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Babygirl: A Dark Mafia Billionaire Romance by Korey Mae Johnson – Sample

Chapter One


I hadn’t gone to school since the second grade and had been forced to make use of the worst options homeschooling had to offer, but I imagined that school must feel a lot like walking into the B&V complex in the middle of Seattle, only B&V was a million times better than any school probably would have been.

For the first time in my life, I had friends I enjoyed, and seeing their smiling faces when I approached campus and slid up to the motorcycle parking with my moped was a balm to my very soul.

“Hey, Jacey!” said a thin young man with tousled sandy hair and dark sunglasses despite the cloudy fall day.

Jacey wasn’t my name, of course. It wasn’t even close, yet I’d gone by it more than my real name, Josephine Carrow. Josephine Carrow was recently nineteen and didn’t have a high school diploma, let alone a bachelor’s degree in computational engineering.

But Jacey Templeton had it all. A degree in computational analysis, a cellphone, a computer to call her own, and a studio apartment just down the street from her job. Jacey had a credit card. Jacey had a driver’s license that allowed her to buy all the beer she wanted, because Jacey Templeton was twenty-three.

“Hey, Rabbit,” I told the twenty-something man who was coming towards me. He had quite noticeable OCD, and his essence reminded me of a smoother version of the neurotic bunny from Winnie The Pooh. I was horrible at names, and so I had long ago realized that they didn’t matter anyway, and to give everyone a nickname that they could tolerate.

He grinned, because I had called him ‘Rabbit’ a few dozen times before. I think he was proud of it; he wished we were all as organized as he was. He just readjusted his perfectly clean, smudge-less sunglasses. “Me and some of the guys are going to the hookah bar down the street after work. It’s new, near the college. Wanna come with?”

“Hell yes. Do they have that fluffy bread and the deliciousness you dip it into?” I asked while locking down my motorcycle’s stand and throwing my helmet under my arm.

I couldn’t see his eyes, but his body straightened as if he expected a joke that never came. “Are you talking about naan and hummus?” he finally asked.

I shrugged. “Maybe. I saw someone eating it on TV while they were at a hookah place.”

He frowned, eyeing me curiously. “Ever smoke hookah?”

“Yeah,” I assured, nodding. “At least that’s what I’ll say in…” I glanced down at my cellphone that I pulled out of my pocket. “Nine hours.”

“In that case, how about you and me go to—”

“Nope. Can’t go to that, Rabbit. Got a thing,” I assured, waving my hand defiantly.

He raised an eyebrow. “You know, going on a date wouldn’t kill you. All social interactions don’t have to happen in large groups. Although, the guys are wondering if you’re a lesbian.”

“Nope. I turned down Hot Print-Shop Girl on the sixth-floor last week. Just nobody saw it,” I assured him, trying to keep things sounding loose and positive so he wouldn’t grow pouty or annoyed.

Rabbit swore. “Fuck! Lacey’s a lesbian? God damn it.” He kicked at the floor as we walked into the building, nearly tripping himself on the doorframe.

“Get on a dating app, dude. I’m basically asexual.” I wasn’t. I had masturbated that morning to my favorite poster, which was of a man. Rabbit wasn’t a bad looking guy; he was tall, with his sandy hair brushed back. He had decent pecs, but he wasn’t anything like the man on my poster. “Although you’re totally hot, so you know the problem has to do with me.”

He moved his sunglasses down his nose and grinned at me. “Think so?”

“Fuck yes. You’ve got that devil-may-care thang going on. Girls love that shit.” I plopped down onto the seat of my uncomfortable cheap chair at my desk and turned on my computer. I honestly didn’t know what girls liked; I had been with my own sex so seldom that girls could be into skinny guys with pigtails by now, and I wouldn’t have been any the wiser.

“What you guys talking about?” Glasses, the guy on the other side of my cubical, said as he popped his head from behind the screen.

“About you. Always talking about you, Glasses,” I assured, misting the row of plants on my desk with a pre-filled spray bottle as Rabbit chuckled.

“Knew it,” Glasses said with a squint, although he was good natured about it too. He was probably my closest friend in the building. “You got embarrassed at the Geekery yesterday,” he said, pointing to Rabbit.

I looked up at Rabbit and dropped my jaw. “What the fuck is The Geekery, and why haven’t I heard about it yet?” I demanded.

“It’s just a pub,” Rabbit explained with an eyeroll. “They do trivia competitions there all the time. You know, for geek stuff. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, you name it.”

