Sex by the Numbers

Overview

"Dear Esteemed Clients,

Please disregard any minor discrepancies in your holdings. We are working diligently to discover which of our trusted executives has his hand in the till.

Sincerely, the Management."

Accountant Keeley Davis has been hired to find out who's been bilking money from the well-respected Bingham Bros. investment firm. To do so, Keeley will have to don a disguise and work closely with ...

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Overview

"Dear Esteemed Clients,

Please disregard any minor discrepancies in your holdings. We are working diligently to discover which of our trusted executives has his hand in the till.

Sincerely, the Management."

Accountant Keeley Davis has been hired to find out who's been bilking money from the well-respected Bingham Bros. investment firm. To do so, Keeley will have to don a disguise and work closely with tastier-than-homemade-cherry-pie controller Dane Weiss!

As Keeley tramps herself up as Dane's personal assistant Cherry Smith her calculations start paying off big dividends--like when she serves up a hot plate of Dane à la mode. But as things start to really sizzle, Keeley wonders whether she can keep her eyes on the bottom line...when all she can think of is keeping Dane in her bed?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373794072
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 6/1/2008
  • Series: Harlequin Blaze Series , #403
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

To award-winning author Marie Donovan, writing romance is a dream come true after so many years of avid reading. She got her fill of tragedies and unhappy endings by majoring in opera/vocal performance and Spanish literature. During those years of singing about operatic heroines who inevitably met bad ends, and reading about political prisons and horrible civil wars, she devoured romances whenever she could.

Her first attempt at romance fiction was a gothic-type short contemporary where the teenage heroine actually ran into the dark and stormy night to escape her abusive father. That manuscript currently lurks in the depths of her hard drive, waiting to be cannibalized for a future book.

After taking off several years from writing fiction, Marie won a bookstore gift certificate and took it as a sign to get started writing romance again. She promptly ordered several how-to books on writing romance novels and read them until they were dog-eared. Fortunately, as she smartened up about writing romances, so did her heroines. Harlequin's wonderful Blaze line inspired her to try her hand at sensual romance. Her manuscript won several Romance Writers of America chapter contests and sold to the Blaze series in January 2005.

Marie has worked for a large suburban public library district for the past eight years as both a cataloguer and a bilingual Spanish storytime presenter. She graduated magna cum laude with two bachelor degrees from a Midwestern liberal arts university and speaks six languages. When not writing, she enjoys reading, gardening and yoga.

