Chapter 1

Toni woke up with a start. Her sheets wet with sweat and the drumming of her heart told her just what she had dreamt about. She could no longer remember her dreams once she woke up, something she was eternally grateful for. But the nausea and fear lingering afterwards was always present.

She got up and headed for her en-suite to shower. She rubbed really hard, trying to get rid of the horrid feeling the dream always left. A feeling she always failed to wash away.

 

She got out of the bathroom, one towel wrapped around her body, another covering her hair. She answered the ringing phone, already knowing whom it was.

 

“Hello Tom,” she said, putting the phone on loudspeaker.

 

“Hi Toni. I was calling to remind you of today’s meeting. You don’t have to go you know.”

 

Tom was the CEO of Dare Tech. He loved his job, maybe a little too much according to his wife. A ghost of a smile touched her lips when remembering how the older man and his wife had taken her in.

 

“Don’t worry Tom, I won’t mess up your deal, I’ll just be there to observe silently and be your secretary for the day. I will even bring you coffee.”

 

Toni knew how important this partnership with Booth Enterprises was to Dare Tech, which was why she wanted to be there and observe the whole sealing-the-deal thing. She knew she could be of help to him and she was glad she had used her spare time to learn the basics of corporate law.

 

“I hope you still remember how I take my coffee considering how very little you ever go anywhere.”

 

She could hear the humor in his words, the warmth she had only known from him and Claire. It took everything she had to go out to a new place. Growing up she had only been home, ballet and school. After her father’s death, her destinations changed to her new home and Tom’s house.

 

“Don’t worry I still remember: very little sugar and too much milk. I’ll see you in thirty Tom, and stop worrying. Today will be great.”

 

After hanging up she went to dry and style her hair then returned to dress; carefully covering her wrists and got something to eat before heading out.

 

It was days like these she enjoyed and feared the most. Days she got to try something new without a leash around her neck or fear of disappointing someone.

 

Other side of town

“How much time do we have?” Aiden asked when he got out of the lift.

 

He had a very irritating morning, listening to his mother go on and on about a girl she was setting him up with. He had only agreed to get her off his back about settling down and having kids. It’s not that he was against the idea, he was just against the kind of woman his parents wanted him to settle down with. Spoilt little princesses that haven’t worked a day in their lives.

 

“We have about an hour before the meeting. Everything we need is taken care of, including the conference room.”

 

Winter had been with him a long time; he had met him a few years back in college when he had hit on his now wife while drunk and got knocked out. After a few encounters the two fast became friends and he brought him on when he took over the company. He was crazy smart at finances.

 

He nodded at his secretary in greeting when he passed her desk. Ella was efficient and very motherly, not surprising since she was in her 40s with two kids in college.

 

“Have you found out who he is bringing? I hear he usually comes to these negotiations alone.” Aidan’s brows furrowed as he wondered why anyone would opt to do such a thing without any backup.

 

“He is bringing a young lady this time, Antonia Mathews. Twenty-four. Daughter of THE Jack Mathews. I hear she was a student of his when he was still a professor and is known to visit his family often since her father’s death.”

 

“Oh? That’s weird.” Aidan wondered what kind of relationship the girl had with Tom because he was sure Tom was happily married to a wonderful woman.

 

“Maybe she wants to see how negotiations happen or something. Although considering she doesn’t really work, I don’t know why she would be interested.”

 

“I thought you said she is a former student of Tom’s?” Aidan was confused now. He knew Tom taught some software development courses before becoming a CEO. Another one of Aidan’s question was how Tom had managed to become a CEO of such a successful company with no prior knowledge of running a business. He knew he didn’t own the company. Actually nobody knew who did…

 

“She is. Graduated with an engineering degree from MIT,” Win said, reading from the file he was holding.

 

“But she’s not using the degree?” Aidan was puzzled and couldn’t figure out why an obviously smart woman would do that.

 

“Since she was the only heir, her father’s fortunes went straight to her when he died. Why work when you can just live in the lap of luxury, right?” Winter chuckled.

 

Aidan just felt disgust at such behavior. Even though he was the only heir, he had still worked hard for his position. So hard that his father had practically kicked him out and ensured he lived on the salary he made. He started from the bottom, moving through each company they owned with each promotion until he got here when his father decided it was time to retire and spend time with his wife. Now all they did was pester him and travel, a small smile curved his mouth at the thought of his parents. He knew how very lucky he was to have two loving parents who were still alive and healthy.

With that thought, he shifted his mind back to business and prepared for the meeting.

 

——–

 

“So, how do I look? You haven’t mentioned since we met.”

 

Toni asked for Tom and Claire’s approval whenever she went anywhere with them, she was never sure of what anyone approved of.

 

“Do I look like an assistant?”

 

“You look wonderful honey. I’m just a little nervous that’s all.”

