Hacking IT Excerpt

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.”

Or disdain.

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.

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