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"I heard through the grapevine that Ian Lawrence is in desperate need of a good labor attorney," Elliott Greenberg, senior partner at Greenberg, Hanson, Waggoner and Associates said during the Monday morning staff meeting. "A former executive has lodged an unprecedented ten-million-dollar lawsuit against him for racial discrimination including lost wages and pain and suffering. His current corporate counsel couldn't get the case settled, so he's looking for a new labor firm."
Ian Lawrence was a wealthy entrepreneur with a multimedia empire that included holdings in publishing, radio and television. His father, Myles Lawrence, was rich and since his death eight years ago, Ian had more than tripled his father's wealth by taking the company public.
"Who's he hired?" Sage inquired.
"Lawrence has scheduled meetings with several high-profile law firms over the next few days, but we're not on the list."
"What do you suggest we do?" partner Dale Hanson replied.
"Someone has to pitch our firm," Elliott returned. "Today."
"Yes, but without an appointment?" Dale asked. "We're a long-shot. If we come in with guns blazing, we'll be shot down."
"In business, Lawrence has always been in favor of the underdog," Peter Waggoner spoke up. "If only to prove everyone wrong when he turns it into a success. We might be a viable alternative, but the right person has to approach him."
"I can do it!" Sage Anderson volunteered from across the table.
Several curious sets of eyes landed on her, a thirty-one-year-old labor associate who'd been with the firm for six years. Her closest friend, Marissa Rodriguez, a family law associate, pinched her arm, but Sage shook her off. She'd already won her last five cases and this could be her big break.
"Sage? You want to pitch our firm to Ian Lawrence?" Peter asked.
"Yes, I do. If he's for the underdog as you say—" Sage focused her large almond-shaped eyes on the three gentlemen "—then you can send me, little ol' David, against the big corporate Goliaths."
It wasn't as if she couldn't handle Ian Lawrence. She'd been through worse—growing up at an orphanage with her three longtime friends and family: Quentin Davis, Malik Williams and Dante Moore. When she was eight years old she'd been taken away from her mother, Karen, a known drug addict. Sage had learned at an early age how to deal with men.
Peter rubbed his chin. Sage Anderson was a real spitfire. She was their best labor attorney and annihilated her opponents in the courtroom. Also, the petite woman was a looker and Ian Lawrence was known to be a ladies' man. Her pixie-cut hairdo, beautiful face and figure were sure to attract him. "Do you really think you can convince Lawrence that Greenberg, Hanson, Waggoner and Associates is the law firm for him?"
Sage nodded. "Yes, I can."
"All right, Anderson. You're on, but you'll have your hands full. One of Lawrence's top executives is suing because of racial slurs and because he was demoted when sent to a lesser office and his job given to his Caucasian counterpart."
"Let's hope you can give him that extra push." Elliott slid a piece of paper Sage's way. "He's staying at the Four Seasons."
"But we'll need to prep you first," Peter Waggoner replied, glancing across the table at Sage. "So meeting is adjourned." Once everyone had exited, Elliott and Peter proceeded to prep Sage for the next twenty minutes for her meeting with Ian Lawrence.
"Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Greenberg," Sage replied, when they had wrapped up the session. She shook his hand. As they walked to the door, Elliott stopped and turned to Sage. "You know you have a lot riding on this."
"I know." Boy, did she. Now she just had to convince Ian Lawrence that she was the best lawyer for the job.
Sage returned to her office to mull over the presentation she was about to make. She was jotting down some notes when Marissa knocked on her door.
Marissa was similar to Sage in that she downplayed her voluptuous Latina features by dressing conservatively in a two-piece pants suit. Unfortunately, she couldn't hide that she was a knockout despite the fact that her long, black hair was rolled in a French roll and her face displayed minimal makeup.
Sage motioned her forward. "Come on in."
"I can't believe they are going to let you pitch to Ian Lawrence without a senior partner present." She and Marissa were both associates and on the partner track.
"Isn't it crazy?" Sage's eyes grew wide with excitement.
"I'm floored." Marissa shook her head in disbelief as she sat down in the chair opposite Sage. "It's unheard-of for an associate to pitch services to a major client."
