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What you need, p.32
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       What You Need, p.32

         Part #1 of Need You series by Lorelei James


  I froze. And turned around slowly. My admin never called me by my first name.

  “You have to know this so you don’t go in there blind.” She grabbed the sleeve of my suit and dragged me around the corner. “Anita has a problem with the temp department. That’s why she ordered a thorough investigation.”

  “I know. The oversight committee ended the investigation last week. I’m still waiting on the results.”

  “The results are in. I just heard that from—never mind. The point is, they gave the results and their recommendation to Ash, not you.”

  “Why?” I asked, even though I knew exactly why.

  “Because you’re involved with Lennox. According to my source, Anita believes you can’t be impartial about the department when your girlfriend’s employment is at stake. So she requested the COO look at the report with a recommendation before it goes to Finance.”

  “Which means Anita is recommending dissolving that department.”

  “I would assume so.” She blew out a frustrated breath. “Okay, that’s a lie. I know that’s what she’s already done because she bragged about it to Lola.”

  “You’re kidding me.”

  Jenna shook her head. “Lola has been talking to me for the last few weeks. As head of Personnel, Anita has access to all of the classified information regarding annual reviews and employee reprimands. Some of the documents that the temps have delivered to Lola have been mysteriously lost after Lola logs them. And it’s not a coincidence that the ones that are missing are from the admins that Anita is tight with.”

  “Who else knows about this?”

  “I guess Lennox figured it out. When she brought up the missing paperwork with Ash, he referred her back to his admin. His admin threw a fit about a lowly temp overstepping her bounds and Anita was going to fire Lennox outright, but Lola intervened. Since then, Lola has been giving Lennox lower-level clerical jobs until her annual review. Then her position is somewhat safer.”

  “How did this get so fucked, Jenna?”

  “Your girl is too smart and too much of a go-getter—that’s what this company needs, but instead of being promoted for it, she’s been held back, and that pisses me off.” Her eyes glittered. “This bullshit has gone on long enough. I don’t know what immunity Anita has through your uncle, but I’d like to think the CEO wouldn’t stand behind a woman like that who’s freely allowed to carry out corporate sabotage.”

  “Can you get me proof of any of this?”

  She ran her hand through her hair. “Yes. Lola swears she documented everything. There are two immediate problems, though.”

  “Which are?”

  “First, the meeting is happening now and I’ll need time to sort through everything so you have all the documentation at your disposal. You can’t take this on without it. Second, your impartiality will be questioned since you’re involved with her.”

  “Sounds like this began months ago, before Lennox and I started dating. So it won’t be an issue—I won’t allow it to be.” Renee and Zach from my department walked by and I gave them a head nod before I lowered my voice. “I authorize overtime for you and Lola and anyone else you trust to get all the data compiled. I don’t care if it takes us all night.”


  I lifted an eyebrow at her. “Did you forget that a large portion of my job is finding and reporting discrepancies?”

  She laughed. “Yes, I guess I did.”

  “Batten down the hatches—it’s about to get rough.”

  I straightened my tie and grabbed the file folder from Jenna’s hands. “Make sure IT knows that no computer security changes are to be authorized for the next forty-eight hours. I don’t need Anita getting wind of this and blocking access. If anyone questions the order, tell them it has to do with a financial matter you’re not at liberty to disclose.”

  She rolled her eyes while offering me a tight smile. “This ain’t my first rodeo, boss.”

  I strolled into the conference room and made a mental note of everyone who was there. Anita and her secretary. Ash, his admin and her secretary. Nolan’s admin. Renee. Zach. Gaby from HR. I didn’t see Lola. I smiled, knew it looked strained and didn’t care.

  “While I’m not entirely certain what this meeting pertains to, and as my department received the memo a full day later than the other departments”—I looked at Anita—“your color-coding system gets a big fail for that, by the way—I can assume this is not an emergency. Since I do have a real crisis under way with one of the banks we deal with in China, this meeting will be postponed until eleven o’clock tomorrow. Any additional questions can be directed to my admin in the morning.”

  I walked out.



  I’d come in thirty minutes early to talk to Lola and give her my two weeks’ notice.

  Her office door was closed. As were her blinds.


