“Maybe this break is good. Obviously he needs to work through some of his own issues, but also you both can have time to really think about your relationship without being so wrapped up in the intensity of it.”

“You’re right. I’m already getting into a better mind-set, you know, the more time we spend apart.” She took a deep breath. “Anyway, enough about me and my problems. What about you and Blake? Is he still driving you crazy?”

“You know it.”

“In a good way or a bad way?”

“Both, but we’re figuring it out.”

She gave me a grin. “I think Blake has met his match with you, Erica.”


“Yeah, I’m sure you don’t take any of his shit. Mr. Software Billionaire probably has no idea how to deal with you putting him in his place.”

I laughed at the picture she drew of us. She might have been right. I couldn’t imagine many people challenging Blake the way I did. I did it for self-preservation though, not sport. Still, the tug of war drove us both crazy. Mostly good crazy.

“He keeps me on my toes, and he could probably say the same about me. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure.” I smiled to myself and my heart did a little flip at the thought of him. Blake was full of challenges. I never knew what the hell to expect from him, but that was just another part of our relationship that I couldn't get enough of. The rush, the negotiating, and when the occasion called for it, the sweet surrender.

“Okay, the look on your face is making me nauseous.”

I laughed. “Sorry.”

“Don't be. I'm just bitter and lonely. Anyway, stand your ground. I know you will, but those Landon men can be pretty damn persuasive.”

She looked serious for a minute, then a smile curved her lips and we burst into a fit of laughter.


Walking into the office still took me aback sometimes. The space looked great with the subtle lighting and sleek workstations. Sid sat next to two of the newest team members. I leaned on the desk they huddled around. They paused and looked up.

“What’s new, guys?”

Chris was about a decade older than we were. This wasn't his first job at a start-up, so he brought some experience that most of us lacked. A heavyset guy, he had bright red hair that was overgrown and curled up at his shoulders. Based on the past week’s attire, he seemed to have an affinity for Hawaiian shirts.

On the other end of the spectrum, we had hired James as our dedicated designer and front-end developer. He was a different brand. With a mop of nearly black wavy hair, tanned skin, and bright blue eyes, he was by far the most naturally outgoing of the entire crew. Well-built with a touch of bad boy about him thanks to some ink that peeked out from his button-downs, he wasn't hard to look at either.

“Morning, Erica.” He flashed a smile that caught me off guard.

I smiled back, surprised at being greeted with such enthusiasm so early in the morning. Good hire, I thought.

Sid blew out a breath, apparently not sharing James’s mid-morning peppiness. “We’re trying to figure out a plan for rolling out the upgrades we talked about, but it’s a little hard with this band of misfits trying to take us down twenty-four hours a day.”

“Uh-oh.” I cringed a little, having no idea how to go about technically fixing this problem beyond harping on Blake to work his magic. He’d been frustratingly vague about his association with M89, but clearly, due to whatever he’d done to piss them off so royally, the hackers were not going to give up easily.

“Anyway, we’re figuring it out. Don’t worry about it.” He scowled and focused on the monitor, stopping periodically to jot down some notes.

“Can I help?”


His answer was predictably curt. For the Sid I’d come to know, who was regularly grumpy due to his erratic sleep schedule, being met with challenges at ten in the morning was unacceptable. I rolled my eyes and caught James smirking.

“Keep me posted.” I pushed off the desk and disappeared behind the Chinese curtain partitioning my office from the rest of the space. Due to the size of the room and the budget, I’d decided to forgo the privacy that a build out would afford, and in the end, I was grateful Blake had honored that wish with his secret remodel. I felt secluded enough to do my work in peace but still connected enough to tap into whatever Sid and his crew were up to. Plus, Risa would be joining us soon, and we’d likely have a lot more regular communicating to do. At least we spoke the same language.

When their informal meeting ended, I Skyped Sid to come talk to me. He came in, his tall frame towering over me at my desk. He settled into a chair across from me.

“What’s with the attitude, Sid? We’re on the same team here.”

“I realize that, but I’m getting really sick of patching holes in a sinking boat.”

“We’re sinking?”

He sighed. “No. But constantly patching vulnerabilities and fixing shit they’re breaking while trying to roll out new development is becoming pretty fucking tedious, Erica.”

I sat back, stunned. Sid rarely swore, so his nerves were frayed. When my nerves were frayed, I cried in the privacy of my room or channeled my anger into being obsessively productive. When Sid’s nerves were frayed, everyone suffered.

“What do we do? I want to help. I just have no idea how, Sid.”

“Talk to your boyfriend. Doesn’t he have all the answers?”

“Most of the time he does, yeah. But he doesn’t have a magic pill for this. I’m at a loss.”

Blake’s strategy thus far had been to simply make the site completely impenetrable. Because I’d refused to let his team of programmers take over the site, the responsibility fell squarely on Sid. Now Chris and James shared the burden.

“On the ground-level, there are improvements I can make to the site. At some point, we’ll need to redevelop it anyway to accommodate large-scale growth. The only thing I can think of is to work on that instead of doing these upgrades. Then at least we’re working with a more solid foundation, since clearly we’re going to be under attack for the foreseeable future.”

“Sid, you’re scaring me. Rebuild the site from the ground up? There has got to be another way. We’re coming up on a critical marketing push.”

“I’m not here to tell you what you want to hear. I suggest you talk to Blake. Whatever he did to bring this on, he should know how to fix it because this isn’t what I signed on for.”

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