Ignite Me (The Annihilate Me Series), page 1
Ignite Me is a new book set in the Annihilate Me universe. It’s a stand-alone extension of the series that has sold more than one million books worldwide.
Although this new book can be read on its own, readers will likely enjoy it more if they start with the original Annihilate Me series, then the Unleash Me series, and finally the Annihilate Me 2 series, as they share many of the same characters. Because of that, the experience will be dramatically deepened.
BELOW ARE THE U.S. LINKS TO ALL OF MY BOOKS.
If you aren’t in the U.S., you can search for them on your own country’s site.
ANNIHILATE ME, VOL. 1
ANNIHILATE ME, VOL. 2
ANNIHILATE ME, VOL. 3
ANNIHILATE ME, VOL. 4
ANNIHILATE ME, HOLIDAY EDITION
ANNIHILATE ME: OMNIBUS
ANNIHILATE ME 2, VOL. 1
ANNIHILATE ME 2, VOL. 2
ANNIHILATE ME 2, VOL. 3
ANNIHILATE ME 2: OMNIBUS
ANNIHLATE ME 2: HOLIDAY
Also by Christina Ross:
UNLEASH ME, VOL. 1
UNLEASH ME, VOL. 2
UNLEASH ME, VOL. 3
UNLEASH ME: BOXED SET
IGNITE ME (Part of the Annihilate Me Series)
For my best friend, Erika Rhys.
And for my friends and my family.
And especially for my readers, who mean the world to me.
Your support of my career is unfounded.
Thank you for following Brock and Madison’s story.
Copyright and Legal Notice: This publication is protected under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state, and local laws, and all rights are reserved, including resale rights.
Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if we use one of these terms. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the author.
First ebook edition © 2015.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead (unless explicitly noted) is merely coincidental. Copyright © 2015 Christina Ross. All rights reserved worldwide.
Discloser: The shops at Trump Tower actually open at eight a.m. For the purposes of this book, they open at six in the morning. The Donald has been accommodating to me in ways that he doesn’t know and likely doesn’t care.
Books by Christina Ross
New York City
“Yes,” I said to the severe-looking, fifty-something woman seated opposite me. I was standing just inside her office, which was high above the Wenn Enterprises Building on its fifty-first floor, where she served as the company’s vice president of human resources. She hadn’t asked me to sit down, so I stood, trying like hell to look as relaxed as possible even though there was a part of me that was unnerved just to be in her presence. This woman, after all, had one hell of a reputation, and none of it leaned toward the polite.
“I’m Madison Wells.”
“And you’re here because you think you have what it takes to become my personal assistant? Is that right?”
“I’m here for exactly that reason, Ms. Blackwell.”
“Well, isn’t that a relief?” she said. “Of course, some would wonder why in hell you’d even want to become my assistant. Some people would tell you to run. To vomit. To change zip codes. But those people don’t really matter in this world, do they, Ms. Wells? No, they don’t. They’re all just a bunch of cowards who will go nowhere in their lives. But how about you? Will you move up in the world? Your résumé certainly suggests that you’re poised for that, but I guess time will tell, won’t it? So, please,” she said, extending a hand to the chair opposite her desk. “Sit down. We’ll talk. I’ll assess. And then I’ll let you know whether you’ve gotten the job.”
“I’ll know today?” I said.
“You’ll know in twenty-five minutes. I read people very quickly, Ms. Wells, and I’m rarely wrong about them. Beyond that, I don’t do inefficiency—ever. I also hope that’s true for you, because if it isn’t, we should part ways right now.”
What have I gotten myself into? I thought.
“I can assure you that I’m very efficient,” I said when her cell phone rang.
She glanced over to see who was calling, and then she picked up the phone. “Then I have to ask you this, darling—if you are so efficient, why are you still standing there when I’ve already asked you to sit down?”
I felt my face flush.
“So, sit,” she said. “It’s easy enough to do, isn’t it? Well, at least for some people it is, I suppose. Then there are, you know—the others. Give me one moment—I need to take this this call.” She answered the line and leaned back in her chair. “Alex? What do you need? Is this about Brock? Yes, I’m seeing him in thirty minutes. What’s on your mind? No, no, all of that’s been taken care of. I’ve already relayed it to Jennifer. Don’t you two talk? Or is it just about having sex these days? Trying to get pregnant and all that?”
With my stomach in knots, I took the seat she’d offered me, crossed my legs at the knee, and kept my posture perfect. While she spoke into the phone, I forced myself to focus on everything I needed to show her today.
