“Natalie, do us a solid and make notes. We’re creating a new contract.” I snag the file from him and use it to poke him in the chest with each new condition without even looking inside it. He said dates. “First, I’ll lead you to the location you believe has your stash, but only to that spot. You will obey my every order. You will not, under any circumstance, go anywhere besides exactly where I tell you. I won’t have you falling down a mineshaft and causing someone else to lay their life on the line because you acted like a moron.”
Natalie is now groaning with her head between her knees. “We’re all going to prison.”
Xander opens his mouth, but I shake my head and poke him again. “Not done yet. Second, I’ll pretend to be your coach or whatever, but we keep things completely business.These aren’t dates where somebody gets kissed at the front door at the end of the night. Zero physical contact. None. Nada. Zipskies on the kisskies.”
Xander cocks his head. Bright interest lights up his eyes again. “Kisskies?”
“Shut up.” I clear my throat and fight the urge to stare at the floor. “Third, and finally, you say you run a business, an international one. For something like that, I imagine you know loads of people. I imagine some of them might even be bored and, say, in need of an adventure.”
That danged left corner of his mouth twitches. “You might say that. Why?”
I clear my throat again and lift my chin. “You apparently already know about my back country business somehow. It’s going to offer themed adventures, like solving a mystery and stuff on the trip. Haunted Hattie’s Adventures. You can send lonely people to Zoe and bored people my way. That’s the deal. Oh, and whatever you’re paying, I’ll need you to double it.” It’s audacious and I don’t remotely think he’ll accept my terms; I kinda just wanna freak him out.
“That’s quite the marketing pitch.” He narrows his eyes a bit. “What about your makeover, prince, and revenge?”
I shrug. “We’ll keep the revenge part. However, I’m not wearing dresses; there will be no dancing, and lay off the fairy-tale prince crap.”
With that, Natalie rolls out of her chair, throws the contract in the air, and belly flops onto the couch in Zoe’s office. All I hear from her is, “Maybe my tower will have a window, like at least one of those slits for arrows.”
Xander, in the meantime, appears to have made extensive notes on the pad on Natalie’s desk. He runs down the list again. “Follow Hattie’s every command. No physical contact, specifically kisskies. Send clients to Haunted Hattie’s Adventures. Double the fee. Let’s also not forget: no dresses, zero dancing, and cancel all fairy tales. Care to read it before we sign? After all, you should never agree to a legally binding document without reading it first.”
Patronizing punk. I stomp over and try to grab it from him. He holds on. I glance down and watch our hands in static battle on opposite ends of the notepad. We’re not even touching, yet why does it feel as if we are? I look up and catch my breath. His eyes dip to the base of my throat, where I can feel my heartbeat pounding. His voice drops to a low rumble. “Careful, Hattie. If you cross this threshold, you must see it through. New adventures can be dangerous.”
My heart starts pounding about three gears faster at that. Finally, he lets go. I tip backwards, but quickly regain my balance. Inside? Not so much.