Home > The Long Con

The Long Con
Author: Lexxi James




“Have you ever been obsessed?” he asked.

With the midday sun blazing into his new uptown Dallas office, Richard noticed Margot squinting. He grabbed a remote control. At the press of a button, transparent screens dropped over two walls of windows, softly dimming the sunlight while capturing the panoramic skyscraper views. When her eyes adjusted, she resumed her skeptical scowl.

He couldn’t help firing such a pointed question at her. And not just for shock effect. He was revealing a secret truth that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t escape.

Appearing unimpressed, she stared back. “Players like you don’t get obsessed. You get fleeting infatuations, until the next new set of bouncy breasts catch your eye.”

He took the jab in stride. Impressing Margot wasn’t the goal. Convincing her to join him was. She had a knack for cutting to the chase, a quality he respected.

Facts. Numbers.

All business. No bullshit.

Here we go.

Despite the expansiveness of his fortieth-floor office, they sat a cozy distance from each other, each on a matching tufted black leather sofa, with a low glass table between them. Two chilled Voss waters waited an arm’s length away on granite coasters.

The refreshments weren’t just there because of the sweltering Texas heat outside. Richard knew the drill. Margot demanded complete sobriety during any negotiation, and this wasn’t exactly a social call. With her golden hair perfectly layered in an expensive cut, and a custom suit contouring her svelte body and complementing her delicate features, she was a woman of the world. No doubt about it—her razor-sharp mind analyzed him. Each word. Every move.

And he knew exactly why.

Jumping on this crazy train would take a wish and a prayer, and a butt-load of cash. And crazy wasn’t even the half of it.

Illegal? Definitely not.

Well, maybe.

Okay, probably.

Richard tried to stay out of anything that was blatantly against the law, but everything about this plan screamed lawsuit. Big, fat, fucking lawsuit. And if the media caught wind of it? He’d definitely be kissing his own ass good-bye. His ass and his assets.

He promptly shoved all the risks from his mind, focusing on the ultimate prize. “It’s not fleeting. And Jaclyn Long isn’t remotely close to a flash in the pan. Any day now, she could take over Long Multinational Systems, and we both know if that happens, it’s game over. This is my chance. My only shot.”

When Margot’s gaze remained unimpressed, he decided to change tactics. Bring out the big guns. Honesty.

“I’m used to women looking at me a certain way,” he said. “Like a gift-wrapped lottery ticket they want to unwrap with their teeth. Half the time they see me as a sugar daddy, and the other half as a baby daddy. But when Jaclyn looked at me, it was different. Like I wasn’t worth her time. But she’s definitely worth mine.”

Margot’s brow lifted.

“Here.” He opened the folder on the coffee table between them and handed her a few documents. “I’m ready to hit her with all I’ve got, but she can’t see me coming.”

Margot skimmed the pages, her smile spreading wider as she flipped page after page.

“You’ve known me a long time, Margot. If I’m in it, I’m in it to win it. But I need an advantage. You’re one of the few people who live in her inner circle.”

“Lived,” she said, correcting him as she returned the documents and resumed her stoic expression. “It’s been a while.”

Her practiced poker face made it impossible to get the slightest hint of where she stood. But she was listening, and his instincts kicked in, prompting him to hit the “schmooze” button.

“But you know Jaclyn better than anyone,” he said. “Maybe better than she knows herself. To make this work, I need you on my side.”

Margot looked up for a second, contemplating a response. Sinking back into the fine leather, she crossed her legs and stretched an arm along the low back of the couch. “And exactly what’s that shot worth to you, Richard?”

Well, that was fast. He figured she’d at least hear him out on the details of this scheme. But, nope. She was ready to decide if she was in or out, and it all came down to price. Her casual indifference telegraphed that she knew his position as well as he did. Without a lick of leverage, why pretend?

Richard leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “How about we cut to the chase? Name your price.”

She smiled, its immediacy killing any hope he had for a fair and reasonable negotiation. “Whether you pull this off or not, I get five percent of your company.”

His eyes popped. Margot’s hardball game wasn’t just in a league all its own. It was like she’d invented the fucker.

He opened his mouth to counter, but the subtle lift of her elegant hand stopped him cold.

“That’s nonnegotiable,” she said. “And I’ll need to see it in writing today. I’ll also need five million in good faith money deposited to one of my accounts. Nonrefundable. My attorneys will draw up the paperwork to ensure there’s no way I’m implicated if anything goes awry with this ‘foolproof’ plan of yours. Because what could possibly go wrong, right?”

Her sarcasm was cutting. She reached for a bottle, delicately unscrewed the cap, and sipped, letting him mull it over.

He pulled in a breath. “How about—”

“Nonnegotiable, Richard. I’m not the one who’s obsessed.”

Their eyes met, and hers sparkled with the triumph of a woman who knew she had him by the balls.

Margot didn’t wait for his reply. “Good. Then there’s the issue of your appearance.”

“Hang on. A ten-thousand-dollar suit isn’t good enough for Your Highness?”

She shook her head. “Oh, it’s great for me, but I’m not the one you have to worry about.” She swept a hand to indicate his appearance. “Her Highness will see you coming from a mile away. No wonder she avoided you like e. coli. Guys like you swarm her in droves. Hot. Charming. Sexy, with a naughty side that keeps girls coming back for more.”

Richard gave her a not-so-modest grin.

“Absolutely worthless,” Margot said sharply, quashing his smile. “Like you rolled off the latest playboy cookie-cutter assembly line. Guys like you have burned her a few times too many. So, if you want this to work, then you’re going to need to make a few changes.”

Damn her. Margot was enjoying this a bit too much.

He crossed his arms casually over his chest, barely wrinkling the custom-made suit. “Fine. We can work on wardrobe. What else?”

She set down her water and moved to take a seat by his side. “Hmm.” She scanned his face. “I’m not partial to facial hair for this little caper.”

His hand protectively flew to his scruff, and he rubbed it thoughtfully. The trademark of his signature look, gone?

“Okay. Fine. It’ll grow back,” he said. “Any more changes?”

She tilted her head, studying him. “I definitely see you as a blond.”

Tall, dark, and handsome Richard stripped down to a squeaky-clean choirboy? He hated everything about it.

But he had to admit, the idea was bizarrely genius, and exactly what he’d asked for. Jaclyn Long would never see him coming. Literally.

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