Hardwired

Author: P Hana

Page 5

   

Blake Landon was one of the sexiest men I had ever shared airspace with, but he had no respect for women in business, which put a serious damper on my attraction to him. Unfortunately, he was perilously close to being in my top ten of people I most despised.

“It doesn’t matter, Alli. I’ve never been so humiliated.” I winced, reliving his challenges and the subsequent rejection.

“You’re right. I’m sorry, I wish I could have been there to help.”

“Me too. Anyway, how was the interview?”

Alli paused. “It was good.”

“Yeah?”

“Really good, actually. I don’t want to jinx myself, but it sounds pretty promising.”

“That’s great.” I tried to hide my disappointment, knowing she was excited about this one. She would be working under the marketing director at one of the biggest labels in fashion. I had known for months that Alli would be looking for a full-time gig after graduation, but the thought of running the site without her depressed me. Unless we could afford to hire a new marketing director, I would become the new voice of the company, and networking had never been my forte.

“Nothing is set in stone though. We’ll see.”

“We should celebrate,” I said. Heaven knew I needed some sort of reward for surviving my hellish morning.

“We should celebrate our new best friend, Max!” she squealed.

I laughed, knowing Max was just her type too, if she only knew. She fell apart over three-piece suits. “Hopefully he isn’t just extending his favor to Quinlan by hearing me out for this follow up.”

“People don’t dangle two million dollar carrots in front of people as a favor.”

“True, but I don’t want him to invest unless he’s actually interested.”

“Erica, you’re overanalyzing, as usual.”

I hoped she was right, but I couldn’t help running every possible scenario through my mind in an attempt to plan and prepare for all of them. My brain never stopped.

“I’m getting on the Acela in an hour. I’ll be back before dinner and then we can grab drinks,” she said.

“All right, see you then.” I hung up and forced myself to get up so I could locate my comfy sweat pants, the ones I reserved for breakups and hangovers. Today had drained me beyond belief.

I stopped to appraise myself in the full-length mirror in the room Alli and I shared. I loosened my French twist and my wavy blonde hair fell down my back. I was thinner than usual, thanks to the past few weeks of stress, but my matching bra and panties still clung to my subtle curves.

I ran my hands over the soft lace hugging my hips, wishing someone else’s hands were there to make me forget all about today. I wasn’t expecting to go weak in the knees over some cocky investor at my first boardroom pitch, but my physical reaction to Blake was a serious indicator that I needed to revive my social life. I needed to get out and meet more people. Get away from my computer, at least on Saturday nights. That was usually when we did maintenance on the site because the traffic was slow, but at this rate I wouldn’t have a relationship in my twenties.

I got dressed and shot off an email to Sid with the news. He wouldn’t be awake for another few hours. In addition to being nocturnal, as many programmers were, he had come down with the flu the day before the meeting. He wasn’t much of a public speaker either, but strength existed in numbers and I could have used his support.

The past few months had been particularly intense, between normal college stressors and drafting an in-depth business plan for today’s meeting. While profitable, the site had a long way to go before it could support all of us in the long run. The business kept Alli, Sid, and me afloat, covering costs and our modest expenses as college students, but there were high expectations for where our Ivy League educations would land us fresh out of school.

While Sid and Alli had been job hunting like any responsible college senior, I had gone all in on Clozpin, convinced after our initial success that I could turn it into something far better than a nine to five job for all of us. Getting Max to invest might be my last hope before I had to sideline that dream and get a normal job. In the meantime, I had less than a week to move out of the dorms and find a place to live.

* * *

I woke to the smell of coffee quickly followed by a dull throbbing in my head. “Damn the wine.” I rubbed my temples and willed the pain away.

I sat up on the futon, wrapped myself in my comforter, and thanked the gods for the precious gift of coffee as Alli handed me a steaming cup and two ibuprofen on cue.

“Whatever, we had a blast.” She sidled up next to me with her cup of joe. Her long brown hair was pulled up into a messy bun and she looked effortlessly cute in an oversized off shoulder top and black leggings. “I haven’t seen you have so much fun in ages. You deserved a little break.”

“That meeting put me over the edge,” I said, thankful despite the headache that my nerves were no longer as frayed as they were yesterday.

“So tell me more about Max, and when can I meet him? According to drunk Erica, we’re soul mates.”

I laughed as details of the night came back to me. No night of dinner and drinks was complete without girl talk.

“I pretty much only know what Professor Quinlan told me. He’s smart but always ended up digging himself out of some trouble at school. I don’t think he would have graduated without Quinlan’s help, and a degree was one thing his daddy couldn’t buy.” I shrugged, wanting to give Max the benefit of the doubt now that he’d saved me from total humiliation. “I’m sure it’s not easy to fly straight with a billionaire father though. Some people can’t handle that much freedom.”

“Well it just so happens I’m in the market for taming billionaire playboys.” She gave me a sassy smirk over her shoulder.

“I have little doubt you are.” I rolled my eyes.

“So he just does this investing thing now?”

“I’m not really sure what he does now outside of Angelcom. With that much money, he’s probably into all sorts of things.”

“Okay, the Internet search begins.” Alli bounced up and settled back with her laptop, narrating Max’s benign resume of charity associations and Internet investments. “Let’s see what we can dig up about Blake Landon.”

I fisted my hand around the mug handle, vaguely remembering my drunken rant about what an offensive ass Blake had been at the meeting. That he assumed he could derail my presentation and take me out after was unbelievable, but with looks like his, he probably had most women eating out of his palm with very little effort. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t most women. The seething rage I felt toward the man was tempered only by the unholy way I felt under his gaze.

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