“I love geek stuff! You gotta tell me when you’re hanging out there because I’ll—”

The room suddenly became very quiet, and I stood out of my cubical to stare at what everybody else was staring at.

It was the ‘B’ from the B&V title. It was Mr. Wilhelm Brunner himself, walking through the room with an entourage of sycophants, all seeming to be talking to him at once. The reason the room quieted was mostly because of all the idol worship. Men wanted to be Brunner, and women wanted to screw him.

Retro, my co-worker who didn’t seem to have noticed that the seventies and eighties were over, took in my unimpressed reaction to him and said, “You never had a thing for Wilhelm Brunner? All girls have a thing for Wilhelm Brunner,” he snorted at me as he crunched his hand grip strengthener. “Well, all lady geeks, that is.”

“She thinks he’s a psychopath,” Glasses reminded him.

The desk cattycorner to mine had a hippie I’d nicknamed ‘Kite’ because he was always stoned. He fashioned himself to look cool on-purpose with long black hair and gauge earrings. “You mean sociopath?” Kite guessed, turning towards us.

“No, he means psychopath—there’s a difference, but I didn’t even say that,” I corrected Kite while gesturing at Glasses. “I said that he’s hiding some sort of psychological disorder.”

“You don’t say,” Retro teased with a head wag, as if I was just saying this because I was jealous or in competition with Wilhelm (although maybe that was true, as well).

I lifted a shoulder, then sat back in my chair, grabbing my hand-squeeze ball. “A friend of my dad’s and I were talking once, and the friend used to read stacks of psychology books. Probably trying to fucking shrink himself, because he was obsessed with this shit… Anyway, he told me to always be suspicious of people who laugh only when they’re supposed to laugh, are serious only when they’re supposed to be, angry only when they’re supposed to be. People aren’t perfect, so when one seems to be going out of their way to be, then they probably have taught themselves to wear a mask extremely well. Wilhelm Brunner,” I pointed towards the elevator, “does nothing but wear masks. There’s something mean under there, I think.”

“You didn’t see the Late Night Show episode he was in,” Glasses argued.

“Oh, the one with the koala?” Kite guessed, snapping his finger. “Oh my God, yeah. I think I cried. He said something so meaningful at this perfect moment, right?”

“And then the koala hugged him? Oh yeah. Tearjerker. And before that he was so… I don’t know,” Retro shrugged, his corduroys rubbing together as he shifted himself in his seat. “Charming? I think I applied for B&V the next day, come to think of it. Not to mention the way he went after the NSA. Hell, Jacey, I’ve heard you quoting him before! I think you’ve got to respect him. And I mean—do you have a pulse? I’m straight, but I know very well that every woman in my family wants to fuck that guy. Surely you do too.”

I did have respect for him. Wilhelm was the internet’s equivalent of Churchill himself; nobody wrote software so meticulously, and nobody had put themselves forward for privacy protections from the NSA or from private entities like he had. Retro wasn’t wrong.

Still, I was never impressed with Wilhelm’s looks. He was very tall, and very lean, and very, very blond. Too blond; so blond it was nearly white. And his nose was quite large and not straight, which maybe wouldn’t look odd if it wasn’t for his lean, long face. Most girls didn’t mind; in fact, he commonly had a gaggle of young ladies out in public following him around like lost puppies, even the ones who had no interest in nerd-chic. I imagined his too-blond hair and dark, emerald-green eyes were about as recognizable as the shape of Michael Jordan’s head by now.

“I think Jacey’s onto something,” Rabbit mentioned, sticking his head up over our bullpen wall. “Know what I heard?” Rabbit said, turning to Glasses and me. A few others around us, like Kite and Retro, had also leaned in for Rabbit’s gossip. “That he’s a total perv. Does all that BDSM shit at some fancy club downtown. I have a cousin who works there, and she says she’s seen him do some shit.”

That was a delicious piece of gossip. We all looked at each other to judge whether this was juicy hands-down, or juicy for only ourselves personally. But for some reason, there was nothing more interesting than sex in the workplace.

I didn’t know what BDSM was, so I made a note to myself to look into that later. Rabbit said it as if he assumed that we’d all know what he was talking about. Things like that happened all the time—I was only nineteen, not actually twenty-three, and I hadn’t had much social experience. A lot of things had passed me by.

“Vetter, too,” he added in an offhanded way.

Everybody nodded like they weren’t surprised, but I leaned in closer. I had no idea what he was talking about still, yet I was far more interested in that sort of gossip than anyone else seemed to be.

