When ruthless billionaire CEO Raemon Kentworth hires brash and outspoken computer programmer Octavia Wilde, sparks fly. Raemon is not used to being challenged and Octavia doesn’t take anyone’s shit. As their heated power games and one-upmanships play out like a chess match, the sexual tension crackles and their combative working relationship soon becomes something much, much more…
Age Rating: 18+ (Trigger Warning: Kidnapping, Violence.)
The wealthiest man in the whole city, and a complete enigma.
He was immensely attractive. Magazines used any excuse to splash his chiseled jawline across their front pages.
People always said his eyes looked like they could spit fire.
And he possessed a bank account that could buy anything his heart could possibly imagine.
Every man wanted to be him. Every woman wanted to sleep with him.
And yet he never married. He was the most eligible bachelor from downtown to the suburbs.
Every woman wanted him. Every woman drooled over him.
Except for our protagonist, Octavia Wilde, who had never even heard of the guy.
But that would all soon change.
Octavia Wilde leaned back in her chair and stretched her arms over her head.
She let out a slow, silent yawn, dropped her hands to her lap, and surveyed the multitude of job listings on her computer screen in frustration.
After spending the last five hours sitting hunched over her laptop, drinking cup after cup of coffee, her butt felt like it had become fused to her seat.
It had been like this for weeks and weeks. Every day, she would come to this cafe, apply for enough jobs to sustain a small country’s economy, then leave empty-handed.
Even with her skills as a programmer, she couldn’t get an interview to save her life. With her savings set to run out soon, she was getting desperate.
Octavia picked up her cold mug, tipped her head back, and poured the last few drops of dark liquid down her throat. By now, those last few drops were disgustingly cold, but Octavia was too grumpy to care.
Octavia did not stand out among the clientele of the hipster coffee shop. She wore a faded gray oversized hoodie, which she had paired with black tights and thick rainbow-colored socks stuffed into her ragged All Star Converse.
Her thick-framed, red-with-pink-polka-dots glasses added a flash of color to her look.
She only had one piercing in each of her small, plump earlobes, though, and her dark, curly hair was in a simple but distinct form of woven rows running from the front of her head to the nape of her neck.
She was Black, by the way. Or African American. Whichever term applied.
She shut the lid of her laptop and stuffed it into the book bag sitting next to her chair.
She’d go back to her apartment building, maybe spend the rest of the day curled up in bed, binge-watching that new detective series she just found and trying not to think about the imminent depletion of her savings account.
As she was winding up her laptop cord, she noticed the girl sitting in the far corner of the store.
Octavia first noticed her because her clothing looked a bit more professional than that of the average store patron.
But what kept Octavia’s gaze was the girl’s body language. She had one hand resting across her forehead, propping her head up as she stared at the screen of her phone on the table before her.
A small shudder of the girl’s delicate shoulders told Octavia she was fighting to hold back tears.
Octavia’s heart broke a little for the girl. Her day was going badly, but it was clearly nothing compared to this girl’s troubles.
Octavia thought for a moment, then decided to go see if she could do anything to help.
“Hi,” she said simply, dropping into the chair across from the girl without invitation.
The girl’s head jerked up. She quickly brushed away the glistening drops that were just beading on the edges of her eyes.
“Uh…hi,” she said hurriedly. She glanced nervously at Octavia in confusion. “Do I…know you?”
“Nope,” Octavia said. She gave a small smile, hoping to make the girl feel more comfortable. “I have no idea who you are. I just saw you from where I was sitting and…well, I wondered if you were okay.”
The girl blinked and smoothed her short brown hair out with her fingers, “Oh! Yeah, that. I’m fine…really”—her gaze dropped to the surface of the table—“…it’s just…you know, rough day at work.”
“Hey, we all have those,” Octavia said helpfully. The girl said nothing but continued to stare at the table’s surface. Octavia could see the despair the girl was only just keeping reined in.
“I’m Octavia,” she said finally.
The girl looked up, almost seeming surprised that Octavia was still there.
“Lauren,” she answered.
“Nice to meet you, Lauren,” Octavia replied. She gave her an encouraging smile. “You want to talk about what happened?”
“Oh, it’s nothing,” Lauren said hurriedly.
“All the same, talking about it might make you feel better. And I’m a pretty good listener.” Octavia prompted.
Lauren seemed dubious but eventually gave a small sigh. “It’s over. It’s all over. Everything I’ve worked for. Gone. Just like that.”
