Masquerading with the Billionaire Excerpt
Guide to Love Series Book 4
World-renowned jewelry designer Remington Wolfe is competing for the commission of a lifetime and someone is trying to destroy his company from the inside. He’s in for more than one surprise when his unexpected rescuer turns out to be a sexy computer specialist with a sharp tongue and even sharper mind.
Kat Smith is a cyber-security expert and master of disguise. So being assigned to masquerade as Wolfe’s girlfriend while she uncovers who slipped malicious code into his corporation’s computer systems is no problem. But when Kat’s past catches up to her and their fake relationship starts to feel a little too real, problems are all she seems to have.
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Copyright © 2017 by Alexia Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact Entangled Publishing.
Excerpt From Masquerading with the Billionaire:
The sliding doors at the arrivals area of London City Airport whooshed open and Wolfe automatically glanced up.
Even if Kat Smith didn’t arrive tonight, his time hadn’t been wasted. The woman who strode through the doors made every second of his forty-minute wait worth it. Her generous curves were outlined in a dark dress, the skirt of which came discreetly to her knees, her black gloves reflecting the elegance of a bygone era. She glided across the floor on four-inch stiletto heels, and his mind pictured her sauntering toward him wearing nothing but her footwear.
He flashed his best smile at her. Maybe they could enjoy a drink at a nearby pub. He’d pay someone to stand here and wait for the cyber security expert he’d hired to arrive. They could call him when she showed up, and in the meantime, he could get to know this gorgeous woman.
His smile was answered with one of her own. She wore little or no makeup, which only emphasized her dark eyes and high cheekbones. Her short, jet-black hair grazed a strong jawline, and he could already imagine trailing kisses along it till he reached her full lips.
She stopped in front of him while he gawked at her beauty. “Good evening, Mr. Wolfe. I’m Kat Smith. Sorry for the delay. I have one of those faces that always gets pulled over in customs.” It wasn’t her face that got her flagged for further scrutiny, and her voice was as sexy as the rest of her. She shifted her laptop case to her left hand and held out her right.
He shook it while trying to restart his brain. “You look nothing like your photo,” he blurted out. An online search of Kat Smiths who were from San Francisco and worked in the IT industry had netted him one photo of a woman in her mid-forties, with plain brown hair and bottle-bottom-thick glasses, posing with six cats.
Wolfe had run into an old schoolmate, Simon Lamont, at Heathrow on Monday and confided his need for a discreet computer securities expert to uncover the person embedding malicious code in his company’s systems. Within hours his friend had come through, but aside from the name Kat Smith and an estimated time of arrival, Simon hadn’t provided any additional details.
Amusement gleamed in her eyes. Were they black like her hair or really dark brown? What would they look like glazed over with passion?
“Really? What photo?”
He showed her his phone while his eyes perused the up close version of her. Not a single piece of jewelry adorned her, not even a watch on her slender wrist. She tucked her hair behind her ear, and he was drawn to the perfection of her lobes. He could imagine her draped in diamonds—no, sapphires—and nothing else. Well, maybe the stilettoes could stay.
The hair she’d pushed behind her ear flopped down to caress her jaw again as she shook her head in disgust. “Where did you get this picture?”
“Off the internet. My assistant found it for me. Sorry, obviously a mistake, but it was the only Kat Smith in San Francisco she could find.”
“I’m going to kill David next time I see him.”
“David Wilson. His sister is married to your friend Simon. David is always playing jokes like this, putting up social media profiles of me, using bad photos. I thought I caught them all in my last sweep.” She handed back the phone and their hands touched. “Would you like some proof of my identity? I could show you my passport, or better yet, hack into something for you.” Her eyes widened, daring him to accept her challenge.
He slipped his mobile into his jacket pocket, glad he’d removed his tie earlier; he needed his airway unrestricted. “No need. I’ll call Simon later and confirm your description.”
She leaned a little closer, and he caught a whiff of her perfume, subtle and exotic with a hint of spice. “I’d love to hear how you describe me to him.”
Not going to happen. “You haven’t asked me for identification. How did you know I’m Remington Wolfe?”
“You do look exactly like your photos. There’s very little I don’t know about you, Mr. Wolfe. It was a long flight.”
The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. “You researched me for the whole ten hours?”
“Of course. It was a fascinating read. Do people really just call you Wolfe?”
“Kind of like some Brazilian football player, you only have one name? Although if I were you, I’d use both your first and middle names together.” Her laugh did wicked things to his blood pressure.
Damn she was good. He’d had his middle name stricken from every record except his birth certificate. Weren’t those supposed to be confidential?
