You register buzzing in the distance, diffused, like it’s blended into the background. You hear it again, more perceptible this time. And again after that, louder still. You rustle in your bed, your face scrunching up at the increasingly audible sequence of vibrations disrupting the silence.

 

Your eyes crack open involuntarily, and a disgruntled groan tumbles out of you when the light singes them. You squint impulsively, shielding your face with one hand as your head whips around, in search of the source of the sound. You soon realize it’s coming from your pillow. You reach under it, feeling completely incoherent as your temples throb with a dull but prominent ache.

 

You fish it out with a sigh, holding it up to your face. You eyeball the screen through droopy lids, frowning when you note that it’s barely after seven.

 

Reluctantly, you tap the green circle and bring the phone to your ear, groggy and completely hung over.

 

“Hello?” you mumble against the atrocious huskiness clogging your throat. You silently kick yourself for drinking so much when you know you have as much tolerance for alcohol as a newborn prawn.

 

“Miss Myers?” A deep, resonant voice emerges on the other end, instantly waking you all the way up, demanding your full attention.

 

“Y-yes, this is her,” you stutter, sitting upright impulsively and clutching the phone harder.

 

“Good morning. This is Richard Zane of Zanergy.”

 

Silence.

Ra. Dio. Si. Lence.

It descends on you without warning, wrapping its clawed hands around your neck.

And squeezing.

Hard.

 

You go motionless.

As does your heart.

The image of distinct, golden eyes instantly flashes before you; the photo on Peyton’s phone and your live encounter merging seamlessly.

 

Richard Zane.

 

Richard.

 

Zane.

 

Suddenly, the static muscle in your chest flips to overdrive, speeding for no reason, like a fired bullet. Your own eyes bulge as the brows above them furrow. There’s a heavily extended pause—entirely on your part. Your lips part, but nothing leaves them as the crease between your brows deepens. Your mind scrambles, going completely and utterly blank for unaccountable seconds.

 

Now you remember why you drank so much.

 

“Miss Myers?” Mr. Zane inquires when your muteness stretches on.

 

“Y-yes, I’m here…Good…morning, Mr. Zane,” you finally manage, unsure of what else to say. The words stumble out of you awkwardly. And you don’t think it’s because of the hangover.

 

Oh God, this is not a good first impression.

 

Scratch that.

 

Second impression.

 

A cringe-worthy sequel to that catastrophic run-in two days ago. And he’s not even here in person!

 

This would have actually been your chance to make up for it, and you can’t even do that over the damn phone.

But who can blame you? Even after yesterday’s turn of events, he’s the last person you ever expected to hear from—let alone first thing in the morning.

 

“I apologize for waking you,” he says, seeming to sense the lingering roughness in your voice. “I believe Mr. Covington has informed you of your transfer to our headquarters?”

 

“Yes…yes, he did,” you concur breathlessly, clearing your throat again.

 

“I apologize for the short notice,” he continues, his voice incredibly deep and clear, laced with this crisp, enigmatic quality that you can’t really describe. “I know you couldn’t have had much time to prepare. I hope the sudden request hasn’t inconvenienced you too much.”

 

“No, not at all,” you blurt impulsively, instantly hating yourself for not being honest. ‘Inconvenience’ is a bloody understatement. There was nothing remotely request-ful about it. And, yet, instead of voicing your grievances, you can’t help but picture him; remembering his striking face. His hard, piercing features and strong jawline. His stunning bone structure, perfectly balanced. Hard alternating with smooth in all the right places. In all the right ways.

 

You recall his lips, envisioning them moving as he speaks. Salient. Exceptionally defined. Tilted in an alluring, involuntary frown that only enhances their gorgeous shape.

 

“That’s a relief,” he says, a husky edge accompanying the simple words.

 

Involuntarily, you bring your legs closer together against the sudden pulsing between them.

 

“To that end, I’ve made arrangements to have our transportation service oversee your relocation. They’ll contact you within the hour to organize a moving schedule at your convenience. If there’s anything I can do to further assist your transition, please don’t hesitate to let me know. You can reach me directly at this number.”

 

“Th-Thank you…I appreciate that,” is all you can think to say, trying your damnedest to keep your voice steady as the throbbing in your lower belly rises.

 

“My pleasure,” he replies, and you wish you could ignore the seductive quirk in his enunciation when he says it. “I look forward to working with you and the rest of the Earth Capital team.”

 

With that, he hangs up, and you sit there for several seconds, dumbfounded with your heart still racing.

 

Holy crap

 

You just talked to Richard Zane.

 

The conversation lasted for all of thirty seconds but, good God…you think you’re one hundred percent mesmerized by his voice. You could barely pay attention to what he was saying, unexpectedly taken by its depth and sonorous quality.

 

He sounds…sexy as all fuck.

 

You know you sound ridiculous for thinking that. And you have to wonder if it’s one of the side-effects of champagne-induced hangovers.

 

Without thinking, you lightly stroke the screen with your thumb, staring at the call log. Those magical, golden eyes flash before you again and you’re hauled right back to that elevator corridor, vividly recalling the feel of his hands on your arms even though the contact was so brief. And, while it may have only lasted a hiccup, the unforgettable sensation of his large fingers was far from fleeting. It’s as if they left an invisible imprint; a shadow meant to remind you of their existence every single day since they landed on you.

 

Impulsively, your own fingers graze your arm, touching exactly where his had been, and your heart accelerates anew.

 

You don’t know why you’re so nervous; why you feel this tense and jittery every time you so much as think about him. And now that you know what he both looks and sounds like, you find yourself exponentially more restless.

 

You continue to ogle your phone in something of a daze, like you’re trying to decide if you just imagined your conversation with Richard Zane in your post-drunken state or if it actually happened. Your eyes continue to latch on to the log, practically stalking the digits, and you can’t help but wonder whether this is his personal or work number.

 

You figure it’s the latter. This is a business-related call, after all. However…a small part of you can’t shake off the sense that this felt somewhat casual. Just a little. Especially given the timing. And it’s hard not to find it a tad peculiar that a man of his supposed status would be calling a lower-level, temporary, third-party employee for the very first time at seven in the morning on a Saturday.

 

Surely, he has subordinates or, at the very least, an assistant who could make these types of calls on his company’s behalf. From everything Peyton told you yesterday, he’s obviously a very busy ma—

 

Suddenly, your phone buzzes again, jolting you out of your thoughts as it vibrates in your hand.

 

Your heart sprints up your throat in tandem with it.

 

Oh, God…

 

He’s calling again.

 

***

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