The Beauty and the CEO(4)

By: Carolyn Hector

“You’re not leaving, are you, Zoe?”

Zoe turned around at the sound of Marcus Ravens’s voice. An automatic smile spread across her face at the sight of him. Marcus was a handsome man, tall, dark and charming. Zoe returned his friendly smile. All the models who did work for RC had gushed about him. “Hello, Marcus.”

“Are you going in?” Marcus nodded his head at the door. The others inside craned their necks.

“I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” said Zoe.

Marcus retreated a step and glanced in both directions down the hall. He stepped closer to Zoe and touched her elbow. “There is, or was,” he said and shook his head. “There has been a slight change of plans. You see, my brother is here.”

Zoe slowly shook her head to the left and then the right. “Okay? I spoke with Donovan last week. He assured me the job is mine. All I’d have to do is meet with the board.”

“It is yours,” Marcus exclaimed. “You know you’re the best person for the job.”

“It seems someone thinks several people are the perfect person for the job.” Zoe inclined her head toward the room of other makeup artists.

“That’s what I’m trying to explain.” There was a panic in Marcus’s deep voice. He pressed one hand on Zoe’s shoulders as a vein pulsed at his temples, which he tried to cover up by scratching the back of his neck with his other hand. “My brother—my other brother, Will—is responsible.”

“Will?” Zoe repeated. “I thought I knew everyone in your family.”

Back in middle school, Zoe had done one of her best biography reports on the Ravens family. She’d once known their family tree like the back of her hand. The Ravens started at the turn of the century selling beauty products to the wives of the men working on the railroad. It was Marcus’s grandparents, Joe and Naomi Ravens, who’d slapped a label on their business and marketed it nationally. Zoe learned all about the following generations of Ravens through the Roaring Twenties and the forties to the present. The younger generations were all connected via social media. All of the family members worked for Ravens, right?

On numerous occasions Zoe had crossed paths with the Ravens family, either in the Miami Design District or at Miami’s Fashion Week.

“He’s our youngest brother, and my cousins nominated him to be the CEO of RC.”

“Okay?” Zoe said slowly, still not following what that had to do with her and this interview.

“Will believes he should look at everyone interested in being the CDD.”

Zoe’s heart ached with a surge. “I’m not understanding, Marcus. You’re the president.”

“The CEO has a little more pull than the president,” Marcus explained. “And right now, he’s our last chance at keeping RC running.”

The rumors were true. Someone wanted to shut down Ravens Cosmetics. Zoe’s heart ached as if she’d been wronged. How could anyone think about dissolving this company? Five minutes ago she’d pumped herself up about wanting to board the RC ship. Now it felt like the ship was sailing away while she stood on the pier watching it depart. She asked herself again, how badly did she want to be the Creative Design Director?

“This is then a waste of my time, Marcus. I am too qualified to have to go through a screening process.” Zoe turned to leave. Through the glass, Zoe thought she saw Titus mouthing something to her. She was not in the mood for a fight. “Either you like my work or you don’t.”

With his hands still on her shoulders, Marcus clamped down firmly. He turned her to face him so her back was to the receptionist area. “I do, my brothers and sisters do, and Will is going to feel the same way.”

“You guys brought in Titus.” A tic began to flutter underneath her right eye. The other makeup artist was good, of course he was. But he’d copied her trademark ’80s style. This was too much stress for her. Zoe sighed impatiently. Great-Grandma Sadie would have a fit if she knew Zoe got this far only to abandon her own resolve. “I just can’t deal with this, Marcus.”

“Will you at least listen to me first? I’ll get Donovan on the phone.”

“I’m right here.” Donovan’s familiar voice filled the hallway.

Not wanting any pity, Zoe didn’t dare turn around. Like his brother, Donovan had an extremely charismatic smile. Ever the charmer, he always knew how to bring out a natural blush on any model Zoe had worked on. If she glanced at Donovan, Zoe knew she’d swoon, and right now she was too pissed off to be cheered up. She kept her angry focus on the Windsor knot of Marcus’s tie.