Exclusive Excerpt: Follow Me by Tiffany Snow + Giveaway
Brilliant, quirky twenty-three-year-old China Mack is totally satisfied with her carefully ordered, data-driven life. A computer prodigy who landed a coveted programming job at the cutting-edge tech company Cysnet before even graduating from MIT, China is happiest when following her routine: shower before coffee, pizza only on Mondays, bedtime at ten thirty sharp.
But then things start to get a little…unpredictable.
First Jackson Cooper—Cysnet’s rich, gorgeous, genius CEO—assigns China to a dangerous and highly classified project for a government defense contractor. Her sixteen-year-old runaway niece suddenly arrives in town, begging to move in with China. And then there’s her sexy but oddly unsettling new neighbor, Clark…
Quickly the Cysnet assignment becomes disconcerting—and then downright scary—as key staffers turn up dead. China suspects she’s being followed and isn’t sure whom she can trust. For the first time ever, she’ll have to follow her instincts, rather than logic, if she’s going to survive.
“China,” Jackson interrupted, brushing past me and taking the chair I’d been leaning towards choosing. “Have a seat.”
That was a command. I could recognize the tone. So I plunked myself down in the nearest spot, which put me on the sofa. Except I’d misjudged the softness of the cushions and I sank, putting me even lower than I thought I’d be, as I faced him. I forced a smile.
Okay, that was something a teenager might say. Not a grown woman with degrees piled behind my name and several years of experience under my belt. My smile turned into a grimace. I started fiddling with my pen and shoved my glasses farther up my nose.
“Brad would usually be the one to hold this discussion,” he began, “but since he’s out of the office right now, I thought I’d handle it.”
My palms began to sweat and I went cold. This sounded like the beginning of a conversation I wasn’t going to like. I searched my brain, trying to think of what I could’ve done to bring about a disciplinary meeting with the CEO.
“If this is about that argument between me and Toby last week, then I want you to know it’s resolved. He dinged my Mustang and refused to admit it, but when I had the paint samples compared, they totally matched.”
Jackson gave me an odd look. Okay, that wasn’t it then.
“And I’m not the one who keeps stealing Janine’s Diet Coke from the fridge,” I blurted. “It’s Megan in accounting. I caught her but she swore me to secrecy because she saw me borrow one of Blake’s Kit Kat bars that he keeps in the freezer.” I took a breath. “Borrow’s not really the right word, I guess, since I ate it. But I did replace it the next day.” I grimaced. “And ate it again. But I really am going to bring him more. I swear.”
Still nothing. His eyes were a bit wider though. Surely that couldn’t be a good sign?
“And I’m not the one that keeps adding h-o-g to Liam’s nameplate.” The guy’s last name was Hedge. Really, he was just asking for that one.
I clamped my lips shut.
Jackson cleared his throat. “While I appreciate your willingness to, um, clear your conscience …” he paused, “none of those things are why I brought you in here.”
“Then why did you?”
“I was getting to that, before your impromptu confessional.”
Oh. I shut up again.
“I had a project come in and need a programmer with certain skills,” he said. “You seem to be the only person on staff familiar with LISP.”
I was still processing the “need a programmer” part so my brain took longer than usual to catch up.
“LISP?” I asked. “Um, yeah. I went through a phase where I was studying the first programming languages. I learned FORTRAN and LISP. Not a lot of stuff being written in those nowadays, but it’s helpful to learn for maintenance purposes.” I shrugged. “Besides, I was bored.”
“You were bored,” Jackson echoed. I nodded. “And how old were you?”
“Thirteen.” Not every thirteen-year-old girl wanted to host sleepovers and paint their friends’ nails … Okay I had really wanted to have a sleepover, but the smell of fingernail polish gave me a headache. And since there was no one to have a sleepover with, I learned coding languages.
“I see.” He sat back in his chair and crossed his legs, one ankle resting on the opposite knee. My eyes were drawn to his shoes.
I had a thing for a really good pair of men’s shoes. Not to wear or anything—I wasn’t that weird—but I could appreciate the expense and quality of well-made leather footwear. And Jackson Cooper always wore nice shoes, polished to a gleaming shine. His clothing was almost always the same palette of gray or black pants paired with a button-down shirt, also in a gray or black. He never wore a tie, and his shoes were never the same two days in a row.
I could feel his gaze on me and I kept mine on his hand, which was draped on his ankle. His hands were large and looked strong, but weren’t roughened by manual labor. The fingers were long and tapered, almost like a pianist’s. Looking at them made my thoughts wander in an unprofessional direction and I hastily averted my eyes.
It was nerve-wracking, being in here alone with him. I’d worshipped him from afar ever since he’d first made his name in tech. Yes, empirically speaking, he was closer to the Ten on a scale of One to Ten and I wasn’t blind. But his main draw, at least in my opinion, was how smart he was. Compared to him, most of the population were just jabbering monkeys, myself included.
Whereas my hands had been cold, now they were clammy with sweat and I had to consciously stop myself from wiping my palms on my jeans. That would look really gross. I pushed my glasses up my nose instead and focused on Jackson’s eyes rather than his body.
Oh geez. It felt wrong to even be thinking that word in reference to my boss. Body…
“…currently working on—the version upgrade for MTS—let’s take you off that for now,” he was saying. I nodded like I’d been listening all along. “I’ll e-mail you a brief of what I need and the project outline. You can look that over and we’ll meet tomorrow to work out anything that needs clarification.”
Which was a really nice way of saying anything I didn’t understand, because I had no doubt that I’d have to wade my way through what Jackson would view as a light bedtime story.
Jackson looked like he was waiting for an answer or some sign that I was comprehending the words coming out of his mouth.
“You betcha!” I blurted, then inwardly cringed at how ridiculous I sounded. I forced a smile that widened until my lips were sticking to my dry teeth. This time he didn’t even bother with a polite perfunctory smile back. I couldn’t blame him.
“Okay, thank you,” he said, rising to his feet and heading for his desk.
I was up and off the couch like a shot, or I would’ve been if the couch hadn’t fought me. There was a gravitational pull of black-hole proportions and it wanted my ass to stay right there. After fumbling for a moment in the depths of the cushions, I struggled my way to my feet. I could feel Jackson’s eyes on me and my face burned, but I didn’t dare look at him as I hightailed it back to my cube.
Only after I’d curled up in my usual semisquat in my chair did it hit me: I was going to be working side-by-side on a project with none other than Jackson Cooper.
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Tiffany Snow was born in St. Charles, Missouri, where she developed a fondness for trivia games, the music of Elvis Presley, and romance novels. After earning two bachelor’s degrees—one in social studies education and the other in history—she went on to work in the information technology field. Now, the author of the popular Kathleen Turner Series writes full-time, when she’s not quoting When Harry Met Sally or dancing along to her favorite ’80s hair band. She resides in the Midwest with her husband of eighteen years and their two daughters.