Authors: Sarah Cameron
A Hunter's Prey: The Trillionaire Shifters #1
Part 1 of 5
Copy Right 2014 Sarah Cameron
All Rights Reserved
A Hunter’s Prey (The Trillionaire Shifters #1)
Book Cover Designed by Jimmy Gibbs
Cover Image Copyright 2014, Dundanimi, used under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence
Zoe Jameson steeled herself, clutching the folders she was carrying tightly, before she entered the large boardroom. As always, her breath caught in her throat at the intimidating sight of the people she answered to.
This was her life. This was her playroom of choice, the game she always loved playing, yet somehow, it was out of her league.
In her previous ten years of experience in different companies before HUNTER Holdings, no men had unnerved her the way these did. HUNTER board meetings were a thing of legends. Every time she participated in one, she felt as though these few men were pulling the strings and the world was their puppet. So much power, condensed in one holding company. It hardly seemed fair. What was truly unreal was that she had gotten here and she wasn't even thirty-five yet. It felt as though one had to live at least 50 years until getting to this level, yet she had somehow done it.
she thought, smiling inwardly then dismissing the painful memories of her childhood that were sure to come.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” she greeted, her voice betraying no ounce of anxiety as she took her seat at the middle of the long, oval table. Her heart was racing inside her chest when she felt a certain pair of familiar blue eyes settle on her profile, but she refused to turn to her right. Instead, she assessed everyone else at the table, her greedy gaze registering every small detail, the way she'd taught herself.
Shrewd, uncompromising, thorough.
It was her mantra whenever she weakened.
Just as she'd predicted, Damian Hunter was there, watching her with all the subtlety of an elephant among ants. He said nothing while all the other men in the room greeted her back, welcoming her warmly in their midst, including Dominic Hunter, Damian's younger brother. The youngest of the Hunter brothers, in fact. Yet despite their acceptance of her, she couldn't help feeling they were out of this world and she didn't belong among them.
Patiently, they waited for three more members to arrive before it was show time.
Dominic leaned back against his chair at the left head of the table, facing the right and left rows of directors and his brother, who stood at the other end.
“Welcome, all,” he greeted, his jovial tone relaxing Zoe immensely. Her gaze connected with his for an instant before he looked at them all and smiled. “We hear you have a proposition for us. My surly brother there wants to end this quickly, but then that's no news, is it?”
All eyes traveled to Damian, who stood morosely, frowning to no one in particular. His temper was a well-known force of nature, sometimes obliterating everything in its path. He disliked pretty much everything and everyone, and no one seemed to be able to get close to him. Highly opinionated, he judged harshly and forgave as easily as one could carry a 4x4 on their shoulders. Of all Hunter brothers, the five of them, Damian was the most introverted and ill-tempered one, and that was a fact of common knowledge. Yet he was a genius, too. Highly protective of his brothers, of their legacy, and fiercely loyal. If those weren't redeeming qualities, Zoe didn't know what were. Despite his sour personality, Zoe knew for a fact that women trampled all over each other to get under his skin – or in his bed, preferably, though that may have nothing to do with his character traits, but with his blatant masculinity and his obscenely fat bank account.
, for freak's sake.'
Indeed, the Hunter brothers were the world's only trillionaires. The five of them managed a fortune as large as the next top one hundred billionaires' put together. To have such an indecent amount of money and such massive power in the hands of a few was surely off-putting, but the Hunters had proved time and again that they were highly sensible and shrewdly wise in the management of said money and power. In fact, HUNTER Holdings was the world's ideal of business and no one dared cross the HUNTER brothers. Naturally, they were the world's biggest target for hired assassins and corporate theft, but the security system they had had developed for them was virtually impenetrable, which was the reason why they had not yet died or been robbed of their wealth.
Because of their wealth and monopoly over many domains, they had an outrageous political influence, although overtly they claimed to stay out of politics. Still, Zoe knew for a fact that many of the top government officials were in direct contact with the Hunters, which begged the question of whether they were telling the truth or not.
But that was no business of hers. She was the COO of one of their wholly owned subsidiaries, MedFuture Enterprises, and that was it. Her job was to manage MedFuture's daily operations, as well as supervise the many divisions it was divided in, so what she basically did was run all operations of a company that dealt with many areas of the medical and pharmaceutical industries, including manufacturing and selling of medical equipment, drug research and production, and private health care. She was invested in MedFuture and believed in its vision. Perhaps that was the reason she had climbed the corporate ladder so fast, being the first woman in the company to be elected COO, and the first woman to ever participate in HUNTER board meetings. At the still young age of thirty-four, she considered it her greatest accomplishment yet.
'But it's still not enough,'
she thought, her mind infused with her father's words.
“Get on with it,” Damian complained, giving an odd sound that sounded suspiciously close to growling as he glowered at his brother, who seemed amused by his antics.
'People don't growl,'
Zoe thought. But her mind, the part of it that always pushed itself to transcend logic and touched the furthest realms of creativity by thinking outside the box, the one that had helped her come up with ever fresher ideas and achieve so much so early, it said, “Everything it possible.”
They were starkly different – Damian and Dominic. While both had a dominant personality and could intimidate the sharpest shark in the ocean, Dominic was all play where Damian was all gloom. And with the sunny disposition that had been drilled into her at a young age, becoming a part of her, she preferred his sour personality, appreciated its honesty, knew how to handle it. Maybe that was why he always seemed so confused in her presence.
