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Beneath the Surface, Page 2

M.A. Stacie

  “And I’m assuming you’ve kicked him out.”

  “Packed his stuff up and left it out on the sidewalk within six hours. I added her stuff to the pile, too. I don’t care how long we were friends. I don’t want any reminders of either one of them.”

  “That boy had a wandering eye,” her father added. Like she didn’t know that.

  “Dad, please!” Dale raised her voice, hoping he would pay attention.

  A couple entering the building paused to stare at her. Embarrassed, she turned her back on them. “Look, I don’t want to keep going over this. I called because I have some news.”

  “I called you.”

  Okay, he had a point. “Sorry.”

  “What’s your news?” he asked, the apology going unacknowledged.

  “I started a new job yesterday.” She smiled, knowing he would be able to hear it in her voice. “I like it. One of my bosses is a little uptight, but the other one is kinda cool. I think it’s the right fit.”

  “You said that about the other one. Don’t get why you needed a new one,” he grumbled.

  “Because I was let go, Dad. I had no choice. Besides, this one is for a huge company, the Reese Corporation, in one of the large buildings. I have that feeling—the one where I just know it’s right.”

  Her father’s snort of derision popped down the line. “Seem to recall you getting that feeling when you met the jackass.”

  Again, another good point. “Can you at least try to be happy for me?”

  Her father sighed. She hated this. Before her ex, they had been close, but the moment Joel had stepped into her life he had caused all sorts of problems. Her father had disliked him right away and made no excuses.

  There hadn’t been any foundation to his dislike, at least none that he had ever verbalized.

  Blinded by love, Dale had jumped to her boyfriend’s defense, only to have it backfire when he’d walked all over her. She’d hoped that with Joel now gone they would be able to rebuild their relationship. It was proving |

  far more difficult than she had initially thought. She was her father’s daughter through and through—both of them too stubborn to back down.

  “I am happy for you, Dale. Sometimes you just make it so damn hard to—”

  “What?” Her stomach clenched. “I’m the problem here? Again?”

  More people glanced over at her, though this time her blood had begun to boil, and she no longer cared who looked her way. Nevertheless, she did step away from the building entrance.

  “Never said that, sweetheart.”

  “Of course not.”

  “Dale, don’t go all wild on me. I am happy for you, and I hope this works out for you. I miss you.”

  Her shoulders sagged, guilt replacing anger. Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm down, tried to see a way through. “I miss you, too.”

  Silence flowed, neither of them knowing what to say next. Eventually, Dale gave in and said, “Look, Dad, I have to go. It would look real bad if I showed up late from lunch on my second day.”

  “Okay.” He sighed again. “I do hope this works for you.”

  Unsure of how to answer, Dale said good-bye and ended the call. This time she was the one to exhale, her head falling forward. Tears stung her eyes but luckily her hair blocked her face from view.

  “Are you all right, honey?”

  Dale looked up, blinking at the woman in front of her. She was familiar, although Dale couldn’t place her. She racked her brain, scrutinizing the woman’s dark hair and horn-rimmed glasses. Her smile was warm, making Dale feel at ease with her, but she struggled to recall how she knew the woman.

  “You’re Dale, right? Taylor’s new assistant?”

  Dale nodded. “Yes, I am.”

  The woman continued. “I’m Lucy. I was in the reception when you arrived yesterday.”

  Recognizing the woman, Dale smiled. “Yeah, I remember now. I’m okay. Just had a bit of an argument with my father.”

  “Ah, I see. Well, take a few moments out here. Mr. Reese isn’t one for bringing personal business into the office.”

  “Wow, everyone is so considerate today, aren’t they?” Dale stated, making no attempt to hide the sarcasm in her voice.

  “Just a bit of friendly advice. Take it or leave it.”

  “I’m sorry,” Dale said quickly. “I shouldn’t have snapped. My father just seriously annoyed me. We always grate on one another.”

  “I understand.” Lucy patted Dale’s shoulder, offering a small smile before leaving her. She walked into the building and didn’t look back.

