Imposter, page 1
Copyright © 2017 by J.J. Bella
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No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
About the Author
Bonus Stories by Alison White
About the Author
J.J. “Jane” Bella has always enjoyed reading since she was a little girl, reading everything she could get her hands on.
Today she loves to write contemporary steamy romance stories for her favorite readers.
Plotting sexy and sweet novellas while walking her dogs has always proven to be an exciting experience on a hot summer day.
Wouldn’t you play with strong Alpha Males, wild Bad boys, and wealthy Billionaires if they provided you with happy endings too?
J.J. lives in New England with her husband of many happy years, three children and two family Papillions.
You may just find her writing on the lake, at the ocean, by a brook, in the middle of a NE snow storm, or on the deck in the Fall.
She also loves to hear from her readers and to share Hot new sweltering stories with everyone.
Ashley Wilson looked in horror at her computer screen. Her eyes were wide, her jaw was slack; there was no way that the numbers could be right.
Down to my last hundred dollars, she thought. How is that even possible?
She mentally scanned through the events of the last week, thinking about the cups of coffee here, takeout food there, that oh-so-quick trip through the clearance section at J Crew.
Sure enough, it added up.
Ashley closed the laptop in front of her, eager to get the bad news out of her sight.
Two months! she thought, standing up from her desk and pacing around the tiny bedroom of her student apartment. Two months I've been jobless; how has that even possible?
But she knew.
Only a few months ago, Ashley was on top of the world: Dean's list at University of California, a great job as a personal assistant to one of the top software executives in San Francisco, and her future looking rosy. However, things all took a turn for the worse on that fateful day two months ago.
When she strolled into the sunny offices of Welsh-Sanderson that life-changing afternoon, she had no reason to think it wouldn't be a day like any other. But she remembered the events of that day with an unwanted clarity.
"Hey, Ash!" said Annie, one of Ashley's friends and coworkers, taking a seat at the other side of the long table in the middle of the main office floor.
"What's up, girl?" responded Ashley, her green eyes flicking up from the spreadsheets that she was currently poring over.
"You doing anything after work?" asked Annie, peering at Ashley from beneath her choppy, brown bangs. "Me and some of the other girls are going to Harper and Rye for some drinks after we're done. You in?"
"Oh, I dunno; Mr. Welsh has got me going through this information from that client we just picked up last week and I have no idea how long that's gonna take. I feel like I'm gonna sleeping here tonight."
Annie rolled her eyes playfully. "Please, you know how Welsh is- everything's gotta be done not only perfect but ASAP or it's the end of the world."
"Well," said Ashley, blowing a strand of her strawberry blonde hair out of her face. "BS or not, I have to get this done."
Annie flashed a smile of her cloud-white teeth. "Such a diligent little worker girl."
"Hey, not all of us have our parents paying our way to Berkeley," said Ashley, letting her frustration get the better of her. "Some of us have to work for our tution."
"Yeah, yeah, my parents are rich, I know. But you don't have to be loaded to come out for a quick drink. Come on...what if tonight's the night you meet that perfect, rich guy who's about to sell the next Tinder for, like, sixty-million."
Ashley looked up with a coy smile; Annie's ruthless man-hunting was a source of endless amusement for her.
"OK, fine," said Ashley.
"Yes," said Annie, pleased to have won the battle.
"I still have to finish this up; you guys go ahead without me and I'll meet you there."
"Deal," said Annie, standing up. "But no flaking out this time; I want to see that sexy little booty of yours."
"No flaking," said Ashley, holding up the middle and index finger of her right hand in a scout's honor gesture. "Promise."
Annie winked, and was off, leaving Ashley to her spreadsheets.
The afternoon passed into evening, and when Ashley looked up from her finished work, she saw that the office was nearly empty. A quick glance at phone let her know that it was nearly seven. Taking one last look at her Excel documents, Ashley hit "save" one last time before forcing herself to close her laptop and be done for the day.
Standing up, her legs screamed with joy as she stretched her body, her slender arms extended above her head, the air of the office cool against the strip of stomach that was now exposed.
"Miss Wilson," called a voice behind her.
With a gasp, Ashley spun around and was greeted with the sight of one of her bosses, Leonard Welsh.
