First: Purchased: Negotiation
“You know, I have to admit—” Sylviane held up a hand. “Okay, technically, I don’t have to admit, but I’m going to, I like this so far. I like you. I mean, I still think my dad’s being overbearing, pushy, and a little bit uh, weird, but I think that’s kind of what I get for still living at home and, well, for having him as my dad.”
“Why do you? Still live at home, I mean?”
“He bribed me.” She smiled more at the pizza in her hand than at Leander. “He wants me to stick around both ‘cause he seems to be under this weird mistaken impression that I’m somehow going to get myself into a lot of trouble out on my own, and ‘cause he wants me to learn the family business, which is kind of weird, ‘cause it’s not like he’s going to retire any time soon.” She took a large bite of the pizza and considered Leander while she chewed, which was one of the weirder ways he’d been regarded even lately. He remembered that he, too, could eat and did so, too. This place really did have the best pizza.
“So,” she continued, after a sip of her soda, “he’s paying for college, paying for my wardrobe, and paying for three trips a year wherever I want — as long as I avoid a certain list of ‘danger spots’. And a spending allowance. I mean, I could get a job. I’m not without skills or contacts. I could do the whole bootstrapping thing – I’m – well,” she gestured at herself as if it explained everything.
Pretty girl, most people would read, and she was, to be far, quite pretty.
Fae, Leander read.
“Rich,” he filled in instead.
She snorted. “That, too. Yeah. So I could make it on my own, but – well, honestly, it’s kind of nice having him looking out for me, and he doesn’t get all creepy when I bring someone home. Well, normally.”
“There’s probably a story there, isn’t there?”
“Oh, two or three stories,” she agreed. “But the long and short of it is – Dad is good at people. He can tell if someone’s a creep from like, five miles away. Well, okay, probably a mile, normally. So he’s chased off a couple people that turned out to be, well, uh. Not really interested in me, or not in a way that was good for me. After a couple, well -” She looked Leander in the eye. “I trust you a lot more than I would if anyone but Dad had… introduced us. And Dad does, too.”
Leander cleared his throat and looked down at his plate. He’d gone through too much food. His poor stomach already felt bloated and over-full. “I- uh. I’m not going to say your dad’s not always right or anything, but-“
“But you don’t think you’re trustworthy.” She cupped a hand over one of his. “That’s okay. You don’t have to. If nothing else, we can both trust Dad’s judgement – as long as I remind him to not be an idiot.”
Leander snorted at that. “That does not sound like very trustworthy judgement.”
“Yeah, well. Nobody said he was good at figuring out interpersonal relationships. If he was, he wouldn’t have mostly raised me alone.” She shrugged a bit. “I mean, I can’t really throw stones; there’s a reason the spot of ‘boyfriend’ was open.”
“The last guy was too much of a creep to ever deserve you?” he offered in a moment of gallantry.
She snorted. “A couple were. The last one, I just, uh, didn’t juggle, family, the, you know, Other Family, and the boyfriend stuff very well, and I had a habit of either giving in to everything he wanted or pushing for everything I wanted.”
Anyone eavesdropping really was going to think they were mob-related. Leander hoped Mr. MacDiarmad wasn’t under investigation by the FBI, or this could get awkward fast.
“Well, in my case,” he winked at her, “you can push for everything you want without problem.”
“Except one hour a day,” she reminded him. He’d more than half been assuming she’d forget about that quickly, so he was left scrambling for a reply.
“Well, that’s not enough time to drag you to the aquarium,” he countered. “Or even get through the waiting lines at the airport.”
“Private jet. I mean, it would take half an hour to get to the airport, but once we were there, you could probably have us in the air before your hour was up.”
“If your father is that rich – I mean, it’s a nice house, don’t get me wrong, but-“
“You can hide a jet. Anything bigger and fancier alienates people dad doesn’t want to alienate. And also alienates people I don’t want to alienate. Like classmates.”
“Is there anything you and your father haven’t thought through?”
“You.” She squeezed the hand she still hadn’t released. “And I’m not entirely certain he didn’t think you through, too.”