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The Accidental Billionaires Series

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Blurb

Billionaire Kenneth Marshall has given me a chance of a lifetime.

He was smoking hot and had charms that left me speechless as he offered me, one weekend.

One weekend to submit to him.

I'd lost my job.

Soon, I'd lose my home.

I had nothing to lose and so much to gain.

I'd been dominated before, and this dirty encounter had given me a second opportunity far too great to miss.

What was a girl to do?

Apart from say, "Yes, sir."

The Accidental Billionaires Series is created by Sarwah Creed, an eGlobal Creative Publishing signed author.

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Chapter 1
Book 1 - Dirty Encounter The golden light of sunset streamed through the big floor-to-ceiling windows on the west side of The Retreat, a 2,000 square foot apartment on the roof of a downtown office building. Despite the warm colors the light lent to everything in the room, and the thermostat set to a comfortable 75 degrees, Kenneth Marshall felt cold. It was late October so he knew that the air on the other side of those glorious windows, with their commanding view over the city, was chill and damp. He knew that there was nobody but his cook and personal assistant waiting for him at his actual home, the three-story condo at the top of the prestigious Blackwell Building, which he could see just seven blocks away. But what made The Retreat feel so cold to him was that it represented a part of his life that he feared was dead. It had been almost nine months since he last had a guest in The Retreat. Several weeks, at least, since he'd even visited it himself. The Retreat had been one of the places where he used to feel the most alive. The other place was his office, which was two floors down. But like The Retreat, the office was also somewhere that Kenneth Marshall used to love but didn't anymore. Now, like The Retreat, the office was a place without spark, without fire, without vitality or power or potential. Both of those were places that Kenneth Marshall used to be Kenneth Marshall at his most potent, but not anymore. He crossed the living room to the west-facing windows, and watched the sun as it disappeared behind the skyline of the city. He wondered if he was looking at himself - something that was once bright and shining up high in the sky, but now was past its zenith and fading away. Marshall took a few steps back from the window and sank into one of the chairs in The Retreat's living room. He had always thought of that chair as his throne, for within the walls of The Retreat he used to be more than just a successful entrepreneur and lover. He had been a king, an emperor, a god, even. But he couldn't see his way back there. He'd built a financial empire, but each success he'd had required him to build some structure to secure it. And over time, without him noticing it, those structures had turned into walls around him. Marshall no longer drove his own business. He had directors, managers, and board members who now managed every single aspect of company. All he had to do was sign papers, look good in front of the cameras, and the board and regulators, and find things to do with the rushing torrent of money that flowed to him. As the last slice of the sun's burning red disc vanished, Marshall realized that it had been a few years since he'd actually visited one of the start-ups his company financed. Since he'd actually been in the room with some bright and brilliant young mind that was lit up with some great idea and just needed a little bit of financial help to make their dreams come true. That was how he'd made his money - having his finger on the pulse of the world around him, and being connected to a network of thinkers and creators, relying on his instincts to figure out which crazy, off the wall ideas would have legs and which would go nowhere. Marshall chided himself for moping about as if he were old and washed up at only 45. He still had tons of energy, he was in great shape, looked good, and was never short on invites to parties or events with the moneyed set. But it had still been too long since he shook hands with somebody that was ready to change the world. Marshall Capital had become stale in the last half-decade. It no longer sought out the true innovators, the ones taking risks that often failed but paid out tremendously when they succeeded - not only in money, but also in really making the world a better place. No. Marshall Capital had become a company where an army of analysts parsed an investment down to an array of numbers, finding only the safest investments out there, and making decisions on which to back based on margins of less than a tenth of a percent of return on the investment. As Marshall got up and went to The Retreat's wine cabinet, he wondered how he never noticed that happening. He opened up the wine cabinet and immediately closed it again. The wines were the only food and drink left in The Retreat, all the rest having long since been cleaned out when he stopped using it. The reason why he'd never had the wine moved to his condo was because he was always in a very, very specific mood and state of mind while in The Retreat, so specific that it even affected his taste in wine. Marshall had a very strong preference for the driest whites most of the time. But when he was in The Retreat, or perhaps on a date that was going to end at The Retreat, he craved the deep earthy red color, bitter tannins, and bold flavors of big red wines. The reason there was nobody with him in The Retreat right then, nobody waiting for him at home, was that his accountant had transferred the final settlement payment from his divorce earlier that day, to an ex-wife now relocated to Singapore. The collapse of his marriage had cost him dearly. Not in money - she was a reasonably successful woman in her own right, so there was only the matter of dividing the shared assets they'd accumulated together. The real cost to him had been in the loss of her companionship. Marshall and Jade had met just as Marshall Capital was becoming a major player in the venture market. Jade had been involved in facilitating niche importing - smaller quantities of highly valuable goods that required special transport or handling. Both of them had brilliant minds for the work they did, and