Tywin Lannister, the richest man in Westeros, shifted in his seat as he glanced down once more at the file on his lap. He was on his private jet, north, to Winterfell, to meet with the new CEO and heir to the Stark fortune, Sansa Stark. He glanced down at the file he had on her, although if asked, he could have repeated it verbatim.
Masters in Business Administration.
Graduated with Honors.
Eldest surviving child of Ned and Catelyn Stark.
There were several photos that his people had compiled in the dossier on Ms. Stark. A few must have been from her university days. She looked impossibly young and carefree, and at fifty-nine Tywin wondered how long it had been since he had looked like that. The only other photo his people had managed to take was one of her dressed in black, four oak caskets in front of her as she laid winter roses on them. The funeral for her parents, and her brother and his wife. Two months ago. She looked beautiful and remote; as if the grief had been too much for her to show any emotion. Tywin shook his head at such a fanciful thought.
He was here, and not Cersei or Tyrion because he knew she was vulnerable. She was woefully out of her depth, and he knew, from the covert reports he received, that her hold on the North, her father's company and the abundant resources in the land she owned, were all ripe for the picking. He knew that he was an utterly cold and emotionless bastard for taking advantage of her during such time, but he didn't care.
The gold mines of his ancestors had long ago dried up, and Tywin made his money by taking advantage of opportunities when they arose. He had diversified his portfolio to the point that he was in shipping, building, real estate and resource extraction. The only thing that had brought Tywin pleasure over the years was making money and crushing the competition. He had his finger in every pot in Westeros.
Knowing the North was rich in timber, but also oil and gas made him excited to expand his already massive empire. This negotiation was too important to leave to anyone but himself. He knew he was an intimidating man, and she was still grieving the loss of her family. She was alone, vulnerable and would be grateful for the generous offer he would make her for sole possession of what came out of the ground in the North. He shifted again, his eyes lingering on the picture from the funeral. It brought back an unpleasant memory from his past; when he had dressed in his most sombre suit to lay his beloved wife to rest. In any other person, their shared tragedy at the same age might have made them soften towards her, but not Tywin Lannister. He shut the dossier and focused on the task at hand; determined to leave with nothing less than full access and rights to the riches of the North.
Sansa wanted to lay her head on her father's massive desk and weep. But she could not. She couldn't because she was suddenly, at twenty-four, responsible for everything attached to the Stark name. Lumber mills, logging operations, a copper mine that her father had started five years ago that had just begun to turn a profit. Countless jobs, people's livelihoods were on her shoulders. It was true that both she and Robb had been groomed to take over their father's business, but not like this, never like this. They were supposed to work in tandem, work for their father for several years, learning how to run Stark Enterprises from the inside out. And all of that was shattered with a single phone call. It was precisely two months ago when her entire world collapsed. She'd just gotten home from a date with a nice young man that she'd seen twice before. Harry Harding had the blond good looks and charm that Sansa liked. She'd told him no to coming into her apartment in Kings Landing, sure that while she wanted him, she wasn't ready for anything more when the unknown number had appeared on her phone. She was in the process of packing up her apartment to come back to Winterfell, having just graduated with her MBA, and answered the phone unthinkingly.
She could still recall the police officer's sombre voice telling her there had been an accident. He went on to explain the roads had been slick with rain, and it had been dark. The large transport truck had crossed the center line and all but obliterated the vehicle her parents, her brother and his wife were in.
Sansa remembered that she was sick. She remembered that she dropped the phone. She remembered that she thought it all must be a massive joke. She called her best friend Jeyne, who knew she was due home in a few days and asked if she could go down to the police station and check for sure. Sansa had sat, curled in a ball, until Jeyne phoned back, pity and sympathy warring in her voice.
Sansa had phoned Jon, who cried with her, unable to believe that such a thing had happened. He promised to meet her at Winterfell but cautioned already he couldn't stay. He was in the military and stationed up North and could only take leave for a few days. Her next phone call had been to her sister, who'd been travelling. Arya expressed her shock and horror and promised to come home, but Sansa knew it would only be temporary. Her brother Bran, away at University himself, and always somewhat remote, barely reacted, stating he'd meet her there. That left Rickon. At fifteen, he was the only Stark that still lived with the Starks. He had been home alone the night of the accident, and the police had sent Sansa's Uncle Benjen to be with him. Ben promised he'd stay with Ric until Sansa could get there.
The next two weeks were a blur. She had flown home immediately, her friend Margaery promising to pack up her apartment and send her things North to Winterfell Manor. She went home the very next day, Ben and Ric meeting her at the airport. She would move back home; she had been planning that anyway, only now her schedule had been dramatically moved up.
Over the next few days, she was confronted with the sheer horror of having to make impossible decisions. What type of caskets would she like for her parents? What burial plots would she use? What kind of funeral would they want? Was there music they were fond of? What about a eulogy? The list was as endless as it was brutal, and she collapsed each night into a sobbing mess.
