Amara's Calling: A Billionaire's Club Novel

By C. L. Donley

Romance

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104
9 mins

 

Chapter 1

Amara Riley felt the electric current of energy the very moment she opened the big double doors as she walked into work that morning. It followed her all the way upstairs to the third-floor wasteland where she worked, straight into her cubicle.

Grayson Davis, the founder, and CEO of Webster would be in the building today. 

Amara tried to consider herself immune to such useless pandering, but she was helpless in its intense wake. Davis was one of her biggest inspirations and she considered him a kindred spirit from afar. She hoped to one day meet him and blow his mind with her innumerable achievements, intelligence, and rapier wit, but first things first: she had to actually figure out what exactly she wanted to do with her life to make that happen. 

She wasn’t so deluded to think they would ever meet or even lock eyes today, despite the fact they would be in the same building. He was the kind of untouchable you would expect from a young billionaire mogul whose striking good looks would have made him a celebrity practically overnight, whether his social media site had become a global phenomenon or not. Sure he was one of those modern, hands-on types of CEOs, but she was pretty sure assistant to the assistant of the one of 50 project managers was not going to get a handshake and a “good job” pep talk today. Which is what made all the chatter on her side of the office so infuriating.


“Amy! You don’t have any mascara I could borrow, do you?” Amanda, her cubicle mate, appeared above her partition.

“None,” Amara replied.

Amara was African American and Amanda was a green-eyed, very pale redhead. Besides that, Amara didn’t really wear much makeup at work, and Amanda had never before asked to borrow any. But she sensed the true reason for the ask was coming.

“Gahd, I can’t believe I’m going to be such a mess when Grayson gets here,” Amanda murmured excitedly, anxiously preening.

“Pretty sure it’s Mr. Davis for us, and I don’t think he’ll make it to the third floor today,” Amara replied.

“Should we tell him that Amy has a huge crush on him and would probably swallow his gravy?” piped one of the guys in her cubicle farm, privately referred to as “the Dong Compound” by Amara and Amanda.

“Do it,” Amara answered flatly.

Tittering was heard on every side.

She was happy to at least be clustered with a bunch of 20 somethings who got her sense of humor and were just as clueless as to the path of their lives as she was. Fate had had the foresight to sit her alongside a group of knuckleheads that kept her laughing through the day and shaved off an hour or two of the daily grind. That and the amazing in-house cafeteria were the only things keeping Amara hanging on at Webster.

“He would probably let her,” Amanda quietly mused with a certain veiled contempt.

“He definitely would,” one of the Dong Compound giggled.
“I would!” chimed in another from the corner.

“There will be no gravy swallowing, all right, now get back to work.” Amara corrected, a bit too loud.

The way that she talked, no one would ever guess that Amara had never even had a boyfriend, let alone that the concept of “gravy” or swallowing it were both foreign to her.

“Literally no one is working right now,” Amanda offered over the snickering, “let’s go spy on him.”

“Girl, how many times do I have to explain to you, I can’t go doing the same things you do? I will get fired,” Amara sighed, exasperated.

“Come on, you’re the only other straight girl on this floor, my uterus is completely restless right now. It knows he’s here!” she faux whispered.

“Sonya said she would gladly un-gay herself for him,” Amara replied.

“Just so he could support her massive weed habit,” one of the guys added.

“What are we going to do, flash him our boobs outside the conference room?”
“Amara’s sure to win that one,” the Compound replied.

“Guarantee you he’s never seen a pair of black boobs in his life,” one named Justin chuckled.

“Pretty sure the internet is available to all Justin, and you’re a fine one to talk,” Amara said.

OooOoh,” the Compound laughingly groaned.

“Not interested,” he sent back.

“That’s racist,” she quipped. A few of the guys laughed.

“Don’t you want to see what he’s wearing?” pled Amanda.

“Good God, can you two please go cream yourselves somewhere else?” Justin moaned.

“Excuse me,” Amanda started, “Do we complain about the obsessive manner in which we have to hear about Jenny from the mailroom? Or Cameron in HR?”

“Or Shelly in Accounts Receivable?” Amara added.

“Yes,” came the unanimous reply of the Compound.

“Well, now you know how it feels,” Amanda sniped. “C’mon Amy, pleeeeease.”

She was doing that thing that every white girl that gravitated toward Amara since childhood did. Goading her into doing things outside her character, dangling promises of friendship in front of her in exchange for a fall guy. Leaning on their female solidarity so she could throw her under the bus later if need be.

