Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chapter Ten Trinity Productions

UPDATE: Unlikely Merger is NOW available! We will offer
the book FREE on Kindle July 1-July 5, 2015!

Mercy is almost at the end of her journey. She's visited some thriving businesses, made some great connections, and met some incredible men. Today, we meet another in Chapter Ten.

Here are links to the previous chapters, in case you need them to help you decide.

Unlikely Merger: Chapter One
Unlikely Merger: Chapter Two
Unlikely Merger: Chapter Three
Unlikely Merger: Chapter Four
Unlikely Merger: Chapter Five

Unlikely Merger: Chapter Six
Unlikely Merger: Chapter Seven
Unlikely Merger: Chapter Eight
Unlikely Merger: Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten
Trinity Productions, Santa Monica, CA

“I’m on my way now, Daddy.” Mercy juggled her phone and dossier as she exited the parking lot and took off down the sidewalk. Even after the airline delayed her flight, she opted not to push back the meeting time. She hadn’t quite planned for the rush hour—or post-rush hour?—traffic from LAX. “The 405 looked like a parking lot this morning.”
His musical laugh rang from Denver. “You sound like a native Californian. The 405 always looks like a parking lot, my dear. You should have taken Lincoln Boulevard.”
“I didn’t want to drive the back roads.”
“Los Angeles doesn’t have any back roads, sweetheart. The population is far too dense. The closest thing in the metro to a rural street is the L.A. aqueduct.”
Mercy made a breathless giggle. Father Knows Best sometimes hit the bull’s-eye. “Next time, I’ll listen to you, Dad.”
“Down to business, though. Do you have the dossier Madeline prepared?”
“Under my arm.”
“Let’s review what you know about our potential acquisition, Trinity Productions.”
Mercy said a silent prayer of thanks for all the running experience that enabled her now to jog and talk at the same time. “They produce mid-season replacement shows and mini-series specials for broadcast and cable television. The potential ROI looks solid, and the forensic accountants were impressed with the excellent state of their books.”
“And I am impressed with my intelligent, conscientious daughter. You prepared well even with your tight schedule.”
His approval made the annoyances of the trip worthwhile.
“Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Miller are the current owners of Trinity. Both are creative enough to dream up and choose the projects they produce, but they take different roles in the day-to-day business. Wheeler organizes operations, and Miller handles public relations.”
“I remember, and Mr. Miller is the one who wants to sell his interest in the production company.” Mercy struggled to catch her breath. The blue-tinted revolving door of the Trinity Productions headquarters lay in sight.
“Exactly. Give me a call after you check into your hotel this afternoon. We’ll discuss your thoughts and your recommendation.”
“Will do, Daddy. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Mercy.”
The translucent azure portal didn’t revolve fast enough. Mercy clutched her phone and her dossier in sweaty palms. Finally pushing free into the building, she raced across the premium ceramic tile floors. The elevator door began to close. Ugh. “Hold the car, please!”
A handsome man with a slim athletic build garbed in a well-cut charcoal business suit stood in the elevator. When she called out, he looked up and put out a hand. The doors sprang open again. Mercy stepped into the elevator and smiled at the stranger. “Thanks.”
A five o’clock shadow at ten in the morning? The man’s fair skin, hazel eyes, and almost-black hair gave him a bit of a rebel look. His cologne wafted cloves tempered by rosemary and a hint of something else. He grinned back at her, and subtle crow’s feet appeared. “What floor?”
Mercy inhaled. “Seven.”
He nodded but didn’t move, and she looked at the panel. The number seven button shined orange-yellow at her already. They were headed to the same floor, and a stack of papers very similar to Mercy’s lay across his arm.
The shiny steel doors slid shut, and the elevator began its ascent. Mercy clutched her dossier and tucked the phone in her small purse. She straightened her suit and smoothed her hair. The number three above the doorjamb lit up. Mercy sighed. She just might be on time for her meeting.
