Beware what you wish for or it might just come true...
And boy, was I learning that lesson the hard way now.
Exactly how many times had I found myself being consumed by the thoughts of a certain murky blue-eyed beauty throughout this weekend? How many times had my mind conjured up images of that fiery goddess; her long, dark brown hair splayed against my sheets, lids hooded with desire, while my mouth did unspeakable things to that exquisite body writhing beneath me?
I had lost count.
And, the exact number of times I had reprimanded myself for letting those dangerous thoughts invade my mind- I had lost track of that too.
But what I had wished for the most was to catch another glimpse of that blazing fire in her eyes, so icy and sultry; I craved to be licked by its flames even if it meant I wouldn’t return unscathed.
She was like a wildfire; a walking, breathing wildfire.
Now, here she was, standing right beside me in this elevator in all her fiery glory.
And looking like my next fucking meal...
This was not looking good.
I knew I should have turned away but if she only weren’t so damn irresistible.
“Ms. Aloyna Bradford, so we meet again...” a smirk curled up my face as she snapped her head at me, that signature flaming gaze but with a hint of apprehension in her eyes. I shouldn’t be doing this and this was pretty fucking unusual, too, given how I have always strictly kept my business separate from my personal life. But like I said, I simply couldn’t help myself.
A sigh escaped her lips as she cast her eyes up to the heavens as if asking for help, “Unfortunately.”
“Ouch! you wound me, wildfire.”
She wrinkled her brows together, curious and annoyed. “Wildfire?”
“Umm-hmm... a smoky-hot one at that.” I winked and she grumbled.
“And here I thought you could be professional at least in the office premises but what would be my luck...” she huffed, staring straight ahead and not sparing me a glance. So much sass!
But in her peripherals when she noticed my cocky ass smiling, she turned to look at me, arching up an eyebrow incredulously, “What’s so funny?”
“At least in the office premises, you say?” Catching her in an unguarded moment I slightly dipped my head, feeling her shiver ever so lightly when my lips almost grazed her ear as I spoke in an undertone, “I wonder how unprofessional we can be outside of the office then, Ms. Bradford.”
I could feel her breath hitch subtly at that suggestion. As she slowly tilted her head upwards looking from under her lashes, for a split second, she looked almost taken aback by that brazen question. But then something flitted on those murky blue eyes and a hint of mischief settled in them.
Her lips curled into a heated smirk as she spoke in the sultriest tone, “Well, too bad you’d never know, for it’s not in your luck to get that chance to be more than inappropriate with me outside of these offices, Mr. Maynard.” She winked back and my mouth dropped in surprise, not anticipating that sudden turn in the game. How the fuck did she do that every single time?
At that exact moment, the elevator dinged open and she threw one last heated glance before sashaying away in that black pencil skirt that hugged her curves just right. Groaning, I stayed back for a moment, looking up the ceiling to calm myself. Walking with a hard-on in the workplace, the HR floor of all places, wouldn’t do me any favor now, would it?
This woman should be fucking illegal!
“Are you coming, Mr. Maynard?” she asked, feigning innocence, the double meaning in her question given away with the sinful smile that curved around her lips.
I shook my head, muttering under my breath, “Just from the tip...”
“What was that?”
“Nothing for your innocent ears, wildfire,” I retorted while walking past her, satisfied to have left her rooted to the spot, flaming red.
“Are you coming, Ms. Bradford, or do you need some help there?” I smiled feigning the same innocence from earlier and she huffed in response.
“I can’t believe I have to see that annoying face of yours every single day! Lord, kill me now!”
“Yeah? Is that why you were gawking at this annoying face while I was conversing with Hannah, Ms. Bradford?” I grinned as her cheeks tainted bright red at being caught.
“I did not!” She screeched in denial.
“Whatever you say, Ms. Bradford.”
“You’re so full of yourself, I swear!”
“Now, don’t be that way, wildfire. I just love teasing you. You have no idea how damn adorable you look when you’re all flushed. Hmm, makes the curious mind wonder...” I sent a wink her way as she rolled her eyes.
“This is going to be one long assignment,” she muttered to herself but that last bit caught my attention.
Just as she was about to reply, we were interrupted by our resident loudmouth, waddling in our direction holding a very curious expression. This was not what I needed right now.
“Morning, Treyton. What brings you to our floor at this hour?”
Oh shit! What brings you here, dipshit? I did not think this through!
So, okay, maybe I had lied to Hannah about having some work with HR to buy myself some time with Aloyna.
“Morning, Diana. I had a meeting scheduled with Ruby.”
Her eyes flitted to land on Aloyna and a small smirk appeared on her lips. Here we fucking go!
“Oh is it about the unlogged hours due to system malfunction on Thursday? I have got that covered, boss.” She waved the file in her hand. “And, the other team issues with the HR too, as always...” She pursed her lips to suppress her smile and I gave her a death glare.
