Beneath the SurfaceM.A. Stacie
For Denise, Jan, and Molly,
The ladies who lived that David Beckham moment with me.
The moment that sparked it all.
“Tell them tough shit. That’s how this company works, and if he doesn’t like that, he can clean out his desk!” Kyran Reese yelled into the phone.
His head throbbed, his temples pulsing violently. Kyran’s tolerance was low for stupidity, and it was being tested to the limit. Today had gone from somewhat fucked to fully fucked, yet it was just approaching lunchtime.
Slamming the phone down, he swiveled his chair to look out his office’s large window across the city. He had the most amazing view of Sea Pointe from the twenty-fifth floor. Sometimes staring at the glass and metal cityscape would be the only thing that could calm Kyran. Each day seemed to stress him out even more than the last. In fact, he didn’t think it would be long before he developed an ulcer like his father. An ulcer would be the best outcome, he thought. With Kyran’s luck, he would have a brain-popping aneurysm considering the incompetence he dealt with on a daily basis.
Wincing, he smoothed a hand across his shaved head, feeling the short hair on his palm. He needed a diversion, but did he have the time? He’d sworn he wouldn’t step foot in Metro for the next two weeks. Work was hellish, and holding meetings while you had a busted nose or a black eye would not impress clients and shareholders.
The problem was he’d grown to need the pain and pleasure of the fight. Whenever he fought in the makeshift ring at Metro, he burned off the stress of the day. His sole focus, for those violent, bone-crunching minutes, was his fists and winning the match.
Kyran glanced down at his right hand, smoothing his fingers across his knuckles. He’d messed them up on more occasions than he cared to recall.
Ice packs and hydrogen peroxide were his friends whenever he got home from the club, along with a decent amount of Scotch.
He longed for the buzz—the sensation that beat within him whenever he saw the lights go out in his opponents’ eyes. The glint of excitement he always saw there would diminish, telling him it would take one good punch to end the match.
His intercom buzzed, startling him. “Mr. Reese?” Lucy, his assistant, spoke. “One of Taylor’s new assistants has arrived, but he is out of the office. I don’t know where he is, or how long he’ll be. I didn’t want her to wait, and sending her home seems rather silly. This is her first day, Mr.
Reese. Would you mind talking to her?”
Composing himself, Kyran stood and adjusted his tie. He could see how tired he looked as he focused on his reflection in the glass, and he doubted he would make it through the two weeks without a visit to the club.
He was an addict. It just wasn’t of the chemical kind.
“I’ll see her,” he said with authority. “Although when Taylor does get his ass back here, tell him I want to speak to him. No excuses.”
“Yes, Mr. Reese. I’ll send her in now.”
He didn’t bother to sit back down. Instead, he walked around his large desk and across the room to the wet bar and poured himself a cup of coffee.
The door clicked open and Kyran heard a timid breath exhale behind him.
At the sound of her voice, an odd tingling sensation started at the base of his spine. Already disliking the feeling, he remained silent as he turned and looked her over, no doubt making her feel rather uncomfortable. The dark-haired woman fidgeted awkwardly, reaching up to twist a lock of her hair around a finger. It was such a childish action; Kyran didn’t quite |
understand why he silently willed her to continue. She met his eyes briefly before scanning the room. It took her a moment to assess the space before she moved forward, holding out her hand to greet him. “Mr. Reese?”
Kyran nodded, lifting the coffee cup to his lips to smother the smile that threatened to appear. She was tiny, reminding him of a mouse caught in a lion’s den. After another quick perusal of her body, he decided he would enjoy playing with her, but circumstances dictated that he should keep his eyes on her face and off her body. He was attracted to her, but he was her boss. Dale was off limits.
“Your receptionist said I was to see you as the other Mr. Reese—the right one—wasn’t available. I’m—”
“Dale Porter,” Kyran said.
“Oh, I didn’t know you knew my name.”
“I know everything, Ms. Porter,” he told her.
Kyran didn’t wait for her to acknowledge his statement before walking over and sitting down, gesturing for her to follow suit. She shot him a small scowl and adjusted her purse on her shoulder.
Judging by her actions, he’d confused her with his coldness. It was a reaction he was used to and found it always worked to his advantage.
People showed their true selves when under pressure or when angry. He only had to work out which one applied to Ms Porter.
She tottered forward, amusing Kyran with her inability to walk gracefully in heels. When she stumbled a little, he snorted, receiving a sharp glare in response. This woman was a feisty one and not daunted by his position.
“My brother will be back shortly,” Kyran said smoothly. He took a sip of his coffee. “I’m sure he will show you what is expected of you. For now, I will give you an idea of what the business does, how it works, and how you will fit in.”
“Sure.” She nodded before perching on the edge of the couch. “You must spend most of your day dealing with people like me if you give this talk to all new staff.”
Taken aback by her assertiveness, when he’d assumed the opposite, Kyran bristled but then smiled. It wasn’t often that he got someone wrong.
“My brother and I discuss this with all staff who are hired for the executive level. The office here is small in comparison to others, so there is no issue. However, I do thank you for your concern.”