A low rumble buzzed Mercy’s ears, and the elevator shook. She stumbled and pitched through empty space. Her purse and dossier went airborne. The handsome stranger caught her with one arm while the other—the one with the papers—braced against the wall of the tremoring car. Mercy’s heart pounded as the fluorescent lights flickered and went out. A few seconds later, dim tungsten lights blinked on. At last the ground quieted.
Mercy still clung to the man’s hand. He tucked his papers into the handrail of the car and patted her arm as though he soothed a child. “No worries, Miss. It’s all right now. Saint Andrew got a little cranky, that’s all.”
“Huh?” Mercy’s wits fluttered around the elevator car like scared butterflies.
“The San Andreas, right? You should’ve been here for his full-out hairy conniption fit in ’89. I was in kindergarten at the time, but I remember it clearly. This one was cake. Trust me.”
Her eyes darted side to side. “What just happened?”
“A small earthquake. Nothing to worry about.”
“An earthquake!” She pulled away from him.
The man nodded, bent, gathered her purse and papers, and handed them to her. “A tiny one. Teeny tiny.” He held his index finger and thumb close together and winked through the space as he sat on the floor of the elevator.
“Why are you sitting on the floor, Mr. … Ah—?”
He reached a hand up to shake one of hers. “Reuben Miller. I’m guessing you are Ms. Lacewell.”
As she had reviewed with her father, Mr. Miller played a key role as the main decision-maker in her scheduled meeting. “You didn’t answer my first question, though, sir.”
Reuben Miller raised his eyebrows. “Didn’t you notice? The elevator is stopped.”
All her rushing, and she would be late for her meeting even so. She drew some consolation from the fact Mr. Miller would be tardy as well. Mercy wrung her hands, exhaled in a huff, and sank to the floor beside him.
“How do you like Denver? Are you a skier?” He draped a hand over one of his knees.
Seriously? Such a question for a time like this. Mercy fought the urge to roll her eyes. Her fingernails scratched at the coarse carpet. “Sometimes. Mostly, I like to run. Are they going to get us out of here?”
His voice held steady and metered. “They’ll be working to get the power back on. When they do, the elevator will continue on its way. You must have excellent respiratory health, since you run regularly in the elevation of the Mile High City.”
He kept chattering on, asking questions. Just small talk, but it forced Mercy to wrestle her focus every time she answered him. She finished a description of flora and fauna along her favorite running route back in Denver then asked, “Shouldn’t we focus on how we can get out of this situation?”
He shrugged. “The only thing we can do is wait. At least you’re not shivering anymore.”
Mercy raised her eyebrows. “I was shivering?”
A shaky laugh bounced out of his throat. “It kind of freaked me out. I thought you might go into shock.”
He had seemed so calm. She looked down at her now steady hands. “So you thought you’d try to distract me?”
He nodded. “You can’t imagine how relieved I am it worked. I had no other ideas.”
Mercy shifted on the hard floor. “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself?”
Reuben Miller grinned at her.
Mercy pushed her bangs out of her eyes. “What?”
“I’m thrilled you don’t … um, I practice martial arts to stay in shape. I love Pinkberry, especially the strawberry balsamic. My little sister teases me about it, but I’m secure enough with my masculinity to own the truth about my pink frozen yogurt. What else? Hmm …”
She narrowed her eyes at him and withdrew her smartphone.
Reuben said, “You don’t need to call for help. Building security already knows the elevator is stopped. They have a whole plan to implement if something like this happens.”
That hadn’t occurred to Mercy. She glanced at him sideways. “I’m googling you.”
He cringed. “I’d rather you didn’t.”
“Why?” Google popped up varied results but asked at the top of the page, Did you mean Rube Miller? She looked at him. “Do you ever go by Rube?”
He sighed heavily.
She clicked on the words, read, scrolled. Her eyes widened. The man in the photos—and there were a lot of photos—proved a dead ringer for the one who sat beside her. “You’re a rock star?”
He frowned. “Now you know why I hate Google.”
She scrolled and looked at some more photos, shaking her head. “Wow. That’s a lot of tattoos. I see you’re big fan of the color black.”