"I think they are hoping my modest approach works. You know, less is more," Sage replied. "Every other law firm is going to come at Lawrence and show him how big they are. I will pitch to Mr. Lawrence that not only are we a well-respected midsize firm, but he'll get the personal, one-on-one attention that would be missing with all the other firms. The thing is, I have to pitch today. Apparently, he has meetings tomorrow, so I have to talk my way into seeing him."
"Can you do that so quickly?"
"Yes," Sage stated emphatically. She was used to getting the outcome she wanted in the courtroom; Ian Lawrence would be no different.
"The presidential suite at the Four Seasons is ready for you," Jeffrey Smith told his boss, Ian Lawrence, on the ride from the airport to the hotel as he turned off his BlackBerry. As Ian's right-hand business advisor and longtime friend, Jeffrey handled all of his travel arrangements. "Unfortunately, it's not the penthouse, but it has a view of the city and Central Park. Staying at the hotel will give the contractor more time to finish your renovations."
Ian sighed. "I suppose that will have to do." He should have never listened to his ex-girlfriend Lisa Randall and renovated his home.
Jeffrey wasn't fazed by Ian's tone; he was used to his mood swings. "I've scheduled interviews with several prestigious Manhattan law firms that have the finest labor attorneys out there. We'll get this case handled."
"I don't want it handled," Ian replied tersely. "I want it squashed." He'd been served with lawsuit papers in the middle of an important business lunch about acquiring several radio stations in the Midwest. Ian had been utterly embarrassed. "How dare Lucas say he didn't get that promotion because he's not white? I sent him to L.A. a year ago because that's where I needed him. As a black man, I would never discriminate against my own race. Lawrence Enterprises has one of the highest percentages of African-Americans in high-profile positions in the country. Anyone who knows me knows that Lucas's accusation is completely ludicrous."
"And we'll disprove it or settle if we have to."
"After everything my father did for him, there's no way I'm going to give that man one red cent of my money. I will not settle." Ian folded his arms across his chest.
Jeffrey glanced at his best friend. Why did Ian have to be so stubborn? "Do you really want to have this case tried out in the media and in the court of public opinion? Because trust me, that's what it's going to come to."
"Of course not." Ian turned sharply and glared at Jeffrey. "But I won't have Lucas run roughshod over me. I would not have gotten where I am today if I let someone get away with that."
When he'd taken over as CEO of Lawrence Enterprises when his father had passed away eight years ago, the board had been wary of him. He was a thirty-year-old upstart. They'd all thought they understood what the vision of the company should be better than he, but Ian had other plans. He'd shown each and every one of them that he was a force to be reckoned with.
"So this is about your ego? Instead of what's right for the company?" Jeffrey inquired. "You know some members of the board would love for you to falter, especially Bruce Hoffman. He didn't take it too kindly when you squashed the television station acquisition deal that he'd worked on for months."
Ian couldn't care less about Bruce Hoffman. Bruce was behind the racist remarks that fueled Lucas's lawsuit, but Ian had a feeling it went much deeper. Was this Lucas's payback for what he perceived happened with Gia Smith all those years ago? He'd thought they'd put it behind them, but maybe he was wrong.
When the limo stopped, Ian quickly exited the vehicle. He didn't wait for Jeffrey; instead, he walked through the door held open by one of the doormen and headed for the elevators.
Jeffrey smiled as he entered the lobby and took care of the details with the hotel clerk. He had offended Ian, but he'd get over it. He was probably the only person Ian allowed to give it to him straight. That bluntness was why Ian respected him and why their twenty-year friendship had endured Ian's father's death and Jeffrey's failed marriage.
When Jeffrey obtained the key cards from the clerk, he joined Ian by the elevators. At six feet three, Ian was taller than Jeffrey's six feet, but Jeffrey was not intimidated. The elevator swished open seconds later and the two men entered the cab.
"It's not about my ego," Ian answered once the doors shut.
"No," Ian stated firmly and turned his dark eyes on Jeffrey. "Settling with that bastard will make me appear guilty, which I'm not."
"Settling might save the company money in the long run and not tarnish your image."
"Like it isn't already tarnished." Ian chuckled to himself. He read the tabloids and knew he was viewed as a jet-setting playboy with a huge conglomerate as his toy. He had money. Cars. Clothes. And of course, women. Lots of women.