“You’re welcome,” she said, smirking as she got more comfortable on the couch. She began to toy with her hair, twirling the brunette corkscrews around her finger before letting them bounce around her face. She met his eyes, and now that she was closer, Kyran could see they were almost the same green shade as his own. Ms. Porter’s were far more welcoming, though—all wide-eyed and emanating with honesty—whereas his were guarded. He let very few see beneath the surface.
“Nice place you have. I walk past this building a lot. You lucked out getting the top floor.”
“Not at all. The corporation owns the building, Ms. Porter. I own everything in it.”
Her reply was blunt but delivered with a keen smile. Her cocksure attitude was starting to get to him. It curled in his groin, tightening the flesh each time she shot him a quick-witted retort. The sensation wasn’t entirely welcome.
“Why do you doubt that?” Kyran took another slow sip from his cup, eying her over the rim of the fine china.
“You can’t possibly own everything within this building.”
She rolled her eyes, sighing in exasperation. “Because there are people in here. You cannot own people, Mr. Reese.”
With no other agenda but to see her reaction, he replied, “I beg to differ.”
She shook her head, pursing her lips and waving her hand. “No. No way.”
The flush of her cheeks was enthralling. One he would like to see more often, he decided. This perplexed him. So he continued. “I find money allows you to purchase whatever your heart desires. People included.”
“I don’t think my first day at work is really the time to tell me all about your sexual deviances.” She huffed.
Before Kyran could stop it, he laughed. The sound shocked him. It echoed around the office as if reminding him that the action had truly occurred.
“Touché, Ms. Porter. I think you’re going to be a great addition to the corporation, and maybe even give Taylor a bit of trouble.”
“My brother. The right Mr. Reese,” Kyran said in confirmation, using her earlier statement. “He could do with a little wake-up call.”
“Personally, I think you could use it more.”
Cocking a brow, Kyran asked, “Why, Ms. Porter?”
“You just seem very . . . focused. Rigid. The other Mr. Reese seemed more relaxed when I met him at my interview.” Her smile faltered a little as she answered him, showing Kyran she wasn’t as confident as she wanted him to believe.
Her response was what he’d expected. Taylor was the one people warmed up to. Usually they found Kyran too abrupt. Taylor’s attitude, however, had landed him in a whole heap of shit. Kyran didn’t want to end up with another possible lawsuit on his hands, so as intriguing as the woman was, he couldn’t break the rules. She appeared to be the exact level of feisty he enjoyed in his women. The kind who kept him on his toes and yet never took the situation for more than it was. At least that was what he saw from their short interaction. He had to keep telling himself to keep his hands off.
“You don’t know me. A wake-up call is not what I need.”
“You’re right,” she replied, her vibrancy fading right before his eyes.
“The corporation needed an assistant. So here I am. Where’s my desk?”
The speed at which she changed demeanor caused Kyran to reassess his next move. She’d gone from playful to stoic in seconds.
He cleared his throat and placed the coffee cup on the glass table in front of them before standing. He needed to gain his composure and standing up helped that advantage.
It also allowed a perfect view down the front of Ms. Porter’s top, the swell of her breasts causing interesting reactions within his groin.
“I have no idea where your desk is. You are not my assistant, and truthfully, I doubt I could afford the distraction.”
Waving his hand in dismissal, he muttered, “Nothing. Ignore me.”
“It’s a little difficult to do that. You’re my boss.”
Kyran’s grin faded. “I am, aren’t I?”
An awkward silence followed. He was enjoying this interaction but worried about how far he could take it. Ms Porter had reminded him of his place and that he should not be overstepping the mark. Taylor would also do that if he saw the way he was interacting with her. His brother would know exactly what was going on in his head and how much she interested him. Annoyed at his internal confusion, he stalked across the room to the windows. Kyran took a few deep breaths, calming the tingling on his palms and the tightness of his crotch. He shouldn’t have this response or feel this attraction. No woman had given him such a buzz within minutes of meeting.
Kyran didn’t like it. Without question, the need to feel the sting of Metro was stronger than ever.
“So, as I’m the boss—the CEO—I think it’s time to return to business,” he stated, his tone cold. “The Reese Corporation was started many years ago by our father, Jacob. We basically buy failing companies and make new ones out of them.”
“I know.” She interrupted him as he turned to face her. “You’re Edward Lewis.”
Racking his brain, Kyran tried to place who the hell was Edward Lewis. It could be the mail boy—he was fairly sure his name was Edward—but then why would she be comparing him to someone who delivered the mail from floor to floor? He was lost. The woman was driving him crazy with her silly talk and interruptions. With anyone else, Kyran would have called a halt to the meeting, or at least put them in their place, but Ms. Porter had him fumbling for a grip on the situation. He didn’t like it one bit.
“Okay, I’m confused. Who’s Edward Lewis? Does he work here?”
Ms. Porter tossed her head back and laughed. He watched her, transfixed by her long, creamy neck and the way each inhalation of breath made her breasts heave. They swelled against the taut blue fabric, the lacy bra underneath popping above the neckline.
