
The Billionaire's Impossible CEO (ebook)
He’s the billionaire boss, she’s his impossible CEO. He should, but he can’t let her go…
Alexander Richmond is ecstatic he’s been bequeathed ownership of the company he needs to drive his competitors into the ground. Now there’s nothing to stop him from getting what he wants—to become wealthier than his despised late father. There’s only one problem—his CEO.
CEO Lily McGuire’s humble beginnings have made her tough and she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants—which is to divert the wealth from Alexander's company into medical research to find a cure for the disease from which her husband died.
The passion starts from day one. The mistrust from day two. Day three? It’s anybody’s guess…
The Billionaire's Impossible CEO is the second book in Diana's British Billionaires series.
- The Billionaire’s Contract Marriage (Sebastian)
- The Billionaire's Impossible CEO (Alexander)
- The Billionaire's Secret Baby (Harrison)
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Lily McGuire started the day as she always did. She rolled over and looked at the photograph of her husband, Robbie, that she kept beside her bed.
“Good morning, my darling,” she said, reaching out for the silver-framed portrait and kissing Robbie on the lips. She looked at him for a few moments, remembering the silky texture of his crazy blond curls beneath her fingers and how the perfect lips of that broad smile could bring such happiness and pleasure. “You’re looking mighty fine this morning, husband.”
She brought the picture to her chest, hugged it and jumped out of bed. She had a lot to do this morning, including hauling her management team over the coals and meeting the new owner, Alexander Richmond. Even his name sounded full of entitlement. He was probably some nerdy Etonian with a childish sense of humor and all the communication abilities of an animal. But she wasn’t daunted. She’d sort him out.
With another kiss on Robbie’s tanned and sunny face, she slid the picture back into place beside her bed. In the bathroom, she pulled off Robbie’s old T shirt she always wore to bed and stepped under a stream of cold water, counting the seconds before she turned on the hot water. The short sharp shock of stingingly cold water against her warm body helped to mentally shift her from her home and Robbie to the world outside her apartment. She lived in two worlds and needed to transition between them.
It didn’t take her long to get ready. A strong black coffee and one of her sexy dresses selected—no black suits for her—she checked her reflection. All in order, she noted. Tight red dress, tick. Unruly blonde hair partially tamed into a messy up-do, tick. Eyes… Still sad. She bit her lip and glanced at her phone. She didn’t usually allow herself the indulgence until she returned home from work. But she couldn’t resist listening to one of Robbie’s many messages. She tapped play.
As his words of reassurance, love, and stern instruction filled the room, she leaned back against the door of her apartment and closed her eyes. When she’d first heard the message telling her she was made for love and he’d come back and haunt her if she didn’t have lots of boyfriends after he’d gone, she’d said, “yeah, yeah, whatever, you’re not going anywhere”, because she hadn’t believed it. Not at first.
But then the deterioration had started. Even so, she still hadn’t ever imagined a world without him in it. But he had gone. Eighteen months ago. He’d slipped away. One minute she’d been lying by his side, her head resting against the same pillow he lay on, watching the slightest of breaths in and out, then pause. Until the pauses had grown longer. Until there was only one long pause, and he’d gone, leaving her alone in the world. And she didn’t think she’d ever recover.
The only way forward lay in the messages he’d left for her, telling her to keep busy and to take no prisoners. To use her clever brain to forge ahead in the business career she’d always wanted, but which his illness had prevented her from having. And to have sex. Plenty of it. Sex and work and rock and roll. She’d stuck to the sex and work. She had no musical ability or appreciation whatsoever. But she’d made up for it with the other two. Except not here. Not within these walls. This world was still sacred.
She sucked in a deep breath, picked up her bag and went outside into the London sunshine, leaving the love of her life behind, and the world of business and sex ahead of her.
* * *
The Richmond Building. Alexander Richmond read the name which topped the front doors of the soaring glass edifice. His building now, he thought with satisfaction. Whenever he’d passed it before the death of his father—which he’d had to do often, given its central location in the City of London—it had irked him. It had been a constant, niggling reminder of his detested father’s wealth and power. Now his father was gone and he and his three brothers each had what rightly belonged to them. And this beauty had come his way.
“Mr. Richmond!” a short, balding man called out as Alexander stepped inside the triple-height lobby. “I’m Sean Diggins, acting chairperson for Richmond Pharmaceuticals.”
