Excerpt for Reporting to Him by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Career driven to a fault, Sydney Grayson has forged a path up the corporate ladder at a NYC newsmagazine. When she learns about a potential rung opening, she takes a shot with dreams of the big office. Unfortunately, a corporate merger nearly pushes her out the front door instead.


Once she learns she’s not getting the job, a night of excesses ends up with her tied in a sexy stranger’s bed. He drives her past the quiet control she has on her life and demands more than one night.


Jensen Archer had flown into town on his father’s orders—close the barely profitable magazine arm of their new acquisition and do it quickly. But when he realizes his sexy one night stand is also an editor for the magazine, he knows he has to touch and taste her again.


Jensen’s in for a battle, pitting himself against his embittered father and the woman he can’t seem to get enough of.






Reporting to Him





Alexandra O’Hurley




MF, CONTEMPORARY, SPANKING, AND LIGHT BONDAGE





Twisted E Publishing, LLC

www.twistedepublishing.com


A TWISTED E-PUBLISHING BOOK



Reporting to Him

Copyright © 2013, 2017 by Alexandra O’Hurley



Edited by Kellie G


Second E-book Publication: December 2017, SMASHWORDS EDITION


Cover design by K Designs

All cover art and logo copyright © 2017, Twisted Erotica Publishing, LLC.


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.


All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.


All characters engaged in sexual acts are over the age of 18.




Contents


One


Two


Three


Four


Five


Six


Seven


Eight


Nine


Ten


Eleven


Twelve


Thirteen


Fourteen


Fifteen


Sixteen


Also by Alexandra


About the Author


Dedication


Thank you, Amy and Nan

Chapter One

“You promised you could get me that interview, Manny. I’ve already pitched the story, and it all hinged on you making the meet happen.” Sydney Grayson looked out the window from the backseat of the cab. Pouring rain hit the outside of the glass, the storm the only reason she was paying for transportation. She typically walked the few blocks to work, but she didn’t want to be soaking wet by the time she got to her office. The morning wasn’t a good one because of the weather. Manny trying to wiggle out of his promise only made it worse. “I need this interview.”

As Sydney held her cell to her ear with her shoulder, she juggled her coffee and her planner, trying to find her story notes in her bag. Without the interview with the real estate mogul’s son, her piece would be worthless. Her contact in his building had promised her a break, but since making that promise Manny had come up with excuse after excuse as to why he couldn’t get her in to see the man.

“I didn’t know he was going to be heading overseas, Sydney. It was a last-minute schedule change. He won’t be back for a month. If you still want to talk to him at that point, I can make it happen.”

Likely story. “The piece was supposed to be ready for the upcoming issue. I need that meet now. When does his plane leave?” Sydney dug in her bag for her pen, knowing she was pushing her luck. But if she didn’t pin Manny to the wall now, the interview was never going to happen.

“What? You gonna track him down at LaGuardia and force him to answer your questions?” Manny chuckled into the earpiece.

She scribbled the airport name down. The more she got Manny talking, the more she could get him to spill. “If I have to. I’ll do just about anything to get the story. When’s he leaving? Today, tomorrow?”

Sydney heard the sigh on the other end of the line before silence filled her ear. She could still hear breathing and the tiny hum of the open line, so she knew he hadn’t hung up on her. “If he finds out I gave you these details, I could be out of a job, Syd.”

“You know I won’t give you up.” Come on, come on…just tell me already. “You’ve helped me out before, and I’ve never ratted you out.”

“Yeah, but only a small few know his itinerary. They could narrow it down. It would be one thing for you to show up in the building, another to show up at the airport. It’s just too close.”

“He won’t find out through me. Come on, Manny. If we don’t nail his father for the tenements, who will? You grew up in one of those buildings. Don’t you want the kids living there now to have a better life than you did? Where are those families gonna go if Tate bulldozes those buildings?”

Sydney knew it was a low blow to bring up Manny’s history, but she needed this story, and not in a month. She needed it now, or the story could all fall apart around her just like the buildings were going to. There would always be some excuse coming. Andrew Tate was a busy man, always on the go. She needed to cut through Manny’s bullshit and get to Andrew.

“Why not interview the old man? What’s Andrew going to do?”

“Andrew’s being groomed to be just like his father. His armor may not be as thick as his dad’s yet, so I can get to him and obtain the info I need to blow this wide open.”

“And if Andrew doesn’t know about the buildings?”

“Then perhaps he needs his eyes opened.”

