The MillionaireBy: Victoria Purman
“If you what?” Chris demanded.
“Nothing.” He shook his head ruefully. “Nothing.”
Chris walked away from the window and rounded the big desk, which was a show of power and authority that his father had always used to great effect. He’d always sat behind it, stoic, silent. Stony-faced and impatient. It didn’t suit Callum. Not one bit. He was wearing it like an ill-fitting suit.
“The PR people have tracked down the woman mentioned in the original Facebook post. Someone named Bronwyn Hillier wrote it, but it’s about her friend…” Callum checked his screen. “Ellie Flannery. Turns out she’s some suburban journo on one of the papers that craps on endlessly about kids’ playgrounds and local roundabouts.”
Chris’s day just got measurably worse. “So, she’s a reporter.” That explained why she knew about him.
Callum nodded. “But she’s also helping to organise a charity ball for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, apparently. All in her own time. The PRs have already spoken to the RFDS and come up with a plan of attack for this…” Chris peered closer at this screen. “…this Ellie Flannery.”
Chris could feel the tension rise. “For fuck’s sake, Callum. She’s not the Taliban.”
Ellie. Ellie Flannery was her name. The one with the long legs and the full lips, which, if he remembered, had curled up in disdain as she’d muttered something about never meeting your idols. “You’ll only be hugely disappointed,” she’d said.
He’d said a simple no. He’d been polite and respectful to her, hadn’t he? Then he remembered what he’d looked like in the online photo. Tough and hard. Uncompromising. That wasn’t who he was. Or at least, that wasn’t who he wanted to be.
“At this point, she’s the enemy, mate. What she’s done has damaged this company and we need to fix it. And fast. It’s been suggested that you do a press conference here later today and we can make a donation and—”
Chris held up a hand. “Stop it.”
And there it was again. When they were in trouble, the family firm had no qualms about spending some of their millions for an exercise in damage control.
“I don’t need a PR firm to tell me how to fix this. I’ll do it.”
Callum looked shaken, uncertain for the first time in their conversation. Chris took a long look at his brother. He looked older than his years. His eyes were tired and lined and there were touches of grey at his temples. Chris swore those shadows under his eyes weren’t there the last time he’d seen him.
“I’ve just emailed you everything we know about Flannery,” Callum said. “Where she lives. Where she works. Her mobile number.”
The two men looked at each other for a long moment. Were they fated to be on opposite sides, not just of this desk, but of the same family? When they were kids, Callum and Cooper had trailed after Chris like he was a god. Four years younger, the twin Malone boys had worshipped him. Now, all that was a memory as indistinct as any other from childhood.
“I’ll deal with this,” Chris said.
“Good.” And then finally there was a smile on Callum’s face. “And what’s all this talk about you being engaged to some European princess?”
Chris waved a hand. “I took her photo at a refugee camp in Africa and suddenly we’re hitched. Those English tabloids are the worst.”
Callum leaned back in his chair. “Good. I didn’t want to have to warn you about getting a pre-nup. You know how down and out some of the minor European royalty are. All those castles and no visible means of support. I thought she might have been trying to get her hooks into the Malone millions.”
“Millions? I thought we were up into the billions now,” Chris said with a laugh.
“If you ever turned up for a board meeting, you’d know for sure.”
“When hell freezes over, bro. Hey, I forgot to ask. How’s Lulu?”
There was a beat of silence. Callum swivelled in his leather chair to half face the windows and the view. “We’re getting a divorce.”
“Shit. Sorry to hear.”
“Yeah, well. These things happen.”
Chris looked out to the view, not sure of what to say. He hadn’t been at Callum and Lulu’s wedding – dubbed by every newspaper in the country as the society wedding of the year – because he’d been caught up in the Middle East on a job. And if his little brother needed any advice about women, he’d come to the wrong man. He checked his watch. “I’d better go sort this out. You know, in case my transformation into Sydney’s most hated man hits the share price when the Stock Exchange opens tomorrow morning.”