Or so intense.
“Yes, yes. So all pleasantries aside, I'm going to let Mr. Jones tell us whatever it is we came here to hear.”
The man in question was Zoe's favorite out of all twelve members of the board. Eight of them were exterior directors, representing all HUNTER Holdings businesses, their presence required during all HUNTER Holdings board meetings, and the rest were the interior ones: the CEO, CFO, CIO and CTO of MedFuture Enterprises. And, of course, herself. The thirteenth.
Mr. Jones rose from his seat and cleared his throat, his large frame dominating her sight.
Another peculiarity of HUNTER Holdings. All exterior members of the board – and the Hunter brothers themselves – looked not a day older than forty. She knew for a fact the ever elusive Leon Hunter was fifty years of age, yet rumor had it not even he looked it. Every single one of them was in top physical condition, as well as sharks in business, which made her wonder if this was the recipe for success. There was no question: HUNTER Holdings was the ultimate model of success. Who could trump a $47 trillion holding company? And it was owned by no more than
That was it.
'Talk about a family legacy.'
“I'm going to be ultra swift about this deal. I called this meeting at Miss Jameson's request, which means she is the one speaking today. The reason she is not the one to lead this meeting is that I insisted I introduced her idea, seeing as I have been supervising her projects extensively, as agreed during our previous meetings.”
Then, looking at her intently, Jones invited her to take the word.
Forcing a genuine-looking smile on her face, Zoe rose from her chair and pulled away from the table, placing a blue folder in front of every board member, rounding the table efficiently in a couple of minutes, speaking the whole time, completely dismissing the small shiver she experienced when she passed the older Hunter brother.
“Thank you, Mr. Jones, for the introduction. As you all know, I have proposed a new direction in our medical equipment manufacturing strategy, and also in everything that concerns drugs. Today I wanted to show you the exact action plan I propose we undertake in order to achieve our goals.” Clicking on the remote control, her presentation appeared before them all, visible on all walls in the room, so everyone could see. Making circles with the laser pointer around one word she said with no little emphatic drama, “Gentlemen, I present to you, THE FUTURE.”
Nervously, but controlling her facial expressions expertly, Zoe looked around the room to read the collective reactions. For some reason, Damian's she avoided, knowing all would crumble if she looked at him, knowing her fragile heart couldn't take it at such a pivotal moment.
“Together with Professor Ikeuchi Kuro from the Robotics Institute of the Carnegie Mellon University, we came up with a plan for the new path of MedFuture, if we have your consent.” Among whispers and raised eyebrows, she explained her project slide by slide, working out all the angles of her proposal. “I've mentioned Professor Ikeuchi before. He's a Japanese genius in robotics, the best of the best at the moment. What I propose, gentlemen, is to have MedFuture's production operations nearly fully robotized. Not only that, but also the basic research operations, including conclusions, will be automated. At the moment there is a sixty percent degree of automation in our processes, and making it a ninety percent will increase our turnover exponentially, allowing us to expand at a faster rate unprecedented in the medical and pharmaceutical history.”
“Miss Jameson,” a board member said, looking at her quite mockingly, “Ninety percent? I'm sure I don't have to remind you that the human factor in research is-”
“I know, Sir,” she interrupted firmly, “but with all due respect, you have not seen and heard the greatest part yet.”
Pointing at one of the walls, she clicked on the remote control and brought up an image of a human-looking robot.
“Meet Akiko. 'Bright child,' it means in Japanese. This, gentlemen, is going to be the brain of MedFuture.”
Intrigued, Dominic rose from his seat and turned around to face the wall and study the picture in question. He was renowned for not being very static in official meetings, as though he had an itch he constantly needed to scratch. He was much like his brother Gabriel in that respect.
“Miss Jameson, you have me. Tell us more about Akiko,” he said.
Smiling self-assuredly, Zoe launched into a full description of the project and the robot that her friend, Ikeuchi, had designed. Akiko had been a secret project for the last twenty years, created during Ikeuchi's freshman year and finished only recently, surpassing everything that existed in terms of humanoid robotics and what they could do. Akiko, a gigantic, monstrous thing that resembled a girl, could make decisions and assess some of the things that only humans could. The perfect human factor for the automation of MedFuture manufacturing and research. Ikeuchi had spent years programming and training 'his girl' – as he called Akiko – to do all the things it was able to do.
After a whole hour of detailing the project, Zoe finally relaxed her vocal chords, looking at the board members expectantly and gaging their opinions. Dominic, for one, was clearly on board. Her skin tickled as though hit by mild electricity when her eyes collided with Damian's, though. The sheer blueness of his gaze momentarily froze her. His expression was unreadable, but the intensity behind it was smoldering. Weak-kneed all of a sudden, Zoe licked her lower lip and averted her eyes, knowing he was a weakness. Knowing he was out of her league. He'd always captivated her with the masculine edges of his face, his strong cheekbones and the hearty facial hair that made her nerves tingle pleasurably. He was all man and it was obvious in the hefty set of his shoulders and the brawny way in which his body was built. She knew that if he didn't always wear those damn suits she'd be thinking of him in terms of
Yet the way he always kept his suit shirt unbuttoned, letting his lavish chest hair show, allowed her to fantasize quite often – and also find herself gaping openly.