So I published my first in the series at the end of December 2015 leading into the new year.
The Temp (Book 1 of 3)
Check out the Sample!
“This all ends if you do what we tell you to.”
Eve nodded into the receiver, her heart jack hammering in her veins. She hadn’t said anything in the last few minutes. How could she? Until this moment she hadn’t known if this was a practical joke or if she was in real danger.
The phone call had changed all that. This was real. The photos had been slipped under her door while she slept. She was none the wiser as she tore open the envelope with avid fingers. Eve lived the fairytale life away from her past, well as fairytale as she’d ever let herself dream. There wasn’t a man in her life or untold wealth; all the same, it was plain freedom. That’s all she’d wanted, for the time being. That was the fairytale and as the blood slicked cold and thick in her veins she realised she’d been living the placebo version all along.
Her heart leapt out of her throat when she saw the photos. Oh no. They were black, white and grey like old school spy pictures and so clear, so very clear.
She was in all of them. She, guilty of nothing. She, guilty of association. She thought she’d been cautious. She thought she’d been safe. She thought. The photos were followed by one singular line typed on the back.
We will contact you shortly.
Eve’s reaction had been imminent. Even if it was a joke, it meant her secret was no longer safe. It was a sick joke at best. She grabbed her bag and started packing.
Thirty seconds in, the phone rang.
On its first ring, Eve blanched, her neck craning to it, her expression frozen, hands trembling.
On its second ring, it sounded like a police siren come to collect her.
It rang one more time.
“Hello,” she’d hesitated. Her hands shook to the point she’d had to press the receiver hard against her cheek, pinching her out of any hope that it was a dream. It was a sick nightmare and she was squat in the middle of it.
“Eve,” the voice said, like Hamlet’s ghost in the middle of the night. “Don’t run Eve, we can see you. You cannot hide,” the voice was lazy deep with a slight hiss to it. She had the gut churning image of a man-eating Komodo dragon leaping out.
Her gaze scattered to her bedroom unit, to the windows, to the building opposite. As if she could feel those eyes on all sides. As if she could confirm it, she was boxed in. It was a feeling, one she couldn’t trust, an instinct she’d long learnt to ignore. She’d lived most of her life with that feeling and when it didn’t go away she’d had to bury it and move on. It came back today full on; no depth could bury that haunting prickling sensation on the back of her neck. “We will find you again; we have the resources, no matter where you go.” No matter where you go. Eve froze like a deer in headlights. “These are your instructions,” hissed the voice. Her chest beat so hard she could hardly what that was being said. “Is that clear, darling?” said the voice. Darling? Eve stared at the receiver, her hand in a death grip, fist white. He’d called her darling.
“Yes,” she stuttered. She swallowed down and closed her eyes. The panic had flared overshadowing her thoughts. For the first time she had a second to process what was going on. “How did you find me?” her gaze skittered across the room again. If they could see her, from where were they watching her?
There was a piercing laugh on the other end, the Komodo had teeth.
“It was too easy. What you have to know is if we can find you others can too. Help us and we’ll make sure you stay off the radar next time.” Next time.
“And once I do as you say, you’ll leave me alone?”
“Then we’ll see.” There was an intake of breath on the other line as if the Komodo was about to widen its jaws and swallow her whole. “You will wait for further instructions.”
“Why me?” she stammered, “I’m just a temp.”
“Oh Eve, you’re more than that.”
“Please, I didn’t do anything”-Eve gripped the receiver hearing the dial tone.
The line was dead.
The blackmailer put down the phone.
The girl sounded scared and completely on edge. Good. It meant she had no control of her situation, none whatsoever, which meant he had it all. His source came through about the girl. She was a prime target who would be willing to do anything he wanted, they always were. It was merely a question of how far he could push her and where she would seek solace.
His fingers drummed along the bench. Indeed, there was something intriguing about her. All the others before her had had real secrets worth keeping, incriminating sick secrets. Eve’s secrets made her a victim, made her different and he would use that against her. She was young and pliable; he’d create a monster out of her yet, in due course…She was fresh meat.
