But Slade’s money was on Preston.
“Already done, sir,” said Scott. “It’s weird. I isolated this virus. It’s nasty, but I can fix it in a couple of hours.”
“Excellent.” The sooner Scott fixed the problem, the sooner Slade could ship the corporate men back to Dallas. Until then, he had to watch these three like hawks. Once they left Alaska, Slade could breathe a sigh of relief, let Burke and Cole do what they did best, and focus on Hannah.
“We’ll have things up and running in no time,” Scott assured.
“Go make it happen.” Slade shot Scott a nod, and the IT guy scurried off to work. Ben and Lyle took the hint and followed. Soon, the trio looked deeply entrenched in their computers.
Slade nudged Preston into an adjacent room. “Let’s talk, Preston.”
“Lyle and Scott are very good at their jobs. They’ll fix the mistakes arising from that native idiot’s lax adherence to policy.”
God, Preston just didn’t know when to shut up. “Glad to hear it. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I’m hoping you’ll congratulate me on my engagement.” Preston shot him a bland smile. “Congratulations. I had no idea you were seeing anyone.
What is the lucky young lady’s name?”
“I believe you know her. Hannah Craig.”
Preston’s smile instantly faded. “You’re marrying Gavin’s secretary?” Slade took a step in and lowered his voice. “I am. Would you like to explain why you molested my fiancée?”
Preston swallowed once and then again. “I didn’t molest her. It was nothing.”
“It doesn’t sound like nothing to me, especially when you leave messages after calling her new, unlisted phone number and telling her to withdraw her HR action against you while calling her ‘baby.’”
He had the good sense to look sheepish. “She’s a cute thing. I guess…I misread her signals.”
“I can assure you, if you were reading Hannah’s signals, she wasn’t giving you any green lights.”
Preston held up his hands in defeat. “Since my wife and I separated recently, I haven’t been myself. I-I was looking for comfort in the wrong place. I didn’t hurt her. And she broke my toe.”
“I will break way more than that if you even look at her again. When we get back to Dallas, we’re going to have a long discussion about your employment with this company.”
“Goddamn it, you can’t fire me. I didn’t even know the girl was dating the boss’s brother.”
“So that made her fair game?”
“I thought she might be amenable. There’s a rumor that she’s sleeping with all three of you. I figured that if she was working her way through the executives, why couldn’t I have a turn?” Before the last word was out of Preston’s mouth, Slade’s fist was flying. He connected to the middle-aged executive’s ruddy face with a satisfying thud. Preston hit the ground and immediately started whining. A thick line of blood dripped from his nose.
Slade crouched down and got in the man’s face. He was pleased with the fear in the other man’s eyes. “You’re fired. I want you on the first plane back to Dallas. Your secretary can clean out your office. If I catch you on Black Oak property again, I will have you arrested. If I see you near our fiancée again, I will have you killed. No one will ever find your body. Is that understood?”
Preston hobbled back with a nod, and Slade had to wonder if this coward would climb a tree to take pictures of a woman. It didn’t seem like his speed, but Slade wasn’t about to underestimate anyone’s desire for Hannah. He knew firsthand how it burned, how it made a man crazy. Even if everything didn’t add up perfectly, Slade still didn’t want the bastard anywhere near his woman.
He heard footsteps behind him and turned to find Dex sauntering up. His younger brother stared at Preston, who whimpered and tried to cover his face.
“Punching him feel good?” Dex nodded with malice at the other man.
Slade smiled. “Imminently satisfying.”
“Perfect. I’ll let the receptionist know to book him on the first flight to Anchorage and to make sure his ass travels in coach.” Dex started to walk away, then stopped short. “Oh, and I came in to get you. We have a conference call with the Lenox brothers in five minutes.” As Dex left, Lyle rushed through the door, then knelt to help his former boss to his feet. Lyle pulled Preston up, and the rolled-back cuffs of his shirt sleeves slipped up, revealing wiry arms covered in scratch marks. Slade suppressed a smile. The quiet ones always had the freaky sex lives. He wondered who would have scratched the hell out of a twerp like him.
Slade turned toward the door, but before he could leave, Scott, the blond tech who had supposedly identified the problem, stopped him. “Sir. Can I talk to you privately?” Slade hesitated then opened the door to a small conference room. “What is it?” If Scott said a word to him about Hannah, Slade swore he’d lay the prick out flat, too.
“It’s about the bug, sir. Like I said, it’s a nasty virus, but fairly common. Mr. Ward thinks it’s Internet security issues from the porn, but it’s not. It looks like someone uploaded this bug directly on to the system. Someone who had access to our software wanted this system to fail and at a very precise time.”
Slade felt his body go cold. Then he paused. Believe Scott or not? Too early to tell. He needed more information. “When was it uploaded?”
“I don’t have a firm time right now, but the bug crashed the system around eleven a.m.
Right around the time the corporate jet took off with Hannah, himself, and his brothers, on their way to Alaska. Lyle had seen Dex carry Hannah out the door. Since the guy was still hovering protectively around his former boss, Slade could guess that Lyle was Preston’s bitch.
He would have told Mr. Harvard that Hannah had been whisked away. Ironic how perfectly timed that virus was. Preston was definitely smart enough to write the code to crash a system.
Hell, depending on Lyle’s loyalties, the little asswipe might have helped his former boss.
Slade marched into the IT cubicles, pinning a hard stare on Lyle. “Thanks. Get back to work.
Fix that bug.”
“Yes, sir,” he said, then watched Slade drag a sputtering Preston away.
Building security joined him to walk the former CIO out. Slade vowed to sic Burke and Cole on him the second Preston’s feet touched Dallas ground again.
