Protecting it All (The Punishment Pit #6) - Livia Grant

Chapter One


"I'll have a large latte, thanks." Hannah Martine ordered a cup of caffeine in hopes of counteracting the effects of the too many glasses of wine she'd downed with dinner. She'd hoped the alcohol would calm her nerves on her first official date with Jake Davenport, her potential new boss.

Jake had been pursuing her for weeks, but her women's intuition had picked up vibes she wasn't sure how to interpret from the handsome businessman. He said the right words, but had an edge to him she wasn't sure she liked. He'd finally worn her down with the promise of a potential new job.

She had hoped the reason for his hot pursuit of her might come to light during dinner at the five-star Angelini's, but hours later, while waiting for dessert to be delivered, she was as confused as ever about why the successful businessman had singled her out. He needed an accountant, but she'd just got her Associate's Degree. There had to be way more qualified people to be had for the opening.

"Throw a shot of Bailey's in that for the young lady, would you please, Mario?" The squeeze of Jake's hand on her knee under the table warned her not to argue.

"Of course, Mr. Davenport. I'll be right back with your after-dinner drinks." The portly waiter scuttled off, giving Hannah the impression, he was just as afraid to displease Jake Davenport as she was.

Why did I even come on this date? He makes me feel like I'm about to jump out of my skin.

"Now, Hannah, enough small talk. What's it going to take to get you to agree to come work for me?"

Despite the warning flags, she was tempted. The lure of a legitimate career was strong. She'd worked her ass off getting her degree while holding down one full and several part-time jobs, yet she was still barely scraping by. She was so tired; that kind of bone-tired that seeped into every nook and cranny of her body and soul, threatening to overwhelm her daily. She longed for a day when she wouldn't feel so overwhelmed by life's demands.

She hedged. "I'm thinking about it."

Jake smiled a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "And what can I do to persuade you to think faster? I have quite a backlog. My last accountant quit suddenly a few weeks ago. I've had my heart set on working with you, Hannah, but I'm afraid time is running out on the offer."

His hand was still on her thigh under the table, stroking her a bit too intimately for a boss. She reached for his palm, picking it up and returning it to his own lap with deliberation. "If you are serious about me working for you, I think we should keep our relationship professional, don't you?" She forced herself to meet his icy blue eyes. He had an intensity about him that made her want to lower her eyes to the floor to avoid being burned.

Jake's recently displaced hand reached out to cup her face instead. When she flinched to move away, his grip tightened. "I do not agree, Hannah. In fact, let me be clear. I don't allow many people into the inner circle of my business workings, but my accountant is one of those people I must trust explicitly. If you become my accountant, we will work long hours together. I will want you... available to me... at all times. Over the years, I've learned the exact type of accountant I like to work with."

She tried to read between the lines of his answer. "And what type of accountant is that?"

"Quite simply, you're perfect."

"Why me? I'm inexperienced." Why was she trying to talk herself out of a job?

Her question hung in the air while Mario delivered their coffees and baklava and then left them alone again.

Jake's hands dropped from her face to grab a fork and take a leisurely bite before he answered as if no time had passed. "Precisely. Nothing makes me happier than training a new employee and lover. It's my greatest joy."

Hannah had started to sip her coffee, but choked on the hot drink as she internalized his answer. He moved closer to pat her gently on her back, as if she were a young child.

It took her several long seconds to trust her own voice to answer. "Your lover?"

This time the grin on his handsome face was genuine. "Well, of course. You don't think I wine and dine every employee, do you? I want you in