Authors: Dawn Ryder
Copyright © 2014 by Dawn Ryder
Cover and internal design © 2014 by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Cover design by Dawn Adams
Cover photo by Blake Marrow
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Out of bounds / Dawn Ryder.
(trade paper : alk. paper) 1. Young women–Fiction. 2. Chief executive officers–Fiction. 3. Alaska–Fiction. I. Title.
California, the first warm weather of the season, and a frozen daiquiri at her fingertips… now that was perfection. Monday wouldn’t darken her horizon for a full twenty-four more hours.
But Sabra Donovan ended up setting the daiquiri aside. Beyond the sliding glass doors of her beach-front hotel suite, her boyfriend sat on the white sand just above where the waves were washing up. When Sabra had pulled into the parking lot, she was sure Kevin was waiting for her. But a glance at him while he didn’t know she was watching told a much different story.
Kevin had his arm draped across the shoulders of another woman. Patty was a friend, one of the group, but the way Kevin’s fingers were playing with her nape told about feelings that went deeper.
Maybe she was making too much of it. Sabra picked up the daiquiri, but it just didn’t taste right. Her weekend plans crumbled, and she growled when she spied the receipt for the hotel suite.
The least he could have done was tell her before she blew a sizable chunk of her entertainment budget on a weekend getaway that he really wanted to spend with another woman. Her little tapestry duffel bag earned another muffled insult from her lips.
She sat down, crossing her legs as she glared at the view of the waves that was costing her three hundred dollars a night.
Crap. She was headed for single life again.
If that labeled her picky, fine. Break out the black ink pen and slap it across her forehead. She was not going to waste any more time with a guy who wasn’t as interested in their relationship as she was.
It was a hard truth to face, but honesty was better than ignoring the facts.
Her phone buzzed. It was pathetic just how happy the distraction made her, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Swiping her finger across the screen to unlock it, she stared at the six missed calls from her office. She was an analyst, for Christ’s sake; there was nothing urgent about her job.
But there was no way she was going to ignore it, because Nektosha Industries was one of the most elite companies she’d sent her résumé to. She was still giddy to have landed the position. Even if they had an iron-clad rule about everyone starting in a cubicle.
Sure, it was humbling for someone with a master’s degree, but she’d wanted the job because she just couldn’t help but covet one of the mysterious positions on the sixteenth floor. If the only way up was through a cubicle, she’d park her butt in one for a while.
She wasn’t afraid of proving her worth.
A company phone had come with the job, adding a glimmer of hope that her function wasn’t completely that of peon. The fact that the little piece of technology was chirping for attention on a weekend offered her a real slice of hope that her time in the bland, beige-colored partitioned walls was drawing to a close. No one needed an analyst on Saturday afternoon.
“Sabra?” her office manager asked frantically. “Thank God you answered! Look, this is going to sound crazy, but you need to get dressed to impress right now.”
“What for?” Sabra asked. “I’m not even home.”
“I know where you are,” Deanna informed her in her all-too-familiar, knowing tone. The woman managed the third floor of Nektosha with an iron hand. As far as office managers went, she was a piranha. “All the company phones have location chips in them.”
Deanna clicked her tongue, the subtle reprimand mixing with the sound of the surf. “I’m going to ignore that tone because I’m desperate. There was a blizzard in Alaska and most of the development team is stranded. The reception for the launch of Nektosha’s new line is tonight.”
“Crap.” Nektosha produced a line of all-terrain vehicles. They were rough, tough, and savage. The main testing and development center was in Alaska for that very reason. Launch nights were major events. “Don’t you want a VP for this?”
Deanna made a noise that sounded a lot like muffled profanity. “Yes, but it seems none of them are answering their phones.”
