Leaving work, Zach couldn’t get Brandi out of his mind. She was hot but in a subtle way. Not his type at all, but man he’d like to taste that. Too bad she was his rival’s daughter and now his own personal assistant.
The bar he’d stopped at was low-key. No music blared and they didn’t serve cocktails with funny names. This was the neighborhood he’d grown up in and sometimes he had to go back and remember where he came from. He never wanted to lose touch with how much he had accomplished in a short time.
His best friend and lawyer, Denny Star, was already at the wood-carved bar when Zach walked in. He slapped his friend on the back. “Thanks for meeting me here.”
“I’ll never understand your need to slum it here.”
They shook hands and did a slight hug. Zach sat down as the bartender approached him.
“Look what the cat dragged in. Zach Wilder as I live and breathe,” Joe Muller said. “What brings you to this end of the city?”
They shook hands across the bar. Joe and Zach had gone to high school together. They didn’t keep in touch, but Zach loved this bar so when he was feeling homesick he showed up here. “I like to remember my roots.”
“What can I get you?” Joe said.
“Something on draft.”
“No chardonnay or white zinfandel?” Joe asked.
It was their usual banter and this was why Zach came here. He wasn’t Zach Wilder the billionaire in here. He was the kid who made good and hadn’t lost touch with where he’d been raised. This was the only neighborhood his mother could afford after his father had deserted them.
He’d learned to fight at the boxing gym next door and he’d learned to pick up women in this very bar.
“Just the beer.”
Joe nodded and went to pour the beer.
“Incoming,” Denny said.
The problem with walking into a working-class bar in a tailored suit was that cougars and gold diggers were attracted to you like moths to a porch light. Zach wasn’t interested in anything long term and these women wanted security. “Thanks for the heads up.”
The stool next to Zach screeched across the floor as someone pulled it out. Zach rolled his eyes at Denny, but he refused to look at the newcomer.
“Hey, buy me a drink.”
Not too forward at all. Zach glanced her way. “I don’t think so.”
It didn’t matter what she looked like. He wasn’t buying whatever she was selling. He liked one-night stands or someone who needed him to be arm candy. The two parties knew the rules. That didn’t fly as well here in the old neighborhood. Too many women were desperate to get out and saw Zach as their meal ticket.
The woman pouted. “Well, you’re a jerk.”
“Yes. Yes, I am,” Zach said.
She slinked away. Zach turned his attention to the fresh beer Joe had set in front of him.
“You attract them like flies,” Denny said.
Zach shrugged. “It’s a curse.”
Denny laughed. “I don’t want whatever it is you have.”
“Of course not. You’ve found the woman. There is no woman for me.”
“There is, but you’d be too stupid to see it,” Denny said.
Zach laughed. “I’d run the other way, but I’m glad it’s working for you. How is the little woman?”
“She’d smack you for calling her that, but Jessa is great.”
“And that little girl of yours?” Zach asked.
“Courtney is wonderful. You’re keeping me from her currently,” Denny said.
“Fine. I’ll get to the point. You’ll never guess who was in my office today. Looking for a job no less.”
“Okay. I’ll bite. Who?”
“Brandi Marsing? Isn’t she like ten with braces?”
Denny and Zach had been friends when Zach had been mentored by Kent. He’d gone to dinner at the Marsing Mansion with Zach more than once. “She’s all grown up. Those braces worked, by the way.”
Her smile was amazing. It had lit up the room when he’d said she was hired.
Denny’s eyebrow went up? “Oh? You seemed to have noticed that.”
“She was in my office looking like a woman. I’m a man. Of course, I would notice.”
“She was asking for a job?”
“You sent her packing?”
Zach shifted on his stool. “No. I made her my assistant.”
Denny had been sipping his beer and now he was coughing. Zach slapped his back. “You okay?”
“Tell me I didn’t just hear you say you made her your personal assistant.”
“You did, Denny. What better way to get to Marsing. I could bring him down if I knew his secrets. We all know he’s dirty. If I can prove it not only am I doing my civic duty, but I’m clearing the field for my company to prosper even more.”
“I didn’t realize you were such a concerned citizen.”
Zach shrugged. “That part is a side benefit. I just want to get him out of my way.”
“And you think that hiring her as your assistant will do that?”
“It can’t hurt. She’ll be working closely with me.”
“You ever think that maybe Marsing sent her there?” Denny asked.
“Yes. I had that thought. I didn’t become this successful by being stupid. I’ve taken precautions. Or I will. Besides. I can set a trap and figure it out.”
“I think you’re playing a dangerous game, Zach. Marsing’s in bed with the Mafia.”
“Well, then it’ll be easier to find dirt on him. I know what I’m doing, Denny.”
“I hope so.” He turned to look at Zach. “I’m still trying to wrap my brain around Brandi Marsing being grown up. She had such a crush on you.”
Zach shuddered. “She would follow me around every time I was there.”
“And now she’ll be paid to follow you around.”
“Only as much as I want her to. I’m sure she doesn’t still have a crush on me. She’s a grown woman.”
“You keep harping on that. I think you noticed that far too much.”
Zach thought his friend worried too much. “I can do this, Denny. I’m in control.”
“But you did notice she was all grown up.”
Zach suppressed a smile at what Brandi had looked like. She wasn’t wearing anything sexy, but it all fit her nicely. She had curves and boobs. The things he liked most in a woman. “She’s isn’t my type.”
“You have a type other than a woman with a pulse.”
“When was the last time I was out with anyone who wasn’t a model or an actress?”
“That’s your public life. It wasn’t a model or an actress that broke your heart.”
“She didn’t break my heart,” Zach said faster than he should have.
“You keep telling yourself that.”
“I don’t want to talk about Brandi Marsing anymore.”
“My beer is done. I’m going home to my lovely wife. You can go home to that empty penthouse because you won’t give your heart to anyone.”
Denny stood. Zach’s beer was only half-finished. “I’m going to finish my drink.”
“Then go home alone, I’m sure.”
Zach glanced around the bar. No one piqued his interest. “Probably. Or I could go to a nicer place and pick up a woman.”
“Not if you’re thinking about Brandi Marsing being all grown up.”
They shook hands and Denny left. Zach finished his beer and went home. He stood in the doorway to his penthouse that was in another building he owned and sighed. There were various women he could call up to warm his bed, but none of them seemed interesting at the moment. “Damn it, Denny.”
He was thinking about Brandi Marsing too much.
With a groan, Zach went to bed, by himself, without eating dinner.