Mr. Welsh was the co-founder of the firm where Ashley worked. He was a short, heavy-boned man with a face that perpetually seemed to be scrunched in worry, his features striking Ashley as those of a baby- a baby with male-pattern baldness, that is. His dark, wide-lapelled suit was tailored perfectly, hanging off his body in the most flattering way possible for a man of his round, corpulent shape. One of the top software executives in the valley, Ashley knew that despite his soft and unthreatening exterior, he was a man to take seriously.
"Another late day?" he asked, his small eyes peering out at her over a pair of gold-rimmed designer glasses.
"Oh, just looking over the information from the Dupree account; want to make sure it looks in order."
"Good, good," he said. "Say, speaking of which, we had some recent developments with the account; an opportunity for a, ah, special project has just presented itself. Why don't you come to my office for a moment? I think you'd be perfect for it."
"Uh, sure," said Ashley.
"Have a seat," he said, gesturing to the plush, red chair on the other side of his desk.
A feeling of apprehension welling in her stomach, Ashley sat down.
"Anyway," said Mr. Welsh, shutting the door behind him and walking over to where Ashley sat. "It's a just a little project. Nothing I think you couldn't handle. Not if you're averse to a little, ah, crunch time, that is."
The next few minutes were a blur to Ashley. She remembered the chubby hand on her shoulder, the smell of Mr. Welsh's cologne flooding her nostrils, the sight of his baby-like face peering down at her, a look of lasciviousness on his features.
Then, a hand on her breast, followed by a slap across Mr. Welsh's face, then finally, a fat finger pointing to the door.
Ashley remembered rushing out of the office building, her laptop pressed to her chest, the power cable still dangling from it, the evening air cool on her body, a shocked tear streaming down her face.
And just like that, she lost her job.
She knew there was nothing she could do about it. Though it was a clear case of sexual harassment, Mr. Welsh had so much clout in the Bay Area that there was little chance that anything would come from a complaint beyond media scrutiny and lawyer bills that she couldn't hope to pay. So, she let it drop, thankful that Mr. Welsh seemed content to do nothing beyond giving a bad reference to anyone who called the company, rather than blacklisting her, as she feared.
But two months later, she was still unemployed. And as her bank account dispassionately informed her, her financial situation was about as dire as it gets.
The buzzing of her phone on her desk snapped Ashley out of her daydreaming. She looked at the display and saw that it was Annie.
"Hey, girl!" said Annie, her voice as lively as ever.
"Hey!" said Ashley, still shaking the stroll down memory lane out of her thoughts.
"How's the unemployed life going?"
"As boring as ever. And now I'm about to have being broke to deal with."
"Yeesh. That bad?"
"That bad. I'm starting to wonder how much being a cam girl pays," said Ashley, hoping that Annie could tell she was joking.
"Yeah, I'm sure a goodie-two-shoes like you is all over that kind of work."
Ashley let out a chuckle, though the anxiety about her money troubles was still digging into her stomach like dozens of cold pinpricks.
"Anyway, I have some good news!"
"Oh?" asked Ashley; good news was exactly what she needed.
"I have a lead on a job, if you're interested."
"Are you serious?" asked Ashley, shooting up in her seat.
"Mhmm. I know things've been rough for you with that asshole Mr. Welsh telling anyone who'll listen about how they shouldn't hire you, but I just got a company-wide email from someone in one of the other departments asking if they knew anyone who'd be interested in an executive assistant position. Naturally, I told them I knew just the girl."
"Ohmigod," said Ashley. "Thank you so much, Annie."
"Don't sweat it. Anyway, the guy's some loaded software developer who lives at home, so you'd be working with him one-on-one. I told the headhunter all about you, and she said that if you're as great as I've been telling her you are, then the job's all yours."
A broad smile beamed across Ashley's face, her green eyes wide with joy.
"What do I have to do?"
"Just a brief phone chat with the headhunter, then you meet with the client for another interview. He's looking for a girl like you, so I'm sure you'll be fine."
"I don't know what to say," said Ashley.
"Say ‘yes,' and then look over the information I just emailed you. It's all about the guy you'd be working with. Then call the headhunter!"
"OK, I'll do it now. Thank you so-so-so much, Annie."
"No worries; I got your back, you got mine."
