Page 7

Author: Emma Chase


Somebody else must have it.


I turn my attention to a much smaller, but just as important, volume called Investment Management Regulation, Seventh Edition. Only to find that it, too, is missing.


What the hell?


I don’t believe in coincidences. I take the elevator back to the fortieth floor and march purposefully through Kate’s open door.


I don’t see her right away.


That’s because stacked on and around her desk, in neat skyscraper-high columns, are books. About three dozen of them.


For a moment, I freeze, my mouth open and my eyes wide with shock. Then, inanely, I wonder how the hell she got them all up here. Kate weighs a buck-ten at best. There’s got to be several hundred pounds of pages in this room.


It’s then that her shiny dark head emerges over the horizon. And, once again, she smiles. Like a cat with a mouthful of bird.


I hate cats. They’re kind of evil-looking, don’t you think? Like they’re just waiting for you to fall asleep so they can smother you with their fur or piss in your ear.


“Hi, Drew. Did you need something?” she asks me with phony benevolence.


Her fingers tap rhythmically on two gigantic hardcovers. “You know…help? Advice? Directions to the public library?”


I swallow my response. And frown at her. “No. I’m good.”


“Oh. Okay, great. Bye-bye, now.” And with that, she disappears back down behind the literary mountain.


Brooks—two.


Evans—zip.


After that, things get nasty.


I’m ashamed to say that both Kate and I sink to new lows in professional sabotage. It never actually wanders over to the realm of the illegal. But it’s definitely close.


One day I come in to find all the cables missing from my computer. It doesn’t do any lasting damage, but I have to wait an hour-and-a-half for the IT guy to show up and reconnect it.


The next day, Kate comes in to discover that “someone” has switched all the labels on her disks and files. Nothing was erased, mind you. But she pretty much has to look through every single one if she wants to find the documents she needs.


A few days after that at a staff meeting, I “accidentally” spill a glass of water on some information Kate has compiled for my father. Something that probably took her five or so hours to put together.


“Oops. Sorry,” I say, letting the smirk on my face tell her how very unsorry I am.


“It’s fine, Mr. Evans,” she assures my father as she wipes up the mess. “I have another copy in my office.”


How very Boy-Scoutish of her, don’t you think?


Later—about halfway through the same meeting—do you know what she does?


She fucking kicks me! In the shin, under the table.


“Hmph,” I groan, and my hands fist reflexively.


“You all right, Drew?” my father asks.


I can only nod and squeak, “Something in my throat.” I cough dramatically.


See, I’m not about to go crying to Daddy either. But sweet Christ it hurt. You ever been kicked in the shin by a four-inch pointy shoe? For a man, there is only one area that’s more painful to be kicked.


And that is a place that dare not speak its name.


After the throbbing in my leg dies down a bit, I hide my hand behind some upturned papers while my father’s speaking. Then I flip Kate the finger. Immature, I know, but apparently we’re now both functioning at the preschool level, so I’m guessing it’s okay.


Kate sneers at me. Then she mouths, You wish.


Well—she’s got me there, now doesn’t she?


We’re in the home stretch. A month of mortal combat has passed, and tomorrow is my father’s deadline. It’s around eleven o’clock, and Kate and I are the only ones left in the building.


I’ve had this fantasy a hundred times. Though, I have to say, it’s never included us in our respective offices, glaring at each other across the hallway—accompanied by the occasional obscene hand gesture.


I glance over and see her reviewing her charts. What is she thinking? Is this the Stone Age? Who the hell uses poster board anymore? Anderson is definitely mine.


I’m just putting the finishing touches on my own impressive PowerPoint presentation when Matthew walks into my office. He’s heading to the bars. Never mind that it’s a Wednesday night; that’s just Matthew. A few short weeks ago, that was me too.


He looks at me for the longest time, saying nothing. Then he sits on the edge of my desk and says, “Dude, just fucking do it already.”


“What are you talking about?” I ask, my fingers never pausing over the keyboard.


“Have you looked at yourself lately? You need to just walk over there and get it done.”


And now he’s annoying me. “Matthew, what the hell are you trying to say?”


But all he comes back with is, “You ever see War of the Roses? Is that how you want to end up?”


“I have work to do. I don’t have time for this right now.”


He throws his hands up. “Fine. I tried. When we find you two in the lobby under the fallen chandelier, I’ll tell your mother I frigging tried.”


I stop typing. “What the fuck do you mean?”


“I mean you and Kate. It’s obvious you have a thing for her.”


I glance over at her office when he says her name. She doesn’t look up. “Yeah, I do have ‘a thing’ for her. An extreme dislike of her. We can’t stand each other. She’s a pill. I wouldn’t fuck her with a ten-foot dildo.”


Okay, that’s not true. I’d so fuck her. But I wouldn’t like it.


Yeah—you’re right. That’s not true either.


Matthew sits in the chair across from my desk. I can feel him staring at me again. Then he sighs. And says, like it’s supposed to be some awe-inspiring revelation, “Sally Jansen.”


I look at him blankly.


Who?


