Game On by Ayrica True
This was going to be interesting.
Eyes focused on the person who’d just entered her office, Jazlyn pushed back from her desk. Not wanting to come across in any type of antagonistic manner, because antagonistic would be so bad right now, she kept her posture relaxed.
Alert. Ready to act, react, if needed. But relaxed.
Legs crossed at the knees, fingers threaded together loosely in her lap, Jazlyn watched Smith approach. Made note of the tight line of his mouth. His clenched fists. The flare of his nostrils.
His dark, gleaming skin also. As well as his bald head and eyes so deep and soulful she could drown in them.
This was going to be very interesting, indeed.
“Jazlyn, I’m so sorry,” Gina said, voice annoyed. She was behind Smith, Smith so totally eclipsing her small frame with his broad shoulders and commanding presence that Jazlyn hadn’t even realized she was there. Movements quick and precise, she stepped around Smith and planted herself in front of him, stopping him in his tracks. “I told him—”
“It’s okay,” Jazlyn interrupted. After the e-mail she’d read moments ago, the e-mail containing vital information, this confrontation, and it was definitely going to be a confrontation, was expected. Eyes still on Smith, still on the danger in the room, Jazlyn added, “Seems Smith needs to speak with me.”
“Damn right, I do,” Smith gritted out between his clenched teeth.
Gina cleared her throat, loud, drowning out whatever he said next. “Should I call security?”
“No.” If Jazlyn was in Smith’s shoes, she would be pissed, too. Beyond. Their positions dictated a certain amount of respect be shown to one another and while Jazlyn may not have been directly at fault for what happened, it ultimately fell to her to accept responsibility and deal with it.
Whatever had transpired out in the front office, Gina’s domain, and led to Smith unexpectedly forcing his way past her for this unannounced visit, must’ve really rankled her. Enough that she was refusing to let Smith have what he so obviously wanted – a private showdown with Jazlyn. “Aaron asked that I let you know he has a quick second to speak with you in five minutes.”
Someone that Jazlyn very much needed to speak to. Preferably face-to-face, but over the phone would suffice given that Aaron was currently across the country working leads for Jazlyn’s next deal.
Either way, she was going to tear him a new asshole. Aaron and the last deal he’d orchestrated, the oh so important detail he’d overlooked when wheeling and dealing with Sheppard, were the reasons Jazlyn was in this mess with Smith right now, after all. The reason Smith stood feet away, exuding rage.
“Let Aaron know that I’ll be calling him in thirty after I’m done here with Smith.” Eyes flicked down from Smith’s to meet Gina’s for a quick moment, Jazlyn said, “And make sure he knows that he better answer.”
“Yes, ma’am.” But Gina continued to stand there, a five foot, four-inch testament to why Jazlyn had hired her. She wouldn’t be cowed. Not by anyone. Brass cojones were a must at all levels in this business world run primarily by men, even in front offices, and Gina undoubtedly had a set of the biggest.
Jazlyn assured, “It’s okay, Gina. You can go.”
Gina finally left, door snicking close behind her. It was just Jazlyn and Smith now. And the fuck load of tension between them.
“Sit.” Jazlyn waved a hand to indicate the seats on the other side of her desk.
Smith kicked one away. Resituated the other so that it was directly opposite Jazlyn. Only then did he do as invited. Fingers of both hands clenching the chair’s arms tight, knuckles white, he leaned in. “Mind telling me what game you’re playing at?”
Right to it. No prevarication. Not that Jazlyn expected it would go any other way. There was no way this meeting was going to end well.
This situation did, however, call for a drink. And not the celebratory kind for another done deal, a crucial deal, that Jazlyn should be having.
Because it hadn’t really been Jazlyn’s deal to take. It had been Smith’s.
Jazlyn stood, walked over to the sideboard in the corner of her office. Its cubbys were filled with bottles of wine along with glasses and tumblers of various shapes and sizes. It was the intricate, gold embossed decanter on top that she was after.
