Deleted Chapter #2

Original Chapter Two of Little White Lies

Little White Lies by R.C. MatthewsThis chapter introduced the hero and provided background on why the board of directors demanded that Royce take a vacation!

“You can’t be serious!”

Annoyance and disbelief radiated from Royce Spencer as he leaned over the conference room table, struggling to digest the board of directors’ request that he go on a cruise. At 6’2” with black wavy hair, dark green eyes and a well-built frame, he was a formidable opponent. He considered himself to be on the same team as his board of directors, but today was an exception. He braced his hands along the edge of the mahogany table and glared into the eyes surrounding the table.

Royce prided himself on his ability to maintain control. Always. He valued, even sought the advice and guidance that the board members offered. But this meeting bordered on the ridiculous. He rarely raised his voice. Yet some situations merit a little forcefulness and this qualified as one of them.

“Need I remind you that I’m the President and Chief Executive Officer of this company?” he said, tapping his right index finger hard against the table. “I can bloody well decide for myself when I need a vacation. And when I do, it won’t be a cruise. Board meetings are held for the express purpose of deliberating the company’s business issues, not my personal life!”

The room was silent. He had made an excellent point. Yet every member met Royce’s glare head on; each one of them as strong willed and as opinionated as him. It was what he valued most about the group. It made him want to curse just now. He knew this group well enough to know they wouldn’t drop the issue until they said their peace. The wind died in his sails. Royce sat down in the wide leather chair at the head of the conference table.

He leaned his head against the back of the chair, and then bracing his fingertips against one another he placed them on his pursed lips. He stared down his nose at the group. “So which of you came up with this idea? In what way does this relate to company business? And how did they convince you, Mrs. Cooper, to present it?”

Megan Cooper was the only female member of the board. Royce held a tremendous amount of respect for Megan but called her Mrs. Cooper – an old habit from the days when he was a teenager and she would come for visits at the house to discuss business with his father. Mrs. Cooper founded the renowned advertising agency, Cooper Middleton, which developed the logo “Discovering the Future” for Royce’s family business, Innovare Incorporated. Royce was angry that the group selected Mrs. Cooper to deliver their message but he was also impressed because he admitted to himself that she held the most power to convince him in personal matters. And this felt very personal!

Mrs. Cooper sat up straight in her chair and responded with a voice of authority – not much different than that of a parent scolding her child. “I assure you Royce that our request is vital to the continued success of this business. This board has watched you run yourself into the ground over the past five years since your father’s death.”

Royce winced but still didn’t understand what all of this had to do with business.

“In that time you’ve overseen three mergers & acquisitions as well as two potentially ground breaking drugs through various stages of clinical trial.”

Royce shrugged his shoulders – still waiting for an answer to his question.

Mrs. Cooper’s voice rose, “You haven’t taken a day off in over five years and you won’t take time off when you’re sick.”

Royce lifted his eyebrow as if to say – and your point is?

“You look like hell!” she exclaimed. “And you’re starting to act like a real ASS.”

That comment produced a smirk on Royce’s face.

“This is not a laughing matter, Royce”, she continued in a stern tone. “If we have experienced your short temper in the very limited time we spend together, then the members of the board must assume that the customers, employees and suppliers of this company have too. If you can’t keep it together for a few hours with us, how are you keeping it together day in and day out?” she asked.

That comment had Royce sitting up at attention. He was fully engaged now as Mrs. Cooper brought home her point.

“You’re about to venture into a new and extraordinary journey – taking a company public is not a simple task. As you already reminded us earlier in your outburst, you are the President and CEO of this company! It is foolish to jeopardize the excellent work that you’ve done in the past five years because you refuse to recognize the need to take some time off and re-energize! You have to be in top form to bring your latest prescription drug to market while simultaneously taking the company public. If you take just a moment to reflect on what I’ve said, then you’ll know that the board is right!” she exclaimed. Mrs. Cooper leaned back in her chair, folding her hands in her lap. She looked quite satisfied with herself, returning his stare with her own delicately lifted brow.

Royce opened his mouth to respond. But nothing came to mind. He sat there for a moment dumbfounded, contemplating what she said. Damn it all, she had a point! He had been feeling tense for the past, well…at least six months. Her message began to sink in. Royce shifted in his seat. He held the board members in the highest regard. He respected their viewpoint. If they felt the effects of his mood, then Mrs. Cooper probably hit the nail on the head. Was it possible that they were right? He couldn’t risk the business suffering as a result of his exhaustion. Taking the company public had been his father’s life-long dream; a dream that he hadn’t been able to see to fruition before his unexpected death.

Reaching for his glass of water, Royce took a sip trying to collect his thoughts. The fact that he already felt resigned to the suggestion for a vacation was testament to his real need to take one.

“Why a cruise?” he asked.

A sly smile appeared on Mrs. Cooper’s face and her response made it clear that she knew him well. “You’ll be in the middle of the ocean with extremely limited access to email, telephone or airports.”

His chest rumbled from his soft chuckle and he couldn’t suppress the grin that spread over his face. “A cruise it is,” he said, throwing his hands up into the air.

“Oh, and we want you to go alone,” she added.

Royce raised a brow at that interesting request.

Mrs. Cooper leaned into the table, “Royce, the problem with charming, egotistical CEO’s who work too hard is that they also tend to play too hard! Heed our advice and go alone. You need rest!”