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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2317875
In which Kit and Jet confront Chalam, with expected results
Kit was not the least bit interested in selling any shares of his family’s company to OmniVentures, even if he didn’t have sneaking suspicions about the CEO.
Manirat Nexus was his family’s legacy, and ManiratInfinateDrift was his pet project. Actually, it was the first thing he had ever done completely on his own and wanted to keep as long he was alive--which would hopefully be for a long while. He’d come up with the idea while he was still at university, and had gone to Italy after getting his masters degree to build up contacts, so that by the time he brought up the idea with his parents, he had a business plan and a list of clientele, which they had wholeheartedly supported.
ManiratInifiniteDrift had become wildly successful faster than Kit imagined it would. It could be said that the company’s success in Italy was partly due to his mother. Her influence as a fashion designer and daughter of a diplomat, helped promote her oldest son’s initial business acumen, but he also has a solid base of clientele in both France and Spain, which he had built up on his own.
It had taken a little longer in Thailand, especially since his company was a special branch within Manirat Nexus. But as of this morning, Kit had signed a contract to sponsor an up and coming racing team which had also invited Zone to be one of the drivers. It was with the signing of that contract that Kit was finally able to admit to himself how successful his company was actually becoming.
Sometimes balancing between his Interpol activities and running ManiratInifinateDrift took more of a physical and mental toll on Kit than he wanted to admit. That was one of the many reasons that he had taken Jet on as a business partner, and hired more employees. Now he had a solid backup plan. When he inevitably retired from Intelligence work, he could support himself with his international car customization and modification company.
Which was probably why an ambitious shark of a businessman had his eyes on it.
If he was being completely honest with himself, the glass walled conference room of OmniVentures is the last place that Kit expected to be this morning. The number that appeared on his caller ID had been one he hadn’t recognized, but as soon as Kit heard that all too smooth voice on the other end of the line, he wished he’d just hit “ignore”. However, since neither he, nor Talay, nor Jet had been able to find any solid evidence concerning Chalam’s suspected suspicious activities, the next best thing would be to meet the shark in person.
And the only way to do that is as the CEO and COO of ManiratInifinateDrift, rather than Interpol agents.
“You’re doing it again.”
From his seat at the long conference table, Jet casts Kit a sideways glance. “What?”
“You pop your knuckles when you’re nervous,” Kit’s voice has the tiniest trace of amusement. “And your foot twitches when you’re angry.”
“I have to be civil to the man who destroyed my life,” Jet pops his knuckles again, aware just how childish he sounds. “Who wouldn’t be angry?”
“You told me Chalam is the type of man who preys on peoples’ emotions. If he sees you twitching like that none of this will go according to plan.”
“Tell you what,” The words come from between Jet’s teeth, as clear a sign as any of the emotions he is currently trying to hide. “You stop pacing the room like a caged animal, and I’ll stop popping my knuckles, and I’ll hold my foot still.”
Rather than argue with Jet, Kit sits down next to him. “Strawberry KitKat?”
Jet looks at the pink wrapped mini chocolate bar in Kit’s hand. “You really do carry those around everywhere, don’t you?”
“You going to take it or not?”
Jet takes the KitKat and pops it in his mouth. The leather of the seats is warm from the sunlight pouring through the glass walls, which cast rainbows across the smooth polished surface of the conference room table. The hum of the AC is the only other sound. It’s been almost an hour, and they are still the only people in the room.
“Chalam is deliberately making us wait.” Jet says it just to fill the tense silence. “He’s baiting us.”
“I know.” Kit sounds calm, but his hands are clenched just as tightly as Jet’s. “So when he does deign to grace us with his presence, let’s not antagonize this shark any more than is necessary, all right? He should believe this is a business meeting, nothing else.”
Jet’s smile is dry. “I want it on record that I make no promises.”
“Noted, but I’d rather not have security escort us from the building, if it’s all the same to you.”
Jet doesn’t say anything, but he stops popping his knuckles, and his foot goes still. There is finally movement down the hall, and Kit looks up to see two men entering the conference room. As they move closer, Jet's body goes rigid, his hands clenching the arms of the chair so hard his knuckles go white.
Chalam is dressed in a silk suite, and the other man is dressed in the solid black uniform of a security detail. Kit can see the distinct lump of a holster at the man’s waist, which means that this man is Nail, Chalam’s assistant and unofficial enforcer.
