I had to admit, her emphasis on the matter surprised me. Kiona’s background told me that she lunged from opportunity to opportunity, reinventing herself to fit each new role. She was clever, quick on her feet, and remarkably intelligent…and nothing my investigations into her background had pulled up had ever given me the slightest impression that employee welfare would matter to her.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because I’m considering becoming one of your employees.”

She’s a clever one… I have to be insane for even considering this.

“You have my word.”

“Why are you trusting me?” Kiona asked, studying my face.

“Oh, I’m never going to trust you,” I answered honestly with an apathetic shrug. “You’re clearly a liability, possibly even dangerous. But you’re a reliable and intelligent kind of dangerous; you will fit the part admirably, and that’s what I need for now.”

Kiona’s eyes locked onto mine, and for a brief moment I saw something fierce in them – something indomitable. It was like looking into the eyes of a wild animal, and I found myself suddenly rather intrigued.

“In that case…how much?” She smiled, giving a satisfied little laugh. Just like that, the animal inside was gone, replaced by a spark of mischief.

“Ten million.”

“Do I look like a publishers clearing house kind of girl?” she asked, cocking her head to the side.


“Name your price,” I replied.

“Fifteen Million. Half up front, half when we’re finished.”

Her lips curled into a sexy little smile as I nodded. Who the hell was this girl? She threw around big numbers like they were old hat. How much was she being paid to infiltrate my company? Where in the hell did she come from?

“Deal,” I finally replied.

“You know, you had me worried sick this entire last hour…I thought I was about to be destroyed at this lunch. But instead, I’m marrying you? And while I’m thinking about it,” she paused suddenly, looking at me quizzically, “isn’t it against company rules to date or marry one of your fellow employees?”

“I planned to fire you at some point anyway. Just for the sake of convenience.”

“Alright then. I suppose I’m ready to get started.”

“As easy as that, is it? No other questions?”

“No,” she remarked, flipping her hair and flashing a confident smile. “I could ask you all the questions in the world, but I’m a professional. I’m ready to get to work.”

“Remarkable,” I observed, standing up from my seat. “But there are still some things we need to go over…perhaps at my place tonight. This is going to be a bit of a formal arrangement, you see.”

“Sure, I guess I’m not really doing anything tonight anyway.” Kiona shrugged, pulling her plate back and taking another bite of her salmon. For a moment, the clouds shifted above, and the resulting sunlight bathed her mocha skin in radiance. She swallowed, scooping up her glass for another sip of water, and the light twinkled against the glass.

This woman looked absolutely beautiful…I would have to play this very carefully. For the sake of indulgence, I allowed myself to admire her for a moment before taking a deep, soothing breath. She had been endearingly perceptive during our conversation, and what made her ideal for this task could be my undoing if I didn’t keep myself restrained.

While she drank from her glass, I took the opportunity to concentrate briefly, taking a deep and soothing breath. This was a ritual of mine – closing everything out. It was how I kept myself safe from everything external, focusing myself down into a compact, diamond-hard core that was unbreakable, unshakeable, and unreachable. While my mind concentrated on finding that place again, I could feel the safe, familiar walls pushing back up and fortifying themselves, blocking her and everyone else out. With my next exhalation, it was done; the spell was broken, and I was untouchable again.

“The helicopter will pick you up at six o’clock sharp. I trust that you will be there in time?”

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