Cullen woke a few hours later and lay quietly. He turned his head to his bedside clock and saw that it was 7am. He could have done with more sleep but there was pressing business that needed to be taken care off.
He showered and dressed and then opened the small, private refrigerator he kept hidden away in his dressing room. He took out a bottle of thick red liquid and poured himself a glass. He drank it quickly and then washed the glass thoroughly and put the bottle away again. It wasn’t quite as tasty as the warm variety but it satisfied his thirst.
He headed downstairs to the kitchen and put the kettle on. He poured a cup of coffee for Emily when he heard her come down.
Emily followed the sounds she heard and was surprised to see a very modern kitchen. It was not in keeping with what she had seen of the rest of the house so far. All shiny white units and black granite work tops.
“How do you take your coffee?” Cullen asked. She was surprised. He hadn’t even looked around when she halted at the kitchen door.
“Milk, one sugar,” she said quietly. She wondered if he was still annoyed with her. She had really pushed his buttons last night and the very dangerous expression on his face had frightened her a little when she had pushed too hard.
He turned and smiled at her, holding out the cup of coffee.
“Thanks,” she said taking it from him and walking over to the round kitchen table. She sat down on one of the chairs and sipped the coffee with pleasure.
“Did you sleep okay?” Cullen asked. He was leaning against the black granite island in the middle of the room.
Emily nodded and sipped her coffee. She had thought he looked beautiful last night. He looked stunning this morning. He had tied back his hair with a leather thong. He was dressed in a black business suit with a silvery grey shirt. He wore no tie.
He appraised her as she did him. She looked very young this morning in her jeans and T shirt with her hair tied back in a high ponytail.
“Are you really twenty two?” he asked, a smile tugging at his lips. “You look about sixteen.”
“I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult,” she smiled back.
“I would never dream of insulting you, Emily. You’d be likely to give me twenty lashes of your acerbic tongue if I did.”
Emily laughed. “You really think I’m that bad?”
“Just teasing you,” Cullen smiled.
He watched her drink more of her coffee and was fascinated with the pleasure that crossed her beautiful face.
“I owe you an apology for last night,” he said quietly. “We haven’t decided what we’ll do with Belmont Industries once we acquire it. We usually try our best to ensure that jobs are safe or transferred to one of our other companies when we acquire a new one. Sometimes it isn’t possible though.”
“I suppose I took it a bit far last night,” she admitted. “I just get so annoyed that people like Arthur have the power to destroy ordinary people’s lives like that. It’s just not morally right.”
He nodded his understanding. “Are you willing to let Dorian and I do the best we can?”
She hesitated a moment and then reached into her front pocket. She held out a small memory stick. He took it from her and slipped it into his pocket.
“I told Dorian we’d meet him at the office,” he said with a smile.
She let him escort her from the house once she’d retrieved her laptop from the hallway. Cullen eyed it speculatively.
“I don’t know what software you have,” she explained. “My laptop can read the data on the memory stick just in case your computers don’t have the program it needs.”
Cullen and Cross was a large steel and glass building. Security was tight and they both had to sign in. Emily was given a visitors pass whilst Cullen clipped his own personal pass onto the lapel of his suit jacket.
“You’ve got to wear a pass?” Emily asked surprised.
“Everyone does,” he said ushering her into one of the elevators and inserting his key into the panel. He selected the top floor and the lift began moving upwards.
The doors opened and they stepped out into a modern office. Cullen greeted some staff who were nearby and led Emily down the long hallway to Dorian’s office.
‘Mr Stunning number two’, Emily thought as Dorian looked up from his laptop as they entered. He smiled another of his dazzling smiles and she frowned. She really hoped he wasn’t going to try charming her today.
“Miss Swan, a pleasure to see you again.” Dorian said standing up to shake her hand.
She shook his hand back and said, “If I’m going to be relying on you two to keep me alive, you may as well call me Emily, Dorian.”
“I’ve never quite viewed myself as a Knight in Shining Armour before,” he laughed.
“You probably see yourself more as Valentino,” Emily quipped back, smiling to take the sting out of the words.
Dorian threw his head back and roared with laughter. “Oh, I think I’m going to like you very much, Emily.”
Cullen cleared his throat and looked pointedly at them both. He held up the memory stick.
Emily booted up her laptop using the meeting table at one end of the room. She took the memory stick from Cullen and slotted it in.
The next two hours was spent reviewing the data as Emily showed them how she’d first noticed something odd in the accounts and the convoluted process she had had to take to uncover Belmont’s fraud.
They were astounded. They’d been in business for a very long time and had a good financial knowledge. The accounts she’d shown them had looked perfect to them until she had began to take the transactions apart piece by piece.