They said their goodbyes and hung up, Ashley still elated from the news of a possible job. She didn't want to get too ahead of herself, but the thought of her money troubles being behind her was almost too wonderful to consider. Taking a deep breath, she accessed her email and pulled open the information that Annie had sent her.
It all looked normal: there was the headhunter's information, a little write-up about the job, then the name of the client.
"Scott Everest," she said to herself, the words feeling familiar on her lips.
Then, she accessed the attachments, going straight for the photo of the client.
And when she clicked it, a sharp gasp slipped past her lips. She knew exactly who this man was. It was a man from her past, one she never thought she'd see again.
A shrill buzzing snapped Scott Everest from his work. He wanted to ignore it, to get back to the code he had been busily typing away at, but a second buzz, followed by a text on his phone letting him know that his interviewer for the executive assistant position had arrived. His work would have to be put on hold for the time being.
He took one last look across the three monitors on his desk, one with the software, one with his email, and the other with one of the financial channels muted, the talking head speaking silently at him, a colorful banner of stock prices scrolling across the bottom.
Scott rose from his long, mahogany desk and picked up his phone, flicking the screen open and calling the interviewee.
"Hello?" asked the timid, female voice on the other end.
"Hi, this is Scott Everest."
"Oh! Hi, Mr. Everest, this is-"
"Ashley Wilson, my nine-thirty for the executive assistant position."
"Yes, that's right."
Scott walked away from his desk, his eyes on the sweeping view of the San Francisco Bay afforded to him from the wide windows of his personal office.
"Great. Are you here now?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm at your front door. I mean, your front gate."
"Excellent. I'll buzz you in now. The front door will be unlocked; just head into the living room and make yourself comfortable. I'll be with you momentarily."
"OK, great. I'm looking forward to, erm, meeting you."
"Likewise," he said, the strange way she'd said the word "meeting" sticking in his ear.
Scott then hung up the phone and slipped it into the front pocket of his gray slacks.
Ashley Wilson, he thought to himself, the name striking him as familiar. Where do I know that name from?
He walked back and forth through the wide, open space of his office, his polished, jet-black dress shoes clicking against the parquet floor. His eyes drifted along the rows of bookcases that lined the back wall, the quick sweep of the many colors of the book spines blurring as he glanced.
Ashley Wilson, he thought once again.
Shrugging, he realized he'd find out in a moment. He strolled along to the opposite side of his desk, snatching up the white, ceramic mug and taking a slow sip of the lukewarm coffee as he glanced out the window, appreciating the cloudless blue above of the early fall day, and the sparkling azure below of the clear waters of the bay.
He drained the last bit of coffee, set the mug down and grabbed one of his laptops before heading out towards the living room.
Ashley Wilson, he thought yet again, the name stuck in his mind as he walked down the long hallway lined with tasteful modern art that led to the living room.
His thoughts stopped short once he saw her. Sitting in the middle of the long, brown leather sofa in the living room of his mansion, was Ashley Wilson.
He recognized her right away. And judging by the manner in which her eyes went wide for the briefest of moments, Scott was sure she recognized him, too.
"Ms. Wilson," said Scott, striding into the living room and ext
"It's a pleasure to meet you," said Ashley, rising to take his hand, her voice at once sweet and professional, though somehow strained.
Scott gave Ashley a quick scan, noting the tasteful navy pantsuit, the smart, matching heels, and the secretarial bun her strawberry blonde hair was tied into.
"Have a seat," he said.
Scott sat down on the couch across from Ashley, a large coffee table between them.
"Give me a moment to pull up your information, Ms. Wilson."
"Of course," she said, crossing her legs and preparing her interview material, a resume set neatly aside.
Scott realized that he couldn't continue the charade any longer. A smile appearing on his face, he looked up from the laptop.
"Ashley Wilson; now I remember where I know you from," he lied.
"Oh?" said Ashley, clearly feigning surprise.
"You're one of Regina's friends; I remember you."
Ashley's face was blank for the briefest of moments before a forced look of realization crossed over her features.
"Oh yeah…" she said, "I was wondering why you looked familiar."
Note to self: never trust this girl to keep a secret, he thought, the clumsy game of pretend she was playing causing the corner of his lips to crinkle into a smirk.
J. J. BELLA SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Having It AllImposterHaving It All_A Single Dad Second Chance RomanceImposter: A Billionaire Single Dad Romance
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