two. we have a problem.

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Bennett

Lightning flashed outside the floor-to-ceiling windows of my corner office, reflecting off the polished marble floor. In the distance, the low grumble of thunder followed like an ominous warning. Sheets of rain began to pelt against the glass, turning the street below into a blur of colored lights and movement. It was unusual for a storm of this magnitude to hit the city in the middle of the day. But then, it was also unusual for a potential investor to show up twenty five minutes for a meeting, especially without even bothering to call.

Sure, we were technically still trying to woo Callaghan. It wasn't signed, sealed and delivered—yet. But last we'd spoken, Callaghan had been on the hook. Sold on the investment, happy with the return we were offering, and ready to cough up the $5 million that we desperately needed. All that we had to do was reel him in and get him to sign the papers. Now he was missing in action after rescheduling on us twice, and things were starting to look increasingly grim.

Ian ducked his head in my doorway and rapped on the glass. "Got a minute?"

"I've just wasted 25," I said dryly. "What's one more?"

He strode in, settling into the cream leather chair across from my glass desk. Crossing an ankle over knee, he adjusted his grey silk tie with a frown. His dirty blond hair was mussed, like he'd been raking his hands through it as he tended to do when he was stressed or trying to balance numbers.

"We have a problem."

"You mean the big fish that's managed to wriggle off the hook?"

"Yes and no." His expression was neutral, poker face in full effect.

Ian was the quiet, analytical one. Coolheaded with an aptitude for numbers, he was all about analysis over emotion. It made for a great CFO and it was a useful counterbalance for my own personality, which was not always exactly calm and collected. But sometimes he bordered on being downright cryptic.

I waved him on impatiently. "Details, please."

Ian opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. He looked at me, wary, as if weighing what to say.

"What?" I pressed.

I was having a bad day. Some might have called it a bad week. A bad month would also have been an accurate descriptor, and it was rapidly threatening to turn into bad year. I didn't have time for Ian's dancing-around-the-point act. Something was standing in the way of getting our deal past the finish line. I already knew there was a holdup. I just didn't know what it was.

"I think I know why Callaghan seems to have cold feet."

My desk phone rang, interrupting Ian. I held up a finger, gesturing for him to be quiet, as I hit the intercom button. "Yes?"

"Mr. Bradford?" My assistant Sherry's voice echoed through the speaker. "There's a Mr. Jared Callaghan here to see you."

"Send him in, please. Thanks." Releasing the intercom button, I glanced over at Ian. "Well, so much for cold feet. Maybe he got stuck in traffic."

"No, that's what I was—" Ian started to say, but stopped short as the glass double-doors swung open and Sherry escorted Jared Callaghan into the room. He was a portly man in his 50s, with a thick head of white hair and a tanned, lined face. His navy suit was well-tailored, designer loafers shined to perfection, and he looked every bit the part of a big fish. Ian stood up to greet him while I walked around from behind my desk.

"Hello, Mr. Callaghan." Ian extended his hand.

"Ian," Callaghan said warmly, embracing Ian's hand in his own briefly before breaking apart. "Please, call me Jared."

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