Jon and Arya both showed up within days and helped ease some of the burdens. When their father's lawyer, a Mr. Luwin arrived, he sat them all down in her father's study and explained that everything had essentially been left to Sansa. A multi-million-dollar company, Winterfell Manor, and her father's entire portfolio was now in her care. She thought she'd be sick, but she just nodded. It was what was expected of her. Arya, Bran and Rickon all had trust funds set up by their parents, and a tidy little sum of money had also been set aside for Jon. But by and large, everything fell on Sansa's shoulders.
When her siblings left three days after the funeral, she pulled on a business suit and showed up to work. Thankfully, Uncle Benjen was her Dad's chief operating officer, and he promised he'd be by her side the entire time. She nodded, gratefully at him. Others were loyal to her father that were in the company. They all promised to do what they could to ease her burden. Still, it wasn't unusual for her to work fourteen- and sixteen-hour days to try to understand what was going on.
Before her father had died, he'd begun to explore what was in the ground up North. For so long Stark Enterprises had made their money in the logging industry, but her father had wanted to diversify. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the grounds of the North were fertile with resources and more than anything the Starks owned massive tracts of land throughout the North.
The moment her Dad had begun such explorations, the vultures had begun to circle, which brought Sansa to the situation she currently found herself facing.
Tywin Lannister, the most ruthless, logical and demanding man in all of Westeros, was on his way North. Sansa had studied him in business school and knew his methods and his philosophy. He would expect to find her grieving and vulnerable, and he would use that to press his advantage. He wasn't the only person who was after what the North had to offer. She knew that Stannis Baratheon had a keen interest, along with Petyr Baelish. All three men represented different regions and also provided an opportunity for the North to get their raw resources to other markets.
Sansa checked her watch for the third time, knowing that at any moment, Tywin Lannister was set to walk through those doors. She still felt like a fraud most days, sitting behind her father's desk, but Ben assured her she was doing a great job. She almost snorted at that thought. He would say that; the last thing he wanted was to be CEO. She took one last look at her parents smiling face, and whispered, "Wish me luck," before her receptionist buzzed that Mr. Lannister was here.
"Send him in."
Sansa stood and watched as he entered the room. He was by himself and still managed to command all the attention. Tall, lean and almost severe-looking, his cold green eyes met hers. She held his gaze and let him drink in his fill. More than one person had underestimated her in this lifetime, and he wouldn't be the last. When he was done looking, she held out her hand.
"Mr. Lannister. Welcome to the North."
He shook her outstretched hand and took the offered seat.
"Ms. Stark." His voice was cool and dry.
When she sat, she folded her hands and waited him out. He was on her territory. He'd come to her. She did not need him or his shipping company and access to markets. She'd run the numbers herself. She could afford to sit on the natural resources on her lands for decades. Timber markets were steady, and mill production was up 5% this year due to low-interest rates and a housing boom.
Tywin's immediate assessment of the young woman in front of him was that the pictures had not done her beauty justice. She was in a league all her own. His second was that very few people were not outright intimidated by him, and it surprised him that she appeared to be one of the few who wasn't. His third was that he'd rarely had his technique of holding his tongue used against him.
Finally, he coughed slightly and spoke.
"Ms. Stark, as you are aware, my company is uniquely positioned to help Stark Enterprises get the natural resources that are in the ground to market."
She held his gaze, blue eyes to green.
"Lannisport is on the West coast is it not?" She asked suddenly.
He nodded guarded.
"Tell me, Mr. Lannister, how is it possible that shipping my goods to the West would be more beneficial than taking them to White Harbour? Or the Saltpans? Even the Stormlands offer closer ports."
Tywin's eyes narrowed. He looked at her.
"Because Lannister Corporation has access to more markets than anyone in those ports you've spoken of. White Harbour cannot deal with the volume, Baelish only barely controls the port in the Vale, and Stannis Baratheon will never offer you the terms I will."
"And what are those terms, Mr. Lannister?"
"30% market value of whatever we take out of the ground."
Sansa laughed then, and although it sounded rusty, it felt good.
"You're a thief."
He grimaced, and his face was a cold and remote mask.
"Ms. Stark, I assure you that Lannister Corp is taking most of the risk. While preliminary studies indicate there may be valuable resources there, the development of such large-scale operations will tax even the most financially solvent companies."
Sansa cocked her head.
"I'll be frank with you, Mr. Lannister. I've run the numbers. I can afford to sit on those resources for decades. I'm sorry you came all this way." She stood then to indicate the meeting was over.
He rose as well, graceful and powerful, as only a man with his reputation could be.
"You're making a mistake."
"Perhaps. But I'd rather not rush into anything."
"Do you have any idea what 30% of billions of dollars is Ms. Stark?"
She smiled, and he saw at that moment that he had completely underestimated her.
"As it so happens, Mr. Lannister, I too took mathematics in University. I'm not interested in signing over anything."
"What are you interested in, Ms. Stark?" Tywin hadn't even realized he'd moved closer to her and was leaning over her father's imposing desk. Sansa too, leaned into to him, as if drawn to him but some irresistible force.