Reuben pursed his lips. “Please don’t ask me to roll up my sleeves.”
Mercy waved a hand. “Earthquake or no, Mr. Miller, I still have some sense of professionalism.”
He laid a hand on her arm. “Look, I can’t stop you from reading the whole sordid tabloid version of my life, but please keep in mind most of it is colored lights and blowers filled with dry ice.”
Mercy looked at him, brow knit. “Huh?”
“Stage effects. Theatre.” He held her gaze.
She detached from his stare and looked down at the screen. “You dated Scarlett Johansson?”
He dropped his hand to the floor. “I’ve never even met her.”
“Chloe Grace Moretz?”
Reuben—Rube—grimaced. “Please. She’s, like, twelve.”
“Oh, here’s your mug shot!”
“It’s from the music video for ‘Public Enemy.’”
“It’s a single we released back in 2010.”
She found the next headline irresistible and clicked on the story. Her jaw dropped as she scanned the photos and captions.
“What is it now?” Rube leaned close, trying to get a view of the screen.
Mercy leaned away. “Rube Miller’s Secret Child! Fans wonder, who is the mother?”
He groaned and collapsed back against the elevator wall. “That one was the worst.”
“So you’re a dad.”
He shook his head.
In the photos, Rube strolled and played in Echo Park with a cute dark-haired little girl, maybe two or three years old. She glared at the man next to her. “It says your publicist refused to comment.”
“It’s a Catch-22.”
“She looks like you. And she looks like she trusts you.”
He bit his lip.
Mercy clenched her jaw and shook her head. She’d forgotten herself. This was a business deal, nothing more. “It’s okay. It’s your life. What I think doesn’t matter.”
“Except … I feel like it does.” Rube took a deep breath. “If she looks like me, it’s because her dad and I share a lot of DNA, thanks to our parents.”
“Oh. Your niece.”
Rube nodded.
“But why wouldn’t you just tell the papers and straighten it out?”
He threw up his hands. “My reputation is already destroyed. Why would I sacrifice the privacy of my brother’s family to save it? I love my family. We’re close. The public statement you suggest would’ve been an exercise in futility with unparalleled cost.”
She blinked fast several times. “I see.”
“Look, I’m not saying I’m a pure innocent, but I haven’t abandoned any children or mistreated half the women they say I have. Yes, I chased fame and broke a few hearts along the way. But I’m not the same man anymore.”
“You grew up?”
He shook his head, glanced down at his hands folded in his lap, and chewed on his bottom lip. He looked up again, his eyes shining. “I met Jesus.”
Mercy started. That was the last thing she expected him to say. “You met Him?”
His head bobbed emphatically.
“And … uh…” How did she put this? “… What was He like?”
“He is gentle but firm. Kind but piercing. Purposeful but relaxed. He’s the most confident person ever and the most humble.” Reuben sighed and smiled. “He welcomed me for whom I was and changed everything about me. And I love Him.” He laughed. “No matter what anybody said, I couldn’t stop loving Him.”
Mercy pried her jaw off her collarbone. “You’re for real.”
Again, Reuben shook his head. “I’m not. He is, though. I’m just figuring it out. This business deal is part of it. This is a good company, but I’m ‘The Face’ of Trinity now, and that’s not what I want anymore. I served out my record contract last month. I need to take a step back from the fame and everything else I used to think was so important. I’m looking for a new job.”
Mercy cocked her head. “What kind of job does a former rock star do?”
“My options are endless. Maybe dig wells in Africa. Start a mobile clinic in the Appalachians. Develop a women’s rights program in India. Or launch a top-notch music program for some inner city public schools.”
She laughed. “Forgive me, but it seems any of those would involve outgoing paychecks instead of incoming ones.”
He shrugged. “You’re not wrong. They would be, however, a great benefit to the soul. I have other sources of financial income.”
“Oh. You mean royalties on your music?”
“The catalogue is an asset, sure, but I also didn’t spend every penny I ever made on drugs and consumer electronics like some would expect. I have some real estate investments and partial interest in a publishing company. SparkNote is a highlight for me—my joint venture with Global Music Group produces mainly Christian recording artists.”