“Excuse us a moment, Emily,” Dorian finally said, gesturing for Cullen to follow him. The two men left the room and Emily sat idly waiting for them to return. She opened a bottle of still water on the table and had a drink while she waited.
“She’s amazing,” Dorian said when Cullen closed the door to the boardroom behind them. “We have to have her working for us, Cullen.”
“I agree, the way she found the discrepancies shows great talent and intuition, Dorian, but it would be a mistake bringing her into the company. She’s far too curious. She’d most likely stumble onto things we don’t want her to know.”
Dorian frowned at him. “You’re normally the one pressing to have the best talent working for us, Cullen. Why are you so against Emily?”
“She unsettles me, okay?” Cullen grumbled.
“On a personal level?” Dorian asked surprised.
Cullen nodded and frowned. “I found myself apologising to her this morning just so she would smile at me.”
Dorian laughed. “She’s a pretty, no, beautiful girl with a gorgeous smile,” he said. “What man in his right mind wouldn’t want to see her smile at him?”
Cullen paced the room, his thoughts dark and brooding. “I don’t want to see the look of horror on her face when she finds out what I am,” he finally admitted.
“She may never find out,” Dorian countered. “And even if she did, so what? You said yourself she’s a real tough cookie. She could probably handle it.”
He sighed as he watched Cullen continue to pace.
“We need someone like her on our team, Cullen,” he said when it was obvious his friend was not going to speak.
Cullen finally looked at him, his expression resigned. “Fine, but if it all goes pear shaped then it’s your fault,” he muttered.
Emily looked up as they came back into the room. Cullen looked annoyed but Dorian seemed very happy. She wondered what they had been talking about. They came and sat across the table from her.
“Emily, we have a business proposition for you,” Dorian said, his blue eyes twinkling.
Emily watched Cullen’s face as Dorian spoke.
“Is that a collective we or do mean you, Dorian?” she asked quietly.
Cullen shot a look at her and then seemed to take a deep breath and come to some sort of decision.
“It’s a collective we,” he answered for Dorian. “We want you to join our company.”
“Why?” she asked confused.
“Cullen and Cross pride ourselves on having the best possible staff,” Dorian said. “What you just showed us, well, let’s put it this way, I’m hard pressed to think of even one of our accounting team ever being able to come up with something like that. And they’re very good.”
“You want to save Belmont Industries,” Cullen added. “We’re going to need a pretty creative financial business plan to try and do that. If you join us, you can be responsible for coming up with the business plan as your first project.”
Emily sucked in a deep breath and stared from Cullen to Dorian and then back to Cullen. Her expression was unreadable.
“You’d really let me do that?” she asked quietly.
“You have our word on it,” Cullen said. “If you want it in writing we can have it included in your contract.”
Dorian rose and took out a standard contract. “This is a pretty general contract of employment,” he said. He penciled in a figure under the remuneration part and showed it to Cullen who nodded his agreement.
Dorian slid the contract over to Emily. “Have a read of this,” he continued. “If you want any changes then pencil them in and we’ll look at it again tomorrow. Obviously the Belmont Project will be added so you don’t need to pencil that in. When we’re all happy with any changes or additions, our legal team will draw it up for your signature.”
Emily stared down at the contract in front of her. She really wanted to flick through it straight away but she controlled the urge and slipped it into her shoulder bag.
“So what now?” she asked.
“Dorian and I need to get to work on the data you’ve given us,” Cullen said. “If you want, there is a spare office at the other end of the hall. You can review the contract there and make any amendments. I can set up temporary access to the internal intranet site so you can get a feel for how we work. We’re going to need to use your laptop until we can get our hands on a copy of your software. I can give you a replacement until then.”
“Okay, “ Emily said. “I’ll need some coffee and food though. I skipped breakfast this morning.”
Dorian smiled. “Talk to my PA Beth. She’ll arrange for some refreshments and also show you to the office.”
Emily thanked him and left the room. Cullen went with her and quickly informed Beth of the things he wanted in the spare office, laptop with limited company access and some lunch for Emily. He shot her a quick smile and then disappeared back into Dorian’s office.
Beth was a tall, leggy blonde. She was very pretty with her short curls framing her face, giving her a pixie like appearance. She eyed Emily speculatively and then smiled.
Probably doesn’t see me as a threat, Emily surmised.
Beth was actually thinking how incredibly beautiful the little auburn haired woman was. She had also noticed a slight warmth in Cullen’s eyes as he’d looked at Emily. The younger woman seemed completely oblivious though.
“This way, Emily,” Beth smiled leading her down the hall into a large office.
