Tony Summers pushed the elevator button and felt the floor move under his feet. The tie he wore was uncomfortable, and he finally gave in to temptation and loosened it. His twin brother, Austin, had some crazy ideas, but this one took balls. He’d give him that.
He walked down the fifteenth-floor hallway and into the offices of Summers Biotech, nodding to a few faces as he imagined Austin would while his mind swirled with thoughts of genomes and amino acids. He didn’t have any goals other than trying to get through the next two days. The real challenge lay ahead: Austin’s executive assistant. He’d never met her, but from all Austin had said, she was the model of efficiency. He imagined an older woman, her hair in a bun as tight as her expression. “Miss Kerrigan
,” Austin had called her. Hopefully she’d settle for a nod from him, and he could spend the rest of the time in Austin’s office surfing the net or reading the Raymond Chandler book he’d brought, although he had a feeling he wouldn’t get as much reading in as he’d like. Austin said she’d have his whole day planned out, and all he had to do was follow the schedule she’d give him.
NICOLE KERRIGAN said the brown and gold nameplate on her desk. The whole office was tidy, all the cabinet drawers closed neatly, chairs symmetrical. Even the phone sitting on the desk had exactly the same margin between it and the side edge as it did with the back. But the chair behind the desk was empty. He must have just missed her. Hey, it’s my lucky day.
He walked through to the door that said AUSTIN SUMMERS, CEO, and fished in his pocket for the key while he tried the door. He always tried doors before he opened them, even if he was pretty sure they were locked. No sense in rattling a key in a lock when you didn’t need to. To his surprise, the handle turned in his hand.
A brunette with long, flowing hair was leaning over the desk, her pert bottom up in the air. A steaming cup of coffee sat on its saucer at the near corner, and she appeared to be arranging some papers on the desk, stacking them neatly. He watched her from the doorway as she moved the coffee and its saucer to the space she had cleared to the left of the computer keyboard. She straightened, then turned around to face him. He caught a glimpse of agitation that melted away when she saw him.
Executive assistants didn’t look at their bosses like that.
He’d seen the look before, and every time he’d seen it, the woman in question had been in love with the man she was looking at. Which meant pay dirt in his profession, because usually a private eye was looking for proof the man was cheating on the loving spouse that had hired him. Most of the time the “other woman” looked cynical, but sometimes they’d fallen, and hard. He liked it better when they were cynical. Heck, he liked it better when there didn’t turn out to be another woman at all, which was why he’d gotten out of the adultery business a year ago. Being a private eye was a crappy way to make a living, but not everyone was a genius. At least he had some standards. Sometimes he even managed to make someone’s life better.
“Miss Kerrigan,” he said, nodding and crossing to the desk. Fewer words is better. Doesn’t Austin know she’s infatuated, if not in love, with him? For a genius, Oz sure can be stupid at times.
If she thought the nod or the acknowledgment was cold, her face didn’t reveal it. “Shall I get your schedule, sir? You’re running a bit late, so I think it’s best if we get started.”
. The way she said "sir" made a shiver go down his spine. The way she placed the coffee so precisely. The way she looked to him for approval. Her manner was like one of the submissives at the BDSM club he went to sometimes, careful to do her tasks perfectly. The fact that her bottom presented such an inviting target underneath that skirt had started a chain reaction in his mind. Austin has no clue. And she’s right here, right under his nose. Exactly the kind of girl he likes. Beautiful and curvy, no matter how that prim suit hides it.
“Yes. Thank you, Miss Kerrigan.”
He sipped his coffee. Austin drank his with cream. Tony liked it black. It was going to take an effort to drink it and smile, but he’d manage.
He watched his brother’s assistant walk out of the room. Great ass
. But thinking that way was not going to help him act like Austin. He needed to keep his mind on the role he was playing.
She held the planner in front of her chest as she walked back into the office. He’d wanted another glimpse of her pink skin showing through the white blouse, but he wasn’t going to get it. Still, he couldn’t resist watching in case. Besides, he told himself, it makes it easier to smile through the cream and sugar.
“Is something wrong, sir?”
How far would you go to make it right, little one
? But he didn’t say it. Fewer words were better. “No.”
She gave him an odd look, then sat down in the black leather chair opposite Austin’s desk and crossed her legs. He swiveled to look at her, catching himself before he kicked back and put his feet up on the desk, the way he would in his office. Damn it, Oz.
“Sorry, sir, I wasn’t expecting you in.”
“Why not? Didn’t I tell you to schedule me here in Atlanta?” Austin would have been way better off confiding in her, but that wasn’t Tony’s call.
“Yes, sir. I have your schedule right here. I’ve laid out two folders on your desk for you to go over this morning. The left-hand folder contains some files you should read to prep for the Armico meeting tomorrow. That should take you from eleven to twelve while I’m out at lunch. You have a table reserved at Rusterman’s at noon. You’ll be back here at two, and you have a conference call with Dr. Carr and some other people in the lab. As usual, you’ll have an hour to think about their reports afterward. The information on Dr. Carr’s research is in the folder on your right in case you need to refer to it. Dr. Carr will be available all afternoon if you need to follow up. At four you go downstairs to the gym, shower at five, back up to give me direction and go over tomorrow’s schedule at five thirty.”
The woman had Austin coming and going. Like a little domme, but Tony still wasn’t convinced that was her preference. He knew full well Austin was no sub. But Oz was forgetful, and this woman served as his memory. He had told Austin that it sounded like a pretty intimate relationship; his brother hadn’t replied. “Essential
” was what Austin had called his Miss Kerrigan. That was why he kept himself oblivious, why he didn’t make a pass at her. The Wizard of Oz's own happiness had always taken a backseat if there was some good to be done. Tony supposed that was okay in its place; there was nothing wrong with being one of the cowboys with the white hats. Sometimes, though, you had to grab at life with both hands, hang on, and see where the ride took you.
Austin was going to kill him if he did what he was tempted to do. He hesitated, lost in thought. He leaned back in the chair, trying to see what could go wrong. Lots of things, of course. He tended to dive in and solve things on the fly.
“Maybe pacing would help?” Nicole suggested.
That’s right, the Wizard paced, didn’t he? Tony was a fair mimic, but he was better at voices than gestures. He shook his head. “And after six?”
“Home. Did you want me to schedule a social engagement, sir?”
He noticed she held her breath. “Yes. At eight. A date, I think. At Vincenzo’s.” As long as he was doing things on his brother’s dime, he figured he might as well go to the best Italian place in town. Besides, it was in character. Austin loved the place.
Tony watched her carefully. He could see her chest rise and fall now. She took a breath in, broke eye contact, and focused her eyes on her skirt, smoothing it carefully. “Very well, sir.” Her voice was perfectly even. An amateur might have been fooled. Austin might have been fooled. Tony wasn’t. “What woman shall I call to arrange it?”
She’s done this before. Oz has her calling his dates
? Oh, his brother probably got a perverse thrill out of that. Maybe he hoped Nicole would say pick me
instead. No, he had to be oblivious, because Austin wasn’t the type to toy with a woman like that. Toy, yes--like that, no.
“Just a moment, I’ll find her number.”
Sindra van Yssel