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Still a Bad Boy

By: Ada Scott

Chapter 1

Kendall

I didn’t dare move for fear of breaking something. If I did, I’d probably have to declare bankruptcy. It was only a waiting room, but I’d never seen such lavish attention to detail before.

If I wasn’t mistaken, that was a real Van Achthoven painting on the wall. Even the receptionist’s desk looked like something the President might have to save up for.

All glass, it seemed to be custom made to show off her long legs from all angles. She had them crossed, making her short skirt ride high as she tapped away on the keyboard in front of her, sometimes pressing the button on the wireless headset to answer calls.

Back home in Woodville I felt small. When I moved to the city, I felt tiny. Now, especially under her occasional disdainful glance, I felt positively microscopic.

I wrung my hands in my lap, second-guessing myself for the millionth time about the big move. I’d thought I’d show my family that I could be something, but I’d been here for months and I was still just an intern at The Weekly Enquirer.

My funds were evaporating fast. If my boss, Mr. Kinsley, didn’t give me the actual job he’d promised me soon, I’d have to go home with my tail between my legs.

So why did he send me to interview Jace Barlow, the mysterious man who took his one hundred and eighty million dollar lottery winnings and quickly turned it into an empire pushing at a billion dollar valuation?

Was it because he liked my “moxie,” as he liked to say to the people he actually paid to work? Because he saw some untapped potential in me? No.

As Mr. Kinsley said in the meeting room in front of everybody, as if I wasn’t even there, Jace Barlow had scheduled and cancelled meetings with every major publication you could think of dozens of times. It was like a joke to the new multi-millionaire to screw with the media.

So send me to the appointment, and then when Barlow cancels again, at least nobody important will have wasted their time.

The receptionist’s headset beeped and she pressed the button. “Yes sir? Of course, sir. Yes I’ll tell her. One moment.”

This was it. I looked over at the tall blonde as she unhooked the headset from her ear and stood up, smoothing her skirt. Was she going to escort me all the way to the elevator?

“Miss Brookes?” she asked.

“Yes?”

“Mr. Barlow will see you now.”

I had to let that set in for a moment as my heart seemed to say “Right, I’m outta here” and tried to make good its escape via my throat. Swallowing hard, I managed to get it back down.

“What?”

“Mr. Barlow will see you. Now. You’ll have to hand over your phone, and do you have any recording devices?”

I fumbled at my little handbag. “Uh… I’ve got a…” My mind went blank looking for the word. “Dictaphone!” I blurted out.

You could almost see the concentration in the receptionist’s face as she tried not to roll her eyes at a so-called journalist who couldn’t remember what a Dictaphone was. With shaking hands, I opened my handbag and took out the offending items.

The receptionist walked around her desk with a supermodel sashay and reached out for them. “I’ll keep them in a secure container until your meeting is finished.”

This couldn’t be happening. A nobody like me doesn’t interview the most elusive man in the city. Mr. Kinsley didn’t even give me a questionnaire, he was that sure this was going to be a bust. I had nothing prepared to ask him and I was about to walk into an interview that famous journalists would kill their own mothers to conduct.


She confiscated the forbidden electronics and put them in a drawer before beckoning me through the door behind her desk. Once on the other side, I could see that the horizontal strips of mirror on the wall of frosted glass were actually one-way, so you could see into the waiting room like you were peeking out from a bunker without being seen.

There was no time to contemplate that though, as I was led at a brisk pace down a long hallway. At the end was a door, flanked by two men wearing suits and looking for all the world like Secret Service agents. One of them told me to hold my arms out to my sides as he waved a metal detector over me, while the other inspected my handbag for contraband.

I felt like it was a pretty thorough inspection before walking the plank. What would they do to me back at work when they heard I actually made it into Jace Barlow’s office? I racked my brain trying to think of everything I’d heard about him, trying to come up with something halfway relevant to ask.

About a year before I would have been ready, the security men were apparently satisfied that I wasn’t an assassin, and gave me the all clear. The receptionist knocked on the door and opened it, ushering me through before standing at my side.

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