How to Avoid a Billionaire

By: Tressie Lockwood

Chapter One

 Melanie sucked in a breath and blew it out slowly. She shut her eyes and ran over the words she intended to say. They sounded reasonable, yet her heart pounded out of control, and the blood rush through her ears made her wonder if she’d be able to hear any excuses her boss gave in response to her argument. It doesn’t matter. I won’t let him argue! I’m in the right here.

 She opened her eyes and gathered her notes. The handwritten ones went back a few months, and the computer files would show when they were created. If Hanson wouldn’t accept all of this, she intended to go to their client, Michael Johnson, CEO and chief shareholder of Johnson Limited. At that thought, her stomach flip-flopped, and she had to fan herself not to pass out. Let him hear me, please!

 “You really going in there, Mel?” her friend and coworker Shana asked, an expression of disbelief on her face. “You don’t like confrontation.”

 Melanie moaned. “I know, but I have to do it. This ad was my idea, my design. I’m getting credit if it kills me. I mean it.”

 “Whoa, easy there, partner. I’m on your side.” Shana laughed. “Okay, go get him, but let me know how it goes. I’ve got a date.”

 Melanie forgot her issues for the moment. “You know it’s midmorning, right?”

 Shana stood from Melanie’s visitor’s chair in her cubicle. “Yes, but love won’t wait.”

 “Love, Shana? When have you ever been in love?”

 “Right now,” her friend declared. “With a set of rock hard abs. Makes me hungry just thinking about them. I’ll tell you how it went when I get back.”

 Melanie shook her head. “I already know how it will go. One day you will be caught, you nut, but don’t let me stop you. Get some for me too.”

 “You got it.”

 After Shana left, Melanie remained where she sat, fiddling with the stress ball she’d gotten at the last conference. The words Johnson Limited had already worn off the tiny stress ball from her constant manipulation. She took another deep breath and stood. Better now than later.

 Her firm knock at Hanson’s door received a command to enter, and she paused upon seeing her supervisor on the phone. He waved her inside, and Melanie stepped in and shut the door behind her. She began to wonder if this was the best time when Hanson paled and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to mop his brow.

 “Well, yes, sir, Neyland Industries is—” Hanson stopped speaking, and if possible, paled even more. “Of course. I agree.”

 Melanie grabbed a seat and shuffled the papers in her hand. She checked her pocket for the millionth time to see if the flash drive still sat inside. At last Hanson hung up the phone and sat in silence, his gaze cast low.

 “Is everything okay, Hanson?”

 He glanced in her direction but his gaze remained unfocused. Melanie firmed her back. Whatever his problem, she couldn’t let it put off her confrontation. If she did, she might not come back in here. She handed the pages to him, and he took them with nerveless fingers. After topping the stack with the flash drive, she began her rehearsed speech.

 “Hanson, those are my notes starting three months ago. I had an idea I thought would work for Johnson to build up their standing in the marketplace while indirectly exposing Neyland for the tyrant it is in stomping on the little guy. This drive has more files, and you’ll be able to see when I created them.”

 Hanson snapped out of his reverie, and she thought she saw a gleam in his eyes that didn’t bode well. “You’re saying the current campaign was your idea and you want credit for it?”

 “I…” She firmed her shoulders. “Yes, but you put your name on it. Just look at the information I have there. It will prove what I’m saying is true.”

 His lips tightened, and his brows crashed low above his eyes. Her stomach knotted, making the bagel she’d consumed earlier want to come back up. His expression cleared, and he even smiled. “Okay, you got it. You get full credit, Melanie.”

 She gaped, never expecting it to go this well. “Really?”

 “Really. It was your idea, right?”


 “Then your name will be given as the designer. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few deadlines.”

 “Of course.” She stood, confused and unsure how to proceed. Hanson held out the pages and flash drive to her. She frowned. “Don’t you need those?”

 “Why? The damage…I mean the campaign is live. All I need to do is pass your name up the ladder. It might be your big break in this competitive business. I know the work you do as an ad exec can at times be unrewarding, and that might be about to change.”

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