Dry ice and colored lights indeed. There was so much more to Rube Miller than the tabloids printed. “What is your operating role with SparkNote?”
“Something more behind the scenes. As you probably can imagine, though, Ms. Lacewell, I’ve spent a lot of time over these last years answering questions about myself. Is it all right if you take a turn now?”
“Of course.” Mercy pursed her lips and rubbed her chin. “Well, I stayed fairly close to my father after his stroke, helping with his recovery, but now I travel and research potential acquisitions for his company.”
Reuben laughed. “As the owner of corporate shares you might acquire, I already know about your job. I thought I might ask questions of a more personal nature. If that’s all right with you?”
Mercy’s eyes widened for a heartbeat. Then she smiled and nodded. “As you wish, Mr. Miller. What would you like to know about me?”
He drew himself up. “What do you think is important?”
Mercy paused, nibbled her cheek. Swept up her crumbs of courage. “You mentioned you don’t know what you’re going to do next. I’m at a crossroads myself. Should I go back to nursing school? Should I keep traveling for LL? Should I buy this business or that one? I just don’t know.” She brushed her bangs back again.
“Does that scare you?”
She ducked her head, eyes wide. “Doesn’t it scare you?”
“Mercy, I spent most of my adult life scared. Knowing now that I have Jesus to follow, I’m not scared of anything. Not like before. He won’t steer me wrong. I trust Him.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I wish I saw the trust thing that clearly.”
“God is omnipresent, so it’s not like He’s ever far away. He said we’d find Him when we committed our hearts to seeking.”
“So what would you do if you were me?”
He crinkled his nose and leaned his head back against the wall of the elevator car. “If I were you, I’d ask Him—not some former rock star who’s trapped in an elevator.”
Mercy closed her eyes and pulled on her ear lobe.
After a few minutes, Mr. Miller broke the silence. “I’ve read everything I could find about Lacewell Limited. What should I know about your father?”
Mercy chuckled. “Where do I start?” She gave him a rundown of their trip to the Caribbean, shared about some of his passions, and wrapped up with a funny story about her father’s “Jesus loves you” cap and the attention it once drew from a troupe of street performers in Boulder.
As he joined in her laughter, the elevator car shuddered, and the fluorescent lights winked back on.
“It appears our private meeting has come to an end.” He smiled, stood, and helped her to her feet.
The elevator began to hum, and Mr. Miller laced his fingers together and popped all of his knuckles. “Look, Ms. Lacewell, you can’t go wrong, partnering with Daniel Wheeler. He’s a good Christian guy, better than me, and he uses Trinity Productions to create solid family-friendly programming. I think you’re a good fit for him, and that’s a compliment to you, because I respect him like a father. I trust you enough to tell you I’ll accept any reasonable offer Lacewell Limited makes. Daniel’s done a lot for me and for my faith. I owe it to him to give him the best partners I can.”
Mercy nodded and turned his speech over in her mind.
He took her hand. The softness of his eyes belied the hooded stares and black tattoos she’d seen in all the tabloid photos. “I must also say this was the best three hours I’ve ever spent trapped in an elevator.”
She giggled. “I would have to agree with you on that point, Mr. Miller.”
He glanced down at his shoes then captured her gaze and held it. “Seriously, though, a lot of people expect me to talk about myself a lot of the time. Few of them ever truly listen to what I say. I appreciate your willingness to see me through the eyes of grace.”
Mercy beamed then glanced away.
“I’d like to talk again, if it’s all right with you.”
Mercy nodded at the dossier he held—the paperwork intended for the interrupted meeting. “You have my number.”
“I know I have your number. But do I have your permission to call?”

From the Authors of Unlikely Merger

Thursday, June 18

Marji Laine: Shake It Up

Wednesday, June 17

Marji Laine:  No Joy in Mudville

Tuesday, June 16

Monday, June 15

Marji Laine:  Ain't Nothin' Easy

Saturday, June 13

A Dozen ApologiesAvailable on Kindle

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