His name had been linked with several models and starlets and, sure, they'd amused him for the short time he'd spent in their company, but none had held his interest for long. Women couldn't be trusted. He'd learned that for himself when his own mother ran away with her lover and left her eight-year-old son to be raised by nannies. Fate, however, had not been on her side and she and her lover had been killed in a car crash in Rome the following year.
"True," Jeffrey agreed. "And you play into it every time."
"I do not," Ian said as they exited the elevator. "Matter of fact, I'm done with women." His last dalliance had severely soured him against the opposite sex. Lisa Randall, a leggy model, had started hearing wedding bells after casually dating for six months. When he'd told her it wasn't going to happen, she'd kicked him to the curb and high-tailed it on a plane to Paris.
"Sure you are." Jeffrey opened the doors to the presidential suite.
"I am," Ian replied, storming through them. "All I want to do now is relax and take a hot shower." He flopped down on the sofa, unbuttoned his suit jacket and loosened his tie. "Can you schedule a massage for me?"
"No problem," Jeffrey replied. "I'm going to my room to attend to a few details for tomorrow's meetings."
"You know there is more than enough room in this suite for you," Ian replied. The two-bedroom suite had separate marble bathrooms as well as a living room, butler's pantry and its own private terrace.
"Yes, but I like my privacy." Although he and Ian got along tremendously, they spent a great deal of time in each other's company.
"Carry on, then." Ian waved him off and closed his eyes. Kicking off his shoes, he took a short nap. After the early morning flight from LAX, he was exhausted. He awoke nearly an hour later and retired to the bathroom for a much-needed hot shower.
In the lobby of the Four Seasons, Sage looked over her notes as she sat on the plush leather sofa. Mr. Waggoner and Mr. Greenberg had given her some suggestions on what to say and she'd brought the representation agreement. Now she just had to convince Ian Lawrence to sign it.
Sage sighed. She'd volunteered because she was the best labor attorney in the firm and they knew it. She'd won all of her last five cases and had a solid record, but was that enough against the corporate mammoths? She would find out. Closing her briefcase, Sage rose and headed for the elevator, but stopped mid-step for a pit stop to the restroom for a final check of her appearance. Once inside, she set her briefcase on the floor and reached for the compact inside her purse.
Today was a good day. While waiting in the lobby, she'd overheard the concierge making dinner arrangements for Ian and discovered he was staying in the presidential suite.
Sage glanced at her reflection in the mirror and was pleased with what she saw. She looked professional in her pinstriped suit, white V-neck collar shirt and peep-toe black pumps. Her short hairdo was stylishly cut and after a little powder to her nose and a glide of lipstick to refresh her lips, she was all set. She looked like a competent lawyer and one well worthy to take on the dashing media mogul.
She exited the restroom and caught the private elevator just as the doors closed.
"Ma'am, this elevator is reserved for special guests," the occupant said.
"I know," Sage returned smoothly. "I am Mr. Lawrence's attorney."
The Asian woman smiled back at her. "I am his masseuse."
Ian Lawrence was stressed, was he? Well, Sage had the cure for what ailed him. When the private elevator stopped on the fifty-first floor, Sage headed to suite 5101 while the masseuse went to suite 5102. Clearly, the woman had been given the wrong room number, but Sage wasn't going to mention it. She needed the extra time to get her foot in the door.
She found the door slightly ajar when she arrived. Sage knocked several times and when no one answered, she cautiously entered. "Hello?" she called out again. Her footsteps echoed on the immaculate marble floor. As she glanced around, Sage couldn't help but be impressed with the living room decor. The yellow and gold overtones and pearlized metallic cabinets gave it a sumptuous feel. Oil paintings and a plasma television adorned the walls, but the true feature was the baby grand piano. Was this how the rich and famous lived?
She was admiring the spectacular view of Central Park from the floor-to-ceiling window when she felt someone's presence behind her. She spun around on her heel and found Ian Lawrence standing in the buff drying himself off with a towel which barely covered that intimate part of him. Sage couldn't help but stare and take in every chiseled inch of his six-foot-three frame from his smooth peanut butter complexion to his sensuously full lips and goatee to his well-toned abs and muscular thighs.