“I’m well aware of your responsibility which you perform spectacularly well, Ms. Guerrera, but this one is a personal issue, outside of your job responsibility,” I said in my best professional tone laced with a hint of warning in there.
She chuckled, “Alright, boss, but I’ll do my one good deed of the day and have you know, Lance just went in five minutes ago. Hope you got your sanitizer with you.”
Jesus! Diana and her big mouth!
I cleared my throat pointing at Aloyna with my eyes who looked less than impressed with the entire thing, “Yeah, I hope he recovered okay from that.. virus he caught.”
She snorted, “Given who he caught it from, I doubt it! Anyway,” shifting her focus at Aloyna, “Ms. Bradford, good to see you again.”
“Thank you! Good to see you too Ms. Guerrera!” She offered a beautiful smile and that enamoring view made my heart stutter. Who knew this wildfire had a mellow side to her as well. All I ever got were eye rolls and grunts.
But wait, what?
“You two know each other?”
“Duh! Given how I manage HR activities including recruitment for the team, yup we have met, twice.” She shook her head and looked at Aloyna. “Ms. Bradford, I was waiting for you. Let’s get your formalities completed and I’ll give you a small tour afterward.”
“Ah, actually. I’ll be the one doing it today as Edmund requested.” I quickly cut in to inform her, unwilling to lose this opportunity.
Diana looked at me in confusion, slightly wrinkling her nose, “And... you would do that?”
I groaned in frustration, “Yes, why wouldn’t I? Ms. Bradford, I’ll be waiting for you here and I’ll see you later Diana.”
Looking at me as though I had grown a second head, Diana hesitantly walked inside with Aloyna in tow and my eyes remained fixated on the pair until they disappeared. Diana was a little too much sometimes. Is it that uncommon for a boss to show his new employee the ropes?
Okay, so maybe I didn’t usually do that for new staff given orientation and the tour was the HR’s responsibility, not mine, plus it’s usually done on the first day of joining. Besides, it’s not like I could have refused Edmund when he asked me, however close we might be, he was still my boss.
I could have delegated it to Diana though like I always did.
Yeah, maybe I could have done it but the lady is six months pregnant and already working a shit ton, I am sure she would have appreciated it.
Yeah... it’s her job and she is not the only person working in HR.
But let’s not forget we are going to have to be working together closely so getting to know each other was imperative.
Yeah, but pretty sure flirting wasn’t crucial though, so wasn’t the need to lie to prolong my time with her or neglecting the big work I had which I was nervous about since morning, or jeopardizing the spotless reputation I had regarding my professionalism. Who the fuck are you kidding, Treyton?
Normally, I was unwilling to waste a second of my time unless it’s work-related. Yet here I was, eagerly waiting in the lounge, willingly offering Aloyna an hour-long tour. What the hell was wrong with me?
And it was like reality slapped me hard in the face and the trance broke. This was a bad idea and a spectacularly bad one at that. After having a battle with my conscience, I chose to create the much-needed distance by ditching the whole tour thing, frustrated that I even let it go this far.
No matter how bad my heart might have still wanted to stay.
It was lunchtime and I headed to the executive dining area where all the members of the top management dined together. As the head of my own department, I held a place in that area for myself as well, but I preferred dining with my team members and only came up here once or twice a week or whenever I had a meeting with someone like I did today.
When I went in, my eyes immediately caught Edmund in his usual corner spot, secluded enough for privacy but close enough to let everyone know who was in the lounge; a power move and Edmund strived on it. He was very different from his old man who was rather a kind, modest, and brilliant human being. Not that Edmund wasn’t, but let’s say, the two men have very different approaches towards work and life overall.
Giving a polite nod to the others on my way, I finally reached his table, curious about the nature of this meeting, “Afternoon, Edmund.”
“Treyton, my good man, please have a seat. I went ahead and ordered today’s finest for the both of us, I hope you don’t mind?” I looked at the table to find the food already set for two, laid with what would probably be one of the finest and most expensive office meals around the world and I absolutely hated it.
“Well, might as well have it now that it’s here, hey?” I chuckled in good nature.
We spoke a little about the company’s progress, the deals we cracked, and the ones we were eyeing, as well as Edmund’s plans for the launch of our most awaited tech product, and by the time we were finished, almost everyone had returned to their offices. I was still lost why he called this meeting when the team meeting we had just an hour earlier should have covered them.
Dabbing the corners of his mouth with a crisp white napkin, Edmund cleared his throat before speaking, “So, how did it go with Ms. Bradford today morning?”
I swallowed hard, snippets of our conversation in the elevator flickering through my mind, making my heart race. I took a sip of my water and gathered my thoughts before I answered, “It went well. She seems to be a smart woman, and will be a nice addition to the team, I reckon. I look forward to the plans she has to come up with for the launch of RTD-569.”
Truth be told, I had no idea what background she was from. Jesus, that’s typically the first thing I asked from every new employee. In her case, I didn’t even bother. But since she was replacing Stana, I assumed her expertise would be in marketing.