He pulled back his sleeve staring at his silver wristwatch. Years of planning were finally falling into place and if all went accordingly, Eve would be the last part of that puzzle.
Eve stumbled into the shark infested lobby.
Oh, god. She caught herself in time as she came out of the rotating doors. Her heels clacked on the marble swirl tiles. Such shine. So many hard surfaces. So much immaculate grey and infinite possibilities for her face to fall flat on them. She swallowed down the bile, unsteady in her heels. She was so out of her depth.
Her hands shook for what she was about to do. This wasn’t her forte, this wasn’t what she’d set out to do all those years ago. It was betrayal and she had no choice. Eve prayed above all else that no one would get hurt.
The call had come that very day, the same day her fate had begun freefalling on a noose. Eve had stared into oblivion from her couch as the phone rang for the second time. Her mind reeled over and over again with the possibilities of her escape and each time there was hope, fleeting hope. The risk was too high. The calculations weren’t in her favour.
She was a temp, a simple little temp.
So the phone had rung again…she answered it wordlessly. This time it was Layden’s Recruiting Agency. She’d never been called in person before, having always received her jobs through email.
“Hello, am I speaking to Eve Allure?” said the perky female voice.
“Speaking,” her lips numbed.
“This is Patricia Sparks from Layden’s Recruiting, I’m pleased to tell you we have a job for you, I know it’s short notice-” Eve switched the receiver to the other side, sighing outwardly, screaming inside.
“Normally I get my jobs through emails.” It was the dumbest response she’d ever given, even if it was true. Eve didn’t know what to say, how to respond. She was the epitome of passive-aggressive and being an online-add for temping was as passive as it got. She hardly ever had to sit for interviews and when she worked she was tucked away in an office or behind a desk. She didn’t fraternise much with colleagues. She was temporary, so they were temporary. What was the point?
“I understand the confusion. This company asked for you in particular. It’s a great company, great location and a higher salary than most jobs. It’s an unbelievable opportunity which every person would beg me for.” There was a hint of disdain in the woman’s voice as if Eve should well be begging for it.
It was all too coincidental to be the unbelievable job offer of the century. Eve gripped the receiver harder. This was the job. It had to be. She’d been asked for, no one ever ever asked for her. She’d be stupid not to realise it. The blackmailer had been unspecific about what she’d be doing; this was too much of a coincidence.
“A few weeks,” trilled the woman, as if she should be grateful even for a day. A few weeks, Eve’s posture relaxed marginally, therein was the silver lining. All the build up and it was all for a few weeks? How bad could a few weeks be? It wasn’t even six months, or a year.
“And which company is it?”
“You’ll never believe it,” the woman’s voice pitched as if she were gossiping to a friend. Eve’s brow knit together, there were more shocking things out there she wouldn’t believe. This was not one of them.
A few weeks…it was a small price to pay as Eve straightened up and smoothed out her blazer. She wore her best outfit for her first day, a pale grey blazer with a matching grey pencil skirt above a cream fitted blouse, it was form fitting. Her heels were patent black and her hair was clipped up trailing over the back in light auburn waves. She wore a silver chain with a locket and simple pearl earrings. It was elegant and understated, she hoped. As a temp, Eve couldn’t afford the high tailored fashion labels so many of the women wore in the industry. She gleaned around the foyer, confronted by bustling designer labels sauntering arrogantly passed ignorant of one another in their dog-eat-dog way.
This building towered into the skyline like no other building she’d ever worked in before. Roman Industries, ltd. The entire structure belonged to the company, the one she would be working for, another first for her. The company had over forty thousand employees in several departments dotted around the country and in other countries. Eve had never worked anywhere with more than a thousand employees. She wasn’t expected to know everyone was she?
Eve was administration, HR or anything involving pushing papers and getting coffee. After at least ten positions in other firms as a temp, coffee was one of those unwritten rules. Occasionally she’d see a man do it, though at large it was a woman’s job, like temping was largely a female domain. The world of the suits was largely a man’s playing field. Eve didn’t like it though she couldn’t say no to money in the bank. She got paid to do more than get coffee on her job description, though forget the boss’s skim latte with ½ sweetener and she could kiss her job goodbye.
