The Wager

By: Calista Kyle

It was times like these that I wished I'd brought Lara, my personal assistant, with me. Normally she'd be my go-to date to attend these charity functions with. She knew who everyone was and most importantly could steer me away from people I had no time or desire to speak to. As it was, I had been somewhat forced to attend with a beautiful, but rather shallow woman. The fact that she was my best friend's little sister made her clearly off limits, but judging from the looks she had been shooting me all night, she left me in no doubt she would welcome me in her bed.

"You have no idea who I am, do you?"

I snapped my head up to look at the stranger again. An inkling of recognition was making its way through my brain.

"Warren Peters," I said, as soon as the name had popped into my head.

"I'm glad to see I'm not as forgettable as all that."

I shrugged my shoulders. "It's hard to forget the man who took something that belonged to me," I said.

"Oh come on, you're not still sore about that, are you?"

The truth was I had forgotten it all until he addressed me just then. Warren Peters had somehow outbid and out maneuvered me at auction for a rare Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic. There were only two in existence and one of them was in a museum. The other car should have been sitting in my garage, but this man standing before me with his Cheshire cat grin had stolen it from right under my nose. Now that I remembered, I felt that rare but bitter taste of defeat once again.

"Why don't you sell it to me?" I said. "Name your price."

The friendly smile on his face was replaced by a shrewd and calculating look. I instantly felt my hackles rise and knew that I'd be a fool to underestimate this man.

"I heard you bought the Cézanne painting at auction last year," he said.

"What is your point?"

"Perhaps we could make a trade."

I laughed in his face. "You're kidding me right? The painting is worth over $100 million and the Bugatti is $40 million at most. What do you take me for?"

"I'm just throwing the offer out there. To tell you the truth, I really don't even want to sell the car. I've grown attached to it. It's a real thing of beauty--"

"I'll give you $50 million for it," I said cutting him off. "That's more than what the car is worth."

He paused to think about my offer and I could almost see the wheels turning in his head. But before he could reply we were interrupted.

"Oh Roman! There you are. I thought I'd lost you in this crowd," my date Helen said as she came up and grabbed my arm.

I had to fight to keep the annoyance from my face at her untimely interruption. But I couldn't help rolling my eyes at her dramatic entrance. As if I wasn't standing exactly where I'd been for the last half an hour.

"Helen, this is Warren Peters," I said, slipping my arm out of her grip.

She turned around and barely acknowledged him before turning back to me. It would have been funny to watch her flounder when she found out Warren Peters was a very rich man, but I couldn't be bothered to enlighten her.

"The funniest thing happened, you'll never guess Roman!" she said looking up at me in that simpering way that I couldn't stand.

I didn't say anything knowing she'd tell me anyway. If there was one thing I'd discovered during our short acquaintance, it was that Helen Marsden was never one to hold back from gossiping.

"Maxwell Stein just got humiliated by some nobody. It was the saddest and most pathetic thing," she said.

Immediately, my eyes glazed over as I tried to tune out her voice. I had no interest in hearing about Maxwell Stein and his latest exploits. More than likely he was drunk and acting like a lecherous cretin again.

"What happened?" I heard Warren ask.

I was surprised by his interest in idle gossip which got my attention. Now that Helen had a captive audience, she didn't hold back.

"She actually threw a drink in his face and told him he was ugly and a drunk. Don't get me wrong, Maxwell probably deserved it, the pervert, but can you believe the gall of this girl to actually throw her drink in his face. So tacky. And she's not even pretty! Who does she think she is? I've never even seen her before, and her dress, it must be off the rack--"

"I can't say I disagree with her," I said interrupting Helen's tirade.

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