After having her submissive nature revealed without her permission, Gina Ybarra is hypervigilant to keep her sexual preference for women firmly in the closet. But the hostile takeover of the company she works for has turned all of Gina’s ideas upside down. At first playing with her female Dominant boss was just role playing to save the company from ruin. But the unthinkable happened and now, Gina has to decide if her fear of her family’s rejection is stronger than the feelings she has for Reena.
Reena Barrett is an expert at keeping her real feelings hidden, including the hurt from Gina’s constant need to hide their relationship. When their task to save their jobs becomes more involved, Reena decides it’s better to let Gina go rather than keep wishing for what couldn’t be. But the company is still at risk and Reena gives Gina an ultimatum that could end their friendship and their working relationship. Reena needs to know how deep Gina’s desire to submit will go.
Monday. Mondays always sucked. Reena stared out her office window and wondered why she gave a damn about her job. Call it whatever you want, but Reena knew her skills were to “fix shit.” They called her a public-relations officer. With Sunsoon, she’d been the spin doctor, taking negative news and turning it into triumphs.
But even she couldn’t spin Victor Tourine’s actions. Ostensibly, he’d tried to save the company by scuttling it. He bypassed Reena to release fatal information that drove the stock into the toilet. He threw temper tantrums that drove off quality people and pensioned out anyone who disagreed with him. By the time Reena had agreed to help Nell betray her employer and bring in ConFed to take over Sunsoon, all the senior officers in the company had retired, left, or disappeared.READ MORE
In the end, Victor had refused to negotiate with anyone for the company. His two cronies followed his lead. One retired. The other disappeared with a large amount of cash authorized by Victor. Then Victor gave himself a hefty severance package from what little profits there had been and opted out of the business of handing over the keys to ConFed. None of it made sense.
Throughout the entire bullshit, Reena had pretended to be in a relationship with Gina to cover up their intentions to hand over Sunsoon to the raider company. Which led to her current dilemma.
Reena should fire her secretary.
From the rumors, it seemed all three of the most senior employees of Sunsoon had gotten trashed and behaved unprofessionally. Nell had spent the whole weekend with Mark Conners. Tori Rogers had struck Atticus Paulus in the slap heard around the water cooler. Some kind of family emergency had kept her home, not her employer’s pink slip.
And the rumor mill ground up Gina too. She’d ditched the Vegas weekend of relaxation and had come home. Everyone speculated, and some of the guesses were ridiculous.
From her window on the second floor, Reena watched Gina stride up to the double doors of the office building. She seemed braced for battle, her posture ramrod straight. What the hell was Reena going to do?
When her phone rang, Reena jumped. With a sigh, she lifted the receiver. “Reena Barrett.”
“Miss Barrett? Mr. Fedder would like to see you.” Anthony Fedder had brought his own secretary since his presence at the LA office was temporary. The woman was a well-preserved fifty with short silver hair that looked as if it would be soft to touch. Reena’s observation was that the woman was more like a mother to Tony than a secretary.
To each his own.
“I’ll be there in five.” A reprieve. She didn’t have to face Gina just yet.
She took the stairs to the top floor. What was the secretary’s name? Oh, right. Miss Starling. “Good morning, Miss Starling.”
“Go right in, Miss Barrett. Would you like some coffee?” The woman rose and opened Fedder’s office door.
“Yes, please. Thank you.” Reena strode into Anthony’s office and marveled at how at home the man seemed in a place she’d always considered Victor’s. Surprisingly, Dimitri Caruso lounged on the burgundy sofa to the right, his face unreadable.
Caruso was ConFed’s security expert. Reena had dealt with many men like him before. The man gave nothing away, only nodded to her as she entered the room.
As Anthony waved to the leather chair across the desk from him and tapped away at his computer, Reena studied him.
He resembled a grown-up surfer with a deceptively innocent face. He had a military-style haircut that somehow didn’t make him seem stiff or unapproachable. In the office and during off hours, he was friendly, sweet, chatty.
But in the BDSM club, the man was all Dom. He ruled a scene with an iron fist, tolerating absolutely no disobedience. Funny enough, his favorite kind of submissive was the smart-ass, bratty kind. He’d played with Gina but found her too accommodating, too flexible. He wanted resistance. There had been something about Gina in that session. Rarely defiant, she had passive-aggressively remained untouched in the scene with the male Dom.
