CHAPTER 1-Everything Ends Where it Begins
4 Weeks Prior
In the heart of Atlanta there is one of the biggest Software design companies in the country called Stiltner Software Design. It makes and distributes software in every aspect of the online world, from Military Security programs to educational games for children. I work in the Military Security Design Program Division. Here everything looks like one big rat race. Hundreds of cubicles crammed together with everyone working so hard in an attempt to outdo the next person. That’s definitely a rat race I’m not going to be a part of any longer than I have to be.
I’m 26 years old and all I do is secretarial work when I know how to do these morons jobs better than they do. God forgive me if I ever made them think that or suggested that because I can’t afford to lose this job. Rory and Jesse are depending on me to take care of them and boy it’s just the easiest thing in the world being a single mother. NOT! All I know is 2 more years and my degree will be finished. Then I no longer have to be this kiss ass secretary that has to correct the simplest of mistakes for these overly educated idiots. Yeah...overly educated. Laugh out loud because that is actually a hilarious concept. Apparently, as soon as they graduated and got those degrees they forgot all about their education.
I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old. When I finish my degree who am I going to get to watch my kids while I’m at work? It’s not secretary work on a 9 to 5 schedule. Crap! There’s another problem I need to fix before it actually happens. A profiler for the Department of Defense doesn’t exactly run on the most of normal hours.
I glance at the clock only to realize that it’s already 1 A.M. and I’ll have to be back to work soon. I had put the kids to bed a few hours ago and started on my homework feeling like my life is one big repetitive cycle that I can’t seem to get off of anymore. Kids, work, home, kids, school, bed and repeat. I was sitting and looking at my computer screen for so long I had lost track of time. Here it was 1 a.m. and I still had yet to finish my assignment before bed. I was completely stuck. How could I write a paper for Sociology about human interactions and the way their behavior changes when they fall in love if it’s something I don’t know myself?
*Ring, Ring* Shit now who is it, it’s after midnight? “Hello”, “Hey Chris. Yes I know what time it is. Do you? Well don’t you think it’s kind of rude for you to be calling me at almost 1 a.m. when you know I have to get up for work tomorrow and I’m in the middle of finishing my assignments tonight? I know you didn’t think about that and it’s not a problem this time but…”.
“Rain, I know you’ve been dodging me but the fact of the matter is, you don’t go out with anyone. Maybe you think you’re too good for everyone, I don’t really know for sure but what I do know is you’re not getting any younger, you don’t have a degree, you’re nothing more than a meager secretary and you should be more than happy I’m even offering to take on the responsibilities that come with dating you. Most men wouldn’t accept a woman that has two kids with no father. Are you going to go out with me or not?”
“No Chris, I haven’t changed my mind. I’m still not interested in going on any dates with you or anyone else for that matter. Please don’t take it personally but I have 2 children and school to worry about on top of work and I just don’t have time for men right now. Yes, I know perfectly well how old I am. Thanks so much for reminding me. I understand I’m not getting any younger and I should be very grateful to any man that would be willing to take on a woman that has 2 children, but right now that’s just not my concern. I can take care of my kids by myself just like I’ve been doing since the day they’ve been born.”
“So, basically what you’re saying is you don’t think I’m good enough for you.”
“OK, you can think what you want, that’s fine.”
“You do understand that this is my final offer for you and then I’m going to stop being nice to you and giving you the opportunity to have a man that has a good job and is willing to accept your brats and provide for them and instead I’ll move on to someone with less baggage, that’s also better looking.”
“Yes, Chris, I accept that this is your final offer before you move on. Thanks for calling me and giving me the opportunity. Just for the record though, if you ever refer to my children as brats or baggage again you will be eating all of your food through a straw from now on.”
CLICK! What an IDIOT!!! Like I’m supposed to be grateful that some middle management loser is trying to goad me into going out with him because he thinks I have a lack of options.
“Mommy, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing baby just a wrong number, what’s wrong? Why are you up this late?”
“I’m thirsty”, says Rory.
I just love the way you hear a 2 year old say they’re thirsty. After giving Rory a drink and putting her back to bed I went back to finish my assignments and finish cramming for this Interview with this guy, Logan Something or other that has some bits and pieces in our company and I have no idea what they are although I handle almost all of the company’s finances and assets. I have to say, this irritates me a little more than I care to admit. Logan Winters, that’s what his name is. What the hell does he have to do with our company and why the hell are they sending me instead of some other big shot that’s supposed to be in charge. I don’t like it, but then again what can I do besides bite my lip and do as I’m told. Who loves to take it up the ass when management says? Apparently, this girl.
. . . . . .
