the Cocky Hero World is going Paranormal!
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Available June 28, 2020
All I wanted was to escape the scandal.
The job offer in California was the perfect opportunity to pack up and head West.
A dark, sexy, and mysterious new boss wasn’t in the plan.
And his secrets run deeper than just his business dealings.
When Ethan reveals who and what he truly is, it throws everything I ever thought I knew about the world out the window.
The word alone brings up visions of blood-sucking monsters.
Yet, Ethan is anything but.
Falling for him, with his dashing good looks and honed charm, was almost inevitable.
But we’re from two very different worlds, and the danger in his might just bring an end neither of us saw coming.
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***
Copyright © 2020 T.L. Christianson
My shaky hand held the vape to my lips. Sucking in, I shook my head.
This is what I’d become—a charity case.
Of course, Aubrey Bloom had come through to save the day. Aubrey had been my first college roommate and my best friend. We ate all our meals together, took classes together and studied together. We even planned to go to law school together. We’d work at the same firm after that until we could start our own.
But, I was the weak link. After one semester, I realized that the law was not for me, and I dropped out.
After a few more drags, I dropped the vape into my purse and locked my car before gazing around.
This was not at all what I expected. I’d expected Dumont Tech to be in some high-rise downtown LA, or nestled in a suburban strip mall. But this—this elegant glass and concrete structure nestled on its own gated campus surrounded by trees and vineyards—I hadn’t expected.
Double-checking the email from Aubrey, I reread it.
You’ve been on my mind a lot these past months, and it worries me that you still aren’t working. So, when I came across an opportunity, I knew I had to act. One of my clients needs help while his personal assistant goes on maternity leave. I know this isn’t teaching, but it’s a job and only temporary. I thought maybe you could build your savings back up and look for a new teaching post here, near me. I set you up an appointment next Wednesday at 9 am with Mr. Dumont. The address is below.
Please don’t make me cancel it. You don’t even need to find a place to live. You can stay with Chance and me in Temecula—Dumont Tech is only 30 minutes away.
After driving cross country, here I stood, inside a gated estate meeting someone named Mr. Dumont.
Building up my courage to go inside for my interview, I sucked in a fortifying breath. Just as I turned to enter the building, I was startled by a motorcycle as it sped up the gravel road. A leather-clad figure rode the futuristic bike past the cars before parking on the concrete walk near the door. You’d think the bastard owned the place!
I leaned against my car, my head cocked to the side as I watched him.
Muscular thighs astride the bike, the bastard pulled off his dark helmet and unzipped his simple black leather jacket.
A sense of justice rose up in my chest, and I yelled out, “Hey, you can’t park there.”
“Oh yeah?” The corner of his mouth quirked up as he took me in inch by inch. Running his hands through his expensively cut hair, his pale blue eyes met mine.
“Yeah,” I told him, folding my arms across my chest and sucking in a deep breath.
Setting down his helmet and backpack, the stranger held his hand out to me. “I’m afraid we haven’t met—you are?”
“I’m Mr. Dumont’s personal assistant,” I lied, not having the job yet. As I neared him, the heel of my shoe wedged between two pavers. I glanced down and tried to pry it free, but my heel remained stuck.
I pulled some more, shaking my foot, rocking my foot to no avail.
The bastard’s chest began to shake until he was doubled over in laughter. When he controlled himself enough to wipe the tears from his eyes, he approached me.
However, my mood was not quite so jovial.
I bent at the waist, my pencil skirt hugging my legs as I attempted to undo the thin clasp at my ankle. However, I was so flustered and the narrow strap so tight, that I struggled.
“Are you stuck?” The bastard chuckled, a slight accent coloring his words.
Standing, I blew a breath out and jerked on the foot again. “It looks like.”
It didn’t budge.
Closing the space, he continued to laugh at me.
“Here, allow me to assist you.” As he knelt before me, the breeze shifted, and his scent washed over me. It was like the ocean mixed with soap or clean laundry and the wind. I knew it wasn’t a cologne but the smell of him.
I pursed my lips and thought that if someone could bottle that scent as a cologne, they’d make a fortune.
The stranger’s warm hands wrapped my foot, sending a jolt of electricity through my body that pooled deep in my belly.