There was a huge mahogany desk with a black leather chair behind it. On the desk was a leather bound writing pad. One wall was lined with dark mahogany bookshelves which were empty. A small round mahogany table was in the corner adjacent the door. There were two chairs around the table.
“There should be pencil’s and pens in the top drawer of the desk,” Beth told her. “I’ll call IT to bring up a laptop for you. They shouldn’t be long. And I’ll order in some lunch. Any preferences?”
“I’d kill for the largest mocha you can get,” Emily said, her eyes lighting up at the thought. “Doesn’t matter what coffee chain it comes from. And a bacon and cheese toasty, if possible.”
“No problem, “ the other woman smiled and headed out the office.
Emily moved around behind the desk and sat down. She opened up the top right hand drawer and found pens and pencils as Beth had said she would. Taking out the contract, she began to read it carefully.
It was pretty standard as most contracts usually were. The working hours were flexible. It was a fixed contract so any extended hours she worked could only be taken as time in lieu. She didn’t mind that. The holidays were excellent, 40 days per annum excluding public holidays with the added option of buying a percentage of her holiday entitlement if needed.
The benefits included pension and health care. A dedicated parking spot would be assessed on a individual basis. Emily smiled. Let’s see how much they wanted her here, she thought.
She penciled in that she required a designated parking space. She didn’t think it was an unreasonable thing to ask for.
She turned to the remuneration page and gasped out loud. They couldn’t be serious! Two hundred and fifty thousand! Arthur was paying her a hundred grand less than that. She checked the figure carefully just in case Dorian’s handwriting was at fault but it clearly said what it did. Cullen had nodded his agreement to the amount, she had seen him do it.
Emily sat back in the chair and, unconsciously steepling her fingers and tapping them lightly against her lips. She’d be a fool to turn down an offer as generous as that. She penciled a question mark beside the amount. She’d talk to them later about it.
A knock on the office door distracted her and she looked up as a young black man appeared.
“IT, Miss,” he called cheerily.
She smiled back at him and chatted about how he found working at the company as he deftly set up the laptop and gave her intranet access and web access. He seemed to love working there and Emily found herself starting to get excited at the prospect of working there herself.
She penciled in a note on the contract after Billy from IT had left. She would want to have in writing the department she’d be working in and who she would be reporting to.
She stopped when lunch arrived and sat at the small table to eat. The front of the office was a huge glass window apart from the heavy door. She left the office door open so she could listen unobtrusively to the hum from the outer offices. You could learn a lot about a place just from quietly listening.
She liked what she heard. Everyone seemed to be relaxed and happy to be in the work environment. She thought she heard Cullen speaking to someone. She held her breath and listened but she didn’t hear his voice again. Maybe she’d imagined it.
It struck her odd that she wanted to hear Cullen’s voice. She didn’t even know if she liked the man. Sure he was beautiful and had an incredibly sexy smile, when he smiled. But he made her so angry as well when that cold mask slipped across his face and he became remote and distant. It was almost as if he were two different people in the same body.
Emily threw her empty sandwich wrapping in the bin and took the remains of her coffee back to the desk. She picked up the contract again and finished going through it. She penciled Belmont at the end, even though Dorian had said she didn’t need to. Satisfied she set it down.
She spent the next hour browsing the company intranet. The more she read the more she liked the company. Her harsh words to Cullen the night before came back to her and she felt embarrassed. She probably did owe him a proper apology, not that poor attempt she’d come up with this morning.
Having finished with the intranet, Emily closed down the laptop. She drummed her fingers on the desk for a moment and then opened up the leather bound note pad. She closed her eyes and thought of Belmont Industries. She listed some of the key personnel she knew and began to grade them between one to ten with ten being how competent she had found them to be.
She tried to remember Cullen’s words about harsh choices needing to be made in business. She crossed out an eight beside one employee who had two kids. She re-scored him a six, which she felt truly indicated his capabilities.
She began jotting down rough notes on how to recover from the two point five million shortfall. She had seen various areas that had budgets way exceeding their needs. She began going from department to department giving a rough estimate of what their budgets were. Quite a few of them could survive on lesser budgets.
Cullen wandered down to the spare office. It was almost five and Emily hadn’t reappeared yet. The door was open and he stood there watching as the tiny woman scribbled furiously on the desk note pad. Her brow was furrowed in concentration and he could almost hear the wheels of her mind turning as she wrote. His mouth quirked in a lopsided smile as he watched her. She really was quite fascinating.
Emily looked up and saw Cullen in the doorway, a lopsided grin on his face. She felt her heart turn over in her chest.
“How long have you been standing there?” she asked, her voice almost squeaking.
“Just a moment,” he answered walking into the room. “You look like you’ve been busy.”
“Just jotting down some ideas about Belmont,” she said self-consciously.