Kit has met his share of sharks, both the literal and the metaphorical kind.
The first time he’d seen an actual shark up close was at the aquarium when he was seven. Standing in the dimly lit room with nothing but a pane of glass between him and the giant fish, Kit had been fascinated and a little intimidated, certain he never wanted to be in a situation where he was up against those powerful fins and deadly rows of teeth. His father had told him that, though rare, shark attacks could still happen. But such attacks could be avoided if you left them alone.
Unfortunately, that tactic only worked with actual sharks.
A metaphorical shark is entirely different.
As is expected, Kit and Chalam exchange greetings and handshakes, and Kit can’t help but notice how carefully manicured the other man’s nails are. Jet doesn’t move or speak. He just stares at Chalam with a carefully schooled expression, hands still locked on the arms of the chair as though to prevent them from wrapping around Chalam’s neck.
Chalam’s face is as smooth as the silk of his suit, and there’s not a glimmer of emotion in his eyes as he takes in his visitors. This is a man who cares a great deal about outward appearances, which means he will go to any lengths to protect the reputation of both himself and his company.
Nail’s face is equally blank, but his eyes are alert, and one of his hands remains hovering subconsciously above the holster at his waist, ready to defend his superior the moment it becomes necessary. He remains standing behind Chalam’s chair as the CEO sits, like an honor guard. Tension thickens the air, begging to be relieved.
“I understand congratulations are in order.” Chalam’s tone hints at detached acknowledgement, as if the success of ManiratInfinite drift was merely a matter of course. “The rate at which ManiratInifiteDrift is expanding is impressive, though not entirely unexpected for a company of your…caliber.”
“You’re very well informed,” Kit knows a backhanded compliment when he hears one. “I suppose I should be flattered that I’ve caught the attention of such a…powerful corporation, although it’s hardly surprising given my own track record.”
A very slight spasm crosses Chalam’s face as Kit uses his own tactics against him. “Your track record speaks volumes. A strategist such as yourself should be careful not to underestimate the mutual benefits of potential collaboration.”
“ManiratInfiniteDrift is always keen on aligning with excellence. Provided, of course, that the collaboration is mutually beneficial.” Kit’s expression doesn’t change, but his eyes have a challenging glimmer in them. He’s played this game before, and he’s good at it.
“Of course,” Chalam sounds both confident and diplomatic. “Mutual benefit is something we both want.”
“But I am curious,” Kit leans forward slightly, his posture still relaxed, but that challenging glitter still in his eye. “Why does such a large and successful corporation like OmniVentures have any interest in such a small independent company like mine?”
Chalam blinks. “I would hardly call ManiratInfiniteDrift small. You successfully operate in two countries.”
“Four,” Jet corrects him. It’s the first time he has spoken since the meeting began, and Chalam gives him a cursory nod before turning back to Jet.
“My apologies.” Chalam acknowledges the correction with a slight nod. “Both my company and yours have expanded at a very rapid rate, and it is my hope that we can continue to grow internationally through collaboration.”
“That’s as may be,” Kit refuses to be flattered or swayed by Chalam’s persuasive tactics. “But of all the independent companies, why choose mine?”
Chalam leans back slightly, considering Kit's question with a thoughtful expression. “It has become apparent to me that ManiratInfiniteDrift is not just an independent business entity, but a partner with whom we can forge new paths, explore uncharted territories, and ultimately, redefine success on a global scale. I am not simply seeking a collaboration, but investing in a vision—a shared vision of progress, innovation, and mutual growth. Together, I believe we can achieve remarkable things. I’m certain we can find common ground and capitalize on our respective strengths so that both companies thrive.”
There is a short silence following Chalam’s elaborate answer. Jet’s expression is still stoic, and Kit’s is as thoughtful as Chalam’s had been. Nail shifts his weight behind Chalam, the silence clearly making him uncomfortable. Kit feeds that silence, allowing it to stretch just long enough for impatience to show in Chalam’s eyes before he speaks, not to Chalam, but to Jet.
“What do you think?”
“I think you’re enjoying this game a little too much,” Jet keeps his gaze on Chalam’s face as he answers. Both he and Kit speak in Italian, but are careful to keep their voices and expressions neutral, knowing there’s a possibility that Chalam may still understand their conversation through their nonverbal cues. “You can’t lure him into a false sense of security any more than we can lure him.”