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Read an Excerpt

"Are you sure my breast implants aren't tax-de-ductible?" The blond bombshell sitting across from Keeley Davis tapped her acrylic nails on the rich brown maple desk. "That exotic dancer in Indiana got hers deducted and they weren't that much bigger than mine."
Keeley turned away from her laptop screen, where she was reviewing Sugar's tax return. Tax season was finally wrapping up, and none too soon for a poor, worn-out accountant. "Sorry, Sugar—it'd be a long shot. The tax court is cracking down on what they regard as frivolous deductions and I doubt we could get it past them. We can write off your costumes and the tinted latex nipple makeup, but that's about it. No personal care like tanning, manicures or hair extensions."
"And we can't appeal? I only got the implants for professional reasons, you know." Sugar pursed her pink glossy lips.
Keeley had known her friend and client too long to fall for her act. She peered over the tops of her glasses. "And you get no personal benefits from them?"
Sugar smacked her arm playfully. "Oh, all right, you naughty girl. I didn't lose any nerve sensation from the surgery and my last boyfriend and I did enjoy them."
"Thought so." Keeley pushed her glasses back up her nose to focus on the computer again. "And if we make an issue over this, the IRS might want to look in to how much of your cash tips you've been reporting as income." Keeley wasn't a novice to IRS audits, but didn't exactly enjoy them, either.
"Hmmph." Sugar backed down, like Keeley thought she would. As a certified public accountant, Keeley couldn't take part in tax evasion in the form of under-reporting garter or G-string tips, but she had a good idea thatSugar salted away her own personal cash stash, and who could blame her? Keeley would do the exact same thing in the same situation.
But Keeley was on the straight and narrow, just taking the figures Sugar gave her and plugging them into the tax program, although sometimes she raised an eyebrow at an obviously low figure. Sugar would revise it upward without blinking.
Keeley added in a couple of last-minute expenses Sugar had brought over today. Sugar, not one to sit still for any period of time, paced around the small office. Her long legs took her rapidly from one terra-cotta faux-painted wall to the other, the beige Berber carpet muffling her sneaker-clad steps. Like some dancers, Sugar had foot problems and only wore high heels onstage and on dates.
Keeley rotated her own brown-pump-clad foot under her desk. Her shoes matched her hair, her eyes, her jacket and her skirt. She was a big brown wren in comparison to her flashier blond friend, but accountants couldn't exactly sport cleavage T-shirts and midthigh denim miniskirts.
Sugar stopped to eye a pair of watercolor prints of Florence, Italy. Keeley had never been there, but the red tile roofs matched the whole rich, Tuscan, trust-me-with-your-finances theme she wanted to emphasize. After all, accountants working in Renaissance Florence had invented double-entry bookkeeping.
Keeley printed the return and eyed it one last time before passing the pages to Sugar. "Read these over before I file electronically."
Sugar sat and speed-read through the papers. She looked as if she was skimming, but Keeley knew she was tallying every number to the penny. She finally raised her blond head and smiled. "I suppose that's as good as it gets without writing off the breast implants."
Keeley shrugged, palms upward. "If you really want me to try…"
"No, I guess not. After all, pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered." Sugar signed the bottom page for her own records.
"That's right." Keeley'd heard that saying more than once growing up in downstate Illinois. Not that there had been enough to even get slightly plump on. "Off it goes to Uncle Sam. Since you've made your quarterly payments, you don't owe any more than usual."
"Whoopee. I'll have to schedule myself at Frisky's a couple more nights to make up for it."
"If any of your clients work for the IRS, charge them double." And now that Keeley's highest-earning season was almost over, she'd have to save her money to make it last as long as possible until next winter.
Sugar passed the papers to Keeley. "By the way, Keel, I recommended your accounting services to an old friend of mine."
"Oh, who?" That might help tide her over while she built her client base.
Sugar grinned. "Binky Bingham."
"Boy, when you said 'old,' you weren't kidding. I thought he croaked last fall after hot-tubbing with that dancer from Chicago Gentlemen's Club." And why on earth would Binky Bingham, billionaire, need accounting services from her fledgling business?
"Alive and kicking. He's still one of her regulars, in and out of the club."
Keeley made a face. Binky fancied himself quite the ladies' man and had the money to make it so. Sugar was Binky's occasional arm candy, especially when he wanted to scare his children and grandchildren into thinking he was going to leave his money to her. He was lucky they hadn't had him declared legally incompetent and locked him up somewhere.
Sugar laughed. "Don't look at me like that. Aside from dancing for him at Frisky's, I sure never spent any time naked with him, hot tub or no."
"That's a relief." Binky Bingham was older than dirt and twice as ugly. Keeley was glad to hear Sugar hadn't slept with the old goat.
"You're telling me. Not even all of his money would be enough. For such a financial genius, he sure wasn't thinking with the right head. Viagra, a hot tub and a previous heart attack? Why didn't he just step in front of a bus? Potentially less fatal and definitely less embarrassing."
"You know Binky is incapable of embarrassment."
Sugar raised a perfectly French-manicured finger. "Personally, no. But professionally, yes. That's why your name came up." She leaned over the desk. "You absolutely cannot tell anyone what I'm going to tell you. Promise?"
Keeley narrowed her eyes. "I can't be party to anything illegal, you know that."
Her friend shook her head. "Not illegal—not so far."
"So far? Sugar, this doesn't sound good at all."
"It's about Binky's company. He thinks one of his executives is stealing money from the trust funds."
Keeley gave an astonished whistle. Bingham Brothers was the granddaddy of Chicago's financial companies, managing hundreds of millions of dollars since before the 1929 stock market crash. "It's possible, of course, but there are so many safeguards to theft. These huge companies have hundreds of people overseeing the books."
"Binky grew up with those books, and he has a gut feeling they're bad. He went into the office several times to poke around and says the atmosphere is pure poison."
"Hmmm." Keeley turned over possibilities in her mind. "Why doesn't Binky call for an audit?"
"And flush his company's reputation down the toilet? Not to mention his family's reputation. Hot-tub hijinks are one thing, but missing money is unforgivable."
Keeley nodded. A whiff of scandal and the company would bottom out. It had happened before to Chicago financial firms, usually involving bankruptcy, corporate dissolution and prison terms. "So what does Binky think I can do? I can't exactly walk in off the street and look at the books. It would take months for a whole team of auditors to examine everything."
