Stolen the billionaire d.., p.9
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       The Billionaire Deception, p.9
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         Part #1 of Stolen series by Holly Rayner

  On the Thursday of my second week with the company, I decided that once Seth and the other executives were gone for the day, I was going to have a go at the oversized file cabinet that sat behind his assistant’s desk. I had no idea what was in it, but if I could even find legal documents related to the take-over, it would be a start. The legal documents would have to have some of the financial information I was looking for in them. I had tried to access those through the courts, but since Hunter Corp. was a private corporation that had never taken their stock public, the documents were sealed.

  I did a couple of casual strolls through the hall, each time glancing into the long window that framed each door. I also left my door open so that I could hear who was leaving. I heard Charles leave around five. Michael was still left at his desk then. Sometimes he didn’t leave until after I did. Besides Seth, his assistant and I, they were the only ones on this floor. I hoped that Michael left soon, along with Seth and his assistant. I absolutely did not want to get caught in the building after hours… that would be a hard one to explain.

  I heard Michael say good-night to Seth’s assistant around seven. Then at seven-thirty, I heard her knock on Seth’s door and stick her head in to say good-night. I could hear the smooth silk of Seth’s voice reply to her, but I didn’t hear what he said. Delving back into the report I was finishing for him this week, another half hour passed before I realized it. I was shocked when I looked up at the clock and saw that it was already close to eight p.m. My neck was aching and as I sat there and pondered what I should do, I took the braid out of my heavy hair and ran my fingers through it. My hair grew like a weed. It had ever since I was a little girl. I couldn’t wear it short because of the curl, the shorter I went, the curlier it seemed to get and then I looked like one of those girls from the eighties with a bad perm. Instead, I wore it long and did my best to style it so it was always out of my face. Sometimes the weight of it wore on my neck and shoulders though and tonight was one of those times.

  After de-tangling my wild mane with my fingers, I got up from my desk and glanced down the hallway. Seth’s door was still closed, but it would be whether he was here or not. I left my office and snuck quietly down the hall. I double checked that all the other lights were off and the offices were empty. I didn’t know what time the cleaning crew came in, but if they caught me going through files they wouldn’t have any idea that I wasn’t supposed to be.

  I knew if Seth was gone, his door would be locked. My not so brilliant plan was to gently touch it and if it was locked I could have a go at the files behind me. As I reached for the brass handle it suddenly turned. That was my first clue that I should have thought my plan through a little better. I jumped and in spite of myself I let out a squeaky little noise. I realized I was staring right at his chest and I could feel the blue eyes boring down at me. I swallowed hard and looked up at him, doing my best to offer what I thought was my most dazzling smile.

  “Hi there,” I said.

  “Hi, did you need something?”

  “No, I was just getting ready to leave for the night. I was about to knock when you opened the door. It startled me.”

  Seth was looking at me strangely and I imagined him calling me a liar straight to my face. My office door was still wide open and the light was on. I didn’t have my bag with me and I never went to his office to say goodnight, but then again, I was usually still here when he left.

  He finally flashed me what had to be his most dazzling smile and said, “I love it.”

  He loved that I was coming to say goodnight? Genuinely confused I said, “Excuse me?”

  “The hair. I like it a lot. It reminds me of my mother’s. Hers was brown, but long and curly like that.”

  I felt the heat of the blush as it rose from my chest to my face, “Um…thanks. It was getting heavy so I took it down. I’m sure it’s a mess now…”

  He reached out and touched it as I was talking. Suddenly my tongue felt twice as thick as usual, and definitely drier. I took a step back without even thinking and he dropped his hand to his side quickly.

  “I’m sorry,” he said, suddenly. “Touching your hair is extremely inappropriate and that’s not the first time I’ve done that is it?” I thought that was a redundant question so I didn’t answer it. Then something happened to his face and the arrogant, self-assured look that he always wore there slipped as he said, “It just fascinates me so that I hardly realize what I’m doing. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

  I smiled, genuinely this time. He looked so self-conscious and genuinely remorseful.

  “It’s okay,” I said. “It is quite the anomaly.”

  He laughed, “That’s not the word I would use,” he said. “Mine would be much more flattering. But thank you for not slapping me for touching you uninvited. It won’t happen again. Speaking of uninvited however, you were coming to see me for something?”

  It was my turn to laugh, “Did you just say I was “uninvited” to your office?”

  With a slow grin he said, “It did sound that way, didn’t it? I’m not sure what’s wrong with me tonight. That was not my intention. You’re always welcome in my office Erin, consider it an open invitation.” He was flirting again; I could tell by the way his voice changed. It got deeper, sexier somehow. It made me feel all tingly inside and I tried to chastise myself about how ridiculous I was and how unproductive mutual flirting with the boss would be to my cause. I was still talking in my head when I heard him say, “I was going to step out for a bite to eat. Why don’t you join me?”

