Home > The Contract (The Contract #1)(7)

The Contract (The Contract #1)(7)
Melanie Moreland

With a groan, I shut off the machine, grabbing my discarded towel. In the kitchen, I got a bottle of water, chugged it down, and turned on my laptop. Signing into the company site, I scrolled through the employee files, stopping on Miss Elliott’s page. I studied her photograph, trying to be unbiased.

There was nothing remarkable about her, but her bright blue eyes were wide with long lashes. I imagined her dark hair was long since I had never seen it done in any other way aside from a tight bun. Her skin was very pale; I wondered how she would look under the skillful hands of a makeup artist and dressed in some decent clothes. Squinting at the screen, I stared at her picture. Some sleep wouldn’t hurt to rid her of the dark circles under her eyes and maybe eating something other than peanut butter and jam sandwiches would help. She was rail thin. I liked my women with a few more curves.

I groaned in frustration, rubbing the back of my neck.

I supposed, in this case, it didn’t matter what I preferred. It was what I needed.

In this case, I might have to admit I needed Miss Elliott.

Goddamn my life.

My phone rang, and I glanced at the screen, surprised to see Brian’s name.

“Hey.”

“Sorry if I woke you up.”

I glanced at the clock, seeing it was only six-thirty. I was surprised he was awake, though. I knew he was a late riser.

“I’ve been up a while. What’s going on?”

“Graham will see you today at eleven.”

I stood up, feeling a flow of nerves ripple down my spine. “Are you serious? Why so fast?”

“He’s away for the remainder of the week, and I told Adrian you were considering accepting a job interview in Toronto.”

I chuckled. “I owe you.”

“Big. So big you’ll never be able to repay me.” He chortled. “You know there’s a good chance this will go nowhere unless you can convince him things are different for you, right? I laid it on pretty thick with Adrian—but my word is only going to take you so far.”

“I know.”

“Okay. Good luck. Let me know what happens.”

“I will.”

Hanging up, I checked my schedule, smirking when I realized Miss Elliott had updated it last night. I had a breakfast meeting at eight, which meant I’d be back in the office by ten or so. I decided not to go into the office. I had an idea how to introduce my so-called girlfriend into my interview.

I dialed Miss Elliott’s number. She answered after a few rings, mumbling her sleepy greeting.

“Mmmm . . . ello?”

“Miss Elliott.”

“What?”

I sucked in a deep breath, trying to be patient. It was obvious I had woken her. I tried again.

“Miss Elliott, it’s Mr. VanRyan.”

Her voice was raspy and confused. “Mr. VanRyan?”

I sighed heavily. “Yes.”

I could hear a lot of movement, and I had the mental image of her scrambling to a sitting position, looking rumpled.

She cleared her throat. “Is, ah, there a problem, Mr. VanRyan?”

“I won’t be in the office until after lunch.”

There was silence.

“I have a personal matter to take care of.”

Her voice was dry when she spoke. “You could have texted me . . . sir.”

“I need you to do two things for me.” I kept going, ignoring the somewhat sarcastic edge to her voice. “If David comes in and asks where I am, tell him I’m on a personal matter and you have no idea where. Is that clear?”

“Crystal.”

“I need you to call me at eleven-fifteen. Exactly.”

“Did you want me to say anything or just breathe heavily?”

I pulled the phone away from my ear, surprised at her tone. It would seem my PA wasn’t pleased at being woken early. She was being far mouthier than usual, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“I need you to tell me my four o’clock appointment has been switched to three.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes. Now repeat what I just told you.”

She made a strange sound, somewhat like a grumble, which made me smirk. Miss Elliott appeared to have a bit of a backbone if the circumstances were right. However, I wanted to make sure she was awake enough to remember my instructions.

“I’m to tell David you are on a personal errand and I have no idea where. I will call you at exactly eleven-fifteen and tell you your four o’clock has been switched to three.”

“Good. Don’t screw it up.”

“But Mr. VanRyan, it doesn’t make any sense, why would—”

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