I head back to the Core complex, singularly focused. The feeling I get when I step inside my apartment is both novel and familiar. I eventually got used to Michaela’s absence back at our apartment so returning to an empty flat isn’t all that new, but a small, habitual part of me was expecting Nyx to come running to my feet. This new, complete solitude will definitely take some getting used to.


I pace around rather aimlessly for a bit, like I need to physically and mentally decompress from being around a certain someone before I can even think of functioning. I exhale, kicking off my heels and changing into more comfortable house clothes before getting started on the task at hand.


Over the next several hours, I go over all the Z to A project files and documents multiple times, intent on being as thorough as possible. Each run-through makes it easier to come up with a good, sizable list of questions; some for clarity and others integrated with alternative suggestions for safer, more environmentally friendly options—particularly for the drilling phases.


Even though I’m the one who suggested this project briefing, I’d rather have him just abort the damn thing in its entirety. Frankly, that would be my ultimate suggestion.


There isn’t a part of me that doesn’t wish I didn’t have to work on this account…but I can’t deny that meeting the man at its center was nothing short of breathtaking.


His reputation doesn’t just precede him.


It falls short.


A combination of self-imposed homework, too much coffee, and my mind going rogue every so often with thoughts of golden wolf eyes ensures I fall asleep at a very late, unknown hour.




A loud vibration jolts me out of a dead slumber, my eyes cracking open suddenly at the invasive sound. I squint impulsively through heavy, swollen eyelids, reaching for its source.


I hold my phone up to my ear with all the enthusiasm of a toddler going to the dentist, every muscle in my body aching.


I fell asleep on the floor, I realize, project files and documents sprawled about.


“Hello?” I say begrudgingly, annoyed at whoever it is on the other end for interrupting my sleep.


“Good morning, Miss Myers,” a familiar voice says, and I realize it belongs to Hank, the residential manager. “Your car is waiting downstairs to take you to work.”


I bring the phone away from my ear, my eyes darting to the little digital clock…and they almost fall out of my face.


“Oh, shit!” I blurt, praying the hushed, panicked curse doesn’t make its way into the receiver, jumping to my feet like I’ve been possessed. “Thank you for letting me know. I’ll be right down,” I add before hanging up, practically flinging the device onto the table as I sprint to the bathroom.


Oh, my God…


My briefing with Zane is in twenty minutes!


Fuck, I can’t believe I slept through my alarm.


I race around the apartment like a ricocheting bullet in a metal cage, somehow managing to give myself some semblance of presentability in my crazed rush, almost falling flat on my face in the process.


Five minutes later, I’m sprinting out of the building and into the familiar town car waiting for me in front of it.


“I’m so sorry I’m late, Edgar,” I pant as I as I close the door.


“That’s quite alright, ma’am,” he smiles, putting the car in drive.


We pull up to HQ ten minutes later, my heart hammering as I glance at my watch for the millionth time.


Oh God, this is not a good look; showing up late for my very first meeting with my new boss—the damn CEO, no less.


A meeting I proposed.


And after Renée stressed so much on punctuality yesterday.


I can’t believe I overslept. And of all the times for it to happen!


“Mr. Zane has prepared a pass for you to access his office,” Edgar says as the car comes to a stop, handing me a sleek, metallic card.


“Thank you so much,” I smile, grateful for his understanding of both my tardiness and scattered disposition, literally running out of the car. I make a dash for the top floor, my lungs on fire as I impatiently watch the metal wall descend. The glass door is wide open when I arrive, and I stagger into Zane’s office, damn near tripping over my own feet in a flustered rush.


Seven-thirty on the dot.


I take in a deep breath, straightening my spine, hoping I didn’t just sweat through my clothes.


“Good morning, sir,” I say, approaching his desk timidly.


“Good morning,” he replies measuredly, his eyes latching onto mine from behind it, the intensity of his stare spawning a colony of goosebumps all over my skin, augmenting its already flushed condition.


The simple, generic greeting is a complete contrast to the energy he gives off. To the absolute power in his unrelenting gaze. And I have to do my absolute damnedest not to let it throw me off.


He puts away the folder in front of him. “Are you ready for the briefing?”


“Yes,” I nod, trying to compose myself as he gestures for me to take the seat opposite him. “I created a questionnaire to streamline the process. I hope that’s okay.”


His expression remains fixed. “That’s fine.”


I clear my throat nervously, pulling out my file, my heart beating faster. Even with my focus on the documents in front of me, I can feel the heat of his gaze on my body, his feral eyes like flames tasked with the sole purpose of incinerating anything in their line of vision.


And right now, that’s me.


Silence trickles on, punctuated by the rustling of papers, and I decide to just dive right in, unable to take this heavy, overbearing tension.


I lift the questionnaire, keeping my eyes on it as I intentionally avoid his.


“All right,” I begin. “First question: When was the last time you had sex?”


As soon as the words leave my lips, they resound in my ears…and it takes me a minute to register what I just said.


Without thinking, my eyes dart back up to Zane’s, awareness belatedly creeping in through stunned confusion as my brain catches up with my voice.


They flit back to the paper in my hands, widening as they land on the words I just read out loud.


I realize I’m not looking at my Z to A questionnaire.


With a heightened sense of foreboding, my gaze travels to the very top of the page…and my heart literally stops.





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