"He has a smaller, specific group of accounts to audit first. When I told him you'd completed a certificate in forensic accounting, his wrinkly little face just lit up. He said his representative would be in touch to get you inside for a covert audit."
"A covert audit?" Despite her misgivings, Keeley's investigative antennae perked up. She loved digging for money, ever since she was a kid checking the couch for loose change.
"So you'll do it? Binky knows absolutely everybody and can get you on the fast track if he recommends you to his friends. And you know you can bill him a bundle."
Binky would probably expect her to bill a respectable hourly consultant fee. She wouldn't gouge him, but she could legitimately bill more for doing the audit on the sly, and probably expert witness fees as well if it became a matter for the courts. Although she'd worked her way through school and had no student debt, she did have obligations. "I'll listen to what his representative says. Did he say who that is?"
"No names were mentioned, just that he was one of Binky's protégés and totally trustworthy."
Keeley snorted and Sugar giggled. Men were so naive. Nobody was totally trustworthy, especially when large sums of money were concerned.
"I WOULD HAVE BEEN happy to come to your office, Binky." Dane Weiss leaned over the small table to shout into his elderly friend's ear over the pulsing rock music. "Or your condo." Penthouse, rather, overlooking Lake Michigan and the rest of the city. Binky had an entire floor in Lakenheath Towers, one of Chicago's most exclusive buildings.
But Binky preferred a different kind of penthouse— the kind with naked women in it. "And miss the lunchtime show at Frisky's? At my age, I can't stay awake for the evening show." He cackled and gestured expansively to the nubile chicks cavorting above them on the runway. One flipped over and slid down a pole using just her thighs, and Dane winced. He'd never figured how they did that without friction burns, but probably some trick of the trade involving baby powder.
It wasn't as if he were a stranger to these places, having worked his way through grad school as Binky's driver/personal assistant, but he did his best to ignore the buffet of female flesh literally spread in front of him. He wasn't there for a lap dance—not that Binky would mind if he did partake.
Although the lunchtime dancers weren't quite the A-string team in their G-strings, Binky didn't care. With his overtipping, he was the life of the party. "Here, sweetheart, this is for you." He slipped a fifty into the nearest girl's garter.
Dane tried to stop him, not because Binky had to watch his pennies, but because the other girls spotted Ulysses S. Grant's bearded scowl and flocked to Binky like seagulls on a leftover sandwich. The other customers grumbled as all the entertainment clumped around the oldest and richest patron in the club.
Binky passed each of them a fifty, accepting their coos and cheek pinches. Of course the old reprobate knew them all by name.
Dane checked his watch. He'd do about anything for Binky, but sitting in a titty bar wasn't the best use of his time. Besides, Dane's fashion designer sister Bridget still occasionally made costumes for her stripper friends here and would give him hell if she caught him. Something about being a hypocrite for complaining how she had put herself through school sewing specially designed outfits for the dancers. Time to move this meeting along.
Dane raised his voice and gestured at the disgruntled mob across the runway. "Okay, girls, thanks for visiting, but we have business to discuss."
His meaning was clear. Dane figured his blond bulk helped put the point across. The dancers slinked off, Binky staring wistfully after them, his white hair mussed and cheeks marked with five different sets of lip prints.
"Dane, Dane, Dane, my boy. There is no business so urgent that one must disappoint the ladies."
Dane wanted to say that the ladies were only disappointed by not getting another fifty in their garters, but kept his comments to himself. "On the phone, you said this was urgent."
Binky sighed, his shoulders drooping. "I did invite you here for a reason—besides the entertainment. This was one of the only places I go where I am reasonably certain that none of my staff attend."
Dane nodded in agreement. Bingham Brothers was, to put it charitably, a traditional financial organization. Hidebound and stuffy were other less charitable descriptions. But despite its moldy-oldie air, it had an impeccable reputation. Binky was still the chairman of the board despite his semiretirement. "What's up, Binky?"
His friend leaned in. "I think one of my executives is stealing from the funds entrusted to us by some of our oldest and most vulnerable clients."
That jolted Dane out of his complacency. "The trust funds?" Bingham Brothers managed money for the richest families in the nation, not just Chicago.
Binky nodded, misery apparent on his quivering lip. "It might even be Charlie."
"Charlie? Your Charlie?" Charles Andrew Bingham VI was Binky's grandson and a total prick, but Dane had never figured him for a thief. "But he's the chief financial officer. Why would Charlie steal from his own company? Doesn't he make over ten million a year?"
"It may not be the money, Dane. Charlie's always blamed me for his father's death." Binky sighed. "As if I ever had any control over Quint. Reckless, foolish boy. I thought having a son of his own would settle him, but sadly that was not to be."
Dane blew out a long breath. For Binky this wasn't only professional, it was personal. Damn. "Who else knows about this?"
"I asked a friend for advice. She's very savvy and gave me the name of a forensic accountant who can audit the accounts, if it comes to that."
"Can you trust this friend of yours not to blab?"
"Of course. Sugar Jones and I have been dear, dear friends for years." Despite his low mood, Binky managed to leer convincingly.
"Sugar Jones?" Dane fought back a groan. Sugar's mind was one giant business plan. She probably knew to the penny how much money Binky had stuffed into her garter over the years. Plus compounded interest.
"You know her?" Whoops, now Binky was getting territorial on him, like a miniature white poodle protecting a favorite squeak toy.
Dane held up his hands in a gesture of appeasement. "Purely business. She models for my sister's lingerie company."
"Lovely!" Binky beamed, his face crinkling into a map of wrinkles. Friends again. "I'll have to get her to model for me."
Dane figured modeling lingerie was more clothing than Sugar usually wore. "Binky, what do you want me to do?"
"Welcome aboard, you're my new controller-in-training."
Dane'sjaw dropped. "But you already have a controller. Do you think he's involved in the missing money?"
"Glenn? No, of course not. He's wanted to retire for some time now but hasn't found a successor to his liking. Now he has."
Dane nodded. Glenn would do whatever Binky wanted. After all, Binky was still the boss.
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