Betrayed:Forbidden Series

By: Melody Anne

“Why am I here, Byron? Are you wasting my time?” Why not be blunt?

The waiter set down his tea before disappearing again, presumably to grab the first course, which Byron had clearly ordered in advance.

“Not at all, McKenzie,” came his easy reply. “Our head accountant has had an unfortunate accident and is out of the offices for the next thirty days — at a minimum. So I find myself in a pinch, and I’ve heard good things about your company.”

Several plates of food appeared magically on the table, and even though McKenzie was tense, she couldn’t help but appreciate the sweet aromas drifting up to her nose.

“And you want to hire us?” she asked.

“Don’t be afraid to have a little — it’s not as if you have to worry about calories,” he said. “We might as well eat to keep up our strength.”

The jerk thrust a plate toward her even though she could have easily reached it by herself. But a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do. She took a little of the calamari misto, some of the fried cheddar curds, and a few mussels. With so many hors d’oeuvres, she wouldn’t have any room left in her stomach for anything else, but this meeting might not last long enough for her to reach the main course anyway. It all depended on what sort of game he was playing.

Byron filled a plate for himself and devoted a little time to nibbling before he spoke again. “I want to hire you, McKenzie.”

She didn’t miss the emphasis on you, but she chose to ignore it. Or to pretend to.

“Why don’t you tell me about the project? I can tell you then if I think our company would be a good fit,” she said. She was proud of herself, and of her composure. If she was bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, she knew she wasn’t showing it. The story of her life.

For the next few minutes, Byron explained the needs of this branch of the family business, and McKenzie’s mouth practically watered. This was the perfect sort of job. It was filled with challenges, and Knight Construction was so diversified — it had its hands in so many pieces of the corporate pie — that it wasn’t just run-of-the-mill accounting work. It would take a sharp mind to cut through everything, and she had that in spades.

“Our company is more than qualified to help you,” she told him. “It sounds as if these last few months have been…difficult…in some parts of the family firm.”

“Not at all. But my brothers and I tend to go out to a lot of the job sites, where we can swing a hammer and get back to the basics. We do it on the assumption that we’ve hired a responsible enough team to do their work, and when we come back into the offices, things sometimes haven’t gone as well as we’d hoped. That’s why I’m stuck at the desk for a while. It doesn’t help that our accountant had a boating accident. But that’s what your company is there for, correct? To come in and perform when needed?”

The way he said the words, she was sure there was a double meaning, but his tone stayed level and his expression didn’t change. She wanted to call him on it, but then she would look petty. Instead she sat there silently for a moment while she thought of a proper response.

“Yes, of course. We can come in when you need a temporary accountant while another goes on vacation, or we can solve problems, or we can come in more permanently. Whatever the needs are, my goal at Seattle Accounting is to ensure you will use us each time.” She nearly flinched at that last line, especially when his eyes twinkled. She really needed to be a lot more careful with what she said, and how she said it.

“Well, with all the challenges of new projects, and overseas operations, our accounting team has been working nonstop. Because the head of the department has been out for the past week, it’s gotten chaotic, but it’s been like that for a while anyway with the turnover I mentioned in the department. I really hate to say this, but at some of our operations we’re not even sure who we can trust.”

I know that feeling, McKenzie said to herself.

“So I need you to start on Monday,” Byron told her, “and it will be a very long week.”

“I know the perfect person to send over. He’s been able to solve problems that uncountable high-level clients deemed unsolvable, and he’s saved their businesses and their reputations.” This would be the answer! McKenzie actually felt excited about things. She would be helping behind scenes of course. There was no way she didn’t want to get her hands on this.

“That won’t work for me,” Byron said, and he took a bite of his salad. His voice didn’t change. It was firm, but not unkind.

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