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And what a big pie it was. I smiled at the thought of what the staff would say when they realized what I’d done. There was a girl down in accounting making minimum wage and struggling to take care of her grand mother as they lived together in a rent controlled apartment on the upper east side. She probably didn’t think I knew she existed, much less empathized with her situation. She’d get the same share that an upper manager would receive. I was going to change the lives of every single employee in that building. I would even make sure that Coppersmith, for all his faults, would receive his own reward…but perhaps not what he expected. Coppersmith, I thought to myself as I stepped from the private elevator into my penthouse, though a corridor comprised mostly of glass panes – all the better to see the skyline as I walked and thought to myself. As for the dangerous executive on my staff, I had to find a way to deal with him. The man had me by the balls and he knew it. Kylie’s one colossal fuckup had been allowing the man to have accidental access to my private files, and when he learned about my disease, he obtained the proof he needed to blackmail me. He was smart enough to not dare and come after me for money. I didn’t know what his endgame was, but he was intent on securing his position in the company. Perhaps he hoped to take over when I died. Luckily, it was clear that he was oblivious to the buyout. He could have seriously jeopardized everything to maintain his iron grip on his high position, and possibly the company. It had been too risky to poke around and find out how the inheritance would affect things. If I had tried to access the pertinent files, he would know. I’d been so alarmed that I hadn’t even informed my own executive assistant of the impending deal. Marrying Kiona had the plus side of being a failsafe. If the buyout fell through, at least she could take over for me – but then it would be all-out mutiny. There would be blood on Wall Street. As soon as I learned that the board was ready to jettison Coppersmith, I had panicked. I’d overplayed my hand. I needed to keep my enemy close for now, while he was too busy stroking his ego and playing King of the Mountain with his executive seat to notice what was going on above his head. No, it was the wrong time, because the moment he was cast out, he’d turn on the entire company and cripple us through the tabloids with evidence of my impending doom. That’s why I had scooped up an engagement ring and performed a last-second proposal to Kiona onstage, diverting attention from him and saving him from exodus. I was not as good at improvisation as my partner-in-crime was. Maybe in time some of Kiona’s talents would have rubbed off on me… If only I had time. My stunts had been carefully orchestrated so far, and Alphonse had been instrumental in helping maintain the balance. But he had a vested interest in taking a lucrative company. Soon, he would be taking over a well-oiled machine with a highly competent and incredibly well compensated group of savvy employees. He was aware of the risks, and accepted his role in all of this. Of course… Kiona might be up to the task if Alphonse pulled out. I could see her steering the ship in the right direction, and her demands from our first lunch together – that my employees were going to be taken care of through the buyout – had convinced me that she would keep them happy and productive. Besides, my death wouldn’t change the fact that our quarterly numbers reflected our highest profit yet. Sure, there might be a temporary panic, but with a strong and intelligent woman at the helm… The trouble would be her trying to deal with Coppersmith herself. Having him thrown out without sufficient reason could rip a schism between her and the board, not unless she had a plan already in place by that point. But leaving him in was a liability, too. Then, there was the complication of whether or not the rest of the staff would accept her, especially after my little spiel on stage at the Quarterly Party. I grimaced angrily at myself as I stepped into the kitchen. Kiona wasn’t here. I steadily walked across the penthouse, slumping against the wall as I hacked up a small storm. It was as if every suppressed cough came back to fight me in that moment. My vision began to blur as I searched for her, listening for any sign of occupancy.
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