From the first time I played army as a kid, the military has been my life. As an Airborne Major, I’d led my men through two tours in Afghanistan. But when my father was elected president, I became an even greater target for the enemy—a prize for someone to take out. To ensure not only the safety of myself, but of my men, I got stripped of my cammies, shoved into an Armani suit, and placed into a management position at my father’s company. After years of trekking through the desert with an assault rifle, I was way out of my area of expertise, which my transition coordinator was more than happy to let me know on a daily, if not hourly basis. The brunette bombshell would be the death of me in more ways than one, especially since I hadn’t been with a woman since my last deployment. She’s turning out to be one of the greatest foes I’ve ever done battle with.
In the backwoods Georgia town I was born in, you either married right out of high school or got the hell out of town. I chose the second and never looked back. After graduating top in my class, I started working for The Callahan Corporation. Fast forward five years and I was about to become the youngest female manager in the history of my department. And then all the blood, sweat, and tears I’d put into my career were for nothing when the boss’s billionaire son was handed my position on a silver platter. Not only that, I was expected to help transition him into the job that was supposed to be mine. Sure, he’s easy on the eyes with his chiseled good-looks and impossibly built physique, but I’m not going to let that distract me. I hope soldier boy is good at military strategy because sabotage is the name of the game I’ll be playing.
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Today found us doing some last-minute tweaking in preparation for our dinner meeting with George Halliwell. Although it was just a typical business dinner, Thorn appeared exceptionally tense. He kept popping his neck and jerking his hand through his hair. I hated when he did the hair jerk because it made his sandy blond hair look all tousled and sexy like he’d been rolling around in the sheets during a sexathon.
Yes, I utterly despised myself for thinking that.
We’d just hit a tedious part of reviewing the files on the computer when Thorn leaned his head back and pinched the bridge of his nose. “If I’m going to get through the rest of this, I’m going to need some strong coffee.” He stared pointedly at me.
Oh. Hell. No. He was not suggesting I get his coffee.
In a sugary-sweet tone, I replied, “I believe I showed you where the break room is last week, but if you’ve forgotten, it’s down the hall and then take two lefts.”
“I want an espresso from Starbucks.”
“Then you’re going to need to take the elevator and go down the block.”
“How much plainer do I need to make this, Ms. Flannery? I want a Venti espresso from Starbucks, and you’re going to get it for me.”
“Well, Mr. Callahan, there are a lot of things I want that I don’t get. That’s just life. Furthermore, I know you’re still new to the workforce, but being a coffee runner is not part of my job description. You have an assistant, AKA a secretary for that, not to mention a Secret Service agent who is outside thumbing through Cosmo.”
His blue eyes narrowed at me. “I never said it was part of your job. However, I do believe it is part of your job description not to be insubordinate to your superior.”
If I had been a cartoon character, this was the moment imaginary steam would have billowed from my ears at Thorn’s audacity. At that moment, I had two choices—my own version of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Fearing for my job, I could bow to Thorn’s will and get his damn coffee, or I could throw caution to the wind and put Mr. Trust Fund Baby in his place. By now, you should know me well enough to know which one I chose. It also didn’t help that I’d caught the end of Nine to Five, one of my all-time favorites, on HBO when I got in from work the night before. Facing down my own version of Franklin Hart, I was going to make Violet, Doralee, and Judy proud.
I jabbed his chest with my index finger. “Look, soldier boy, I know you’re used to barking orders and having your men and women scramble to obey them, but we’re not in Afghanistan anymore, Toto. Now I’m going to walk out of here and tell your secretary you’re about to piss yourself for an espresso.”
While I fully expected Thorn to be enraged by my declaration, I didn’t expect the amused smirk that twisted on his face. “Alice isn’t here.”
“She took a half day to go to the dentist.”
Damn Alice and her teeth. Now my ass really was on the line. “Fine. I will go get your precious espresso, but don’t doubt for one minute that I’ll be filing a grievance via the proper channels,” I hissed.
Thorn had the audacity to grin. “You make sure you do that.”
MOTHERFUCKER. After I whirled around, I started stalking out of his office.
“Oh, Ms. Flannery?” he called.
I fought the urge to reply, Yes, Satan? Instead, I slowly pivoted around. “Yes, Mr. Callahan?”
“I would offer you some cash, but I’m sure you’ll want a receipt to corroborate your story.”
Smug bastard. Of course I wanted a receipt, and of course I planned to put it with my grievance. I hated that he had the ability to read my mind; it made it hard to maintain any ground with him. Well, sometimes he could read my mind—obviously, if he were fully psychic, he would have busted me for the underhanded shit I’d been doing to him.
I gave a nod of my head before turning back around and sprinting out the door. After I stopped by my office for my purse, I hopped on the elevator. When I jabbed the button for the lobby, the woman behind me snickered.
“Tough day, huh?”
“You could say that.”
“Trust me, I’ve been there.”
The commiseration was nice, but at the same time, I inwardly groaned at my behavior. I mean, when had I sunk so low as to act like a petulant toddler by taking my frustrations out on an elevator button? That was somewhat of a rhetorical question since I knew exactly why I was acting the way I was. It was all because the devil incarnate had usurped me at my job and was hell-bent on driving me batshit crazy.
While it pained me to admit it, I really, really wanted to hurt Thorn Callahan, and that in itself was unnerving because I normally wasn’t a violent person. Back home in Georgia, I was constantly stopping my car to help wayward turtles in the middle of the road. I’d even been known to put spiders outside rather than squishing them.
Ugh, the man was driving me absolutely insane, and it had only been three weeks. How was I possibly going to make it a year to eighteen months with him? As I pushed through the doors of the Starbucks, I found myself actually contemplating the thought of changing companies, but I really didn’t want to go that route. It wasn’t that I couldn’t have found another job, but more about the fact that I loved the Callahan Corporation, which had been home to me for so many years.
After I placed my order for Satan’s precious espresso, I started shuffling around in the bottom of my purse for my debit card, and I finally found it hiding under a bottle of dog laxatives. After I handed the card to the barista, my gaze once again fell inside my purse, more specifically on the bottle.
You see, it wasn’t normal for me to have dog laxatives rolling around in the bottom of my purse. Dani was known to suffer from constipation from time to time, which the vet assured me was part of living the city dog life. I hadn’t meant to bring them with me that day. When I was raking stuff off the kitchen counter and into my purse, I thought I’d swept up a bottle of Midol.
At that moment, a truly devious idea entered my mind. It was so heinous that I actually sucked in an agonized breath upon realizing I’d actually thought it. I even went so far as to glance left and right to make sure no one was staring at me in fear. I don’t know why I thought someone could suddenly have the ability to read my mind, but if they did, I would be in big trouble.
I could almost imagine the expressions of horror on their faces, as well as the dialogue that might take place.
“That seemingly normal-looking chick right there? She’s debating putting dog laxatives in her boss’s coffee.”
“Damn, that’s cold.”
“Forget cold—it’s downright psychotic. If she keeps gobbling up the cuckoo puffs, she’ll be rocking a straight-jacket down in Bellevue.”
“I dunno, bosses can be epic pricks. He probably deserves a lengthy ride on the porcelain chariot.”
“Espresso for Isabel.” I jumped out of my thoughts at the sound of my name being called.
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