“Sean,” said Alexander, shaking the man’s hand. “Good to meet you.” Alexander cast a quick glance around the interior of the building. It was the first time he’d been inside and he was impressed. The photographs hadn’t done it justice. The building was as amazing inside as it was out. But not as amazing as his other inheritance—Richmond Pharmaceuticals—the company which would turn his other chain of companies in allied industries from profitable to super-profitable. Not that he needed the money. But he could never resist competition, even if it was with his deceased father.
“So glad you could make it at such short notice,” said Sean.
“No problem. The company is my priority now, since my father passed.”
“On behalf of the other directors, I’d like to extend our condolences. Sir Charles Richmond was a very fine man.”
Alexander controlled his response enough for Sean to imagine his grimace came from a place of grief.
“And he’ll be sorely missed.”
Not by me, thought Alexander. Not after what he did to me and my brothers. “Of course,” he said vaguely.
Sean pointed to the glass elevator, one of several which rose like a spine through the center of the high-rise building. “Shall we?”
As the director began a nervous spiel about the program they’d planned for Alexander, he looked around, only half-listening, as the elevator rose through the center of the Richmond Building. It moved from the plush reception offices to the first floor open-plan offices where his employees were hard at work. All making money to make him richer than his father had been. He thrust his hands in his pockets and grinned. At last, the jewel in the crown of his companies—Richmond Pharmaceuticals.
“Very satisfactory,” Alexander murmured, as the director drew breath in his monologue about the potential of one of the company’s products, and the elevator came to a stop on the main floor.
They walked through open-plan offices on one side and glassed-in meeting rooms on the other. Sean continued to talk as Alexander looked around. He couldn’t help noting a monochrome sameness to his employees. Black suits and white shirts—for men and women alike. The only difference was the women wore statement jewelry, and the men wore statement ties. He smiled to himself. They were like worker bees and he didn’t care what they wore, so long as they were doing their job and adding to his bank balance.
With so little to distract him, he thought he’d be forced to listen to his director, until a flash of red caught his eye from one of the meeting rooms. A blonde wearing a tight-fitting red dress around her curvy figure had her back to him. His eye was not only caught but transfixed, and he pursed his lips into a silent whistle.
His gaze drifted up from her high stilettos, slender legs, and shapely behind. She was standing at the end of a boardroom table. Sexy, curly tendrils of bright blonde hair drifted out from under a comb, making her look like some kind of Medusa. And she wore a dress, not a suit. Another difference. And not only a dress, but a tightly fitting dress in brilliant red. If that wasn’t enough to mark her out as different to everyone else, she was the only person who wasn’t quietly going about her business. He couldn’t hear what she was saying, but he could see from the way she gesticulated she was mad about something and wasn’t keeping it to herself. The people who were being subjected to her tirade appeared terrified. No one else was speaking. There were no tentative objections being raised. Whatever she was telling them, the urgent nodding of their heads showed they were going to do as the woman said, without question. He liked that. Someone who knew how to control people. He recognized it because he was like that himself. She was a woman who knew how to get a job done. His gaze slipped to her behind again.
“Very satisfactory,” he repeated, before turning to the director with a smile.
“The Board of Directors is waiting, if you’d like to come this way?” asked Sean, ducking his head in an obsequious fashion. Alexander couldn’t help thinking the man needed a bit more gumption, like the woman was showing.
“Sure,” he said. He wouldn’t waste much time on the directors. He needed to meet and greet, but that was all. They were only the figureheads. He wanted to talk to the people actually running the show. Because, while Richmond Pharmaceuticals was well run and returned an excellent profit, he wanted to make a few changes to maximize the profits of his other companies, for which it was a perfect fit. It would cut out the middleman and make everything else in his portfolio more profitable. All he needed to do with his directors was make sure they knew who was in control, and then work with the CEO to tweak the business model to encompass his other companies. Only then would he achieve his goal of out-performing his recently deceased father, for whom he had no love, only animosity.
But now he’d added one more thing to accomplish. Find out the identity of the stroppy blonde with the big personality and the voluptuous figure. He wanted to see what she looked like from the front. His imagination told him he was going to be impressed.
Lily McGuire unclenched her hands from the meeting room table and put them on her hips, shooting the kind of killer glare to her team which Robbie used to tease her about.
“Have I made myself clear?”
There were nods and shuffles, as well as a few who verbalized their agreement. She made a mental note of who they were. They were the ones she could work with.