“Sally Jansen,” he says again, then clarifies, “Third grade.”


The picture of a small girl with light brown pigtails and thick glasses comes to mind.


I nod. “What about her?”


“She was the first girl I ever loved.”


Wait. What?


“Didn’t you used to call her Smelly Sally?”


“Yes.” He nods solemnly. “Yes, I did. And I loved her.”


Still confused.


“Didn’t you get, like, the entire third grade to call her Smelly Sally?”


He nods again and, trying to sound sage, says, “Love makes you do some stupid shit.”


I guess so, because…


“Didn’t she have to leave early twice a week to go to a therapist because you ragged on her so much?”


He ponders this a moment. “Yes, that’s true. You know, there’s a fine line between love and hate, Drew.”


“And didn’t Sally Jansen switch schools later that year because—”


“Look, the point here, man, is that I liked the girl. Loved her. I thought she was awesome. But I couldn’t deal with those feelings. I didn’t know how to express them the right way.”


Matthew’s not usually this in touch with his feminine side.


“So you picked on her instead?” I ask.


“Sadly, yes.”


“And this has to do with Kate and me because…?”


He pauses a beat and then gives me…the look. The slight shake of his head, the grimace of sad disappointment. That look right there is worse than a mother’s guilt, I swear.


He stands, slaps me on the arms, and says, “You’re a smart guy, Andrew. You’ll figure it out.” And with that, he leaves.


Yeah, yeah, I know what Matthew was trying to say. I get it, all right. And I’m telling you—straight up—he’s crazy.


I don’t spar with Kate because I like her. I do it because her existence is screwing with the trajectory of my career. She’s a nuisance. A fly in my soup. A pain in my ass. As aching as that mother of a bee sting I got on my left cheek at summer camp when I was eleven.


Sure, she’d be a great lay. I’d ride the Kate Brooks Express any time. But it would never be anything more than a good screw. That’s all, folks.


What? Why are you looking at me like that? You don’t believe me?


Then you’re as crazy as Matthew.


Chapter 6


PRESSURE’S A FUNNY THING. It makes some people snap. Like the MIT student who decides to take out half the student body with a long-range rifle because he got a B-plus on a final. It makes some people choke. Two words: Jorge Posada. Enough said. Pressure makes some people fall. Crumble. Freeze.


I am not one of those people. I thrive on pressure. It propels me, drives me to succeed. It is my element. Like a fish in water.


I get to work the next day bright and early. Dressed to kill with my game face on.


It’s go time.


Kate and I arrive at my father’s office door at nine a.m. on the dot. I can’t help but check her out. She looks good. Confident. Excited. Apparently she reacts to stress the same way I do.


My father explains that Saul Anderson called to say he would be coming to town ahead of schedule. As in tomorrow night.


Lots of businessmen do this. Push meetings up at the last minute. It’s a test. To see if you’re prepared. To see if you can handle the unexpected. Lucky for me—I am and I can.


And then we begin. I insist on ladies first.


I watch Kate’s presentation like a kid watches a gift under the tree on Christmas Eve. She doesn’t know that, of course. My face is the very definition of bored indifference. On the inside, though, I can’t wait to see what she’s got.


And I’m not disappointed. Don’t tell anyone I said this—I’ll deny it until death—but Kate Brooks is pretty fucking incredible. Almost as good as me.


Almost.


She’s direct, clear, and persuasive as hell. The investment plans she lays out are unique and imaginative. And destined to make a shitload of money. Her only weakness is that she’s new. She doesn’t have the connections to necessarily make what she’s proposing happen. Like I’ve said before, part of this business—a big part—is having the inside track. The hidden info and dirty secrets that outsiders can’t get to. So although Kate’s ideas are strong, they’re not altogether viable. Not a slam-dunk.


Then it’s my turn.


My proposals, on the other hand, are rock fucking solid. The companies and investments I outline are well known and secure. Granted, my projected profits aren’t as high as Kate’s, but they’re certain. Dependable. Safe.


Once I’m done, I sit beside Kate on the couch. See us there? Kate’s hands are folded neatly in her lap, her back straight, a sure, satisfied smile on her lips. I lean back on the couch, my stance relaxed, my own confident smile a mirror image of hers.


For those of you out there who think I’m a shit heel? Watch carefully. You’re going to love this part.


My father clears his throat, and I can read the excited gleam in his eyes. He rubs his hands together and smiles. “I knew my instincts were right on this one. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with what you’ve come up with. And I think it’s obvious who should move forward with Anderson.”


Simultaneously, Kate and I smirk at each other, gloating triumph written all over our faces.


Wait for it…


“Both of you.”


Irony’s really a bite in the ass, isn’t it?


Our eyes turn to my father, and the grins drop from our faces faster than an Acme safe in a Road Runner cartoon. Our shocked voices speak at the same time.


“What?”


“Excuse me?”


“With your artistic flair for investing, Kate, and your concrete know-how, Drew, you two will be perfect together. An unbeatable team. You can both work on the account. When he signs with us, you can share him—the workload and the bonuses—fifty-fifty.”

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