“Agreed.” Kit nods. “But are you sure you want to accuse him like this? Last time--”
“Last time I was a boy, and we were alone.” Jet reminds him. “This time, he can’t silence me so easily.”
“I was serious when I said I don’t want to be escorted out by security.” Kit points out.
“And I was serious when I said I make no promises.” Jet retorts.
“Just--don’t physically attack him, all right?” Kit turns back to Chalam before Jet can reply, switching back to Thai as he does so. “I hope our definitions of ‘thrive’ and ‘common ground’ are the same. However, I must express some reservations given recent--developments.”
“Oh?” Chalam’s eyebrows rise. “What reservations are those?”
“Intimidation, blackmail, physical assault,” Jet’s voice is impatient and angry as he ticks off each of Chalam’s sins, and Instead of reacting negatively to Jet’s accusations, Chalam smiles.
“Rumors. Baseless gossip fueled by envy and resentment. The landscape of business can be--cutthroat at times.”
“Is that why there are so many ruined lives and corpses leading to OmniVentures’ door?” Jet’s voice is quiet, but his implication is all too clear. Nail lunges toward Jet, but Chalam stops him with a look.
“The price of success is often exaggerated by those who envy it,” Chalam’s tone is dismissive, but there is a warning in his eyes. A warning that Jet ignores.
“Why would anyone envy someone like you?” Jet would have said more if Kit hadn’t pressed on his foot under the table.
“Accusations have consequences,” The words come from between Nail’s clenched teeth. “As do inquiries into matters that don’t concern you.”
Jet turns his gaze in Nail’s direction. “As COO of the company OmniVentures is interested in, I’d say this is a matter that absolutely concerns me.”
“OmniVentures is an enviable corporation,” Kit’s voice is just as smooth and diplomatic as Chalam’s had once been. “But if the rumors prove to be true, any company connected with the corporation will be equally tainted.”
“Of course,” Chalam agrees. His voice is still calm, but Kit can see a nerve beginning to tick in the older man’s temple. “And I can assure you that despite vicious rumors to the contrary OmniVentures values loyalty as much as integrity. Those who undermine either may find themselves on uncertain ground.”
“Or beaten to a pulp in a dark alley.” This time Kit’s foot stomps down on Jet’s so hard that Jet has to bite back a grunt of pain, but he continues to speak. “But that isn’t something either of you would know anything about, is it?”
Chalam shakes his head, a gesture which could mean denial or disappointment or a silent warning, and now there’s a ticking nerve visible along his jawline as well. Nail looks as though he is on the verge of an explosion, but Kit intervenes again before anyone else can speak.
“Regretfully, I can’t allow my company to be tainted by any kind of negative information, rumor or otherwise. I’m afraid a merger with OmniVentures is impossible for us to accept.” Kit gets to his feet—a clear indication that the negotiations, such as they are, have come to an end.
However, the other three men don’t move. Nail and Jet are still glaring, each daring the other to break eye contact first. Chalam isn’t glaring. He looks almost genuinely regretful.
“I’m very sorry to hear that. Perhaps at a later date…” Chalam trails off, but if he’s expecting Kit to accept, then he is disappointed.
Kit refuses to be lured. He accepted this meeting to gauge exactly what kind of person the CEO of OmniVentures is, and if Jet was justified in his hatred of him. In the space of a single conversation, Kit had received all the answers he needed. This man was the very worst kind of shark—the kind that would attack whether provoked or not.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing more to discuss.” Ever the businessman, Kit is careful to put a note of regret in his voice as he extends his hand to someone he is now determined to hate. “I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.”
Chalam has no other choice but to extend his own hand and shake Kit’s. Both men exchange business like smiles that don’t quite reach their eyes before Kit exits the conference room. Jet doesn’t meet Chalam’s eyes or extend his hand. He silently stands to follow Kit.
“Discussions with the CEO of ManiratInfiniteDrift are over.” Nail stops Jet’s with a single side step, putting himself between Jet at the door. “Discussions with you are not.”
Jet doesn’t flinch as he meets Nail’s gaze. “If the CEO has made up his mind, the COO is unlikely to change it.”
“This isn’t about a merger, or lack of it.” Chalam has resumed his seat at the table. “This discussion is about you, and the baseless vendetta you still seem to have against me. Insinuations are the tools of petty children, not civilized adults.”
