The Billionaire's Seduction(5)

By: Kristi Avalon


The elevator rose in perilously slow increments. Torture personified.

What would she face? Whom would she face?

The possibilities were as vast and daunting as they were unknown.

Sophia took solace in her knowledge that she’d always been a model employee. She’d played by the rules. She’d worked her way up on merit alone. She’d instituted the company’s recycling program nine-and-a-half years ago, as an intern. She’d volunteered on company-supported outreach programs. She’d chaired the interoffice book club, focused on selections meant to inspire and drive employees to their highest potential.

How could Mr. Atlas have found fault with her?

If the man was upset about her resignation, they could solve that over lunch. She’d even foot that bill—and Mr. Atlas was known for his expensive tastes in food, entertainment, and women.

Admittedly, it was more than unsettling that she should get hauled into serious questioning on the same day that she’d submitted her two weeks’ notice.

But…what else could this possibly be about?

The elevator doors parted. She half expected to see Dante’s first circle of hell sprawling before her.

Instead, an eerily silent hallway extended to the left and right. In a thriving casino in Las Vegas, silence was the last thing she wanted to hear. The floors were lushly carpeted, the walls showcasing expensive-looking, gold-tinted paisley wallpaper.

Having worked for Mr. Atlas for nine years, she knew one thing for sure. The man’s personally favored décor included anything gold.

In front of her, four steps from the elevator, stood an ominous door—made more harrowing because of its nondescript status. One handle with a deadbolt above it. No numbers. No crafted sign designating its purpose.

As the guards disbanded like a horizontal troop leading her to the gallows, and her human handcuffs walked her into the hall, she noticed her high heels sank into the plush carpeting.

They stopped her in front of The Door.

Oh, God.

With every cell of her terrified being, she knew, knew, her fate would be decided on the other side of that door.

*

She just hadn’t expected it to be hours later.

Past weary, far beyond mental and emotional exhaustion, Sophia wondered if one of Mr. Atlas’s tactics included nerves scraped raw by sleep deprivation. Or maybe that was just her unique circumstance.

How could she know? Her purse, along with her cell phone inside it, had been confiscated at the door to nowhere. She had no sense of time, no way to reach out to anyone. Anyway, she doubted she’d find cell reception in the Panic Room.

So consumed last night with thoughts about taking the monumental step of beginning her own business, she’d barely slept. The excited high had sustained her all day—until this obscene room had enclosed her in its notorious walls. Walls that promised heinous retribution to all who entered, yet delivered nothing but silence.

Would she be deemed guilty of an unknown crime if she just laid her head down for a few minutes and took a quick nap?

Sleep could only be achieved by the innocent, right?

Her eyelids drooped. Once. Twice. So heavy. She folded her hands like a pillow in front of her on the cheap interrogation desk. She rested her forehead on them, just for a second…

The light creak of a hinge alerted her senses.

The door opened with enough wind to stir a few strands of hair across her cheek. She fought the heaviness of her eyelids, the weight of her tongue thick in her mouth.

Finally, coming to enough to realize where she was—and how she’d arrived there—she startled upright with an undignified snort. She subtly swept the liquid perilously close to sliding down her chin and across her hands folded beneath her jawline.

Spur of the moment, she tried to portray the picture of innocence.

A man entered the room.

Someone she’d never seen before in her life.

He fixed his gaze on her.

And he stopped in his tracks.

Though his expression remained blank, she sensed he had sized her up with one look. He stared into her eyes like he knew her deepest, darkest secrets—at a glance.

Those eyes. Although they revealed nothing, she felt herself drawn into them. They were the color of a tropical sea, more blue than green. Then they flashed, and she sat back in her seat. They’d turned more green than blue.

What did that mean?

Was she seeing things?

Had his eyes actually changed color? Or was she so fatigued she couldn’t really tell one way or the other?

With long, confident strides, he approached the table. He brought nothing with him. No notepad. No checklist. Nothing to indicate he was her leading an inquisition on behalf of Alex Atlas.

A chair had been placed opposite her. He pulled it out, his long fingers wrapping around one arm. He slid onto the cushioned surface with the grace of a toned athlete—or a mostly tamed tiger.