Excerpt from Dantès Unglued
Copyright © 2018
After one quick knock on Rowe’s door, he stepped inside without waiting for him to call since he was already expected. But he stopped short when he saw the tall man standing next to Rowe’s desk, his hands on his slender hips as he grinned down at Rowe. Quinn couldn’t stop his eyes from quickly sweeping over his broad shoulders and chest that tapered into a narrow waist. His eyes snapped back up to find a pair of brown eyes that twinkled as they finished checking him out as well.
“Sorry,” Quinn mumbled, instantly taking a step backward. “I can come back.” Rowe rarely saw clients. He had customer representatives that handled talking to the clients. Of course, with Rowe’s lack of a filter, it was better if he didn’t talk to the new clients directly.
“No, come in, Quinn,” Rowe said sharply. He stood behind his desk, drawing Quinn’s gaze to his shorter but broader frame. His dark red hair stood up slightly as if he’d been running his fingers through it. Quinn never took that as a particularly good sign.
With a quick jerk of his head, Quinn stepped in and shut the door behind him. The other man was smiling at him, that assessing look still in his eyes, and Quinn didn’t want to think about the fact that he was dying to take another longer look at him, but not with the freaking boss in the room.
“Quinn Lake, this is Shane Stephens. He’s a private investigator with The Merleau Detection Agency,” Rowe introduced.
Shane extended his hand to Quinn and Quinn clenched his teeth, trying to hide his discomfort at taking Shane’s hand. His own palms were sweaty, making the momentary contact awkward. Why the fuck was he always so damn awkward around hot guys?
“Rowe tells me you’re the best,” Shane said, releasing his hand.
Quinn couldn’t help the skeptical look he shot at Rowe, who only shrugged as he sat down again. “Well, I said you and Gidget are the best.”
“Is this about a job?”
“Sit, Quinn.” Rowe absently waved toward the two chairs in front of his desk. He shuffled some papers around without seeming to actually look at them, placing them in piles at the edge of his desk.
Shooting one last uncertain look at Shane, Quinn moved to the farthest chair and sat, his tablet clenched in both hands. His mind raced as he tried to figure out why he’d been called into this meeting. Clients didn’t meet with Rowe, and Quinn didn’t meet with clients unless they’d already been assigned a bodyguard. And while they’d worked with some private investigators in the past, Rowe wasn’t usually involved. He had a company to run.
“Shane recently acquired a client who is the victim of a hacker,” Rowe started.
Quinn looked up at Shane, who was still standing beside Rowe’s desk, his mind finally turning away from too many questions to a problem he could understand. “Identity theft? Bank accounts drained?”
“No, not yet.” Shane shook his head, some of his dark curly hair falling forward against his temple. “At least, not that we’ve uncovered.”
“Then how do you know this client was hacked?”
“There are other signs…but I can’t go into it.”
Quinn frowned for a second. That certainly wasn’t going to make his job easier. “Well, do you just need improved protection? Alerts on accounts? We’ve got a comprehensive list of things we can do to help shore up the client’s account protection and privacy.”
“Shane isn’t looking for protection from the hacker for the client.” Rowe paused until Quinn looked back at him. “His client has hired him to track down the identity of the hacker.”
“Whoa…” Quinn said on an exhale, sitting back in his chair. That…that was not an easy task. Most hackers were pretty damn good at not being found. You had to be if you wanted to survive as one. If you sucked, you were usually snagged by the FBI pretty damn fast. Quinn would know. He’d started hacking at a young age—not stealing other people’s money but just breaking through security systems because he could. It took the feds a solid five years to catch him. But his boss knew all this. Rowe knew everything about the people working for him.
“We’re not equipped to handle this level of…” Shane frowned at Rowe’s computer as if he blamed it for his problems. “Well, we’re not staffed yet to handle computer things like this. I can do some of the forensic research in accounting matters, but I need a computer genius like you.”
“That’s why I agreed to loan you to Shane and his business partner, Ethan, for one month,” Rowe announced.
Quinn was out of his seat in a shot, hovering over the edge of the desk as he looked down at his boss. Pain shot through his chest, and he was suddenly having trouble catching his breath. Panic clouded all of his thoughts. He loved working for Ward Security. He’d been there for just less than two years, and he’d never found another place where he’d felt like he fit so damn perfectly. This was home. These people he worked with, they were his friends. He didn’t have to hide or pretend or feel uncomfortable.
And Rowe…Rowe had always been amazing. Sure, he could be cranky and a little crazy. He was always loud and tended to speak before thinking. But Quinn always knew exactly where he stood with Rowe. He always felt like Rowe had his back.
“Are you getting rid of me?”
“What?” Rowe snapped. “Where the fuck did you get that idea?”
“You’re hiring another IT person. I saw the listing. And this? Putting me ‘on loan’?”
Rowe groaned and scrubbed a hand over his face. With a heavy sigh, he pointed back at the chair Quinn had just vacated. “Sit.” Grudgingly, Quinn followed direction while Rowe looked over at Shane. “Can you give us a minute?”