Her hottest suspect yet...
Men have always been eager to tell Autumn Hilliard their most private secrets. Her fine mind—and natural beauty—are the reasons she's such an excellent private investigator.
But investment banker Isaac Mason isn't like the other men who strive for Autumn's attention. He's easily the sexiest man alive, and while his lean, muscular body screams temptation, his careful manner reveals nothing. Working her way into Issac's world at Paxton Investment Securities, Autumn intends to find out what makes the millionaire tick, while remaining detached in his enticing presence.
Autumn hopes that her instincts are right, and that Isaac is innocent of the fraud he's suspected of committing. Otherwise, come morning, will Autumn pay the ultimate price for giving her trust—and her heart—to the wrong man?
"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.
Harmony Evans writes sexy, emotional contemporary love stories. She won "Debut Author of the Year" for the Romance Slam Jam 2013 Emma Awards and was a double finalist for the 2012 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Awards. She lives in New York City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"I will not tolerate anyone destroying what I've worked so hard to build. Paxton Investment Securities must prevail unscathed. Is that clear, Ms. Hilliard?"
Sterling Paxton, the firm's owner and CEO, stood at the boardroom window with his back to Autumn, his pale white hands clasped loosely behind him. His stance was relaxed, yet every terse word sounded as if it were uttered through gritted teeth.
A chill threaded through Autumn's spine, warning her to keep her guard up even as she sat frozen in place.
So this was what a bug must feel like, she thought, right before it's about to get squashed.
Sterling turned abruptly on his heel and smacked his hands together.
"I said, is that clear, Ms. Hilliard?"
Autumn winced and drew in a sharp breath before smiling sweetly. "Of course, Mr. Paxton. I'll do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. If Isaac Mason is committing securities fraud, rest assured, I will find out."
Sterling's lips thinned. "How long do you think that will take?"
Autumn resisted the urge to shrug, knowing he would be offended. Every client expected immediate results and it was her job to manage expectations. She was a damn good investigator, but she wasn't a miracle worker.
"A few weeks. Maybe a month. Undercover work is never an exact science," she cautioned.
Sterling slid his hands into his pockets, and she heard the tinny jingle of coins.
"Isaac must never know he's under surveillance."
"And he won't," Autumn affirmed with a nod. "Having Isaac mentor me as a new employee will enable me to build trust without arising suspicion."
Sterling's gaze narrowed. "For your sake, he better not."
Autumn bristled at his veiled threat, but she said nothing. It was obvious Sterling didn't trust Isaac. What she didn't know was why, but she'd surely find out, on her own terms and in her own way.
"You have full access to all his files, reports and records," Sterling continued. "I sent you the log-in information to our internal file system via email last night."
He crossed the room and sat at the head of the table.
The leather chair squeaked under the weight of his large frame.
"You and I are the only ones with knowledge of why I hired you," he said, folding his hands slowly. "Not even my daughter, whom you'll be meeting shortly, knows about this."
Autumn sensed extreme urgency in his tone. "I understand the need for confidentiality," she reassured him. "As soon as I have something of interest, I'll report back."
The conference room door opened and a tall, slender blonde entered into the room with a thick sheaf of papers in her hand. She closed the door behind her and glared at Sterling. But when she saw he wasn't alone, she took a step back and Autumn watched as her face quickly morphed into a smile that was as fake as the handbags sold on a New York City street corner.
The woman moved toward her and extended her hand. "I'm Felicia Paxton, director of human resources. You must be Autumn Hilliard."
Autumn stood. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
She shook Felicia's clammy hand and silently wished for a tissue. She was five feet eight, and Felicia towered over her in an oppressive way that was probably intimidating to a lot of people. But not to Autumn. She wasn't afraid of anything, except failing to solve a case.
"Please have a seat," Felicia instructed. She turned to Sterling and glanced at her watch. "It's 8:55 a.m. now. The meeting was supposed to start at 9:00 a.m., correct?"
"Yes," Sterling answered in a bored tone, not bothering to look up. He seemed engrossed in scrolling through his smartphone. "We were just chatting while we were waiting for you."
