Authors: Kelly Ilebode
Also by Kelly Ilebode
In Search of Grace
The Manor at Echo Lake Trilogy
Dragan’s Redemption Book One
Aaron’s Revenge Book Two
The Legacy Book Three
Kelly and the Angel Series
The Birth of the Sparrow
The Flight of the Sparrow
The Turning Point
The Corner Booth
I am inspired by your motivational talents, especially during the moments when the will to give up is so strong. During some of my darkest times, I persevered because of your unselfish, constant push for greatness; not only for yourself but everyone around you, helping us to remember to live with an attitude of gratitude at all times.
I am grateful.
Copyeditor — Faith Williams, The Atwater Group
Cover Art — Anita Carroll
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright©2015 by Kelly Ilebode
(Stephanous Petros: eight months old) The doctor’s face became very somber as he checked out the baby lying still on his exam table. His temperature was too high and heart rate too fast. Sister Katherine became nervous as she watched the doctor gently work on the child. “Why has it taken so long for this one to be brought to me?”
Tears welled in her eyes at the question, the very same question she had asked the caretakers in the nursery. “I was told that he exhibited no symptoms.” Sister Katherine knew that this was not the full truth. The truth was this baby rarely cried and when you have a nursery filled with babies, you tended to the ones who were the loudest. Even now, as sick as the child was, his dark eyes seemed to stare at the doctor’s face, as if understanding every word that was spoken in the room. The chubby hand grabbed the finger of the doctor, who paused in his work to smile at the little figure before he continued the exam. “Well, he needs to be watched over carefully for the next twenty-four hours. If his temperature doesn’t come down, I will have to admit him to the hospital. I just hope that there has not been any damage done to his hearing or brain. Only time will tell.”
Quickly dressing the baby when the doctor was finished, Sister Katherine scooped Stephan up in her arms, snuggling him close to her chest. She had often taken extra time with him, but had been so busy lately, that she couldn’t believe several days had passed before she’d visited him. When she finally did, she realized something was seriously wrong with the boy. She would not make the same mistake again. She prayed that he would be adopted soon.
The noise of the busy office buzzed around Stephanous as he stepped off the elevator into the elegant reception area of Carras Enterprises. The marble floors and brass fixtures gleamed under the glow of the well-placed lighting on the ceilings and walls. Two large columns rose gracefully into the air, supporting an imposing arch that perfectly framed the reception desk, drawing visitors immediately to that area. The architecture, so reminiscent of Greece, caused him to think of his and Sakis’s homeland every time he entered the space. The streamlined contemporary furniture strewn throughout the lobby area created small, intimate areas for seating, every detail well thought-out as to the placement, not only to afford visitors privacy if needed, but to allow security personnel easy access or if need be, a quick exit.
Stephan’s dark, brooding eyes swept the area casually, yet skillfully, trained to look for anything out of place. Frowning, he immediately noted the most obvious, sitting behind the receptionist desk. Whoever she was, she wasn’t Alicia. Alicia Granger, a long-time figure at the company, was his trusted friend, confidant, and quite frankly, the matriarch of Carras Enterprises. Sitting primly, instead, was a new woman who peered at him over a pair of large eyeglasses, as if she were an owl on a perch. She was a new employee, obviously, yet he hadn’t been informed. As head of security and Sakis’s main bodyguard, this thought did not make him happy. It had always been company policy that his department would run the background checks of every person hired for a position. They could never be too careful. The right fit was so important. Filing away the bit of information to ask Alicia later, he breezed silently past the desk, headed to Sakis’s office.
A shrill voice reached out to him and he internally flinched. She was not happy with the way the man ignored her. “Excuse me, but you need to check in with me!”
Stephan stopped abruptly and turned slowly toward the receptionist.
God, he was so tired
. He now regretted his late-night research. He inhaled, willing patience to get him through this. Unused to being spoken to with that tone, the tiniest smile lifted the corner of his mouth. She now had his full attention. If she had known him at all, the smile alone would have stopped her in her tracks and she would have let him be.