The perks beings anyone she didn’t like would only be in her life for a few weeks. They’d be temporary, she’d be temporary and all would continue on as if nothing had happened and Anne the secretary who was on leave would come back and no one would be the wiser.
Eve sighed. She was a fly on the wall and liked it that way. Her neck craned up at the high ceilings of the foyer, midnight glass winking back at her. The building on the outside was a black opaque titanium and glass structure right out of the set of whatever last star wars movie they’d made. She was way in over her head. She’d never worked for a company so well known, so impressive. So…swallow her up whole.
She’d heard of Roman Industries, as had the rest of the world. They were the leading company in microchip technologies and other things she couldn’t wrap her head around.
Her heels clacked on the marble webbed floor. From the foyer’s walls hung a giant cast iron statue, full of masculine sexless edges. On the other side was a twenty metre high painting, a pop art-blood red set against black comic and white.
It was ten to eight and suits wove into the foyer streaming to the back where the elevators were. Eve halted at the security desk.
A heavy weight man in a grey suit watched the screen of a camera behind a high topped desk.
“Hi,” her voice was overshadowed by footsteps, elevators dinging and heels clacking. She cleared her throat. “Hi.”
The heavy weight glanced up.
“I’m Eve Allure, it’s my first day,” her voice had never been so small before standing before a hulk who most probably would crush her if she happened to be in the wrong place. This was like the first day of school standing in front of the head mistress.
Next to the hulk sat a woman with a pinched face. The woman looked up at her, her mouth tugging up, her eyes remaining unwelcome. Her head titled to the side like a snake regarding its next meal.
“Eve Allure,” she repeated managing to raise her voice if only by a margin.
Snake-eyes turned to her computer screen, her fingers sliding across the keypad in quick succession. There was a feint purring and moments later a badge spewed out.
“This is your temporary badge,” said Snake-eyes, eyes lighting up, emphasis on temporary, knowing full well by Eve’s mousy appearance she’d never make it in the big leagues.
Eve didn’t look at the badge. “You don’t need my picture?”
“I already have it. You’re expected on the forty fifth floor.”
Eve’s eyes widened, she cleared her throat, “forty fifth? Are there windows?”
“Afraid of heights Miss Allure?” the woman’s head tilted again regarding her like a child, her hand clasped under her cheek revealing devil sharp fuck-me nails.
Eve stared at the badge and blanched. Her photo had been taken from some invisible stand point. She looked deathly pale and indistinguishable blending into the grey and black background. The woman at the desk gave her one last up and down, her gaze trailing from Eve’s on-sale grey blazer to her last season’s handbag.
“Thank you,” Eve walked away from the desk and beeped into the gateway. Thanks a lot, she bit her lip. From the look of Snake-eyes she wouldn’t enjoy these next few weeks, not if everyone was as predatory as the woman at the front desk.
Eve stood in the corridor of elevators, a medley of choices.
One elevator was for even numbers only up to floor twenty. Another was for odd numbers up to thirty. There was nothing leading to forty five.
“Excuse me, where’s the elevator for floor forty five?”
“The other side,” someone said. The other side? Eve spun out and watched other suits file further down heading to another set of elevators.
The difference was clear as she made her way across, balancing precariously in her heels. They were finer suits, tailored to perfection. Gucci woman with Prada handbags and fuck-off faces stood in line. Men in pinstripe Armani with their rule the world grins congratulated each other on last night’s conquests.
Eve was dwarfed in their wake. She tiptoed in after one group and as the elevator ascended she was swimming in a sea of sharks, Great White sharks and black killer sting jays.
The pressure built steadily in her ears, her hands pressing to her head. Breathe. It wasn’t bad enough she would be on the forty-fifth floor with the butterflies in her stomach. Any moment she would be eaten alive, either her label less outfit would be the cause or her petite shoulders, downward eyes and youthful expression.