 

Toni could see that this was important for Tom so she resolved to be the best silent and helpful assistant he could ever ask for. She knew she was clingy to Tom and his wife sometimes but they didn’t seem to mind, which is why she was here today. Her father’s death anniversary was looming close, the nightmares getting more frequent and she needed their friendly distraction. She could have gone to Claire but she was out of the country and she was afraid to leave and go that far.

 

“It will work out don’t worry.”

 

Just as she reached and touched his arm, the elevator doors opened, and the most handsome man she had ever seen was on the other side. Dark brown hair slicked back and hanging above his shirt collar. Green eyes with the most intense look she had ever seen. He was talking to another man, approximately his height, only an inch or two shorter. She felt a tingle run through her body when they looked at them and she squashed it dead.

 

Aidan was discussing their pending meeting with Win when he heard the ping of the elevator doors and wondered if their guests had already arrived. They were a little early and he like that. He looked in the direction of the elevator and saw Tom with a female hand on his arm.

He looked to the female and his heart skipped a beat and started a race of its life. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Thick midnight black hair tied in a low bun, long legs and small waist. Then she turned and looked at him. He had never seen eyes so blue in his life.

 

He wondered why on earth he had never seen this girl anywhere in his entire life. He had heard of Jack Mathews having a daughter but never really cared much to find out about her, now he was definitely interested in knowing her much better. He saw awareness in her eyes, a little satisfaction bubbled under his skin but then she turned cold, her eyes glazing over. He felt a frown forming on his forehead, wondering what the hell just happened. Luckily Win had remembered some manners and walked towards the elevator as they stepped out for the introductions.

Aidan shook Tom’s hand first.

 

“This is Miss Mathews, she will be my assistant for today.”

 

Aidan went to shake her hand, anticipating the feel of her skin. Her small hand was swallowed by his; slender, long fingers with a good grip. The sensation went straight south and he imagined that grip firmly around his cock and felt it twitch in anticipation. He held on to her hand a little longer and only let go when she gently tugged it and he saw a flush on her cheeks.

 

This was going to be an amazing chase.

 

“Miss Nathews.” Aidan said in way of greeting and she returned the words. He couldn’t look away from her face; it was like a porcelain doll, delicate and breakable. Smooth and pale.

 

“May we begin?” Tom asked, looking a bit uncomfortable.

 

“Right. This way please.” Winter led them to the conference room with everything for the meeting prepared.

 

Aidan and Winter sat on one side of the table. Miss Andrews set up the laptop they had brought and handed Tom some notes then sat on the other side with Tom and opened a notebook.

Aidan was glad Winter was there because he was far too distracted with trying to figure out Antonia. His eyes kept straying to Antonia, every movement she made making him wonder how she would feel underneath him. He swiftly switched his mind back to the negotiations. He couldn’t help notice how Tom looked at Miss Mathews once in while as if to get confirmation. Perhaps he was making sure she was following everything that was going on.

 

Negotiations done, contracts signed Aidan found a way to get to know Miss Mathews better.

 

“How about dinner with my parents tonight to celebrate our new partnership? Of course your lovely wife and Miss Mathews can join us.”

 

“My wife is away at the moment and Miss Mathews…” he looked at her then, she shook her head no.

 

“… Miss Mathews has other plans. Maybe we can come once my wife is back in town, she is usually the only one who can convince this one.”

Aidan watched as Tom smiled affectionately at Antonia, and the slight blush that covered her cheeks and knew Tom treated this woman as a daughter.

 

“You will call to let me know when you are free.”

 

“Of course. It is a pleasure doing business with you.”

 

Tom extended his hand and Aidan took it. He was about to extend it to Antonia but she had already moved to call the elevator. He watched Antonia the whole time as the doors closed.

 

Once they had left Aidan realized that throughout this whole meeting Antonia had not said a single word. He frowned and turned to Winter.

 

“She doesn’t speak much does she? Does she have some kind of speech impairment?”

 

“She doesn’t. Not that I know of anyway. But she was involved in a mugging a few years back that left her hospitalized, maybe there were some effects from there. Do you want me to look into it?” Winter asked in confusion because he could not understand what that had to do with their business with Dare Tech.

 

“Never mind then.”

 

Aidan felt a surge of violent anger at the people who had hurt her. He had never felt so strongly about wanting to hurt someone on behalf of someone he just met. He made up his mind then and there; he had to know Antonia better.

He called Joe into his office.

 

“I need you to find out everything you can about Antonia Mathews. I need her phone number and home address immediately; you can go on from there and keep me updated. Place someone you trust as a bodyguard for her, make sure they are not seen. ”

 

“I’ll do it right away Sir.”

 

He couldn’t understand where this sudden protectiveness came from but he rationalized it by thinking she was pretty much Tom’s daughter and Tom was a family friend.