Tied to the Billionaire

By: Sam Crescent

“I—um—of course. I understand, sir…” The girl stared down at her clasped hands, looking as though she would have liked to melt into the ground. Where was her spine?

“Mr MacIntyre! Excuse me!”

Andrew shielded his eyes from the sun and peered back at the mansion.

Gannet, his personal secretary, hastened towards them. “Sorry to bother you, sir, but there’s an urgent matter that needs your attention.”

“Oh? What’s wrong?” To be honest, Andrew didn’t mind the interruption. The pleasure he got from toying with women like these was shallow and short-lived.

“A strike, sir. At the cotton mill in Pawtucket.”

Strike. A word that kindled a kind of terror in the heart of every industrialist. His father’s empire—now his—was built on the backs of the working class. The miners who dug the coal, the men who sweated in the foundries, the immigrant girls who toiled at the looms and gins, the coolies who hacked through the mountains to construct the Transcontinental Railway—these were the people ultimately responsible for his wealth and success, and that of his peers. Andrew had never forgotten the conversation he’d had with his father the year he’d matriculated at Yale.

“I provide the capital,” Alasdair MacIntyre had told him on the train from New York to New Haven. “It’s my knowledge, my foresight, my discipline and my willingness to take the necessary risks that have led to our success. But we’d be nothing, my boy—nothing—without the workers. The key to our continued prosperity is to keep them from realising that truth.”

Andrew had lived by his father’s words. “Gannet, why come to me with this? Let the local police handle it as usual.” He didn’t try to hide his annoyance. “Arrest the ringleaders. Make an example of them. Scare the others back to work.” This wasn’t his role, to deal with problems at a single factory. He had hundreds of factories around the country to worry about.

“The police refuse to get involved. They’re not going to throw their wives, mothers and sisters in jail. Besides, the strike leader demanded that you personally come to negotiate.”

“Really?” A flicker of interest leavened his concern. “Some ignorant Canuck mill worker wants to talk to me?”

“I heard that it’s someone from outside, some activist from Massachusetts.”

“Some damned troublemaker is more like it! Send Henchley, Sherman and Cox to round him up and bring him here. I’ll show him negotiation!”

“It’s a woman, sir. A very attractive woman, in fact.” Gannet’s lips twitched as he struggled to suppress a smile. He knew Andrew better than anyone. He was even aware of Andrew’s unorthodox sexual appetites. It was Gannet who had accompanied him on his adventures at Yale, and paid for them afterwards. If Andrew was not mistaken, his secretary experienced a similar pleasure in restraining and disciplining nubile females.

“I can’t let some woman summon me as though I was her servant.”

“You’re losing thousands of dollars every day the mill is idle, sir. She says the strike will continue until you come up to Pawtucket to meet with her. In my opinion, that would be the fastest way to resolve the situation.”

“Hmph.” It would be a long, hot, dusty trip up to Pawtucket. On the other hand, this imperious ‘activist’ sounded a good deal less boring than the Misses Linton, Larimer and their companions.

“I must beg your pardon, ladies. Business calls, and I must obey. You’ll have to continue without me.”

“But Andy, you promised…” His sister Ann was a pretty girl, when she was not sulking.

“I did no such thing. In any case, who is the head of this family?” He put steel in his voice, and Annie’s petulance evaporated.

“You are, of course. Head of the family and head of the company.”

“Exactly. I am the boss. I don’t want to hear your complaints, is that clear?”

His siblings both nodded, obviously chastened. The women resumed their game, albeit in a desultory manner, as he followed Gannet to the garage.

Hopefully, the wench holding his factory hostage would be equally compliant.

Chapter Two

“We’d rather starve quick than starve slow. A living wage or we just say no.”

Olivia Alcott chanted along with the mill girls as they marched in a circle in front of the rambling brick factory buildings. A semicircle of police and spectators fanned out in front of the strikers, but no one made a move to hinder them. Behind her, the normally clattering machinery lay quiet. When the workers paused for breath, Olivia heard the muted rush of the falls.

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