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Sleeping with the Boss
An Anderson Brothers Story
By Marissa Clarke, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Marissa Clarke
All rights reserved.
"Hold the door, please!" Claire skidded into the crowded elevator, heart hammering from her full-out sprint through the lobby. "Thanks." She squeezed in next to a woman in a business suit who looked like a prototype for a Wall Street Barbie doll and was wearing too much perfume.
Crap. Claire held her breath to avoid irritating her nose any further.
This time when she sneezed, she bumped someone behind her. Wall Street cast her a sideways glance and harrumphed — gave an honest-to-goodness harrumph. Claire hadn't heard one of those since graduating from Mrs. Reynolds's second-grade class. She resisted rolling her eyes. Barely.
Mercifully, the door slid open, accompanied by a classy ding befitting the sleek, stylish, and oh-so-exclusive Anderson Building.
Why the hell had she agreed to this? Because she had never been able to tell Heather no, that's why. Well, she needed to learn how. She rubbed her nose and risked a breath. Bad idea. She was really allergic to whatever it was — like, ants-in-the-nostrils allergic. Claire pinched her nose, praying to not sneeze again.
Several people shuffled off, but unfortunately, not the person wearing Eau de Hell. She rubbed her nose with the back of her hand and someone behind her chuckled. It was almost impossible not to turn around to check out the source of the low, masculine sound bordering on a purr.
Ding. More people got off, including Wall Street, and the air cleared a bit.
Floor twenty-two, and they were only halfway to the top. She glanced at her watch, and yeah, she was late. She pinched her still-itching nose as the door stopped on floor thirty and everyone filed out except for a guy at the back of the elevator. Claire found herself gawking as the door slid shut.
Hot? Holy smokes, he was hot — and huge, like a football player. Her body buzzed to life like she'd just chugged that double-shot cappuccino she'd passed up because she was late. No need for caffeine now. Maybe her best friend Heather was right; maybe getting out of the house was a good thing. Claire jerked her gaze away and faced front, pushing the button for the top floor as if hitting it again would matter.
He pulled a handkerchief out of this top jacket pocket and held it out to her.
She shook her head. "No, no thanks. I'm good." Blasted sneezing. The woman had left an olfactory equivalent of the atom bomb.
He wiggled the handkerchief. "I insist."
She shook her head and pushed her glasses into place. "I ... uh ..." Feeling another sneeze coming on, she conceded defeat and accepted his offer. In her usual style, she dropped her purse. Items scattered in all directions over the rose marble elevator floor.
Heather called this kind of thing a Claire-ism because she was Murphy's Law personified. If something silly, awkward, or bizarre could happen, it would happen to Claire.
Track repairs making her train late to work? Check.
Shoe strap breaking as she ran from subway station to building? Check.
Bizarre, intense perfume allergy kicking in while stuffed into a packed elevator with a painfully hot guy? Check.
Spilling her purse in front of said painfully hot guy? Check.
Four Claire-isms in a morning was impressive, but not unheard of. She shook her head and tried to smile. "Just one of those days," she said, bending down to pick up her belongings. And, yep, that ripping sound would be her skirt, bringing the total to five — an all-time record. Somehow she didn't feel like cheering for this impressive accomplishment.
The guy reached over her and inserted a tiny key into a slot above the top button, and the elevator came to a smooth stop. Oh, God. That meant he was someone important.
He squatted down next to her as she snatched up her lipstick, keys, and rail pass. "I think something ripped," he whispered.
She dropped the items into her purse and met his bright blue eyes. "Yeah, that would be the sound of the last shreds of my dignity being torn in two."
He laughed and reached across her to pick up her cell phone. His nearness and the timbre of his laugh sent a ripple of thrill through her.
At least she wasn't sneezing anymore. And hallelujah for that because he smelled as delicious as he looked. Like a big peppermint lollipop. Broad shoulders, closely cropped brown hair, and great cheekbones rounded off the other three bases, making it a hot-man home run. She shook her head. What was wrong with her? She should probably never leave the house. She was a walking disaster.
To add to the awkward, the guy stood and shrugged out of his perfectly tailored jacket and held it out to her. "To cover your shredded dignity," he said in a completely serious tone. Only a dimple on his right cheek betrayed his pseudo-somber demeanor.
She rose to stand, keeping her front to him, praying the damage to her skirt wasn't that bad — though the draft of cool air over her butt told another story. She'd probably lost the whole back seam. "Thanks."
