BILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY IGNITES INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT WITH HIS MANIFESTO ON WOMEN
Jared Stone: Visionary, rebel, the tech world's golden boy and now the most hated man on the planet!
Bailey St. James: Survivor, powerful female executive, the only woman who refuses to bow down to Jared Stone and the only woman who can save him?
When Jared's manifesto makes him public enemy #1 the only way out is to make Bailey an offer she can't refusea very public promotion to VP! Now, with a major deal on the line and tensions rising, can it be long before Jared and Bailey move from spreadsheets to bed sheets?
About the Author
Award-winning author JENNIFER HAYWARD emerged on the publishing scene as the winner of Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write global writing contest. The recpient of Romantic Times Magazine's Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Harlequin Presents of 2014 Jennifer's careers in journalism and PR, including years of working alongside powerful, charismatic CEOs and traveling the world, have provided perfect fodder for the fast-paced, sexy stories she likes to write.
Read an Excerpt
The day that Jared Stone's manifesto sparked an incident of international female outrage happened to be, unfortunately for Stone, a slow news day. By 5:00 a.m. on Thursday, when the sexy Silicon Valley billionaire was reputed to be running the trails of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, as he did every morning in his connected-free beginning to the day, his manifesto was dinner conversation in Moscow. In London, as chicly dressed female office workers escaped brick and steel buildings to chase down lunch, his outrageous state of the union on twenty-first-century women was on the tip of every tongue, spoken in hushed, disbelieving tones on elevator trips down to ground level.
And in America, where the outrage was about to hit hardest, women who had spent their entire careers seeking out the C-suite only to find themselves blocked by a glass ceiling that seemed impossible to penetrate stared in disbelief at their smartphones. Maybe it was a joke, some said. Someone must have hacked into Stone's email, said others. Doesn't surprise me at all, interjected a final contingent, many of whom had dated Stone in an elusive quest to pin down the world's most sought-after bachelor. He's a cold bastard. I'm only surprised his true stripes didn't appear sooner.
At her desk at 7:00 a.m. at the Stone Industries building in San Jose, Bailey St. John was oblivious to the firestorm her boss was creating. Intent on hacking her way through her own glass ceiling and armed with a steaming Americano with which to do so, she slid into her chair with as much grace as her pencil skirt would allow, harnessed a morning dose of optimism that today would be different, and flicked on her PC.
She stared sleepily at the screen as her computer booted up. Took a sip of the strong, acrid brew that inevitably kicked her brain into working order as she clicked on her mail program. Her girlfriend Aria's email, titled "OMG," made her lift a recently plucked and perfected brow.
She clicked it open. The hot sip of coffee she'd just taken lodged somewhere in her windpipe. Billionaire Playboy Ignites International Incident With His Manifesto on Women, blared the headline of the variety news site everyone in Silicon Valley frequented. Leaked Tongue-in-Cheek Manifesto to His Fellow Mates Makes Stone's Views on Women in the Boardroom and Bedroom Blatantly Clear.
Bailey put down her coffee with a jerky movement and clicked through to the manifesto that had already generated two million views. The Truth About Women, which apparently had never been meant for anyone other than Jared Stone's inner circle, was now the salacious entertainment of the entire male population. As she started reading what was unmistakably her boss's bold, eloquent tone, she nearly fell off her chair.
Having dated and worked with a cross-section of women from around the globe, and having reached the age where I feel I can make a definitive opinion on the subject matter, I have come to a conclusion. Women lie.
They say they want to be equals in the boardroom, when in reality nothing has changed over the past fifty years. Despite all their pleas to the contrary, despite their outrage at the limits the "so-called" glass ceiling puts on them, they don't really want to be hammering out a deal, and they don't want to be orchestrating a merger. They want to be home in the house we provide, living the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed. They want a man who will take care of them, who gives them a hot night between the sheets and diamond jewelry at appropriate intervals. Who will prevent them from drifting aimlessly through life without a compass
Drifting aimlessly through life without a compass? Bailey's cheeks flamed. If there was any way in which her life couldn't be described, it was that. She'd spent the last twelve years putting as much mileage between her and her depressing low-income roots as she could, doing the impossible and obtaining an MBA before working herself up the corporate ladder. First at a smaller Silicon Valley startup, then for the last three years at Jared Stone's industry darling of a consumer electronics company.
