Excerpt for Corporate Takeover: Brains to Brawn by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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by Lyka Bloom


First Edition. April 20, 2017 at Smashwords.

Copyright © 2017 Lyka Bloom

Written by Lyka Bloom


Part One – The Trap

Lars thanked whatever higher power may be for the woman's decision to join him on this side of the desk, offering him a generous look at her shapely legs. She was in her mid- to late-thirties, but she had clearly been keeping herself fit and healthy. Lars's own preferences tended toward the younger blondes, stereotypical but satisfying, but this woman was making a strong case for a more mature addition to his stable of extracurricular entertainment.

"And you understand that there is no going back?"

Her voice shook him from his reverie, and his eyes flitted up to her cool gray eyes.

"That's the whole point, isn't it?" He smirked, meeting that flinty gaze.

This was the downside. Women like Benson had their own agenda, their own expectations. He preferred the younger girls too preoccupied by his wealth and power and the potential for a taste of each to concern themselves with their own needs.

"It is. But you can never speak of this to another soul. I am not in the business of making deals with men who are going to brag to their friends about what they have done to a rival."

"What do you take me for?" Lars frowned, indignant.

Benson stood, poised atop sexy cream-colored heels that gave her legs a slender appearance.

"I take you for the man who tweeted about his company's takeover of a rival manufacturer two hours before the papers were signed, collapsing the deal before it could be finalized. The man who also found himself caught on camera with a woman half his age in a compromising position by the woman's then-boyfriend. This sort of behavior suggests a lack of discretion I cannot abide, Mr. Foster. That you know about the Janus Institute at all disturbs me. That you now want to use its methods for your own ends is even more disturbing."

She leaned back against her office desk, crossing her legs at the ankles as she balanced on a sharp heel. Her skirt was a similar cream color, her top white and elegant in its simplicity.

"I don't know what sort of operation you run here, Benson-"

"Miss Benson, please."

"Fine. Miss Benson... I think it is in both our interests to keep my involvement with you and your 'Institute' a secret. Your work here, though impressive, is not strictly legal, or am I mistaken?"

Raquel Benson's thin lips spread into a smile. She took an almost immediate dislike to the man, with his expensive suit and his habit of staring at her legs and chest like she was another of his bimbos under consideration. If she had to bet, Benson would have placed good odds on the fact that Foster's boardroom was bereft of women, save for the one or two allowed in to serve coffee.

"So, I can count on your own sense of self-preservation to protect us both?"

"Something like that. I've explained the situation to you. If Prentiss gets his work to market behind my back, I am ruined. You'll be doing me a big favor, Miss Benson, and I don't bite the hand that feeds me. In fact, you might get an anonymous donation or two. It all depends on how thoroughly you can complete the task."

"I believe you will appreciate the end results, Mr. Foster. As part of our mutually-assured destruction, I am going to need you to sign some papers to that effect."

"You're not very trusting, are you, Miss Benson?"

"What in this world can be taken for granted?"

"Touché," Foster said, leaning forward to take the papers Benson offered him. She came prepared, he would give her that. It looked like a standard non-disclosure agreement. He'd signed enough of these in his day to know what it would state: no discussing Benson, her institute, or Benson or Foster's involvement with the impending "disappearance" of Carlton Prentiss.

If the Institute delivered as advertised, he would have his hands on Prentiss's new formula for an energy drink that was both sugar-free, effective, and unburdened by some of the more dangerous chemicals that made its users feel jumpy or anxious. It was an organic delivery method of pure kinetic energy potential, and whichever company ended up with it was going to make a killing.

Fierce Fuel, Foster's company, had done well, but sales had been declining since the advent of the farm-to-table hippies began nit-picking every little ingredient. The first to come to market with a so-called 'healthy' alternative to standard energy drinks was poised to drive lesser companies out of business.

Prentiss, a nebbish little man, owned Prentiss Chemical Designs, a formal partner to Foster's own company. As a rule, Lars Foster did not trust anyone, perhaps a function of his own casual loyalties, but this essential part of his nature led him to plant spies within Prentiss's company. When he received word of Prentiss's success with his new formula, Foster gave him ample opportunity to present his new findings, coaxing him with questions about the latest projects. Further investigation suggested Prentiss was putting his feelers out, looking for a new partner to leverage more control in his own product.

"Thank you," Benson said, taking the signed papers from Foster and laying them on the desk behind her. She stood upright and returned to the chair next to Lars's, her legs folding over one another in a manner that drew his eyes once more. "As soon as we have received payment, we'll schedule his procedure."

"And you got my notes? About what I want?"

"Brainless and busty, if I recall. Honestly, I could have guessed without the notes. Forgive me for saying so, but you men are all alike. Your tastes do not vary as much as you might think. And trust me when I say that we will give you the girl of your dreams."

"Excellent." He rose, extending a hand to Benson as she stood with him. She took it, giving him a firm but terse shake.

"Until we meet again, Mr. Foster."

Benson sat behind the desk and massaged her temples. She hated men of his ilk, and she could still smell the reek of his cologne in her office. Even the sight of the green, rolling hills and wooded retreat beyond her office window did little to quell the headache that threatened to distract her for the remainder of the day.

A light rap on the office door drew her attention.

"Megan," she smiled.

Megan was slender, with long, dark hair that she preferred to leave loose, but was in a ponytail today. She had perfectly pouty, bee-stung lips that were difficult to ignore.

"We have your next meeting scheduled for tomorrow. Did you want to push?"

"No, that won't be necessary. Just tired. Mr. Foster is a man of a very specific type."

"You mean an asshole?" Megan grinned.

"Megan, you know I hate that kind of language. Also, yes. He is an asshole."

The two laughed again and Raquel felt the headache's screaming fade to a grumble.

"I don't like us being involved in some corporate shenanigans," Megan added, her smile faltering. "What about this Prentiss guy's family? Usually, there's... I don't know... some kind of justice at work. This feels like we're assassins or something."

Raquel rose and crossed to Megan, giving her a familiar hug. "I know, and I don't like it, either. Just trust me on this one. There are larger forces at work. And I think you will be excited at the results."

Megan nodded, holding onto her boss, the silk of Raquel's top smooth under her hand.

"I trust you," she said. "I just want to know that the work we do is done for the right reasons."

The scotch was good, part of Foster's private collection. He savored the warmth of it as he held it in his mouth before swallowing. The subtle heat of it as the amber liquid flowed down his throat, the glow in his belly after. It had taken years to learn how to properly appreciate good scotch, and, more, how to appreciate the moments in between acts of naked aggression.

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