“You know he’s not going to answer you, no matter where you see him. He didn’t fall far from the tree at all.” Manny released another sigh. “He leaves today in about an hour. And you’re in luck. He has to go through TSA because the plane could only pick up in a secured area due to the rush. Typically he’s driven straight out to the plane.”

I would’ve found a way onto the tarmac if I had to. “Which terminal?”

“Terminal D.”

“Manny, I owe you big-time.”

“You got that straight. I’m expecting a big steak dinner at Peter Luger for me and my girl outta this.”

Sydney cringed. The price tag on that meal was going to hurt her pocketbook, but it might be worth it if she got a chance to obtain what she needed. “Sure, yeah.”

As she hit the End button on her phone, Sydney leaned up close to the driver. “Change of direction. Take me to LaGuardia.”

* * * *

Sydney stood at the terminal entrance, her mini digital recorder in hand, waiting for Andrew Tate as a long list of questions ran through her mind. Her gaze roamed the crowds. She was looking for signs of his arrival, knowing he rarely traveled alone. As she leaned against the wall, she felt antsy, her nerves getting the better of her. For all outward appearances, she was a balls-to-the-wall reporter willing to do just about anything to get the story, but in reality she was only human. Fear peeked in on occasion as she wondered what the hell she was doing. She was one story away from landing her ass in jail.

She watched as a group of passengers de-boarded. Family members waited for them in the terminal with signs and flowers and whatnot. Hugs and shows of affection abounded, and it hurt Sydney to watch. Who would be there to welcome her back from a flight? No one, really. Jealousy spiked as Sydney scrutinized the people, her chest aching with intense need to belong somewhere outside of work. She knew she shouldn’t feel the emotion. Yet she was unable to stop it.

Lost in thought, she nearly missed the pack of burly men strolling through the terminal. They had to be a security team. Andrew Tate would more than likely be at the center of that throng, hidden behind a wall of brute strength. Sydney couldn’t even see between the musclemen, but in her gut she knew it was him. They quickly approached the TSA checkpoint, and that was when she spotted him. Dark sunglasses hid his handsome face, but there was no hiding the tailored clothes encasing the fit body of the man all five boroughs hailed as the Prince of New York City.

Clicking her tape recorder on, Sydney rushed toward the checkpoint, ready to invade the group. When she was a few feet from Tate, she saw another man approach Tate from the other side of his horde of bodyguards. One of the guards blocked the man’s path, but Andrew stopped the guard and clasped the man in a bear hug. Suitcase in hand, the random guy was apparently de-boarding a recent flight and was currently getting in her damned way. The only good thing about the encounter was that the guards seemed more interested in the man Andrew Tate was talking to, and less aware she was closing in for the kill. As she neared, she heard a snippet of their conversation.

“Still flying commercial?” Tate smiled as he stood facing the mystery man.

“My father’s still cheap as ever, but then I’m a nobody. I don’t have to hide on a private jet.” The stranger spoke with a British accent, clipped tones that were really pleasant to her ears—that is, if he hadn’t been throwing a wrench into her plan. His gaze moved to hers, and she nearly stopped in her tracks as their stares locked. Sydney was stunned by how handsome he was. Electricity sparked through her. He seemed to tense and take note of her as well. Her breath caught in her lungs as his gaze perused her, her body tingling under his appraisal. Heat pooled between her legs just from the attention he was giving her.

She shook off the sensation. There was no way she could let the interloper prevent her from getting what she needed. She had a story to do, and a casual attraction wasn’t in the cards. Andrew Tate was the target, not some guy her libido was standing up and taking notice of. And oh boy, it was taking notice, all right.

“Mr. Tate, what do you have to say about the tenement buildings your father is demolishing? How is he going to care for the poor families living there now?”

Andrew Tate spun around, his scrutiny clearly showing he was not happy to be interrupted from his little reunion just as one of his security guards began dragging her away.

She wasn’t going to let that stop her. “Where will the families live now that your father is tearing down their homes? Do you have any idea what these families are facing?”

Sydney felt the security guard’s arm wrap around her neck, cutting off her air supply and ending her futile attempt at a forced interview. Tate and the mystery man looked at her in horror. The guard’s thick arm was doing the trick; little specks of light were glimmering in her gaze as her oxygen levels slowly depleted.

The Brit jumped forward, worry etched on his face. “You’re suffocating her!”

“Just doing my job, sir,” the burly guard replied, his husky voice vibrating through her.