“I’d like your opinion on something.” The man opened a file and passed it across the desk so Reena could view its contents.
Most of the numbers meant very little to her. “What’s this?” But Reena knew what it was. Nell had suspected there would be some evidence of the money leaking out of the company.
“Expenditures authorized by Yarina Tourine. Do you know Yarina well?” The question seemed casual, but Reena knew it wasn’t.
Reena tried to be cagey. “She’s a good manager and a damn smart software engineer.”
Tony held her gaze. “And?”
Damn him. Always the personal element. Miss Starling chose that moment to bring Reena her coffee. Tony never removed his questioning attention.
Taking a sip of the brew, she wondered how much to reveal. “She’s kinky and I’ve played with her, if that’s what you mean.” Reena returned Tony’s stare as steadily as she could. She wasn’t going to lie more than she already had. Tony and the other ConFed men believed that she and Gina were in a relationship. They believed that she was the moving force behind the covert actions to facilitate ConFed’s takeover of Sunsoon. Those lies were bad enough. Reena wasn’t going to add to it.
“A lot?” Tony raised an eyebrow.
“Twice,” Reena said shortly and then sighed. “Yarina only subbed for fun. And she prefers men. Yarina is a brat sub, and she had a couple of scenes with me out of curiosity, not genuine interest.” Reena smiled a little at the memory of Yarina’s flippancy that turned into loud passion. It had been fun to tap into Yarina’s soft side. “She seems clinical and hard on the outside, but she’s actually an intense submissive.”
“Not your type,” Tony said.
Was that judgment she heard in his tone? “I have a type?”
“I noticed that whenever Gina became too clingy, you distanced yourself.” It was a personal observation that Reena neither asked for nor appreciated.
“Gina isn’t clingy, and this topic is not up for discussion.” Reena concentrated on keeping her hands steady as she rose, placed her coffee cup on Tony’s desk, and straightened her skirt. “Is there anything else?” She kept the words bland, but her mind seethed.
“You tell me. Tony raised one eyebrow. “The weekend in Vegas had some…unintentional results.”
“I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors.” He seemed to be angling at something. Reena waited him out. He sighed. “Have you utilized the declaration portion in the employee agreement?”
Reena tightened her lips. That section. Why was he asking? Had Gina done what she threatened and declared herself to one of the others? “I have not. Why?”
“You might consider it,” he said calmly. “Gina is an experienced submissive, and almost all the men I have as senior officers would appreciate her.”
“Meaning I don’t?” Reena glared at Tony. Bastard. No one touched her submissive. That brought her up short. Hadn’t she pushed Gina away? Didn’t Gina have a right to choose another Dominant if Reena wasn’t going to have her?
No. A thousand times no.
“Meaning it’s clear to me that you never wanted to let her go, but you did. Why is that?”
Hell, she didn’t know. Abruptly, she sat down. Fear? Yes. Doubt of Gina’s sincerity? That too. Reena believed that Gina had a variation of Stockholm syndrome. The two of them had to pretend they were lovers, so Gina fell in love. Simple as that.
But would Gina declare herself to be a submissive to Reena if she didn’t feel something? It would be a simple thing to corner the woman into the declaration and find out. Meanwhile, she wasn’t answering Tony’s probing question. It was too close to home.
For a moment, Tony seemed to study her with eyes that saw way too much. But he only shook his head and picked up the open file. “You need to prepare Yarina for her upcoming press interviews.”
“Seriously?” Reena couldn’t help her involuntary response.
Dimitri shifted on the sofa. “Is there a problem?”
“Those interviews were scheduled six months ago, before the takeover.” Yarina’s loyalties were definitely in question.
“As the head of the software design department, she’s a logical choice.” Tony leaned back in his chair. “We’ll find out where she stands.”
“I’m not sure a public interview is when you want to discover whose side she’s on,” Reena pointed out. Tony was no fool. What was the catch?
“I want her to have her say,” Tony answered. His gaze held hers. “And be prepared for the worst.”COLLAPSE