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Authors: Rosalie Stanton

Blackout

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Blackout

 

 

 

Rosalie Stanton

 

Blackout

 

ISBN 978-0-9964533-0-1

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Copyright 2015 Rosalie Stanton

Cover Art by Jessica Gottstein

Edited by Bonnie Walker

 

This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any existing means without written permission from the publisher.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. The characters are products of the author's imagination and used fictitiously.

 

Blurb

 

The moment Kenzie Drake walks into Attorney Lennon Bishop’s world, she turns everything upside down. When a sex tape featuring Kenzie in a starring role lands on Lennon’s desk, his harmless crush spirals to epic proportions. Driven to distraction, Lennon decides the best way to get Kenzie out of his mind is to get her out of his office.

Kenzie finds herself kicked to the curb with a brother to support and no idea why her sexy boss fired her. Short on options, she jumps at the first lifeline she’s thrown—one that comes from the plaintiff in Lennon's most prestigious case. To get her payout, Kenzie must break the law, and into her former boss’s apartment.

There is no such thing as a perfect plan, especially during robberies. If it isn’t bad enough being caught red-handed, Kenzie finds herself trapped with Lennon in an elevator when the city is hit with a blackout. But when the lights go off, the truth comes out. The more Lennon and Kenzie talk, the more they realize everything they left unsaid…and unexplored.

 

Acknowledgments

 

I am forever indebted to my editor, Bonnie Walker, my cover artist, Jessica Gottstein, and my friend and invaluable crit partner, Terri Meeker.

 

Dedication

 

To everyone who believes in second chances.

 

 

 

 

One

 

There were any number of things Lennon Bishop expected to have waiting for him at home. An answering machine full of messages he’d ignore until tomorrow, a sadly barren refrigerator, and a stack full of paperwork sat at the top of his list.

His front door busted open, however, hadn’t even warranted honorable mention.

Lennon blinked. It was one of those funny instances that seemed unreal, as though the longer he stared, the more inclined the door would be to close and go back to normal. So he stared. He stared until the reality of the moment caught up with him and forced his brain to kick-start.

“Shit,” he muttered, pushing through the door.

The apartment looked normal enough. There was the couch in front of his sixty-five-inch flat screen baby, the coffee table he’d had since college and refused to part with, the bookshelf filled with his favorite authors, and a few law books in case anyone decided he didn’t look old enough for his degree. The large glass door that led to the veranda looked shut and his file cabinet—

“Shit.”

The file cabinet gaped open. It stood innocuously beside his DVD shelf—out of sight, but always handy in case he needed to take work home with him. The first drawer was really more a collection of important notes on retired cases. He took home court notes and a few photocopies, but nothing too sensitive The second drawer was reserved for and completely dedicated to Theodore Buckingham.

And it was open.

“Shit.”

Lennon couldn’t really say what overcame him the next second. Most rational people, he assumed, instinctively checked whether valuables had been stolen, or at least made certain the thief was off premises and phoned the police. Lennon, however, hardly felt rational, and quickly tore back down the hallway, reaching the elevators just in time to see a foot disappear inside the open lift.

His mind fought and found something familiar—a memory he would have otherwise tossed aside. Yes, yes, there had been someone in the hallway. A hoodie-wearing punk had bumped into Lennon just seconds before he discovered his front door ajar. Perhaps the kid had seen something.

Or, more likely…

“Hey!” Lennon yelled, racing toward the closing doors. “You there!”

The kid looked up, nothing visible under the hood save for his eyes, which went wide as saucers. Upon locking gazes with Lennon, he began pounding on the elevator panel.

At the kid’s side, tucked under his arm, was the Buckingham file.

Tomorrow’s headline:Prestigious Doran and Gage Lawyer Charged with Assault.

“Not so fast, asshole.”

Lennon grunted, forcing his body between the closing doors. He half-expected the pint-sized terror to knee his gut or try to push past him, but instead the kid backed up, flattening against the wall and trembling with what had to be the purest panic he’d ever seen.