“You’re not supposed to kill her.” The Brit wrestled her away from the security guard as she sucked in a few large drafts of air. Dots began to dance even more furiously in her vision. She took in more oxygen, and pressure filled her chest, her lungs burning. Once she gathered her wits, she stood up straighter and looked around.

They were all gone.

Except for the Brit. He stood before her, concern written in the lines of his face. “Are you well?”

Sydney nodded, trying to look through the crowds to see where Tate had gone. “You let him get away!”

“You’re welcome?” He shook his head and casually glanced over his shoulder in the direction Tate had more than likely escaped in before turning back to her and capturing her gaze with his. “By the way, I don’t have the power to stop Andrew Tate when he’s on the move.”

Sydney eyed the man, the electricity from his crystal blue stare making her body grow warmer and warmer. A hum seemed to sound between their bodies, a palpable charge in the air. She wanted to swim in his gaze and get lost in him. She pushed the thought from her mind. He’d given Tate time to run off and ruined her chance at an interview. He wasn’t a guy to go gaga over.

The Brit drew his bag over his shoulder and picked up his suitcase. “Glad to see you’re all right.” He began to walk away as she watched, dumbstruck.

Sydney followed once she realized he could be a way in, suddenly smelling the key to fix her current problem. “How do you know Tate?”

“Why do you care so much?” he asked as he continued to walk briskly through the terminal.

“His family is about to cause a lot of heartache for some families in this city. I just want to find a way to stop them.”

“Ahh…so you’re a do-gooder searching for a way to right wrongs and fight the good fight.”

“Something like that.” She cringed at the little white lie. Yes, the story could potentially get Tate Construction to stop their plans, so it wasn’t a complete fib.

The Brit suddenly halted and looked her over. His gaze settled on her face for a moment before he continued to walk on. “I haven’t seen him in years, so I doubt I can be of any help to you.”

“That’s not what I asked. I just wanted to know how you knew him,” she said as she caught up with him.

He was quiet a long minute, enough to make her think he was ignoring her. She wanted to reach out and grasp his wrist, anything to make him stop and look at her again. Finally before she took drastic actions he sighed. “We were in university together.”

The man didn’t appear to be a cutthroat businessman. He was comfortable and relaxed, without the killer instinct. “You went to Harvard?”

“Is that a stretch to the imagination?” He gazed at her, his smile broadened with amusement.

“No, you just don’t seem to be cut from the same cloth as Tate.”

“You’re quite right on that account,” he said as he glided through the airport’s terminal exit doors. A limo was parked outside, and a driver was waiting for him. The driver took the man’s bags as he neared the car.

Sydney took in the car, knowing there was something familiar about the man, but she couldn’t make the connection. If he had a car and driver waiting for him, he wasn’t a run-of-the-mill schmo. “What’s your name?”

The Brit shook his head as he opened his own door, the driver pushing his bags in the trunk. “I’m nobody.” He smiled at her, a bright white grin that made her girlie parts want to introduce themselves, intimately. She beat them back into submission and stared him down, determined not to melt. He nodded, entered the car, and closed the door.

As the car drove off, she wrote down the license plate on her notepad, missing the last two numbers in her rush. She started jogging ahead, trying to get a better view but it was a lost cause. Sydney stopped in the middle of the pickup area, defeated. She’d just lost a potential key into Andrew Tate’s world. She just knew it.

Not only that, her body screamed its anger that she didn’t have a name or any way to find the most delicious man she’d ever set eyes on. Her body was still reeling from being in his presence. Her nipples were hard, and her pussy was wet and achy. Sydney wasn’t the kind of girl to throw herself at a man. There wasn’t time in her life for strings, but she was curious what a night in his arms would feel like. A shiver raced down her spine as a vision of her in his bed entered her mind.

A horn blared behind her and made her jump right out of her skin. She turned and glared at the cabbie behind her, sticking up a middle finger as he screamed at her to get out of the way. How dare he ruin a perfectly good fantasy?

Chapter Two

Sydney rushed from her cab, stepping into a huge rain puddle as she was nearly mowed down by a bike messenger. Her day was really turning to shit. She’d lost the Tate interview, and now she was two hours late for work. Of course she’d texted her boss, Oliver, to let him know she was on an assignment, but he’d been upset. Seems he’d planned an important meeting for that morning. Oliver had texted her every half hour since she’d told him about Tate.

She juggled her bag, umbrella, and her coffee, then leaned in and paid the cabbie, all while getting completely soaked.

“Have a good day, miss.”

Yeah, I don’t think that’s possible. “Thanks.”