She put a hand on his arm and heat shot into his brain, frying several neurons. “Will you tell me the story behind it?”
“I don’t think so.” His frosty tone did nothing to quell the smile in her eyes.
“We’ll see. I’m sure I’ll be able to get the information out of you somehow. Now, are we to stand here all night, or are you going to show me your equipment?”
Kat clutched her bag tighter. Bozhe moi, the man was seriously hot. She’d kept his photo up on the corner of her screen while she investigated his background, hoping that by the time she met him in person she’d be immune, or at least able to pretend she was. If she didn’t get into his code soon, she’d be in deep trouble. Pretending to be American was damn hard, especially when sleep deprived. Throw a young George Clooney look-alike into the mix, and her five years in this disguise would evaporate quicker than a drop of water on Mercury.
Wolfe’s gray eyes slid over her once more, setting off unnerving tingles all over. A lock of his dark brown hair fell over his forehead, and he pushed it back. The touch of silver at his temples and scattered through his end-of-day stubble made him look feral rather than mature. Wolfe was an appropriate name for him.
“May I take your bag?” His deep voice and sexy British accent slid over her like a caress.
She moved her roller suitcase between them but didn’t release her laptop bag. No one touched her computer. “I haven’t booked into a hotel. Is there one near your office you can recommend?”
“There’s a Shangri-La hotel in my building. My flat is above and my offices below.”
“Convenient.” It would make things quicker if she didn’t need to commute.
Pulling her suitcase behind him, he led her to the parking lot and opened the door to a sleek sports car. After putting her bag in the trunk, he settled next to her. Barely a foot separated them, and she had to suppress a shiver. Exhaustion, that had to be why she was so rattled. Liam Manning, for whom she often did freelance work, had called asking her to take this job at three a.m. San Francisco time, just as she was finishing up a project. As it was urgent and expense was no issue, she’d immediately hopped on his private jet and then spent the entire flight investigating the man beside her and his business. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept.
To keep her focus, she forced her mind to the task at hand, and away from the movement of muscles in Wolfe’s thigh as he changed gears or the way his hand caressed the shifter. “I understand discretion is of the utmost importance to you. I will need full access to your systems, from the inside. Have you come up with a suitable position you want me to pretend to fill?”
“No. I was waiting to discover what your talents are.” He glanced at her again, and the back of her thighs tingled.
“I have all sorts of talents, Mr. Wolfe, but those that may interest you are centered around computers. However, I can also plan events. Do you have a store opening, or a special collection to launch in the near future?”
“Neither. The only position I have available is in accounting. Since all the cock-ups began with unpaid invoices, I’ve insisted that everything be manually checked as well as entered into the computer. I need my systems up and running properly as soon as possible.”
“Can you tell me exactly what has been happening with your computer systems and why you believe someone is embedding malicious code in your software programs?”
“Up until two months ago, everything was running perfectly. Now invoices are being dropped from the payment schedule on a completely random basis and odd things are happening with my and my secretary’s emails—some messages show as read before we even open them. We’ve changed our passwords, and I’ve had the entire system checked for viruses, malware, and bots but all the tests have come up clear. According to an industry expert I consulted, the most likely cause of the problem is that someone has rewritten or added to the code for the accounting program. I was told that you are a specialist in finding these types of things.”
“I am. How many people know you’ve been sabotaged?”
“Two. My assistant and my chief operating officer.”
“Margaret-Mary O’Shaunessy and Harry Coates?”
“Yes.” He flashed her another look, his lips tight this time.
“And you trust them?”
“They’ve been with me from day one. If they wanted to destroy my company, they would have done it before now.”
Odd how he hadn’t said he trusted them. In her experience, it was those who were the closest who often stabbed you the hardest.
“And do they both know I’m coming to find the bad code?”
“Only Margaret-Mary. She’s my right hand, and I trust her with my life.”
Well, at least that was something. As his assistant was fifty and had been married for twenty-five years, there probably wasn’t a personal relationship there. “So, accounting. Not my ideal position, but I guess it’s doable.” She took a deep breath. “As I don’t have a UK work visa, though, your HR department might figure out that something’s up. The other option would be for me to pretend to be your girlfriend.” She winced as his foot slid off the clutch mid-shift, and the car protested his attempted gear change.
“What makes you think I don’t already have a girlfriend? I don’t double dabble.”
She laughed, and he white-knuckled the gearshift. “Bonus points for the computer term. Have you been studying?”
“A little. But I realized I was out of my depth and had to call in an expert.” The look he sent her this time implied he still doubted her credentials. He’d soon see that she knew her stuff.
