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Screwged by Madison Faye (1)

Chapter 1

Noelle

“Hon?”

I blink, pulling myself away from my thoughts as I turn towards Mandy.

“Hmm?”

She snorts, chewing loudly, with her mouth open and bits of red and green cupcake frosting tumbling out. “What, you worried about that rumor?”

Uh, yes?

I shrug, my eyes darting back to the glass-walled, dimly lit loft office that looms above the main work floor of Pierce & Horn. The offices of my new workplace — a tech and finance analysis firm — are huge, with a ceiling towering forty feet above us. There’s the main floor, a balcony mezzanine level, and then above that, the big, dim, glass-walled offices of our bosses.

Bosses, plural. Pierce & Horn has two CEOs. And it’s up there that I’ve had my eyes locked on, lost in thought as the world’s lamest office holiday party murmurs around me.

Some Christmas Eve.

“Girl, please,” Mandy snorts, wiping her mouth off with the back of her hand, which leaves frosting marks across her skin she doesn’t seem to notice.

“Trust me, this place is full of rumors.”

I smile warily. Maybe she’s right. Maybe the ominous rumors circulating through the tame, crappy, mandatory office party are just that: rumors.

“I’m sure this is just some last-minute scare tactic before the holidays. Maybe to distract us from this shitty party. I mean, you know them.”

Them. She means the two men presumably up in that dim, foreboding looking office — Brock Pierce and Seamus Horn. Our bosses. And yeah, I know them, but only through reputation. I know they rarely come out of that office. I know they’re brooding, and gruff, and have a reputation for being more than a little terrifying. For one, because of their wealth and the power they wield in this firm, and in New York City in general. And two?

Well, because of their size.

When you think of the CEO of a financial tech analysis company, you think what I thought before I came to work here. Maybe a nerdy guy with Steve Jobs glasses. Maybe some beer-bellied, frat-bro-turned-finance guy. You don’t think of, well, them.

We’ve never officially met. Mandy’s the one who interviewed me, and they rarely leave their citadel office that presides darkly over the whole office. But I’ve seen them here and there on their way to client meetings, or in passing. And Brock Pierce and Seamus Horn are nothing like the tech CEOs you might think of.

That is, unless you think of tech CEOs as maybe being professional football linebackers as a side gig. They’re huge — both of them easily over six-five, and built like tanks. Broad shoulders, barrel chests, and bulging arms that are barely contained by the impeccably custom tailored suits they wear to work.

And beyond the power, and the wealth, and the imposing physique, there’s the fact that both of them carry a dark, brooding fierceness with them wherever they go. They’ve got pretty fearsome reputations for being short to anger and quick to displease. And they keep an iron fist on the spending and day-to-day operations of their firm. Hence, this absolutely lame holiday party. A crappy holiday music playlist from someone’s phone through tinny speakers, minimal decorations, a sad-looking tray of cheese and veggies and dip, and — perhaps most egregious of all — no booze. Talk about killing the holiday cheer.

Basically, my two new bosses are a couple of Scrooges.

But also, a couple of stunningly gorgeous Scrooges. That’s actually what makes them even scarier. It’s not just the wealth, power, reputation for being grumpy and mean, and their size. It’s that the two huge alphas running this office are crazy hot, in this dark, somewhat scary way.

“Will you stop looking up there?” Mandy grabs my arm, pulling me around and out of my thoughts again. “Oh, and before I forget, did you get those JPR reports done?”

I frown. Shit; no. I’ve been too distracted by the rumors of the impending doom floating around the office. Mandy sees my pause and my worried look and scowls.

“Lordy, bird-brain.” She sighs heavily. “Well maybe quit staring up at that office like you’re going to see something and get it done?”

Technically, the JPR reports are Mandy’s job. But technically, she’s my superior in the accounting department where we work. And I’ve got no illusions about being the new hire at a very lucrative job, and that being here means doing work outside of my job description. You know, like Mandy’s work.

Frequently.

We have this “fun, friendly” banter back and forth, but it’s actually pretty one-sided. I mean, she is my superior, technically. And I know what she’s doing with this “friendly” banter. She uses it to get me to do her shit for her, like we’re friends. And yet, it’s not like she’s out there doing my work in return.

But, again, I get it. I’m new here, and this job is really important to me. So, like I always do when Mandy — with her too-orange lipstick and her shit-eating smile — asks me to do her work: I smile right back and nod.

“I’m on it, Mandy. Before we leave today.”

She arches a brow. “You better. Tim and I have dinner plans, so we’re leaving at quarter of.”

“Of course.”

Tim is Mandy’s boyfriend who works in the logistics department here at Pierce & Horn. He’s rude, brash, obnoxious, and has overtly hit on me no less than ten times in the two weeks I’ve been here.

Suddenly, there’s the sound of a door, and the whole party looks up at once. The door to the dark, glassed office opens, and Herb, from sales, walks out — white-faced and looking terrified. He quickly and quietly shuts the door behind him before he scurries down the stairs to the mezzanine level, and then down to the main floor. A few coworkers go over to him, and he nods quickly, still white-faced as he smiles weakly and answers their flurry of whispered questions.

