Baring Mia

By: Kallista Dane

What was worse, Alejandro had used her password to make the transfers. The poorly disguised paper trail she found included a sizeable deposit to an offshore bank account under the maiden name of her dead mother. He did a great job of making it look as though she’d been in collusion with him all along and had been paid handsomely for her services. Any good forensic accountant would be able to follow the money as easily as she did and come to the conclusion that she was guilty of fraud and embezzlement to the tune of millions of dollars.

Back home, with his powerful family connections, Alejandro was safe. Mia was sure that by now the rest of the money had disappeared for good, routed through a dozen different countries into banks that had the reputation for welcoming hefty deposits from questionable sources then misplacing all record of where they’d originated.

But she didn’t have the luxury of influential friends and family members who would grease the palms of government officials to make certain they looked elsewhere. Mia feared that by tomorrow morning, or certainly within a few days at the most, the feds would be knocking on her door.

She felt sick to her stomach. It wasn’t just the money. Alejandro had wined and dined her, professed his love, taken her to his bed. Now that she knew what he’d been up to, she had to admit he hadn’t been all that great as a lover. Selfish, really. Detached. She kept telling herself it would get better between them, that lovemaking took practice, like anything else. But now she understood. He’d never cared about her at all. He was just using her. It was hard to believe she’d allowed herself to be duped for so long.

I was the perfect fall guy. She tore the incriminating papers in her hand to shreds, letting them slip from her fingers and fall through the railing. Thirty-something, no boyfriend, no life except for my mind-numbing, number-crunching job. I’m sure he saw me as needy, grateful for his attention, willing to do whatever he asked to make him happy. I’m sure he considered me lucky to have a man like him in my life. That’s why he hired me. And that’s why I felt empty when he fucked me.

Mia angrily brushed a tear aside then leaned over the rail, watching as the proof of her betrayal disappeared into the darkness, along with her dreams for the future.

After a sleepless night, she decided to dress and head for the office because she didn’t know what else to do. At least there, she’d have the comfort of her daily routine to occupy her mind – reviewing bills and accounts receivable, going over monthly tax returns and credit card statements.

Despite the crushing humidity of an August day in South Florida, she chose her favorite black suit, the one with a hip-length jacket and short straight skirt that showed off her legs. Alejandro always said her legs were her best feature. Mia buttoned up a white silk blouse and then studied herself critically in the full-length bathroom mirror, trying to decide if he’d been lying about that too.

It hardly mattered now. If some miracle didn’t save her, she’d be covering those legs with an orange jumpsuit for the next – how many would it be – five years? Ten? She had no idea. That, more than anything, terrified her. Mia hated not having all the facts. But even more, she hated not being in control.

She swept her long dark hair into a casual knot at the back of her neck to keep it from turning into a riot of damp curls in the heat of the day. Shoving the thought of prison garb out of her mind, she grabbed her red leather tote and headed out the door without so much as a glance at the tropical ocean outside her windows.

She’d bought the corner unit in the high-rise condo complex two years ago in the midst of a real estate slump for a fraction of its original cost, convinced it was a good long-term investment. Her Realtor had gone on and on about the killer views, but Mia had only used the balcony a handful of times before last night. She rarely allowed herself the luxury of enjoying the spectacle laid out before her when there was something more productive to do.

Once at the office, Mia sat at her desk, her tiny cup of Cuban coffee growing cold as numbers flew through her head. The corporate checking account had only a few thousand left in it, not enough to make payroll on Friday for thirty employees. She suddenly realized how many other lives were affected by Alejandro’s betrayal, people he’d always claimed meant as much to him as family. Thank heaven the real estate market was on an upturn. She’d probably need every penny of the increase in value on her condo to pay for the high-priced lawyers she’d have to hire.

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