two. we have a problem.

Start from the beginning
                                                  

Then he turned to face me and his tone cooled a hundred degrees, gaze hardening. "Bennett."

"Nice to see you again, Jared." I stepped closer, offering my hand. His gaze dropped to it and he eyed it with disdain, failing to extend his own in return. Rude, but okay. I was willing to look past it. We needed him—badly. The economy was sagging, almost no one was liquid, and anyone that had money was it hoarding like Gollum and his ring.

I withdrew my hand, walking back over to my desk and sitting down. Jared settled into a chair beside Ian across from my desk while I tried to get my game face on, telling myself whatever just transpired wasn't personal when it so clearly was.

After some brief banter about the record-breaking rain as of late, Ian and I cut to the chase: the closing. "As we discussed," I said, "the projected return is significantly higher than industry average. The fundamentals are solid and with a payback period of—"

Callaghan waved me off, holding up a pudgy hand. "Enough numbers. I know what the prospectus says. But numbers only tell one side of the story. I want to know more about you and your company. Get to know you as people."

I stopped short. What did that even mean? Our biographical blurbs were in the investment package. Top tier business schools, several successful projects in the bag, other shiny polished credentials. What more did he want to know? My shoe size? Favorite movie?

He draped his arm over the back of the chair, shifting to face to Ian. "Are you married, son?"

I tried to hide my confusion. Married? What did that have to do with anything?

"Two years in June," Ian replied, holding his left hand, complete with platinum wedding band.

I wondered if married people ever regretted giving up their freedom or if it was just something they made peace with, like people supposedly do after other tragic life events.

"Ah, in the honeymoon stage!" Callaghan chuckled, belly jiggling. "Those were the days."

His smile faded as he turned back, setting his sights on me. "And you, Bennett. Are you married?"

"Er—no," I said. His glare intensified. "Not yet." Nor ever, actually, but I got the sense that he wouldn't be keen on that answer.

His eyes went cold. "Still living the bachelor life, then." He spat out the 'b' in 'bachelor' like it was a dirty word.

"No, not—"

"I think the way a person lives says a lot about them, don't you?" He reclined, folding his hands over his round belly. "We show our true selves in our private lives. Our morals and ethics, those things that really matter. And I have to say, I have some serious reservations about yours, Bennett."

Well, this was bad.

*

After another twenty minutes of my character and personal life being raked over the coals, Ian and I managed to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand: the $5 million investment we were seeking. Unfortunately, neither of us could close Callaghan.

We reluctantly escorted him to the elevators, cloaked in a cloud of defeat. As he stepped into the elevator car, we made the usual cordial promises to be in touch soon. Only, Ian and I meant it and I don't think Callaghan did. The deal was dead in the water.

Once the elevator doors were safely shut, I turned and looked at Ian in disbelief. "What the hell just happened?"

Ian's lips pressed into a line. "That's what I was trying to tell you." He inclined his head in the direction of his office. "Come on. This is a closed-door conversation."

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