  It was times like this that Dale would have reached for her cell to call her best friend, Shelby. That was now out of the question. She hated that she had put so much faith in two people. They had been her entire world, and now that they were gone, she felt rather lost. Alone. She wanted to share the news of her new job, drink wine, and laugh about her strange combination of bosses then fall into bed drunk with the man who claimed to love her.

  “Ergh, move on, Porter,” she said to herself. “Your best friend and boyfriend were assholes. They’re welcome to each other. You need new friends, anyway.”

  Shoving her cell back into her purse, Dale began to walk back into the building. She dodged a few people, not really wanting to be shoved out of their way. Her stance in her heels was precarious at best; she saw no need to tempt fate and fall to the ground in front of strangers. She should have worn flats. Choosing heels, in the hope that they made a good impression, had been a stupid idea.

  “Christ, I can’t leave the office for five minutes without something falling apart!”

  Dale turned, following the sound of the annoyed voice. She knew who it was. Kyran Reese’s was not one she could easily forget; deep and seductive, with a huskiness that put her body on red alert. It was utterly unfair that he should be so damn attractive. The man exuded confidence, along with a dark sexuality. That dangerous edge called to her, and she surmised most women would feel the same, caught in the web he didn’t even know he’d spun.

  “I don’t give a shit what Taylor told them,” he said into his cell phone.

  “He’s been back two days and cannot possibly know how this deal is working. Just do as I asked rather than what my brother advises.” Kyran added a terse “please.”

  Dale continued to watch him, perplexed by what she had overheard.

  Moments ago Lucy had told her to keep family complications out of the office, and yet Mr. Reese was currently bellowing his business across the entrance to the building. The whole situation seemed somewhat hypocritical.

  Kyran ended the call but immediately started a new one. “Dad? You need to come into the office. Taylor is about three conversations away from losing us the Poltak deal. The fucking moron needs to back the hell off.”

  His face contorted as he listened to his father’s response. Dale glanced around, not wanting to be caught staring at her new boss. She didn’t really want to hide and spy on him either. Stalker much? She should go inside but the lure to watch him was far too enticing.

  “I don’t understand your decisions. Taylor wanders into this place at any time he chooses, barely does a day’s work and yet you’re telling me to back down?” He paused. “I’m not making any more allowances for him. He fucks up. You know this. You have proof of it! Now I refuse to continue to deal with him alone. I’ll repeat what I said earlier—then get back to keeping this corporation afloat. You need to get down here and deal with him.”

  Kyran looked up as he ended the call. He thinned his eyes in scrutiny at Dale, and she felt her face burn. Swallowing a lump of anxiety that had lodged in her throat, she wondered whether to go and apologize to him but he made the decision for her. Kyran spun around, turning his back to her, and walked into the building, leaving her staring at the space he had just vacated.

  “Well done, Dale. It’s your second day here and you’ve made one hell of an impression. Kyran Reese won’t be forgetting you anytime soon.”

sp; Chapter 3

  Kyran ran.

  Kyran ran until he could just barely breathe. At least then he wasn’t able to still smell Ms. Porter on his skin like he had yesterday after their meeting in his office.

  He ran until his head was numb, because then he wouldn’t have to think about her. And he ran until he couldn’t feel his limbs, because then he wouldn’t need to acknowledge the intense need to touch her. Or his need to get pummeled at Metro.

  Disgusted by his reaction, he would do whatever it took to fight it.

  Kyran had raced to his desk after he saw Dale outside. Ever since she had entered his office, he’d thought of nothing else but where he could fuck her: on the couch while she was draped naked across it, pushed over the top of his desk, or hard against the bookshelves. It drove him insane. The image of her tortured him slowly until he had no choice but to get away from the room.

  He grabbed his gym bag and raced down to the basement of the building. Kyran didn’t normally use the office gym, preferring to pay a membership for a larger one with much more equipment. He would use it now, though, because he needed it. Pushing his body to the brink with a vigorous workout was the only way he’d forget her.