* * * *
After finishing her lunch and finding some halfway decent clothes, Hannah explored the house. She was never again letting Dex pack for her. He hadn’t brought along a single pair of underwear and refused to tell her where to buy some. She was commando under her cotton skirt.
Bras, it seemed, didn’t make Dex’s list of necessary items, either. Her silk blouse brushed against her hard nipples making her so aware of her body and all the ways it ached. Now that she’d had sex, she couldn’t seem to get it off her mind.
She peered into each room. Last night, Slade had recounted a few stories about this place and his time with Gavin here as kids. Now she was fascinated by this grand log home and its remote majesty, which skirted a placid little lake framed by snow-capped mountains in the distance. The sky was such a bright blue that it almost hurt her eyes. She’d never seen anything like this.
As she wandered into the office, Hannah peeked out the window at the grounds. Everything from every view seemed vibrant and alive. There were a couple of golf carts at the back of the house that she’d been informed by the staff she could use to get to the stables. She definitely wanted to see those before she left. She was a West Texas girl, so horseback riding had been part of her upbringing. Dex and Slade had promised to take her on a ride sometime this week. She was far too sore today since she’d spent her whole night riding hungry men.
Hannah felt her face flush at the thought. The night before had been perfect—with one exception: The terrible incident between her and Gavin.
Dex and Slade had sworn that Gavin hadn’t meant a word of his ugly speech and that he was wrestling some inner demons. Perhaps. Gavin might be very corporate, but deep down, the man had a heart. She knew about his mistresses. And she knew that he had too much to give to be happy with such a cold arrangement forever. But right now, he didn’t seem inclined to change the status quo, and his inner demons were winning. That made her reconsider her decision to be with Dex and Slade. She couldn’t be the reason their family broke apart. Those brothers needed each other, and unless Gavin figured out how to conquer whatever ate at him, Hannah seriously feared she’d only stand like a wall between the younger two brothers and the eldest, squarely dividing them.
When Gavin had claimed she wasn’t good enough, the barbs struck too close to home.
Hannah had cried while Slade held and rocked her, assuring her she was everything they all needed. He’d teased her that he’d be a mess without her organizational skills. Dex would be a constant bull in a china shop without her calming influence. Even if Gavin wasn’t admitting it, he needed her for her heart. Slade had insisted that if Gavin truly found fault with the way she represented him or Black Oak, he would have fired her long ago. Hannah knew Gavin never let any situation go unaddressed if he thought changes were due. But even if he was lying to her—
and himself—she’d still be between him and his brothers.
Next, Dex had drawn a bath for her, complete with bubbles. They had led her back to the huge bathroom with a whirlpool—then made her forget everything. She’d felt like a princess as they worshipped her, passing her back and forth, washing her body and her hair, assuring her that she was perfect for them. That given time and patience, Gavin would come around.
Then Slade held her while Dex shaved her pussy. Afterward, both men had taken turns lavishing her newly bare flesh with affectionate tongues. For a few blissful moments, she had forgotten all about the ache Gavin’s words had caused.
This morning had been the same. They’d cuddled her and loved her before they’d begun her training. She’d knelt before them, Dex patiently explaining the slave position while Slade had been preparing her for something else.
Her bottom clenched around the plug he’d lodged deep in her backside. It was a continual reminder of everything they wanted from her. Everything she ached to give them.
But now, Hannah found herself alone. Gavin crept back into her mind.
She wandered into the hallway and heard the haunting sound of a piano being played with deft hands. Gran had loved music, and Hannah had studied well. This piece, a sad etude by Chopin, was one of her favorites.
As she sought the source of the sound, she peeked into a parlor they’d passed on the brief tour Slade had given her the night before. Now, Gavin sat at a huge black grand piano, his fingers working the keys like a master. Of all the things she’d gleaned about her former boss, Hannah hadn’t known that he played the piano, much less so beautifully. Music filled the space, the poignant melody battering her heart. Dumbstruck, she stopped, stared.
A bottle of vodka sat on the piano, and it looked like Gavin had made his way through most of it. She glanced at the clock on the wall. One o’clock in the afternoon. She’d never seen him drink more than a few sips of a vodka and tonic, and never in the middle of the day. What had him imbibing now? The fight with his brothers? His usually perfect, dark hair was unkempt, his charcoal gray pajama pants wrinkled. He hadn’t bothered with a shirt at all.
As he played each note, every muscle of his shoulders, biceps, and chest rippled, bunched.
Hannah had never seen Gavin James’s bare chest. She clasped her hands to keep them to herself.
Like his face and persona, even the way he handled the keys, everything about him was strong, commanding. His wide shoulders were capable of making a multi-billion-dollar company thrive for a decade. They also looked equally capable of dragging her under him, then holding her down and taking…
No. She would not let him exploit the small-town girl he’d sworn wasn’t good enough for him.
But as his body swayed with the music, he clenched his jaw furiously. With one hand playing the next series of notes, the other reached for the bottle. He took a long, deep swallow.
Gavin looked…tormented. Had she done that to him?
The playing stopped suddenly with an abrupt clash of keys, and he straddled the piano bench, his gray eyes red rimmed, almost accusing. She doubted he’d slept much last night. “Hannah.
Just who I wanted to see.”
There was a little slur in his angry voice that made her wince.
“I’m sorry to disturb you. I’ll go.” She began to back out of the room, but his voice held her.
“Bullshit. You’ll never go away, my pretty little Hannah. That’s the problem. You don’t even go away when I sleep. You’re always there. And now it will be so much worse because you’ll be near, but with Slade and Dex. I’ll have to hear them fuck you every damn night, listen to your whimpers of pleasure. Now, I won’t ever be rid of you.”
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