And that was where her rapid progression had stopped. As director of North American sales for Stone Industries, she'd spent the last eighteen months chasing a vice president position Stone seemed determined not to give her. She'd worked harder and more impressively than any of her male colleagues, and it was generally acknowledged the VP job should have been hers. Except Jared Stone didn't seem to think sohe'd given the job to someone else. And that hurt coming from the man she'd been dying to work forthe resident genius of Silicon Valley.
Why didn't he respect her as everyone else did?
Her blood heated to a furious level; bubbled and boiled and threatened to spill over into an expression of uncontrolled rage. Now she knew why. Because Jared Stone was a male chauvinist pig. The worst of a Silicon Valley breed.
He was horrific.
She forced a sip of the excessively strong java into her mouth before she lost it completely and slammed the cup back down on her desk. Flicked her gaze back to her computer screen and the "rules" on women Jared had also gifted the male population with.
Rule Number 1All women are crazy. And by that I mean they think in a completely foreign way from us that might as well come from another planet. You need to find the least crazy one you can live with. If you elect to settle down, which I'm not advocating, mind you.
Rule Number 2Every woman wants a ring on her finger and the white picket fence. No matter what she says. Not a bad thing for the state of the nuclear family or for you if you 're already on that trajectory. But for God's sake know what you're getting yourself into.
Rule Number 3Every woman wants a lion in the bedroom. She wants to be dominated. She wants you to be in complete control. She doesn't want you to listen to her "needs." So stop making that mistake. Be a man.
Rule Number 4Every woman starts the day with an agenda. A cause, an item to strike off her list, the inescapable conclusion of a campaign she's been running. It could be a diamond ring, more of your time, your acknowledgment that you will indeed agree to meet her mother Whatever it is, take it from me, just say yes or say goodbye. And know that saying goodbye might be a whole hell of a lot cheaper in the long run.
Bailey stopped reading for the sake of her blood pressure. Here she'd been worrying that the personality conflict she and Jared shared, which admittedly was intense, was the problem. The thing that had been holding her back. Their desire to rip each other apart every time they stepped foot in a boardroom together was legendary within the company, but that hadn't been it. Noin actual fact, he disrespected the entire female race.
She'd never even had a chance.
Three years, she fumed, scowling at her computer screen as she pulled up a blank document. Three years she'd worked for that egocentric jerk, racking up domestic sales of his wildly popular cell phones and computers For what? It had all been a complete waste of time in a career in which the clock was ticking. A CEO by thirty-five, she'd vowed. Although that vision seemed to be fading fast .
She pressed her lips together and started typing. To whom it may concern: I can no longer work in an organization with that pig at the helm. It goes against every guiding principle I've ever had. She kept going, wrote the letter without holding back, until her blood had cooled and her rage was spent. Then she did a second version she could hand in to HR.
She wasn't working for Jared Stone. For that beautiful, arrogant piece of work. Not one minute longer. No matter how brilliant he was.
Jared Stone was in a whistling kind of mood as he parked in the Stone Industries lot, collected his briefcase and made his way through the sparkling glass doors. A five-mile run through the park, a long hot shower, a power shake and a relatively smooth commute could do that for a man.
He hummed a bad version of a song he'd just heard on the radio as he strode toward the bank of elevators that ran up the center of the elegant, architecturally brilliant building. When life was this good, when he was on top of his game, about to land the contract that would silence all his critics, cement his control of his company, he felt impermeable, impenetrable, unbeatable, as if he could leap tall buildings in a single bound, solve all the world's problems, bring about world peace even, if given the material to work with.
A gilded ray of brilliance for all to follow.
He stuck his hand between the closing elevator doors and gained himself admittance on a half-filled car. Greeted the half dozen employees inside with the megawatt smile the press loved to capture and made a mental note of who was putting in the extra effort coming in early. Gerald from finance flashed him a swaggering grin as if they shared an inside joke. Jennifer Thomas, PA to one of the vice presidents, who was normally a sucker for his charm, did a double take at his friendly "good morning" and muttered something unintelligible back. The woman from legal, what was her name, turned her back on him.
The weird vibe only got worse as the doors opened on the executive floors and he made his way through the still-quiet space to his office. Another PA gave him the oddest look. He looked down. Did he have power shake on the front of his shirt? Toothpaste on his face?
Power shake stains ruled out, he frowned at his fifty-something PA, Mary, as she handed him his messages. "What is wrong with everyone today? The sun is shining, sales are up."
Mary blinked. "You haven't been online, have you?"