OK, its 9:30 a.m. and this jackass was supposed to be here a half an hour ago and he still hasn’t showed up yet. If he’s not here in 5 minutes I’m out the door and the damn bosses can do their own damned meeting. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Still nothing ten minutes later. THAT’S IT! I’ve had enough of this bullshit of keeping the secretary waiting because she’s a nobody. I’m Outta here!!
“OH, FUCK ME!!!” That big ass door just flew open to damn near catch me in the face as I flip backwards rolling across the table. As I look up I see a sexy man gaping at me in surprise as I smooth my dress back down. Holy Hell, this is one sexy man, and his arms look strong when they’re reaching out as if in an attempt to try to catch me. Oh my God I can smell his cologne and it smells so good. What the hell is this man wearing? Not to mention his face. He isn’t the typical version of sexy you’d see in most men with an arrogance I’d love to smack out of them, but more of a shy unknowing version of sexy. Almost shy like. Wait, I have got to get away from this man. The last time I was this weak to a man it got me two kids, and left on my ass to fend for us all and no clue as to how to deal with it since I wasn’t enlisted anymore.
“You can stop staring at me now, whoever you are.”
“My apologies, my name is Logan Winters and I’m your 9 a.m. appointment.”
“Well, that’s all well and good for you, Mr. Winters, but as you can tell it’s currently 9:45 a.m. and to say that I am a less than patient person is putting it mildly. Now I’ve waited this long out of respect to yourself and whatever connections you have to my job, but now I have a job to get back to.”
All the while, I make sure I’m making my way, slowly, further from this man because just the smell of him, the sight of him, is making me weak at the knees. I can’t afford this. I have too many people depending on me to stay focused and not let my emotions cause any problems.
The further away from this man I moved the closer he moved towards me. He seemed to be closing the distance faster than I could get away from him. What the hell does this man want from me?
“Mr. Winters, what exactly is it that you want from my company?’
“I don’t want anything from your company Ms. Harvey, what I want is from you.”
“I don’t understand Mr. Winters, you called for this meeting. You were forty-five minutes late, then you tell me that you don’t want anything from my company, but something from me? What can I possibly do for you?”
“It’s very simple Ms. Harvey. I only hire the best and have had many investigators checking into all of my personnel and the personal and professional lives of probable candidates. To say that your name has come across my desk more than once is a vast understatement.”
“Mr. Winters, I still don’t understand what it is you want from me seeing as how I already have a job.”
“Ms. Harvey, I understand you have a job at the moment but that is also contingent upon how this conversation goes. I’m going to be frank with you, I get what I want, and right now I want you. Personally and professionally.”
“I don’t know what part of that statement was unclear.”
“Well, let me see? First of all, my job is threatened if I don’t agree to come work for you, and to be frank, I don’t like to be bullied. Secondly, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN YOU WANT ME ON A PERSONAL LEVEL!?!’’
“Please lower your voice Ms. Harvey as there are other employees working here.”
“GOOD! Maybe then they’ll see what a controlling prick you are”
At that point Mr. Winters burst into a fit of laughter. Once he finally stopped laughing he finally spoke.
“You see Ms. Harvey this is exactly why I want you here. You’re fiery and hold nothing back. You’ve been through a lot in your life and you don’t take any shit from anyone. I respect that, and that’s exactly the kind of person I’m looking for. Someone that can take shit from other people and not be intimidated and give it right back without hesitation. From what I’ve seen from you over the last three years you don’t date, you are very professional but very blunt all the while maintaining your professional courtesy. Once you’re done you go home to take care of your kids and study to earn your degree. You’ve been a single mother for the past 3 years almost, seeing as how your ex left you before you even found out you were pregnant with your second child, but instead of letting it destroy you, you ran with it to make yourself better so you can be a better mother. Does that pretty much sum it up? Oh wait, I forgot, you have a Chris Ingle from Middle Management at your company that’s been hounding you for a date and you keep refusing. What was his latest argument? Oh yes. You’re not getting any younger and you should be grateful any man would consider you with the baggage of 2 kids and an unfinished degree. Is that right?”
After about 10 seconds of remembering how to close my mouth my cheeks flamed red, I stalked up to Mr. Winters while watching him back away as quickly as I stalked toward him and as I leaned into him I quietly said,
“You forgot my bank information, rent, annual salary and children’s names if you’re going to go that in depth on my information. And what the hell are you doing, tapping my phone or something because that conversation just happened last night. However, since were sizing each other up here or dick measuring if that’s more of a preferable term for you then let me give it a try. You’re single and have been for at least the past 6 years. You grew up poor because your parents didn’t want you to know money since they were too selfish. You, Mr. Winters definitely over compensate with everything including your office, staff and attempts at relationships but are failing miserably this time. You can take your disaster of a giant messy office and shove it up your ass along with your black marble desk and leather furniture.”
