My money was on the latter.
They swapped contracts and signed again.
“Very good,” Stan said, taking his copy of the contract and quickly sliding it into his briefcase as if he were worried Costas might change his mind. He reached across the table and shook Costas’ hand. “We’ll get started first thing Monday morning.”
“You must be the Goldman party,” a cheery voice said from the doorway. I looked up to see Tanner Wright leaning against the doorframe with a red rubber ball in his right hand.
Unlike Henry Costas, who was impeccably dressed and perfectly put together, Tanner Wright was wearing a pair of tight jeans with the knees torn out, a pair of dingy tennis shoes, and a faded black t-shirt with the Metallica logo on the front.
He looked like someone who was there delivering pizzas rather than the billionaire entrepreneur who ran the place.
His photos on Google did not do him justice. He had a dark summer tan, even in winter. He had shaggy blonde hair that hung over his forehead. He had bright blue eyes and an easy smile that made me want to smile back, though I resisted the urge to do so.
I knew he had played soccer and rugby in college. He had maintained his physique. His round shoulders and chest pushed against the t-shirt as his waist tapered into the tight jeans. I could see lean ropes of muscle in his forearm as he squeezed the ball. I could also see a bulge in the front of the tight jeans that made the breath catch in my throat.
I swallowed hard and forced myself to look down at the table.
You couldn’t tell by looking at him that he was one of the richest men on the planet. Maybe that was the point. Maybe it was a disguise. He was so rich that he tried not to look rich. It was like Brad Pitt, who did his best to look unattractive when he wasn’t starring in a movie.
Jesus, nice bulge or not, he was definitely a douchebag.
Tanner tossed the ball between his hands and said, “I took as much time as I could getting here. I hope I’m too late for the meeting.”
“You’re not late at all,” Stan said, totally missing the joke. He shot to his feet and stuck out his hand. “Stan Robbins, Mr. Wright,” he said. “Goldman & Stern.”
“Whoa, I don’t shake hands, Stan,” Tanner said quickly, taking a step back. He held up his hands as if Stan were brandishing a gun and demanding his wallet. He wrinkled his nose at Stan’s hand like it was covered in dog poop.
He said, “Too many germs in the world, Stan. Plus, I have no idea where that hand has been.”
Stan’s hand dangled in the air for a moment, then he let it drop to his side and lowered himself into the chair. He had a look on his face like a puppy that had just been kicked by an abusive owner. Or a balloon that someone had just seen fit to pop. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
“We just signed the contracts, Tanner,” Costas said as Tanner pulled up the chair next to him and plopped down in it. “They’ll start work on Monday.”
“Excellent!” Tanner said with a serious expression that was clearly for show. He blew out a long breath and squeezed the ball in his right hand as his eyes went down the table.
He briefly eyed Stan and Juliette, then Bob, then Irving. When his eyes met mine, his eyebrows slowly rose as if he had just spied an old friend. He leaned across the table and extended the hand he wouldn’t let Stan shake.
He said, “You must be Candice Carlson.”
I blinked at him for a moment. I glanced down the table at my compatriots. Their eyes were glued to Tanner’s hand dangling in the air between us. He wiggled his fingers. I reached out to shake his hand. When our fingers touched, the pop of static electricity caused both of us to jerk our hands back.
“Whoa!” Tanner fell back in his chair with a grin on his face.
I put my hands in my lap and bit my tongue. Did he do that on purpose? Did he drag his feet across the carpet to build up static electricity in his body just so he could make me look like an idiot?
Who would do something like that?
Oh yeah, a douchebag…
“Shocking to meet you, Miss Carlson,” he said with a smirk.
I forced a polite smile for the sake of the ten-million-dollar contract in Stan’s briefcase.
“Yes, nice to meet you, Mr. Wright.”
“Am I?” he asked.
I blinked at him. “Are you what?”
I stared at him with my mouth hanging open, unsure what to say.
“Okay then, let’s wrap this up,” Costas said suddenly, clapping his hands together like he was breaking a huddle. He pushed himself up from the table and set a hand on Tanner’s shoulder to keep him in the chair. It was the move of a parent trying to control an unruly toddler.