Tywin scoffed, and she reeled back. Tywin Lannister did not enter into partnerships. He took companies over, broke them apart, and rebuilt them with his people in charge. In thirty-five years, he'd never agreed to work with anyone.
Sansa shrugged. "Enjoy your flight home, Mr. Lannister."
He straightened and nodded curtly at her, then stalked out of the room. Once he was gone, Sansa sunk back into her chair.
She realized that she had enjoyed the past half an hour. Tywin Lannister was a man that was fun to spar with, verbally at least. For thirty minutes, she hadn't thought of the awful circumstances that had led her to sit in this chair. And she swore, there was a spark there. It had been just a moment when they had leaned into one another, that she thought she saw a brief flash of interest in those cold green eyes. It was gone after a second, but it had been there.
She shook her head. She knew he'd never go for her idea of a partnership. It was why she'd floated it in the first place. Everyone knew that Tywin Lannister liked to run the show to call all the shots. She shrugged unconcernedly. She had enough on her plate than to have to worry about a grumpy CEO from the south that thought he could bully her. She pushed him from her mind and focused on the other three hundred never-ending tasks that made up her day; sure she'd never see or hear from him again. He was from the South, and she was of the North. They weren't even meant to occupy the same worlds. It had been fun matching wits with him, but that was all.
Tywin sat on his jet and seethed the entire way back to Kings Landing. A partnership? Who the hell did Sansa Stark think she was? Everyone knew that wasn't ever something Tywin would agree to. He wondered if that is why she had proposed it. She was an intelligent woman, that much he could admit. He'd enjoyed speaking with her, short as it was. He gave her full credit for not shying away from him, and for not backing down. Still, it galled him that she asked that of him, especially when he knew men like Petyr Baelish and Stannis Baratheon would also make a run at her.
He drummed his fingers on his seat, lost in his thoughts until the plane touched down.
His driver was there to take him to his penthouse apartment; the one he kept in Kings Landing. He barely noticed the well-appointed space, that he usually enjoyed coming home too, so wrapped up in thoughts of how to get Sansa Stark to bend to his will. It had nothing to do with her beauty and everything to do with her sheer stubbornness.
He waited a week, and then he sent her an email.
Dear Ms. Stark,
I must compliment you on an excellent first round of negotiations. I look forward to our next meeting. I will see you in one month.
My offer is now at 33%.
CEO, Lannister Corporation
Sansa bit back the smile when she received the email. She was lost in budget sheets and had a meeting with her board. Still, there was a funny flutter in her stomach. She pressed a button on her phone and asked her EA if Mr. Lannister had scheduled another meeting.
Her assistant hummed as she searched and then confirmed that he had. Exactly one month since their first meeting, on July 17. Sansa couldn't help it. She grinned. She had to give him credit for pure cheek.
She waited a week before she responded to his email.
Dear Mr. Lannister,
Unfortunately, I think you missed the math class that I was required to complete my MBA, with top grades I might add.
33% is not a partnership.
CEO, Stark Enterprises
Tywin let a small smirk grace his lips when he saw her reply. He waited five days before he replied.
Math has always been one of my strongest suits. 33% is a generous offer and one I look forward to discussing with you, in person.
Sansa had been exhausted when the email alert pinged to let her know a new one had come in. That was until she saw his name. She read it twice. And grinned. He was looking forward to seeing her in person. It was the only bright spot in her life. Rickon was a nightmare, and the business, while profitable, required an enormous amount of work. She would think she understood something when another problem rose up.
She waited three days before responding.
I fail to see how a measly 3% can be considered generous, though I must warn you, I was also captain of the debate team, and enjoy a good negotiation.
Tywin let out a small chuckle. Had anyone been around to hear him, they would have been shocked at such a sound coming from his lips. He waited two days before responding.
I have been negotiating since before you were born. I would gladly give you some helpful tips, as I feel I must pass along my knowledge to the next generation. Do not overestimate yourself. I am not a boy playing a game.
Sansa laughed. Were helpful tips supposed to be a euphemism for his penis? Then she shook her head, blushing but the thought wouldn't leave her mind. That and the fact that he had said he wasn't a boy. He surely wasn't. And Sansa liked that about him. He was a man at the very top of his game. He could teach her a whole host of things she was sure. Just like she was convinced that she would settle for no less than 50%. A partnership. Still, if he wanted to fly all this way to get schooled by her stubbornness, she wouldn't discourage him. He was a welcome distraction in an otherwise bleak world for her right now.
I've never underestimated you.
I look forward to your tips.
I've cleared the day for you.
Tywin sat back. Cheeky girl. He felt his cock twitch. He couldn't help it. And he couldn't help but check his calendar. Ten days and he'd be back in the North, and free to spend an entire day with her. He still wanted the resources in the ground that she called hers. But he realized, quite shockingly, that he also wanted to see her again. It had been years since a woman had held his interest like her, and he knew, despite his best intentions, that he would be counting down the days until he flew North again.