It probably wasn’t fair that she knew so much about him when, as shown by the fake cat-lady photo, he knew nothing about her. “I’m an expert. For example, I know that unless you’ve switched to more discreet female companionship, your last intimate relationship ended five weeks ago. She claimed you were, and I quote, ‘emotionally unavailable.’ But judging by the number of photos on Instagram of her kissing her dog, I assume you got tired of your girlfriend tasting like Shih Tzu.”
His laugh filled the car and drew an answering smile from her. “You’re not wrong. But how did you know I broke up with her? Maybe she shattered my heart?”
“Because shortly after your name stopped appearing in her social media feeds, she was suddenly sporting an expensive-looking tennis bracelet. I doubt men who get their heart shattered give their exes breakup jewelry.”
He shrugged but his face was still lit by a smile. “I write it off as a marketing expense.”
“I bet you have a whole line of relationship termination pieces.”
“True. I call it the ejection collection. Makes me a fortune.”
“Well, rest assured, I won’t be demanding any rocks if we go the fake-girlfriend routine. Smacks of payment for services rendered to me.”
That elicited a raised eyebrow. “Will services be rendered? This is sounding like the better option.”
“Only my cyber security services, for which you will receive an invoice. Payment will be expected promptly in US dollars by wire transfer. Perhaps I should work in your accounting department. At least then I can guarantee you’ll pony up.”
“You’ll be paid.”
Her stomach rumbled loud enough for him to hear.
“Can I get an advance? I didn’t have a chance to get any British pounds and I’m starving. Can we stop at one of these kebab shops you keep passing?” Come to think of it, she couldn’t remember the last time she ate, either. Sugar-free chewing gum only lasted so long.
“There’s a five-star restaurant at the hotel, or you can get room service.”
“Yeah, but I’d kill for a kebab. I haven’t had one since the last time I was in London.”
He pulled over, grimacing as a double-decker bus whizzed by only inches from his car. “When was that?”
“Five years ago.” When she’d managed to escape Russia with nothing but a hand-built laptop and a determination to turn her life around. She owed a lot of her success to Liam Manning, which is why she’d taken this job. All he’d had to say was “do me a favor” and she’d been in. Now she hoped it hadn’t been a rash decision that would cost her everything she’d gained.
The takeout restaurant wasn’t busy on a Wednesday night. She glanced at the three other customers, all early-twenties males wearing hoodies and their pants hanging halfway down their asses. She’d already done a threat assessment and decided she could probably outrun them in her four-inch Jimmy Choos.
“You’re a bit overdressed for a kebab shop at midnight,” Wolfe said as they waited for their donairs.
“Nonsense. I’m sure the opera crowd are all over this place after the fat lady has finished.” She took her paper-wrapped dinner from the man behind the counter and sat at the lone small round table in the corner before removing her gloves. “I hear you don’t like people eating in your car,” she said, noting Wolfe’s raised eyebrow.
He sat across from her, his long legs extending past her chair. His body language broadcast loudly that she was with him. “You shouldn’t believe everything you read about me on the internet.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I completely dismissed the story about you, the Cirque du Soleil performer, and the vat of vanilla pudding.”
He laughed again and a puzzling tingle invaded her chest. She pulled in a deep breath to relieve the sensation. Next time she’d skip the hot sauce on her kebab, it was clearly playing havoc with her digestive system.
“It was chocolate mousse. The media never gets the details right.”
She devoured her dinner while Wolfe ate his more sedately, his gaze rarely leaving her face, his expression unreadable. She wasn’t sure where she stood with him. It would be way better to pretend to work in his accounts department. The girlfriend thing, while it gave her greater freedom, was likely to blow up in her face.
As she wiped her mouth on the cheap paper napkin, he stood, tossing the remainder of his kebab away.
“You’re right,” he said. “You won’t blend with my accounting team.”
“Why? Don’t they eat donairs at midnight?” She pulled her gloves back on and threw the paper wrapping from her dinner in the garbage.
“Not while looking like you do.”
She ignored that comment, more intrigued by the gleam in his eye. “So, just like that I’m your girlfriend? Aren’t you going to try and romance me or something?” If she had to fake being his girlfriend, she’d better get in some flirting practice. It’d been a while since her last relationship. Like I-can’t-remember-what-an-orgasm-is long ago.
He reached out and wiped a spot of sauce off her cheek with his thumb then popped it in his mouth. She’d obviously gone beyond exhaustion and was now hallucinating because she felt as though she’d just been kissed.
She drew in a ragged breath. “I think I’d better stick with accounting.”
“Too late now, darling.” He put his arm around her waist and led her out of the tiny shop.