Braum Vetter, the ‘V’ in B&V, was the main player in most of my sexual fantasies. Always had been. He was strong, powerful, well-built, and he looked Russian, while Wilhelm was Russian but looked much more Nordic. Braum had black hair, olive skin, and brown, amber eyes with gold flecks in them. His nose had been broken a time or two as well, but that just made him look unique. And oh man, could he fill out a suit with his broad shoulders!

I had a crush on that man since he was twenty-two and I was nine years old. When I was little, I wanted to grow up and rule the world with him one day. Now, as an adult, my affection for him had become way less wholesome.

Unfortunately, nobody was sure if Braum was even straight. He had been seen at events with men as often as with women and never seemed to date anyone. What was evident to everyone was the fact that he had anger-management issues. He’d throw things, hit walls, scream at people, and was constantly getting into fights… He was so unpopular compared to his partner, in fact, that I kept my favoritism to myself. I barely got to see him, anyway, since he so rarely walked through the first floor, where I worked, and when he did, he didn’t carry the same fanfare that his partner did.

I cleared my throat. “What does Vetter do there?” I asked, scrawling my finger across my desk. I told myself if he was into fucking pinatas, then I was going to have to learn paper mâché, because I wasn’t about to stop fantasizing about fucking him.

“Hm?” Rabbit said, almost already having lost interest. “Oh. I don’t know, she didn’t go into detail, really. But knowing Vetter, it’s probably pretty fucked up.”

I frowned and nodded with agreement just as our boss walked out of his office. Rabbit immediately dispersed and everyone in my cubicle quickly put their heads down and started working.

I had just turned on my computer and gotten comfortable when I got a call on my cell. I ignored it; our boss was a mean fucker who didn’t like me. He would love to find me on the phone and snap at me about it.

But then the phone rang again.

And again.

I looked at it, and despite the fact that I’d already suspected that it was probably the worst person on the planet, knowing for sure that’s who was calling made my stomach clench with anxiety.

I shrunk down under my desk to put the phone to my ear.

“Hello?” I whispered into it, trying to keep my voice from carrying past the metal desk I was huddled under.

“Hello, Princess,” my old-boss, Lee Kho, said in his slow drawl marked with his Chinese accent.

My heart immediately sped up, although he posed no threat. Four short months ago, I had left the Chinese mafia compound that Lee had kept me at, with a promise to provide him a half a million dollars every month for ten years. “Hey, Uncle.” He was not my uncle. I wasn’t even Chinese—my father was off-the-boat Irish, but Kho always insisted I call him ‘Uncle’ as a mark of respect towards an elder, despite the fact that he was now only around forty.

“I need you to do a favor for me,” he began, and I crossed my eyes. I hated favors! Favors just got me rubbing elbows with the worst groups of human beings on the planet, not that Kho knew anyone else other than gangsters larping as Bond villains. “Or rather, I have a friend who I said you could do a favor for.”

My face pinched with frustration. “You said—” I snapped too loudly before swallowing and forcing myself to keep my whispers low. “You said you’d stop doing that! Look, every time you let an asshole know that I exist, that’s one more asshole on my tail. In another four months, I feel like I’m gonna be up to my ass in gangster shit, which is what I wanted to get away from!” I quietly hissed into the phone.

“I never said I’d stop doing it,” he reminded me. “I simply said I understand why you’re annoyed, and I do, but if you want to live in the world, there are things you have to do.” The way he said this, which was annoying, was the way the dad from a 90’s sitcom might explain how it was important to balance a checkbook.

“Yeah, there are things,” I agreed tersely. “Give you money. Lots of money. That was our deal. Isn’t that enough?”

“I cannot stand the sound of your whining. Makes me wonder why I didn’t sew your mouth shut.” I didn’t think he was talking euphemistically, either. Kho came up ‘the hard way’ and was known as someone not to fuck with. His threats were commonly darker than many horror movies.

“Because you need me to be alive?” I guessed. I’d been threatened by him so much and for so long that it was actually becoming old hat.

Need is a strong word, Princess,” he said. “I’ll be sending a message with details, and I want you to get at it today.”

“But I was gonna go to a hookah bar!” I whined.

“Life is full of disappointments, isn’t it?” he replied without any sign of remorse. As far as I knew, he enjoyed making my life miserable.

I hung up and climbed up from under my cubical, only to find Mr. Donut, my boss, waiting for me with his commonplace donut jelly congealing in his mustache. “Personal calls again, Templeton?” he asked, tapping his foot on the ground.