The elevator binged to the penultimate floor and Eve was almost herded out by men and woman rushing passed, swallowing her in the tide.
Her ears popped as she stumbled forward, the tide subsiding. She stood there for a mere thirty seconds and that’s all it took. Her head hunched forward. She recovered in quick succession. Rule number one in a sea of sharks-don’t show fear. Mark your territory, though she couldn’t exactly pee on a fire hydrant.
She straightened up, brushing down her blazer. Breathe.
The floor bustled behind glass doors muffling them into opaque silence. The reception sat before her in vampire red and liquorice black and a woman who could have been related to Snake eyes sat at the front desk.
Eve stood stock still, her heart beating out of its chest, her feet refusing to budge. Until the next wave of elevator riders swam behind and she tripped.
Her. World. Swam. Before. Her.
The floor came up to meet her.
“Wo, are you alright?” his hands were strong against her body lifting her with ease before she could meet the floor, warm long fingered hands. They righted her glinting silver cufflinks like angelic wisps.
Eve swallowed and nodded her head not rising up to the challenge. The Great White stood before her. Don’t show fear. Don’t let him see your weaknesses.
“Nervous?” he said, his honey liquid voice caressing her body.
She nodded still not looking into his face aware she’d just given a shark ammunition. She stared at the suit before her, grey pinstripe, maroon leather shoes, a silver striped tie at the level of her eyes.
She couldn’t do this, this was her first day. She had to be brave. She had to or else how was she going to make it here? Passive-aggressive wouldn’t help her now. It was a few weeks after all, a few weeks.
Her hand reached out steadying herself. She did the unthinkable. Her gaze travelled upwards. Her breath caught. Her cheeks pinked.
She knew that face. In person he was so much more…disarming. He had a strong jaw line, light features and sparkling aqua eyes, and his scent; it was musty and hearty, not poignant, weakening her knees. She must look like a toddler unable to walk in his midst.
“Sorry,” Eve stammered and brushed herself off casting her stare downward, anywhere but up. She couldn’t act like this. Not with the boss watching and he was the boss. He was Trigger Raines, her direct boss and one of the most eligible bachelors in all of New York. His face had skimmed the newspapers a few times, Eve didn’t read the headlines as often as she’d liked.
“That’s alright, happens to everyone,” his voice oozed confidence. “Miss”-his eyes bored into hers pulling her gaze back down to her shoes.
“Eve Allure,” she peeked up between her lashes. Why was she acting like this?
His eyebrows shot up. “Would that be Eve, my new assistant?”
“Yes,” still she couldn’t look at him.
“Trigger Raines,” he extended his hand, “everyone calls me Trigger.”
Eve hesitated a moment, before taking it. The spark was instantaneous and shot all the way down to her toes. Her stomach fluttered, her pupils dilated.
“Are you ok?” his voice was husky sweet. She nodded without looking up, she must look so ridiculous. He leaned in close, very close for a near stranger, releasing all the air from her lungs. “Word of advice Eve,” he said. “Never apologise. It’s a sign of weakness. This floor will eat you alive if you let them. Don’t ever show it,” from her peripheral she saw his eyes glint like sparked flint widening hers, feeling a familiarity from his words.
She nodded afraid to say anything that would incriminate her weaknesses. Their hands were still locked together, a warm sensation. He put his other hand on top of hers; she hadn’t felt that much intimacy in months, years even. “Meet me in my office in half an hour; I have a meeting before so I’ll be indisposed till then, make sure you get Angelica to give you a full tour.”
The elevator dinged behind them and Trigger stepped in before Eve could muster her wits to ask where his office was or who the hell Angelica was. His gaze held hers till the elevator took him.
Whoosh, her lungs deflated. She blinked, still standing in the same spot as before, her heart slowing out of critical. She’d just met one of New York’s most eligible bachelors, her direct boss, one of the biggest sharks in the tank. None of which mattered as in the next five seconds she would meet Roman Pierce.
The man who owned the company.
The man who owned a fraction of the world.