At that, Lennon’s anger waned. Criminals typically didn’t shake that hard.

“Hey,” he said, raising his hands. The elevator door closed behind him. “It’s all right. I won’t hurt you. I just need that file back.”

The kid’s head wagged fast. No.

Lennon took a cautious step forward. The elevator glided toward the bottom floor. “It’s all right,” he said again. “Really.”

The words seemed ridiculous, but what else could he say? The kid had likely been picked up by someone on the plaintiff’s payroll. Quick cash in exchange for petty larceny.

“I won’t press charges.”

At that, the kid’s shoulders dropped, and a surprisingly feminine sigh tickled the air. Lennon paused, frowning. He knew that sigh.

“Of course you won’t.”

She reached to pull the hood away, but hesitated at the last second.

He had to see her face in order to believe it. It couldn’t be…

“Kenzie?”

The second her name escaped his lips, he knew the thought was absurd. His former receptionist wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near the scene of a crime unless she was the one victimized.

“Look,” he said. “I’m not interested in the authorities. I just want—”

“The file.” She sighed, then finally pulled off the hood. “You said that already, Lennon. Now’s not really the time to space out, is it?”

The world came to a screeching halt. Itwasher.

Kenzie Drake batted her green eyes, expelled another deep breath, and smiled awkwardly.

“Hello.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Would you believe selling girl scout cookies?”

“Don’t get cute.” Lennon’s gaze fell to the familiar file that she clutched in her hand. “Kenzie…I don’t—”

A horrid crash ripped whatever he was going to say off his lips. The elevator rocked and threw him into the wall. Kenzie gasped, and the file dropped to the ground.

“What the hell?” she screamed.

The lights flickered once, twice, and then failed completely.

“Oh, my god,” Lennon murmured.

“Lennon?”

Thankfully, the emergency lights kicked on in the next instant, striking Kenzie in a way that made her, with her dark brown hair and wide eyes, look damn near angelic. If not for the fact that he’d caught her breaking into his apartment…

Kenzie tapped the open door button, tentatively at first, then with increasing desperation when it didn’t respond.

“Lennon?” she said again.

He pulled his cell phone from his pocket. No reception. “Damn.”

“What?”

“We could be here for a while.” Lennon shot a pointed glance at the file, which had tumbled to the floor beside her. “Plenty of time for you to explain what the hell you were doing.”

“Or for you to explain why you fired me.”

“Fired?”

“And, while we’re on that subject, why you didn’t have the balls to do it to my face.” Kenzie’s eyebrows perked, her hand diving into the sweatshirt’s front pocket and retrieving a video tape. A very familiar video tape. “Or why this was sticking out of your VCR?”

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

“Shit.”

 

 

Two

 

Somehow Kenzie managed to keep her tone level and calm, though the situation inside her head was a different matter. It didn’t help that she hadn’t stopped shaking since picking open the lock to her former boss’s apartment, and shuffling past him in the hallway had nearly sent her into cardiac arrest. Honestly, though, she wasn’t sure how much of that was due to the breaking-and-entering and how much to the fact she’d spotted an all-too-familiar tape sitting ejected from his VCR.

Easy, she’d been told. In and out, she’d been told.We’ll pay you handsomely. He’ll never know it was you.

Her would-be employer hadn’t foreseen a power outage. Or the possibility of being stuck in an elevator with the target of her very stupid smash-and-grab.

Kenzie forced herself to maintain eye contact with Lennon, her gorgeous former boss, and did her best to ignore the tickle dancing through her body. Her butterfly-infested stomach always refused to sit still whenever he was near, and for whatever reason, knowing he’d violated her trust and privacy—on top of showing her the door—did little to quell her attraction.

“What did you mean, fired?” Lennon said at last. “Who fired you?”

“Umm, last time I checked, you did.”