Kyran’s mouth grew dry, his tongue danced against the back of his teeth as he longed for a taste of her flesh. He wanted to take the lace bra cup between his teeth and tug it hard until it tore . . .
“Hello? Are you all right?”
Ms. Porter interrupted his thoughts, dousing his dirty mind with cold water. She was certainly wearing more clothes in reality than she had been in his little daydream.
“I’m fine. What were we discussing?” he asked, disgusted for losing his train of thought again.
“Edward Lewis. I was explaining that he doesn’t work here. Not unless your employee is Richard Gere.”
Kyran stared at her, mouth agape. For the first time in forever, he had no idea what to say. This stunning female spoke in tongues. He couldn’t follow a single sentence, and it was getting rather frustrating. A small part of him was pleased Ms. Porter would be working for Taylor rather than him. He’d need to stock up on antacids and pain meds because she’d drive him insane.
Needing some space from her, Kyran stood and walked over to the large windows near his desk. He took a deep breath, stared out across the landscape and tried to regroup.
“Pretty Woman? You know, Julia Roberts? Richard Gere? The prostitute and the businessman.”
“Still no idea.”
Ms. Porter stood up and pushed her skirt down, hiding the view of her thighs. She wobbled on her heels walking across to his desk, and shocked him when she sat in his chair and began typing on his keyboard.
“What are you—”
“Here,” she said, pointing to the computer screen. “Pretty Woman.
Richard Gere played the role of Edward Lewis. His job was just like yours.
So you’re Edward Lewis.”
Understanding that she was referring to a movie, he exhaled, his impatience obvious. He couldn’t recall the last time he had watched a movie, or even sat in front of the television for a while.
Leaning over her, he went to switch the computer off but stalled. Her scent floated in the air, enveloping him in the sweetness of vanilla.
He wanted to lick her.
The Neanderthal within him raged. Taking a bite out of the fragrant skin of her neck would be divine. Sheer nectar, he knew it.
Inhaling, he closed his eyes. His heart began to pound, the tingling in his palms returning. Where seconds earlier his mouth was dry, it now began to water, desperate for a small taste of her.
A sharp knock on the office door was followed by the door opening.
“Lucy said you had my new assis . . .”
Kyran ground his teeth, pulling away from Ms. Porter. He fisted his hands and shoved them into the pockets of his slacks. Kyran couldn’t meet his gaze. Not yet. He needed a moment to gain his composure.
Ms. Porter began typing randomly, letters and numbers filled the screen, but nothing made any sense. Not until she looked up.
“Hello. You must be the right Mr. Reese.” Ms. Porter shoved the chair back, hitting Kyran’s knees without apology. “I’m Dale Porter, your new assistant.”
Taylor nodded, his dark eyes thinning as he looked from Kyran to Ms.
Porter. The man knew something was up, however he could back the hell off. Kyran was more than aware of the office interludes Taylor had been involved in.
“Truthfully, I think this Mr. Reese here needs a new assistant, too. I had to show him how to do the simplest Internet search just now.”
Taylor raised a brow. “That’s what I interrupted, huh?”
Ms. Porter nodded, walking over to collect her purse. Kyran shrugged.
“She has a fixation on prostitutes and movies. I’m worried for you, brother.”
Taylor didn’t bother with a reply, the look on
his face told Kyran he would return for a real explanation. Kyran would then be able to repeat the conversation they’d had yesterday. Taylor was being trusted not to fuck up this time. Kyran didn’t like it, but his father was confident. He had little choice other than to watch his brother like a hawk.
“Well, Dale,” Taylor said, opening the door wider for her to walk through. “I’m sure being with Kyran was entertaining, but the real fun is down the corridor.”
Dale grinned, hitching her purse onto her shoulder. “Cool.”
The pair left, and Kyran felt as though he could breathe again. His heart slowed, but his head began to throb. He rubbed his temples in an effort to calm down further when Ms. Porter popped out from the side of the door frame.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Reese. Our interaction was . . .
And with that she was gone, leaving behind a trail of vanilla perfume and a man with a raging hard-on.
Dale held her cell phone to her ear, trying not to raise her voice. Even though she wasn’t within the Reese Building, she was standing just outside, and anyone could overhear her conversation. She wanted to make a good impression.
“Dad, I don’t really want to hear I told you so. I get it. Joel is an asshole and was from the start. I messed up because I should have listened to you.”
“Maybe next time you will. I’ve been on this earth a few years more than you. I saw through him right away.”
Dale ground her teeth. She knew her father was trying to be supportive, but right now he was pouring more salt into the wound. She needed his comfort. However, a small part of her understood how difficult the last eighteen months had been for him. He’d never liked Joel or approved of her decision to come to Sea Pointe with him. So in some small way, her father was entitled to his I told you so. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
“I know. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you, and I’m sorry I haven’t called. It’s been tough.” She tried not to cry, staring at her reflection in the glass panel that formed the side of the Reese Building and willing the tears away.