“Well, looks like Herb made it.” Mandy shrugs, nodding. Another guy from sales slips a flask out of his jacket and passes it to poor Herb, who smiles another shaky smile and takes a big gulp as his friends pat him on the back.

“Made it,” as in “not fired.” Apparently, something big is amiss at the firm, and Brock and Seamus are determined to get to the bottom of it. Today.

That’s the rumor swirling through the holiday party. It’s the reason for the dour mood at what should be a warm holiday celebration. I mean, I don’t have anywhere else to be, personally. My family lives on the other side of the country, and I’m new enough in town that I don’t really have many friends. No love life to speak of.

But the rest of these people are sitting here worried for their jobs when they could just be going home early to families and loved ones, on Christmas freaking Eve, no less. I glance back up at the darkened office, shivering at the thought of what those two gorgeous devils up there might be talking about.

“Well, personally, I think it’s Kim,” Mandy hisses under her breath in that obnoxious gossipy tone she always uses. “You didn’t hear it from me, but apparently, she’s having some trouble with her man at home, if you know what I mean. I bet it’s her. That’s my gut feeling. And I’m going to tell them that if they call me up there.”

She turns and shoots a dirty look at a scared-looking Kim, standing by the cheese plate.

I try not to roll my eyes. Whatever Mandy’s “gut feeling” is, it’s probably based off something petty like Kim taking the last cup of coffee from the break room pot.

“You really think they’re going to fire someone today?” I half whisper, pushing a strand of my dark brown hair behind an ear and tucking it under the frame of my glasses. I know I haven’t done anything, but who knows? Who knows how the two brooding, enigmatic men who run this firm operate? There’s always that saying, “last in, first out,” after all.

Mandy shrugs, grabbing yet another cupcake. “Probably. And I’ll laugh when Kim gets escorted out.”

She turns and sees the pale look on my face. “Oh, hon,” she says in that patronizing, fake-friend way. “You’re new here. You’ve got nothing to worry about. Besides, you’re friends with me, remember?” She winks. “Membership has its privileges, hon,” she says. “And anyways, I doubt they even call you in—”

“Noelle.”

The deep, honeyed baritone voice booms out my name, and a hush goes through the crowd. I shiver, trembling as I force myself to look up, towards the big glass office.

“Noelle Healy.”

My eyes drag up, higher and higher, until my heart clenches in my chest.

Brock Pierce’s eyes blaze into me, even from two floors away looking down at me. He’s got his jacket off, wearing a dark vest and a tailored white shirt with the sleeves rolled halfway up his bulging forearms. His squared, chiseled jaw clenches and ripples, and his eyes just burn right into me.

I swallow, panting as he raises one hand. He turns his hand palm up, and without a word, he just crooks two fingers, beckoning me.

And just like that, he turns and strides back into the office, leaving the door open.

Oh fuck.

There are hushed, whispered words and furtive and sympathetic looks as I slowly walk towards the stairs.

“You’ll… you’ll be fine,” Herb says with this fake cheerfulness in his voice. “It really wasn’t bad.”

Him taking another huge gulp from his friend’s drink doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

I tremble as I climb the stairs, feeling the eyes of the whole party on me as I make my way up to the mezzanine level, and then up the single staircase to their office.

It’s darker up here, chillier, and I swallow as I hug my arms around myself before I force them to my sides.

Don’t be a scaredy-cat, I hiss internally to myself as I pause right outside the half-open office door. You’ve got nothing to worry abou—

“Enter.”

The deep, resonating voice rumbles from inside, making me gasp.

Slowly, I step forward, and my palm pushes the door open. And suddenly, there they are, right in front of me, both of them leaning against their respective desks, facing the door. I shiver as the eyes of both big, powerful, brooding men pierce into me. My skin tingles from those looks, and I can feel my core tighten as I clench my hands to fists to try to stop shaking.

“Hello, sirs, we haven’t formerly been intro—”

“Close the door,” Brock growls. There’s a gruffness to his voice and fierceness in both his and Seamus’s looks.

“Mr. Pierce, can I ask why you wanted to—”

“Close the fucking door,” Seamus hisses, his eyes narrowing on me. I literally bite my lip to hold back the whimper.

“You know why you’re here, Ms. Healy,” Brock growls lowly, and I tremble as both their eyes burn into me. Slowly, they stop leaning on their desks, and they begin to move towards me.

“S-sir?” I stutter out, panting as they move closer, towering over me. There’s an open door behind me, and part of me wonders if I could just run. But I’m rooted to the spot as the two big, gorgeous men move into me.

“No games, Noelle,” Seamus growls. “No bullshit. You know exactly why you’re fucking here right now.”

My head spins, and the room feels tighter, and warmer as they move closer, until they’re both standing right in front of me, looking fiercely down into my eyes.

“You’re in big fucking trouble, little girl,” Brock growls, his jaw clenching.

Big fucking trouble.”

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