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Authors: Selma Wolfe

Detect Me

BOOK: Detect Me
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DETECT ME

 

BY SELMA WOLFE

 

 

To Maria, who read the very first one

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Copyright © 2013 Selma Wolfe

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Nikki Reed ran up the steps of the huge office building, past the sliding glass doors, and into the foyer. She stood there dripping in the middle of the chrome and white entrance and tried to smile at the disdainful-looking receptionist.

“Do you have an appointment?” The receptionist wasn’t at all rude, but somehow managed to convey with an arch of one perfectly plucked eyebrow that Nikki was a blight on the face of this building, and in fact the earth itself.

“Yes, I do. It’s in, um - office 536B,” Nikki told her, trying not to sound defensive and simultaneously trying to check herself out in the fuzzy reflection of the chrome elevator doors.

It was difficult to tell using the polarized metal, but Nikki was pretty sure that her usually wavy blonde hair was hanging limply around her shoulders. That morning she’d put on her neatest charcoal-gray suit with a cute matching blazer, and the dark color meant that they had remained fairly neat, but the shoes… Well, the four-inch patent leather black pumps had not been the best choice for soaking wet New York streets. Nikki was mournfully sure that they were scuffed beyond all saving - not to mention, her feet were killing her.

The receptionist nodded dubiously and stood up from behind the desk. “Here, let me escort you to the correct office. I assume you haven’t been here before - it’s quite the maze. I’m here to help.”

More likely the receptionist was there to use her three-inch long talons to stab Nikki into submission if she turned out to be some kind of serial killer, Nikki thought wryly.

They got into the elevator and made the ride up in silence. The receptionist looked completely at ease, but Nikki kept shifting her feet from one ruined heel to the other.

She wished desperately that the rain hadn’t come pouring down out of nowhere the moment she’d left her apartment this morning. Right now Nikki needed to look good, professional, not like a drowned rat.

“And how are you finding New York?” the receptionist drawled, startling Nikki out of her thoughts.

Nikki tried not to glare. “How did you know I’m not from around here?”

The receptionist shrugged, making her brown curls bounce around her shoulders. “Oh, I can always tell a tourist.”

“I’m not a tourist. I’ve been living here for a year now.” A failed year, sure - not a single one of her paintings had sold - but that wasn’t the point.

The other woman smiled, razor-sharp. “Of course. So… 536B. You have a fancy for art?”

“You could say that.” It was only her life. Fine Art and Art History major in college, not to mention years of saving up enough money that she could move to New York permanently. And at the time Nikki had thought she’d been making contacts in the art world - ha! It had taken about two weeks before she realized that her so-called contacts were small potatoes compared to the real movers and shakers of the New York art world. Nikki knew the galleries that got looked at, but what she didn’t know was how to make the right people listen if she wanted her paintings hung in one.

When Nikki moved here she’d been just like every other wide-eyed idiot who moved to New York chasing their dreams. She’d been full of those dreams, so sure that someone would see the promise in her art (even if sometimes she had trouble seeing it herself). For months on end she’d eaten, slept, and breathed art. She’d met a man with a wide smile and art of his own that took her breath away. It had taken a long time (and finding him in bed with a ballerina) to realize that being in love with a man’s art and being in love with a man were very different things.

Now the idealism had faded, and Nikki was mostly tired. Tired of speaking to secretaries that promised to pass her number along to art directors, tired of being late on her rent, tired of desperately wanting to be part of a world that didn’t want her. She needed something different. A distraction.

This job would do, if she could get it. Just a paper-pushing job for some marketing and graphic design company whose name she could barely even remember - cripes, that wasn’t a good sign, was it?

Ding! The elevator chimed and shuddered to a stop. The receptionist waved her hand toward the empty hallway as the doors slid open.

“Have a nice time; good luck.”

“Thanks,” Nikki said over her shoulder as she walked into the hallway. The receptionist was already on her phone.

Nikki checked her watch and bit back a gasp. She was just about late. The second hand ticked over and yep, definitely late.

She ran down the hall going click-squish-click-squish in her heels until she found door 536 and rapped on it, probably a little harder than she’d meant to.

“Come in,” a low, masculine voice called out.

Nikki swallowed hard, said a prayer for luck, and pushed the office door open.

 

 

 

“Hi, I’m here for my interview,” the woman at his door said, sounding slightly breathless. She walked into his office with an air of easy, artless confidence and shut the door behind her.

Mark arched his eyebrows up in surprise and slowly rose from his desk. This was an odd turn of events.

On the other hand, it wasn’t like he was busy. And the lady was real easy on the eyes.

“Well, alright,” he said. He strode across the room and extended a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, miss…”

“Nikki. Nikki Reed.” Her skin was slightly damp when she shook his hand - no doubt from the rain outside - but her grip was firm without clutching at him or trying to prove anything. Mark allowed himself a small smile.