Someone who was firm and steady. Smart and quick. Sharp and no-nonsense. And perhaps most of all, given all the research I’d done on the infamous Barbara Blackwell after she’d received my résumé and called me herself to say that she’d like to meet with me tout-de-suite, I also knew that I needed to be on the cutting edge of style when she first set her eyes on me.
Since I was pretty much broke thanks to a job that grossly underpaid me, that meant digging out a credit card I used strictly for emergencies. As such, I’d spent a God-awful fortune on the pale-blue Stella McCartney business suit and matching pumps I was wearing. More money had been spent on a fresh new haircut and color at one of the city’s best salons, an indulgence I had to view as an investment in my future. Otherwise, with those bills looming over me, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
My long, straight brown hair had been lightened a bit and also given a few strategic highlights that flattered a face I’d always considered too thin and angular, not unlike the rest of my body, with the possible exception of my breasts, which were full (a clear gift from my mother).
If I wa
“So,” Blackwell said when she ended the conversation and put the phone down. “Obviously, I’ve read your résumé with interest. And I see that you received your M.B.A. from Harvard, which immediately makes me question why you would want to be my personal assistant when obviously you could do something far more better with that degree and earn more elsewhere. So, enlighten me,” she said. “Why?”
“When I graduated from Harvard two years ago, I came to Manhattan in hopes of finding something substantial, but because the competition is so fierce here—and frankly, because I’m a woman competing in a man’s world—I didn’t find the sort of luck that others did.”
“Oh, dear,” Blackwell interrupted. “Are you about to tell me a hard-luck story, Ms. Wells? Because if you are, I can promise you that it won’t go over well with me.”
“No, no. I was just trying to answer your question as to why I’ve only worked as a personal assistant.”
She waved a dismissive hand in the air. “You’ve got five minutes,” she said. “Spill it. Tell me why a perfectly good-looking Harvard grad would choose to settle the way you have?”
“When I graduated college, I had very little money. In order to survive here, I had to find work as fast as possible in order to eat and pay my rent. My first job was as the executive assistant to a vice president at DuPont. I worked there for nine months before I secured the job I have now.”
“Which presumably pays you more?”
“A bit more.”
“A bit more?” she said. “Really? What’s a bit more? You are, after all, sitting before me in a new Stella McCartney suit and shoes. To afford those alone, the pay couldn’t be that bad. . . .”
“The pay is horrible. I purchased this outfit with a credit card.”
Blackwell picked up my résumé from her desk, put on a pair of narrow black glasses, and stared at it before looking up at me. “Moving along. As of right now, you’re the executive assistant to a vice president at Microchip?”
“Besides your meager salary, are you unhappy with Microchip for other reasons?”
“I am. I decided to take my current position with them because, at my interview, they held out a big fat carrot of advancement to me. They promised me that, within a short period of time, I’d receive a serious promotion, a new job within the company that was more in line with my skill set. While they seemed sincere at the time, let’s just say that, in the end, I was conned. After fourteen months with the company, I’ve been offered nothing.”
“And why is that? Who’s to say that they won’t eventually give you a promotion?”
“I suppose there’s always the chance that they could. But during my time at Microchip, I’ve seen them promote men faster than they’ve promoted women. I’m as well-schooled as any of my male colleagues, and yet time and again, they have been the ones who have received the promotions. I think my problem is my gender. In each of the positions I’ve worked for since coming to Manhattan, I’ve worked for a man. I think it’s time that I work for a woman who might have a greater understanding of gender inequalities in the workplace. And I think that person is you.”
“Based on what?”
“Based on the fact that you’re a successful and respected businesswoman. You’ve made it to the top. Since getting there couldn’t have always been easy for you, I have a feeling that you’ve had to work hard to get to where you are today. I’m not afraid of hard work. But I am wholly against being treated unfairly.”
“Perhaps the real reason you haven’t been promoted is because your work is subpar. . . .”
“You already know that isn’t the case. DuPont and Microchip have given me excellent evaluations. I included them with my résumé. You’ve read them yourself.”
“Oh,” she said. “Yes. Those. They slipped my mind.”
The hell they did.
“So, why Wenn?” she said. “What brought you here?”
“Wenn is a huge corporation filled with opportunities. And then there’s you. You were one of the main draws.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere with me, Ms. Wells.”
