Authors: Kendra Little
Tags: #office romance, #workplace romance, #alpha male
"You were young. You can't blame yourself for
doing something all young guys do."
"Cassie wouldn't agree with that."
"But your family does. Ash says he wishes
you'd go home. I bet your parents miss you."
"Dad maybe, but Mom…" He sighed. "My mother
is one of a kind. You'd think with five children she'd be the
maternal type, but she's not. Dad would never have been so
successful if it weren't for her. If you think I'm ruthless, Cleo,
you should meet her."
"I would like to," I said. "Will you take me
to your family home?"
"If we go together, the memories won't haunt
you," I assured him, massaging his back. "And if they do, we'll
have to keep visiting until they stop."
He kissed my throat. "As long as you're with
"I will be."
"Then I'll let Cassie stay."
"I quit," I told Ellen when I arrived in her
office at six o'clock the following evening.
She blinked at me, showing neither surprise
nor concern. "Sit down, Cleo."
I sat. "Don't try to talk me out of it."
She poured me a glass of something from one
of the bottles she kept on the sideboard behind her. Her assistant
had gone home for the evening. I had left RK's building as soon as
I could get away and gone straight to Ellen's office to hand in my
"You sound surprised," she said, handing me
I sipped. Gin and tonic. "I was expecting
some opposition," I admitted. "I thought you valued me."
She laughed and crossed her legs. "I do,
Cleo. You're my favorite. But I've known for some time that you
would go sooner or later. Your heart's not in it anymore and it's a
job that requires one hundred percent commitment."
I thought about it and nodded. She was right,
only I hadn't realized it. Being a trapper had been good work at
the start, but as I grew older, the ethics of it had begun to
"At least I can leave on a good note," I
said. "Reece isn't going to tear down Cassie's house."
Her smile started out slow then quickly grew.
"Well done, Cleo. I knew you could stop him."
"I'm going to keep working at RK," I told
She arched an eyebrow. "Working together and
sleeping together? You don't see that as a recipe for
"No. If it becomes a problem I'll quit."
She studied me with those piercing blue eyes
of hers. "You really like him, don't you?"
I nodded. "He's a great guy. Not at all like
you painted him."
Her gaze slid to her drink. "My information
was secondhand. There's always inaccuracies when relying on other
"These weren't just inaccuracies, your
information was outright wrong. I wouldn't use those sources again
if I were you."
She lifted one elegant shoulder. She wore a
crisp white suit with a short, summer jacket, all accessorized with
heavy silver jewelry and red nailpolish.
"Here's to you and Reece," she said, saluting
me. "May it work out for you."
She drank deeply. I did not. "Ellen, was this
your plan all along?"
"Was what my plan?"
"For me to sleep with Reece."
"Why would you say that?"
"I don't know. It's hard to explain, but I
have this feeling that you
Reece and I would sleep
together even before I began working for him."
"How could I have known? You have a mind and
a will of your own, Cleo. Very strong ones," she added with a wry
twist of her red lips. "I admit that I thought you would be the
sort of woman he responded to."
"A school teacher type."
She drummed her fingernails on the glass.
"Yes. He was employing and dating models, but it was clear from the
way he never kept them very long that he needed a different type of
woman in his life. I thought you might be her. It was a hunch that
paid off, wouldn't you say?"
I regarded her levelly, unsure of what to
make of her response. In the end, I decided to let the matter drop.
She was clearly very good at her job and achieving her clients'
"So this is it," I said, setting my glass
down. "I hope I won't be leaving you with a shortage of staff."
"I'll find someone to replace you. Poor
I cocked my head to the side. "Why?"
"You'll be a tough act to follow."
I laughed. "Thank you, Ellen. You gave me a
job when I really needed the money and let me do things my way. I
"You proved that your way works." She stood
and held her arms out to me. I embraced her, somewhat awkwardly.
We'd never really touched before.