With a small tug, my shoe was free, if a bit scuffed.
As his touch left my skin, I was surprised at my reaction to the loss of his fingers.
“Thank you,” I said briskly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment.”
My breath came out a bit shaky as the bastard stood before me with that arrogant grin. I wanted to slap the cocky expression off his chiseled face.
This man knew what he’d done to me!
Cocking his head to the side, he held his hand out again. “I’m Ethan.”
I raised one eyebrow at him disdainfully. “Caroline,” I said, striding to the building.
Only the blasted man’s long strides beat me. He pulled open the large glass door.
“After you,” he said smoothly.
“What about your bike? Aren’t you going to move it?” I asked, frowning.
“It’ll be all right.” He suppressed a smirk, his lip twitching to laugh at me again.
Gah! I wanted to either punch the man or kiss him, or maybe do both at the same time.
When Ethan disappeared once we’d entered, worry gnawed at me. He must be an employee. Did he have permission to park there? Should I apologize for telling him not to park next to the building? But to park on the walkway, with no shame? No. I wouldn’t apologize.
The entryway looked out over an orchard, the sun rising into the sky, creating shadows through the rows of trees.
“You must be Caroline? I’m Mel, the office manager. I’ll let Ethan know you’re here.” She told me, before tapping out something on her keyboard.
I spoke around a lump forming in my throat. “I thought I had an appointment with Mr. Dumont?”
The dark-haired, olive-skinned woman nodded. “Yeah, Ethan Dumont. You just walked in with him.”
“But he’s so young. I thought Mr. Dumont was a lot older than…” Than the cocky bastard I met out front.
She smiled kindly, “Mr. Dumont is a lot older than he looks.”
Leaning against the wall, I doubled over, rubbing my temples with the tips of my fingers.
I was screwed if this didn’t work out. I was out of money, in debt to my eyeballs, and had no place to live other than with Aubrey and Charlie…Chase? Chance? Chaunce? Whatever her new husband’s name was.
Aubrey had gone above and beyond to help me, and here I was single-handedly ruining everything!
“Ms. Blakely? Mr. Dumont will see you now.” She stood patiently near the door, waiting for me to follow. Dark wood doors opened into a sizeable multi-level workspace. A few people worked on computers, while one man was in a full-on upside-down yoga position. Two others played a video game inside a glass-walled room. The space was comfortable, but a little messy in a creative way. How did anything get done here?
At the far side of the room, a door stood open. Inside sat the man who’d pried my shoe from the pavers. He met my eyes from across the room as he spoke to someone out of view.
Mel ushered me through the chaos and knocked on the door frame. Ethan motioned for us to come inside, then handed a stack of files to the office manager.
“Thank you, Mel, please close the door behind you,” He told her.
Ice settled in my belly. Should I beg?
Nah… I was too proud. Damn it.
Hovering to the side of his massive cluttered desk, I watched his conversation with a glossy brunette woman on the screen. She wore pajamas but obviously sat in a hospital bed.
“…Like I said, I’m in here for the long haul. Until I pop this baby out, they need to monitor me,” the woman explained with apparent exasperation.
He blew out a breath and threw his hands up. “You can be monitored here. I don’t understand. Women have been having babies since the dawn of time,” Ethan responded like a true bastard.
But the woman held firm. “My final answer is no, I’m not leaving the hospital.”
With a frustrated groan, he ended the video call.
When I caught him eyeing me, I raised my eyebrows and eyed him right back.
“Please…sit,” he motioned and then skimmed through something on his computer. Rubbing his stubbled jaw, he met my eye and motioned to the screen. “As you can see, I’m in a bind. Ashley is my personal assistant. She was supposed to be able to work longer into her pregnancy, but she’s having complications.”
“We’ve done a thorough background check on you after my patent attorney, Aubrey Bloom, suggested you for the job. The two of you were roommates at the University of Maryland?” He read his computer screen, “But you dropped out of law school. Masters in education. No serious relationships …and were fired from Windham Private School.” He snorted.
I felt a blush spread along my cheeks. “I can explain that….” I stammered, pushing up my glasses. The heat radiating up my neck and face reminded me that my pale and slightly freckled face was turning a deep shade of crimson.