As I started walking away, Mr. Winters flipped open a folder and started rattling off some information.
“Currently you have less than $200.00 in the bank, pay $675.00 in rent for a shit hole apartment that doesn’t quite accommodate your family, annual salary of $22,000.00, and children’s names are Rory Harvey D-O-B 7-26-10 and Jesse Harvey D-O-B 4-6-08. The really sad thing about this is you have truly gifted children Ms. Harvey that deserve to be in a school for gifted preschoolers, yet that’s something you can’t afford. I thought all you wanted was the best for your children, Ms. Harvey?”
This made me see red! I turned on my heel and marched over to Mr. Winters and gave him the best right hook I could manage. After seeing him fly through the air and bounce off the bookshelf, then the chair, I felt satisfied. He stood up and dug out a handkerchief from his lapel and wiped his nose and mouth and started to speak, but before he had a chance to I cut him off.
“Mr. Winters, I have now and always want the best for my children and would have and will do whatever it takes to give them the best I possibly can. I may not be able to give them much now, but they have what they need. I will do anything and everything it takes to give them the life I messed up for myself. I don’t want them to struggle like I’ve had to. If that means that I have to work all day, spend my evenings with them and then spend my nights finishing my degree then that’s exactly what I’m going to do, but I will not sit here and listen to some Bastard saying he thought I wanted what was best for my children when I’m doing the best that I can right now which is obviously something you’ve never had to do a day in Your life. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a job to get back to, and children to support.”
My heart was thrumming a hundred miles an hour, my fist hurt and to top it all off I was attracted to this man and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. Sure he was good looking but so was a lot of guys that I’ve met and been asked out by.
Maybe it’s his piercing blue grey eyes. Eyes with blue around the outside and green around the pupil. His straight Roman nose, or perfect face with no blemishes like a model. He has the physique of an athlete, yet he took the hit fairly well, almost with a hint of amusement, which was irritating yet somehow attractive. Before he started on his bullshit tirade about my failings as a mother all I wanted to do was undress him. The most irritating part of everything is I have no idea why I feel this overwhelming sense of desire to be next to him.
As I was walking out of his office his security team was running in, I thought they’d stop me but they never did. Once I made it out of the building I realized I never asked what job he wanted me to do for him, but then again why would I want to work for such an arrogant asshole? I made my way to work and was there by 10:15. I finally got settled into my office and got a call from my boss and was told I needed to be in his office by 11. “OK Rick.” I was wondering what the hell this has to be about. Most likely because the meeting took so long and I didn’t get to work until after 10.
So about 10:55 I decided it was time to go deal with the wrath of Rick. Once I stepped in the office I stopped short. Low and behold, there sat Mr. Winters, busted lip and all, across the desk from Rick.
Rick and Mr. Winters smile at me and Rick calmly says, “Rain, please have a seat here so we can begin our conversation.” Nervously, I take my seat beside Mr. Winters and across from Rick, my boss.
As soon as Rick opened his mouth I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Rick started out with this: “Now Rain, it’s come to my attention here that Mr. Winters has offered you a promising position with his firm and instead of politely saying no, you’ve hit him.”
I sat there with my mouth agape for I’m not even sure how long because I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing or who I was hearing it from. Rick. The man that I’ve pretty much done his job for the past few years by myself, is now trying to ship me off to a different company and I was unsure why, not to mention the fact of the man and the company he’s trying to send me off to.
Mr. Winters finally looked at me and said, “Well what do you say Ms. Harvey?”
“What do I say? I say you’re insane! First of all, you never offered me a job, second of all, I told you I already have a job, and third of all, what makes you think I would want to work for an egotistical, maniacal, self-absorbed, pretentious, spoiled bastard?”
Rick says, “Rain! I think you need to be showing a lot more respect to the person who not only signs your checks but convinced us to hire you in the first place.”
“Excuse me! What the HELL do you mean convinced you to hire me? I have done my job as well as yours for the last 3 years without missing a beat and the entire time I have caused you to get more clients, yet you didn’t want to hire me to begin with? Well, FUCK YOU and your job and have fun trying to do it yourself and see how far you get without me!”
I stood up to walk out without hesitation or thought as to what I would do to provide for my kids, but got grabbed, not only by Rick but Mr. Winters as well. This didn’t create too good of a reaction from me, because without thinking, Rick came over his desk and landed in Mr. Winters lap and Mr. Winters was in the middle of teetering in his chair to try to keep it on the two legs it was on, and try to get it back to four legs.
On my way out I was chased down and stopped by Mr. Winters. “Wait, Wait, Wait! Ms. Harvey, How did you do that?” I spun on him and he withdrew 2 steps automatically. First of all, I have 11 brothers, 6 sisters and I’m previous Military Police slash Special Forces. Do you really want to keep grabbing me when I tell you to leave me alone?”