“Good.” She glanced at the clock and swore under her breath. She’d be late for the board meeting.
Without a backward glance, she picked up the phone she was never without and left the room, her red patent heels stabbing the polished concrete floor. She knew the striking of her high heels on the hard floor had become a signal for people to lower their eyes and focus on their laptops. She also knew what they called her behind her back—Tiger Lily—and they weren’t referring to a gentle Disney character. That was by people with whom she hadn’t crossed swords. Others called her FTL, imagining she didn’t know what it stood for. But she did. It didn’t worry her if they called her Fucking Tiger Lily. It was probably more accurate than most.
Without pausing to tidy her hair or smooth down her dress, she burst open the boardroom door.
“Gentlemen,” she said briskly. She was about to walk across to her seat at the right-hand side of the acting chairperson, Sean, when she saw it was already taken. Instantly she absorbed the fact that the new owner of the company occupied the space, that he was extremely good looking and that he was undressing her with his eyes. Her next thought was she liked how that felt, and she’d have him in her bed at the first opportunity. She shot him one of her rare smiles as she took the seat opposite him.
Sean cast her a disapproving look. She was late. So what? She was always late. But the new boss was here. It wouldn’t hurt to look a little contrite.
“I’m sorry I’m late, everyone,” she said, but her eyes lingered on Alexander Richmond, for that must be who he was. “I had some shit to sort out.”
Sean’s disapproving look soured even further at her choice of language, while Alexander’s smile broadened.
“I saw you through the window,” he said, leaning forward, his hands on the table as if he wanted to reach across and grab her. She shifted her joined hands a little toward him. “You appeared to be getting your message across.” The same as he was. She was receiving his message loud and clear.
“I don’t mess about.” Her voice slipped into a lower timbre automatically.
“I’m sure you don’t.” His tone lowered, too.
Sean cleared his throat, and she looked around to see everyone staring at her and Alexander. It appeared the sexual attraction was so strong even these stuffed shirts could detect it.
“Mr. Richmond,” said Sean.
Alexander sat back in his chair and took his time switching his gaze from Lily to Sean. “Please, call me Alexander,” he said, tugging at his shirt cuffs before lacing his fingers together. He was the picture of cool. She liked that. It was the perfect complement to the heat of her Irish heritage.
“Alexander.” Sean nodded. “May I introduce our Chief Executive Officer, Ms Lily McGuire. She’s been with us eighteen months now and has certainly shaken things up.”
His gaze snapped back to her again, without a trace of surprise. She liked that, too. “Good to meet you, Ms McGuire.”
“And you, Mr. Richmond,” she said. “Please, call me Lily.”
“Only if you call me Alexander.”
She inclined her head in acceptance. “Alexander it is, then.”
Sean cleared his throat once more. “Perhaps we can proceed with the meeting.”
Lily sat back, her long manicured bright red nails clicking lightly on the face of her phone as she watched Alexander, while not missing anything of the meeting. It was the same old, same old, until they got to one point she’d been waiting for, and she looked at Sean.
“That project won’t be going ahead.”
“I have a better idea.” She shrugged. “Besides, it’s not cost effective, and the team has been making a hash of it. I’ve moved them onto a different project, same profit structure, but the campaign will incorporate more of our products. Which will allow us to increase our investment in research.”
She fielded questions about the new strategy, aware she knew more than them all combined, and that they wouldn’t be able to stop her.
When refreshments were brought in, they were all only too keen to stop the discussion, as it only exposed their ignorance. An ignorance in which Lily was determined to keep them. Only she knew the full extent of their business and that’s the way she wanted it to stay. She had the board of directors totally under her control. As she did the company. She might only have been here eighteen months, but she’d worked longer hours than anyone else to make sure she knew everything there was to know about the company. While these guys were playing golf or whatever it was they did, she was working.
She didn’t want a coffee, but she couldn’t leave yet because she was determined not to leave empty-handed. Instead, she plucked a biscuit from a plate, took a bite and walked over to the window, and looked out over central London. Automatically she looked east, seeking the familiar, beyond the towers of the City of London’s business district. She could just see the docks along the river, which signified the southern boundary of the East End, where she was born and raised and still lived. Not in the fashionable area along the river, but in the areas the wealthy didn’t want, where her family had lived for generations.
“You look thoughtful.”
