“Prick.” Smith slammed the pool cue down on the table, cursing the game that had cost him a thousand dollars. The muscles in his neck ached, as did the throb in his head from concentrating on winning for the last twenty minutes.
His business partner, Brock, laughed. The black ball spun in the corner pocket, and the white ball swept up the table to hit one of Smith’s two remaining striped balls. “Pay up,” Brock stated.
Smith scowled at the glow in Brock’s blue-gray eyes. He mentally flipped Brock off for his satisfied smirk. With a snort, Smith grabbed his wallet from his back pocket, then tossed the money onto the pool table. “You got lucky.”
“Lucky!” Brock gave a booming laugh. “It’s all skill, buddy.”
He cursed again under his breath, dropping down into the leather seat in the corner of his office. Perhaps he shouldn’t have purchased the new pool table. Then he wouldn’t have had his ass handed to him.
His secretary had thought he’d lost his mind when he asked her to place the order. Smith figured it made total sense. A game in between the long hours he worked kept him sane, which made a thought rise. “Did you go through the last stack of résumés?”
Brock nodded. “Sure did, but no one stood out.”
Smith pointed. “You’re too damn picky.” He’d seen at least four résumés that fit exactly what they were looking for to hire new employees to ease up their workload.
Brock grinned. “Perhaps.” He hesitated, then gave a halfhearted shrug. “Why change something that works.”
Even if the month-long search grated on Smith’s last nerve, he also couldn’t deny the truth behind Brock’s statement.
MDR Software had been built upon years of hard work and sweat, not only from Smith, but from Brock too. When the company had celebrated its five-year anniversary, it had grown into a million-dollar venture in Chicago. After the takeover a year later of fellow software company HighDot, located in the heart of Baltimore, MDR’s worth tripled.
Brock leaned against the pool table, his gaze glowing. “New bet?”
“You emptied my wallet, who says I want another bet?”
While Smith did have money in the bank, he didn't have any other cash on him. It had taken a good year to stop the memories of living paycheck to paycheck and pinching every penny. Though he’d grown more comfortable with money, he’d never forget when they first opened the company, he ate hotdogs for an entire month.
“Not interested in winning your cash back?” Brock asked, stretching his arms.
The sardonic look Brock delivered usually raised the stakes in their bets. A competitive streak had remained healthy between them, and not only in business. For the most part, Smith enjoyed betting on things, except when he lost. “Possibly.”
Smith laced his fingers behind his head, catching a glimpse of the Baltimore skyline out the large panoramic window. The dark night was typical. There wasn’t a day he, or Brock, didn’t put in a ten-hour shift.
Hard work made for a solid company. Yet the long hours had also been the reason why Smith had been pushing for new employees. He wanted a life, not more time in his damned office.
The telephone next to Smith rang once, and Brock’s grin became sinful. Smith’s irritation at the loss of the game morphed into a new type of heat, pooling low in his groin. He reached for the phone on the side table, then held it to his ear. “Smith.”
“Kyra Garner is here to see you,” the security man, Antonio, said. “I realize it’s late, but she said you were expecting her.”
“Send her up.” Smith placed the phone back on the base, spotting Brock’s expression shift in intensity. Smith also sensed the growing impulse to control and conquer. It’d been a long day waiting for Kyra to arrive, and now Brock’s question held a stronger appeal. “I take it she’s the bet?” At Brock’s nod, he added, “What’s the wager?”
Brock smirked. “Ecstasy.”
Smith had always understood why women flocked to Brock; his charisma, handsome features, matched with a lighthearted personality impressed the ladies. Smith witnessed the toughest businesswomen crack under the assault of that smile. “Bet on ecstasy, hmm?” He rubbed his jaw, considering the proposition. “I’m intrigued, but why that one?”
Brock lifted a lazy shoulder. “Any other bet would make us assholes.”