Baring Mia

By: Kallista Dane

“Why would someone as rich as Jake Harmon need to steal from his friends?”

“That’s where you come in, Mia. I think Harmon is having cash-flow problems. His company is worth billions on paper, but none of that is money he can get his hands on unless he goes public. He’s been holed up in his penthouse for months, spending money like water. Word on the street is that he’s created some hot new device that will change our lives forever, blah, blah, blah. The usual hype.”

He leaned in. “So far, all I have are theories. I need someone with a mind like yours inside Harmon’s operation, someone who can look at his confidential financial records and spot the holes in them. Harmon’s company is privately held, so he doesn’t have to file documents with the SEC. We’ve gone over his tax returns but the man has an army of accountants and attorneys. He’s got so many layers of protection it’s impossible to penetrate them all. We can’t find any proof of wrongdoing.”

“And what exactly do you think I can do?” Her tone was cool. So far, Patterson’s theory made sense. Harmon had the reputation of keeping things secret.

Like everyone else in the tech industry, she’d been hearing rumors he had something new in the works, something huge. In the past, he’d spend a huge chunk of his fortune developing his latest invention while allowing the rumor mill to drive up interest. Then he’d unveil his new tech device with fanfare to hordes of people already desperate to own the latest Harmon creation without having any idea what it was or what it could do.

“I want you to go undercover. Get inside Harmon’s organization and find out the truth. Word is he’s looking for someone with your unique qualifications. We have a contact, another investor who lost big bucks following Harmon’s lead. He can get you an interview with the man himself. Let’s face it, as of now you’re unemployed. This company is bankrupt. The few assets left will be tied up in legal battles for years...and so will you, unless you join us.”

Patterson pulled his chair closer to the desk and reached for Mia’s hand. “This is your chance – a chance to clear your name and help all the other innocent victims these two have scammed. You need a job, and I need someone I can trust inside Harmon’s operation. What do you say, Mia – can I count on you?”

Chapter Three

The old Mia would have been swept away by the combination of his good looks and the chance to get out of this horrible mess with her freedom and her reputation intact. But her instincts told her there was more to his offer, something he wasn’t telling her. And this time she wasn’t going to ignore those instincts the way she had with Alejandro.

“My father had a saying, Agent Patterson. ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ I’ll admit I was fooled by Alejandro. That’s what got me into this situation. But I’m not walking into another illegal operation without knowing exactly what’s in store for me there. If you want me to work with the FBI, you’re going to have to tell me whatever it is you’re not telling me.”

Patterson stared her down for a moment, then laughed. “Damn! You are good. I heard you were smart, but I had no idea how smart.”

Mia knew when she was being played. She just stared at him. Finally, Patterson caved.

“Okay. There is something I didn’t tell you about Harmon and this job.”

He looked her up and down with the frank appraisal of a man on the prowl and went on. “Rumor is that Harmon is looking for a…well, shall we say a partner for his personal life. One who shares his special interests. Not just some bimbo he can hire for a night. Someone who matches him in intellect, someone he can have a conversation with the next morning. Our inside source heard him mention your name as someone he’d like to get to know better after he met you last spring. At the time it was well known that you were Alejandro’s property. And Alejandro had a strict hands-off policy when it came to his women.”

His women? His property? And what did Patterson mean by “special interests”? Mia wanted to reach across the desk and choke the man. Where did he get the idea she’d ever been anyone’s property?

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