She turned at Alexander’s sexy deep voice, which made her insides clench with desire. “Just wondering how long before I can get out of here and back to work.”
The sun burst out from behind the cloudy London day and his eyes sparked with humor. Closer up, his blue eyes weren’t a uniform blue but had shades of gold in them, making them green in the sunlight. Interesting. Changeable. Someone to watch. His tanned skin spoke of holidays and the blue tailor-made shirt made his eyes even more vivid. He knew he was good looking and made no attempt to hide his arrogance. But that didn’t worry her. It made him even more attractive, more of a challenge. He looked like a man who’d know how to pleasure her. She could almost feel the abrasion of his dark stubble against her skin, especially her most tender skin. She shivered.
He reached out and gently touched her bare arm. She shivered inside this time. “Maybe you should have worn a jacket. The air conditioning in here is a little aggressive.”
“Aggression doesn’t faze me.”
“I’m sure,” he said, his mouth quirking with humor.
“No,” she said, standing a fraction too close to him. “Aggression is my game. If anyone else tries it on, I’ll usually trump them.”
He gave a low, orgasmic grunt. It did things to her. “I’d like to see that.”
“Maybe you will,” she said, taking another bite from the biscuit and chewing it, allowing the silence to lengthen. She swallowed and his eyes dropped to her throat and then lower to her cleavage. She sighed, intentionally making her chest rise and fall again. “Or maybe you won’t.”
He raised an eyebrow and her expectations at the same time. There was no doubt about it. Alexander Richmond was incredibly sexy. Normally she avoided work relationships where she held power over her staff, but she’d make an exception here. This man might think he had power over her, but he didn’t. No one did.
“I guess we’ll have to see, won’t we?”
She ran her finger down the lapel of his jacket to show him two could play at his game. “So, do you like what you see?”
His eyes were steady on her. “I sure do.”
Her lips tweaked. “And the company?” She glanced at the directors, who were exchanging the news of their latest squash victories while stuffing their mouths with savories and sprinkling greasy flakes of pastry over their Saville Row suits. “I think you’ll have to agree we run a pretty tight ship here.”
“You do. I’m not so sure about the others.”
Interesting. He had a weakness, because he certainly shouldn’t have been disparaging about his board members to her. And weaknesses she could exploit to her own ends. So long as no one knew what her ends were, she was safe.
“Oh,” she said, glancing at the others. “They perform their function.”
She smiled. “To support me. I am the Chief Executive Officer, after all.”
“The Chief Executive Officer with more knowledge than the others combined.”
“It would have been hard not to. Which brings me to my point.”
She tilted her head to one side in query, suddenly aware she’d allowed her attraction to this man to relax her business antennae.
“It’s dangerous for a CEO to have too much power.”
A chill washed through her body. “I didn’t say I had the power, but that I had the knowledge.”
“Isn’t knowledge power?”
“Not necessarily. It depends how it’s used.”
“Oh, you can have power but wield it very gently, especially if you don’t need to be… aggressive.”
There was that word again. He was telling her to watch out. That he was a match for her and, for once, she could tell he was.
“If you want to know anything, ask.”
“Okay,” he said quietly, leaning forward as if there were only the two of them in the room. She couldn’t help but lean forward in response.
“Can you tell me why we’re diverting such a high percentage of our returns from our highest income earners into research?”
She hadn’t expected that. But she made sure she didn’t allow her unease to show. “Sure,” she said with her usual confidence. “For the long-term health of the company.”
“I quite like focusing on its short-term health and my long-term wealth.”
She didn’t move a muscle on her face, nothing that would show her surprise at his challenge. There was more to this sexy man than met the eye. And a lot met the eye. She was even more sure she’d take him to her bed. What was the old saying? Hold your friends close, but your enemies even closer.
“I like both. And, I can assure you, Alexander”—she deliberately moved her arms to make her cleavage even more impressive—“I have my eye on the ball.”
His lips twitched a little. “I’m sure you have, Lily.”
“Your company is safe in my hands.”
“Safe?” he said softly. “I’m not sure that’s the word I would have used.”
“Is that so?” she asked quietly, to match his tone. “I wonder what word you’d use?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know you, but my instincts tell me your hands would be…” He licked his lips, and she got a little more turned on.
“What?” she said.
“I think your hands would prove to be many things which are decidedly unsafe. Pleasurable springs to mind.”
The sound of the others replacing their coffee cups with a clatter on the table and clearing their throats interrupted their tête-à-tête.