“It’s still the truth. I think that in order for me to ever have a chance to rise to my full potential in this city, I need to work for a woman who has walked the walk before me. Someone who also has suffered.”
“And you think that I’ve suffered?”
“In your early days, I know that you did.”
“Well, now I’m intrigued,” she said as she leaned toward me. “What exactly do you know about me, Ms. Wells?”
“In order to be fully prepared for this interview, I went to the Internet and read some stories about the rise of your success that were written for reputable publications.”
“How perfectly invasive. . . .”
“I hoped that you would see it another way.”
“Why would I waste your time or mine applying for this job if I didn’t know whom I might be working for? Believe me, after my previous two bosses, that matters a great deal to me. What I learned from reading about you is just how hard you had to work yourself in an effort to move up through the ranks before you became one of the most powerful women at Wenn today. That’s not me flattering you—it’s a fact. And before we go much further, I think that you deserve to know exactly where I’m coming from when it comes to this job. If you do decide to hire me, I’ll be happy to work as your personal assistant for one full year. I will commit to that on paper. But after that? Wenn Enterprises has a multitude of opportunities that I’ll eventually want to tap into. I am not looking at this as a long-term commitment. Instead, as with my previous two jobs, I see this as an opportunity to get my foot in the door and to prove myself so I can earn an even better position based on my education, skills, and work ethic. Isn’t that what we all want?” I asked. “To be recognized for all of those things? All I’m seeking is a chance to finally have that opportunity.”
“Just how hard have you tried with Microchip to improve your position there?”
“In the past six months alone, I’ve applied for seven internal positions. Each time, those jobs went to men who weren’t nearly as qualified as I am. And I can tell you right now that I’m over it. I might be young, but I’m not stupid. I’m twenty-seven years old, I was born and raised in Wisconsin, and I’ve spent my life preparing for my move to Manhattan. I came here to make something of myself, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes for that to happen as long as I feel that there is a real chance for me to succeed within the company that I work for.”
And Blackwell, who was wearing a bright-yellow Chanel suit that accentuated her black bob, looked at me with new eyes. “Who are you, Madison Wells?”
Before I could catch myself, I said, “A survivor.”
“What does that mean?”
“That I’ll rise above my current situation and succeed. Despite everything, I’m still an optimist, Ms. Blackwell. The dreams I have for myself remain bright and alive—I just need to find the right opportunity in order to make them come true. This is a big city. I’ll either realize those dreams at Wenn or somewhere else, because that’s how determined I am.”
“Because it’s in your blood?”
“That’s exactly it.”
“Well, you’re an interesting one, aren’t you? Something’s driving you, and I have to wonder what that is. Not that it’s any of my business.” She folded her arms in front of her chest. “Do you have any idea of how difficult it will be to work for me?”
“I have a fairly good idea—and I’m ready for that challenge.”
“I won’t bullshit you, Madison—it will be the biggest challenge of your life. While I appreciate everything that you’ve just revealed to me—what you’ve been through, how you’ve been o
“Why would you be?”
“Precisely. And in fact, since I now know that in a year you’ll want to explore other opportunities at Wenn, I might even be harder on you than you’d expect.”
“If that’s the case, my only question is this—if I were a man, would you say the same thing to me now?”
“Then that’s all I need to know,” I said. “And that’s also why I’m here today. Everything I’ve read about you suggests that all you expect from an employee is something fairly close to perfection. Both of us know that none of us is perfect. Mistakes will be made, and if you hire me, I will make my share of them as I come to know the job. But I will also learn from those mistakes and not repeat them.”
“How soon before you can release yourself from Microchip?”
Is she about to hire me? Could this be the break I’ve been waiting for?
“Immediately,” I said.
That seemed to surprise her. “Wouldn’t you at least want to give the fine, upstanding people at Microchip two weeks’ notice?”
“Actually, I wouldn’t. They’ve dangled that carrot of theirs since the day I was hired, and that carrot turned out to be rotten to its core. Frankly, I don’t feel as if I owe them a damned thing.”
“Well, that certainly put a chill into the room, didn’t it? But given the circumstances, I suppose it’s fair enough. If you’re willing to accept the job, your starting salary will be ninety thousand dollars. Is that suitable?”
When she tossed out that number, I forced myself to keep my expression neutral. But inside, I couldn’t believe the figure, which underscored just how serious Barbara Blackwell was about this position. She indeed wanted the best; she was willing to pay for it; and that person would have to deliver on all levels.