As she made her way across the sidewalk and forced her way through the throng of pedestrians, she might as well have not had an umbrella. Water sluiced down her back, runoff from the other people’s umbrellas surrounding her. She hoped she had a spare shirt—hell, a spare everything—up in her office on the thirty-fifth floor.

Pushing open the plate-glass doors, she brushed the bottoms of her Manolo Blahnik’s on the rugs the staff had placed in the lobby, wondering why she’d worn her most expensive shoes on the worst day of the year. She’d scrimped and saved for the things, and she’d be lucky to make it home with them in one piece by the end of the day.

“Fuck!” The first step off the rug, and she found herself on her backside with her coffee all over her blouse, staring at the ceiling. Ornate ceiling tiles with architectural swirls made her feel dizzy, as if they circled above her, smiling down at her and her aching ass. Luckily the coffee hadn’t been hot, or she could have added third-degree burns to her list of woes. Heat swamped her face, not only from having fallen in front of the entire lobby, but also for the screamed expletive no nice girl should know and most definitely shouldn’t say. Sydney sat up as people rushed past her without attempting to assist. Jerks. Where was her knight in shining armor?

She gathered her items, feeling like crying for the first time in…well, forever. Looking down, she sighed when she saw her pale blue blouse was now brown, her coffee staining it a lovely shade of taupe. Thanks to the top being soaking wet, the brown had spread like watercolor and formed its own large continent over her chest. Maybe she could fib and say it was supposed to look that way. Someone would buy it, right?

“Miss Grayson, are you okay?” The newest security guard rushed over to help her. At least someone took two seconds to give a damn.

“Yes, thank you.”

As he helped lift her to her feet, she wondered if it were possible for him to carry her around for the rest of the day as she wasn’t completely sure she could manage it on her own. So far she didn’t have much reliable information in the affirmative. The question was on her lips, but she was sure the young man wouldn’t get her brand of sarcasm. She also didn’t need a puppy dog chasing after her if he assumed she was flirting.

“Can I help you with anything?”

Sydney stuffed her now-empty coffee cup into his hand. “If you could throw that away, I’d be much obliged.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Ma’am? Did he just call me ma’am? I’m twenty-six, not sixty-two. Add another one to my growing list. “Thanks.”

Before Sydney’s pride could be ruined more, she jumped into an empty elevator, glad to have it to herself, especially since she was positive she looked like something the cat dragged in. The doors started to close, and she took a deep breath, knowing she was nearly to the safety of her office. She settled against the back wall, using it to support her. She was already exhausted, and the day had barely begun.

An umbrella tip jutted between the closing doors just prior to her having the sanctity of the car to herself. Sydney lifted her face to look heavenward. I’m almost there. Please, if there is a God, make the hell of this day end.

The double doors opened, and she lowered her head to see who had ruined her quiet trip. Sydney stood face-to-face with the sexiest smile she’d ever laid eyes on.

It belonged to the Brit she’d just met at the airport.

His smile twisted into a smug, self-assured grin as he eyed her, and she wanted to curl up into a ball and hide. “Going up?” he asked a bit too cheerily.

She rolled her eyes and tried to smile at him, but she was sure too much vinegar came out instead. “Yes.”

“Glad I made it, then.” He entered the car, hanging his umbrella hook on his arm. His large body filled up the space and made her feel claustrophobic. Yet she liked the sensation at the same time. Sydney looked ahead and saw his reflection in the doors. Sydney dropped her head some, hoping he wouldn’t see her checking him out through her bangs.

He really was quite handsome, she realized, the longer she looked. Of course it helped that he wasn’t running away from her in an airport terminal. Easily over six feet, he was long and lean with wide shoulders. She was certain he was at least thirty if not a little older, but there was a boyish imp quality to him when he smiled that drew her in. If Hugh Grant and Hugh Jackman morphed into one man, he might look like this guy. Plus, he looked sexy as hell in a suit jacket, for sure. He was tailored, well put together, but with enough casual grace not to look too stuffy. He smiled again as her gaze met his in the reflection, a hint of red flaring in his cheeks.

With his British accent maybe he was related to one of the Hughs. That was it. She was calling him Hugh from that point on, regardless of his name. It was better than the Brit. Since he wouldn’t tell her his name, she had free rein to name him herself.

“What are you doing here? Following me now?”

Sydney looked at him, seeing the laughter in his eyes. “I was here first. I should ask you the same question.”

“I have business here in the building.”

“Which floor?” Her magazine’s offices occupied the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth floors. Could Hugh be there for someone in her office?