“Sounds serious,” Octavia remarked.
Lauren’s eyes clouded in desperation.
“It is. I finally got the job that would lead to everything. I finally got a chance to make something of myself. And it was going…well…okay. And then I”—she choked on a sob—“and then I blew it!”
“What happened?” Octavia asked.
“I did it. I wasn’t paying attention. I was so stressed out with all the other things I had to keep track of.” Lauren stared at Octavia through glazed eyes.
“It was one stupid mistake. I should have been more alert. I just…I was so tired, and…I was in a hurry.”
Octavia nodded in understanding. She waited.
“And…that’s when I did it,” Lauren said.
“The biggest mistake of my life.” Lauren’s head drooped. “I…I…I deleted his entire itinerary.”
It took a minute for Octavia to register the words. “You did…what?”
Lauren gave a weak shrug, “I deleted it. His entire itinerary for the whole month—gone. I was trying to add the presentation at the World Technology Summit next month.
“But I was also on the phone with the magazine editor trying to schedule an interview and photo-op. And I was supposed to delete the invitation to the charity event next week.”
She threw up her hands. “One click and poof! All gone.”
While Lauren rambled, Octavia had been piecing together what she could.
“That sucks. But I’m sure you could just make some calls and re-create it, right? Someone else must have access to it.”
Lauren was already shaking her head.
“He’s…he’s very private. Only his secretary and himself have access to his schedule. She told me—Adelaide did, his secretary—she told me to update the itinerary while she went with him to a business meeting.
“She’d said they’d be back by about three o’clock in the afternoon. I was supposed to finish up a bunch of things and have the new report ready by then. And then I did that.”
“It doesn’t…sound so bad. Maybe if you explain it to him…and this Adelaide person, of course…maybe they’ll understand. They might be annoyed by that, but…I mean, come on, it’s an honest mistake,” Octavia reasoned.
Lauren’s eyes, stricken with a sudden fear, shot to Octavia’s face.
“He doesn’t tolerate mistakes. Honest or otherwise. I’ve seen him fire people for much less.” She shook her head solemnly, tears again welling up in her eyes. “Once he finds out about this—I’m done for.
“I’ll never be able to work anywhere else ever again. People who get fired by him leave in disgrace and live in disgrace for the rest of their lives.”
While Octavia felt that kind of drama should be reserved for TV, she withheld that opinion from Lauren. Instead she said, “Did you talk to anyone in the IT department? Maybe they could retrieve it.”
Again, Lauren shook her head.
“I tried that. Once something gets deleted off his personal system, it’s gone forever. That’s how he does things.
“When it comes to his information, only a few people have access to it, and it’s guarded by the strongest security. Even his itinerary.”
Lauren sighed and picked up her phone. She glanced at the screen, the numbers reading 2:27 p.m.
“It’s no use. When he gets back, they’ll find out, and I’ll be fired. I panicked, so I came out here to get away. To try and think of…something. But—it’s pointless. I’m done for.”
She bit her lip nervously. “I really needed this job. I really wanted to be good at it too. I worked so hard. Now it’s all over.”
Octavia looked down at the poor girl and felt a sudden urge to help her. She stood suddenly, nearly tipping her chair over by the motion.
“How far away is your office?” Octavia asked.
Lauren looked up at her, somewhat bewildered. “Not far. About a five-minute walk.”
“Can you give me access to the computer you used?”
Lauren was silent, thinking. She replied, “Yes, I think so. I could get you a visitor’s pass, I guess. And get you up to the office. But…why?”
“I think we can still fix this. Let’s go,” Octavia said, gesturing for Lauren to show her the way.
After a brisk twenty minute walk through the city, they arrived at an imposing building located in the middle of downtown. Lauren steered Octavia inside and brought her up an elevator to the top floor.
The elevator opened up to a floor ablaze with white fluorescent light, formations of gray cubicles on one side and doors opening to empty conference rooms on the other.
As Lauren led Octavia down a hall to the very end of the office, a few people dashed by them, but no one paid any attention to Octavia.
Lauren led Octavia to a clean, spacious office with a single desk and chair against one wall and the adjoining wall providing a view of the city skyscrapers nearby.
Octavia sat down at the computer monitor on the desk after Lauren logged in and pulled open the cursed itinerary.
Octavia quickly scanned the program.
“See?” Lauren said nervously, raising the fingernails of her right hand to her teeth. “It’s all gone.”