Deanna’s tone made it clear there was going to be hell to pay on Monday. Sabra didn’t need to hear it though; even in her cubicle she’d been expected to be fully versed in the new product line. Every employee was. The product line was Nektosha, and anyone who wasn’t fully on board with the company wouldn’t be working there. As a team member, she was expected to be able to answer any question, at any time.
sounded a whole lot better than
“I need you to get dressed and over to the Garden Towers to represent us. Mr. Nektosha is not pleased with the lack of company personnel and you are close enough to the event to make an appearance.”
“I’ve got limited options as far as wardrobe goes,” Sabra explained, “just the suit I wore to the office.”
“It’s a suit.” Deanna ended the call in her brisk, abrupt way. Chitchat wasn’t her style. In fact, most of the senior staff at Nektosha operated in the same go-for-the-throat manner. Meetings on the sixteenth floor of the posh tower she worked in called for large amounts of soothing wine afterward.
Or so she’d heard.
There was no way she was doing time in a cubicle if there wasn’t something really great in the works. Nektosha offered her the position title of team member and that kept her confidence high that she’d be moving up. So what if she was working on a Saturday night? It sure beat reporting to work every day with a company that let you know you were insignificant and very replaceable.
Nektosha just felt different.
Her phone chimed with a text, kicking her into action. She tossed her swimsuit on the bed and hurried into the bathroom. The owner of the company would be there, as well as numerous big dog investors. Someone might be unemployed by Monday for ignoring their phone.
It wasn’t going to be her.
She took a quick shower and toweled off as the idea of being on Deanna’s good side settled into her brain. It was worth walking away from the sunset. But she cussed when she realized her nylons had been tossed in the trash on Friday night in a vain attempt to be reckless and fancy free—at least for as long as the weekend lasted. She looked into the plastic bin but it had been emptied by the cleaning staff.
She didn’t have time to buy another pair, which only left the thigh-high, lace-edged stockings she’d packed to complement her corset. Heat teased her cheeks as she opened her bag and pulled them out. She threaded each one carefully up her leg because there wasn’t time for a run to ruin one. Pulling out the garter belt that went with them, she hesitated for a moment before securing it around her hips.
No one would know she had it on.
That was a disappointment in itself. Satin garter belts were made to be appreciated. Hers wouldn’t be tonight.
Her suit looked drab after she put it on, though—its only saving grace was that it didn’t button to her neck. The sapphire blue wool was good quality and the fit was nice, but there would be men there wearing Armani. The color worked well with her dark hair. She ran a brush through it, but there wasn’t time to wash it, and even if there was, her hair had a mind of its own when it was freshly cleaned. She gathered it up and started to reach for a hairpin but her reflection stopped her.
Christ. She looked like a spinster. A virgin one too.
It was a party, not a courtroom. Her hair fluttered back down to rest on her shoulders. She pulled her bangs back with a couple of barrettes and gave it a spritz from the hairspray bottle. The sun had left her nose a little pink but a light dusting of makeup covered it.
At least her shoes were new. She slipped into them and gave her hair a last fluff before heading toward the door. Her tapestry bag caught her eye. On impulse, she picked it up.
Sometimes, she thought, fate kicked you in the tail when you needed it. Kevin was someone from her past that she’d been clinging to. Trying to make a relationship work was a mistake, the sort of thing you did before you grew up and faced the world as an adult. Kevin was a kid—a great, fun-to-be-around person, but ultimately a kid. She wanted something else, something more.
The only way to get it was to go looking.
“Do that again and Sheila will be over here to fix your hair again.”
Tarak Nektosha glared at his head of security but Bryan Kim only grinned at him.
Tarak tightened his fingers into a fist to quell the urge to run them through his hair. The penthouse suite offered him a stunning view of the San Diego harbor.
He turned away from it.
From the balcony on the west side of the suite, he was able to look down to the garden rooftop where his reception was being set up. The staff was lighting candles on the bistro-style high-boy tables. They already had their vests on and the edges of the tablecloths were sharp from pressing.
Everything was in position, from the banners to the presentation table that held models of his new lineup. Hidden beneath a dark length of silk were the newest creations from his team.
The one stuck in Anchorage.
He ran his fingers through his hair.
