Brandi’s phone woke her up the next morning. She was eager to get to the office, but her friend Lauren was calling her. “Lauren?”
“Hey, Brandi,” Lauren said.
There was excitement in her voice. Brandi wasn’t fully awake, or she would have asked about it specifically. “What’s going on?”
“Well, I’m getting married.”
Brandi took a moment to digest that. Her mail had been filled with bridal shower and wedding invitations. All of the women she went to college with were getting married. Some were married and having their first child.
Brandi loved her job and she was eager to take over for her father, but when she saw these invites, she felt a little left behind. Marriage and children would happen someday, but she wasn’t any closer to it than she’d been a year ago. Or at any time in her life. “Wow, that’s great, Lauren. I’m so excited for you.”
“Thanks. You’ll be my maid of honor, right?”
Brandi cringed at the idea, but Lauren was her best friend. “Sure.”
She would have to plan a bridal shower complete with silly games and party favors. This was not what Brandi was good at.
“We haven’t set a date because Todd just asked me last night.”
“Well let me know as soon as you know. I’ll put it on my calendar.”
Brandi stumbled out of bed as she listened to her friend go on about all the details she’d need to take care of. Brandi might never marry at this rate since she hadn’t gone on a date in, ugh, two years? Then her mind went to Zach and his great butt. No. Don’t go there, she admonished herself. He wasn’t dating material. Besides, she liked guys who were lower key than a billionaire.
“Well, I better let you go. I’m sure that father of yours doesn’t let you be late.”
It was on the tip of Brandi’s tongue to tell Lauren who she was working for, then she decided not to. Lauren would remember when Brandi had a crush on Zach and she’d never hear the end of it.
Lauren hung up before Brandi could say goodbye. Shaking off her melancholy, she took a shower and prepared for her day.
Brandi once again arrived in the office before anyone else. She eyed the bookcase and decided she would explore that another day. She slipped into Zach’s office as easily as yesterday. Why didn’t he lock it? He must not keep anything here or he’d assumed long ago that no one was out to get him.
She shook her head. That couldn’t be it. There was something on his desk today. She looked around. Was this too easy or had Zach become complacent? She sat on his butter leather chair and eyed the folder.
The chair smelled like Zach. It was a mixture of soap and man. She inhaled it for a moment, her body coming alive.
“What is wrong with me? He’s just a guy.”
A dirty businessman that she was here to bring down. She shook herself and stared at the folder. Now that she possibly had evidence, why was she hesitating? Just because she was attracted to him, didn’t mean he wasn’t guilty.
Steeling herself, she opened the folder. She read the top page. This was a building that she didn’t recognize. “Where is this?”
She flipped through some more pages orienting herself before she could decide if this was what she’d been looking for. The last page was a copy of a ledger. There were payments to officials. Her heart rate sped up. This was it. “Gotcha.”
Wherever this building was, Zach had paid off some officials. Why? There was nothing in the notes about why, but she could trace the bank transfers if she could get access to them. Her father would know what to do with this.
She pulled out her phone and stood to get a better angle. She took pictures of every page. When she was on the last one, the office door swung open. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Brandi’s breath left her body. Her mind searched for an explanation. Something plausible. Nothing came to her. She hadn’t heard the elevator ding. Had she been so engrossed in what she was doing that she missed it?
“Hand me your phone, Miss Marsing,” Zach said.
His tone told her that he wasn’t kidding. She finally took in a breath, but still, no story came to her. This was her second day and she was about to be fired. She walked around the desk and handed him her phone.
He swiped through the photos she’d taken.
“I can delete them.”
He clicked a few buttons. “No.”
Her mouth fell open in surprise. “No?”
“No, Miss Marsing. I’m sending them to my phone. Besides, I have you on camera taking those photos.”
He handed back her phone. “A camera?”
She hadn’t seen that coming. She’d searched for them yesterday. Zach pointed to what looked like a light in the ceiling above his desk. Her mouth went dry.
“Seeing as you are the daughter of my biggest competitor, this can be considered industrial espionage.”
“And what you’re doing isn’t legal either.”
Zach strode around his desk then settled on that chair that she liked the smell of. Why was she thinking about his scent now? “That’s another issue, Miss Marsing. I’m not concerned if you shout from the rooftops what is in this file because it isn’t mine.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Close the door, Miss Marsing.”
She did as he asked. He motioned for her to sit. “I’d rather stand while you fire me.”
He crossed his arms and chuckled. “It won’t be that simple.”
He tapped his chin as she stared at him. Several emotions crossed his face, none of which could she identify. “Just fire me and get it over with.”
“Oh no, Miss Marsing. I’m either going to call the police and have you perp-walked out of here in front of cameras or . . .”
She didn’t think the “or” was going to be much better than jail. She never should have underestimated Zachary Wilder. She swallowed a lump in her throat. “Or?”
“You can do as I say.” That didn’t sound good. He rose and walked around the desk to sit on the edge. “As I see it, I have some good blackmail material here. You go to jail or do what I want. Anything I want.”
Her heartbeat did a staccato in her chest. What was he suggesting? Her mind raced through several scenarios until she came up with one that seemed the most obvious. He was a man of power. He liked having that power and using it. Maybe even with women. “You want me to sleep with you?”
His face went dark. “I don’t need to force anyone into my bed, Miss Marsing. I have many that are all too eager to have me as a notch on their bedpost.” He straightened. “No. This will be far more public. Probably painful for you and deliciously, for your father also.”
She didn’t like the twinkle in his eyes. Brandi was rethinking jail. Her father would get her a great lawyer. It might be less painful than what Zach had in mind. “What is it you want?”
He went back to sitting on his chair, a chuckle coming out of him. “I’ve had a few too many women lately think I was serious with them. I need a way to get them out of my hair. I also have a few events that I need to have a date for. It is the price one pays for being a handsome billionaire.”
She wanted to gag at his ego. If his head got any bigger she wouldn’t fit in his office. Jail was looking better and better. “Just call the cops.”
“You don’t want to hear my proposal?” he asked.
“Not if I have to deal with your over-inflated ego.”
He didn’t flinch at her word. She doubted she was the first woman to say that to him. He shrugged. “Your choice, Miss Marsing.”
“Tell me what I’m choosing between,” she demanded.
“You either go to jail. Or.”
He let the word hang in the air and she resisted leaning forward in anticipation. He finally went on. “Or, you pretend to be my fiance’.”