found it so energizing, that they needed romantic partners that were similarly passionate and driven. Neither of them would have been able to be happy with somebody who went through their daily motions thinking that they were content and happy with what they had. They would have devoured and destroyed anybody like that. The problem in their relationship, that they'd recognized too late to figure out how to solve, was that they were both so strong-willed, so intense, that they were constantly pushing against each other and never able to truly join their forces to push forward in the same direction. The first Retreat had started as an attempt to remedy that. They sought to create a physical and mental place that was not their shared home, where they could step away from their daily lives into a place where they could be someone else for a while, where they could find new ways to interact with each other and see if they could find new ways to fit together. It didn't work. Neither of them could step back from what had become a struggle between them to be the driving force, the navigator and guide for their relationship. Neither could ever take a back seat to the other. But there was something about that first Retreat that led to the second one, the one Marshall was sitting it. The idea was Jade's actually. Since there were needs they could not meet with each other, she suggested they do what every successful businessperson did, and outsource. Jade had her own apartment, in a separate city two hours north. Marshall had taken advantage of some rooftop space in the building where his company leased its offices to set up his own place. In a way, the separate apartments, the separate lovers, brought some peace to their marriage, but it was only to delay the inevitable. As much as Jade and Marshall loved each other, their respective dalliances showed them that they needed partners that complemented them instead of mirroring them. The places where Jade was strong and weak were the exact same places where Marshall was strong and weak. Sure, they could find other partners, but there were risks with arrangements like that. If the true nature of those side relationships ever became public, there would be scandal. Maybe one of the side partners would see an opportunity for blackmail. Or, as had happened to Jade, they might fall in love with their other more deeply than they loved their spouse. Those risks eventually outweighed the last lingering shreds of affection Marshall and Jade had for each other, and they quietly divorced. Marshall sighed, weary of the memories of that time, and went back to his throne. He sat down, watching the lights of the city. He was worn out, tired. Being in The Retreat was depressing him terribly, but at the same time, he had no energy to leave it. Thirteen hours later, he woke to his phone ringing. "Ellie!" he said. The phone, hearing its name, stopped chiming, and said, "You did not sleep at home last night, Mr. Marshall. In order to tend to your morning routine, you should wake now and return home." The application was one of the last ventures Marshall had been personally involved with before the company's Board of Directors managed to shuffle him into a figurehead role. The surface functionality - learning his routines and scraping his calendar so it could alert him if he was in danger of missing appointments - was simple enough. The true beauty of it was the cryptography plug-in the developer had created to protect the data it was accumulating about the user. If anybody got their hands on an app that was so intimately knowledgeable about a person's habits and customs, the potential for damage was immeasurable. Even better, the plug-in's data masking could be expanded to throttle other apps that used the phone's microphone, location data, browsing history, calendar appointments or so on. With full protection on, f******k, sss, and all the other apps on his phone were locked out of all of that information. So this kid who walked into app development with no formal knowledge of encrypting data came at the problem sideways and accidentally developed an entire new branch of the discipline. Kenneth Marshall was the first one who'd noticed. That one investment accounted for a full 9% of Marshall Capital's net worth, way more than anything on the assembly line of safe bets the Directors were obsessed with anymore. "It's ok, Ellie. I will still be able to make my first appointment at 6:30." "Very good, Mr. Marshall," his phone said, and went silent. Marshall got up from his throne and stretched out. Falling asleep and spending the night in a lesser chair would have been murder on his back, but the throne was no ordinary chair. It had been custom built precisely to his personal ergonomics to be comfortable in any position. He stripped out of his clothes and showered. Everything that had been in the bathroom when he'd ordered The Retreat closed down had been discarded and replaced with something brand new and still sealed. Fresh soap and shampoo, shaving cream and razors, toothpaste and cologne all awaited him, ready to go if he ever found himself waking up in the place. He set a mental reminder to thank his his secretary for attention to that little detail. The closets also had fresh clothing in them for any occasion: weekend, work, casual, or formal. The thing that struck Marshall first was how different the color palate in the closet was compared to what he'd been wearing lately. The clothes in the closet were livelier. Even the couple of black suits were paired with a rich emerald or royal blue tie, or had fine burgundy pin-striping, or even a colored dress shirt instead of a plain white one. The dress shoes were oxblood instead of black, same with the belts. For the past several months, Marshall had been wearing only gray and black suits, occasionally navy. White shirts only, subdued ties, black shoes and belts. Standing before his closet, he wasn't content to just look at the clothing inside. He ran his hands across the shoulders of the suits, the hanging shirts. Even his fabric choices for the clothes that he kept at The Retreat were different than at the condo. There was something stiffer, more severe, in the cloth of the outfits he kept there to wear while out or for the next day in the office, even if the colors were less harsh. As he selected an outfit and dressed, he realized that even the