An enemies-to-lovers story, written for The Weekly Quickie (6/10/23).
| Aria and Oliver had been competing for the better part of their lives. As classmates at Wharton, they finished one-two in the class rankings. When both started independent management consultancies, they fought over the same clients. When Aria was looking for offices for her new startup, Oliver swept in and stole that very space out from under her for one of his ventures. When Oliver was working on a hostile takeover of a distressed company, Aria came in as an angel investor and wrestled controlling interest out from under him.|
Thirty years of professional competition so fierce that it consumed them both. Neither ever married; their all-consuming passion was for getting the upper hand on the other, and it had come to this: sitting across from one another at an oversized table in a conference room overlooking Central Park, flanked by teams of lawyers and accountants.
Oliver glared while the financial wizards argued about valuations and stock shares. Aria glowered while the attorneys disputed board seats and senior executive retention. Sure, it was a merger of equals, everyone said ... but someone’s name still had to come first on the letterhead.
After several hours, they broke for lunch. Rather than join everyone at the Michelin-starred bistro down the street, Aria bought a protein bar and a bottle of water from the vending machine and went up to the rooftop balcony. She stopped in her tracks when she saw Oliver already leaning against the railing, several bags of junk food clutched in his hands.
“Still can’t eat when you’re stressed?” Oliver asked.
“Still eat like crap when you are?”
Oliver smirked, wiping Cheeto dust from his fingers with a napkin. “Guilty.”
They stood side by side for a moment, staring out at the sprawl of Central Park beneath them.
“Hard to believe it’s come to this,” Oliver said. “Years of circling each other, dancing around, shadow-boxing. Now we’re finally throwing real punches.”
“It felt like a pretty real punch when you outbid me for that cybersecurity startup last year. Your company doesn’t even do cybersecurity.”
“That wasn’t a punch. That was ... a tit for tat. Righteous vengeance for that time you hacked into our servers.”
Aria opened her mouth, but Oliver gave her an I dare you to deny it look and she backed down.
“Come on, you really didn’t think we knew? That the Senate Finance Committee just happened to know the exact right questions to ask during that hearing where I got grilled?”
“I guess we’ve both done some pretty shitty things to one another,” Aria replied. “I don’t even remember how it started.”
“It was me,” Oliver admitted. “Back when we were management consulting and I told a couple of prospective clients that you were ‘too emotional’ to analyze their corporate data.”
“Because I was pissed that you finished at the top of the class. Because you’ve always been smarter and had better instincts than me. Because it’s the business world equivalent of pulling the pigtails of a girl I like, hoping she’ll notice me.”
Aria stared at him.
“All this time?”
Aria closed the distance between them and kissed Oliver. He returned the kiss with more urgency and they sank down to the rooftop, Aria hiking up her skirt enough so that she could throw a leg over him and straddle his designer suit.
They kissed again.
“Does this mean the merger’s going through?” Oliver asked once they came up for air.
“The deal has good bones, but we still have to work out some of details.”
“My company name has to come first. It’s non-negotiable. As you can see ... I like to be on top.”
“From where I’m sitting, I have zero issue with this arrangement whatsoever.”
“Should we head down, then?” Aria asked. “Call everyone back and close this thing out?”
“Not yet.” Oliver kissed her again. “Let them finish their fancy lunch. I want to more fully explore these additional assets you’ve brought to the table.”
“I assure you, Oliver ... they’ve continued to appreciate in value over the years. And are worth every penny.”
Written For: "The Weekly Quickie Contest"
Prompt: Enemies to Lovers - The trick here is finding a way to show the rivalry and romance without having to say it in the limited word count. Do the best you can to not just say "the enemy". The more creative show for the dynamic between the characters, the better.