She slid the jacket on, ignoring the fact that his eyes were trained on her reflection in the door over her shoulder. She scanned the floor of the elevator for missed items, but found none. Hey, at least nothing really embarrassing had been in her purse.
"Ready?" he asked, dimple still present and accounted for.
His jacket hung way below her skirt line, so no matter how bad the damage, she was covered. At least the worst was over. What else could possibly go wrong?
He turned the key and the elevator smoothly rose the remaining flights before making its final refined ding.
"I'm Will Anderson," he said, extending his hand.
William Anderson of Anderson Auctions. Her boss. Awesome. Claire groaned inwardly, and shook his hand, mentally tallying the Claire-isms to a record-breaking six, and it wasn't even eight o'clock yet.CHAPTER 2
Will watched the woman wearing his suit jacket scurry across the lobby and disappear into an office. He straightened his tie and grinned. The scenery had certainly improved in the weeks he'd been gone.
"Where's your jacket?" The question came before he'd even gotten all the way into his brother's office. Michael had a bad case of big-brother-itis, along with a side of OCD, and always insisted on business attire and stuffy professionalism in the workplace because clients sometimes showed up unexpectedly.
"Hey, Mikey. Good to see you, too. My trip was great, thanks for asking." Will sat in one of the two leather wing chairs opposite the huge mahogany desk that had belonged to their father before he retired three years ago, then pulled at the tight collar of his dress shirt. Out of habit, he scanned the room for potential threats. Everything looked the same as it had the last time he'd been here, with the exception of the rolling suitcase in the corner, hanging bag draped over the top.
Michael sat back and steepled his fingers. "Sorry. Glad you're back. How were the islands?"
The word hung there like a long football pass in slo-mo and neither man said anything for a while. It had been almost a year since Will's return from his second tour in Afghanistan, and he should be over Beth by now. Should be. Michael finally broke the awkward moment. "Want some coffee?"
"I'd prefer a beer." Will knew his attempt at humor missed its mark when his brother responded with a scowl. "I'm just messing with you."
Michael studied him for a moment before speaking. "We need to talk about something that came up while you were on vacation."
Some vacation. Sitting alone on the porch of their family villa, staring at the empty beach where he'd brought Beth the summer before he was deployed. He should never have gone back there. All he did was lament the dreams he'd lost when he lost Beth, which made his gut churn. He had a great job and a family who loved him. Get your shit together, Anderson. "What came up?"
"We have our suspicions that there is a spy in the office."
Suspicions. His brothers had hovered like mother hens for the first months after his return from Afghanistan, calling him into the office for every little thing to keep him from holing up in his house like he wanted to. They'd let up over the last four or five months. Hopefully, they weren't back at it. He leaned forward. "Meaning what?"
Michael's chronic formal demeanor cracked for a moment, and his brow furrowed before he responded a little too loudly. "Meaning exactly what I said."
Will leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, studying his uncharacteristically flustered big brother. Maybe this wasn't just an excuse to get him into the office. "You said 'suspicions,' indicating rumor or innuendo, rather than hard evidence."
"I don't have any hard evidence."
"When you call to tell me to dress up like I'm going to a funeral and appear at the snap of your fingers, I assume it's important."
Since his return to the States almost a year ago, Will had set up and managed security for all the Anderson family holdings, including this building and their lucrative antiquities brokerage business that occupied the top two floors — a perfect use of his military recon training. The deal he had struck with his brothers on his return was that he would set up the security, train the personnel, and run it remotely from his home on Long Island, only returning to New York City on an as-needed basis. He hated it here. He felt smothered in the city and overwhelmed with dread — just as he had in Afghanistan — like something terrible could be lurking in every alley or around the next corner.
A spy could certainly warrant an in-house visit, but he needed more to go on than a hunch. This could have been done with a phone call. "Suspicions are a waste of my time. That's what I trained your security team for."
"Will! Great to see you, man," a voice called from the doorway.
"Chance! How's it going?" Will asked, rising and extending his hand. With the exception of a squarer jaw, his little brother looked exactly the same as he had in high school and college. All hard lines and long hair — freedom and rebellion stuffed into a business suit.
Chance shook his hand. "Glad you're back."
Will was glad, too. He'd thought the island would bring him some peace, but like shrapnel under the skin, regret made his every move ache.
"Things have gotten kind of weird around here," his little brother added, pulling him back to the moment.
"So I've been told." Will moved closer to the window and caught a look on his big brother's face he'd seen hundreds of times before. Incapacitating worry and guilt. Michael had always taken every failure on himself as if he were personally responsible. His father had brought him up to run this company from an early age, and the burden had robbed him of the carefree fun his brothers had experienced as teens. In lots of ways, Will felt sorry for him.
