“This high-tech romance is awesome.” 4.5 stars ~ Terri
Coming March 8!
Copyright Kimberly Dean 2018
“Okay, this is really where I want to take you,” Luke said as he opened a door to a covered walkway leading out of the main Afire building. “This is the way to our small business accelerator. It’s managed by Afire, but space is rented by entrepreneurs trying to get new tech companies off the ground.”
Spencer followed his boss to the smaller building next door, but stopped when Luke turned with his hand on the door’s push-bar.
“It’s also where the hack came in.”
Okay, now Spencer’s interest was piqued. “One of the entrepreneurs let them in?”
“No, we let them in. We own and manage the facilities and shared equipment. The small companies here just rent space. The hack came in through the Internet of Things, which we should have secured for everyone. The hacker was then able to breach the firewall between Start ’er Up and Afire’s networks. That’s top-secret info that nobody outside of our team needs to know.”
Spencer nodded. That little tidbit hadn’t been in any of the news reports. It also made it more understandable how such an infiltration had occurred.
Luke pushed open the glass door at the end of the walkway, and the hydraulic closer let out a whoosh. Soft chatter filtered through the air.
“Welcome to Start ’er Up,” Luke said.
Spencer looked around the place with interest. The tech world and startups went hand in hand, although he’d always worked in established businesses. Along with being a deep thinker, he was an old soul. The idea of going out on his own was tempting, but he knew the risks involved with that. Perks were one thing, but he wasn’t blinded by them. Company stability, health insurance, and a 401(k) match were more important to him.
Although this could be a cool way to keep tabs on cutting-edge stuff…
“I’m assigning this place to you,” Luke said.
What? Spencer stood a little straighter. Wow. Talk about a shot in the arm. “Okay.”
“I had a consultant go through everything. She assures me that everything is secure now, but I’d like a second opinion. I’d also like to bring the responsibility in house.”
“Yes, sir. I can do that.” Spencer nodded with confidence as he looked around the space. He spotted printers, routers, and even an old fax machine… all potential infiltration points if somebody wanted to get in via the Internet of Things, much less the Wi-Fi that all these companies no doubt shared.
His brain began churning. Damn, he was getting more and more excited about this job, but he didn’t want to come off like a goober.
Luke turned into one of the few offices in the smaller building. “First things first, I’d like to introduce you to Josie. She manages Start ’er Up. You two will be working closely.”
Spencer took one step in the room, and his brain jammed. Crumpled-paper-in-the-bowels-of-a-printer kind of jam. One moment his brain was firing on all cylinders, excited about the new assignment, and the next, it froze and his body went a little haywire. Girl. Beautiful girl. Strawberry blonde. Green eyes. Pretty smile. Pink lips… And a tight body. Oh, hell. Don’t look there.
“Josie, this is Spencer Weiler, our new security hire. He’s the one who’s going to take point on Start ’er Up’s security situation from here on out.”
The girl… woman… gorgeous woman looked at him and blinked those big green eyes. “Oh! Hi there. It’s nice to meet you.”
She looked at him expectantly, but that paper jam was in there good, gunking up any thought processes Spencer might have once had. “Hi-lo,” he said.
Oh, crap. That wasn’t right.
“Hell. I mean hell-o.” One of her eyebrows rose, and he thought he saw a dimple in her cheek deepen. Damn, this should not be that difficult. “Hi,” he said on a rough exhale.
“Hi, Spencer.” Okay, she was smiling at him. Laughing, really. No, not laughing. There was empathy there. “First days are tough, aren’t they?”
He nodded, his tongue feeling twice its size inside his mouth. Yeah, first day. They’d go with that. She did not need to know about the boner that he was suddenly sporting. She didn’t need to know that was why no blood or oxygen was making it to the head atop his neck.
She held out a hand. “I’m glad you’re here.”
Not as glad as he was. Not even close.
He took her hand and shifted the Mac he was still carrying so it hid the front of his jeans. Her skin felt like silk. Warm, smooth silk.
He couldn’t stop staring at her. Honest to God, she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.
“I still feel so bad about the hack,” she said. “I didn’t even know you could hack equipment like that.”
“Josie,” Luke said. “We’ve talked about this.”
“I know,” she said, sighing heavily, “but I’m responsible for this place. I should have done something to stop it from happening.”
Spencer frowned. “You know how to change the password on a R-4200 router?”
“Uh… no,” she said with a blush. Her gaze went quickly to her desk, where he’d seen the piece of equipment. “But I should know that’s something that needs to be done.”
“It’s not even in the owner’s manual.” He shrugged, hoping the gesture showed reassurance.
