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Fall Into You: Chapter 24

Cole

I stand with my arms braced against my closed office door and try to figure out what the fuck is happening inside my body.

It feels as if I’m about to die.

That isn’t hyperbole. I’ve been close to death several times, and this is pretty much what it feels like. The only thing missing is a pool of blood.

I close my eyes and listen to the crash of my heartbeat. I concentrate on steadying my shaking hands. I visualize a tranquil meadow and draw deep breaths. When none of that works, I spend several minutes pacing the length of my office until I’ve finally pulled myself together.

When I open my office door, the hallway is empty. I don’t know why I expected Shay to still be standing there.

Probably hope.

I stride down the corridor and approach the receptionist at her desk. She’s on the phone. When she catches sight of my face, she seems to shrink several inches.

I stand beside her desk and stare down at her, impatience gnawing at me, until she hangs up. Then I demand, “Where is she?”

“Sh-she, sir?”

“The new hire.”

“Oh, uh, she went downstairs, sir. I called Simone to show her around.”

Unlike my father’s and brother’s assistants who share the floor with us, each office accessed by a different elevator, my executive assistant sits with other administrative and support staff on the floor below.

The fewer people I have near me, the better.

I’m walking away, headed to the elevator, when the receptionist says something that stops me dead in my tracks.

“Oh, Mr. McCord? Shay asked me to relay a message to you.”

I turn, narrowing my eyes when I see how she’s looking at me.

Is that a smirk?

No, I must be imagining things. This woman—what the hell is her name?—doesn’t smirk. She’s too scared of me to smirk.

“What’s the message?”

“She said to tell you that if you speak to her with such disrespect again, she’ll file a complaint with human resources.”

Heat crawls up my neck and settles in my ears, where it burns. When she adds, “And if you fire her in retaliation, she’ll sue,” the burn spreads to the rest of my face.

“Sue?” I hiss, livid.

“Yes, sir. Sue. Both the company…and you personally.”

She really relished that last part. I can tell. Now I know she’s smirking.

This is unprecedented.

Without responding, I turn on my heel and stride away, my jaw clenched and my hands balled to fists.

Is this a setup? Is Shay planning to try to blackmail me? Did she know who I was that night at the bar when she approached me? Was the connection I’ve been dreaming about for weeks all a lie?

What my father’s always saying is right. We can’t trust anyone. Not with the position our family is in. Not with our influence, our power, our fame.

Our money.

I take the elevator downstairs and burst through the doors the moment they open.

The floor is laid out in classic cubicle style, with a main thoroughfare between a maze of desks set behind chest-height blue dividers. The whole space buzzes with activity. Phones ring, keyboards clack, voices drone at a low murmur. For someone like me, who can’t concentrate without silence and hates having too many people around, the environment is a nightmare.

If I had to work in here, I’d go nuts.

I spot Shay instantly.

On the far side of the room, in one of the small, glass-enclosed offices that line either side of the floor, she stands talking with two people. One is a tall, striking redhead I recognize as Simone, our accounting manager, who’s been with the firm as long as I can remember. The other person is Dylan, a senior accountant, a man in his mid-thirties with a good head for numbers and an irritating habit of laughing too much.

In fact, he’s laughing right now. So is Shay.

They’re laughing together.

Dylan made Shay laugh.

Something dangerous gathers into storm inside me. Seeing red, I charge across the floor with my head lowered and my scowl in place, barely noticing as people leap out of my way.


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