Stolen the billionaire d.., p.7
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       The Billionaire Deception, p.7
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         Part #1 of Stolen series by Holly Rayner

  Harlan led me out the door and down a long hall with doors on either side. When we got to the end of the hall I stopped in my tracks; they had already put my name on the door. I was torn between the pride I felt seeing my name and title there, and the anger that it wasn’t my real name and it didn’t say, “CEO.”

  “Wow a name plate already, that was fast.”

  “Mr. Hunter wants you to feel comfortable and welcome. You’ll find out that he’s a great man to work for.” Harlan opened the door for me and handed me the key. I looked around at the corner office with big glass windows and an even more impressive view of Manhattan than the conference room. It was already set up with a computer that had a twenty-seven inch monitor, a flat screen television hung on the wall and anything else a person might need in an executive office seemed to be there as well as a lot of miscellaneous stuff. I even had my own espresso machine and a wet bar.

  “Wow, this is really nice,” I told Harlan.

  “It is one of our nicer offices,” he said without any trace of resentment in his voice. “Mr. Hunter wanted you on the same floor as his office since the two of you will be working closely. My office is one floor up. Michael and Charles have their offices on this floor as well. You’ll probably be doing a lot of work with Charles, checking out the charities and such.”

  “Harlan, tell me more about this charity department.”

  “It’s really cutting edge,” he said. “It was Seth’s idea. It took him a while to convince his father but by the time he presented it to us he had an entire plan worked up and he already had a list of charities that were important to the clients that we represent. He’s a smart kid, that one.”

  “Smart and compassionate, it would seem.”

  “Yes, both. When his mother died from breast cancer, Seth became very active on the charitable scene, putting a lot of his own money into organizations that do cancer research and treatments for women who don’t have medical insurance.”

  Damn him. It seems that he couldn’t stop at being gorgeous and just be the arrogant ass that I expected him to be. He had to have a heart too. I was going to have to find a way around mine if I wanted to win this battle. This wasn’t really about Seth anyways… it was about his father, the thief.

  “Harlan, can I ask you another question?”

  “Anything,” the congenial older man said. “Whatever I can do to help you.”

  “Where is the other Mr. Hunter? The real CEO?”

  “He has actually handed the reins to his son completely at this point. We see him around here on rare occasions now. He’s taken to spending much of his time on a golf course. James hasn’t made the formal announcement yet, that will happen at the company’s annual ball when all of the executives and department heads as well as many of the more lucrative clients are in attendance. Besides, it will give him a chance to be center stage once again.”

  “Oh so he won’t be coming to any of our meetings or anything like that?”

  “Hopefully not,” Harlan said with a grimace. “He told Seth that if he took the CEO spot, he would take a step back and let Seth handle things… as long as nothing got “out of hand,” as he put it.” I tried not to smile but the look on his face was really funny. James was obviously not his favorite person, and Harlan was obviously not good at hiding that fact.

  “Is he not a nice man?” I asked.

  “Let me see… how do I describe James Hunter… You studied history in college at some point, right?”

  “Yes…”

  “When you picture his parents you would have to think Attila the Hun mating with Marie Antoinette… the offspring would likely be very attractive on the outside and very, very lethal within.” I couldn’t help but laugh a little at that visual. After Harlan left I couldn’t get the visual of Attila the Hun out of my head. He had raided and killed entire villages… wiped out entire armies… impaled his enemies… all to the end that someday he would be held up in history as the fiercest warrior that ever lived. It was a good analogy. James had almost destroyed a young girl’s future for his own personal gain and he hadn’t seemed to bat an eyelash doing it. He was the enemy, maybe not Seth… but Seth was going to have to be my means to that end.

  I began familiarizing myself with the office and about a half an hour after Harlan left me, Seth knocked on the door.

  “Come in.”

  “Hey there,” he said with a dazzling smile. “How do you like your office?”

  “I love it, thank you,” I told him honestly.

  He had some files in his hands and he said, “I hope you don’t mind but I mean to put you to work right away.”

  “Not at all,” I told him. “I much prefer a productive day to an unproductive one.”

  He sat down in the chair on the other side of my desk and sat the files down. “What I’m hoping,” he said. “Is that you could take a look at these and write up an informal report describing the pros and cons of each as you see it. One of the files is a compilation of the research that the specific departments have already done on the project but I encourage and even expect you to do your own research on each one so that you can come to an informed conclusion. They are all either charities we’re looking at becoming involved with or new clients we are considering putting money into wooing.”

  “Sure, I can do that,” I said with genuine enthusiasm. It sounded right up my alley.