“OK, you’re right Ms. Harvey, you have a point. I won’t grab you anymore without your permission.”
“Well that’s good to know seeing as how you’ll never get my permission.”
Mr. Winters smiles genuinely, “Are you sure, Ms. Harvey?”
“Mr. Winters, the day I ask you to touch me will be the day I sleep with you, and the odds of that happening isn’t even close to slim to none, it’s none!”
“Promises, promises, Ms. Harvey”
The look he gave me as he started to walk away both made me melt inside and yet infuriated me at the same time, yet I still can’t figure out why. All of a sudden he stops and turns to hand me a business card. “Ms. Harvey, I’ll be expecting your phone call by the end of the week so we can discuss the plans for you to start working for my company, seeing as how you no longer have any other job and need to provide for your family. I’ll have the job description couriered to you within the week.”
All I could do was sit there with the card in my hand, staring in the direction he walked away. When I looked at the receptionist she was standing there gawking at Mr. Winters as he walked out the door. Once he finally made his way out the door she turned to look at me with pure jealousy.
I looked at her and told her, “Don’t worry Kim, he’s not worth the effort.” She replies with, “What are you talking about? That man has been here so many times over the past 6 months asking for you and getting all kinds of information. That man is nothing but interested in you in every way possible. Are you sure you think you can resist him because he’s awfully gorgeous?”
“Sure, he’s gorgeous, and arrogant, and egotistical, and self-absorbed.”
“You do know who you’re talking about don’t you?”
“Not really, all I know is from what I seen of him this morning. Why? Who is he?”
“Mr. Winters is one of the biggest philanthropists in the country, if not the world. He owns multiple different companies that were left to him by his family, which technically, he didn’t want to begin with but decided to keep them going because they were family businesses. He owns well over 500 different businesses in different aspects of all the business community and most of his income goes to the military and their spouses and other non-profit organizations.”
“Gee, thanks Kim. That makes me feel so much better.”
I left with the card in my hand and the information that Kim gave me in my head, going home to see my babies and wondering what the hell I was going to do now that I just walked out on my job. Am I going to have to call Logan and take him up on the job offer now? God, I hope not! I don’t think I could bare being around that man day in and day out.
That night I lay awake trying to sleep and couldn’t because I couldn’t get Logan out of my head. He was the most arrogant man I’ve ever met, yet he still had an effect on me like no other man ever has. I wasn’t sure how long I lay there replaying he day’s events in my mind but at some point I fell asleep and reality turned into a dream.
It was easy for me to know I was dreaming because I was back in Iraq with my squad and we were on our way into the heart of the city surrounded by insurgents and our mark’s personal bodyguards. Well, this is going to be fun. I signal for Cobra, Striker, and Hammer to go around back while Black Widow, Ghost and I go around through the front. The Iraqi insurgents inside are supposed to have Intel as to how we can get into their boss’s place undetected. This was info we needed and had to have now as we weren’t leaving until we got the big boss. On the count of three we stormed into the shack to find it rigged with explosives and as soon as we were in we had to turn and head right back out before everything exploded in our faces. The explosion went off and as we lay there face down in the dirt I was pissed.
I yelled out “Everyone okay?”
Everyone checked in unharmed but I was beyond pissed at this point. As we were getting up we all met back where we started on the side of what used to be the building.
“What the hell is going on Shadow? I thought no one knew we were coming on this mission except the few higher ups that made the call.” It was Cobra asking.
“Cobra, I don’t have a fucking clue as to what happened and what went wrong but believe me when I say, I fully intend on finding out. For right now I think it’s best we get to moving our asses out of here before the rest of the Iraqi force comes down on us and we have to do more damage than what we were sent to do. Let’s move out!”
We turned and started running back the way we came to meet up with rendezvous and brief them on what happened when another small explosion went off behind us.
I sat straight up in a cold sweat. Holy fuck! I haven’t had flash backs about that in years, much less felt like I was reliving it. Obviously, this Logan Winters has more of an effect on me than I originally thought because he’s the only thing that’s been different in my routines up until now. He has to be the trigger for this memory. I don’t know why and I don’t care, all I know is something’s been going on lately that’s starting to stir the bee hive and I fully intend on finding out what the hell it is!
The rest of the night all I did was toss and turn. I couldn’t fall back asleep. I kept replaying the dream and my meeting with Logan over and over in my head trying to figure out what could have caused the sudden memory to appear out of nowhere when I haven’t thought about my past since I left.
Daybreak was starting to peak through the curtains so I got up knowing the kids would be up soon.
Thursday, the papers arrived from Mr. Winters describing the job position he had intended to hire me for, and the position requirements and benefits. I nearly shit myself.