The shock on his face would have made her laugh were she not so pissed off. It wasn’t exactly something he could deny. Certainly he’d noticed she wasn’t there anymore. Playing dumb was an insult to them both.

Lennon managed to overcome his stupor long enough to form another sentence. “They fired you?”

“What did you think happened?”

“They weren’t supposed to fire you!”

Kenzie huffed. She wedged the tape under her shoulder before collecting the Buckingham file off the floor. “They? There’s a ‘they’ now?”

“They—Howard Martin—was supposed to reassign you to a different department.”

For whatever reason, that thought hurt more. “And still you didn’t have the balls to say it to me directly. Fuck you very much, asshole.”

Lennon blinked. “I’ve never heard you talk like that.”

“Well, we’re not at work anymore, are we?”

“And what the hell were you thinking, breaking into my apartment? Taking the Buckingham file?” Lennon arched an eyebrow. “This is…what? Payback? Your way of saying karma’s a bitch?”

Kenzie bit her tongue before she could spit out a reply. The truth was simple and would explain, if not excuse her crime, but she didn’t want Lennon’s charity, or his pity.

It was hard enough to look at him—the man for whom she’d harbored a secret, yet passionate crush for the entire duration of her employment at Doran and Gage. Who could blame her? Lennon was personable and friendly. The fact he could double as an Abercrombie and Fitch model didn’t hurt, either. He stood at a comfortable height—topping her by just a few inches, which was nice in that she didn’t get neck strain just by looking at him. His stature combined with wavy dark hair, expressive brown eyes, high cheekbones, and broad shoulders made Lennon one of those men she figured had an ego simply because he knew how damn pretty he was. Discovering he was funny, down to earth, and, above all else, kind had been a kick in the head.

She liked him. Or rather she had. Until he fired her. Or reassigned her. Or whatever.

And now her faith in him was all the more shattered in the discovery he’d watched the video—a video she would go to her grave regretting having made. He’d broken the part of her that had started patching itself together again after Hunter’s betrayal. The part daring to believe people could be good and decent, and she might have a chance of finding one who would love her. While the odds of Lennon whisking her off into the sunset were slim, knowing one respectable man existed had given her hope that perhaps there were more.

Instead she had this. A stolen file on Lennon’s most prestigious case and a videotape she’d given to someone she thought she could trust.

“Kenzie?” Lennon’s voice was rough. “I understand that you’d be angry with me if you thought I’d fired you, but that is no excuse for breaking into my apartment.”

She snorted, snapping back to the present. “Gee. There goes my first line of defense.”

“I can’t believe how cavalier you’re being.”

“This after you fired me.”

Lennon huffed. “I didn’t mean to…you weren’t supposed to be fired, dammit.”

“Oh, right. Just passed onto someone else.”

“You know, you might have a leg to stand on if I hadn’t just caught you red-handed.” His gaze drifted to the Buckingham file. “This isn’t like you.”

She raised her chin. “You don’t know what I’m like.”

“I know enough what you’re like to know this isn’t it. Who put you up to this?”

Kenzie didn’t take the bait; it was disingenuous to ask, as the answer was more than obvious. There weren’t many people out there who would go after Theodore Buckingham, especially considering his killer legal team. Yet his stepdaughter had her own money—enough to coax Kenzie into behaving in a very un-Kenzie-like manner. If Kayla Bryant was to be believed, Kenzie’s bank account would hit the you-won’t-believe-how-many-digits amount upon delivery of the file in hand.

Theft was not her favorite pastime. Toss in enough desperation, though, with the added bonus of making someone who’d wronged her squirm like no tomorrow, and saying no became very difficult.

“That’s my business,” she said at last, her tone cool.

“Not when you’re holding something that belongs to me.”

Kenzie’s brows perked. “Which thing? This?” She held up the file. “Or the video?”

At last, Lennon’s eyes flickered with uncertainty. “That’s not what it looks like.”

“It looks like you’ve been getting off watching me get off.”

