Zach had built a real estate empire. Along the way, he’d learned to read people. It was key in being a successful negotiator. When he’d stepped off that elevator, Brandi’s posture had screamed guilty. She had been snooping for sure.
She’d also picked up his Winnie the Pooh book. which he told everyone to leave alone. It had sentimental value and he wasn’t letting it get ruined. If she’d waited until he’d given her a tour he would have pointed that out.
Zach pulled his truck into the driveway of the house he was building.
“Wow. Nice brickwork.”
He admired it for a moment. It was a house he’d choose to live in and that’s what made it special to him. “It’s for a friend.”
“I didn't realize you went this far out of the city,” Brandi said.
Zach shrugged. “It’s a favor for a friend. Let’s see the progress they’ve made.”
Zach unlocked the green front door and stepped into a tile-covered two-story foyer. Brandi’s eyes went all around the place. “Wow. That’s quite an entrance.” She looked down at the tile. “Nice pattern.”
“It mimics the crest of the family who is having it built. They didn’t even balk at the cost of it.”
He watched her as she took it all in. He’d like her opinion on some things, but it was too soon to ask. She’d handled her first day well so far, maybe he should test her some more. He wanted to see if she was serious or if she was here for another reason. Denny’s warning that Brandi might not be what she seemed echoed in his head.
Zach studied her, unsure how much he could trust her. Right now, not at all. That meant he needed to change some things. Like passwords. Just in case. “I need to check the upstairs bath.”
“Are you always this hands-on with things?”
“I at least look things over. I didn’t get where I am by trusting everyone,” he said.
She paused before she moved up the steps. He would have missed it if he hadn’t been staring at her. It wasn’t a hardship to look at Brandi.
She was hot but carried herself as if she had no idea how beautiful she was. That was sexy in a way. Not that she seemed to lack confidence, nor was she a shrinking violet. No, it was more that her looks just didn’t matter to her. They didn’t factor into her confidence.
They reached the upstairs bathroom and in the smaller space, he could smell her again. Wildflowers. He wondered if it was her shampoo or her body wash? He’d like to soap her up with that body wash. He shook himself. He had to remember she was his rival’s daughter. She had told him a nice tale of wanting to learn from him, but he doubted that was completely true.
Her look this morning kept coming back to him. No, he wasn’t going to completely trust Brandi. At least not yet. He could devise a test for her.
Brandi looked around the bathroom. “It still needs a tub and the flooring.”
“Yeah. The flooring is on backorder so I’m going to approach the owners to see if we can choose another one. Put on your punch list to have Kendra look for close alternatives. Then note that I have to call the owners about it.”
“Will I tell Kendra?”
“No. I give her list midday and at the end of the day of the calls she needs to make.”
“So I’m your professional note-taker,” Brandi said.
“For now. That’s all I need. We can talk later about expanding your job. It’s your first day, Brandi.”
“It’s not my first job in the field,” Brandi said.
“No, but I don’t know for sure what you can do and what you can add to my business yet.”
“I can add whatever you need me to.”
Zach’s mind went fully dirty after that statement. He didn’t turn away and she didn’t flinch at what was probably a predatory look in his eyes. “I’ll still need to see things for myself.”
That didn’t make their conversation less dirty.
“You’re a hands-on boss.”
Did she have any idea what she was saying? She couldn’t have any idea what she was doing to him. Zach cleared his throat. Lest he take her on the vanity, he better get them out of here. “Something like that.”
He turned and left her in the bathroom. He needed a moment. No woman had ever affected him this way. Sure he’d been attracted to many women in his time, but none had the innocence and confidence that Brandi had. She was going to be his Waterloo if he didn’t get himself under control.
She joined him a minute later in the foyer. He didn’t look at her as he locked the front door. “Where to next?”
“Back into the city. An office building on Market Street.”
“Yes. I’m having trouble with those contractors. I can’t seem to get plumbers out to do anything. If I were a suspicious man, I’d think the place was cursed.”
When they returned to the office at the end of the day, Zach dismissed both Kendra and Brandi. He poured himself some scotch and sat at his desk pondering his new hire. She was smart and beautiful which was a lethal combination. He usually dated women who weren’t smart. It wasn’t ego so much as they’d be less likely to scheme against him.
Yes, he’d spent his life paranoid and now he’d hired the daughter of his rival. He had no grounds to fire her but he could test her. He called his IT department and the head of it was in his office a few minutes later.
“I can set up a camera in your drop ceiling. No one will notice it.”
“You have this right now?” Zach asked.
“In my office.”
Zach cocked his head. “Should I ask why?”
“In case you don’t trust someone. You are in a high-stakes business and I wanted to be prepared for a situation like this.”
“I can set it up now.”
When the man was done he showed Zach how it would feed to his phone. “You’ll see things with on a second delay. There are one with better quality, but I’d need more time.”
“I only need this for a few days.”
The man nodded and left. Zach watched himself on his phone for a moment then found it too unnerving. He packed up, but before he left, he put a folder on his desk. It would be too much to resist if Brandi had been sent here as a spy. She had to realize it wasn’t a mistake he’d make, but she might be so eager that she doesn’t think it through.
He’d spend tonight in his apartment here. That way he’d be here when Brandi arrived.
With his trap set, Zach used his secret entrance to the apartment and made himself some dinner. He pondered what he would do if Brandi fell into his trap. “Oh, Miss Marsing, we will have some fun if you’re a spy.”
With dinner done, Zach went to bed with a smile on his face hoping he’d prove Brandi a spy or not. He liked either outcome equally.