“Indeed, and who might you be?”
“Tina. I am new here, and was told that everyone had to check in who was not an employee and could not be allowed past the desk or I have to call security. I was told no exceptions,” Tina added for good measure.
As he glanced down at his Rolex, Stephan nodded absently. She was correct, but the rule was not exactly the way she had interpreted it. Stephan was early, as usual, for his meeting with Sakis. He definitely had a few minutes to see where this would lead.
Leaning against the side of the desk, he picked up the pen on the register, as if preparing to write his name.
“First day, you said? Shouldn’t Miss Granger be with you right now, training you?”
Stephan watched the woman’s face as it twisted in surprise that he knew the name of the executive administrative assistant. Irritation replaced the surprise quickly; her chin lifted haughtily as she waved her hand in the air, confident she had every right to detain him. “She was called away for a moment to Mr. Carras’s office and in case you didn’t know, he happens to be the owner of the company.”
“And how do you know I am not an employee?”
“Every employee of the company has a security badge. You do not.”
Tina hesitated. “Well, everyone except for Mr. Carras, of course.”
Stephan knew she felt as if she was just doing her job but he neither liked her nor her posture for a new employee. He was glad that he was the one getting the brunt of her condescending attitude and not a client. Tina had already deemed herself important and Stephan wondered who hired this woman as he silently contemplated his next move.
Several employees walked by and stared curiously.
“Good morning!” Tina chimed out brightly to them as they walked by. Stephan knew she felt that she had the upper hand. He nodded toward the passing group, who waved back at him while blatantly ignoring Tina as they continued on. To everyone at the office, Stephan, the tall, dark, and handsome bodyguard, was an enigma and they all knew that behind those model looks and soft-spoken manner was a dangerous package. Yet, they also knew him to be extremely fair and strangely kind in not only business dealings, but in his interaction with the personnel at Carras Enterprises. Stephan knew everyone’s history, family members, and extended family. Many times, his presence was noted silently sitting in the back of a church, or behind a group when a loved one passed away. He was invited to weddings, and they couldn’t remember him ever missing one, always arriving alone, and leaving the same way. Over time, he became the one they all went to for advice or help to resolve a problem.
When he turned back to face the receptionist, Stephan noted that Tina’s cheeks had turned pink.
, Stephan thought.
She is beginning to realize that she might have made an error.
To Stephan, this was the true test and would show the type of person she was, and in turn, the type of employee she would be. Having studied people his whole life, he knew she had two choices right now: she would apologize, back down and lose the haughty posture or she would continue to dig in her heels, unwilling to bend, even though she knew she was wrong. He hoped it wasn’t the latter.
Tina rose to her feet, as if trying to get on even footing, obviously no longer liking having to look up at the tall man in front of her. Stephan sighed internally as he watched her left hand slide under the desk where he knew the silent security button could be accessed. He knew because he had designed every inch of the building security himself, right down to that alarm. The moment she pressed the button, within ten seconds, the first of ten detail officers would converge on the area, all strategically taking position predetermined by him to be the most effective.
His face clouded over. It was not a trivial thing to press that button, and of all of the years Alicia had been running the office, she had only pushed it once, using extreme discretion. Stephan felt that she could have and should have pushed it several other times during a breach, but she did not. Stephan guessed that Tina had no idea what she had just done. Without taking his eyes off her face, he watched the change in emotions.
No longer did she look like a cat that ate the canary. Instead, shock covered her face. She went completely white at not only the amount of security that now stood in the lobby area, but the fact that the weapons that were drawn were not pointed at the man in front of her, but instead were directed at her. Tiny red dots seemed glued to her chest, holding steady, and waiting for an order. Tina stood frozen in place, staring wide-eyed.
You could hear a pin drop as Stephan, knowing he was being excessively cruel, waited a full minute before he raised his hand slightly. The small movement was enough for every gun to lower its direction slightly off the now shaking woman, yet no one moved from their position.