"We could lose millions because of the spy," Michael continued. "We have to stop the loss immediately. I can't believe I let this happen."
"This is not your fault," Will said. "The company is trading in rare and priceless antiquities, jewelry, and art. It was bound to happen at some point."
"I should have seen it coming. Prevented it somehow." Michael leaned back in his huge leather office chair and closed his eyes. "We've lost several important deals. If this continues, it will shut us down. And the timing is terrible. I leave for the airport for Greece in three hours."
That explained the fire under Mikey's ass. Will relaxed a little. "How long will you be gone?"
"Nine days. A private archaeological team found some unusual pottery. I'm hoping to acquire some of it on behalf of a museum in California. Hopefully, I'll beat the phantom dealer to it this time."
Well, that explained the suitcase in the corner. "Why don't you fill me in on what you know, since you're on a tight schedule."
"The broker is an outsider, but he has an operative inside our company. Every deal we've lost has been an existing client who contacted us first, then decided to sell to a higher bidder or bypass a scheduled auction, selling instead to an anonymous buyer."
"That happens all the time."
"No. They are all well-established Anderson Auctions clients. When I do a follow-up visit, they all have the same story. A woman in her twenties, calling herself Florence Smith, visited them with a proposal from a private collector, represented as a male. She's been described as blond, brunette, and redheaded. They jump to the conclusion that the woman is working in conjunction with us somehow, though the buyer is presented as outside Anderson Auctions. That's pretty much all I know."
"That's not much. We have quite a few employees. A female narrows it, but not enough. It could be a male employee's cohort. What else do you know?"
"I have the file in my office," Chance said, striding to the door. "I have an appraisal to review and certify by noon and two new contracts to fire out, but I'll have my secretary bring it up to you, Will. Want to meet up for lunch?"
"Great. We can discuss the file and catch up on what you've been up to."
Feeling sorry for himself, that's what he'd been up to. And twisted as it was, he was charged up a bit by the security breach at his family's business. He enjoyed running the security for Anderson Enterprises' holdings, but sometimes it seemed too routine. Tracking down the company spy was the most exciting thing to come his way in a while — well, that and the blonde in the pink thong with the ripped skirt. Now, there was an interrogation he wouldn't mind ... maybe it could include a thorough body search. His own body came to life at the image. Shit, where did that come from? He hadn't had thoughts like that in ages.
Michael cleared his throat. "You okay? You have an odd look on your face."
"Yeah, I'm fine. So, you want me to find out who she is and fire her."
His brother shook his head. "I really want the bigger fish. I need you to get hard evidence she's the spy and figure out who she's working with."
Now it was really getting interesting. He loved this kind of shit. Too bad it was Michael's pet auction business, and not one of the other Anderson endeavors being affected — all the more reason to find the spy quickly. He ran a hand over his short hair. "I'll need the company personnel files."
"You'll have to talk to Beverly."
"Dear old Beverly Higgins. How is she?"
"Mean as hell."
Will laughed. "Some things never change. How is the spy accessing the accounts?"
"I have no idea, but they're all recent deals coming in with established clients. Nothing intercepted has been under contract, so no laws have been broken. She's very smart."
"Are you logging the client information or the object descriptions online somewhere?"
"The only people other than me with access to the items considered for auction are Chance, editorial, and Mildred, of course. None of the financial data or private client information is accessible to anyone but Chance and me."
Will returned to his chair and tapped his fingers on the desk. There was no way Mildred was tipping anyone off. She'd been with the company from the time their dad began it and was completely loyal. Michael and Chance were the only ones with access to client info, which meant it had to be the material distributed to editorial regarding the auction items themselves.
Will slid off his tie and shoved it in his front pocket. "I need access to your office while you're gone. I also need the files on all deals that have been intercepted by the anonymous dealer and a full description given by the clients of the woman." He ignored Michael's scowl as he unbuttoned the top button of his shirt. Formal had never been his thing. "Oh, and I want access to all personnel files."
Michael smiled. "Yeah, well, you'll have to fist-fight Mrs. Higgins for those."
He was glad to see his brother's mood lift. "Good thing I'm trained in hand-to-hand combat. Besides, Beverly could never say no to me. Just let her know I need them so she can't say the top boss man didn't authorize it."
Excerpted from Sleeping with the Boss by Marissa Clarke, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2014 Marissa Clarke. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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