“Looks like it,” Octavia agreed, clicking through a few of the tabs. “Let’s see what we can do here.”
The only sounds to be heard for the next few minutes were Octavia’s fingers on the keyboard and mouse.
Lauren stood behind her, arms crossed around her middle, still biting the nails off one hand as Octavia worked.
Octavia’s eyes narrowed in determination as she stared at the screen, clicking through different prompts at times and stopping to enter a command on the keyboard.
Seconds ticked by. Minutes. The silver clock on the wall opposite where they were displayed the shift in time with its blinking numbers.
“Done!” Octavia said suddenly.
Lauren’s head snapped up. She stared eagerly at the screen. There, in the program that had become the living image of her worst nightmare only moments before, was the sight of her sweetest dreams.
“That’s it! You did it!” Lauren exclaimed.
Octavia looked proud of herself. “Yup. You’re right about him using the best stuff. Had to jump through flaming hoops to find a cached version of the itinerary. But…oh well! Here it is.” She stood.
Lauren looked ready to cry again, only this time tears of joy. “I…I don’t know what to say. I think you just saved my life!”
Octavia seemed amused as she shrugged. “It was nothing. As for your incredibly unreasonable boss, well, that I can’t save you from.”
Lauren said, “I have to pay you back…somehow. Don’t know what but…I’ll do something. I have to!”
“Got a job to offer?” Octavia joked with a wry smile. “I’m broke as the day is long.”
Waving to Lauren, she slung her book bag on and walked through the office door.
Octavia found her way to the elevators without any problem. She made her way downstairs and started toward the exit.
That’s when she felt her phone buzzing in her pocket, so she pulled it out of the kangaroo pouch of her hoodie.
As Octavia typed in a response to the text she received, she walked through the automatic sliding doors of the entrance and started down the steps.
Her fingers flying across her phone’s touch screen, she didn’t notice the figure also just starting up the stairs of the building.
His head was bent over the sheet of paper in his hand. Octavia was focused on the text message she was just about to send off.
She mindlessly took what was supposed to be the last step off the granite stairs to the sidewalk. Then there was the collision.
“Oof!” Octavia exclaimed, her phone tumbling out of her hand.
She was almost thrown back, but given the careless speed at which she was descending the steps, she ended up ramming into the man. Octavia crashing into him merely budged him sideways.
Octavia, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Her body swung past him, and she toppled onto the sidewalk in an unladylike pile.
Like anyone who is suddenly transported from an upright walking position to lying on the ground, it took a few minutes for Octavia to realize what had just happened.
“Can’t be bothered to watch where you’re going, can you?”
The deep voice broke through Octavia’s stupor, causing her to look up at the face that towered over her splayed form.
To any casual observer, the man standing before Octavia was enough to turn a casual gaze into a riveted one. His broad form stood well over six feet from the ground Octavia lay sprawled on.
Though a long, charcoal coat covered his body, the bulges of muscle filling out the space within it were clearly evident.
But that was nothing compared to the sight of his face, giving way to an awe that could only be expressed with silence. A chiseled jawline held a firm, grim mouth set in a hard line.
The sharp outline of dark facial hair spread in a thin layer over the lower half of his face, covering an exact area around his angular jaw and just passing over his upper lip.
His lightly bronzed skin was smooth and taut, a surface that anyone would have reveled in running their fingers over.
Dark furrowed brows sat on top of even darker, penetrating eyes. His eyes seemed capable of spilling fire, though for the moment they were caverns of smoldering flames, waiting to be released.
He commanded respect, even adoration, with merely a glance of his eyes.
None of that mattered to Octavia, however. At the sound of his voice, she came to her senses and picked herself up off the ground.
“Neither can you, apparently,” she said in a huff, dusting herself off.
He narrowed his eyes at her.
“That doesn’t sound like an apology,” he said.
Octavia was searching the ground for her phone as she replied, “Because it wasn’t.”
The already cold look in his eyes intensified. He responded, his voice hard, “I’ll give you the next ten seconds to rectify your foolish actions…and even more foolish words.”
Octavia scoffed. “And I’ll give you the next ten seconds to leave me alone.”
The man’s eyes narrowed, anger threatening to boil over.
“Do you know who I am?” he said in a tone that was somehow both soft and dangerous.
Octavia did not know who this man was. But she should have. He was the wealthiest, most powerful, most desirable man in the city.
The same man every other woman for miles would give anything to run into on the street.
The one and only Raemon Kentworth.