THE HELICOPTER ROTORS beat the humid air like the wings of angry dragons as Lucille Ferro descended toward the hunting lodge. Or perhaps that was just her imagination. The freshly minted CEO projecting her frustrated mood.
Luci had been battling for status her entire career, and was sick of the subtle slights and standard assumptions. While every sister knew her struggle to some extent, Luci had been hit particularly hard. The industry sectors she’d selected and ascended were bastions of brotherhood. The military. The airline industry. And now energy. Yet even as chief executive of the biggest blue-chip in the baddest industry, she still got snubbed by the boys.
The revenues generated by KAKO Energy dwarfed those of the other two Texas companies in the cozy little alliance they called the C3. But rather than wave her ace, Luci had gracefully agreed to accommodate the group’s established rules. Tradition was important, deep in the heart of Texas—but that wasn’t what drove her decision.
Luci had pulled on jeans and boots, and agreed to fly up from Houston for a weekend on their turf because she wouldn’t allow ego to interfere with her agenda. Not given the stakes, or the audacity of the proposal she’d be putting forward. Her plan would make them all unbelievably rich—if they screwed their courage to the sticking place.
Three men in cowboy hats watched her approach from the edge of the helipad. Two CEOs, easily discernible by their pompous stature despite the twilight hour, and a lone ranch hand who ran forward while the rotors were still spinning. Hat in hand, he opened her door and held it politely as she disembarked.
Once Luci had both feet on the ground, the young man extracted her roller bag from the luggage compartment. Then, to her surprise, he extended the handle and leaned it in her direction while bowing his head. A handoff gesture.
Apparently, he wasn’t planning to carry it.
Luci accepted her bag without comment.
The ranch hand proceeded to shock her a second time by climbing into the seat she’d just vacated and shutting the helicopter door.
Perplexed but unperturbed, Luci wheeled her bag toward the C3’s other two members without a backward glance. No sooner had she cleared the rotor area than the engine accelerated and the helicopter began to ascend.
“Welcome to Lonestar Lodge. Pardon the unconventional greeting,” the host and senior member of the trio said, touching the brim of his hat before extending his hand. “I find these meetings work best when there’s nobody else around.”