A waitress in a short skirt and low-cut top comes by to take our order, and I don’t think she looks at me the entire time she’s at the table. I don’t blame her. If I were her I’d stare at Thomas too. She leans a little too close to him, looking over the menu with him while he contemplates getting food, and coos in disappointment when he decides to just get a beer. I order a beer, too. I’m not turning this into a date. Food would just complicate things.
The waitress walks away and I roll my eyes.
“What?” he says.
“You didn’t notice the way she had her boobs in your face?”
He smiles, and when he does it changes everything about his face. He goes from being a gorgeous man to something otherworldly, something that sucks the breath straight out of my lungs. “Of course I noticed. I’m a man. Just not interested.” He pointedly drops his eyes to my chest. “Not when there’s something better in front of me.”
It’s suddenly very hot in here. I look away so he doesn’t see the blush creeping to my cheeks. “We’re here for business. Let’s keep it that way,” I tell him.
“Are we really, though?”
“Tell me about the loan,” I say, brushing past his suggestive tone.
Thomas sighs. “A little over two years ago your father took out a business loan with my father for $25,000. Enough to buy himself the equipment he needed and rent the property from us. We offered him a better location, but he wanted to minimize the loan amount so he chose that one. You can verify all of this in the paperwork and by talking to him, by the way.”
“I’ll do that.”
He smirks. “For about a year the payments were on time, but then he stopped paying. He hasn’t made any payments for the last year and a half. The papers your father signed stated that if the loan wasn’t paid back in full after thirty months, that the ownership of the business would be transferred to our business. All assets would be surrendered and sold in order to pay back the money owed. Any remaining balance would be paid from his personal finances if necessary.”
I shake my head, furious that I didn’t know this. Furious that my father would be stupid enough to sign something like that. “You know this will ruin him financially,” I say. “He’ll lose his house—my childhood home—if that equipment doesn’t cover it.”
“I know,” he says softly. “But this is what he agreed to. He signed it.”
I know my dad is at fault; he’s never been a great business man, but that doesn’t make me any less pissed that Thomas’s family hooked him into a predatory loan.
The waitress comes back to refill our beers. I order shots as well. Thomas raises his eyebrows, and I urge him to drink up in the hopes of loosening him up to new ideas. By the end of this night I plan to have my dad’s bad business deal renegotiated.
Thomas sips at his beer. When his eyes wander toward the locals still staring, I dump my shots into the vase of plastic flowers in the middle of the table. I need to be sober for this. He’s not drunk yet, but I can tell by the way he sits with his legs apart and arms draped across the table that the alcohol has at least made him comfortable.
I sit back and give him my shrewdest look so he knows I’m not messing around. “You invited me here to talk about business. So I’m assuming that means that you didn’t drag me out here just to tell me that there’s nothing that you can do.”
“If you have a new business plan, I’m happy to hear it. I’m sure we can come up with something we can agree on.”
Something releases in my chest. This whole day has been one bit of bad news after another without any sign of letting up. This, the chink in the armor of the situation, gives me hope. It’s a small hope, but that’s all I need.
“You any good at pool?” I ask.
His eyes are half open, his smile sloppy. He must have drank the whiskey I ordered when I wasn’t looking. He’s halfway to drunk and yet still manages to be devastatingly beautiful. “I’m good at everything I do,” he says with a wink, his words starting to slur.
This should be fun.
“Let’s play,” I tell him.
I’m damn good at pool and I’m fairly certain it’s not the game of choice at the country clubs he frequents. It would make my night to see that smug smile wiped off his way-too-attractive face.
I head toward one of the pool tables in the back. Thomas follows me. I wave the waitress over and order another beer, and one for Thomas before I grab a cue.