“Hmm, that’s good.” he remained quiet for a moment before continuing, “Treyton, what I’m about to tell you is to strictly stay between us, understood?”
His grave tone piqued my interest, “Of course. You have my word.”
He nodded his head and continued, “You know how difficult this year has been for the company- lost tenders, the issue with the suppliers, missing parts in the warehouse...”
“Yeah. I mean yeah we have lost quite a number of deals to Shenteq Corp. and Infomyst Inc. but we still did manage to bag the big ones.” These two were the biggest rival companies of S&H.
A heaved a deep sigh, “People have been talking, Treyton. Whispers have already been doing rounds in the market. It’s not looking good.”
My brows furrowed in confusion, “You mean the media report from the other week? Come on, Edmund! You know they like to stir shit every chance they get. You can’t be taking this seriously and the supplier issue that we had last month was resolved with an amicable negotiation.”
“I know, Treyton, but missing parts from a maximum-security warehouse thrice in the past four months-- how do we explain that? The company which has remained untouchable over the years has suddenly started slacking once new leadership was assumed. How do you think that makes me look?” he huffed in frustration.
Not good at all.
“So, what are you implying, Edmund? What do you think is happening?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose, looking frustrated as hell, “I think, or should I say my dear father reckons that we have got a breach from the inside. We have a mole.”
My eyebrows rose in surprise, “A mole? Are you sure? What gives you that impression? Because the level of skill required to pull off such a feat is very high. Breach a level three network security system, overriding multiple firewalls and multiple security checkpoints is not child’s play. It’s almost impossible to do so without being caught.”
“I know what you’re saying and initially I argued the same but lately, there are things happening that even I can’t seem to refute and as much as I hate to admit, I do agree with my old man this time. Now, it might or might not be a mole but something is happening, Treyton, that needs a discreet investigation by a third party.” he impressed upon me.
“I don’t know Edmund, just think about it. An investigation would pose the risk of things getting out in the market no matter how discreetly it’s being conducted. I personally think we should go for an internal investigation first, without involving an outside party. Let’s see what the preliminary findings are and we could decide what to do based on those.” I tried to reason with him.
“You have got a point there Treyton but my father was keen on involving one even if that puts his son’s reputation in the line.” He shook his head in disbelief, “Besides we have already hired a private agency catering Corporate Spying CounterIntelligence Services and requested their best agent to be sent to look into this matter discreetly.”
“I still feel it’s a bit of a stretch but if you think it needs to be looked into, then fine but I do have one request though. I’d like to meet the agent myself to check things out if you are okay with it?”
Edmund regarded me for a moment, smiling, “Actually, that’s the reason I called you today and you’ve already met the agent, Maynard.”
“I have?” I asked, surprised. Who was he talking about?
“Senior Counterintelligence Expert specializing in espionage investigation, and the new marketing executive in your team, Aloyna Bradford.”
What. The. Actual. Fuck?
“Ms. Bradford?” I asked while scrambling to pick up my jaw from the floor. Because there was no way in hell I would have in my wildest dreams ever peg her to be that.
“Yes, and not only that, I want you and Bradford to work closely and aid her in any way required to further this investigation. We can hash out the details once she joins us tomorrow, which reminds me, keep your 10 AM slot clear.”
Work closely with her? Shit!
I nodded my head, still reeling from the shock of this new piece of information when Edmund’s voice pulled me out of my scattered thoughts, “And, Maynard, I hope you understand the delicacy of the situation and know that this assignment needs to be followed through under highest professional standards.”
And for the fourth time in a space of an hour, my eyebrows shot up in surprise. If there was anything that I have always been strict about was professionalism. I had rules in place, and they were in place for a reason, granted, they tend to fly out the window every time a certain blue-eyed goddess made her appearance but Edmund didn’t know that and I was working on keeping myself in check.
“Of course, Edmund. That goes without saying. You don’t have to worry about that.”
He nodded, seemingly satisfied at my assurance, “Good. We can’t afford any distractions and don’t need another hassle on our plates. Well, that’s all for today. We can work out the rest with Ms. Bradford tomorrow.”
And after that long, very interesting meeting when I returned to my office that afternoon, my mind was a total and complete clusterfuck, to say the least. For the first time in my life, I had wanted a woman so much, it was infuriating the effect she had on me. But that one woman was so fucking off-limits that I couldn’t even think about her without getting a damn headache or a raging hard-on.
My heart shriveled a bit at that thought. For some odd reason, I wanted to get to know her better but then this would compromise both of our situations not to mention conflict of interest. And the whole thing would be an HR nightmare with no relationship policy in place. My professionalism was already being questioned today despite never giving him any reason to do that and this could be career-ending for both of us.
Too much was at stake and absolutely not worth it for something that could be nothing more than just physical attraction. I had to back off.
Because she indeed was a wildfire, temptatious yet so devastatingly beautiful; blazing through and igniting anything and everything that came in her way, leaving nothing but smoke and ash in her wake.
And as difficult as it might be, I’d have to stay away.