By: Denise Grover Swank

Chapter One

Emma scowled as she studied the figures on her computer screen. Something was off and it set the hairs on her neck on end. She thrived on order. It was one of the reasons she’d become an accountant. She’d learned long ago that while people always let her down, she could almost always count on numbers.

The phone on her desk rang, adding to her irritation. She was already behind on the Wallace account. Any more interruptions and she’d never make it to the daycare on time. Again.

Picking up on the third ring, she cradled the phone on her shoulder as she glanced down at the file next to her. “Hello.”

“Ms Thompson, there’s been another incident.”

She sucked in a breath and turned her face toward the corner of her cubicle. Not again. “What happened?”

“We’d rather discuss it person, if you don’t mind. We need you to come right away.”

Chewing on her bottom lip, she tucked her hair behind her ear. “I’m not sure I can get away.”

“Ms. Thompson, I’m not sure you understand. Waiting is not an option. You need to come pick up your son. Now.”

“But…” Covering her forehead with her hand, she hid the tears that filled her eyes. How many more times could she take off work and keep her job? But she didn’t have a choice. “I’ll be right there.”

“He’ll be waiting in the office.”

Emma hung up, trying to shake off her rising panic. This was the fifth incident in three weeks. Jake’s second daycare. How many daycare centers were there in Little Rock?

Her gaze turned to her boss’s door. He was going to be furious, not that he needed much more encouragement after she had spurned several of his advances. It was subtle enough that she had no proof to take to HR, but it was enough to make her uncomfortable. The incidents with Jake hadn’t helped matters and in one weak moment, she wondered if she should have just gone through with it. She really needed her job. But one thing stopped her.

She had been used by a man once before, and she’d kill the man who tried it again.

Thankful that it was at least after three and she’d already worked six hours, she shut down her computer and locked up the client’s files. She ignored her worry over not being able to work in the morning if Jake was kicked out of daycare again.

Squaring her shoulders, she knocked on her boss’s door then pushed it open without waiting for a response, poking her head into the crack. “Hey, Tyler. Got a second?”

“Emma.” His tone was cold and brisk.

“I need to take off early today. My son has come down with a fever.” Her stomach twisted with anxiety.

“You realize you’ve used up almost all of your vacation time.”

“His daycare won’t let him stay if he’s ill.”

“And some of your clients are complaining.”

This was news, although not surprising. It only added to her fear. “Tyler, I can work on the accounts from home. It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting at my desk or my kitchen table.”

“It’s against company policy and you know it, Emma. I’m sorry but you leaving today is out of the question. Figure out someone else to pick up your kid. Shut the door on your way out.”

She hung her head. She was fully aware of the company’s confidentiality rules and her suggestion went against every principle she possessed. But then, so did her next move. She lifted her head, her eyes piercing his. “I’ll be sure to talk to Human Resources about it. While I’m filing my sexual harassment complaint.”

His face paled, then reddened. “Excuse me?”

“We both know that your advances go against company policy. I’m sure Loretta would love to hear about it.”

He paused with a grin. “You don’t have any proof, Emma. Nothing will come from it, and you know it.”

“Maybe so, but I think we’ll just let Human Resources sort that all out.” He’d win. They both knew it. But his reputation might be tarnished in the process.

He rolled his eyes and waved his hand toward the door. “Sure, Emma. Take off the afternoon. Take off the rest of the fucking week.” He glared at her. “But if this happens one more time, you won’t have a job to come back to. Threat or no threat.”

“Thanks,” she muttered in a sarcastic tone as she shut the door.

After pulling out of the employee parking lot, she allowed herself a short moment of victory. She may have gotten away with getting the afternoon off, but Tyler Matheson was the golden boy of Schiller and Schiller Accounting, quickly climbing the rungs to a corporate executive job in the nationally respected, commercial accounting firm.

Tyler wouldn’t fall from his pedestal without a fight.

Emma’s days were numbered.

She didn’t have time to dwell on it long before the daycare center came into view. Pulling into a parking spot, she turned off the engine and gripped the steering wheel. A woman in scrubs walked up the steps and through the entrance. It was shortly after three-thirty, and parents from the University Medical Center would be getting off their shifts and picking up their children. She considered, not for the first time, making an appointment for someone to examine her son.