“No, sir,” I assured, shaking my head and keeping the phone behind my back. “Just… talking through things with myself under my desk.” I grinned and assured, “I’m kinda a weirdo.”

My friends snorted with barely contained laughter from several directions around me.

“Do it again, and I’m writing you up, Templeton!” he snapped, sharply extending his index finger at me so that he could wag it around.

I nodded, not really caring. Mr. Donut had always been the least of my worries, and easily manageable. I was a hacker and he had a cellphone; his life was simple for me to fuck around with.

“Now, get to those AVM reports! You have a whole stack to deal with before the end of work today, or else you’re not going anywhere!” he informed me threateningly.

“Yes, sir,” I assured, giving a small salute, and was happy when, after only one more glare, he stomped off back towards his office.

I let out a breath and turned to see Kite, Retro, and Glasses pointing their fingers at me and wagging them. “Tie your shoes, Templeton!”, “Change your tampon, Templeton!” “Stop coming into work high, Templeton!” they impressioned, trying to perfect Mr. Donut’s rough tones.

I rolled my eyes, crumbled up a wad of paper and threw it at Kite. “I don’t know why I’m the sacrificial lamb of the group all the time.”

“It’s because you’re a girl, and he’s had a lot of trouble with those,” Glasses guessed, shrugging.

I sneered. “Well, thanks for solving the mystery…”

With that I started working. Both on the gangster stuff I’d had to do since I was old enough to read, and the AVM reports to get Mr. Donut off of my proverbial nuts.

I skipped lunch, trying to work through, yet I still ended up canceling my plans and was staring at a computer screen at six o’clock in the evening when Kite finally wandered toward my desk and dipped his hand in my M&M jar without asking.

“Hey, Jacey,” Kite asked, appearing at the side of my cubical. “Wanna get high before I head home?”

“Fuck yes,” I said, feeling like I had to do something special to salvage the day. I dropped my mouse, turned off my computer, and walked with him into the ladies room, which was on the first floor and was usually completely empty. I was one of only six women that worked on the floor, making the bathroom the perfect place to smoke up.

“This job sucks,” Kite said, sucking down his joint before passing it to me.

“Nah, this is a great job. I like my job,” I assured, then took a hit.

“You like doing AVM reports?” He blinked at me, weary with disbelief.

I held in a hit for a very long time before blowing it out on a “No.” I shrugged. “But there are worse things. I mean, there’re more embarrassing things than working for a company that’s on the edge of a new age of—” I began, about to explain why the firewall programming that Wilhelm Brunner and Braum Vetter developed was revolutionary and was going to change the world, but Kite put up his hand with disinterest.

“Nah, if you think this is doable, then your last job must have been really shitty,” he said decidedly.

I smirked and nodded. The man wasn’t wrong. Working directly under Lee Kho was not for the weak of heart. I had been sold to him when I was twelve and had been working on hacking projects for him every day ever since—until four months ago, when he’d allowed me a little freedom.

The littlest bit, as it turned out. I took another hit. And then another. I was feeling pretty loose and uncertain of where my desk was by the time I left the bathroom and said goodbye to Kite.

When I finally sat back down at my desk, I closed my eyes for a long moment and then took a deep breath and put my feet up, enjoying the floaty feeling I now had.


I fell out of my desk, very ungracefully, somehow landing full force on my ass. “Ow! What?”

“I need you to bring those AVM reports up to 40.” Mr. Donut slapped what seemed like twenty pounds of papers onto my desk. “Their printer’s broken.”

“And they cannot deem to come down and get them themselves?” I asked with annoyance, and then regretted it immediately.

He gave me a hard look. I wasn’t sure if I was in trouble, or acting high, so I shook my head and put my hands up and said, “Fine. I’ll bring it to forty.”

“Thanks for doing your job,” Mr. Donut snipped before huffing and stomping back into this office.

“I fucking hate that guy so much,” I grumbled to myself, taking the giant stack of papers and carefully walking towards the elevators, telling myself that I was going to hack Mr. Donut’s phone and make sure he got a virus where he’d see a lot of pictures of elephant vagina.

The elevator was annoyingly situated on the other side of the building, and I didn’t like crossing the length of the mostly empty building by myself; it gave me the creeps and gave me a sense of urgency that paired with survival.

I tried to hum to myself at first, but that was a lame attempt and I still looked around my shoulder every few minutes. I was paranoid, but not because of the weed—although the weed certainly didn’t help that sensation. I was paranoid on a good day, as I imagine anybody would be who had a childhood filled to the brim with mob bosses and underworlds, rather than carnivals and ice cream sundaes.