“I’m Mark Harrison. Why don’t you sit down?” he invited.

He went back behind his desk and watched Nikki follow him with only a slight hint of hesitation.
Distracting
, his mind pointed out. It was true - the woman had the kind of classic features that belonged in some movie poster from the 1920s, and the tailored suit she wore displayed just the right amount of curves.

Mark shook his head a little to push those thoughts away.
Been too long, if all it takes is a pretty woman in a nice suit to turn my head,
he thought wryly.

“So, what are your credentials, Ms. Reed?” he asked.

“Call me Nikki,” she said with a flash of a smile that froze Mark in his seat. That - that was interesting. He hadn’t expected the upward curve of those full lips to draw his attention in like that; to make him stare at her face and notice the character there, the mischievous glint in her eyes that he suspected never really went away.

This was ridiculous. He needed to calm right the hell down.

“Nikki, then. And you can call me Mark. So, what can you do?”

She straightened up in her seat and reeled off a list of accomplishments, none of which particularly intrigued him. Mark liked her voice - it was musical, a pleasant pitch - so he tuned out most of what she was actually saying and listened to that. It wasn’t like it was really possible to be qualified for the job he would hire someone for, anyway. He tried to keep his staring professional. Nikki was in good shape, maybe not a trained athlete, but certainly more than pleasant to look at. And… he was getting way off track.

When she seemed to reach the end of her spiel he tuned back in to hear Nikki ask, “What qualifications are you looking for in an applicant?”

Mark thought hard. “Well, I suppose I’d like an assistant to have a good handle on criminal psychology. Be quick on their feet. Not easily scared. Understanding police procedure is a must - it’s a hassle, but since we have to deal with it all the time, it’s necessary. Oh, and good filing skills always come in handy.”

Nikki’s eyes got wider and wider and a line creased across her forehead as she frowned. Mark couldn’t understand it… Though the expression looked good on her. Mark was thinking that probably most things looked good on her.

“Um,” the blonde said carefully when he was finished talking, “look, that’s, uh… Well, that’s something. But why does a marketing manager need an assistant like that?”

Mark stared at her, completely baffled.

“I’m not a marketing manager. I’m a detective.”

 

 

 

This man was so gorgeous it was doing her head in.

Nikki was trying to focus, honest she was. This job was important, after all - it was the difference between making rent this month and… not.

But when she walked in the door and saw that tall man seated behind the desk glance up at her, pushing dark hair away from his light eyes, Nikki had a hard time remembering what her name was, let alone what her special skills as an office flunky were.

This office was a bit odd, admittedly. It didn’t look anything like she’d imagined a marketing office would; there weren’t any eye-catching framed ads or impeccably dressed interns wandering around. Nikki chanced a glance around the office as Mark walked back over to his desk - although, hmm, the view from the back of Mark was almost as good as the view from the front.

Nikki revised her opinion and decided that this was the strangest office she’d ever been in. There were maps with pins in them plastered all over the walls, mostly looking like parts of the city that Nikki only barely recognized. And there were sheaves of paper with people’s pictures on them absolutely everywhere. Newspapers, too, with headlines screaming about some robbery or some murder.

In spite of the abundance of black and white decorating, the office didn’t feel like a tomb at all. It felt… cozy. There was a huge window behind Mark’s desk with the standard-issue green curtains pulled back to reveal the stormy sky, and rain pattered against the glass. The desk was a classic, made out of teak wood (expensive, Nikki noted mentally). Mark himself was a splash of color in deceptively casual blue jeans that probably cost as much as a month of her rent. He had on a light gray button-down and on top a flared black sports coat completed the outfit.

Nikki straightened in her seat and reminded herself not to get too comfortable. Or too interested.

She listed off all the skills she could think of, and silently started to panic as she watched Mark’s interest fade. By the time she’d reached the end of her spiel, she could tell that those light blue eyes had completely checked out.

In a desperate attempt to get his attention back, Nikki asked, “So, what qualifications are you looking for in an applicant?”

Mark blinked and his attention snapped back to her - Nikki fought down a wave of pleasure at having his focus back on her. This was ridiculous. She couldn’t afford to be this invested in a job she didn’t even have yet… or the boss of it.

Then Mark started talking, and Nikki thought maybe she couldn’t afford to be this invested in a crazy person.

Seriously, what? Mark folded his hands in front of him on the desk and started talking about criminals and police procedure, and just, what? Nikki gave the gruesome headlines plastered on the wall a couple wide-eyed glances.

When Mark finished his increasingly ridiculous list, she asked him why a marketing assistant needed credentials like these. Though what she really wanted to ask was why
anyone
needed credentials like these.

Mark frowned at her and raked his fingers through his dark hair.

BOOK: Detect Me
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