Tina realized two things simultaneously. One, the lobby had completely emptied of all employees without her being aware and the other was that the remaining group all still held guns and were waiting for another order from the man who stood in front of her as to whether they should stand down or fire.
For the first time during their exchange, Stephan saw real fear in Tina’s eyes. That was the moment he knew he had enough and that he had gotten his point across. It was time to end this charade.
“Tina, I suspect that you are now aware that sometimes, a situation is not quite what you perceive it to be. This is a sensitive business that we are in. As much as I appreciate your due diligence in screening people walking into this building, I do believe there are better ways to handle the situation when unsure of who is before you. As qualified as you may have come across during your interview, I feel this is not the position for you. Kindly gather your things and head to the human resources department. I will ensure that you will be compensated not only for your time today, but for several weeks, as you look for another job.”
Tina’s color changed quickly as she realized that she was being fired. “You have no authority…” she spat out. “I will tell everyone….”
Stephan nodded at one of the men as he walked toward Sakis’s office again without responding to Tina or even looking back. It was none of her business who he was now. If she had just asked in the beginning, he would have been more than happy to let her know. Now, he would leave the director of human resources in charge of telling her.
Within moments, Stephan stood in front of the massive wooden doors that led to Sakis’s office. Opening a panel on the wall, he tapped out the security code and waited for the next tiny panel to open. Pressing his hand against the screen, he heard the click of the bolt as it unlocked once the system recognized who he was. Tina couldn’t have known that by pushing that little button she caused a lockdown in almost every room in the building to protect the occupants and the only way to access them once in lockdown was initiated by entering a code and then for added security, his prints. His lead security officer would handle the rest of the rooms but Stephan was the only one who could release the bolts to Sakis’s office. He stepped into the room.
“Fired on the first day—seriously, Stephanous?” a deep voice called to him. Smiling at his boss and with an apologetic look toward Alicia, he sat in one of the leather seats in front of the desk.
“Had to be done. Tina was too much of a hothead, and as much as I appreciated the fact that she was observant, she was too overbearing for that position.” Taking out a thin silver case from the side pocket of his jacket, which held his cigarettes, he tapped one gently on the top before he lit one. “I am surprised that I was not apprised of a new hire.”
Alicia glanced at Stephanous curtly. “The file was sent to you several weeks ago…obviously you never received it, yet someone ran a background check on her.”
As he blew the smoke out of the side of his mouth, away from the woman, he contemplated her words. Alicia was good. No, more than good. If she sent the file, he believed her. He hadn’t realized that his own research had caused him such a big oversight. It would not happen again. “I did not, but in knowing that the background check was done, I will ensure that my department is reminded of what their job is.”
“I am sorry; it is just that we were in a bit of a hurry for this hire and pressed for time. To be honest, I didn’t even check to see if it was your signature at the bottom of the request.”
“I am not angry, Alicia. You have been phenomenal from day one and the problem is now corrected. I am the one who needs to apologize as you have to go through the hiring process again.”
Relieved that they could easily put this behind them, Alicia stood. “No worries. I will just call the second choice. She was also a good fit. Will you have time to read her file over the next couple of days if I send it to you promptly?”
Stephanous nodded. “Of course. Send it to me this morning, and I will make sure it is expedited.” This was how Stephan liked it. Face a problem head on, bring it out into the open, and find a solution and then move on. Too many people chose instead to hang on to a mistake. Alicia was not that type of person.
Alicia picked up the stack of files on Sakis’s desk. “If that will be all…”
Sakis nodded. “Thank you for everything, Alicia.”
While he waited for the door to close, Stephan leaned forward in his chair, fingers clasped in front of him, and stared at his friend. Sakis looked good. More relaxed than he had ever seen him before. Cassie was doing him good, for sure. Thinking of Sakis’s wife, he wondered how she was managing, running the Carras household as a young mother.