"You know my theory on that," he returned patiently. "I spend the first couple hours of my day finding my center. Seven-thirty is soon enough to discover what craziness has befallen the world."
"Right," she muttered. "Well, you might want to leave your Buddhist sojourn by the wayside and plug in quickly before Sam Walters arrives. He'll be here at eleven."
Jared brought his brows together at the mention of the chairman of the Stone Industries board. "I have nothing scheduled with him."
"You do now," she said. "JaredI" She set down her pen and gave him a direct look. "Your document, your manifesto, was leaked on the internet last night."
He felt the blood drain from his face. He'd only ever written two manifestos in his life. One when he'd started Stone Industries and put down his vision for the company, and the second, the private joke he'd shared with his closest friends last night after a particularly amusing guys' night out on the town.
It had not been intended for public consumption.
From the look on Mary's face, she was not talking about the Stone Industries manifesto.
"What do you mean leaked?" he asked slowly.
She cleared her throat. "The document the whole document is all over the Net. My mother emailed it to me this morning. She asked what I was doing working for you."
The thought crossed his mind that this was all impossible because his buddies would never do that to him. Not over a joke intended for their eyes only____Had someone hacked into his email?
He looked down at the wad of messages in his hand, his chest tightening. "How bad is it?"
Her lips pursed. "It's everywhere."
Thinking he might finally have taken his penchant for stirring things up too far, he knew it for the truth when his mentor and adviser Sam Walters walked into his office three hours later, Jared's legal and PR teams behind him. The sixty-five-year-old financial genius did not look amused.
Jared waved them into chairs and attempted a preemptive strike. "Sam, this is all a huge misunderstanding. We'll put out a statement that it was a joke and it'll be gone by tomorrow."
His vice president of PR, Julie Walcott, lifted a brow. "We're at two million hits and climbing, Jared. Women are threatening to boycott our products. This is not going away."
He leaned back against his desk, the abdomen he'd worked to the breaking point this morning contracting at his appalling lack ofjudgment in ever putting those words on paper. But one thing he never did was show weakness. Particularly not now when the world wanted to eat him alive. "What do you suggest I do?" he drawled, with his usual swagger. "Beg women for their forgiveness? Get down on my knees and swear I didn't mean it?"
He gave her a disbelieving look. "It was a joke between friends. Addressing it gives it credence."
"It's now a joke between you and the entire planet," Julie said matter-of-factly. "Addressing it is the only thing that's going to save you right about now."
The sick feeling in his stomach intensified. Sam crossed his arms over his chest. "This has legal implications, Jared. Human rights implications And furthermore, as I don't need to remind you, Davide Gagnon's daughter is a charter member of a woman's organization. She will not be amused."
Jared's hands tightened around the wooden lip of his desk. He was well aware of Micheline Gagnon's board memberships. The daughter of the CEO of Europe's largest consumer electronics retailer, Maison Electroniquewith whom Stone Industries was pursuing a groundbreaking five-year deal to expand its global presencewas an active social commentator. She would not be amused. But really it had been a joke.
He let out a long breath. "Tell me what we need to do."
"We need to issue an apology," Julie said. "Position it as a private joke that was in bad taste. Say that it has nothing to do with your real view of women, which is actually one of the utmost respect."
"I do respect women," he interjected. "I just don't think they're always honest with their feelings."
Julie gave him a long look. "When's the last time you put a woman on the executive committee?"
Never. He raked a hand through his hair. "Give me a woman who belongs on it and I'll put her there."
"What about Bailey St. John?" Sam lifted his bushy brows. "You seem to be the only one who thinks she hasn't earned her spot as a VP."
Jared scowled. "Bailey St. John is a special case. She isn't ready. She thinks she was born ready, but she isn't."
"You need to make a gesture," Sam underscored, his tone taking on a steely edge. "You are on thin ice right now, Jared." In all aspects, his mentor's deeply lined face seemed to suggest. "Give her the job. Get her ready."
"It's not the right choice," Jared rejected harshly. "She still needs to mature. She's only twenty-nine, for God's sake. Making her a VP would be like setting a firecracker loose."
Sam lifted his brows again as if to remind him how sparse his support on the board was right now. As if he needed reminding that his control of the company he'd built from a tiny start-up into a world player was in jeopardy. His company.
"Give her the job, Jared." Sam gave him an even look. "Smooth out her raw edges. Do not blow ten years of hard work on your penchant for self-ignition."
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