“Okay, it’s exactly what it looks like, but it’s not my fault.”

Kenzie barked an incredulous laugh, though she couldn’t keep from flushing at the admission. Watching her had gotten him hot. The visual, which she couldn’t fight off—Lennon with his hand around his cock, pumping in time with her on-screen movements, his breathing labored, his eyes hooded, and his gaze locked on her made her warm and wiggly in all the right places. She swallowed and pressed her thighs together in a futile attempt to kill the electric thrill that tickled her clit.

“Not your fault,” she repeated. “I see. So someone made you watch me finger myself.”

Lennon’s jaw fell slack, but he recovered quickly. It was nice seeing his composure somewhat compromised, considering her one and only line of defense revolved around personal betrayal. Though she knew he wouldn’t see it her way, that put them even in her book.

“It came in the mail,” he said. “The video. I didn’t know what it was.”

“The mail.”

“Yes. To the office.”

“You watched this at the office?”

“At first, yes. I didn’t know what was on it.”

Kenzie’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, you said that already.”

“It’s important you remember that part.”

“Someone sent this to the office.” She glanced to the video in hand. “And you decided to open my mail?”

Lennon frowned. “Your mail?”

“Just because I don’t work there anymore doesn’t give you the right to—”

“It was sent to me. And it was before you were…fired.” He cleared his throat, suddenly looking everywhere but her. “You were actually fired because of it.”

“What?”

“I asked that you be moved elsewhere because you were distracting me.”

“I was distracting you?”

“I couldn’t stop seeing you…like the video. You…and your…” Lennon coughed into his hand, his skin bright red. “I wasn’t getting any work done. I didn’t want you fired, Kenzie. Not at all. I just didn’t know what else to do.”

Kenzie’s shoulders dropped. “Oh.”

“Yes.”

“And then why…why was it in your VCR?”

Lennon’s eyes found hers, suddenly fixed and unblinking. It occurred to her, then, that they were two adults in a very small, enclosed area. If she wanted to run or hide, look away and end the conversation, she was out of luck. The elevator had given no indications it was interested in moving, and though she hadn’t fished out her cellphone, she doubted she had reception if Lennon didn’t. They could be in here for a long time with nothing to do but talk.

Or something.

“I couldn’t stop watching it.” Lennon’s voice was hoarse. “I tried, but I couldn’t.” He breathed harshly and turned away at last. “That’s a bullshit excuse, and you deserve better. I know it makes me a selfish asshole…more than that. Fuck, I hate what it makes me. I always figured I was a liberated guy, you know? I thought I was above it, but you…” He curled his hands into fists. “It’s you. You didn’t ask for it, but that’s it. The truth. I felt certain things for you and when I saw the video, I couldn’t stop. I needed to see it—you—over and over again.”

Kenzie didn’t know what to say to that, so she opted for nothing. She blinked and walked backward until she hit the elevator wall.

“What about you?” Lennon asked.

“What about…my feelings?”

A ghost of a smile touched his face. “What about that file?”

She glanced down as though needing to confirm she still held it. “Oh. Kayla Bryant offered me a hundred gees. My little brother—”

“Scott,” Lennon supplied.

She nodded. “Scott…he lost his scholarship. He needs the money, and I know how important his education is to him. And tuition, last I checked, doesn’t grow on trees. I was going to help him with school. And I needed cash to live off while I hunt for another job.”

“I’m sorry.”

Kenzie winced. His apology made her feel more like a criminal than breaking into his apartment had. “This…this isn’t me either, Lennon.”

“I know. I told you as much.”

“Well, you were right.” Kenzie worried a lip between her teeth, a long shiver coursing through her body. “What happens now?”

“Hell if I know.”

“That’s reassuring.”

He shrugged a shoulder. “It’s all I got.”

Their eyes met again, and they shared an awkward smile. At last, they had landed near honesty.

As far as starts went, it didn’t totally suck.

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