When it came to Trey, the adventurous side of her intended to live in the moment, to hell with the outcome. Still, the cautious side of her insisted she stop playing with fire before the flames Trey stoked inside her burned them both.

Realizing she wouldn’t solve her conundrum today, she forced herself to attend to the deadly dull task of writing up the one thing she knew back and forth with her eyes closed. Network administration.

She set up the table of contents and formatted the basic structure of her document. Then she plugged in technical layouts, and typed the explanations behind them, plus her thoughts and suggestions about how to smoothly implement all the logistics involved in maintaining her legacy.

Hours later, the sun sank toward dusk, washing the snowcapped mountain peaks in a white-gold glimmer. She stared out at the beautiful vistas, appreciating her fourth floor corner office packed with windows. In Phoenix, all she’d see were flat planes of rust-colored desert in her new company’s one story office complex.

A ding from her email alert caused her to swivel in the direction of her monitor. She clicked the notification.

The blood drained from her face. Her fingers went cold then numb as she read the email unsourced email.

Hello, Devon. Don’t bother tracking me. You’ll be wasting your time. I see you’re distracted by your new boy toy. Whatever. If that’s what scratches your itch, I will leave you alone this week. In return, I want you to join me at DEFCON. Below, you’ll see I’ve taken care of your travel arrangements.

Devon shuddered. The balls on this guy! Out of morbid curiosity, she kept reading. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, she couldn’t look away.

I set you up with a suite at the MGM Grand. The same room where Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt have stayed. Since you’re into the pretty boys.

“And that’s supposed to impress me?” Freaked out, she shivered and shook her head. Evidently this guy had access to serious cash. The hotel receipt he’d scanned into the email—without identifying information like a name or credit card statement, unfortunately—proved his loaded status.

She’d rather share a cardboard box with Trey over the celebrity accommodations from this nut-job any day. In fact, Trey had set her up in similar luxury right here in Denver, thanks to the douche bag who’d written her this email.

Like I said, I’ll leave you alone. But you’d better confirm my reservations by this Friday. Or you won’t like my response. Things could get very ugly.

She swallowed at the growing tightness in her throat.

I’d hate to put you or your boy toy in a bad place. By Friday, Devon. I mean it. You don’t want to know what I’m capable of.

As if he hadn’t caused enough damage in her life and Trey’s? “Psycho.”

Grabbing her mouse, she hovered her cursor over the delete button. Then a thought struck her. What if he’d gained admin access to her work computer the way he had her home system? If she deleted the email, the cyber control freak might go off the rails. He’d given her a week, free of his menacing shadow stalking her every move, reading her email, combing for clues as to her reaction to his “magnanimous” gesture of taking her to DEFCON which started in ten days, all expenses paid. And that was no cheap trip. The madman had almost thirty grand on the line.

Half-regretting the move, she left the email alone. She assumed he had his email set up to send him a reply the second she opened his creepy note. So she’d leave him guessing, for a change. Assuming he stood by his word, he’d leave her alone for the next five days, let her breathe in peace. And give her plenty of unfettered time with Trey to enjoy whatever the week would bring in sensual opportunities.

To hell with this jerk’s threats. She would bide her time, and Friday, she’d tell the cyberstalker exactly where he could shove his thirty thousand dollars.

Chapter 8

Monday morning, Devon called a meeting with her team, and the diverse crew gathered into her office. She handed out ten copies of the report she’d created yesterday and kept the eleventh copy for herself to reference if they had questions. Attached to each report was a Starbucks gift card for fifty dollars.

Allen Guthrey, her IT manager, grinned. “Coffee is the nerd equivalent of black gold. Better than overtime pay.”

The team chuckled since they were all salaried and received no overtime for the extra hours they’d put in. Weariness passed over their faces as they discussed the intensity and stress of the hacking incident.

“You guys deserve it, for the miracles we pulled off last week. On an even better note, in my budget proposal that finally passed, I included a Keurig coffee maker. Soon we’ll have good, fresh coffee at the touch of a button.”

Cheers greeted the news, and high-fives went around.

Flipping through the report with a perplexed groove between his eyebrows, Zander pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “This documentation looks intense. What’s it for?”

She settled down to business. “I’ve asked a lot of you guys recently. You’ve been pushed to the limits, and I’m really proud of your efforts. You’re a great team to work with, and you proved my faith in you.”

They beamed under her praise and acknowledgement.

“Still, I should’ve better prepared you for emergencies like last week. That oversight is my fault and I need to fix it. Going forward, for the next month I’m setting up meetings with the entire team, as well as one-on-one sessions to identify each of your strengths, goals, and what you want to learn working here.”

Inwardly, she cringed because she’d meant to say two weeks and had inadvertently locked herself into another thirty days at Soren Security. But she’d never go back on her word. Honestly, this training endeavor required at least a month’s worth of dedication. Somehow, she needed to buy time from her new employer to ensure her team’s success in her absence. She never did anything halfway or left things incomplete. Trey and this company deserved an outstanding IT department, and she’d give him that.

“You’re a great teacher,” Zander blurted. Ears turning bright red, he rushed to explain. “I mean, you’ve won awards. You know this industry inside and out. You have name recognition and working for you puts me at a level I’d never achieve on my own or at another company. Right?”

Zander glanced around for support and received several nods of agreement.

The ardent praise lifted her spirits but also distressed her. Because teaching by example wasn’t enough. She needed to cultivate their skills and let them do their own problem solving.


Tags: Vanessa Waltz Billionaire Bodyguard Suspense
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