His personal staff wasn’t enough, not for a launch reception. Below him there were over a hundred men with net worths over ten million just waiting for a chance to buy a new toy. He’d built Nektosha on the quality and rugged ability of its product, but there was still one golden rule that had to be obeyed.
You had to have your hook in the water when the fish were hungry.
“Deanna from accounting is reporting one response.”
His secretary’s voice came through the intercom.
“Her file is loaded for you.”
Tarak tapped in his pass code and the large, flat-screen computer set up on the workstation flickered and brightened. The personnel file was neat and businesslike.
“Master’s in alternate fuel,” he muttered. “That’s a plus.”
He let his attention linger on her picture, committing the details of her face to memory.
“You couldn’t find someone prettier to look at while you’re waiting on me?”
Tarak turned to face Anastasia, but he didn’t jump. Anastasia pouted at him and propped one hand on her hip.
“I hope you’re planning to appear in something other than that robe.”
Anastasia rolled her eyes. She’d already applied a heavy dose of makeup to her perfect features. Her hair was styled to perfection, the blond locks arranged skillfully around her face.
“Don’t be pissed off because I caught you looking at other women.”
Tarak killed the display with a swift motion of his fingers. “She’s an employee. I told you, launch nights are all business.”
Anastasia rewarded him with a flash of ultra-white teeth. She wiggled her way across the space between them and pressed a kiss against his lips.
“In that case, I forgive you.”
She smirked before making her way back to the bathroom. Normally he would have enjoyed the sight of her nearly nude body, but not on launch night. He turned back to the computer and opened the file again.
Sabra Donovan’s picture appeared once again, demanding more of his attention than it should have. She wasn’t any sort of beauty, but she seemed to grasp the idea of teamwork that he demanded of his employees. An analyst could be forgiven for ignoring her work phone on a Saturday afternoon, but she hadn’t. That was what he was looking for and thought he had in his VPs. He didn’t care for the disappointment filling him.
He killed the display and ran his fingers through his hair again.
Her job performance was what mattered. Nektosha was his creation—every model waiting to be unveiled one of his personal works of art. There was one thing he never did and that was get too personal with the business side of the company. The moment it looked as if he were playing favorites with one team member would be the exact moment his office stopped working because it looked like sex was a key factor in advancement.
Anastasia didn’t grasp just how important launch receptions were.
At least she hadn’t noticed that his cock hadn’t stirred.
He didn’t need a tantrum to soothe.
In fact, the very fact that he knew Anastasia might throw a fit made him regret allowing her to help him unveil the new line.
His personal life shouldn’t be involved with Nektosha business.
It was a hard rule that served him well.
It would be the last launch reception he invited a date to. Sabra Donovan was exactly what he needed—a team player who wasn’t too distracting. An analyst with a curiosity for biofuels.
Neat, professional, and bland.
Both feet had to be together when you bowed.
Sabra searched her brain for any more Japanese social customs. If she was going to represent the West Coast office, she had to make a good impression. She was only assuming the owner was Japanese. There were few pictures of him because so many of their products were linked to defense department contracts. Security was tight at Nektosha. So tight, there was a separate set of elevators for the top floors of the building. You could be standing next to a Nektosha VP on the sidewalk and never know it.
Excitement was prickling along her nerves as she contemplated adding names and faces to company titles.
The Garden Towers were impressive even before she made it inside the huge glass doors. Marble floors and an indoor atrium greeted her before a doorman made eye contact with her. She wasn’t getting anywhere near the elevators without his say-so.
“Your invitation, please,” he requested smoothly. It was the perfect greeting; no hint of aggression, his tone as tepid as a summer lake but an obstacle if she didn’t have what he wanted.
“Um…” She fumbled around in her purse for a moment before finding her badge. “I’m an employee.”
It sounded lame and the doorman’s eyes narrowed as he took her badge. He tapped something into his touchscreen monitor while she fought the urge to squirm. Maybe she should have put her hair up.