Tangled Page 15

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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 f**king 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 f**king 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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