  The whole situation both confused and pissed him off in equal parts.

  Sure, when he met a woman who interested him, there would be a spark, but nothing like the raging sensations he felt when he hovered over her yesterday at his computer. Every hormone he possessed had gone wild, vibrating, and sending his system into overload.

  He despised how volatile he’d become. The stress of being the CEO, coupled with his brother’s ridiculous behavior, made the balance difficult to maintain. The urge to beat, and be beaten, grew with each altercation he had with his brother. The fighting had now become integral when it came to him functioning like a normal human being. As a child he’d never been a pain freak or a cutter, but now he understood that need for an outlet, a way of releasing what he held inside.

  He decided he was a special brand of sick, and he definitely needed therapy.

  Growling in frustration, Kyran quickened his pace, pushing himself a bit more on the treadmill. His calves ached, his shins screamed for him to stop, but he continued. Pushing his body to the extreme was the only way to bury the desire. He would swamp it underneath a shitload of exhaustion.

  His cell phone chirped and vibrated, diverting his attention. He stumbled but managed to steady himself. Pressing a few buttons, he slowed to a gentle jog to cool down before stopping completely and getting off the treadmill. It was impossible to hear the music playing through the gym speakers because his ears were filled with the sound of his blood thundering through his veins.

  Kyran had pushed himself hard and it was all because of one annoying woman he’d talked to for twenty minutes.

  The door to the gym opened, and a tall blonde entered the room. She wore tight leggings and a formfitting cropped top. Until recently, he would have stayed and talked to her, maybe even flirted a little. Kyran enjoyed the thrill of the chase. In the past it didn’t matter if they worked for him or not.

  He would have talked to her, flirted, and turned on the charm. However, now he didn’t even crack a smile.

  Kyran wasn’t interested.

  He turned his back to her and grabbed his phone, scrolling through the various messages and e-mails while he caught his breath. Sweat trickled down the valley of his spine, pooling at the base of his back before soaking the cotton of his T-shirt. The fabric clung to his heated skin, irritating him enough to take it off.

  After ripping his shirt over his head, Kyran tossed it on top of his gym bag, and reached for a towel to pat dry. Looking at the mirrored wall, he watched the blonde cock a brow, her eyes following the tattoos that adorned both of his arms. She didn’t grimace in the way most people did when they saw how heavily inked he was. Instead, she licked her lips and drank in every inch of his skin.

  Her reaction intrigued him. Very few people in the office knew of his artwork because it was concealed by his business attire. The tattoos also went against his well-known professional persona, but then there was more to him than the Reese Corporation.

  Kyran stroked his hand up his left arm and stared at the series of random letters and numbers. The dark digits stood out sharply against his pale flesh, an odd code etched from shoulder to wrist.

  He stared at her reflection, hoping to unnerve her enough to stop looking at him, but she was shameless. The woman’s gaze trailed over his chest and down to his tight abs before focusing on his right arm. Although the ink still covered the same amount of skin, the design was different.

  Waves lapped from his shoulder, forming a small whirlpool on his elbow and ebbing back down to his wrist. Both arms had taken a series of sessions and time away from Metro for a while. The pain of the tattoos was a good exchange for the pain of the club.

  “Nice,” the woman said, moving closer to him, and it was clear from the glint in her eye she was impressed. Kyran turned to face her. “That’s some amazing work you have there.”

  “I know,” was Kyran’s blunt response as he squatted down, pushing his belongings into the gym bag. He hoped she’d take the hint. When she hunkered down next to him, dragging her long, manicured nails along his arm, he understood hoping was futile.

  Shooting her a cool glare, he stood up and hauled his bag over his shoulder. The woman clearly had no idea who he was, and touching him uninvited would get her fired.

  “They must have cost you a fortune. The artwork is perfect.” She stood up, cocking her hip.