  Unsure what to do, I took a seat in the hallway and tried to keep my nervous fidgeting to a minimum. I checked my phone for the fifth time—no messages, no missed calls from Brady. He didn’t seem the type to cut off all communication when he was upset. Then again, hadn’t I done that to him? Cut him off when he’d just wanted to offer me comfort?

  I closed my eyes. To further complicate matters, after four cocktails the whole mess with my mother had poured out to Annika. I’d cried like a freakin’ little girl in front of the woman who would be my boss.

  The defensive voice inside me retorted that I needed to talk to someone, and better her than to lay the burden at Brady’s feet. Annika had been so warm and understanding. She’d mentioned issues with her own mother, but then she brushed them aside as trivial when compared with what I’d dealt with. It hadn’t occurred to me that Brady might be upset that I’d spoken to his sister about my troubles rather than him.

  I watched the time tick away until fifteen minutes had passed.

  Then the door opened. I stood and Jenna, Brady’s admin, hustled out and rushed past me without a word.

  Why was Jenna down here talking to Lola?

  Not my business. I smoothed the wrinkles from my skirt and approached the partially opened door, knocking twice.

  The barked “Enter” should’ve been my first indication that all wasn’t well. The instant Lola saw me, her scowl deepened. “Lennox. What is it?”

  I’ve come to tell you I received a great opportunity for advancement within Lund Industries. I’ll be assuming the position of office manager for the PR department in two weeks. I’ve enjoyed working with you.

  But of course that wasn’t what I said. I blurted out, “I’m quitting.”

  “Shut the damn door.”

  I did as she asked and then lowered into the chair in front of her desk that sat a good foot below her throne.

  “You’re quitting. And of all the days you decide to tell me . . . of course you choose today.”

  It didn’t make any sense to me, since I’d just been offered the job last night. “Yes. That’s company policy—”

  “Oh, stuff the company policy and procedure. That’s what this whole mess is about.”

  “Umm . . . pardon?”

  She scrutinized me. “Did you have advance knowledge of this?”

  I didn’t know how to answer.

  “Did Mr. Lund give you a heads-up last night to offer your resignation so you didn’t get caught in the net and go down with the rest of us?”

  “Lola. I didn’t see Brady last night. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

  “Sure you don’t. And to think that your questions about procedure and protocol are what started all this. Well, that chaps my ass, girl. Big time.”

  I wondered if I was witnessing some kind of psychotic break when she shook her finger at me and warned, “Don’t you breathe a word of this to anyone. Got it?”

  “Absolutely. We are talking about me giving notice, right?”

  She looked at me and laughed. “Yeah, that
s all we’re talking about.” She pointed at the door. “Get to work. You’re still on main-floor reception the rest of this week.”

  Great. “Thank you.”

  She muttered something and spun her chair away from me.

  Well, that hadn’t gone as I would’ve liked. But at least I’d gotten it out of the way.

  And I was actually happy to be away from the craziness on the sixth floor for the day.


  I didn’t eat lunch in the break room. I found a lunch counter on the other side of the tower that catered to lone diners, with single seats and no booths. Otherwise I would have been too tempted to tell Sydney my news. While I trusted her, I suspected she’d be upset I was leaving and essentially moving up before she did. Then again, Syd hadn’t struck me as the ambitious type—not that there was anything wrong with staying in one place and doing a job you enjoyed.

  That brought my mind back to my conversation with Brady Saturday night.

  I had been sprawled facedown on his big bed, my body limp and sated after Brady had proven to me for the third time how much he’d missed me while he’d been traveling. His fingers were trailing up and down my spine, and he’d stop every once in a while and feather his lips over my tattoos.

  “You have the most beautiful skin.”

  “Why do you say that?”

  “Because it’s true. It’s pale, almost translucent. No freckles or sunspots. No scars.”

  “I’ve been called a vampire a time or two. But I’ve never been a sun lover. Not for any reason besides until recently I always worked until late at night and slept away most of the day. Cocktail waitressing is the ultimate SPF 100.”

  “I can’t believe with how smart you are, and how hard you work, that you weren’t offered managerial positions.”

  “Oh, I was. But I turned them down.”


  “Because I had more freedom just clocking in, taking care of my customers and clocking out at the end of the shift. I looked at the managers and felt sorry for the poor bastards. Scheduling nightmares, staff that doesn’t show up for their shifts, or they show up high. Then they also had to deal with jerky customers and complaints. Plus doing all the ordering.”

