Prologue: The Negotiation

The two men sat across a mahogany desk between them. Their calculating gazes eyed each other. Both of them were powerful businessmen. It was a well-known fact. These men weren’t rivals but neither were they well acquainted. Their enterprises were simply in two different industries. Despite their reputations, they hadn’t negotiated in the past. Neither of them had a reason to seek the other…

… until this day.

The man in his mid-forties with dark brown hair and stunning gray eyes had come for a favor. A risky one that he was reluctantly forced to oblige. It was for the sake of the daughter he loved dearly. He thought if he gave in to her wish, she’ll be able to see how much he meant to her. It was hard for the old man to give her away. If only she wasn’t as stubborn as her mother… but he wouldn’t have her in any other.

“I’m grateful for your time, Parker” The man said. At the other end, a man—in his fifties sat with blonde hair streaked with grey and ocean blue eyes—frowned. Parker already knew why the business tycoon was here. He didn’t like it one bit. The man had many enemies and he rather not be tangled up with that mess.

“Of course, Greenwood. I understand this must be hard for you” Parker answered politely. It was a voice he had mastered over the years.

“I’m not entirely sure I agree to that, Parker. I doubt your children have given you this kind of trouble” Greenwood meant to lighten up the mood but Parker wasn’t pleased.
“Fair point. I haven’t been blessed with a daughter” At this point, both men were stalling the much needed talk.

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“Two boys, I heard?” Parker nodded at this information, “They must be a handful”

Parker didn’t want to think about it. His boys worried him every day. They haven’t been the same since… since… he shook the thoughts out his head. It pained him that he hadn’t been of help for the past years. That was his wife’s specialty and she was gone.

“They do give me a headache” Parker admitted to that truth. Greenwood nodded in understanding. He had a feeling that his daughter was the two boys combined when it came to trouble. It wasn’t because she wasn’t a good girl. She was but that’s what worried him and her mother. She was too good. The girl was almost a robot. It hurt him to see her spend her days without actually living her life. His wife has him convinced that this was the right thing to do.

But, oh, how it worries him.

“If it’s alright with you, Greenwood, I’d like to get to the heart of the matter” Parker’s voice broke through Greenwood’s thoughts. The visitor looked like he was lost in his thoughts and Parker needed to get back on track or he would be late for the meeting.

“Right” Greenwood cleared his throat and straightened up his spine, “My daughter would like to attend your school”

Parker already knew that. The school wasn’t exactly prestigious or private where most children from rich families attended. It was a public school his deceased wife built before they met. It was struggling that time and the board of directors thought it would be good for publicity’s sake to help it. It was Parker who negotiated with the school administration. She ran most of the paperwork on her own and told him to stick up his nose in a different charity. She said she didn’t need any help from a rich & arrogant bastard who didn’t really care about the students.

Next thing Parker knew, he kept coming back.

They built the school together to what it is today. She remained the principal until her body no longer allowed her to. Parker couldn’t find it in himself to give it away and decided to run it.

“I’m well aware of that, Greenwood” Parker kept his patience in check, “What I don’t understand is why your daughter will be disguising as boy to fool the whole school. I do not tolerate dishonesty”
Greenwood started to sweat a little. It was a hard bargain to ask. He wasn’t about to back down though. His daughter was counting on him for once.

“I believe you’re also aware of my enemies, Parker. I’ve seen almost every trick in the book that they could use against me. They’ve involved my family on numerous occasions. My daughter is sick of hiding. She’s been cooped up her whole life. She believes that by pretending to be a boy, my enemies won’t find her so easily. I can’t deny her logic on this”

“I can see your daughter’s point” Parker started, “But the risks of someone finding out still weighs heavily. All that effort would be for nothing the moment she’s caught”

“I understand, Parker, and so does she. That is why I came to you. It would be too easy to fabricate documents and have her attend the school under your nose” Greenwood thought with caution to voice out his plans without causing for alarm, “But that would be a fool’s mistake. My daughter would make sure she wouldn’t be caught, I’m sure, except it won’t eliminate all the necessary risks to protect her. I’ve asked for your time in order for us to come to an agreement”

“What exactly are you saying, Greenwood?” Parker eyed the man curiously. He knew of the rumors about Greenwood and his empire. It wasn’t without some dirty work as the news kept pressing to the people but Parker had noticed none of them was out of offense. They have been merely defense. Unless provoked, the man in front of him played fair and square. He wondered if these circumstances would be an exception.

“I am negotiating to let you and the school staff know of this secrecy” Greenwood felt a sense of relief as he talked, “I’ll pay them triple their salary and I’ll also have a contract for them to sign. This includes you as well, principal. I hope you understand I have to take extra precautions for this to unfold. Once word goes out that my daughter’s secret is found, I would see the responsible parties in court. If that is not enough for you, Parker, I’ll also triple your annual funds. The school would be able to give more scholarships and attract more donations”

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Greenwood’s words gave Parker a headache. He admitted that the man surprised him. He thought Greenwood would threaten him like other businessmen he knew. Greenwood just earned some of his respect. His daughter seemed to be a clever vixen and Parker can clearly see where she got it from.

“Greenwood, you truly live up to rumors about you” Parker said amusingly. Greenwood chuckled, knowing perfectly what the principal meant, “I’ll have every employee sign your terms and orient them myself about the situation. As a parent, I know where you’re coming from and I’ll be explicitly clear about the consequences for breaking the contract you’ve set. I’ll be adding my own threats if you don’t mind”

“Not at all” Greenwood smiled. The weight on his shoulders was lifted. He, then, couldn’t wait to tell his daughter the news.

Parker stood up and held out his hand, “I’ll be looking forward to welcome your daughter for her first day of freshman year”

Greenwood followed his step and shook the outstretched hand, “Please take care of her, Parker”
Parker gave the hand a squeeze before letting it go, “I will”

Parker remained standing as he watched Greenwood walk out of the office. When Greenwood held the door knob, he paused. An inner battle took place in his conscience. At this, Parker was confused. Slowly, Greenwood turned to face him and said…

“There is one more thing…”

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