I settled in front of the elevator, focusing on my breath. Nothing surprising was going to happen. I was going to go upstairs, deliver the papers, go downstairs, turn off my computer, and get on my bike and go home, where the latest season of Archer awaited me.

When I saw a super-large hand come around behind me and push the elevator button, I almost peed. Luckily I didn’t, however, because when I spun around, I saw Braum Vetter standing behind me, all six feet and five inches of him.

My first thought at seeing my teeny-bop crush in the flesh was that he was much larger than I thought he’d be.

And then my brain exploded, my stomach did summersaults, and I wanted to go up on my toes and launch into a fan-girl tirade, but I was too high. Instead, I decided to focus on all the ways that I didn’t deserve to be in this man’s presence. Namely, I had been destroying his code for months. Actually years, and so I felt like a tsunami of shame was going to come across my brain and wash me away at any moment.

To my open-mouthed gape, he pointed towards the panel by the door. In a deep, gravelly voice paired by a thick Russian accent, he said, “You forgot to push button.”

Of course I forgot the button, because I was stupid and high. I gave a small laugh, “Ha, wondered why it wasn’t working.” And then I turned back around and focused on disappearing.

Braum Vetter, as hot as he was, could not be appreciated in this moment, because it was much more important that he didn’t notice my existence. Rats and cockroaches tended to scuttle away once someone turned on the light, and I felt like at any moment, the proximity between us was going to inform him—correctly—that he was standing right next to a rat. A rat who worked for a cockroach, in fact, who had spent most of the day breaking through his firewall to hack into protected systems.

After what seemed like a thousand years, the elevator doors opened and I stepped aside so that Braum could step right in without me. He did, but then he turned around and held the door open. “Coming up?” he asked, his face twisted with confusion.

“No, there’s no room,” I chirped, and Braum looked around him, assuring himself that he was standing alone in an elevator that an elephant would be comfortable in. When he looked back toward me, his eyebrows cocked, I broke a sweat. “I mean—I’ll just catch the next one.”

“Get in.”

I didn’t know if it was an order or a kind suggestion.

I felt like my feet had mystically turned to stone, and that I had to clunk them into the elevator like a bottom-heavy giant.

“The floor number?” he pointed to the panel. Apparently, this time he was not going to simply assume I could push it myself.

I blanked for a moment, but then realized we were going to the same floor. The ‘40’ was already lighted. “Forty,” I said, and then immediately realized that I should have said ‘2’ so I could get off this elevator in seconds. Instead, I was in for a one-minute ride with Braum Vetter, a god—but a god I was constantly betraying by breaking through his software repeatedly for the gains of the world’s scum.

Why couldn’t I just feel good about seeing him? Disappointment at this moment infected me like a fast-moving plague.

God, he was staring right at me, too. I had to act normal. “So, I thought there were executive elevators?”

“They are being serviced now,” he replied with a shrug, looking me up and down. “Also, there was not pretty girl standing in front of them.”

I was never going to get high again at work. Irresponsible, that was what it was. I had no better plan than to smile at him and then nervously try to tie a curl of my untamed hair behind my ear and then nervously fidget with that curl, very keen for this nightmare to be over.

Time seemed to be drawn out indefinitely, which wasn’t so bad normally; I liked the fact that most weed could extend time out to a point where you could enjoy it. The problem was, of course, that even unpleasant time would be extended.

Did he just hit on me?’ I wondered, but I tended to doubt it, because it didn’t make sense. Also, my brain assured me that he was ‘too old’ for that. Braum was about thirteen years older than me, and looked it. He was a man, with dark arm hair, muscles, a five o’clock shadow, cufflinks, and shiny shoes. My panties still had the days of the week on them. Or was I wearing the Felix the Cat undies I got myself as a birthday gift from me to me? Either way, him hitting on me didn’t fit. Also… Wasn’t he gay? I probably misread his statement, as I was wont to do.

Why wasn’t this elevator ride ending? Why was it the 40th floor I was going to? Surely, he had time to ask for my life story and get it!

“I feel like I have seen you before,” he drawled curiously, staring at me even harder.

This whole moment was proof that God hated me, I just knew it. Swallowing, I shook my head. “Nope.” He and Wilhelm were celebrities, and although they still thought of themselves as ‘hackers’, they were ‘ethical white-cap hackers’ while I was black-cap. Their circles, therefore, were far superior to my own and there wasn’t a whole lot of crossover.