“I guess if I’m pretending to be your girlfriend, my first job in the morning will be to visit a pet store and get a small dog,” she said a few minutes later as he drove.
“Don’t. You. Dare.”
She laughed, and he missed another gear change. His mechanic must be on retainer. “Relax. I’m a Kat, remember. Dogs aren’t my thing.”
His eyes caressed her once more, the heat in them when they reached her face made her shiver. “What about wolves?”
Wolfe sipped a whiskey and stared out the window at the London skyline. It was after one a.m., but he couldn’t sleep. Kat was ten floors below, probably tucked up in bed. She’d looked exhausted and had started swaying by the time he’d checked her into the hotel. After seeing her safely to her room, he’d retreated with a promise to meet her at lunch tomorrow to start the charade.
Kat pretending to be his girlfriend offered him a chance to observe her actions closely. She wouldn’t have access to his systems unless he was with her. Ever since Paulina, he was extra wary about letting anyone too close to vital information. At least keeping Kat nearby would be no hardship; she was entertaining and undeniably beautiful. The next few days might be more pleasant than he first imagined. So why did his gut tell him this was one of the worst ideas he’d ever had?
He usually made a decision and dealt with the consequences. Second thoughts were for losers.
His phone rang, pulling him from his uncharacteristic unease. Simon Lamont. Good thing his former classmate was halfway around the world, or Wolfe would’ve had him in a headlock for not warning him about his new cyber security expert.
“I take it from your message that Kat’s arrived,” Simon began without greeting.
“You could have told me she was wood-inducing gorgeous,” Wolfe replied.
“I didn’t notice. I’ve only got eyes for Helen now.”
“Bollocks. You’re married, not dead. What’s her story anyway?” It irked the hell out of him that Kat seemed to know everything about him while she was a complete mystery. Being in the dark was no fun, unless both parties were naked.
“Don’t know. Why? What’s the problem?”
“She doesn’t look like a computer whiz.”
“Liam only hires the best, so I can guarantee that she’s an expert. You of all people should know looks are deceiving.”
His hand fisted automatically. Didn’t he know it? Perfect-looking families rarely were. “Yeah. Well, I’ll be able to keep a close eye on her, because she’s going to pretend to be my girlfriend while working undercover.”
Simon whistled. “Good luck with that, mate. She doesn’t seem your usual type. That woman has a brain.”
“How do you know my usual type?” Simon and Wolfe had been at boarding school together, but unlike Simon, Wolfe hadn’t carried on to university. Instead, he’d traveled the world and learned his trade from the ground up.
“Helen loves trashy celebrity mags, and you feature quite prominently in them, usually with a blonde on your arm.”
“Well, this is only temporary. Kat thinks she can have the bad code cleared and the source tracked within a week.”
Again Simon laughed. “A week, huh? Take it from me, a lot can happen in a short time. I went from a man intent on buying up a company to blissfully married for life. Speaking of which, it’s five o’clock. Time to wrap up and get home to my wife.”
“Five o’clock? You part-time now?”
“Ha. Ha. I’ll call you next week and see how your work schedule is holding up,” Simon said.
“You do that.”
As Wolfe ended the call he glanced again at the skyline, but all he saw were Kat’s eyes lit with laughter. Heat radiated throughout his body. He really should get to bed. He had several meetings tomorrow, and he still hadn’t finalized a design for the competition to obtain the royal commission from Crown Prince Adjmani of the United Arab Emirates. He’d tried several prototypes, but none of them seemed special enough.
The recently crowned prince wasn’t interested in competing for the world’s tallest building or most original architecture. He was moving the Arab royal rivalry to gemstones. One jewelry designer would have the opportunity to set his family’s entire gem collection which would then be put on display in a specially built center. The exhibition plans Wolfe had seen would make the Tower of London’s display of the UK Crown Jewels look like baubles in a high-street jewelry store. In addition, after a year, a rotating selection of pieces would go on a global tour lasting five years with the designer’s name prominently featured. When Wolfe got the job to set the gemstones, no one would forget him ever again.
As he put his now-empty glass on the side table, his eyes landed on his sketchbook buried under several volumes on gem mining. He’d been using a computer to design for so long he’d missed the feel of pencils as he drew and shaded. Grabbing the pad and colors, he flopped onto the sofa and closed his eyes for a minute, imagining the jewels he’d put on Kat. The next thing he knew it was three a.m. and he had four collections of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and even a tiara, although he was pretty sure Kat would turn her nose up at the thought of wearing a crown. He could barely wait to get to the office tomorrow and select gems for the potential settings.
Worse was the anticipation of his lunch date with Kat.
He was going to need more than just Simon’s luck to get him through the week.