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Billionaire's Kiss Sloan Storm 2022/8/3 13:48:11

“Of course,” Grey replied. He stepped forward and smiled a mouthful of white. “And what is that price, sir? How much?”

Brian rocked back on his heels. “Well, I… I’d have to get the financials together you know? Don’t you wanna see the books?”

Grey shook his head. “Nope. How much?”

Brian began to turn his head towards me, presumably for some guidance on how to handle this maniac.

“Don’t look at her,” Grey snapped. His voice boomed with the command of a tycoon. “She doesn’t own the place. How much do you want? Name your price. Come on Brian, you know what your place is worth. Name it. Now.”

“Seven hundred thousand.”

Grey nodded and without wasting another second, began to scribble in his checkbook. After he finished writing, he slipped his pen back in his pocket and with a single swipe, tore the check out and passed it to Brian.

Brian’s eyebrows tented upwards. I couldn’t tell if it was a look of disgust or surprise.

“Uh,” he stuttered. “Are you… sure about this?”

“Absolutely,” Grey said.

“It says three… million… dollars.”

“Not enough?” Grey asked, as he motioned for Brian to pass the check back to him.

In a haze of disbelief, Brian glanced at me. “Is this guy for real?”

I crossed my arms at my chest and nodded in disgust. “Unfortunately, he is.”

“Well shit, buddy,” Brian said, folding the check and sticking it in the front pocket of his shirt. “You got yourself a goddamn deal. Welcome to the coffee b’ness.”

Grey took his hand, but as he did, he said, “I do have two conditions to my offer, however.”

Brian nodded. “Name ‘em.”

“The first is that you stay on long enough to train someone from my management team to take over.”

“Okay,” Brian said, nodding. “What’s the other?”

Grey turned towards me. “That you fire this woman at once.”

He nodded at me. “Maddie, you’re fired. Get your stuff and get out.”

My jaw fell open in disbelief. I stepped back and slapped him across the upper arm.

He shrugged. “What? You heard the man.”

“Fine,” I said, as I untied my apron in a hurry. Slamming it on the counter, I reached underneath, grabbed my purse and prepared to get out of there as fast as I could. Brian’s head moved on a swivel as I raced by him and headed for the exit but before I could reach it, Grey stepped in front of me, blocking my escape.

“Get out of my way, Grey,” I warned. “So help me, I’m in no mood.”

“All right,” he said, as he stepped aside and opened the door for me. “But I will follow you, Maddie. Wherever you go.”

I turned my head away from him and as I did, he reached inside of his pocket and pulled out his checkbook. Brandishing it in front of my face, he continued, “No matter where you work, I will buy the place and fire you. Go where you wish, you will not escape me. Not again. I will never lose you again.”

Was Maddie Olsen worth three million dollars?

I’d bought and sold billions of dollars’ worth of shit over the years. Businesses, stocks, bonds, commodities, oil and gas rights, and on and on. If it had profit potential in it, I’ve probably purchased it at one time or another.

Even so, the most valuable resource any successful business has is its people and when it came to our fledging enterprise, none were more important to it than Maddie. She was the one who would make it a success or failure, if she could only hang in long enough to understand that.

And so, is that why I came all the way here, to the epicenter of ‘fly over country’? To get the person responsible for running the business back?

Yes because I’d be a goddamn fool of a businessman if I didn’t protect my investment and do everything in my power to see it succeed. And no, because well, as fucking difficult as Maddie was to control, something about her had my attention and I couldn’t put my finger on it. All I knew was I had no interest in letting her disappear on me.

Yet I had some work to do if I was gonna make sure that never happened again.

I stood in the doorway of the Brew Ha Ha as she stormed ahead of me and walked to the waiting limousine. The driver jumped out of the vehicle as she approached and tugged the door open for her. She was pissed. No question about it. I watched her anger express itself as her hips snapped back and forth with crispness, as if each step were a crack from the lion tamer’s whip.

I followed behind as she disappeared into the shadows of the back seat.

