It’s here! The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp is ready to be consumed by your eager eyes! I believe I may have promised the prologue and chapter one this week, but it’s just the prologue. I got a lot of balls in the air right now. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, please refer to this post in which I explain what I’m trying to do with this experiment. Otherwise, you’re gonna wonder what the hell is happening here.
The hologram hung between Fiona Trasket and her brother, her sins glowing in high definition, luminous color. She saw the reverse image glinting in his frosty blue eyes but held his gaze; Blayde might be able to intimidate his business rivals, but she’d known him her entire life. The bully he was. The golden child. The spoiled prince.
“This doesn’t prove anything.” She didn’t even glance at the footage playing in the air above her brother’s desk.
He smirked. “It proves you were at La Mer. That you went inside. That you came out arm-in-arm with one of them.”
Fiona’s skin prickled. “‘One of them.’ Now, you’re starting to sound like father.”
“Someone has to.” Blayde hit a button on his desk console and the image dispersed. He gestured to the chair Fiona had declined earlier. “Please. Sit. It’s in your interest.”
Swallowing against her rising fury, she sat, her back ramrod straight. Yes, she had been at La Mer, the premier merfolk bordello. But she hadn’t been there to fuck. Larkin had needed her help.
“I could release this to the press,” Blayde went on. “Maybe it wouldn’t hurt Larkin. A little controversy before her album drops? Her label would owe me. But the conclusions people would jump to…”
“They would infer that the daughter of the most staunchly anti-Fae Migration families in American politics and industry is having mer orgies with her pixie best friend.” Fiona rolled her eyes. “I’m not a child, Blayde.”
“Then, you also understand that such an act of indiscretion wouldn’t just hurt the family but the very business you depend on to maintain your lifestyle.” He splayed his fingers and lightly tapped the underside of his wedding band on the edge of his desk. “And mine.”
“And Julia’s senate campaign,” Fiona added. “Just tell me what you want.”
“I’d like you to stop socializing with freaks, for a start, Flicka.”
Her hackles raised further at her childhood nickname. “They’re not freaks. You’re small-minded.”
“I look at the future without sentimentality,” he corrected her. “Trasket Holdings remains heavily invested in fossil fuels and the deadline, set by the people you so passionately defend, the people who seek to destroy the human way of life, is fast approaching.”
“How charitable of you to call them people.” Fiona had little pity for her brother’s dilemma. The Global-Astral Energy Compact had been accepted by the Federated Nations twenty years before. All of their lives, Fiona and her brother had listened to their father’s ranting. He’d believed the deadline would never arrive or, at least, never be enforced. Blayde had never doubted their father’s word; now, as the year 2060 drew to a close, time had run out. The pact that had saved the Earth from the human race—and the human race from itself—would be law.
“You’re going to be ruined, you know,” she went on, taunting him. “You had so much time—”
Blayde stood so quickly, Fiona jumped back. Her brother had never committed violence toward her, but he looked like a man capable of murder now. “Five years! It’s been five years since the bastard died. And do you think he’d done anything to prepare the company for the changes to come?”
“No. I think he planned to live forever and challenge the compact again.” Though her tone was sarcastic, she had no doubt that her father had planned to do just that. He’d talked about another run for senate even after the doctors had given him less than a year.
“I wish he had. But he didn’t. And now, we stand on the precipice of failure. Poverty. Ruination—”
“Calm down.” Fiona rolled her eyes at her brother’s dramatics. He did like to perform, as their father had. “There are hundreds of clean energy sources now. It was your idea to cling to the past. You’ll take a hit, getting into the game this late, but all isn’t lost.”
“I had no idea you were so skilled at running a company.” Blayde’s eyes narrowed. “The point is to not take a hit at all. We have a new investor. And with him came some information we can act upon. It concerns the Chiron Corporation.”
