The Billionaire's Seduction(4)

By: Kristi Avalon

Uninvited, a niggling concern pricked the back of her mind. Why wouldn’t he acknowledge her calls? Send just one text message?

A disturbing, gurgling noise yanked her attention in Maribeth’s direction.

The woman had gone stock still. Her mouth hung open.

Sophia froze, too, as The Muscle flung open the doors of the accounting department.

Six sets of cold, hard eyes scanned the open area, honeycombed by cubicle groups, from left to right. That simultaneous sweep unnerved her, like they functioned as separate robots controlled by one mind. Each driven by the same singular cause.

All at once, those eyes settled on her.

The department let out a collective gasp.

Sophia sat motionless, too stunned to react.

No. they couldn’t possibly be there for her. All she’d done was put in her resignation. Hardly a crime warranting this response from her boss.

She shook her head like any moment her brain would self-correct this bizarre hallucination.

Except, it didn’t.

The six men came at her like a siege of bulls aiming for a red flag in an open arena.

She swallowed against the sandpaper at the back of her throat. Her saliva became superglue, sticking her tongue to the roof of her mouth.

Mute, she scrambled up from her desk. She backed away from the small yet ferocious mob.

Out of desperation, she found her voice. “What do you want from me?”

“You’re coming with us,” the presumed leader of the pack stated.

As if that was an answer?

Her logical mind snapped into place like a missing piece needed to complete an incomprehensible jigsaw puzzle. “There’s been a mistake. I’m not the person you’re looking for.”

The leader eyed her coolly. “Sophia Melano?”

She gulped.

If she didn’t respond, would they go away?

Instead, they took her lack of words as guilt by silent omission. Two of the men stepped forward, wrapping their hands around her upper arms.

“Come with us.”

Wincing at the harsh dual-grip on her arms, she knew she couldn’t fight their unyielding grasps. Jeez, were their fingers reinforced with titanium? Maybe they were part robot. Unthinking. Unfeeling. Unable to independently assess that she was clearly an innocent woman who hadn’t committed whatever heinous act she’d been accused of performing.

As they half-guided, half-dragged her from the accounting department, she passed Maribeth’s desk and begged the woman, “Please, call Todd. He’s on my emergency contact list. Tell him I need him. Now.”

Maribeth nodded grimly. “I will, honey. I’ll let him know—”

The woman’s voice was cut off by the department’s glass doors of rattling shut. The force alone should’ve shattered them.

Spikes of terror impaled her, as they ushered her down the hall, past all the other departments. People, her colleagues, plastered themselves against the glass partitions, gaping at her.

Cheeks hot with humiliation, she could already hear the whispers of rumors and accusations. The Muscle ended her professional walk of shame at the elevator. The leader pushed the button with his thumb, which boasted a huge, gross wart on the knuckle that looked like a cesspool about to pop with puss. She restrained a gag.

Beyond mortified, she’d never experienced any type of workplace disciplinary action. And such a public one seemed meant to exact some kind of cruel revenge for wrongs committed.

But I haven’t done anything wrong!

She recognized these men were not interested in hearing her pleas. They had one job to do—deliver the accused.

But…to where?

The two men holding her like human handcuffs shuffled her and themselves through the parting steel doors. Then the rest crowded into the elevator after them. All faced front.

That wart-infested thumb punched a button she’d never noticed before. Probably because she almost always took the stairs, in an effort to achieve her ten-thousand steps a day. She was fit, if not exactly athletic, but all the steps and crunches in the world couldn’t put her at a level to contend with the muscular bulk, times six, surrounding her.

The button the leader pressed was situated a foot above the buttons for the rest of the thirty floors. Next he inserted a small key beside the special button, turned it to the left, then to the right, then to the left again.

The elevator jostled and began to rise. Ironic, that they would be going up, when she felt as if she were being led to a pit in hell.

Or to the Panic Room?

The thought sent her heart racing. Fear contracted her hands into fists against her sides. “Are you taking me to the Panic Room?”

The leader glanced at her, his stone face briefly reflecting a look that could be described as perplexed.

Oh. Okay. So that unfortunate moniker was used only by the unwashed masses—or, those not among Alex Atlas’s elite forces and closest confidants.