  He took a long drink of water from his sports bottle, wondering if he wanted to get into this with her. It wasn’t that she was unattractive. His issue was more to do with rules, and it would be wrong for him to start anything with someone who worked for him. That issue remained with the curly-haired brunette who was right now settling into his brother’s office.

  “Money isn’t a concern,” he replied, shaking his head and trying to forget Dale. “And, yes, the artwork is perfect.”

  She flashed him a lip-glossed smile, licking her bottom lip again. He wondered if the gloss was flavored because she couldn’t seem to leave the damn thing alone.

  “I haven’t seen you here before. Are you new?”


  She blushed at his abruptness. “Oh, well, what floor do you work on?”

  A slow smile spread across his lips, knowing he was about to make her run and hide. “Twenty-fifth.”

  She gave his shoulder a light shove, giggling like a child. “You work for one of the Reeses, then?”

  He took his time, taking another long drink of water before he leaned forward, bringing his lips to her ear. He spoke low, making sure his mouth brushed the lobe. She giggled, obviously thinking he was teasing her.

  “I am one of the Reeses.”

  Her gasp of horror echoed around the small gym. She backed away, her hand at her throat, her eyes wide. “I d-didn’t . . .”

  “I know. It was amusing to see your reaction. It’s not often someone has no clue who I am. Especially in this building. I can only assume you’re new to your position.”

  “I want to tell you that was cruel, but now that I know who you are, I’ll keep quiet.”

  “Wise,” he said. “Very wise.”

  Ending their conversation, Kyran began to walk away again, ignoring another weak apology from the blonde. Leaving the interaction at this point would keep her wondering if he was around the corner about to fire her. He wished he had the same possibility with everyone.

  Checking his watch, Kyran cringed. He had another few hours’ work to finish before he could call it a day and head to the club. His body told him he didn’t need it. After his run he wouldn’t be on his best form, but his head demanded it. The need was there.

  He absently pressed the button to call the elevator, still locked in his own thoughts. He had three meetings to attend tomorrow, so he would have to be cautious with the matches he chose tonight. Bruises from
the shoulders down were fine. His face would need to stay clear.

  “Is that the dress code around here?”

  Kyran froze, looking into the elevator to see Dale. He hadn’t even been aware of the elevator doors opening.

  “What?” he snapped, entering the elevator and checking which floor she had pressed. “What are you doing riding the elevator? Hasn’t Taylor given you enough to do?”

  He turned his back to her, standing as close to the doors as he could while still allowing them to close.

  “I’ll answer you if you face me,” she said.

  She exasperated him. No one dared to speak to him like that. Dale and the blonde from the gym were polar opposites.

  “You can talk to me whether or not you can see my face, Ms. Porter.”

  He spun around, dropping his bag to the floor as the elevator began to rise.

  Using her last name would make him keep his distance. It would keep things professional.

  “But your face is so pretty.”

  His brows shot up, his mouth opening a little. She clutched a stack of folders to her chest and like a child, stuck her tongue out at him.

  Damn it all to hell, he wanted to suck on it.

  He fisted his hands and took one step closer to her. A war raged within him. He should turn back around and get out of this elevator as soon as he could. Her scent was pulling him in, escalating his need to devour her.

  “Okay. Fine. I was dumb. I got into the elevator and didn’t press anything. I was . . . thinking. Next thing I know I’m on the way down, when I really wanted to go up. I tried pressing the right floor but it had its mind set on coming down to see you.”

  She lifted her chin in defiance, not flinching in his proximity. He snapped, losing all control. He reached out and locked his hand around her wrist as he pressed her back toward the wall of the elevator. The folders she was holding dropped to the floor, scattering around them. She sighed, never breaking eye contact.

  Kyran knew he was crossing a line, but couldn’t stop himself. His rigid control was shot to shit when he was around her. Driven, he slammed her against the wall, grasping both wrists above her head, laying her out like an offering from the gods. Pushing a solid thigh between her legs, he suppressed a moan, watching her chest heave. Those delicious breasts rose closer to his mouth with every breath. He licked his lips, suddenly rather thirsty.