True Deceptions (True Lies)(8)

By: Veronica Forand



At the moment, she was awake. Therefore, he ignored her. Tapping his shoulder, she waited for him to look at her. He didn’t. She cleared her throat, but he still didn’t acknowledge her. “If we’re going to be stuck together, we should at least get to know each other,” she said.

He continued typing. “I know everything about you. You received your PhD from the University of Southern California, placed third in your age group in a triathlon in Los Angeles, and have had no friends since arriving in London three years ago.”

“And yet I know nothing about you.” Ten minutes in one of his computers might provide her with enough details to satisfy her curiosity, but he guarded them as though she were a plant from an enemy organization.

“You know everything a girlfriend of mine would know, except my favorite position in bed.” He spun his chair around to face her and raised his eyebrows. “Curious?”

Yes, very curious, but men like Simon unnerved her. She tended toward computer geeks who liked to watch old black and white films while drinking organic lemonade.

“I don’t think that’s necessary.” Perhaps bothering him wasn’t such a great idea after all.

“As you wish. Do you mind if I return to work now?” Without waiting for an answer, he faced the screen.

She turned to go, but a faint echo of her mother’s voice caused her to stop.

Fight for what you want. Being the nicest kid in the room isn’t enough.

Years of struggling through the tech world, justifying her ability over and over and over again, should have toughened her. Years of watching younger men with less experience and expertise take positions she’d applied for, just because they went to the same college or were in the same fraternity as the company president, should have pushed her to step up and demand what she deserved. Instead she’d always slipped into a background role and never made waves.

No more.

Her life would not be defined by a man’s inability to see her worth beyond her blonde hair. Simon’s attitude toward her needed to change. He had to see her as a contributing member of the team. Headquarters couldn’t have pulled her out of her office to sit in a colorless apartment and do nothing. Did her education and training mean anything? Was she really hired to be arm candy to a man who didn’t show any respect toward her?

She blocked his monitor with her hand to grab his attention. “There must be something I can do.”

He moved so fast, she didn’t have time to react. His hand manacled hers, and he pulled her in front of him, down to his level. She almost fell forward onto his lap. When his movements stilled, he stared at her like a cobra lulling its prey. His thumb caressed her palm and calmed the fright caused by his action.

His mouth hovered over hers. She could smell alcohol and something else, which she couldn’t describe, but craved. He remained completely still except for his breathing. Garnering all the self-control she could, she held her breath to avoid his tempting scent.

“Have you ever brokered an arms deal with rebels in Sierra Leone?” He spoke as though he were propositioning her with things unrelated to weapons caches.

She inhaled deeply, having held her breath a second too long. “No.”

“Then you’re not needed at this time.” He released her hand and repositioned her away from the front of the screen.

Her nerves flew around in a vortex of emotional, sexual, and intellectual frustration, distracting her until she forgot everything she’d ever learned about confidence and strategic alliances. Dating surfer dudes and computer geeks hadn’t prepared her for Simon Dunn. Not even her arrogant thesis advisor intimidated her the way Simon did. And yet she felt drawn to him like a moth to a blowtorch.

She returned to the living room and flopped on the couch, wishing she could leave. Anywhere on the planet would be preferable to being in the same apartment as Mr. Simon Dunn. But if she walked out the door and out of Simon’s life, she’d lose her job and possibly her chance at moving to another position either in the U.K. or the U.S. She was stuck. She had limited funds, a small suitcase of clothes, and a 9mm handgun she refused to use.

The doorbell saved her sanity. She leaped off the couch to answer it. Before she reached the front entrance, though, Simon, gun in hand, grasped her shoulder to halt her.

“Overkill?” She pointed to the weapon.

“Always. That’s why I’m not dead.” He motioned her to stay back as he checked the monitor hidden in the hall closet. “Okay. You can open it.”

Now she was his butler? She almost refused, but the person on the other side of the door rang the buzzer with impatient or desperate frequency. Simon didn’t budge. He remained by the closet with his gun by his hip and waited for Cassie to do his bidding.

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