way things sounded in The Retreat were different. The floors were all luxuriously carpeted, soft and warm, so one walked silently around the space. In contrast, the walls were all hard and angular, some of them even tiled. All of the art was framed in behind heavy glass. Any sounds made in The Retreat were sharp and snappy. Even as small a noise as clasping his cuff links was clear and bright. He remembered how it was to have somebody with him, the clink of glasses or silverware so clear and crisp, how he could snap his fingers and have it carry from room to room, the sound of breath catching when he'd kiss somebody... The Retreat, its construction and his preferences there, appealed to all five of his senses differently than any other space in his life. As he took his coat from the rack beside the door to leave, Marshall felt a moment of melancholy that the person who used to live there, that other Kenneth Marshall, was no more. But once he opened the door and stepped out into the cool morning air, wearing colors and a scent he had not worn for nearly a year, he felt a renewed sense of purpose. He realized he was, indeed, missing the other Kenneth Marshall, but not really mourning his loss as much as he was wondering how he should go about finding where that other man had gone. With that in mind, Marshall resisted the temptation to call his PA and have her send breakfast to his office. He instead took the elevator down to the fourth floor where the building owners maintained a nice cafeteria for the offices that leased space. He selected a simple breakfast and took a seat at a small table in the corner, one where he could see the flow of people around the room. That was one of the things he used to do, back when he first went into the venture capital business. He'd find places where he could watch the way people moved around a space and each other. If you thought of all of society as a body, and the people as its blood, he was essentially taking the pulse of a place. He started playing a little game with himself, trying to figure out who worked for Marshall Capital without looking at their name badges. At one time, he would have been able to pick his employees out easily, and that was even after the company had grown large enough that he no longer knew everybody personally. He knew the right type of person for his company, by the way they carried themselves. He prided himself on being able to tell, sometimes just by the way a person walked into an interview room, whether he would hire them or not. There were even times when he'd realized somebody had way more potential than the job they were interviewing for. A couple of times he'd even offered them that better job on the spot, instead of keeping an eye on them and fast-tracking them up through the ranks. Unfortunately, part of the process of the company walling him off from its actual work removed his direct influence from the type of employee they hired. Of those people where he could see an ID badge on them, he only got about a third of his guesses right. There was one that really surprised him. He had to look at her for a long time to make his decision. On the one hand, she looked worn down, sad, listless. On the other, she had a certain bearing underneath all of that. Like there was some character to her that still showed under some current circumstances that were weighing on her. It was only after watching her for a bit while he deliberated that he realized he had seen her in the office before. Seeing her outside of the familiar environment, looking a bit overwhelmed by the people around her, he didn't immediately recognize her but once he figured it out, he could picture where in the offices he'd seen her, and from there narrow her down to three departments that shared the space. As he finished his game over breakfast, he pulled out his phone to check his appointments for the day. Boring for the first couple hours, but at ten, a tour and demonstration of some new software for quantifying the potential returns required for different levels of risk. On the one hand, nothing reminded him of just how separate he and his company were from when they'd started like having software that was even more obsessed with safe investments than it already was. On the other, it was always good to get away from his office and see his employees where they worked. He loved seeing how they decorated their work spaces, how they talked to and interacted with each other. So he suffered through his morning tasks until he got to go down to the presentation room. The team that came in was what he'd expect for financial risk software. Two young kids that did the hardcore programming, and some boring, middle-age guys that accidentally stumbled from actuarial work through data analysis into financial modeling. He listened as they talked about their process. It should have been terribly uninteresting, but another one of Marshall's gifts was to make people feel comfortable about what excited them, and their energy was infectious. As he listened, he realized there was something unusual about the presentation he was receiving. Every person speaking knew their part of the process, and a little bit about how it interacted with the other parts. The analysts knew what data they gave to the programmers, the programmers knew what algorithms they had developed to weigh things out, the project manager knew what the program was supposed to do, and could verify that it was doing that... But there was something missing. There was somebody on the team that had made all the pieces come together and get the whole thing to actually work. Marshall could see it in the way that one of the analysts and programmers tried to describe how they'd taught the software to assign hard numbers to things as fuzzy as risks that unknown factors may present themselves. They mentioned "Roads" a few times. It took Marshall a while, but he finally realized that "Roads" was not a program or a system. It was a person. Probably not "Roads" at all, but "Rhodes". Whoever this "Rhodes" was, they seemed to be the critical ingredient, and they weren't in the room. Marshall wrote that name down in his notebook to look up later. He never put notes like that in his phone. He always wrote them down, longhand, in a small notebook he carried. Once he did that, he never forgot them.

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