A blush washed over Felicia's taut cheekbones. She walked around the table, pulled out a chair and settled down directly across from Autumn.
"In addition to being CEO, my father seems to love to do my job."
Autumn took Felicia's contentious tone as a subtle warning that anyone who dared trifle with her had just better think twice.
Sterling eyed the stack of papers Felicia had on the table. "Not that part," he barked. "With the level of technology that's available today, why is it that our employees still have to fill out all these forms?"
Felicia uncapped a pen and held it out to Autumn. "Two words, Father. Paper trail."
Autumn produced one from her notepad, not from her ear, where it normally hid in a mass of natural curls.
She held it up. "I have one, thanks."
Felicia frowned, as if she took it personally that Autumn had her own ink. "The government still loves killing trees," she continued. "And I for one have to agree with them. Paper is more permanent. Electronic records can be hacked or deleted."
Sterling's eyes narrowed and caught Autumn's. "My daughter seems to have forgotten that paper can be shredded," he said dryly.
Felicia ignored him, but Autumn could almost feel how much she wanted to roll her baby blues at her father.
With one finger, she pushed the stack of papers toward Autumn. "I prefer you complete these now, but if you must, you can bring them back tomorrow. I'm here by 7:00 a.m. sharp every day."
Autumn nodded and dutifully began to fill out the ream of paperwork, starting with her social security number. It was as fake as the new identity the government had bestowed upon her a few years ago. Just one of the so-called perks of settling out of court in one of the most high profile cases of corporate fraud in the United States.
She was just starting to fill out her name when the door suddenly opened. Her head snapped up, curls brushing against the side of her jaw, as Isaac Mason walked into the room, his stride purposeful.
It only took one look and Autumn knew this was one man she wouldn't mind sticking close to all night long.
Isaac wore a tailored gray suit cut to perfection, a crisp white shirt, maroon silk tie and black leather shoes shined to a gloss. It was standard corporate attire and likely designer, based upon his wealth and prominent position in the company, but she couldn't tell and didn't care. It wasn't his clothes that attracted her.
It was his face. Isaac was boyishly handsome with clean-shaven, mocha skin, a long straight nose that flared out just enough to be interesting, and full lips that invited lust.
Autumn found it especially difficult not to openly stare at his lean, muscular body. There was something irreverent about the way it seemed almost caged beneath the fabric of his suit.
So as discreetly as possible, she sized him up. From the top of his close-cropped black hair to the tips of his Brooks Brothers shoes. Because that's what private investigators were supposed to do. No one could blame her for trying to do her job even in the midst of extreme male temptation.
And in her professional opinion, one fact was clear: Isaac Mason was her hottest suspect yet.
Isaac shut the door and held up his smartphone. "Sterling, sorry I'm late. I just got your meeting request."
He stopped midstride, his eyes zeroing in on hers. From a distance, she couldn't see what color they were, but they mesmerized her just the same. Luckily, she was able to maintain a mildly curious look on her face, although on the inside she felt her professional resolve begin to disintegrate.
"Am I interrupting something?"
Only the normal rhythm of my heartbeat, Autumn thought.
"Not at all." Sterling waved him over. "I have someone I'd like you to meet. This is Autumn Hilliard, our newest analyst on the Paxton team."
Autumn swiveled in her chair and stuck out her hand. Before she could stand up, Isaac's skin warmed her palm and his smile instantly carved its way into her heart. It seemed that he held her hand a beat longer than necessary, but that could have only been her imagination. She was pretty but not gorgeous, and Autumn had a feeling that Isaac was used to the latter in his ladies.
He gave a little bow. "Welcome to the madness."
Isaac's voice had just enough depth to rumble in her ears, his tone pleasant and slightly mocking. He seemed distracted by something, and she wasn't vain enough to think it was her.
Sterling openly scowled. "Isaac, I realize the market is slightly down this morning, but you're going to be spending a lot of time with Autumn, so let's keep things positive, okay?"
Autumn's face tingled. The negative vibe in the room was getting more uncomfortable by the moment.
