The Boss Vol. 2By: Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott
That I had been the first one to test out its use was a fine irony.
“It’s a new system,” I began, before shaking my head. There was nothing more to say.
What I’d done had been reprehensible on several levels. Not the least of which was that I had helped to cause the coldness in Violet’s tone when she spoke to Grace. She was suspicious of her now, simply because she was protective of me.
And that was insane. Who suspected Little Red Riding Hood’s virtue without acknowledging the lack of the Big Bad Wolf’s?
“That’s not even the worst of it. When I viewed our tapes, I discovered something shocking.”
Somehow I managed not to roll my eyes. Violet definitely had a flair for the dramatic. Probably why she enjoyed Jack’s buffoonery so much.
“Someone attempted—poorly—to hide their ill-timed behavior, thereby altering sensitive company materials. That footage is to be left intact, Blake. No matter what.”
“My company,” I said lightly. “My materials.”
She moved forward and leaned across my desk, planting her hands on my blotter. “You hired me to protect both.” She lowered her voice. “Don’t hamstring me now because you can’t keep it in your pants.”
I didn’t flinch, didn’t so much as blink. Just held her stare. “I think you know how to see yourself out.”
“As you wish.” She’d made it halfway to the door when I spoke again, my tone low.
“Think what you prefer about me. But Grace will have your respect.”
Violet hesitated, then nodded. She walked out of the room without glancing back.
She aimed straight for Jack and Grace, who were still talking quietly as they opened dishes and dug out cutlery. I couldn’t hear what was said between them, but Violet shook her head and headed for the elevator without touching the food.
So I’d offended her. Par for the course for the day, I supposed.
When Jack came in, aromatic food in hand, I exhaled and sat back in my chair. Clearly, the idea of accomplishing anything was a joke. “Don’t say it,” I said as he opened his mouth.
“What?” he asked, all innocence. He dropped into a chair and used a pair of chopsticks to shovel noodles into his mouth.
More chopsticks. It seemed the world was adept at them.
“Just that Violet seemed awfully pissed after your private pow-wow,” he continued while I fought to ignore that blinking cursor on my screen that I hadn’t noticed until now.
Grace had IM’d me, probably while I was being grilled by my head of security. She’d likely offer something innocuous like, “your nutty chicken is getting cold,” and I just might sweep my whole damn computer off the desk like a petulant child having a tantrum.
Or I could look at Jack, at how his tie was never quite straight, and how he sprawled in any chair he sat in, whether at a desk or in front of a TV, and laugh. Just fucking laugh at the ridiculousness of this whole entire mess.
I held out a hand. “Give me some of that.”
He lifted a brow. “You never eat off my plate.”
“Yeah, well, today I do.” Today I couldn’t face Grace’s wounded eyes as she passed me my nutty chicken. Violet’s dismissive behavior had registered with her, and I felt to blame.
For so goddamn much.
“Take it,” Jack said, shoving the carton at me. Obviously, he realized the situation must be dire if I wanted to share his chopsticks and noodles.
I opened another drawer and removed a fork—there were desperate times, and then there were levels to which one should never descend—then reached for the carton.
It was Jack’s turn to laugh. Hard.
“Sure you wouldn’t rather go eat with Grace?”
“Positive,” I said darkly, shoveling in noodles.
Now that I’d been reminded yet again that we were being observed at all times, the very last thing I wanted to do was to spend time with my assistant.
For more than a week, I avoided Grace. We spoke mostly through instant messages and voicemails, along with the occasional clipped directive as I passed by her desk on the way to the bathroom. She usually responded with snark or that prim little “yes, sir” that set my blood to boil.
While we rarely talked, I hadn’t stopped watching her from behind my safety zone of glass.
She always dressed conservatively, with the kind of flair that pegged her as an artist. A hint of purple shoes peeking out from an otherwise sedate outfit, the sparkle of unusual jewelry at her ears and throat. One day she’d worn an off-the-shoulder sweater that revealed her collarbone and all that creamy skin.
I’d nearly leaned across the desk for a taste, until sense had kicked in—hard.