Brandi couldn’t believe her luck. She’d arrived in the office before either Zach or Kendra. Zach’s office wasn’t locked. With very little security, Brandi wondered why. Wouldn’t a man who had something to hide be more security-conscious?
Not her problem. She looked around but didn’t spot any cameras. Her father had layers of security and he was an honest man. This was going to be easy if Zach didn’t worry about anyone in his files.
First, she looked around to get the lay of the land. Between the outer office and Zach’s office, there were windows on three sides of the building. The elevator was on the fourth wall, and there was a bookcase beside it. She stared at it, puzzling over what didn’t make sense.
She walked off the length of the building and realized that this floor was either smaller than the rest of the building, which she’d never noticed looking at it, or there was more square footage. It must be hidden and hidden well because she didn’t see any doors.
“Huh. Maybe that’s why he isn’t worried about security.”
That must be where he hid the files that held evidence of his wrongdoing. She glanced at the elevator, but no one was coming up it. Time to look at Zach’s office.
“I’d bet he doesn’t have anything here, but I better look.”
She entered his office and just observed. A credenza took up the wall that this room shared with the outer office. “He probably only has digital records.”
But he had to keep the physical plans for buildings somewhere. She opened the top drawer of the credenza and found what she was looking for. Plans. They were all neatly folded and labeled.
She pulled one out and laid it on the top. She recognized the building. Her father had lost out to Zach on this one. His bid had come in lower than her father’s and Kent had lamented that he didn’t know how Zach could do it for that small a price.
The only thing in this cabinet was plans of completed projects. “It’s like they are mementos of his past work.”
That seemed sentimental for a hardcore businessman like Zach. These must be the legitimate jobs he did. Brandi closed the credenza then looked around the room.
She sat at Zach’s desk, but he’d taken his laptop home with him. No drawers were locked, but he only had the sparsest collection of office supplies in it. This wasn’t going to be simple.
She went back to the outer office. “The key is what’s behind this bookcase.”
She scanned the titles, but nothing jumped out as being odd at first. It was an eclectic mix of business books and one copy of Winnie the Pooh. That was odd.
The elevator dinging made Brandi jump, but she didn’t think she looked suspicious. She had the Winnie the Pooh book in her hand as Zach stepped off the car. He paused to study her. “What are you doing with that?”
He strode towards her.
“This seemed an odd book among the business texts you have here,” she said.
He took the book from her hand. “Snooping is unattractive, Brandi.”
She blinked. “I was just looking at the books out here in the open.”
She didn’t think the book was a first edition or any kind of collector’s item. His stern look said she’d crossed a line. Wait until he found out the lines she’d crossed to put him in jail. Zach held the book for a moment as something crossed his face. She didn’t know him well enough to discern what it was.
He tucked the book back onto the shelf. “Don’t touch it.” He strode into his office, pausing at the door to glance at her. “You coming? Kendra will be in in a moment and we’ll have to hit the ground running when she gives us the schedule.”
She nodded, but Zach stared at her with those steely blue eyes. She didn’t look away. He would eventually trust her and let his guard down. She would be waiting to pounce.
“Do you drink coffee?” he asked, sitting behind his desk.
“Uh, no. I’m a tea drinker.”
She eyed him. “Green.”
“Anything in it?”
He nodded as if he’d gained some insight into her then pulled his laptop out of his briefcase. Today he wore a gray pinstriped suit, white shirt, and a very colorful tie. The suit fit him better than any suit she’d ever seen fit a man. It shouldn’t make her mouth water to see him, but it did. She’d have to get this under control or she’d lose sight of her mission here.
“Okay,” he said. The elevator dinged. “That’ll be Kendra. Tomorrow I’ll bring you tea and then we can enjoy the quiet before my admin gets here.”
“Uh, okay. Thanks.”
Kendra walked into the office with two pieces of paper. “I’ve emailed these to both of you, but here’s a hard copy of your schedule.”
Brandi looked over what their day would entail. “I’m going with you in all of these?”
“Yes. That’s your job. You’ll follow me around and take notes. When you’ve spent a few days with me, I may ask your opinion.”
“Don’t expect him to actually take your advice,” Kendra said.
Zach sent her a look but Kendra only smiled. There was some affection there, but Brandi didn’t feel any sexual tension. She was relieved and shouldn’t be. She wasn’t here to date Zach. What he did on his personal time wasn’t her business. She was here to find out the dirt on him in his business life. “I’ll remember that. Thanks.”
“Any questions?” Kendra asked.
Brandi shook her head. She’d been by most of these buildings. She was surprised to see a house on the list. “I didn’t realize you did residential real estate.”
“I do some. I started there, so I like to keep my hand in it. We can stop by and see the house while we’re out,” Zach said.
Kendra left. Zach rose. “Time to go?”
“Yes. One thing I didn’t say was that you should have some boots or sneakers on hand. Sometimes we’re going to be on construction sites and heels will not do.”
“I have a tote bag.”
“I’ll have Kendra set up a space for you in the outer office so you can put your stuff. Grab your tote and let’s go.”
Brandi followed Zach down to a truck with his company’s logo on it. When they were buckled in, she looked at the list. “First stop is the Johnson Building.”
“My favorite. That part of town is coming back.”
When they were on the road, she noticed that Zach kept glancing at her. She wondered if he realized what she was doing earlier. She shouldn’t underestimate his intelligence. He’d built a company from the ground up.
He parked the truck and Brandi put on her boots as did Zach. He strode in. She followed him with her company-issued phone and tablet, ready to take notes. He spouted off a punch list for the completion of the building.