Winner Takes All Available Now + Ch. 9

Thanks all for bearing with me and giving me the energy to stop procrastinating and just finish up Winner Takes All. The book is now published. It’s available on Amazon for $2.99 or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

As a bonus, I thought I’d leave you with one last chapter. Take care.

Chapter 9 – Guilt

She had good ideas. She’d come up with several tactics to market Santiago’s. A lot were low cost, but also very effective.

The problem was, she felt guilty. Tina looked out her office window at the sunny Tuesday morning, and all the happy people below. Only, Tina was sure Javi — as his family had called him — wasn’t happy.  He’d looked horrified when he’d realized what she’d come to do. And the truth was, she hadn’t actually thought it would work — courting Santiago’s. She really just wanted to show Javier that she had the chutzpah to play against him on his home turf. A little bit of turnabout was always fair play, right?

She hadn’t expected the father to accept her offer, but the mention of nepotism had apparently hit the right button. In his office, he’d told her that Ben had everything handed to him, and he’d tried to raise a son who worked hard for his own. “I appreciate the fact that someone works hard, and I can tell you’re that kind of woman. Let’s give this a try.”

She’d been surprised, but she’d also appreciated it. For a moment, she’d even bought into the idea that Javier was falling prey to his uncle’s spoiled sloth. Only, when she saw his face, when she saw the hurt, she’d almost turned back and told the elder Santiago she didn’t want the account. Almost. But she needed this job. It was all she had. Well, not all she had. She had her mother, too. Ruby had been clean and sober for two years now. She’d been there when her own mother, Tina’s grandmother, had gotten sick. Ruby had promised to be there for Tina, and even though Tina didn’t really trust her mother’s word, the woman had been a steady presence in recent months.

And even though Josef Santiago had hired her, he still loved his son. That was evident, despite everything else. Josef’s office was covered in pictures of him with his family. You didn’t go to that office every day and look at those photos and not love your family.  Javier would have something to fall back on. He’d have that loving father if all else went to hell. Tina only had herself. And she thought Josef understood that. It’s probably why he did this.

She took a deep breath. She wouldn’t let Josef down. Whatever hurt Javier was feeling, he’d get over it. She opened a new document on her computer and started typing.

* * *

It had been a pretty good morning. Tina had some effective strategies she could propose to Josef Santiago, and she’d made a few more client calls. Time for lunch. Tina was about to head out to eat her sandwich and chips at the park across the street, when there was a knock at her door.

“Come in,” she called. The door opened, and in walked Javier.

“Did you have a minute?” he asked, shutting the door behind him.

She wondered if maybe she’d misjudged him. He seemed contrite as he entered. His father had given her a shot last night, so maybe he was a decent guy at heart. Perhaps he’d taken after his father’s side of the family, rather than Ben’s.  Maybe he just wanted to start fresh.  “Sure,” she said, motioning to him to have a seat in the chair on the other side of her desk. 

Javier walked over to her desk, but he didn’t sit. Instead, he stood over her, leaned forward, and said in a low voice, “You got the best of me last night, but it won’t happen again. I’m onto you now, and I won’t forget.”

Tina squinted up at him. She wasn’t even sure why she thought he’d wanted peace. For the briefest of seconds, she wondered if it had been she who wanted to bury the hatchet so she didn’t feel responsible for wounding him the way she so clearly had. But that was moot. He’d come to ratchet things up a level. She stood and looked him in the eye. “What I did pales in comparison to what you did,” she said.

Javier took a step back, confusion marring his face. “All I did was be nice to you.”

“You tried to get me drunk Sunday night, hoping I’d be off my game when you showed up and introduced yourself the next day.”

He shook his head. “I had no idea who you were,” he said too loudly.

“Really?” she said, her face a picture of disbelief. And while outwardly it was clear she thought he was lying, internally, as she watched his expression of shock, she briefly wondered if he could be telling the truth. Was he really in the dark about who she was when they met?  “I guess when your uncle owns the place, you don’t bother to do any homework on who’s going to be at your new office. Looking at the profiles on the company website to see who you’ll be working with is just completely unnecessary, eh?”

Anger — with a hint of shame — flashed on his face, and then it was gone. She was pretty sure he actually hadn’t bothered to look at the employee profiles on the Taylor and Thompson site.

“I don’t have anything else to say to you,” he said, turned and walked out of her office.

That was bad. She shouldn’t have fought back. She should have just moved on. Instead, she’d let him get under her skin. He’d managed to crawl there the first night they’d met, yet for reasons she’d hoped would be entirely different. Now he was there gnawing at her, and not in a good way. What she needed was a good lay. A guy who could help her relieve some of the tension while not being clingy or needy. She needed to concentrate on her job right now. Unfortunately, she’d never gotten involved in one of those friends with benefits situations, and she didn’t have a single soul to call for this.

She supposed a good toy would have to do. She had a faithful go-to item, but it was a bit old. She figured she’d order a new one. She had free two-day shipping. She was opening the Amazon app on her cell phone when her office phone rang.

“Tina Jackson speaking,” she said. “How can I help you?”

“You can go on a date,” Nikki said on the other end.

Tina leaned back in her chair as she entered the search on her cell phone while talking on the landline. “That’s how I can help you?” she asked, quite dubious.

“Yes,” Nikki said. “Mike ran into a friend of his from college the other day. He just moved back to town and is looking for some female companionship. And I know you’re looking for some male companionship…”

Tina shook her head. A few options appeared on her phone screen. But were they better options than what Nikki was proposing? “True, I’m looking for someone, but right now, my job is too hectic. I don’t want to get involved with anyone for real. Not until I nail down this VP thing.”

Nikki sighed. “Really?” she asked. “Are you sure, because I think you’d really like him.”

Tina cradled the phone closer. “Do tell. What do you think I’d like?”

“Well, he’s handsome, he’s got a great sense of humor, and he’s ambitious”

“How long have you known him?”

“Mike knew him all through undergrad, and they sorta lost touch, but I did meet him briefly and he was smoking hot,” she said.

Smoking hot. Tina could use smoking hot. She sighed, and tapped her phone to add one of the toys to her shopping cart. She might as well hedge her bets.  “Alright,” she said. “Maybe this weekend. I’ll give him a try.”

“Yes,” Nikki said, her voice brimming with joy. “You’re going to love him.”

Tina looked up from her phone and considered the tenor of the conversation. “Why is it that you’re so happy about this? I mean, it’s just a blind date.”

Nikki paused a moment. “It’s just that I’m happy, and I want you to be happy, too. Besides, I’ve missed two years of match-making while Mike and I were living in Oklahoma. I just want to get back on the horse.”

Tina laughed. “Back on the horse. You’ve been in Oklahoma too long, sweetie.” She looked at the clock on her phone. “Listen, I need to get some work done. But I’ll call you when I get home.”

Read the rest of book on Amazon.