“You’re sure nosy,” he said, his lips firming into a line. As she watched, those luscious lips curled up at the edge as if he was hiding a smile.

“And there’s something wrong with being nosy?”

“Yes, there is.” He didn’t bother hiding his grin now. “So why are you here?”

She turned toward him and gawked. “None of your business.”

He frowned and began openly perusing her. “Do you always look like a drowned rat when you go do none of my business?” His overeager attentiveness told her he was trying to bait her, but after the day she’d already had, she wasn’t prepared to be teased. “Not much of an impression you’re about to make.”

Sydney wrinkled her nose, annoyed he’d brought up her appearance. “Now who’s being nosy?”

“You intrigue me. I can’t help if I’m interested. You’re the righter of wrongs, and I must know more about the valiant woman and her calling.”

She sighed and rolled her eyes again before staring at his reflection in the elevator door. “I can barely believe you’re all that interested, considering how fast you ran away from me in the airport.”

Hugh’s only response was a sly grin, but his gaze took her in from head to toe in the mirror. Heat spread over her body as she felt his stare sizzle on her skin. Sydney was shocked at the height of her reaction to him, especially when she’d been so focused on her job she couldn’t remember the last date she’d had, let alone her last lover. Work always kept her on her toes, and men struggled to keep up the pace, most throwing in the towel after a short attempt. Given her response to him, apparently it had been much too long, and her mind wasn’t working well enough to recall.

“I’m sure a beautiful woman such as yourself is used to male interest.”

“Beautiful?” Sydney had the good fortune to literally snort. She lifted her hand to her mouth, mortified for half a second. Another to add to the growing list. “You just said I looked like a drowned rat.”

Hugh laughed. “Yes, that I did.” He turned to stare heatedly. “You’ve had a bad morning, it seems.”

“You helped start the downward spiral.” No, you’ve been the highlight of my day, actually. She gritted her teeth as the thought hit her, not willing to admit it was the truth. She just hoped she hadn’t said it out loud.

Hugh stepped in close, his body heat warming her. The scent of his cologne filled her nose, making her want to take in a deep draw of the stuff. “Was it so bad, pet?”

Sydney twisted, looking up at him. Her attention moved to his full lips, the desire for him to kiss her overpowering. His head appeared to dip, lowering a scant few inches before he paused, the elevator bell ruining the moment.

Floor thirty.

“Here’s my stop.” He stood to full height and looked down at her. “I hope your day improves, sweet.”

Hugh left her, smiling over his shoulder as he moved into a boring beige hallway. She felt an intense need to run after him, to demand the kiss he’d almost given her, but how nuts was that?

She didn’t even know his name.

* * * *

As soon as Sydney exited the elevator on the thirty-fifth floor, her boss was standing there waiting for her. “Meeting room, now.”

She looked down at her ruined top, knowing she looked a hot mess. “Oliver, I need to go see if I can clean myself up.”

“No time. We’ve already wasted two hours waiting on you. Get your rump in there; they’re all expecting us.”

Sydney felt like stomping her feet and having a toddler-sized tantrum right there in the middle of the entryway, but since that was the least professional thing to do, she relented. As she dragged her butt into the conference room, a dozen sets of eyes widened as they took in her rough appearance. Most gazes dropped to her huge stain before they came back to her face. Snarling, she lowered her armload of stuff onto the empty spot left for her beside Oliver’s place at the head of the table.

“Gang, I have some news to share with you all,” Oliver stated, the backdrop of Manhattan behind him. The city’s skyline shone as the sun parted from the clouds to wash its warmth over the land.

Go figure. The sun would come out after I got into the building. Sydney had always thought it a bad choice for a boardroom. As if anyone could pay attention to a boring meeting with a view like that. Glittering buildings absorbed the sun and magnified it tenfold, making the panes of mirrored glass look like diamonds. A chill ran through Sydney as a rivulet of cold rainwater cascaded down her back.

Trying to focus on the task at hand, Sydney settled into her chair at Oliver’s side. She wasn’t sure what this mysterious news was, which chafed her. As Oliver’s right-hand gal, she was usually in on the news before it ever got to anyone else’s ears. To be left out in the cold, she felt slighted, but then she had been late. Still, Oliver couldn’t have taken a few moments to review what was coming? She watched as he seemed to struggle coming up with whatever he was sharing. Her gaze traveled over her boss, his wrinkled face looking ten years older today, his usual smile gone.

