It was 6:15 p.m., and the lobby of Price Industries’ office tower was emptying even as I crossed the polished marble floor toward the line of elevator doors.
The interview wasn’t what made me nervous, though a lot was riding on it going well.
No. It was the elevator ride.
My claustrophobia was unpredictable and ranged from mild to severe.
Hitting the “up” button to call the nearest elevator, a cold sweat broke out on my back and forehead. My heart began to race as I dabbed my makeup, afraid it would smear.
Don’t sweat. Don’t panic.
With a friendly ding, the elevator doors opened, revealing a completely ordinary interior.
The enclosed space was what I couldn’t handle.
It felt like walking into my own tomb.
“Kate, get your shit together,” I said and forced myself to step inside.
The doors tried to shut, and I cried out, jumping back into the lobby.
I could breathe easy again once I was out of there, but what I needed was on the top floor.
That’s where Taylor Price’s office was. He was Price Industries’ CEO. A billionaire. A titan of industry. A recluse.
This was the second effort I’d made to get the interview; his secretary had just notified me that he’d accepted our request for another.
The first time, he’d canceled on me at the last second.
Arthur, my editor at The Daily House, was not happy that that opportunity had slipped away.
It wasn’t my fault, but results were the only thing Arthur wanted.
Well, if I didn’t get in this elevator, the result would be missing the interview and losing my job. And then basically my life would fall apart.
My Nana was the only family I had in all of Philadelphia—in all of Pennsylvania, for that matter. It was just the two of us ever since my parents had died when I was twelve.
And now, Nana’s life was overrun with doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, and treatments. She suffered from severe arthritis and osteoporosis, and the bills were always piling higher.
I needed this interview, and to get it, I needed to get in the elevator.
And to do that, I needed help.
I wiped a drop of sweat off my brow and peeled my eyes open. The elevator dinged and the doors were open.
“Ah!” As fast as I could, I jumped out.
The huge windows beside me looked down on an epic top floor view.
Immediately, my heart began to return to normal. That didn’t help with the sweat or what must have been a makeup disaster on my face, but I’d made it.
A huge smile broke out across my face. Rick was the best. I owed him big time for this.
I pulled out my compact mirror and saw my garish reflection; I gasped.
I found a ladies’ room and washed off the Rorschach test that had been my makeup.
I checked myself out in the mirror.
The girl with the amber eyes, dimples, and a shock of red hair that seemed to always catch people’s attention.
I gathered myself as I walked out to the reception area.
I found a blonde, petite, doll-faced girl in her early twenties sitting behind a desk and cleared my throat.
“I’m Kate Dawson from The Daily House. I have an appointment with Mr. Price.”
“Oh, of course,” the receptionist said, frowning slightly. Evidently I was not what she had expected. “Please come this way.”
She led me through a large minimalist hallway that reeked of power. At the end was a large mahogany door.
“Please have a seat, Ms. Dawson. I’ll inform Mr. Price that you are here.”
After Taylor Price had rescheduled our first interview, Arthur had not been pleased. He had even threatened to fire me if another newspaper got the exclusive before we did.
Nobody had ever had the chance to interview Taylor Price face-to-face; it was as if the man didn’t exist.
It was either that or he simply didn’t want to make his life public property.
So this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One that I could not afford to mess up.
Stop it, I ordered myself. ~Eyes clear. Head in the game. You got this.~
I watched as the secretary knocked on the mahogany door and entered the room. My palms suddenly felt sweaty.
I caught a glimpse of Mr. Price’s shoes before the door had closed. They were pitch black and almost looked like they were…sparkling.
“Of course, sir,” I heard right before someone emerged from his office.
I stood up, a smile spreading across my face.
“Mr. Price, I’m—oh.”
But it wasn’t Taylor Price. Another woman emerged from his office. I swallowed down the rest of my words.
Feeling inexplicably self-conscious, I tugged lightly at my black, high-waisted skirt. The woman was beautiful. Too beautiful to be working here.
“Ms. Dawson, I presume?”
“Yes,” I nodded. “But I was expecting Mr. Price?”
“Yes, I’m Kristen, Mr. Price’s PA. I’m sorry, Ms. Dawson, but Mr. Price will have to reschedule.”
“What?!” I blustered, disbelieving. “But I made it up here—I mean, why?”
“Unfortunately, he has another meeting scheduled.”
My hands coiled into fists. My nostrils flared.
“I’m very sorry, Ms. Dawson—Kate—but I’m afraid there’s nothing more I can do—except for suggesting a different day.”
“You don’t understand,” I fumed. “This is my career he’s playing around with. If I go back with the same story, my boss will fire me.”
“Please, Kate,” Kristen shook her head. “Mr. Price does not take kindly to office scenes.”
“I am begging. Two questions—one! Anything, please.”
“Please take the rescheduled appointment. I don’t want to have to call security.”
I threw on a sarcastic smile and hooked my bag over my arm.
“I’ll leave, but please pass Mr. Price this message for me. Do you have a pen? Please tell him, from me: fuck yourself you…fucking dick!”
I turned and stormed out, throwing open the door to the staircase, forgetting I’d taken the elevator, forgetting I’d have to hike down thirty-seven floors, forgetting everything.
All I could see was red.
I’d just told the most powerful man in the world to fuck himself.
Arthur was going to fire me.
I’m done for.
“She said WHAT?!”
I sat behind my big antique desk, brows knitted together into a thin line, while a flurry of activity and conference calls and emails and texts cut through the air of my crowded office.
Kristen stood before my desk with the trace of an amused smile on her lips.
“A. Fucking. Dick. Her words, Taylor. Not mine.”
No one, apart from maybe my father, had spoken to me like that. At least not to my face. My tolerance was limited, and my name far too reputable to allow anyone to tarnish it.
It wasn’t my fault that business had gotten in the way.
It’s not every day the opportunity to take over Jameson Enterprises occurs. I had just managed to snatch it from under Grayson’s nose.
A ruthless act?
There would have been hell to pay, but everybody who ever dared to come up against me knew better; no matter the circumstances, Taylor Price always won.
A lesson I intended to teach Ms. Dawson.
Kristen said, “Leave that poor girl alone.”
“You know how I feel about journalists,” I said. “And if she’s brazen enough to call me…”
“Yes. That. Where does it end?”
I was an incredibly busy man, and my time was valued somewhere around $90,000 an hour. Who did she think she was?
I should have just left it there.
But that wasn’t my way.
I’d pay the price to teach her a lesson.
A wave of dread surged through me.
I have devoted my life to my job—at the expense of everything else.
My only friend and family was Nana, and she depended on my job even more than I did.
Now, thanks to a big rich boy with a bigger ego, everything I’d worked so hard for was at risk.
I’m going to get fired.