“How did he…” She stared at the phone before she tapped the red icon to disconnect the call. “It didn’t take him long to find me did it, Pewter?” she said to the Great Gray Owl perched on the windowsill. “In or out, I gotta leave.” Megan yawned wide.
The massive gray owl, spread her wings and flew to the nearest tree. With an indignant ruffle of her feathers, Pewter settled on a large branch near the window and blinked at Megan.

“I’ll be back soon. Now stay out of trouble.” Megan closed the window and rushed downstairs.

At the office building, Megan yanked opened a large glass door and sprinted through, her long auburn hair flying behind her. Braiden stood in the lobby and waited as she slowed her pace. He strode over to her, wrapped an arm around her shoulder and kissed her on the cheek.

“This is a business meeting.” She said with a laugh and tried to shrug his arm from her shoulder. His goodnight kiss from a couple nights ago, left her wanting so much more.

“Life’s short and time is of the essence.” His arm fell from her shoulder and tightened around her waist.

She turned towards him, and narrowed her eyes. “So you say.”

His lips twitched in amusement. “Is that the best evil eye you can conjure?”

Stopped dead in her tracks, she stared at him. “What did you say?”

“Your evil eye is lame, probably due to exhaustion.”

She tamped down her overreaction and punched the up arrow for the elevator. Once in the elevator she twisted out of his hold to face him, hands on her hips. “What is this business proposition?”

“I’d rather discuss it in your office, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure thing, this is my floor.”

They got out of the elevator on the fourth floor. “It’s the third door on the left.” Megan pulled out her keys as they walked and unlocked the office door.

The heavy wooden door groaned as she pushed it open. Braiden held it for her, then followed her inside. She took her coat off, hung it on the rack by the door and indicated he should do the same.

The small office space had a reception area and Megan’s workspace. A warm cream color covered the textured walls, landscape watercolor pictures hung on two of the walls. A desk and chair faced the door in the reception area.

Megan glanced inside her office where three four-drawer locked filing cabinets sat against the wall to the left behind her oak desk. Two monitors arranged one above the other hung vertically on the wall, another one on the corner of her desk. The computer wasn’t visible. A maroon couch sat against the wall facing her desk, at the left side of the couch sat an oak end table with southwestern style lamp sitting on top. Only a landscape in watercolors and a picture of a wolf and maiden hung on her office wall painted in pastels. She motioned him to the couch.

He waved her off. “I think better on my feet.” Braiden stood with his feet a shoulder width apart, hands behind his back, and waited for her to settle.

She rounded the desk, activated the computer system then sat in the chair. Megan leaned her elbows on the desk with her palms up, and tilted her head towards him. “Ok, I’m all ears.”

“All the late nights and deadline pressure are taking a toll on you. I have no doubt of your abilities, but you’re too close, you need to step away and let fresh eyes take a look. For a percentage, depending on the work involved, I’d be happy to assist you. I have a TS/SCI clearance, and spent the last few years of military service in cyber security. I’m well known in the private sector as well.” He paced over to the window and back.

“So you were serious when we first met,” Megan said.

“Yes, just unsure of mixing business with pleasure, especially early on.”

“And now?” She tapped her finger on her lip.

“Things have changed.” He held her gaze for a beat. “And you need help. That’s about it in a nutshell.”

“Let me think about it.” She pushed up to her feet.

“Of course.” He walked around the desk, put his hands on her shoulders and leaned in, his lips brushed hers as he whispered. “You know where to find me.” After a moment or two, he released her. “I’ve a business meeting this morning, but after that I’m free. Maybe a late dinner? No shop talk.”

She was already checking the computer screen as rows of code scrolled. “Depends on how this test goes.”

“Good enough. I can let myself out.” Braiden’s footsteps were silent on the plush gray carpet as he left the room. The door squeaked as he pulled it open, the latch clicked when the door closed.


She collapsed in the chair, gaze glued to the screens. ‘Sequence failed’ flashed on the screen two hours later when an audible alert sounded and she opened her eyes. The program passed through the last glitch, but a problem persisted and she was too tired to care. Using magic in the mortal world for financial gain was strictly forbidden, but she was tempted. She folded her arms on the desk, laid her head down and closed her eyes.

Yellow and orange blazed across the dusky sky as a new day dawned. Megan opened her eyes, and lifted her head from the desk, her cell phone chimed in the distance. It must be in her purse. In a sleepy haze, she glanced around the room and spied her leather handbag on the corner of the couch. She rose from her chair and rounded the desk, but by the time she grabbed her phone the call went to voice mail. Caller ID identified Braiden as the caller. Bright blue numbers on her desk clock indicated 6:15 a.m. Heaving a heavy sigh, she redialed his number.

“You win. Can you be at my office in 30 minutes?

“There are no winners or losers. I’ll be there.”

Megan combed her fingers through the tangled web of her auburn hair. She whisked her makeup bag and brush from her desk drawer, opened the door to her office and padded down the hall to the ladies room.

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