He looked up, and his pale eyes pierced my own. “I don’t care. From all indications, it looks like you were an excellent teacher.”
I twisted my grandmother’s silver ring around my finger, “Thank you.”
He nodded, “Well, on to bigger and better things. You need a job, and I need an assistant who will be loyal and protect company assets. I don’t trust many people, but I trust your friend Aubrey. She says you’re reliable, and our background check agrees.”
“Thank you so much…Look, about before, I had no idea who you were…I never meant to…”
He cut me off, “Oh Ms. Blakely, you created quite the diversion for me this morning. I appreciate an angry woman in the morning.”
I crossed my arms over my chest defensively. “I wasn’t angry.”
His chest rumbled, and he tapped the desk with his pen. “Fiery. I like that.”
I clenched my hands and reminded myself not to call him a bastard or misogynistic to his face.
“So, when would you like me to start?” I asked, hopefully.
“Today—now. Welcome to Dumont Tech.” He stood and reached his hand out to shake my own.
Pulling myself out of the chair, I took the offered palm.
Then my glasses slid from my face and landed atop a large stack of files. I smiled nervously, reached down to pick them up, and then it happened.
Time slowed down. First, one file tilted, and the contents fluttered out onto the ground. Then another one fell, until the large stack of thickly filled files lay in a heap on the ground. I froze in shock, surrounded by empty green file folders and a mess of papers.
For several moments, I didn’t move.
“Oh my god!” I whispered, kneeling down to frantically search for those traitorous spectacles.
Stepping around the pile, he scooped something off the floor before closing the space between us. Standing, I gazed at him like a deer in headlights while he slid my glasses back onto my face.
And just when I thought he was being nice, he said, “You can start by picking that up, then see Mel, and she’ll get you started on your employment papers.”
Before I could say another word, the bastard was gone.
I blew out a breath and began to leaf through the papers. I made myself comfortable…or as comfortable as I could kneeling on a Persian rug that sat atop concrete.
The going was slow as I began sorting the papers into the correct files. When the door opened without warning, I jumped. The intruder was a bleach blond, mini barbie doll of a woman. She covered her mouth when she saw the mess.
“Oh! Hi, you must be Ethan’s temporary assistant. Do you want some help?” She bit her lip as she looked for something on his desk.
“No, it’s okay,” I sighed, reading another sheet of paper.
The girl knelt across the pile and deftly picked up an intact bundle, setting it on our boss’s desk. “I’m Aster, by the way….I knew something like this was going to happen. Ethan always stacks too many things on the edge of his desk.” She glanced at the paper I held. “Here, give me that—it belongs to this file right here.”
“What exactly do you make here?” I asked, tapping a stack on my knee into order.
“Oh, we’re a security company. We do everything from on-site hardware to cyber-security. Like this,” she tapped her hand. “Ethan designed it, and I helped write the code for it.”
I shook my head, “I don’t understand. What did he design?”
“I have a chip inside my hand. It works like a key, a GPS locator and can even work like my debit card…my upgrade,” she laughed.
“That sounds like science fiction.”
Aster raised one perfectly penciled eyebrow, “Integrated biotechnology is becoming more mainstream.” Barbie tapped her last file together into a neat stack before standing.
I stood and set a folder onto the desk. “Thank you for your help.”
She beamed, her nose scrunching into an adorable button. “Any time. It’s a sausage fest in here, and I like to be on good terms with the one other woman…”
“What about the receptionist?” I laughed.
Aster blinked rapidly. “Oooh, don’t say that. Mel’s the office manager. Besides, she’s a robot, not a woman.”
I shook my head and chuckled before remembering Lucy. “Oh! I need to go check on my cat, she’s in my car.”
I rushed out of the office, through the foyer, and into the parking lot. Making my way across the pavers, like Indiana Jones avoiding booby traps, I came to my car. All of my worldly possessions were in this car in boxes and black trash bags.
I’d parked in the shade and left all the windows down just enough for ventilation but not enough to allow my old girl to escape. I hated leaving Lucy in the car, but I was late this morning with no time to run her by Aubrey’s.
Unlocking the door, I reached in to pet her black fur where she lay napping on the dashboard. Then I checked her water and food dish and I hopped out.
After locking up, I navigated the pavers back into Dumont.
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