"Goodbye, Ellen." I walked to the door, but
turned back with a frown. She was still standing, smiling at me. It
was a strange smile, sort of wistful and sad yet happy too. It
looked unnatural on her. "Will you stay in touch?"
"If you want to."
I nodded. "I want to."
My last glimpse of Ellen was of her turning
away from me, touching her finger to the corner of her eye. Tears
stung the backs of my own eyes, but a few deep breaths stifled
them. It was strange to feel hollow. It wasn't like I was fond of
Ellen. We'd only ever been boss and employee, M and Bond. Yet I
would miss her.
Reece was late. He didn't answer my calls all
morning and I rang dozens of times. He had no meetings listed in
his diary and no one in the office had heard from him.
By the time he arrived at eleven, I was sick
with worry. "There you are!" I said, greeting him at the glass
door. "I've been trying to call you and— Reece? What's wrong?"
His face was ashen. His eyes red-rimmed and
surrounded by shadows so dark they resembled bruises. "I know what
your game is now, Cleo. I
My heart ground to a halt. Bile rose to my
throat. The room seemed to be spinning out of control and I wanted
to throw up. "What are you talking about?" I murmured.
But I knew. I knew just from the look of him
that he'd found out about my other job working for Ellen. But how?
Who would have told him? I couldn't think it through. Everything
inside me was screaming, drowning out the sensible questions. All I
knew was that Reece hated me now.
And he had every reason to.
"God damn you." He shook with rage as he
towered over me. I shrank back. "I trusted you! I loved—" He
snapped his mouth shut, closed his eyes. "I let you in. I showed
you a part of me that I've never shown anyone."
"I'm sorry," I whispered. "Reece, I made a
mistake. A huge mistake and I should have admitted it earlier, but
I couldn't. I was afraid of losing you."
"Nice try." He strode past me to his office.
"But I'm not falling for it again. I'm not that much of a
I ran after him and blocked the entrance to
his office. "Don't, Reece. Don't push me away." I put my hand to
his chest, but he shoved it off. I swallowed, but it didn't
dislodge the panic. "This is real, Reece. What we have is not fake,
it's not manipulated. I didn't mean to fall for you, but I
"Why should I believe you now? How can I tell
the difference between the truth and the lies, Cleo? You're good.
Your boss should be damned proud of you."
I gasped. "Has Ellen told you all this?"
"Jesus," he bit off. "That's what concerns
you the most?"
I shook my head in an attempt to clear out
the crazy, jumbled thoughts raging through it. Ellen must have said
something to him. But why? I thought she was my friend. I thought
she was happy for me. Why would she go and ruin everything?
"Go and pack your things, Cleo. I want you
out of here in the next ten minutes."
I stepped aside, numb to my core. The first
hot tears trickled down my cheeks unchecked. "You really don't
believe that I have feelings for you?"
"I don't." He at least had the decency not to
meet my gaze.
"I quit," I told him. "I told my boss—my
other boss—that I won't do it anymore."
He shook his head. "Is that supposed to make
me change my mind? It's too late, Cleo."
I watched as he opened his office door, and
held myself back from getting down on my knees and begging
forgiveness. It wouldn't do any good. He was in no mood to hear my
side. "This was why I didn't want to sleep with you," I told him,
hardly aware of what I was saying. "I didn't want to get involved
with you in any other way except a professional one because I knew
you'd break my heart. It was only a matter of time."
He did look at me then. His gaze raked over
me like shards of ice. I shivered, cold to my bones.
"Get out," he snarled. "I don't want to see
"Not until you tell me you feel nothing when
you're with me. Tell me that I meant nothing to you." I waited and
he didn't respond. "You can't because you
and it was special. Don't throw that away, Reece. At least try and
work it out with me."
"There are a lot of things I can be blamed
for in my life. I've done some crappy things and I own up to all of
them. But I won't be blamed for ruining this."