“Insinuations?” Jet’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. “Would you have preferred it if I had gone into detail?”
“What details could you possibly have?” The mockery in Nail’s voice sets Jet’s teeth on edge.
He answers Nail’s question before he can stop himself. “Your attack on Kai, for one.”
“OmniVentures doesn’t hold with thieves,” Nail doesn’t look the least bit remorseful. “I asked him nicely to return what he stole and was refused.”
“Yes, I saw how ‘nicely’ you asked him.” Jet’s smile is grim. “I should have broken more than your wrist.”
“Actually, it was a sprain.”Nail extends the wrist in question, so Jet can see that it’s fully healed, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “But thank you for your concern.”
“It seems there’s more than one person guilty of assault in this room.” Chalam’s eyes begin to glitter as they meet Jet’s. “Who do you think the public will believe when accusations are made?”
“Public opinion can always be swayed, given the right circumstances.” Jet fights to bring his voice back to a neutral tone, but it’s not working this time. “How much of your clientele would you lose if they knew they’d had business dealings with a criminal?”
“Accusations of criminal behavior have no grounds without evidence.” But Chalam’s fingers are starting to drum on the surface of the table in tandem with his ticking facial nerves. “Which I know you do not have. Otherwise, you would not have used a business meeting as an excuse for a confrontation.”
Jet scoffs. “Is that what you believe?”
“What I believe is that an angry child grew into an angry young man who still holds grudges. Which makes him dangerous to the people he is closest to.” Chalam’s words send a chill through the air..
It takes every ounce of Jet’s self control to keep his posture relaxed, but his voice is a low growl. “I’m going to put you in prison.”
Chalam smirks. “On what grounds?”
“I already listed them once.” Jet fights to keep his voice steady. “I won’t do it again.”
“You’ll have to if you succeed in taking OmniVentures to court.” Now Nail is smirking, too. “Do you know what the punishment for one company slandering another is?”
“Assault and slander committed in the space of a single meeting,” Chalam murmurs. “Dear me, Jet, your own list of crimes is extending by the second. I don’t like to repeat myself, so I will say this only once. You should stop your investigation of me, before there are consequences.”
Jet’s answering smile is deadly. “Hidden skeletons can always be exposed, no matter how deeply they are buried.”
Chalam’s response follows Jet down the hall as he leaves the room. “Expose my ‘skeletons’, Jet, and you’ll have your own bodies to bury.”
The hallway is empty, quiet, and free of tension. Jet drops his gaze to the carpet, forcing his pace to slow, and his breathing to return to normal. He entered this building as a businessman, not a vigilante, and he’ll leave the building the same way.
“Mali said her brother was brave, but I think you’re an idiot.” The voice comes from just in front of Jet, and is more amused than accusatory. Jet looks up to see a man about his age, maybe a little younger, standing in the doorway of his office, arms crossed, looking just as amused as he sounds. His face looks familiar, but Jet isn’t quite sure why.
“Would you have done something different in my place?”
The man’s eyebrows rise at Jet’s question. “You think I haven’t tried? Do you have somewhere to be or can I talk to you for a minute?”
Jet’s expression is wary. “That depends.”
The man’s eyebrows shoot up toward his hairline. “On?”
“How you know my sister,” Jet elaborates. “Who you are and what you want to talk about.”
“In that order?” The man smiles. “I’m Mali’s boyfriend, Rome. Chalam’s my uncle, and I want to talk to you about what I just heard. But not out in the hallway.”
Rome goes back into his office, leaving the door open so that Jet can choose to follow if he wants to. Jet hesitates for only a second before he also goes into Rome’s office.
“Chalam is really your uncle?” It’s a rhetorical question, but Jet asks it anyway, just to have something to say.
Rome nods as he closes the door. “I’m also the last surviving member of both the Samongkonchai and Kittiyapan families, who started OmniVentures in the first place. Which makes me heir to this shithole of a corporation.”
The office is smaller than Jet expected, considering Rome’s status within the company. A single window that stretches the length of the room, which is divided into two, with glass walls like the ones in the conference room dividing the front area from the back. Both the desks in the front and back of the office are currently unoccupied, but Jet correctly assumes that the front desk is where Mali sits when in the office, and the back desk is for Rome. There is a small sofa and armchair in front of Mali’s desk. Rome gestures toward them, inviting Jet to take a seat.