  “Sound like you really thought that through.”

  I rolled over to face him. “I saw a lot in ten years. I mean, technically, I wasn’t old enough to be serving drinks, but I had an ID that said I was. So by the time I turned twenty-one for real? I’d been a cocktail waitress for five years.”

  “None of your bosses ever said, ‘Hey, you don’t look older than seventeen, girlie’?”

  “At first. But after I’d worked a few nights, they didn’t care.” I ran my fingers through the dark hair on his chest. “So I’m also living proof that a work ethic isn’t inherited. My mother is lazy.”

  “Then I’d say your work ethic was learned from what not to do, which can be just as powerful a motivator, Lennox. Sometimes even more so.” He bent his head and traced the tattoo on my biceps with his tongue, sending gooseflesh rippling across my neck.

  “I don’t mean to sound like a recruitment poster, but why not do your job better than you thought you could? Where’s the satisfaction in being average? No matter where I worked, I took the job seriously. If I saw someone doing something wrong, I called them out on it. And if not them, at least the supervisor, and that puts me back to exactly why I didn’t try for a managerial position. I’d have to deal with someone like me.”

  Brady chuckled against the curve of my breast.

  “That tickles.”

  “Mmm. Not sorry.” Then he looked at me. “So I shouldn’t be worried that you’re gunning for my job at LI?”

  “Don’t be ridiculous. The best I can hope for is an office manager position. Doing what Lola does.”

  “Or what Jenna does?”

  “God no. Because then I’d have to deal with you or someone like you.”

  His eyes glittered when he lightly bit down on my nipple.


  “Sorry. I’ll kiss it and make it better, baby.”

  And he had.

  I shook myself out of the memory because I could sit here all damn day and moon over how thoroughly my man had seen to my needs all weekend.

  I pulled out my phone and texted him: I miss you. Can we talk?

  Less than thirty seconds later he replied: Sorry. Swamped. I’ll text you later.

  At least I’d gotten a response.


  I made it through another day of answering phones. Just two days left this week. It made me wonder what crappy jobs I’d get my last week in the floating pool.

  I returned to the sixth floor and the place was like a graveyard. Spooky. After I finished the report, I remembered I didn’t have to do that anymore since the audit was done.

  On impulse I took the elevator to the forty-fourth floor.

  Jenna wasn’t at her post, so I wandered down the hall. The door to Brady’s office was propped open, which was also spooky.

  Brady’s angry voice drifted out. “What else did she screw up?”

  “I’m trying to find it.”

  “Christ, how did this happen? It’s not like filing office documents is rocket science.”

  A sick feeling took root in the pit of my stomach.

  “Why wasn’t she supervised?” he demanded.

  “They have some autonomy, sir.”

  It’d taken me a moment, but then I recognized the voice as Lola’s.

  What was Lola doing in Brady’s office?

  “I don’t care who signed off on her. She doesn’t get to move to a different department without answering to me.”

  Holy crap. Had Lola approached Brady because I’d given my two weeks’ notice?

  I saw Brady throw a folder on the desk. “I should’ve seen this coming.”

  “Sir, with all due respect, you couldn’t have known.”

  “Everyone has talked about how ambitious she is. She was even invited to Lund family functions.”

  My heart stopped.

  “She’s thinks just because we—” He made a snarling sound. “I’ll fire her ass myself. And I’ll make sure she’s unhireable everywhere else in the Cities.”

  Oh. God. I clapped my hand over my mouth.


  I faced the sharp-toned whisperer.

  Jenna said, “You can’t be here.”

  I wanted to demand an explanation for why I didn’t have a say in this—I’d done nothing wrong except take what was offered to me.


  I left.

  Afterward I didn’t remember much of the drive home except for sitting in the driveway and watching the snow fall in big puffy flakes until I couldn’t see out the windows and I began to get cold.

  Kiley had company—a man, by the sounds of it. So I quietly crept up the stairs and into my room. I lay on the bed fully clothed in my outerwear and stared at the ceiling, absolutely numb.

  Eventually I overheated in my hat, mittens, wool coat, scarf and snow boots. I needed to cool off and shut down the endless loop of questions circling my brain.

  I shed every piece of clothing and crawled between the sheets naked. I slipped in my earbuds and cranked my MP3 to hearing-damage
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