Page 15 of Filthy Boss

“Have the hot honey buns, people,” he said loudly.

I watched him for a moment. He was almost like a kid; a big, rich, obnoxious kid. He was hot as hell and manly to the max, but there was an innocence there, as well. Maybe he was like me. Maybe the public Tanner and the private Tanner were two very different people. I’d probably never find out, but it certainly was an intriguing prospect.

“So, Candice, let’s talk business,” he said, his tone and expression turning formal again. He sucked the icing from his fingers, then wiped his hand and lips on a napkin.

He said, “Give me your thoughts on the Anderson acquisition.”

“My thoughts?”

“Yes, your thoughts.” He leaned in and peered at me from under his eyebrows. “You’ve read the acquisition documents, I assume.”

I nodded. “I have.”

“And you’re read the company prospectus?”

“I have.”

“And you have our in-house research on Anderson’s financials.”

“I do.” I had to smile at him or my face would crack.

He held up the rubber ball between us on the tips of his fingers and fixed his eyes on it, as if it were a crystal ball that foretold the future.

“So, what do you think? Are we getting a good deal? A fair deal? Are we raping and pillaging their village? Or are we being taken to the bank? What are your thoughts?”

I licked my lips nervously. I knew everyone was listening. Stan would have told me to tell Tanner what he wanted to hear. Juliette would have told me to refer the question to Stan. But I wasn’t being paid to be a yes-woman or to dodge important questions.

I cleared my throat and told him what I really thought.

“Well… Tanner, I think the price you’ve offered is fair, but I do have some concerns about Anderson’s profit and loss statements for the last ten years. There were some discrepancies in the P&Ls that --”

Henry Costas cut me off. “Those P&L’s have been fully vetted by our in-house accountants. There’s no need for you to waste time there, Miss Carlson.”

That was news to me. Reviewing the annual P&L’s since the company opened in 1974 was one of the tasks I’d been assigned, and I told him so.

“That must have been assigned to the task list before the work was done in-house,” Costas said. He looked at Stan. “Isn’t that correct, Stan?”

Stan fidgeted in his seat for a moment. He didn’t have a clue if that was right or not. He hemmed and hawed for a moment, then did what he always did. He said what the customer wanted to hear.

“Yes, I’m sorry, Candice, Mr. Costas is correct. You must not have the most recent task order list. I’ll get that to you as soon as we land.”

The latest task order list? What the heck was he talking about? I had the only task order list that had been assigned; the same task order list as the rest of the team.

I had spent most of the weekend (when I wasn’t sobbing like a baby and stuffing ice cream into my face) studying four decades’ worth of Anderson P&L’s so I would have a jump on things in case I didn’t get booted from the team.

And unless the financials that I’d been sent were wrong, as well, then there were red flags that needed to be addressed.

Tanner seemed to study Costas and Henry for a moment before turning back to me. His forearm muscles flexed as he squeezed the rubber ball. He spoke to me with his eyes. His gaze told me we’d address the red flags on Anderson’s P&L later.

“Other than that, give me your thoughts on the acquisition.”

Before I could answer he swept a hand at the others, who were watching and listening while trying to pretend that they weren’t.

“Listen up, people, because I’m going to ask each of you the same question later.”

I cleared my throat and folded my hands on the table and leaned on my elbows. “I believe the acquisition is smart, given the share price you’re paying, which is $31 a share. That’s $2 over market, but anything up to $40 a share would be a bargain given the value of the contracts and assets that Anderson holds.”

“What about their infrastructure and expansion plans?” he asked. “According to your resume you are one of Goldman’s experts on digital networks and optical fiber.”

I tried to keep the smug look off my face. I wondered if anyone else on the team had even bothered to read my resume. “Their infrastructure is sound, but aging rapidly. They have contracts in place to install fiber optic networks for a number of small and medium municipalities, but the competition to move into major markets like New York, Chicago, and Atlanta, is fierce. Until those systems are in place, their customers are at the mercy of the older wired networks, which could be a concern down the road.”