This time, however, Amanda was giving her an out.

Judging by the way her life went, she would likely get fired by whatever silly shenanigans Amanda would get her wrapped up in today.

They were supposed to be two professional, career-minded ladder climbers, not giggling coeds with hard nipples trying to nab a husband Jane Austen style, or at the very least, some seriously hardcore child support for the next 18 years.
But Amanda had caught her on a particularly “fucks-free” day.

She’d been full of optimism when she was hired 9 months ago, the same week of her 25th birthday, confident that if she could just breathe the same rarefied air as Grayson Davis, she would be infused with his genius molecular energy and the drive to chip in at whatever position was available-- anything to help further the machine she so admired.

But within three months she’d learned her job inside and out, and a familiar rigor mortis began to set in.

She was stuck. Again.

Turning cranks in yet another factory from morning to evening. Another company she had little to no desire to move up in.

Whatevs, Amara thought. She’d never been fired before, and if whatever Lucy and Ethel plan they were about to hatch did the trick, no future employer would blame her. Grayson Davis was sexy, brilliant, intimidating, visionary and known to break hearts, sometimes even in person. When would she ever be in the same building as him again?

Besides, this was the longest she’d ever been able to stay at a full-time job, and she knew that her time here, in conjunction with her advanced degrees would probably earn her another similar gig in no time.

No one could land an interview like Amy Riley.

Amara on the other hand? She had less of a chance.

She always got a face to face. After that, it was touch and go. Amara was most comfortable in environments where no one else looked like her. Or rather, she was used to it. And she was used to other people not being used to her. Which made for an unpredictable job journey. The fact that Grayson Davis happened to be here while she was having this exact epiphany felt like fate.

“Let’s go,” Amara said with a resigned sigh. Amanda squealed, scrunched herself up with her fists in front of her and did a silly hop. She suddenly imagined herself in the company bathroom doing sexual favors in exchange for a glowing recommendation.

I don’t work here anymore so you can’t fire me, she’d say.

So cheap, she thought as the fantasy gave her stomach a jolt.

She no longer had the heart to imagine one day meeting him with poise and dignity. It was a pipe dream. She should have enough drive to succeed and then some, but the truth was, she just didn’t. The thought of catching his gorgeous blue eyes outside the conference room for a nanosecond was simply worth infinitesimally more than keeping this job.

“It’s been nice working with you, Amara,” one of the Compound said. His name was Ahmad, the only one that used her given name. He’d liked her a little bit, she could tell. He wasn’t her type, he surmised.

“Minority powers on!” Amara said to him one last time, bumping fists. They were one of a few people of color on the floor.

“No one’s getting fired, relax!” Amanda sneered with an eye-roll, completely self-assured.

****

Grayson Davis gazed beyond the frameless glass of the conference room, to the green expansive view of the grounds outside, his attention divided.

The department manager was saying something about synergy, and it occurred to him that his presentation was probably about an hour old.

He hated that people constantly felt the need to impress him. He knew he wasn’t giving off that air. It was more of an air of, “I am incapable of being impressed.” Yet people always tried. Which in turn caused him to come up with more and more ways of seeming impressed. The whole thing was exhausting.

It sometimes made him long for his former life, the one where he was a fat ugly geek alone in his room writing code and creating programs. Back then no one was trying to impress him-- indeed, it was quite the opposite. Yet he was fairly certain he was the same person then as he is now. Funny what looks and a multi-billion dollar company will do to others’ perspective.

He tried not to be bitter and mostly succeeded. His ambition would not have led him here without that experience, he understood. His painful adolescence had been a valuable training ground that gave him sympathy for a broad range of misfits and outcasts like himself. Ironically it gave him the passion to connect-- to create a viable social network that relied on common goals and interests rather than geographical location. And rationally, he also understood that the bullies that made his life a personal hell growing up were not the same people that were now lapping up his every word. But emotionally, he observed that there was a very deliberate before and after pattern to his life, with the money being the separating line.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. There were always a handful of people that believed in him, like Dale his childhood best friend, co-creator, and CIO. The rest of them had found his programming obsession the foreshadowing to a very sad, lonely life. Even his parents who -- God bless them-- declined the opportunity he’d had to skip whole grades, in the name of him being “well rounded.” He’d barely scraped by every year, having completely given up on scholastic pursuits and focused his energies on crafting choice insults for his schoolmates, and hacking security companies until the wee hours.