“There’s no point dillydallying; we’ve waited too long as is. Some of you may have already seen this come across the Internet, which is why I wanted this meeting held earlier before the news rocked you all. Archer Media International has just purchased our parent company. It was a fast-paced sale that came out of the blue for almost all involved. I didn’t even know they were up for sale, nor did any of my contacts that usually have their fingers on the pulse. The news hit the London press as I got a memo from home office. It’s a done deal, kiddos.” Oliver sighed as he looked out over the team. “We’ve been bought out.”

Sydney felt like her whole world had just come tumbling down. Breathing was suddenly something she needed to pay close attention to. Silence filled the space as everyone apparently let the news settle in. Heads swiveled as the team searched one another’s faces. It seemed they sought to see how worried they should be. Understandable, considering Sydney’s mind was a jumble of questions—first and foremost, where did that leave them? Were they all out of their jobs?

“What does this all mean for us?” Paul, one of the newest reporters, asked quietly.

“At this point, I’m not sure what it means, but we need to keep on doing our jobs to the best of our ability. You guys do strong work, and they’ll need time to sort out what they want to do. Let’s take this opportunity to shine and show them what we’re made of.”

Sydney watched Oliver, knowing the usual excitement and enthusiasm were gone from his speech. His normally expressive hands were clenched at his sides. He looked deflated. It wasn’t easy seeing her mentor look as if the world was ending.

But then, it was.

“So let’s get to work. As soon as I have something new to share, I’ll let you all know.”

The team jumped up as did Sydney, ready to get knee-deep in work. While she had it.

“Sydney, I need to talk to you privately. Follow me to my office.”

Sydney cast a glance at her boss and smiled. When he didn’t return the gesture, her stomach clenched. He couldn’t be mad at her for being late, could he? She had been running up a lead. He of anyone should understand that.

She looked a little closer at his tired face, trying to define the emotions she saw there. Suddenly she had the feeling she was a kid being called into the principal’s office, but she wasn’t sure why. Bad news loomed. She knew it. As she gathered her notepad and pen, she took a deep breath, ready for whatever was about to come down the pipe before plodding beside him through his door and then closing it behind them.

“Have a seat.” Oliver sat down and leaned back in his padded chair, the glass walls streaming light behind him. One day she’d have a view like that; she just needed to continue pushing. Hopefully the merger didn’t spell out their doom. Sydney wasn’t prepared to start back at zero, not after all her years pushing up the ranks already.

“Oliver, you know I had to follow up the chance to get at Tate.” Sydney sat, her gaze taking in Oliver’s expression, yet seeing nothing to help her. She’d never seen him look as worn and tired as he did now. Gone were the jovial smile and tender expression she was used to seeing. She held her breath, unsure of what was about to fall around her.

“That’s not why I asked you in here. Although the timing was off, I know you had to go after Tate. It’s who you are.”

“Then what has you so upset? Is there more to this merger story?”

“No point beating around the bush. I’m too old to deal with a bunch of changes. I’ve been putting this off for years, and there’s just no putting it off any longer.” Oliver took a deep breath before the words rushed out of his mouth. “I’m retiring.”

Retiring? No! He can’t leave yet! Anger filled her. She couldn’t face another abandonment. “In our moment of need? You’re just going to leave us? Come on, Oliver! You live for the fight.”

A frown came over Oliver’s face as he looked at her. “I’ve stayed longer than I should have. Having the chance to work with you and the other young folks on our team has made me stay on here past the point I should have bowed out.”

The chance to work with us? He’s got it backward. “Without you, there is no magazine. Oliver, come on, you need to reconsider this.”

“I have. I’ve been considering and reconsidering this for five years. Then you came fresh-faced out of college with all your great ideas and enthusiasm, and I couldn’t back down. Your youth and energy made work fun again, and your enthusiasm for learning this business reminded me of myself at your age. As the team shifted into a core group of young people, it made this job new again for me. Having the chance to guide and mentor you all has been some of my best years in this industry.” A shine came to his eyes, and she felt the breath knocked from her lungs as she watched the man she saw as a father figure struggle with his words.

Beating back a sob, Sydney settled in her chair. She tried to gather her thoughts, separating them from the well of feelings driving her to break down and cry. But Sydney didn’t cry. Once she bit back the emotion, she spoke. “Why didn’t you discuss this with me or at least give me some inkling you were considering leaving?”

“I knew you’d try to talk me out of it.” Oliver leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk. “Brenda has been asking me to retire for years now. It’s time. I already had my letter of resignation typed up when the e-mail came about the sale. When I read the news, I knew it sealed the deal. My decision is made.”


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