Isaac slipped his phone into his pants pocket. "You know me, Sterling." He shrugged calmly. "I was just playing."
He dropped into a chair next to Autumn and leaned back. She smiled and held his gaze, a tactic she used to build rapport with a client, a potential suspect or a man who was really, really cute.
An unbidden spark pulsed between them, like the feeling one gets when suddenly remembering a long-forgotten dream, and Autumn knew that she'd have to be careful not to succumb to temptation.
Suddenly Isaac shot up in his chair. "What do you mean we're going to be spending a lot time together?" It was as if he'd just now grasped the full extent of what his boss had said moments earlier.
Felicia's eyes narrowed at Autumn and Isaac before turning her attention to Sterling. "Yes, Father. Explain."
"That's why I called the meeting," Sterling bellowed, ignoring Felicia's glare. "For the next few weeks, Isaac, you're going to be Autumn's mentor. Getting her acclimated to the way we do things around here."
Out of the corner of her eye, Autumn saw Felicia's hands tense.
"Mmentoring!" Felicia sputtered. "What are you talking about, Daddy? My new employee onboarding process doesn't begin until next month."
Sterling pressed his index finger on the table and shook his head. "It starts now, Felicia."
"But the process hasn't been fully vetted," she protested.
Sterling shrugged and leaned back in his chair, as if the matter was settled. "What better use case than a real scenario?"
Felicia smoothed her blond-in-a-bottle hair. She was probably very pretty when she smiled, but that wasn't the case now.
"Legal won't like it," she warned.
He gave a disgusted sigh. "Have you forgotten that our in-house attorneys report to me?"
Felicia threw up her hands in exasperation. "I haven't even completed all the required documentation."
Sterling looked up from his cell phone and rolled his eyes. "Great, just what we need. More paperwork."
Autumn cast a glance at Felicia and stifled a laugh. If she had a pencil, paper and an artistic bone in her body, she would sketch two plumes of steam erupting from each of her ears and fire blazing in her eyes. The woman looked that angry.
Sterling's phone beeped loudly and he stood. "You'll have to excuse me. I'm due at another meeting in a few minutes." He handed Isaac a manila folder. "I'll leave you two alone to get acquainted."
Autumn smiled at Felicia and she could almost see the wheels turning in her head. Her gaze lingered on Isaac for a moment, as if that would lure him away. She seemed to sense something that neither Autumn nor Isaac could have imagined.
Sterling opened the door and exhaled impatiently. "Felicia, are you coming?"
Autumn tapped the stack of papers with her pen, breaking the tense moment.
"I'll have these back to you this afternoon."
Felicia rewarded her with a nod and a thin-lipped smile.
"Right behind you, Father."
She waited until Sterling was gone, and then rose from her chair slowly, as if she were still reluctant to leave.
Autumn felt Isaac's gaze upon her cheek. She dug the toes of her shoes into the carpet in a vain attempt to hold on to the twinge of pleasure that zoomed through her body.
"Isaac," Felicia said sharply. "Be sure to show her my office, won't you?" Her voice suddenly dropped to almost a whisper, like dark silk hiding a double-edged sword. "You know the way."
Without saying another word, Felicia quickly walked out of the room, closing the door behind her, leaving an empty vacuum of silence and longing.
The statement was an invitation for Isaac, backed up by veiled warning meant for any woman who might interfere.
But what Felicia didn't know was that Autumn wasn't a threat to whatever hold—real or imagined—she had on Isaac. Sterling hadn't hired her to bed the man, although at first glance the thought did cross her mind. No, she was here to conduct an investigation into a possible case of corporate securities fraud.
Autumn didn't know what, if anything, was going on between the two of them, but if it affected the outcome of this case, she would damn sure find out.
"Sobre este título" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.
Descripción Harlequin Kimani, 2014. Mass Market Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Nº de ref. de la librería P110373863632
Descripción 2014. Mass Market Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Mass Market Paperback. Shipping may be from our Sydney, NSW warehouse or from our UK or US warehouse, depending on stock availability. 219 pages. 0.113. Nº de ref. de la librería 9780373863631