  Seth looked like he was going to say something else when he suddenly leaned across the desk and brushed a piece of hair off my forehead. I flinched; shocked that he would touch me. He didn’t seem fazed by my reaction at all however. He simply smiled and said, “That curly little tendril escaped during the meeting earlier. I could hardly concentrate on anything else.”

  “Excuse me?”

  He stood up and said, “Out of concern for it falling into your eyes of course.” He smiled again like there was some kind of secret between us and then he left the office, just like that. I sat frozen to the spot, staring at the door for a long time before I could finally move. Did that arrogant man think he could blatantly flirt with me like that? He was flirting… wasn’t he? I wondered if he treated all his female employees the same way. Then I wondered if it was only my imagination.

  I looked down at the work in front of me. I realized that researching each one of these companies and compiling a list of pros and cons was going to take some time. I forced myself to physically shake off my new boss’s flirtatious behavior and roll up my sleeves, so to speak, and get to work.

  I worked diligently through the morning. Once I was in the midst of it I lost all track of time. Seth had been right. The research that was given to me was nothing more than basic details. I needed a lot more than that to make an informed decision. I don’t think I even looked up from either my computer or my desk until hours later when there was another knock on my door.

  “Come in.” Seth popped his head in the door.

  “Have you been working on that non-stop since I left this morning?”

  I realized the back of my neck was stiff and I put my hand over it to massage it as I said, “Yeah, I suppose I have.” I stood up then and stretched and once again realized that my CEO’s eyes were on my face and my body as I did.

  He grinned and said, “It’s loose again. Is it all curly like that?”

  It took me a second to process what he was talking about. The look on my face must have given away my confusion because he pointed at my forehead and said, “Your hair. I was wondering if it was all that curly.”

  I reached up and self-consciously brushed the loose tendril off my face and tried to tuck it back into the French braid that ran across the rest of my head. Feeling like my face might be as red as my hair I said, “Yeah, I’m afraid it is.”

  “I’d love to see it down sometime,” he said. Then before I had a chance to even think about what I should say to that he said, “What do you say to coming down to the cafeteria and having lunch with the boss? I can introduce you to a few more of our valu
able employees.”

  There was that word again… my boss. I knew he had no way of knowing, he couldn’t possibly, but it was almost like he was taunting me with it. I knew I had to suck up my emotions though and just go with it, so I said, “I’m starved. Lunch sounds great.” I grabbed my keys and followed him out of the office.

  I looked at that first lunch with Seth as part of my orientation. We didn’t talk about anything personal and he did introduce me to a lot of my colleagues. Afterwards, he had walked me back to my office and very appropriately told me that he would be out of the office the rest of the day and that if I needed anything I could call his assistant, or Harlan or any one of the other executives. I went back to work after he left and before I knew it, the sun had gone down. As I rushed out of the building that evening close to eight p.m., the doorman kindly let me know that the building would lock up tight after nine p.m. and one of the Hunter’s or someone they had designated as “key holders” were the only ones who could get inside. I thanked him and made a mental note to be out of there before that ever happened.

  Grant was practically pacing the floor when I got back to our apartment that night. When I walked in the door and hung up my coat he looked at the clock and said, “Eight-thirty? What are these Hunters… slave driving ogres?”

  I laughed and went to pour myself a glass of juice. As I drank it I told him about my day. He was quiet until I’d finished.

  “Be careful,” Grant said.

  “I will.”

  “No, I’m not talking about your quest. I’m talking about your boss.”

  Confused, I asked, “What about him?”

  “You should put a mirror in front of you when you talk about him so that you can see your face. It lights up like a firefly.”

  I felt my face go hot. “It does not. It’s the reflection off of my red hair.”

  Grant came over and kissed the top of my head. “I left the rest of my Chinese Food in the fridge for you. I’m meeting a co-worker for drinks. And you’re full-of-it… I’ve been looking at the reflection of your beautiful hair for a long time and that’s not it. Please be careful. I don’t want you to get your heart broken.”

  I didn’t say anything else, I just watched him go. I had to admit that there was definitely a sexual energy that surrounded Seth. He was one of those kinds of men that just carried it around with him, I think. I doubted that his interactions with me were any different than the ones he had with any of his female employees… well, except maybe Bev. She seemed really intimidated by him.

  I ate the Chinese food and picked out my clothes for the next morning before getting ready for bed. When I finally looked in the mirror that night I said, “Seth Hunter,” out loud to the empty room. My face didn’t change at all. “See there Grant,” I said, again to an empty room, “Nothing.” I washed my face and took down my hair. As I brushed it I heard Seth’s voice asking, “Is it curly like that all over?” and then again, “I’d like to see it down sometime.” I glanced up at myself in the mirror. I was slightly flushed and I was smiling. Damn you, Grant!

  ***

 
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