  Before my inner voice shut up, I heard my outer one say, “Sure, that sounds great.” On my way back to my own office to get my bag I tried to lie to myself again. I was only distracting him from having the time to really consider why I would be reaching for his office door handle. I knew that I was lying. Something about being close to Seth made me want to forget that I hated him and his father and everything they stood for. Grant was right. I was playing a dangerous game…

  “There’s a little Italian place up the street that I really enjoy. It’s a nice evening, would you mind a walk?” he asked. Again, I should have said no. The cool evening breeze coupled with the big, full, silver moon and the stars made it all even more dangerous.

  “That sounds great,” my stupid self-replied yet again. It was almost like I was on auto-pilot around this guy. I kept telling myself that it was all about the cause.

  The restaurant was only a few blocks and I could hear the soft Italian music piping out of the speakers as we approached it. Seth opened the door and held it for me as I stepped in and was taken away to a village in Tuscany. The interior of the restaurant gave you no indication whatsoever that you were in the center of Manhattan’s busiest business district. The lights were low and candles flickered out of red glass vases at every red and white checkered table. There seemed to be plants and vines everywhere, all plush and green and adding an element of intimacy to each table.

  The hostess greeted Seth right away and took us straight back to “his” table. It was in a far corner of the restaurant and the high-backed booth and potted plants cut us completely out of the vision of all of the other patrons. We took our seats across from each other and I sat quietly as Seth ordered our wine. When he finished the waiter left and he turned his eyes on me. I tried not to notice how sexy they looked in the candlelight.

  I didn’t even realize I was staring and time was passing… too much time for me to be staring mutely at him. His lips quirked up and he gave me one of the heated glances that I’d been getting from him at work. Here somehow it seemed hotter. I swear my clothes were melting right off. I had to say something but I was at a loss.

  “So are you from New York?” he asked. Thank God!

  “Yes, born and bred,” I told him.

  “You don’t sound like a New Yorker when you talk,” he said.

  “You mean like someone who grew up in Brooklyn, or the Bronx… or Queens?” His comment had insulted me. It felt
like he was saying that he expected me to be talking like a sewer rat because I had to have undoubtedly grown up on the wrong side of the tracks.

  My angst seemed to amuse him. “I wasn’t casting stones,” he said. “I don’t have a “New York” sound to my voice either, but that’s because I spent a big part of my life at boarding school in Switzerland. I was going to ask if maybe you had done the same.”

  My mind went back to the posh private school I had attended in the Hamptons until my seventh grade year. At that time I was forced, because of his father, to attend an inner-city public school. I adjusted quickly. I was smart enough not to let my former upbringing get in the way of making new friends and learning new customs.

  “No,” I said finally. “No boarding schools for me. Private school.”

  “Ah,” he said, as if that explained everything.

  The waiter returned then with a tray and presented a bottle of wine to Seth. Seth nodded and my glass was filled with a cool amber liquid. Seth nodded again and the waiter filled his. He left the bottle chilling table-side and disappeared again.

  I picked up my wine and before it made it to my lips he held his up and said, “To new acquaintances.”

  I went through the motions and toasted with him, still feeling like somehow his question had been designed to put me in a lower place than him. After he finished his drink of wine he looked at me with a raised eyebrow and said, “What are you thinking, Erin?”

  “Nothing,” I said. “I was just enjoying my wine.”

  He laughed and said, “I was honestly not trying to insult you.”

  “It’s fine,” I said. “I think it’s just past my bedtime and I’m getting cranky.”

  He laughed again and said, “So by now you would be home in your pajamas… doing what?”

  “Probably commiserating with my roommate about our days.”

  “Is she in business as well?”

  “He… Grant is an MBA like me. He works as an accountant at a law firm here in the city.”

  He raised an eyebrow again and said, “Your roommate is a male. So, are you two…?”

  “Involved? No. Grant and I are just friends.”

  “Is he gay?”

  “No, why would you ask that?”

  “Well I was picturing you in your pajamas…”

  “Excuse me?”

  “You did bring it up.”

  I had to admit that was true. “Okay, so I brought it up. What does that have to do with Grant being gay?”

  “I was just wondering how any red-blooded man who was privileged enough to sit with you while you were in your pajamas being able to maintain a “friend’s only” relationship.”

  I felt my face go hot when I said, “Well then, I doubt you’re picturing the same pajamas that I wear when I go home.”

