A Case for Love
endearment from her childhood. “What’s that?”
    “You cannot be seen to be publicly involved in this. If this becomes more public than it already is, you have to step back from it. We don’t want to endanger your career. You’ve worked too long and hard to get where you are to ruin it by marching out in front of everyone, carrying the flag of protest.”
    Alaine pictured herself as a majorette high-stepping in front of a marching band. She laughed, then instantly sobered. “But what if my position as someone with the ear of the public can have some influence on getting this settled quickly and quietly?”
    “No. Unless you agree, there’s no deal with the lawyer or trying to pursue this any further.”
    To see her always-happy father so stern, so serious, broke Alaine’s heart. “All right. I agree. But I’m going to do whatever I can behind the scenes to make sure you don’t lose this place.”

    “Congratulations. You have now successfully licensed a Chicago branch of Let’s Do Coffee.” Forbes reached across the corner of the table and shook Shon’s hand.
    “Thanks, man. I wasn’t sure this one was ever going to go through. As always, couldn’t have done it without you.”
    “Now,” Forbes shuffled the folders in front of him, looking for one in particular, “there’s just one more thing we need to talk about.”
    Shon gestured with his hand, open and palm facing Forbes, in a circular motion. “I don’t like this facial expression. This can’t be good.”
    Forbes forced a frown. “It has come to my attention”—he opened the red file folder and rifled through a few pieces of paper before finding the one he wanted—“that you appeared on Alaine Delacroix’s show on Tuesday.”
    Shon looked down at the printout of the newspaper article Forbes slid across the shiny wood surface toward him. “Dude, don’t do that to me. I thought you were talking about something serious.” Shon flipped the page back toward Forbes. “She’s a lot better looking in person than on TV—and I didn’t think that was possible. Why’re you passing up this prime opportunity to hook such a fine specimen?”
    “What makes you think I’m passing her up?” Forbes feigned interest in the news clippings still in the red folder.
    Shon shrugged. “You haven’t gotten her to agree to go on a date yet, have you? Have you even talked to her?”
    “Yes, I talked to her Tuesday morning as a matter of fact.” Forbes leaned against the back of his chair and crossed his arms.
    “And ... she’s too busy right now to commit to making plans.”
    Shon narrowed his eyes speculatively. “Right. Too busy.” He shook his head. “Classic evade.”
    Forbes thought back to their brief conversation. She’d been upset over something she’d said to a co-worker, which, he was certain, tinged their whole interchange. “No, I really believe she meant what she said. She sounded stressed out and like she was being pulled in five directions at once.”
    “Okay. If that’s what you want to believe.”
    “It’s what I know to be true.”
    Shon held his hands up in surrender. “Fine. But look ... if you’re reentering the dating scene, let me handle everything for you. No, listen,” he said forcefully when Forbes tried to interrupt. “I know you don’t like giving up control of things, but this is actually a way for you to gain control over the whole thing—meet only a select group of women already prescreened, by me, to make sure that their interests and lifestyles mesh with yours. I’d like to give you a three-month VIP membership for you as a thank-you for all of the extra hours you put in on the Chicago deal that I know you didn’t bill me for. I’ll handle everything. No one else in the company will ever see your file.”
    “Let you set me up on blind dates?” A week ago, Forbes would have laughed and said no immediately. Now, however, with his twenty-year reunion coming up, along with the

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