Club Desire(8)

By: Amy Brent

I had a Master’s in Computer Engineering from MIT and a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Rutgers. And I was working on my Ph.D. in Cybersecurity from Harvard at night.

My brain might not have been as big as my boobs, but it certainly had made me a better living. I pulled down one-point-two million last year, take home. And if I could keep my clients’ heads out of their asses and eyes off my tits long enough, I just might double that this year.

The money usually made the charade worthwhile, but sometimes, like today, it was like wearing a coat made of concrete.

* * *

I was standing at the side of the stage behind the large curtain, sipping from the tall cup of Starbuck’s coffee that had gone stone cold since I had picked it up an hour ago on the way to the meeting. There was a huge table of coffee, juice, and Danish at the back of the room, but I never partook of such things. I wasn’t there to have a picnic. I was there to share my knowledge on the threat of Russian and Chinese hackers and how to defend against them, hopefully to the benefit of the client who was paying me $50,000 for two hours of my time.

That client was Internet Data Systems or IDS, a company that I had worked with several times over the last few years. IDS was at the forefront of the cybersecurity wars and employed some of the best minds in the business to help keep their data—and the data of their clients—safe from hackers and harm.

I had a grudging respect for IDS. If I were to ever decide to work for a company other than my own, IDS would have been my first choice, even though (and here’s the grudging respect part) the rumors of juvenile–and often immoral behavior—by the company’s founders was the stuff of legend.

Supposedly, the three founders, all grown men around forty, had the mentality of a trio of horny twelve-year olds and the money to make the world their personal playground. Their drunken, sexual exploits with bikini models and B-list actresses and female employees were big news when the company first went public, although they seemed to have ratcheted down their antics over the last few years, probably because the IDS board of directors told them to keep it in their pants, at least when they were in public.

I didn’t care about their exploits as long as they didn’t affect me or my work or my bottom line. I had never met the founders and didn’t need to. My contact at IDS was the VP of Marketing, a fiftysomething woman named Louise who was either a lesbian or just enjoyed staring at my tits as she handed me the check.

I showed up, delivered the goods, got my check, went out the door, and hurried home to rip off the bra from hell so I could breathe again. That had given me the reputation of being a cold bitch in the industry, but that was fine with me. Again, I was there for the work, not to make friends.

As I waited for the attendees to filter in and take their seats, I glanced down at the roster to see who I’d be speaking to today. There was the usual hodgepodge of specialties and specialists. There were a hundred names on the page along with their respective titles; most IT directors, managers, and staff, a couple of Vice Presidents of technology, a few network managers, all employed by IDS, which was putting on the two-day seminar on hacking and cybersecurity. Today was the last day of the event and I was the keynote speaker, which meant that I would be the last one to speak. They always saved the best for last, I thought with a smile.

As I was patting myself on the back, I noticed a man walk out onto the stage from the opposite side. He was with Louise, who was talking and pointing toward the back of the room. He had his head bowed, listening intently, walking with his hands behind his back and a serious look on his handsome face. Though we had never met, I knew immediately who he was. I recognized him from the company website and the dozens of photos I’d seen online over the years. It was Isaac Hanson, IDS co-founder and the proverbial brains behind the operation.

Unlike most men in his field, there was nothing nerdy about Isaac Hanson. To the contrary, he was tall and lean, with surfer-boy blond hair and looks, and a tan that made his eyes and teeth glow in the dim light of the stage. He was wearing a white dress shirt, untucked and open at the collar, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and a pair of ratty jeans and scuffed motorcycle boots. He listened for a moment, gave her a nod and… holy shit… headed my way.

“Miss Rossetti,” he said, approaching with his hand out and a smile on his face. I felt my heart skip a beat when his long fingers closed around my hand. His hand was warm. Funny, because it gave me a chill. “Isaac Hanson, so great to meet you. Thanks for being our keynote speaker today.”