Burn Me Once - Page 72

Boardroom Sins

by J. Margot Critch

CHAPTER ONE

BRETT COLLINS WAS BORED.

He looked past his circle of friends as they talked among themselves, barely hearing what they were discussing, and he scanned the large room. He’d grown up in rooms like this, attending parties like this. As the only son of one of the most influential businessmen in Las Vegas, he’d gotten to know all the players at a young age. But as he sipped his glass of soda water, he almost sighed out loud. The same faces, the same discussions, the same deals.

He was restless. He wanted—needed—a challenge. Something new.

Collins/Fischer—the real estate development company he’d started with his friend Alex, the linchpin of their other operations—had seen great success in the past years, and they’d maintained a comfortable spot near the top. But he wanted more. He wanted to be number one. And as he looked across the room for inspiration, a sign of what would be next for him, he found nothing.

Inherently, Brett hated schmoozing parties, preferring instead to meet with people in a less manufactured setting. But they did serve their purpose: talking to people, finding out the local gossip—who had been fired, who had been hired, who’d signed what deals, who was under indictment, who was sleeping with whom. And that was why he and The Brotherhood—his closest friends and business partners since college—had gone to Mayor Thompson’s party. To look for their next opportunity to strike, to make another splash on the local scene. At only thirty, they’d all done quite well for themselves, and while many in the room hated and feared them, were jealous of and intimidated by the business acumen of the group, they all still wanted a piece of them. Everyone in the room would benefit from a close relationship with the members of The Brotherhood.

There was Alex, his business partner in real estate; Gabe, one of the top lawyers in the city; Rafael, a Las Vegas city councillor; and Alana, the only woman in their circle, who was a talented interior designer, but she’d become the manager of the group’s restaurants and exclusive club. Together they made up The Brotherhood—and together they planned to use their expertise and influence to run the city.

Needless to say, they weren’t at the party for social purposes. They’d secured for themselves a quiet corner of the room, near the bar, to establish their game plan for the evening. Whom they each needed to talk to, what they hoped to accomplish and just when the hell they could get out of there. But Brett couldn’t manage to focus his tired mind. He’d had a rough couple of weeks, workwise, and it was all thanks to Rebecca Daniels, the devastatingly sexy CEO of Daniels International, a rival real estate development firm. She was a major threat currently, but he and Rebecca also had a fiery past.

Brett turned back to his friends and took another drink from his glass. The soda water, infused with lime and basil, was refreshing but didn’t improve his mood. His friends were listing the important people they wanted to approach and make connections with, but Brett could find no one in attendance whom he was interested in seeing. He couldn’t deal with another stuffed shirt or old cohort of his father’s coming up to him and asking about the elder Collins, instead of expressing interest in Brett’s endeavors. Brett loved and respected his father, but even in his years of running his own successful empire, he’d found it difficult to blaze his own trail in the shadow of Garrett Collins, one of the city’s most influential men.

“Did you see that the Heinrich brothers are here tonight?” Alana asked the group, gesturing to two men in the center of the room. “I might have to go introduce myself. They’re visiting from Sweden, looking to open a new hotel on the Strip, and I heard they may be looking for a design collaborator,” she said, turning on her most seductive smile, sauntering away and raising her hand in greeting.

“And Mayor Thompson is finally free,” Rafael said. “I’d better go put in an appearance, seeing as I’m trying to secure his endorsement before I announce I’m running for mayor.” He stepped away, as well.

Alex leaned in. “Brett, the guy from Permits is here and we need to talk to him. See if we can’t grease the wheels and get the paperwork quickly approved for the new subdivision.”

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