“And the partner?”

“None of your business, but not an issue.” Was that a flash in his gaze? Not that it was any concern of hers. Yes, he was attractive, but so had been her ex. Who dumped her to marry a woman who sounded a lot like Luke’s ideal candidate.

He nodded. “We’ll tell the staff at Ruby Hawk you’re a consultant working on a research project for me. And three, while I understand asking certain questions are not in your job description—” he paused and his one-sided smile deepened “—your candidates must be single and free of romantic entanglements.”

His phone rang, an insistent buzz. He looked at it, and the CEO feared across Silicon Valley reappeared. “I have to take this. I’ll see you in my office at two thirty.” It was a command, not a question. Before she could respond, he was gone, leaving eddies in the air.

She let out her breath as the adrenaline surging in his presence slowly retreated. Her gaze swept the bare walls and scuffed floors. It was hard to believe two weeks ago she thought her job was secure. Of course, two weeks ago she also thought her strong, athletic teenage brother would remain in the best of health. Before the accident, Danica thought her life was on a straight road, with maybe the occasional dip or hill. Now? Nothing but blind curves and unmarked hazards.

Like the blind curve Luke Dallas represented. She squeezed her eyes shut. She’d make it work. To help her brother get the care he needed, she’d do almost anything.

She left the office with her box of personal possessions in hand and headed to the nearest library to log into the employee-only portal on the Rinaldi Executive Search website. As she anticipated, the passwords hadn’t been changed. She filled out the template agreement for executive search services, changing the words and terms as necessary. After her finger hovered over the keyboard for several heartbeats, she pressed Send.

* * *

Luke wasn’t sure if he’d made an expensive blunder or hit upon a stroke of genius. The decision to hire Danica Novak to find him a wife so he could jump through Nestor Stavros’s ridiculous hoop seemed right at the time. A week later, driving in his car on his way to work, it seemed like a damn foolish idea. Especially since he had yet to see any viable work product from Ms. Novak.

He refused to think he been taken in by big green eyes and a luscious mouth meant to be kissed slowly and thoroughly. He found her physically attractive, yes. But she also exhibited a quick wit and a willingness to go toe to toe with him that suggested she was intelligent and more than capable. He just needed to see the evidence of it. Now.

He parked his BMW i8 in the parking space marked with his name and strode through the glass doors engraved with the Ruby Hawk logo, forgoing the elevator in favor of taking the stairs two by two up to the third floor that housed the main operations. Today was going to be yet another difficult one. Cinco Jackson wrote another article about the Stavros Group acquisition, and this time he mentioned the deal might fall apart if certain unnamed conditions weren’t met.

Anjuli Patel met him as he exited the stairwell. He did a double take as he took in her outfit. The chief financial officer of Ruby Hawk and his second-in-command, she normally wore carefully color-coordinated outfits and tasteful jewelry. This morning she looked as if one of her three-year-old twins had chosen her clothing. “Another article just appeared in the Silicon Valley Weekly,” she said. “My husband texted me from the gym at 6:00 a.m.”

“Yes. I saw it. I’m sure everyone has,” he answered without breaking stride.

Anjuli fell in beside him and matched his speed. “How much truth is in it? Is the Stavros Group removing you when the deal goes through? Is the deal going through?” Her dark gaze sparked with anxious curiosity. She knew as well as he did how much the influx of cash from the acquisition was vitally needed.

“Let’s talk.” He beelined for his office. Like most tech companies, Ruby Hawk employees worked in an open plan bullpen. No doors, no cubicles, just desks pushed together to form team clusters. But recently Luke took over one of the glass-walled conference rooms that ringed the outer wall for more privacy during the acquisition discussions. He’d need it today.


Tags: Susannah Erwin Billionaire Romance
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