  He chuckled softly and said, “You’re probably right about that.” The way he said it made me blush again. I was saved once again by the waiter who came back then to take our orders. I hadn’t even glanced at the menu. I opened the menu quickly and ordered the Chicken Alfredo, the first thing my eyes landed on. Seth looked amused… again. It was obvious that he’d flustered me… again.

  “I’ll have the Manicotti,” he said, handing his menu to the waiter. I handed him mine and he once again disappeared. As I watched him go, I was beginning to think the waiter was the lucky one.

  When I looked back at him, he was still smiling at me. I was beginning to think he did that just to unnerve me. “So, you grew up in New York when you weren’t away at boarding school. Two parent home, rich, privileged upbringing… you’re comfortable in those clothes.”

  He looked down at his suit and said, “I suppose I am. Do you not like my clothes?”

  “No… I mean yes, I like them… the question wasn’t really about your clothes, it was more about your upbringing…” Flustered again I said, “Your clothes are fine.”

  He made a face and looked down again. “Only fine?” This man was too much.

  “You know what I mean,” I said.

  “No, I don’t really. If you had to describe me, what one word comes to mind?”

  Gorgeous, sexy, hot… “Arrogant,” I said.

  Seth threw his head back and laughed. “There’s that feisty red-head. I could see her simmering on the surface since the day we met. I’ve been dying for you to bring her out.”

  With my own raised eyebrow I said, “Really? Why is that?”

  “I like your spirit. I could honestly feel it the first time we met. You were interviewing for a job you seemed to really want and really be qualified for. Yet you seemed almost… perturbed with me.”

  “And you liked that?”

  “I did,” he said, simply.

  “You have issues,” I told him. He laughed again.

  “Yes I do. But my arrogance is only skin deep. I need constant reassurance.” He leaned across the small table then and when he spoke again he was so close that I could feel the heat of his breath and smell the wine there. Lowering the pitch of his voice he said, “Since you seemed to misunderstand the question, I’ll clarify it for you. If you had to describe how I look in my clothes using only one word, what would that be? I’ll get you started, handsome, debonair, cultured…”

  “Rich and spoiled,” I said.

  He put his hand over his heart and said, “Harsh,” but his tone was soft and he was laughing. “I still like it.”

  “So you’re a masochist?”

  Still laughing he said, “Not quite, but sometimes when you’re the boss’s son, or the boss you get tired of everyone kissing up and saying what they think you want to hear. Your honesty… although a bit brutal, is refreshing. Not to mention that I love to watch your face turn the color of your fiery hair.”

  I chose not to comment on that. Instead, I took a sip of my wine and then said, “So Harlan tells me that your father has handed the reins to you, unofficially. What is he going to do with his time now? It would have to be hard to go from sixteen or twenty hour days to… nothing.”

  Seth’s face changed when I mentioned his father. It was a subtle change, but it was there. I think his eyes even darkened a bit as he said, “I doubt that my father will ever fully retire. He doesn’t want the sixteen hour days any longer, but he has his issues relinquishing control as well.”

  “And will you have issues with him keeping his fingers in the pie?”

  Seth took another sip of wine. He shrugged, it was designed to look casual, I think. But the intensity of his eyes gave a completely different answer. There were definitely issues there between him and his father. I was beginning to see my “In.”

  I was about to ask him another question when the waiter once again interrupted, this time to bring our dinner. He sat down the plates and then placed a platter of delicious smelling bread between us and said, “Can I get you anything else?” Seth looked at me and I smiled at the waiter.

  “Nothing for me, thank you.”

  Seth nodded at him and he went away. He looked at me then and said, “My father and I have a complicated relationship. Business only serves to make it more complicated. Now that he will only have his “fingers” in as you say, instead of his arm up to his elbow, I am hoping for less issues.”

  I was impressed by the simple honesty of that answer. I watched him as he put his napkin in his lap and took a bite of his chicken. By the time he’d chewed and swallowed it, his eyes had lost some of their intensity.

  “I’m sorry if I brought up a sensitive issue,” I told him.

  He smiled and reached across the table again. I closed my eyes when he touched me. It was an automatic reaction, but it felt so intimate and familiar. He ran his fingers across my brow line and said, “I don’t like that worry line there. I like it better when you’re being feisty, or blushing. You didn’t say anything wrong. You couldn’t have possibly known about my relationship with my father.”

  This guy was killing me. As soon as he pulled his hand away I opened my eyes. The way he wa
s looking at me made me shudder. I wasn’t supposed to like him at all. He wasn’t supposed to be so… human. He finally tore his eyes away and returned his attention to his plate. I stuffed a much too large bite in my mouth just in case I was going to say something stupid in response to that touch.




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