“Whiskey?” she asked. “I have it on good authority that this brand is one of the best there is.”
Several seconds of strained silence. Then, “One of the best? How ‘bout it is the best. And I should know since I gave it to you and it’s only the best for the princess.”
There he was. Smith, the businessman, was still very much present. But so was Hasan, Jazlyn’s mentor. Her longtime friend. Her one-time lover.
“Haven’t learned yet that there’s no other way?”
A small smile played along Jazlyn’s lips as she poured them each two fingers. Insults from Hasan was something she knew how to deal with. Familiar territory she possessed an intimate knowledge of due to years of experience.
She crossed the room and handed Hasan a tumbler before perching on the edge of her desk, same side of it now as him. Taking a swallow of her own drink, Jazlyn watched him. Waited.
Hasan stared at the glass he held. Voice tired, he questioned, “Why did you double cross me, Jaz?”
Double crossings happened all the time in their world. Dirty deals were just a part of the life. They kept things interesting.
But never before had they occurred between Jazlyn and Hasan.
“It wasn’t intentional.” And that was the truth of it. Because she knew it would reveal so much, Jazlyn admitted, “I let Aaron run the Sheppard account.”
“Aaron? Aaron? You can’t be serious right now.” A sharp bark of laughter escaped Hasan’s throat. “I told you years ago to cut him loose and shit like this is why. He’s a dumbass.”
Yeah, he was. “He’s also the only friend I’ve had longer than you.”
“Haven’t learned yet not to mix business with idiocy, friendships be damned?” Hasan scrubbed a hand down his face. “Jesus, he’s screwed me. You’ve screwed me. Big time.”
“I know the Sheppard deal was big.” But something else must be going on for Hasan to have barged in like he had, riling up Gina in the process in place of the friendly banter they normally shared. A call from Hasan, not unlike the one Jazlyn was about to place to Aaron, was all that was really needed. “Talk to me, Hasan.”
“There was a lot riding on me closing that deal. Investments. Subsequent contracts.” Intense dark browns flicked up to meet and hold Jazlyn’s gaze. “With this deal falling through, with you stealing it from me, I’m going to lose millions.”
“Shit.” A single swallow and Jazlyn finished the rest of her whiskey. She set her tumbler down on the desk next to where she sat. “Fuck. Look, Hasan, I’m sorry. You know I would never—”
“Why did Aaron bid on the contract? Priorated was the first bid and that bid was public knowledge. Easily discoverable.”
Until she spoke with Aaron, there was no way for Jazlyn to know for sure, but her immediate guess was because Priorated was a lesser known subsidiary of Smith Inc and Aaron hadn’t done his homework. Didn’t excuse Aaron’s error, though. Hasan was right. Aaron should never have bid at all. “Let’s—”
“There is no let’s, Jazlyn, because let’s implies there’s an us when in reality there’s me and then there’s you as your latest deal has so perfectly demonstrated.” Hasan vacated his seat. Stepped closer to Jazlyn, invading her space and almost forcing her up to her feet as she didn’t care for him possessing such a dominant position over her.
Only Jazlyn’s stubbornness forced her to remain still.
Hasan leaned close, until his mouth was just a breath away from Jazlyn’s ear, his words a sweet tickle on her skin that made her feel things. Inappropriate things better left in their past as they had no place in their here and now. “When I brought you into this world, I warned you, princess, didn’t I? I warned you to never fuck me over and I meant that shit.”
Lust coursed through Jazlyn, fear right on its heels. Not a pleasant combination. She just barely suppressed her shudder.
It was only after Hasan had left, only after Jazlyn had Aaron on the line, that she realized he had sat his glass down next to hers. But whereas Jazlyn’s was empty, Hasan’s remained full, untouched. The implication was unmistakable. Caused her to falter for a moment in her merciless castigation of Aaron before spearing her on.
Jazlyn’s most valued friendship in the entire world was dead.
And now it was game on.
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