While they continued their rowdy, indignant argument over this perceived gap in their intelligence, I decided that I had seen enough of this. “I’m afraid I must return to my work,” I cut in, chin held high. “Thank you for your time.”

“Dismissed,” a spry, Irish suit with thick fiery hair nonchalantly waved, never pulling his eyes from his verbal combatant.


I embraced the order and let myself back outside…but not before I noticed Cole Andrews looking directly at me, a confident, panty-drenching smile across his lips.



Chapter 2

Cole

Running a pair of fingertips through my thick hair, I let the rest of the quarterly revenue and projections meeting continue on. It only took a few minutes for the fracas to settle down as fingers were pointed and accusations thrown. In the meantime, I deduced approximately how long it would take me to reach the street level, walk into one of the clothing stores, completely change, and then outpace the gridlocked traffic down to the park.

Personally, I didn’t give a rat’s ass about these reports. I had already built the company, moved the correct people into upper management, and seen that the tight-belted, well-oiled machine ran well without me. All I needed to know could be answered in two simple questions:

“Are we still in the green?”

“Will we still be green in three months?”

For all my desire to ignore the business, I couldn’t just step away. If I did, I’d miss all the little things that inevitably drew my attention by being so interesting.

And lately, I found myself interested in Kiona Walker.

Yes, I knew exactly who she was. My extensive background checks pulled up almost everything I could want to know about her – including the fact that the clever girl had not only fabricated her entire resume, but had also passed three interviews with some of the most competent people I’ve ever met. I hadn’t believed it until I personally reviewed the tapes. She was confident, presentable, and knew her material.

The only thing I couldn’t figure out was who sent her.

Kiona was brought to my attention when the checks all came back and legitimized that the marketing positions she had previously worked in were almost completely inaccessible. Sure, her references gave her stellar reviews, but the inability to reach the companies themselves had given HR enough reason to bring me into the loop. Of course, I knew better. They just wanted my final approval to cover their own ass. After all, you can’t be blamed for making a potentially negative hiring decision if the founder of the company signed off in things, right?

Of course, Kiona had pre-emptively supplied reasons why her job history might have a few gaps, and they made total sense. One was a small, off-the-books agency in England, and relatively hard to reach; another company had been a small, offline agency that handled local businesses. On any other day, I’d have put my signature on her file and sent it back to HR without a second thought… But something caught my eye.

The third employer was not like the others.

She claimed she’d held a position at a recently closed and bankrupt company that had fallen into some ongoing legal troubles. That particular company had suffered a suspiciously convenient server fire just prior to going under, and there was no way in the world anyone was going to retrieve the records, much less talk to the notoriously secretive management. That was especially true now that they were under indictment for securities fraud. I’d sooner be able to call up Elvis than get those idiots on the phone. It was all very convenient.

And that was her big mistake.

While the first two companies were fabricated and her references nothing but sock puppets paid to give glowing praise, the third company was very real. Someone hadn’t done their research, because the CEO of that particular company was a particularly vile and racist asshole and I’d had the displeasure of working with on more than one occasion. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell he would have hired a beautifully dark skinned and almost stunningly intelligent woman like Kiona.

This made Kiona interesting. I signed off on her paperwork without saying a word about any of this to HR, and I paid for my own background checks to be done in private. There’s a saying in business; keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I wanted to keep Kiona very close until I knew her secrets.

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