He raised an eyebrow. “Have you decided to accept our offer?”
Emily pushed the contract over to him. He picked it up and quickly read the penciled items she’d included.
“No problem on the parking space,” he said. “Belmont is a given too. There is a problem with the remuneration?” His voice registered his surprise.
“I wanted to check the figure,” she replied. “It’s a hundred grand more than Belmont was paying me.”
“He obviously got you at a bargain price then,” Cullen commented. “The figure is correct. We reward our senior executives for their hard work. Which brings up the last point of department and who you’ll be answerable to. Your job title will be Executive Accountant. This will be your office and you’ll report directly to either myself or Dorian. Our Accounting Department appears to run quite smoothly but once the Belmont project is finished we’d be looking for you to have a look at how things are run and see if you can find any areas that can be tightened up. New processes to be implemented, that kind of thing. Once you’ve finished with that, you can look into our subsidiaries and tighten up their processes too.”
“That’s a huge amount of trust and responsibility to place in someone you haven’t even known for twenty four hours,” Emily finally said once she’d gotten over the shock of his words.
“Are you telling me I shouldn’t trust you, Emily?” he asked softly. His golden brown eyes seemed to bore into hers.
“You can trust me, Cullen.” She tried not to cringe at the breathy quality in her voice as she spoke.
He kept his eyes glued to hers as if trying to read her mind.
“Is it too much responsibility for you then?” he asked, his voice again soft.
“No,” she breathed quietly. “I’d relish the challenge.”
“Then everything is settled,” he suddenly smiled. “I’ll have our legal team draw up the contracts for signing. When would you like to start?”
“Seeing as you appear to be my personal bodyguard at the moment, I suppose straight away?” she suggested. “At least here I will be safe until Belmont is behind bars.”
“I’ll get it set up with IT and Security so you’re ready to go tomorrow first thing,” Cullen said. “I’ll be back in about half an hour and then I thought we could go do some shopping before we head home.”
“Shopping?” she said confused.
“Your little overnight bag didn’t look like it could hold many clothes,” he laughed and Emily blushed furiously.
“I didn’t even think of that,” she groaned and rubbed her face tiredly.
“Oh, and Emily, no arguments when I pay, okay?” he added. “Can’t have you using your credit or debit card at the moment. You can pay me back once things get settled.”
She nodded dumbly as he left the office. The thought of him paying for her personal things was a bit too intimate feeling for her liking. She could understand his logic but even still. She was not going to enjoy the experience at all.
It turned out to be not too bad after all. Cullen must have noticed her distressed look because he formally loaned her five thousand in cash and even had her sign a receipt to say she had received the money. She saw Dorian raise an eyebrow as they completed the transaction in his office.
“Don’t know why you don’t just use the company credit card,” he said to Cullen.
“I think Emily may prefer to purchase her own under garments,” Cullen remarked dryly, causing her to blush and Dorian to burst out laughing and mutter something about women being the strangest creatures on the planet.
Emily picked out three decent business suits and enough blouses to last a week and a bit. She bought underwear and a couple of pairs of jeans and some casual tops. She almost forgot footwear but remembered in time to get a few pairs to suit most occasions.
It was almost eight o’clock when they arrived back at the house. Cullen carried her bags up to her room and then left her to have a soak in the tub while he prepared some food.
She stayed in the bath longer than she meant to. By the time she got downstairs, Cullen told her he had already eaten while he waited for her. He sat at the table with her and sipped at a glass of red wine while she ate the meal he’d prepared for her. It was a lamb dish, the meat delicately spiced and very tasty.
“You’ll make someone a great house-husband,” she teased as she chewed the delicious meat dish. “This is some seriously good lamb.”
Cullen smiled at her, his eyes guarded as he watched her.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” he said quietly. And he found he truly was. It was fascinating watching her enjoy her food.
He cleared the table when she’d finished and put the dishes in the dishwasher. He watched Emily sip her red wine and smiled when she tried to cover up a big yawn.
“Why don’t you get some sleep?” he said gently.
“I wanted to hear how you and Dorian got on today,” she protested quickly.
“It can wait until tomorrow,” Cullen said firmly. “You’re about out on your feet, Emily.”
Sighing she stood up and handed him her glass.
“I might be out when you wake tomorrow,” he told her. He saw her eyes narrow curiously. “I’ve promised a friend I’d pop over before I head into the office. I’ll swing by and pick you up at 8.30am. Don’t try to leave the house, Emily. I have an elaborate security system which will be activated while I’m gone. You don’t want to scare yourself silly when alarms start ringing all over the place.”
“Okay,” she nodded. “Night, Cullen.”
“Sleep well, Emily,” he said quietly.
To be continued...