Was it hot in here? He stuck his hand in his front jeans pocket to keep from fanning himself like a ninny, but winced. Tight. Jeans too tight. He pulled his hand back out quickly and wrapped his fingers around the shield of his Mac.
“Really?” The lines on the angel’s face smoothed. “Oh, that makes me feel better. I’m the program manager around here. There’s a lot to keep track of.”
“The rock star manager of all managers,” another female inserted.
Spencer glanced to the door. Okay, smoking-hot brunette at nine o’clock. Was there something in the water over here? His glance bounced off her right back to Josie.
“This the newb?” the visitor asked.
Luke nodded. “Spencer, this is Kylie Grant. Kylie, this is Spencer Weiler.”
The brunette looked at Luke. “I got this place locked down, you know.”
He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. The guy’s forearms bulged like Popeye’s, and the woman took notice. Spencer caught the reaction and quickly let his gaze skim over Josie. She wasn’t eyeing his manly boss, so much as fighting a smile watching the other two people in the room squabble.
“Security over here is Afire’s responsibility,” Luke said.
“Uh huh.” Kylie pushed her hair over her shoulder and cocked her head.
“Now,” Luke said in resignation. “We’re watching it more closely now, and Spencer is in charge of that.”
Spencer felt the brunette’s gaze rake over him. Her brow furrowed when she noticed the way he was clutching his Mac. He forced his fingers to relax, but he didn’t move it. No way, no how.
“Where did you work before this?” she asked.
“Nice.” She drummed her fingers against her thigh. “What do you think of facial-recognition authentication?”
“Not dependable enough.”
He shook his head. “Better than alphanumeric, but still a pain. Fingerprints are the way to go for top-level security and ease of use.”
“Hm,” she muttered. She swung her hand out, gesturing like Vanna White. “What do you think of the place? From a developer’s point of view?”
“Good space, a little loud.” He squinted at the sunlight bouncing off Elliott Bay through the front windows. That was something to mark on the calendar. The sun was out in Seattle, and he’d met the most beautiful girl in the world. Whom he’d like to get back to… if he could communicate with her… Hell, why was his brain connecting to his mouth with this brunette bombshell but not the redhead?
“It’s nice, although a bit bright,” he said.
Kylie straightened as if he’d jabbed her with a stick. “He’ll do.”
“Nice to have your approval,” Luke said dryly.
She lifted an eyebrow. “You know you want it.”
Josie cleared her throat. “They date,” she said.
Good. That meant one less guy Spencer had to be concerned about. A scary thought hit him, and his gaze snapped to her desk. He was relieved when he didn’t see photographs of a husband or boyfriend.
“Are we still going to Ivar’s for dinner tonight?” Kylie asked.
“Yeah,” Luke said. “How late are you going to be?”
“I can go anytime. Just pick me up when you’re ready.”
Was that a gleam in his boss’s steely gaze? Spencer watched for hints, pointers even. The guy obviously had game, and he could use some help in that area. Like, pronto.
Spencer shot another glance at Josie. He knew he was staring, but he couldn’t help it. That paper jam in his head just wasn’t letting loose. Did he even have a shot? She seemed so normal—no, so outstanding—and he was a computer geek. His kind didn’t have the best track records with women. What was his next step? Was he going to make a play? How did one do that?
He didn’t even know what a play was, not with someone like her.
“Anyway,” Luke said. “Now that we have approval from the boss, I’d like you two to work together to map out a plan. Spencer, you know the security piece. Josie, you know how Start ’er Up works. We can’t lock it down too tightly, because we have a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs using this place. We’re here to help them, not shut them out.”
Spencer nodded. “Got it.”
“Josie can introduce you around and get you situated.”
Spencer nodded again. It was the one form of communication he had that seemed to be working. His brain was now stuck on the fact that he’d be spending a lot of time with her. It thrilled him and terrified him all at once.
“Any questions?” Luke said.
So, so many. Spencer shook his head.
Josie walked to her desk and opened a day planner the size of War and Peace. “When would you like to start, Spencer?”
Oh, God. He was even turned on by the way she said his name.
“Nuuhhhh.” He cleared his throat. “Now?”
She blinked. “Uh, okay.”
She moved some papers aside on her desk, but Luke stepped forward. “Whoa, boy. Slow ’er down.”
Josie giggled, and Spencer nearly died.
“I thought we were supposed to Start ’er Up,” she teased.
Spencer snorted. Literally, the most ungraceful sound in the world came out of his mouth, and Josie laughed harder.
Luke looked back and forth between the two of them. “Geek humor. Great.”
He tilted his head toward the door. “We’re not finished with his onboarding,” he said. “Put something on his calendar for tomorrow or later. Whatever works for you.”
