New York, 2025
Whatever you do, don’t make an ass out of yourself. And don’t barf on the man…dear God, don’t barf on the man. Shifting in the waiting room chair, Jesse adjusted the knot on his tie. His gaze moved up the wall to the many framed magazine covers, all of Cole Pearson—the man of the decade.
Pearson came out of nowhere, taking over old or failing businesses and making their products or services the most wanted in America. He was the man with the golden touch, thirty-five and already a billionaire. Everyone wanted to be him, and everyone who wanted to make something of themselves wanted to work for him. The competition was steep, the best of the best vying for positions, but not only that, Cole Pearson did all the interviews for the executive positions himself. Choosing those he believed would best fit his vision of where he wanted to take his company.
A young blonde woman stood at the edge of the waiting room. “Mr. Pearson will see you now.”
“If you will follow me, please.” She led him to a door. Stepping aside, she motioned for him to enter.
Jesse strode in the doorway. He stopped dead in his tracks, his jaw dropping. The office was massive, art and sculptures adorning every wall and corner. “Holy shit,” he whispered.
“Not the best first impression, I will admit, but the most unique one so far, I must say.”
Jesse’s breath caught in his throat. “Mr. Pearson, I can’t tell you what an honor it is to meet you, sir. Even if I did just make an ass out of myself.” He froze. “I don’t believe I just told you I made an ass out of myself. And I just did it again.” He waved a finger toward the door. “Should I leave now, before I make more of an ass…?” He closed his eyes. “Let me start again. I would consider it an honor to have an opportunity to work for someone like you. You’ve accomplished so much. Hell, I’m almost the same age as you, and I can’t say I’ve managed to…” He backed toward the door. “Maybe it’s best I leave, before I make it any worse.”
Pearson remained with his high-backed chair facing the view. “Stay. It’s refreshing to hear some honesty, for a change. I can’t tell you how tired I am of people feeding me bullshit all day. And believe me, I can tell a bullshiter a mile away. So, tell me, Mr. Miller, what can you give me that no one else can?”
“God isn’t something I need.”
Jesse laughed, but then cleared his throat. “I’m thirty, and I feel that gives me a distinct advantage over the younger candidates.”
“I have more life experience.”
“And what have you done with that life experience? What successes can you share with me?”
Once again, Jesse adjusted the knot in his tie. “I’ve researched every business you’ve taken over. How you restructured it inside and out. How you brought in the perfect people for the positions, researched suppliers, increased output, and for a fraction of the cost. How you rewired ad campaigns to reach the public, and made them believe they had to have what you were selling, whether they needed it or not.”
“And how exactly does that help me?”
“I see how you think. I know how you work.”
“Do you?” Pearson swiveled his chair to face Jesse.Jesse stared. Instead of Cole Pearson sitting before him, it was Edward Starke