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Playing with the Boss (Smith Enterprises Mystery) by Cherry Carpenter (1)


 

Chapter One

 

I stopped and chatted with the division’s secretary, Tina Larson. Mostly, she was a personal admin to the boss, Nicholas Smith, but she doubled as a backup for the rest of us. I called her the Super Secretary. “Are we out of those pens he favors?” I asked her while sliding my rump on the clean spot on her desk.

I enjoyed my time with her. We had much in common and sometimes went with the group for after work drinks. Both of us had turned down many an office romance, though her reason was her husband. Mine…well, mine was my hot boss who made every other male pale in comparison.

“They’re on order. Amazon will have them here tomorrow. He took the last of them this morning. Nice call on that, by the way. Turns out that Ernie in IT was taking gobs of pens home, making me think they were the popular choice. I’ve limited his access to the office supplies now, by the way. I think he was supplying a whole school with paper and pens by the way they disappeared.”

Her and I shared a laugh and shook our heads. Fred in Accounting turned out to have a bad habit of taking too much ink than his department should possibly need. I’d put a bug in his ear at one of our board meetings to run a check on the printers because they were going through too much ink. Turned out, Fred had been taking it home. Nicholas didn’t mind a bit of supplies heading home, but not to the tune of a hundred dollars a week or more for one employee.

“How’s Jake?” Her new husband, a Stater based in Lewis County, just moved to night shift.

“He’ll be happier once this shift is cycled on. He’s not a night person. Plus, it means less sex.” She waggled her eyebrows, and I laughed.

“Hey, have you heard anything on those Rooker files? Kim was supposed to run down a few things I found when doing a spot check.”

Part of my job, besides taking care of my own clients, was checking our files to make sure we’d not missed anything. Smith’s Enterprises held so many interests, we could be spot checked by the state at any time, especially since some of the accounts we had were government. The Real Estate Division gave me the most hassle with missing signatures or initials.

“She hasn’t brought it back since she checked it out. I’ll email her about it, so we have the paper trail intact.”

I nodded at Tina. “Thanks. Mr. Smith is lucky to have you. If I ever start my own business, I will be wooing you away.”

Tina laughed good naturedly. “I doubt it will work. Mr. Smith has a standing offer of ten percent above what anyone ever offers me.”

“Well, damn. I guess I’ll have to find my own secretary.” I sighed dramatically and stood up. “Talk to you later, Tina.”

I should have known he’d have her locked down. She really was the best. Trustworthy to boot, as far as I could tell.

I moved down the hall in my heels and business skirt and blouse. I caught a few discreet looks, but never from the person I wanted it from the most—Mr. Smith.

Inwardly, I allowed a wistful sigh as I thought of his chiseled cheek bones, blue eyes that I had to work not to stare into dreamily, and a physique that belonged on the cover of GQ. An Army man, he walked with power and purpose everywhere he went. He’d inherited the business from his dad when he retired, and now, ran it with a tight fist. I’d seen him fire a few people over incompetence since I started. He paid well, but demanded you did your job.

I sat back down to my desk for only about twenty minutes when I smelled smoke. What the hell? I stared to where I smelled it the strongest. Smoke started billowing out of the breakroom a half second before the alarm shrilled through the halls. The number of kitchen fires I’d had while learning to cook prepared me to not panic. I calmly stood up and headed to the room with the smoke to make sure it was empty of people. Thick black haze oozed out and entered the main room, though staying toward the ceiling at the moment. Screaming came from all around me, but mostly in the direction of the smoke. I moved faster against the tide rushing to the stairs.

Becca knelt down coughing uncontrollably near the doorway. I took a deep breath and dashed in to grab her. As I clutched her arm and started pulling, I heard Nicholas’ voice order the screaming to stop. Then he rushed past me, ordering, “Get to safety!” I turned to see what he was doing and saw that he had the fire extinguisher and was spraying the area down. I hurried Becca to the stairwell and handed her off to Aaron, who had calmly waited for me when he saw whom I had with me.

I ran back to the breakroom, ordering people out as I went. “Holy hell! Everyone out. This is not a drill.” People milled in groups, dazed expressions on their faces as if lost, and many started coughing. My own chest tightened up. I grabbed an elderly lady, Mrs. Peterson, who appeared confused, and headed toward the stairwell again. This time, I’d be going down.