“Okay.” Josie trailed her finger down the open page. “If you don’t need me now, I guess I’ll head down to the gym.”
Heat washed through Spencer when she turned toward him and laced her fingers together. “See you tomorrow.”
He nodded roughly. “Tmrro.”
“All right. Sounds like a plan.” Luke started out the door. “Let’s go back to my office.”
Spencer somehow managed to put one foot in front of the other to follow him. Looking over his shoulder, he caught Josie’s green gaze one last time. “Buh.”
Oh, hell and tarnation.
“Bye,” she said with a little wave that made his erection nearly burst right through the zipper of his jeans.
Spencer hoped to God he wasn’t walking funny as he followed Luke back through the walkway into Afire. Once the door closed behind them, some of his brain function returned. It was a proximity affliction, apparently.
This was a problem.
The woman put his brain on the fritz. He liked her. One step inside that door, and he’d wanted her. At the very least, he had to work with her, but she wasn’t a typical tech female. Luke’s girlfriend, Kylie, wasn’t either, but he could talk to her. But Josie?
Spencer narrowed his eyes on Luke as he sank down into the chair behind his desk. Wait a minute. Luke had somehow made the crossover from normal guy to geek girl—although Kylie was unlike any geek girl Spencer had ever met. Surely, he could take hints from their relationship and reverse-engineer it.
His brain started to whir; he was onto something here. He could hack this.
Smashwords is hosting Read An eBook Week from March 4-10. Many of my books are discounted, so hop on over and save big!
Genre: Contemporary, humorous erotica
Release: Jan. 25, 2017
Tara Hanson is having a crisis – a common crisis for a twenty-eight year old woman, but a crisis nonetheless. Her problem? Her ten-year high school reunion is approaching fast, and she’s not ready. It’s shallow, she knows, but she wants to set her old classmates on their ears. She’s got a good job, but she needs the whole package if she’s going to succeed. That would, of course, include an awesome car, a killer body, and a mouthwatering hunk on her arm. An eventful visit to the gym shows her that she may be able to get two birds with one stone. Personal trainer Jake Logan is a spine-tingling, knee-weakening, hunk of burning love. She just has to find a way to convince him to be on her arm when the boasting at the reunion begins!
Book 2 in the The Hackers series is right around the corner! Coming March 8… LOVE HACk.
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release: March 8, 2018
Security analyst Spencer Weiler is excited when he lands a job at Afire Industries. The responsibility is daunting, but nowhere near as exhilarating as working with Josie Johnson, the pretty program manager in charge. Spencer lusts after her, but knows that she only sees him as a work friend. He needs to make himself over if he’s going to have a shot with her.
Josie is all too aware of the cute computer geek watching over her. He was tempting before, but with his newfound muscles and sexy haircut, he’s suddenly an irresistible stud. She makes the first move and is stunned to learn that her hot IT guy is just as studious in the sack. Their affair turns hot and heavy, but Josie has broken her rule about dating coworkers once before. It didn’t end well. When her ex returns and posts scandalous pictures of her on the Internet, it’s not Spencer’s muscles that she needs. She needs a hacker.
AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW!
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! To celebrate, I’m giving away 100 copies of my erotic romantic comedy, High School Reunion. Enter for a chance to win one, but do it now. This is the last day to enter!
P.S. I’d love more reviews on this book.
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: Today!
Independent software developer Kylie Grant is on top of her game in the world of IT. She has loyal clients, a good reputation, and a prestigious membership in technology giant Afire Industries’ small business accelerator. Things are going well until she stumbles across an innocuous issue with the lighting in the building where she rents space. When she digs into the problem, she discovers something unexpected—a hack.
The incursion doesn’t affect her, but Kylie leaves enough clues to fix the problem. That earns her a visit from Luke McAllister, Afire’s chief security officer. Luke is handsome and rugged and everything that Kylie likes in a man, but she soon finds that he is blaming her for the security breach. Before long, the two are on a collision course, but also secretly looking at more than each other’s digital footprints.
When a fluke accident sends Kylie to the emergency room, Luke fears that the beautiful developer is in danger beyond the online world. Little does he know that she is also hiding a secret that threatens to jeopardize their now sizzling relationship. Can Kylie fix Afire’s problems without falling victim to the hacker? And can Luke learn to trust her and keep her safe before their enemy strikes again?
Congratulations to Vanessa for winning the Winter 2018 newsletter contest!
I also have the poll results regarding the covers of my upcoming books in The Hackers series. I’m happy to report that you like them!
Question: What do you think of the covers?
- I like the final ones you chose from Artist 1 – 99%
- I like the covers from Artist 2 better – <1%
- I like Artist 1’s covers, but you should have kept the original image – <1%
- I would have tried a third cover artist. – <1%
Coming February 8!