A hot ball of tears clogged my throat. I
wanted to tell him he'd got it all wrong, that I wasn't blaming
him, but I couldn't speak. Besides, Reece didn't wait around for my
answer. He wrenched open the door and slammed it shut in my
I was glad Becky wasn't home when the cab
dropped me off. I wanted to cry in peace without having to explain
that my heart was exploding with pain in my chest because the man I
loved had dumped me. The man she hated. She wouldn't
I cried in bed until I didn't have any tears
left, then I got up and ate cookies and cream ice cream straight
from the tub. Once my head cleared, I dialed Ellen's number.
"Why the hell did you tell him?" I shouted
when she answered.
Silence, then: "I take it he didn't calm down
"No, Ellen, he didn't. He's furious. He
yelled at me and…" I stifled a sob. "And he fired me. He hates the
sight of me now."
"Oh, Cleo, I'm sorry. It completely
backfired. I thought I was doing the right thing in telling him,
but it seems not."
"Do you know him personally?"
"And you took money from a client to spy on
him? That's low, Ellen, even for you."
"I don't let my personal affiliations affect
my business," she snipped. "If I did, most of Roxburg would be
off-limits." She sighed. "Look, Cleo, he'll change his mind. You'll
"Why should you be right about that when
you've been wrong about so many other things?"
"I was right when I said he'd fall for you,
"Aside from that. Ellen, this isn't a game.
Reece is never going to forgive me for this."
"You and me both, Honey."
The tears rolled down my cheeks and into the
empty ice cream tub. "It's all right for you," I sobbed. "I was in
love with him. I
in love with him. And now he's
"I'm coming over. We'll commiserate together
and form a plan to get you back into his heart."
"No! I don't want to see you. I don't want to
speak to you. This is all your fault, Ellen. You should never have
told him. You should never have set me up with him. It's all a
disaster and I just…I just want you to leave me alone." I hung up
and switched the phone off. Then I switched it back on in case
Becky tried to call. She didn't know I was home.
My phone rang but it was Ellen. I let it go
to voicemail, but it kept ringing so I had to switch it off
Becky arrived home later that afternoon, took
one look at me and knew something was wrong. For the first time in
my life, I cried on her shoulder and
. She didn't seem overly sympathetic when I told her what
happened. Most of her response consisted of: "Bastard" or "I knew
this would happen".
"He's a good guy," I told her. "It's me who's
the bitch for what I did to him."
"That's bullshit. If he truly knew you then
he'd know how you felt. You wear your heart on your sleeve, Cleo,
and he's gone and stomped all over it. I hate him."
"Don't hate him." I went to reach for another
tissue but the box was empty. I tossed it across the room. "You
haven't told me you're shocked at my choice of career."
She leaned back on the sofa and pulled her
knees up. She looped her arms around them and rested her chin
there. "Did you sleep with all your targets?"
She shrugged. "Then why would I be
"Because it's deceitful and borderline
She snorted. "Don't be so melodramatic.
You're not a prostitute. But it is unethical, I'll give you
I chewed my lip and regarded her. "Go on
then. Give me a lecture about how I shouldn't have taken the
"Why not? I deserve it."
She rolled her eyes. "I take it the money was
I just looked at her.
"Very good?" she persisted.
"And you had a lot of bills to pay?"
I could no longer face her. I got up to pour
myself a glass of wine.
"Cleo, I'm not an idiot. I know my medical
bills must be huge. The money had to come from somewhere to pay
them, plus there's art school and keeping food on the table. We've
never gone without. You saw to that."
She was suddenly right next to me, plucking
the glass out of my hand. I couldn't see her very well through the
tears blurring my vision, but her presence was a comfort.
"You've taken good care of me, Cleo. Now I'm
going to take care of you, starting with giving you a hug." She
pulled me to her and I cried, again. After a while, she steered me
to the kitchen stool. "Next, I'm going to pour this wine and cook
you something to eat. Then tomorrow, or the next day, whenever you
feel up to it, we'll discuss what to do about money."