Sean smiled at them both. “I trust Lily has filled you in on the details you wanted?”
Sean tapped his papers on the desk and looked around. “Well, if everyone has finished, I think it’s time for a spot of lunch. You’ll join us, Alexander, I hope? I’ve booked a table at my club. We can continue our discussions there, if you like?”
“Sorry, no, I’m not hungry and I have some business I need to focus on,” said Alexander smoothly, as the directors filed out of the room.
Lily took her time. She knew what was about to happen. She smoothed down her dress to see his reaction. Predictable, she thought, but nice.
After everyone had left the room, she took a step toward him until she was standing too close. His eyes darkened with desire.
“Hungry?” she asked.
“Ravenous,” he said with a grin.
“Good, because so am I. There’s a hotel nearby which does wonderful lunches.” They both knew they weren’t talking about food.
“And there’s a penthouse apartment upstairs, which is fully equipped.”
“Sounds perfect.” She shot him a smile.
He stood back for her to walk through the door. Manners, too. But then what would she expect of a privately educated aristocrat?
She was about to walk toward the public elevator, when he gave her arm a brief caress, sending shivers of desire straight to her core. “Let’s take my private elevator.”
“Hm,” she murmured, walking close beside him. “I’ve never used that.”
“There’s a first time for everything.”
He clicked a fob and the doors of his elevator slid open, as if waiting for his every command. She guessed that was what he was accustomed to.
She stepped inside the red carpeted interior complete with side lights and wallpaper.
“Very smart,” she commented. After she’d heard the doors close with a gentle ping, she turned to face him, her back against the wall, holding onto the railing.
“Blood red, like you.” He bridged the small gap between them and lifted her chin. She was tall, even taller in her heels, but still shorter than him. She liked that, too.
His eyes were dark with lust. He was about to kiss her, but she averted her face. “I don’t kiss,” she said.
He frowned. “Then what do you do?”
“Just about everything else,” she said. She smiled sweetly.
He leaned against the side of the elevator, very close to her, so close she could smell his aftershave and see the quickened pulse in his neck. “I like the sound of that.”
“So,” she said, reaching out to straighten his tie, “tell me about yourself.”
“Me? I’m boring. I’d rather hear about you.”
“Me? I’m boring, too.” There was no way she was about to tell this man anything about herself. She wanted sex with him and she wanted him as a business ally, but she didn’t want intimacy other than the physical. No one at work knew about the real her, her history, where she lived or anything else about her, and she intended to keep it that way. “Besides, I’m sure you’re not boring.” She’d never known a man who didn’t enjoy talking about himself.
“And I’m sure I am.”
Nope. She’d drawn a blank. He was as secretive as she was.
“Your business interests, then.” His eyes lit up and she could see at last she’d struck something he was interested in and didn’t mind talking about. She really didn’t want to get caught having sex in the elevator with her new boss. People might get the right idea.
“You’re a smart woman. No doubt you’re aware of my business interests already.”
She raised an eyebrow. No point in denying it. She risked running the back of her finger along his lapel. She registered two things—the cloth was beautifully silky and expensive, and he smelled amazing.
“People are wondering why you’re taking such a personal interest in Richmond Pharmaceuticals.” At least she was.
“It is my company.”
“Sure. But your father was always content to sit back and allow us to run it.”
“I, in case you haven’t realized, am not my father.” His face had suddenly darkened and his lips pulled tight. He didn’t like his father.
“I see. So that means you intend to pay more attention to the company than your father did?”
“And you intend to have it work closer with your other companies?”
He frowned. She’d gone too far. She was literally saved by the bell as the elevator announced their arrival at the penthouse suite.
She adjusted her dress and stepped out into the foyer. She’d never been up here before. It was furnished like an old-fashioned study with books and country house furniture.
“This isn’t what I imagined.”
He glanced around. “I haven’t moved in yet. This is all my father’s stuff, although I don’t believe he used the place much over the past ten years.”
“I understand he didn’t come to board meetings after…” She looked up at him under lowered lashes.
“After he installed a mistress at his Norfolk home. No. For whatever reason, he seems to have exiled himself in Norfolk after she and her daughter arrived.” He shrugged. “Whatever,” he said, moving towards her. “I haven’t invited you up to my penthouse to talk about my father.”
“What have you invited me up for?”
“Come here and I’ll show you.”