I’d believe those tabloids too, if I hadn’t seen the ear-to-ear grin he’d flashed me in the board room.

Just how Cole had put a company together and achieved his ridiculous level of success in such a short period of time, I have no idea. Maybe he was just frighteningly intimidating to his business partners.

I fought the compulsion to run a Google search on my boss. I could have pulled up the latest gossip on Cole Andrews within seconds, but I’d already read anything useful at least once.

The man was an enigma. Born without money, he’d been raised in your typical middle-class environment. There wasn’t anything remarkable about his youth. The details started around the time that he was in high school. He transferred into a good school – although where he had been before was a mystery – and graduated at the top of his class, won a few scholarships, and somehow got accepted into the Yale School of Business. Two years in, he dropped out and instantly started up his company. He’d cracked some deep-web marketing algorithm and that shot him straight to the forefront of online advertising. The corporation was immediately successful, profitable in the first year with explosive growth from then on, and nobody on the outside could figure out how he did it.

The Runaway Tycoon, the papers had mockingly called him, but the sarcasm faded when he didn’t go down in flames. What should have been a brief string of good luck turned out to be a carefully plotted design, executed with precision. No matter what was going on with Cole Andrews, it was clear that he knew exactly what he was doing. His success was legitimized when several household brands and names sprung up with the badge of honor attached in the footers of their websites:

Managed and designed by Andrews Enterprises.

His company expanded beyond advertising, building the databases, websites, and infrastructure for the biggest names in the business. He took failing retailers and turned their companies around, making an incredible amount of money in the process. Insider information I’d learned told me that his company took a small, flat percentage of ongoing profits from each company he raised from its deathbed. Every new success was another pin in his crisp lapel, securing additional fame and higher asking fees from successive partners. The company had yet to make a single mistake. Cole’s rapid success had become a mathematical impossibility.

And that was only part of the story. I’d seen first-hand that he continuously reinvested assets back into the business – my coworkers were happy, efficient, and proud to work for him. If not for the fact that I was inevitably going to be found out and cast aside, I’d almost consider sticking with the company…just getting inside had been worth the trouble.

I swished my glass of red thoughtfully, staring at the penetrating gaze of Cole Andrews. Who are you, Cole? A frown crossed my lips, and I shut off the page and closed the laptop with a deep sigh.

* * *

It was Saturday, so I ran some quick laundry, ironed out my work blouses, and did the dishes from the night before. With my small, meager apartment looking remotely presentable, I was curled up with a book when my cell phone started buzzing against the coffee table. Glancing at the name, I gave myself a quick grin, and swiped it open.


“Swaree! How’re you doing?”

Aiswarya was my best friend – we’d known each other passingly in high school, but really grew close after graduation. Her party girl lifestyle clashed with my modest approach to entertainment, but I couldn’t fault her for being infectiously happy pretty much all the time.

“Hey girl! Not much! I was thinking of going out for some drinks, that cool with you?”

I paused, mentally checking my budget. I leveraged my checking account against the incoming bills, thought of any emergencies that could ostensibly be on the horizon. Sure, none of that would be a problem when I was finished with my little job at Cole Andrews. The payout would be substantial, but for now I had to make do, and that meant no excessive spending.

“Listen, if you can’t make it, that’s coo–”

“I’m really sorry, Swaree,” I confessed into the phone. “It’s been a bit of a rough week, and I’m tapped for cash. Maybe after the next paycheck?”

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