By: Sherri Hayes

He was rude. Not to me, of course, but to those he felt were beneath him, like Jamie. Karl was subtle about it, though; it was more sly comments than outright rudeness. Once, he’d told Jamie she was pretty good at her “little” job. The disparaging comment was a vast understatement of Jamie’s duties as an executive secretary. She earned every penny she made.

Jamie had said more than once that she was very glad to be working for me and not him. Her comment was along the lines of “If I had to work for him, I’d quit before the week was out.” Although her words inflated my ego, it didn’t solve my overall problem with him. Or my current problem: why was Karl in my office?

My CFO stood as I entered and waited until I took a seat before retaking his own. “What can I do for you, Karl?”

He handed me a stack of papers. “I wanted to bring you the quarterly numbers as soon as the girls finished compiling them.” The look on his face was full of the arrogance I’d come to associate with Karl. And though I bristled inwardly at his words for the all-female team he’d assembled, I kept my irritation in check. My anger would get me nowhere, so I ignored his choice of words.


“The numbers are good, but not where I would like them to be. I think we may need to ramp up the fall fundraiser to make sure we exceed our financial goal.”

I set the pile down in front of me; there was no need to look at it immediately if there were no glaring issues. Besides, I had enough on my mind right now. “I’ll be happy if we meet our goal, considering the economy.”

“I still think we need to set our sights high,” he said, pushing for more.

I was not going to argue something so stupid with him. “Fine. Meet with Lily and put together a proposal.”

With that he left. Picking up the phone, I dialed Lily’s number to let her know he was coming. She detested Karl Walker and would kill me if I didn’t warn her he was coming. Lily didn’t take crap from anyone.

Lily answered on the third ring. “Stephan. To what do I owe this honor?”

I managed a smile. “Karl Walker’s on his way down to see you.”

She whined. “I have to be nice?”

This time an actual chuckle escaped. “Yes. You have to be nice.”

“Do you know what he wants?” She sighed.

“He wants to discuss some changes to the fundraiser.”

Lily’s tone became defensive. “Changes? What kinds of changes?”

The fall fundraiser was Lily’s baby. She took it personally. “The quarterly projections are lower than what he’d hoped.”

“Ah,” she surmised. “He just wants to impress the boss.”

I wasn’t going to disagree with her. She was probably right.

Ian Pierce had been pleasant enough when I’d talked to him on the phone. Daren had been correct; he was open to “selling” Brianna.

My appointment was for six o’clock, Wednesday evening, and when I pulled my car up to the gated house ten miles outside of the city, my stomach started churning, just as it had every time I thought about what I was going to do. I am going to buy someone!

The gate opened. My sweaty palms gripped the steering wheel as I drove my car down a long driveway leading to a house that looked like something out of a Gothic horror movie. I could only imagine how eerie it would be once the sun set.

Taking a deep breath, I put my game face on. I’d done a little research on Ian after setting up the appointment. From everything I’d found, Daren had been right about the man. Ian respected those who emanated power and detested those who exhibited weakness. I would have to mind my actions the entire time I was within the walls of his house.

Less than a minute after ringing the doorbell, a tiny woman opened the door, wearing nothing more than a tube top and a short miniskirt. Her hair was long and blond. This was not Brianna.

The woman did not speak and her gaze, after the second it took for her to see who I was, was cast down.

“I’m Stephan Coleman.” My voice was firm but even.

“Yes, Sir. Will you follow me?”

She stepped back and waited for me to enter before closing the door behind me. I assumed this was Alex, Ian’s alpha slave. She led me down a long hallway to a large, solid-wooden door that she knocked on twice, firmly. A stern voice answered, telling us to enter. My escort opened the door for me before following and immediately dropping to her knees.

The room was masculine, full of dark woods. The walls were lined with bookcases filled with books. In the center of the room sat an older man, who I assumed was Ian, behind a large desk. He looked up and appraised me. I’d just come from work and wore a tailored black suit and tie with a white shirt. Classic, but it also said power, which was exactly what I’d intended.