I am no philanthropist. Sure, I have millions of dollars to spare, but I’d rather spend it on my antique car collection. Does that make me sound self-centered? Greedy? Why, yes. Yes, it does.
Do I care?
Why, no. No, I don’t.
According to my father, you shouldn’t trust anyone. The second you do, they’ll stab you in the back and leave you for dead, taking everything you love. So, yeah, my dad was a pretty positive influence.
But I don’t need your pity. You can take that crap somewhere else. Give it to the orphans or something.
I might seem like a pretty heartless person, but I’m not. I have feelings too. Like when someone charges me too much for a car. That makes me feel sad. Because then I have to make sure that the seller goes out of business. And believe me, I don’t like hurting people to get what I want. Sometimes it’s just a necessity. I didn’t become the CEO of my own company by selling cookies to the neighbors. I had to break a few hearts along the way.
Sacrifices for the greater good.
“And I suppose spilling boiling hot coffee on myself is a sacrifice for the greater good?”
I growled and gestured to the camera guy to stop recording. “Noelle, I’m in the middle of making a video! Shut up!”
Noelle stomped into my office anyway, carrying a half-empty cup of coffee and sporting a huge brown splotch on her blouse. She shoved the steaming cup into my hands.
“There! Your welcome!”
She stormed out of the room.
“Women,” I muttered, placing the cup on my desk. “Why do I even keep her around? I could just fire her, get a new housekeeper, and be rid of all my problems!”
The camera guy smirked. “You keep her out of the goodness of your heart, sir.”
I stared at him. His abnormally large Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed nervously.
“Let’s keep rolling the cameras,” I said, my voice frigid. The cameraman scrambled to comply. I took a deep breath and adopted a serious expression. The camera guy gestured for me to speak.
“I am no philanthropist. Sure, I have millions of dollars to spare, but why on God’s green Earth is your Adam’s apple so large?”
The cameraman stopped recording. “Sir, are you okay?”
I smiled humorously. “Oh, yes, I’m fine. Except I’m not,” I said, picking up the cup of coffee and aggressively shoved it in the cameraman’s face. “Here have some coffee. Freshly brewed.”
The camera guy looked utterly bewildered. “Sir, I don’t-”
“Okay, you know what?” I asked, smiling wider. “You can just leave. You’re annoying anyway. Are you sure you don’t want some coffee?”
He shook his head and began gathering his things. “Sir, what about my pay?”
I stared at him in disbelief. He was going to make me pay him for the job he didn’t complete? Well, that wasn’t gonna fly. No one bosses Ace Beckett around and gets away with it.
“Excuse me?” I demanded, gesticulating wildly. “Are you seriously going to tell me what to do? In my own mansion? Do you really want to go there?”
The man shook his head vigorously, and I wondered if his head would detach from his neck and roll across the floor. I caught sight of his Adam’s apple again and felt like vomiting.
“Get out of my sight!” I roared, and he scurried out, slamming the door in his haste. “And good riddance,” I muttered, collapsing into my desk chair, utterly spent.
A knock on the door.
“Now is not the time, Noelle!”
The door opened, just like I knew it would. In walked Noelle, looking furious.
“The camera guy is leaving! Why is the camera guy leaving?”
“He was annoying, so I told him to leave,” I said nonchalantly, rifling through papers. “It wasn’t my fault. He started it.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Noelle cross her arms tightly.
“Are you serious right now?” she asked. Her voice was so sharp I almost looked at her. Almost. Instead, I just shrugged.
“I don’t get why it’s a big deal,” I said honestly, tugging at my tie. I felt like it was choking me. I ripped it off.
Noelle sighed and all of her previous anger seemed to evaporate. I decided it was okay to look at her now. So I did. And she looked terrible.
The brown stain on her shirt was smeared as if she tried to wipe it off but only made it worse. Her skirt was a wrinkly mess. Her black hair was plastered to her neck and forehead. Her eyes were bloodshot. She had been working for me for over five years, and this was by far, the worst she’d ever looked. I felt a strange emotion rise inside me. Pity. An emotion I’ve rarely felt.
I realized that I felt sorry for her.
My father had taught me to never feel sorry for another human being. Or any being for that matter. Again, this advice was backed by the philosophy that all humans would betray you when given the chance. So don’t feel sorry for them. It’s just another ploy.
I tried to push that emotion deep down inside myself. Noelle was probably making me feel sorry for her so she could get a raise.
So not happening, I thought, trying to forget my moment of weakness. Still, I had to clear my conscience somehow...
“You look terrible,” I snapped, snatching the papers off my desk and brushing past her. “Clean yourself up and put on something fancy. Meet me at Harold’s party.”
“You look amazing, darling,” I cooed, wrapping my arm around a woman at the bar. “Can I get you a drink?”
She gave me an appraising look, studying me up and down. She winked. “Sure, handsome.”
I gestured to the barman and he poured two glasses of wine. I took them and handed one to the women sitting next to me. She winked at me again as we clinked our glasses together. As she sipped, another man sat down on the stool beside her She hurriedly put her glass down and turned her back to me.
I rolled my eyes as I watched her accept a drink from the man. Clever trick.
I tapped her on the shoulder. She didn’t turn around. I tapped again. This time she whirled to face me, a furious expression on her face. She opened her mouth to speak but I beat her to it.
“Calm down, sugar,” I chuckled, propping my chin on my fist. “I was just going to ask for that drink back, ‘cuz it doesn’t look like you’re gonna finish it.”
And with that, I snatched the wine glass from in front of her and finished it off. “Thank you,” I said sweetly. The man next to her looked confused.
I slipped into the crowd of people, already bored with the party. My eyes scanned the crowd and I spotted a gorgeous woman standing in a corner by herself. She had her arms crossed, closing herself off from all conversation. But I always welcomed a challenge. I dashed to the bar and ordered two wines. I hurried over to the woman and put on my most charming smile.
“Hello, m’lady, can I offer you a-”
I almost dropped the drinks in surprise.
It was Noelle. Her appearance was much improved from before. Her hair was down and she wore a low cut dress that suited her very well. She looked… beautiful.
Oh, no. I did not just have that thought about my housekeeper. I shook my head and tried to focus.
“When you’re done ogling at me” Noelle sniped, “I have big news.”
I forced myself to look at her face. “What news?” I croaked, trying to ignore the fact that my housekeeper had magically transformed into a knockout.
“Your Great Aunt Jessica just died, and left you…” Noelle seemed to choke on her words, “left you three billion dollars.”
My eyes widened. “Holy…” I grinned. “Think of all the cars I could buy with that dough. When were you going to tell me about this?”
Noelle glared at me and ignored my question. “There’s a catch. You have to have proof of one year of community service.”
Like I said, I’m no philanthropist.