Now he was rich, hot, virile and had the world in his hands. And to be honest, it was a bit boring. All that fire in the belly, years working at Magellan with Dale-- thriving and sculpting their passion project til 3 am until it became what it is today-- was it all just so he could plateau at 34?

He did like being a leader, at least. Dale was the one to show him that he might actually be better at finding people’s strengths than he was at exploiting their weaknesses, and it made him a great CEO, which he enjoyed.

But his life was not even half over. Was there nothing else to be done?
There was one advantage to success, however. And they were walking by the conference room in pairs every… oh, 20 seconds or so.

He smiled to himself.

Ten years ago, if someone had told him this would be his biggest problem, he would’ve laughed.

So. Many. Women.

They all intrigued him. Or at least, they used to. Like all natural phenomena, he found that women had patterns and could be learned. Yet they all seemed to consider themselves very special. But then he liked that. It was cute and one of the few genuine things about them. Some were naive, some were cynical. They all wanted love, no matter how low they cheapened themselves. That they couldn’t seem to achieve the one thing they collectively wanted seemed a cruel joke to him. There were a few that didn’t want love. And they were like category five hurricanes. It took a few too many lessons, but he’d eventually learned the discipline necessary to stay away from those.

A smattering of applause dissipated the cloud of his thoughts and Dale, his right-hand man, began concluding the meeting. “Any final thoughts?”

As every department head at the small table started rattling off redundancies he caught a glimpse of a very conspicuous pair of women walking across the length of the conference room. One of them was sharply dressed to the professional nines in a charcoal business suit and 6-inch heels, her shock of red hair cut into a bob.

And the other was Amy Riley.

Whose real name was Amara, but used Amy on resumes to ensure callbacks.
He knew this because he’d called his company at random as he is sometimes wont to do, and had a pleasant conversation with one Amy Riley.

He was Travis from quality control at the time-- new of course, and had no idea what he was doing and needed help.

She was professional and helpful and clever, and knew a bit more beyond what her job required, which was a rare quality these days in a lot of 20 somethings. What she didn’t know, she’d had quick and credible solutions for. Plus she sounded sexy. Not that he would pursue an employee sexually. That would be unprofessional.

But he was curious.

He couldn’t find her name in the company’s directory and wondered if perhaps Amy was actually Riley, Amara J.

It was. He’d had to stalk her on his own social media platform to find out.
Though he was surprised to find she was African American, he was more surprised to find that she’d only been with the company 6 months at the time they’d talked. She seemed to identify as Amy only at work. The notion had made him feel guilty and then feel stupid about feeling guilty.

His company didn’t engage in racist practices.

Did it?

She seemed to be obsessed with him, however, which flattered him.

Any quote she could find, any and every SPEC Conference at which he’d been a guest speaker was on her page. She’d put a blurb about how she would one day give him the interview of his life and how the world wasn’t ready.

Humans are hopelessly social. Give them a platform and they will unwisely unleash any and all their innermost secrets. She posted fairly frequently and he wondered if she’d somehow done it in the hope he would see it. He’d thought maybe she’d be better suited as a content creator.

As the two women walked by, they sort of pretended at first to have some urgent business to attend to on the second floor-- which was impossible, but slowly that facade seemed to be dissolving in giggles. Amara was the first to crack and almost instantly turned to go back the other way, with her friend clinging to her fitted white shirt behind her, probably regretting her desire to stand out today. Adorably, about a minute later they returned, fully composed.
It gave Grayson an amusing idea.

He told himself that the idea had merit. Plus, he genuinely appreciated Amara’s enthusiasm and wanted to encourage her.

“Hey Dale, let me stop you for a minute,” Grayson broke in. “Can you get those two girls’ attention behind you?”

“Yeah, they’re from upstairs, I think? We’ll find out who their supervisor is.”
“No, it’s okay. I actually want to speak to one of them… Amy I think is her name.”

He loved doing that. He never once faltered. He was sure they thought he genuinely knew everyone’s name and what they all were doing. He felt the energy shift positively. They liked working for him.

One of the directors near the door rushed out of his seat and called out Amy’s name. Both girls turned around and Amara pointed to herself in disbelief. Cluelessly, the director tried to correct Amara, assuring her that she was not, in fact, herself, repeating her name.

Dear Lord, was this really happening?

He watched as Amy confirmed that she was indeed Amy. The redhead chimed in, “My name’s Amanda…”

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“Amara.”

Amara heard her own name through the muffled glass.

Coming out of Grayson Davis’ mouth.

Oh. My. God.




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