“You have been working here for some time, then?” I did know the look on his face. He was doing age-placement. He was wondering if I was too young to have worked here.

So I pushed out my boobs, as if to prove they were just like any twenty-three-year old’s, and nodded. “Just about four months.”

The doors opened to our floor, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank Christ.

I realized then that I actually had said “Thank Christ!” as I exited the elevator, which was probably as suspicious as fuck. I tried to cover it up by passing him another smile and then stepping out. I was quite surprised that he stepped out with me, despite the fact that I knew in the beginning of the epic-journey up to the floor, that he was going to the same place.

“What is the department you work in?” he asked conversationally.

I blinked but then slowly turned my head. Yep—he was still there. Talking to me, asking me questions. Did he do this often? I was quite plugged into the never-ceasing river of drama a building of nine-hundred employees could create. Word traveled fast, and if it was about the bosses, then doubly so. Braum was not known as a chatter box. He did not ‘talk people up’. He was quiet and brooding with everybody else. Why was he being different around me, then?

“Marketing analysis now. I compile data for the marketing team from the focus groups so they can make projections.” I said all that as dryly as I could, using as big of words as my banana-kushed brain could handle.

He looked interested. He could obviously walk faster, as his legs were much larger than mine, but he slowed down to a relaxed stroll. “Now? You did something before?”

“I worked projection graphing at first, but I…” Stop talking! I did an inward shake. “Never mind, it’s… um… It’s boring.” I smiled and waved then so that I could disappear into the office of my boss’s boss.

My boss’s boss had been staring at me through the glass windows of his office as I talked to Braum-Fucking-Vetter with the stillness alert bunnies took when they smelt a predator nearby.

I plopped the book of reports on his desk and he jumped, startled, and looked at me. “Were you talking to Braum Vetter out there?” he whispered, leaning towards me.

“Yeah,” I whispered back. “It’s nuts.” I looked out towards the hallway and closed my eyes with exasperation. Braum was still out there.

“I think he’s waiting for you,” the boss whispered, gazing out towards the hallway with a sideways glance.

“Shit.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “Think he’ll leave if I stay?”

“Knowing how he operates, he’ll probably just follow you in, and he terrifies me. Please leave before that happens,” the boss whispered, then reached towards my reports like he thought they were interesting.

I sighed and went back out into the hallway, where Braum seemed not ashamed at all that he had waited for me. He perked up, like he was going to continue having a conversation with me.

“Have a good evening,” I told him quickly, continuing to twirl my finger around my twisted hair lock.

“Wait—” He put up his hand and I stopped and held a breath. He looked unsettled—that was the only way to say it—and it didn’t look like a good fit on him. He was as intimidating as any bruiser bodyguard with a deep voice and a presence that demanded attention and respect. “I never do this, but… Did you want to grab coffee, maybe?” he asked me very unlike a gay man and much more like a man in a Christmas Hallmark movie.

I was only just sober enough to realize the shitstorm of accepting that offer. If someone in Kho’s circle found out that I wasn’t just hiding out at B&V to get easy access through their firewall, but that I was talking with one of them like an equal? Kho wouldn’t like that, and I really, really didn’t like making Kho unhappy with me.

I knew nine-year-old me was knocking around inside my head somewhere, demanding I say ‘yes’ so I could marry him already, but the more logical side of my head reminded me that I couldn’t crush on Braum Vetter when I was dead.

“Um…” Reasons for denying a very rich, very handsome, very powerful man who ‘never asked women out’ were trying to come to the surface, but far too slowly. “I’m sort of feeling off today, so not a good idea right now. Thanks anyway.” I turned and I sped to the elevator as fast as I could without suspiciously running.

He didn’t follow me. The nightmare was over.

I did not return to my desk I left. I went home, I sobered up, ate dinner, jogged around downtown Seattle until I got sleepy, and went to bed.

It could have been worse. It was possible that I was blowing that disaster way out of proportion. At first, I thought that he’d recognize me somehow and trace back to who I really was and then totally figure me out, and there would be the FBI waiting for me when I went to work in the morning.

It would certainly figure. My head swirled with paranoia. In fact, I had the worst sleep on the planet, envisioning the worst possibility for the next day. What got me to fall asleep at last was knowing that I was not that much of a stand-out character, that he wouldn’t even remember me tomorrow, and to get over myself.

Tomorrow I’d have to see if I was as unimportant as I hoped.

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