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Title: SOMETHING TO PROVE
Author: Shannyn Schroeder
Genre: Contemporary RomanceAbout SOMETHING TO PROVE: More than business... Determined to show her father she's capable of running the family business, Elizabeth Brannigan sets out to save his struggling Chicago bar. But she'll need a little help dealing with the rough crowd. When she encounters the handsome co-owner of a thriving Irish pub, she's more than ready to take on those late night shenanigans. Colin O’Leary’s father passed away before he could prove to him that he wasn’t a screw-up. Now he wants to show his brother he’s responsible enough to own a bar of his own. And Elizabeth just might be the saving grace he's always needed. Can they mix a little business and pleasure or will the merger destroy everything?
He flipped it open and a bark of laughter shot from his mouth. “You bought The Irish?”
“No. Yes.” His laughter flustered her, making her feel like she was mentally unstable for owning this particular bar.
He closed the folder. “Which is it? Do you or don’t you own the bar?”
She cleared her throat. “I do. I personally didn’t buy it; my father bought it twelve years ago.”
“That explains a lot.”
“Ryan told me you’re from Florida. Why would your father buy a bar in Chicago when he’s not around to run it?”
“I’ve been wondering the same thing.”
“You didn’t ask him?”
“You don’t have to worry about the reasons for ownership.”
He closed the folder without reading anything she’d provided. “The Irish used to be a profitable bar. When the original owner died, things fell apart. Something like five owners came and went in as many years.”
“I already know this. It’s a matter of record. What would you do to change what it is now?”
“You have to close it and change everything. It’s a total dive right now because that’s what it’s turned into. If you want it to be something different, you need to start from scratch so the current customers won’t want to return.”
She’d been thinking the same thing. Closing the doors after the brawl had been a good idea. “When was the last time you were in there?”
“Years. But I don’t need to go there to know what it is. Everyone in the area knows that The Irish is where you go if you want a brawl. The drunker and meaner, the better.” He leaned back in the chair and forced it to recline. His long legs extended under the table, and she had a flash of those legs between hers. He looked smug as if she wouldn’t be able to turn him down.
“You don’t have the business management experience or education the other candidates have.”
He smiled. “Neither does my brother, but you went to him.”
“Like the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. He’s a success. Just because you share a branch of the family tree doesn’t guarantee me anything.”
“But you’ve seen me with people.” He thunked the chair back down on all four legs. “I was good with you.”
Between his intense blue eyes and his low bedroom voice, his words warmed her blood again.
“And that would be another reason to not work with you. I don’t have time for someone who’s more interested in flirting than working.”
“Sweetheart, you flirted with me. I took your cues and acted on them. I’m completely capable of working with a partner without sleeping with her.”
Part of Elizabeth felt relief at his statement. More of her felt another sting of disappointment.
His steely blue gaze bore into her. No sign of lust. Nothing to imply that he planned to kiss her again. Not even a hint of sexual attraction. If they pretended that night had never happened, a partnership could work.
She steadied herself for a strong negotiation. “I’ll offer you twenty-five percent profits and a bonus twenty percent when I sell, assuming you hold up your end of the bargain and bring in the customers. I remain the manager and boss and all decisions go through me.”
“Make it forty percent profits and thirty percent on sale.”
“You bring personality to the table. No proven experience, and you expect me to give you almost half the business?” She leaned back in her chair.
“My personality is the one thing you need most. It can’t be taught or bought.”
“Thirty profits and twenty-five at sale.”
He narrowed his eyes as if computing, then leaned forward. “Deal.”
“One more thing. No flirting. Just business.”
He sighed like she was being insufferable. “Contrary to popular belief, I am capable of being professional. When do we start?”
“It’s locked up, so we can start tomorrow. I’ll have the contract drawn up for you to sign when you get there. Nine a.m.?”
“I’m closing at O’Leary’s tonight. Make it eleven. Even I need my beauty sleep.”
“You plan to continue to work at O’Leary’s?”
“It’s my family’s bar.”
“I’m not a simpleton. There are only so many hours in a day. I won’t have you thinking you can drop by The Irish just to collect a check.”
His smile was disarming. “Sweetheart, simple isn’t what anyone would call you. I’ll prove my worth soon enough. Seems a lot of people expect that.” He rose and extended his hand. “I’ll sign your contract, but a handshake will do for me.”
She shook his hand and tried to ignore its strength and warmth and the zing of her nerves. As he turned to leave, she enjoyed the view and immediately began to question her sanity. She’d just created a business partnership based on a man’s charm. What the hell was she thinking?