As I walked towards the car, I remembered something my grandfather used to say. The family patriarch, he’d built up the Sinclair name from nothing, becoming one of the richest men in Chicago during his lifetime.

He had only one rule in business… Never want anything too much.

Growing up poor, the son of a sharecropper, a lot of his wisdom came from a life lived hard on the open plains. But as it relates to this issue, he’d say, “You want to be the one with the prize. Like the dirt farmer dangles a carrot in front of a mule.” Translated, it means if you’re too eager, what you want will forever remain just out of reach.

I paused as I got near the open door of the vehicle when the question entered my mind…

Who was the dirt farmer here and who was the mule?

Damn it to hell, I wasn’t sure, but I figured it was worth three million to find out. I climbed inside and the door to the limousine had scarcely closed when she spoke.

“What are you doing here, Grey?”

I slid into the seat and got a sorely needed eyeful of her. Maddie sat with crossed arms, intertwined legs and a scowl. She had her hair pulled up in a high ponytail, which softened her standoffishness, but not by much.

“What do you mean?” I asked, as I reached towards her. “Where else would you expect me to be?”

As my hand neared her, she slapped it away and turned her body sideways to me.

I withdrew my hand and continued, “We’re going back to LA, Maddie. Where do your parents live? We’ll need to get your things.”

Without turning her torso, Maddie swiveled her head in my direction and replied, “Uh! I am not going anywhere with you, Grey! If you want to buy every business I work at, fine, but I will never go back there.”

“Fine,” I said. “We’ll run the business from here.”

“What do you mean? We’ll run the business from here? The reason I am pissed at you has nothing to do with the business, Grey! Don’t you get that?”

“No, that’s where you’re wrong. I get it.”

She spun her body back in my direction. Fists clenched she fired back, “Do you? You broke my heart, Grey! Do you get that?”

Not much catches me by surprise in life. When you deal with people for a living like I do, you get pretty good at reading them. But goddamn, I didn’t see that coming from her. Had no clue. She caught me off guard with that. I suppose it showed as I sat there in silence for a few seconds after she’d finished.

She shook her head and scoffed. “Yeah, that’s what I figured.”

My jaw flexed as I looked into her eyes. I felt trapped between wanting to ask her what the fuck she was talking about and just apologizing for whatever she thought I’d done, if only to get it over with. In the end, I decided on neither and instead I reached towards her again. But she pulled away from me, closing herself off and fixing her gaze on the flat landscape as it rolled by just beyond the backseat window.

Grimacing, I turned my body away from her and faced forward. I placed my hands over my kneecaps and sat in silence for several seconds as I contemplated the best way forward. At last, a thought occurred to me.

“Maddie,” I began. “Do you remember the first day we met?”

I paused and turned my head in her direction but she didn’t reply. When it became obvious she wasn’t going to, I continued, “You asked me if we could ‘start over’. Remember?”

Her frozen posture melted some as she looked at me. Even so, she didn’t speak.

I raised my eyebrows as I looked at her. “And I gave you that chance. Didn’t I?”

She nodded again. Her body language softened a bit more.

“So, whatdya say? How about giving me a chance to start over now?”

As I finished, I reached towards her and brushed the top of her hand with my fingers. She grimaced for a moment as she looked down, until a soft exhale escaped from her. Slowly, she returned my gesture and wrapped her hand around mine, squeezing it. As she did, she looked back towards me. And for the first time in far too goddamn long, I got a look at those eyes of hers.

Brilliant blue, made all the more so by the tears she looked to be holding back.

“I’m sorry, Maddie.” I said, as I held her hand tight in mine. “I am. I didn’t realize.”

As I spoke, tears spilled over the edges of her eyelids and ran down her cheeks. With her right hand, she wiped at them as fast as she could, but barely managed to keep up.

“So is that a ‘yes’? Are we starting over?”

Maddie sniffled. Her breath hitched as she gulped between tears and replied, “Yes.”