“So you go in, trade them out, he thinks it’s still there and we have the smoking gun.” The light in his eyes grows bright. He has a plan, and I can see it working through the system of his analytical mind.

“Not me.” He smiles. “You.”

“Me?” I laugh out loud. “That would be great except there’s this little matter of a restraining order, an assault charge, and the fact he hates my guts. Maybe you should re-watch Shawshank Redemption.”

“Look, he will never leave me alone in his office long enough for the switch, but he’d let you in and he’d leave you alone.”

“Are you insane? The last time I visited his office I left in a zip tie between two cops! I’m hardly on the Ten Most Trusted list!”

“You would be,” Mark’s voice curled around the phrase. “If he let you in.”

“And why on earth would Blake Stone let me into his office?”

“This is the gross part.” He squints, giving me a warning.

“Oh, god. You don’t seriously want—”

“You told me he propositioned you. That’s why you attacked him in the office, right?”

“I would rather spend eternity in hell with nothing but a CB Radio and an old TV Guide.”

“Follow.” Mark holds up his hands as if he is showing me the plan on an imaginary presentation board. I cross my arms over my chest and look skeptical as he lays out the idea.

“Before you spend a lot of breath on this, the answer is ‘no.’” I warn. How could he even think I would do something so absurd?

“Wait, look. Blake knows about me and you and he gave you evidence about me. So he will believe you are desperate to get your company back, and now because of the pictures, you no longer trust me. In fact, you can tell him that if one of us is going to use you for sex, it might was well be the brother who can actually give you Lynx back. Tell him you will do anything he requires you to do in order to stop the transfer. Don’t act like you want it–he won’t believe you. But act like you have no choice.”

“Not wanting to have sex with Blake won’t require much acting,” I say dryly. This is crazy.

“The only thing Blake likes better than sex is humiliating someone. So he will egg you on, say rude things, try to shock you with profanity. But when he’s done with that, he will agree to the sex. He’s not going to just want it, he is going to want to remember it. Our offices have security cameras everywhere but we keep most of them turned off because it’s a lot of tape and storage. So when he is ready for it, he will leave his office to go to the control room to turn on his cameras. At that point you’ll be totally alone in his office. You can make the switch and run out the door shouting you just couldn’t go through with it. He will be mad but we will have the folder and he won’t suspect a thing. Easy as pie.”

“Disgusting as cow pies,” I remark. I don’t want to be on the same planet with that man, let alone offering him my body. “He’s grotesque and repugnant. How am I supposed to pretend I’m willing to give him sex when I can barely look at him without throwing up?”

“You’re an investigative journalist, Julia. You’ll find a way. Besides, you don’t have to do it, you just have to get him to believe you’re willing. Then you make the getaway. Do you have one of those large purses? The kind that’s more like a magazine bag than fashion bag? You can hide the fake folder in it. Sit it close to the bookshelf when you go in.”

“Yes, but what if he doesn’t leave the room? What if he decides he doesn’t want it recorded? Then what happens?”

“Improvise. Tell him you feel dizzy or to wait a second. Stand up and leave. You are younger, smarter and far more athletic.” Mark reached out and put his warm hand on my cheek directing my eyes to his. “Your safety comes first. If you think he will hurt or touch you in any way–get out of there. Losing Lynx would make me mad; losing you would kill me.”

I nod. I can’t believe I’m going along with this nutso scheme, but Mark is right. It really is the only way to get alone in his office. Mark draws a picture of the office on a napkin, as if I hadn’t been arrested there already, and shows me all the exits. He prepares himself to call Blake and warns me that I won’t like what I hear. He instructs me repeatedly to remember it’s all a ruse and says he has to talk to Blake “in his own language” which means crude and gross.

“I’ve been an investigative reporter for my whole career,” I scoff. “I know how undercover works.”

“Hey Blake,” Mark says into his cell with a cynical tone. He’s a good actor, that I’ll give him. “You aren’t going to believe this. I’ve got the deal of a lifetime for you. You know Julia, from Lynx. Yeah. Well, the night you fired her she came storming into my office–just like she did yours. Yeah, I know. I should have called the cops like you and I should’ve told you. But I did something I think you would want to know about. I f**ked her.”

Mark puts his hand over the phone while Blake drones and mouths the words “I’m sorry” to me. They help the sting, but it still disturbs. He was right, this is harder to hear than I imagined. I should leave but I don’t. If I’m going to face Blake I’m going to hear worse than this, but it’s all for a good cause.

“Afterward, I started this thing with her–you know–telling her I could help her if she gave me what I wanted. Yeah, it was pretty sweet. Then she blew a gasket or something. She came over to my place?yeah?I know?never at my own place, you’re right about that, anyway she had these pictures. I don’t even know. She must have heard I dated Val so she had someone make pics of us like we were doing it. She was all pissed off. I think she was trying to blackmail me or Val or whatever. I know! That is ancient history. She’s a psycho.”

Blake rambled off another string of something and laughed. It’s too bad Mark couldn’t use the speakerphone, but he said it would scare Blake off. I end up sitting down because all of this is making me sick.

“So, I tell her we’re done. But today she came crying saying she wants to meet with you. She said you made her some kind of offer and she’s ready to take you up on it, but she can’t because of the cops. Did you offer her a job? Oh. Ha ha, yea–that kind of offer. Well, if you want it–sounds like you can have it, brother. A little after hours conference sounds right. When is that contract up? Yep, better hurry, don’t want to pass the expiration date, keep it fresh.”

Tags: Priscilla West Billionaire Romance
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