Nicholas came out of the breakroom before I’d gone far, still holding the extinguisher and bellowed what I’d just said. “Everyone out!”

The milling masses stormed the door leading to the stairs, nearly trampling myself and Mrs. Peterson. I protected her with my body, then moved to help her down the stairs. We were only half way down when Nicholas caught up with us. After giving me a look I took to be gratefulness, he took the other arm, and we were able to make better time the rest of the way down.

Firemen were pulling hoses and attaching them to the pumper truck by the time we made it down. Nicholas, his face covered in soot, sent everyone home. Some people had their cars in the garage parking, but that had a ground entrance, so they just had to walk around the block. A fireman came over to me, helmet visor raised, rain pelting off him. He asked if I needed any oxygen, but I shook my head no. By this point, the air and smell of petrichor had eased the small bit of pain I’d had in my chest.

I stood next to Nicholas who stared up at his building. A strong part of me wanted to grab his hand in comfort, but regardless of my dreams and fantasies, that was not where our relationship stood. Though we’d had a few after work drinks and he’d been flirty, we’d always gone in groups with others from work. I sighed aloud. “What the hell happened in the breakroom?” I asked.

“I won’t know for sure, but from what I saw, someone had scorched something in the garbage. I will have to see if I can get ahold of the security tapes to see for sure.” His voice, normally calm and reassuring with a bite of boss in command, now spoke in frustrated tones of worry. He turned toward me, and I caught something raw and needy in his gaze as he stared at me.

“Someone threw something hot and burning in the garbage,” I repeated incredulously. What, do we work with a bunch of teenagers? I held my tongue, though, as he clenched his jaw tight enough to break.

“It appears so,” he replied then went silent.

We stood together like that until the firemen cleared us to go in. We went up the stairs, him first, affording me a nice view of his tailored ass. I dropped my gaze when I realized I ogled his ass. Now who’s the teen?

The breakroom was a loss, probably totaled from the water and smoke damage, with some water damage to the floor below, too, which he also owned. The smell of smoke permeated everything.

“We’ll have to work out of the Seattle satellite office,” he said. “I will provide Orca cards for the train out of Tacoma for those who want it. Can you ask Tina to email everyone. I’ll get a cleanup crew in here right away, but it’ll take time.” He grabbed the back of his neck and stretched.

“I will,” I said, trying to cover how my voice broke. Now was not the time to be lusting after my employer, but my breasts disagreed. So did my hands. I wanted to run down that strong chest, undo a few buttons, run my fingers… I shook my head out and let out my breath in a controlled manner. Damn. Even with smoke and soot covering his face and clothes and exhaustion marring his features, he exuded power and strength. His stretch ended and he took a step toward me and lifted his hand to my face, but then he dropped it.

I nearly offered him a kiss. Or at least a hug. But the last thing he needed right now was an employee getting personal when he had all this to deal with. Plus, I really liked my job and didn’t want to risk making things uncomfortable for him or myself.

So, I put on my best friendship smile, tucked away my heart, and dug in to help him with some preliminary cleaning, making sure there were no proprietary files out in damaged areas. It took us a few hours. A couple of times, he came behind me to reach over me. I held perfectly still, trying to decide if he was hitting on me or just comfortable. Also, to control that libido of mine. I started to tire, and my stomach rumbled. We ordered in pizza.

We smiled and laughed, and I fell in love a little more, watching this man take command of a bad situation and move on. His natural bossy flare, always tempered with respect, came out even more as we finished for the evening. I’d long since kicked off my heels and put on my walking shoes that I kept in my desk. He said a few flirty remarks, and it hit me how often he did that. And how often he didn’t do that to the other women in the office. The relief washed through me. I’d been waiting for some overt sign and missed the easy ones, and perhaps he just wasn’t a douchebag and didn’t want to pressure me as my boss.

When he walked me to the car that night, he took my hand, and I felt a new kinship with him.

I kept my lustful thoughts well buried as we talked, but when I went home, I let them loose in the shower. No other man I’d ever met made me want to explore the sub side of my nature, one I kept hidden. He did. I wanted to serve him in bed much as I did in the office. I’d not respected or believed in the moral strength of a man before him. Now, I devoured BDSM books to learn as much as I could and fuel my fantasies. What I wouldn’t give to make those fantasies real.

 

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