“Of course it does.” It wasn’t enough that a rival company had overtaken Trasket Holdings. That it had been a centaur’s business that had overtaken them, that’s what stung her brother. Blayde’s hatred of the astrals in general had narrowed in focus to the CEO of the Chiron Corporation in particular.
Fiona had grown tired of her brother’s theatrics. “Just tell me what you want.”
“You’re the least publicly visible member of our family. You’ve never met the bastard. And I’m sure one of your ridiculous fae friends can disguise you where it counts.”
“If you’re suggesting I seduce him—”
“Oh, no, no. Never. Ask you to sully your pure, virginal image?” Blayde chuckled at that. “A position has opened in Chiron’s executive branch. An internship working for the man himself.”
The laugh she let out startled her brother. It was so satisfying. “Let me go back to college, then. I’m sure the position will still be open when I re-graduate and have the connections necessary to secure a not-at-all competitive internship.”
Blayde regained his composure too quickly. “You’ve already secured it.”
Fiona hesitated, her footing suddenly unsure. “What do you mean?”
“Well, Flicka Starr, a lovely young woman who recently graduated from Vassar with a B.A. in Earth Science and Sustainable Technologies, has secured the internship.” Blayde punched another button on his desk console, bringing up a holomessage between them. With a flick of his wrist, the image turned so Fiona could read it. The Chiron Corporation logo, a stylized centaur brandishing a bow and arrow, twisted and shimmered in the upper right corner.
“Flicka?” she snarled. “Really?”
“Don’t pout. You loved horses,” he snickered. “Which will serve you well in your new position.”
Fiona shook her head. “I’m not doing this. It’s not just ridiculous but unethical in the extreme and illegal. You might be willing to sell your soul for this company, but I’m not!”
“Then I’m afraid I’ll have to hand this video over to the tabloids,” Blayde said with a deep sigh of feigned disappointment.
He brought up the video again, and a lump formed in Fiona’s throat. Larkin.
It wasn’t the pixie’s fault that she’d been at that club. She’d developed a human tendency toward addiction. The sickness had infected the previously impervious species when they had only been trying to help their struggling neighbors on the mortal plane. Somehow, integrating into human society had caused the pixies to take on human traits, not all of them good.
And now, because of the machinations of a man she’d never met, Larkin stood to lose the career and life she’d built for herself on the mortal plane.
Fiona couldn’t let that happen. “What, exactly, do you expect me to do?”
Knowing he had won, Blayde didn’t gloat. “Chiron Corporation is developing some type of new fuel for ocean-going cargo ships. If we can get the jump on him, we might be able to save the company and secure the family legacy.”
“So, I’m a spy.” After years of trying to avoid any entanglement with her family’s shady, grasping corporate schemes, they’d finally gotten her.
“Exactly.” Blayde spread his hands as if to ask why she had a problem with that. “It’s terribly easy. You simply show up, insinuate yourself into as many important meetings as you can, take note of who is coming and going from the office, and report that information back to me.”
It wasn’t the ease or simplicity of the task that concerned her. “And if I’m caught? And charged?”
“Trasket Holdings has a legal defense fund, of course.” Those words were carefully chosen; her brother hadn’t assured her that the legal defense money would be available to her. His concern would always be to protect the company first.
Do it for Larkin. The pixie’s reputation hung by a thread and she didn’t even know it. Fiona could either cut the fragile strand or reinforce it. She took a deep breath. “I want that footage destroyed. And I want proof that it’s gone.”
“You have my word,” Blayde promised. “After I get what I need from you.”
Fiona nodded and rose with a bitter smile. “That’s what family is for, after all. Getting what you need and damn the consequences.”
He smirked and shrugged, and Fiona turned for the door. She’d made it only a few steps before her brother spoke again.
“And Fiona? Don’t discount your seduction notion. I wouldn’t turn down personal information I could leverage against him. I might even owe you a favor in return.”
Her spine straightened further, a steel rod down her back. She lifted her chin and marched out of his office, into the prison of her new double life.