Kimberly Dean, Copyright 2018
His gaze snapped up and encountered wide green eyes. She’d finally noticed him standing there.
The air between them snapped.
“We’re closed,” she said sharply.
As if that would make him go away. He frowned. He knew the building hours better than anyone. He set the door systems around this place, but telling a would-be intruder that you were alone was the last thing she should be doing.
Unfortunately for her, he wasn’t an intruder.
“Are you Kylie Grant?”
She lowered her feet to the floor and balanced on her toes. “Who wants to know?”
Her laptop was still open, and her fingers were poised on the keyboard. Well, that was a bit smarter of her. She could call for help faster than she could run.
“Luke McAllister,” he said. “Head of security at Afire Industries.”
Her heels slowly lowered to the floor, and the fearful look on her face shifted to one of suspicion. She knew why he was here.
Damn. He’d found himself wishing his team had been wrong.
“I’m legit,” she said. She lifted the badge that was clipped to the pocket of her jeans and let the retractable string snap back into place. “I rent space here.”
“I’m aware of that.” He glanced around the coworking area. It was as nice as anything within Afire’s main building. The company had managed to secure prime space in Seattle by renovating an old fish cannery that other businesses had turned up their noses at. The building that housed Start ’er Up had been the gas station/auto repair shop next door. Realtors were only now beginning to catch on to the new wave of things. Tech companies like Afire didn’t want skyscrapers. They eschewed anything corporate and stuffy. They wanted comfortable spaces they could refurbish into something cool and current. Instead of cubicles, they liked cubbyholes for conversations, quiet window seats for introverts, big whitewalls for brainstorming, and warm fireplaces for… whatever she was doing…
She’d better not be in Afire’s systems again.
He bounced his heel against the wall behind him. He wanted to know what she’d been doing in their network in the first place. From the information he’d been given about her, she was a small fish playing in a very big pond. How had a web designer gotten past Afire’s security? What would somebody like her hope to find in Afire’s network? Their client list? Trade secrets?
Who knew? But she’d gotten in. That was more than anybody else had been able to do.
“I’m in charge of all security for Afire—building and digital,” he said. “Somebody over here has been poking around at our firewalls.”
Her green eyes sparked, but she stayed quiet. His fingers tightened against his elbows.
“Do you know anything about that?” he asked.
“It took you long enough to notice.”
Luke’s back teeth clenched. His team had been functioning on high alert all day, ever since the hack had been discovered midmorning. “You wanted to get caught?”
Her jaw dropped. “Me?” She stared at him in disbelief. “You think I did it?”
He knew she’d done it. His top guy had shown him the proof.
“My team identified your digital fingerprints from last night pretty easily. You’re a known user on Start ’er Up’s network. Did you think we couldn’t easily identify who you were?”
She eased back into the cushions, the surprise gone from her face. Something else had taken its place, but he didn’t know her well enough to figure out what it was. The cool, almost scary calmness could be guilt, fear…
“That’s cute. You think you were hacked last night.”
His inner antenna went on the alert.
She pushed her hair back over her shoulder as she shook her head. She’d gone quiet again, but he could see it now. Disgust and simmering anger. Oh yeah. He could more than see it; he could feel it. What had Afire done to tick her off so badly?
“Are you saying you were in our systems before that?”
She gave him a deadpan look. “Your geniuses looked really deep, didn’t they?”
Luke pushed away from the wall. This was not a game. He knew these tech types. They liked to test one another and challenge each other’s skills, but this was a Fortune 100 company they were messing with—a company he was responsible for protecting. He gripped the back of the overstuffed chair closest to her, his fingers biting deep. “What did you want them to find?”
An Easter egg of some sort? Some stupid tic-tac-toe game?
She held his gaze until he felt a fire light deep in his gut.
“If I told you, what fun would that be?”
Her voice sounded like bourbon on the rocks. Smooth, with just a tinge of huskiness. Yet underneath it all was a challenge.
“What did you do?” he demanded. “If you endangered our software or any of our clients, so help me, you won’t be seeing the light of day from your jail cell.”
The room went quiet, except for the popping in the fireplace. Just when Luke thought she might be about to admit something, she batted her eyelashes at him.
“Did I do something wrong? I was just trying to connect to a printer.”
He straightened, his heart pounding too hard. Now he knew something bigger was afoot. Something his team hadn’t told him about or, worse, had missed.
I’d like to get some advanced reading reviews for Hacking IT, so I’m giving away 100 copies over at Goodreads. You’ll get the ebook before everybody else if you’re one of the lucky 100 who are chosen. All that’s asked is that you give an honest review of the book once you’ve read it. Come get ’em while they’re hot.