Jet sits.“The heir to OmniVentures isn’t allowed to sit in on business meetings?”
“Is that what that was?” Rome grins at him. “Looked like a standoff to me. It was idiotic of you to confront him without any evidence. If that confrontation took place anywhere but in a glass walled conference room, Nail would have put you in the hospital by now.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.” It doesn’t help Jet’s mood that Rome is right. The idea had seemed so good at the time, so simple, but all that had happened was that Chalam and Jet had talked to each other in threatening circles, and Kit was back at the same dead end. “But he’s right, I can’t prove my allegations.”
“Yet,” Rome emphasizes. “You can’t prove your allegations against my uncle, yet.”
“Right, because it’s only a matter of time. If not even Intelligence or Interpol can find any evidence against him, then what do you suggest I do?”
“All that means is that they don’t know where to look.” Rome doesn’t look the least bit offended by Jet’s sarcasm. “ What you said about skeletons is true too, as Chalam is well aware.”
Jet raises an eyebrow. “You heard that?”
“It tends to echo in here when people shout. I can help you find those buried skeletons you’re looking for.” Rome pauses, giving Jet the opportunity to say something if he so chooses. When he is met with silence, Rome continues. “Chalam got angry with you, and that means he’s hiding something. I know that because he does the same thing to me when I confronted him about Kai.”
“Mali told you about that?”
“After you called that night, I drove her to the condo where you’re staying.” Rome explains. “She was an intern here first, like Kai, but now she’s my assistant--”
“And your girlfriend.” Jet finishes for him. He tries to make his voice sound less like that of a protective older brother, but it’s clear from the expression on Rome’s face that it hadn’t quite worked.
Rome takes a seat in the armchair, so that he can look Jet directly in the eye, sincerity ringing in every word he says.“I want you to know that I love Mali too much to let anything happen to her, and I give you my word that I’ll love and protect her as long as she’ll let me.”
“I believe you,” Jet bites back a smile. “Mali’s her own person, and I’m her brother, not her father. You don’t need my permission to date her.”
“I’m asking for it anyway.” Rome insists. “I might be related to that shark but I’m nothing like him. I’m asking you to trust me.”
“If Mali trusts you, then so do I,” Jet reassures him. “What does this have to do with those ‘buried skeletons’ you mentioned?”
Rome gets up and goes into the inner office. After a minute, he returns with a thick manilla envelope in his hands, which he holds out to Jet. “Mali and I have been combing through OmniVentures archives for the past several months. We had to stop after Kai was attacked in case Nail came after us next, but this is everything Mali and I were able to find. It’s not much, but it might help.”
Jet hesitates, staring at the manilla envelope. “How did you get my sister involved with all of this?”
“Actually, it was Mali’s idea,” Rome corrects him. “If you want any details, you’ll have to ask her.”
Of course Mali had begun this on her own. That’s the type of person his sister was. Mali saw a problem and decided to fix it, and if she had to, she fixed it on her own.
“So are you going to take it?” Rome is still holding out the envelope.
Jet takes it. “Thank you.”
Rome nods in acknowledgement. “Like I said, my uncle’s a corrupt ass, and I want to help you.”
Kit is waiting in the lobby. Part of him was tempted to double back after he left the conference room, but that hadn’t been part of the plan. Kit’s job was to accept the invitation to the business meeting so that Jet could get into OmniVentures uncontested. Then Jet would confront Chalam on his own and try to avoid physical assault. Apparently, he succeeded, because there are no bruises on his face, and his clothes are only slightly rumpled. Kit hopes the wrinkles are from sitting and not from being physically intimidated. He doesn't say anything until they are out of the building.
“No security escort?”
Jet raises a brow at Kit’s attempt at humor. “You almost sound as if you want one.”
“Given current circumstances,” Kit matches Jet eyebrow for eyebrow. “That wouldn’t be a bad idea. What did he say?”
“Nothing that was unexpected.”Jet would rather not go into details about Chalam’s threats while they’re still close to the OmniVentures building. “His nephew was more helpful.”
“You met Rome?” Kit doesn’t sound surprised, just curious.
Jet nods, holding up the manila envelope. “He gave me this. So maybe we aren’t at such a dead end after all.”

"15. Threats

Read from beginning: "1. Ignored
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