By: Deborah Bladon

Chapter 1


"How big do you think it is, Lark?"

"I think it's average, but I'm not the best judge when it comes to stuff like this." I smile at my co-worker, Dexie Walsh. "Everyone thinks I'm the expert, but seriously, I have no idea."

"Who thinks you're the expert?" She applies a thin layer of pink stained gloss to her lips. "I know your stats. If we're going by that, I'm more of an expert than you are."

My stats? The only statistic that matters when we're talking about our end of the year bonus is my relationship to the Chief Operating Officer of Matiz Cosmetics. My older brother, Crew, signs those checks and he's been tight-lipped about what's inside the envelopes he's going to hand out at this meeting. All I know for certain is that my check will be the same amount as every other junior executive who works in marketing for the company. No special favors are granted to me. The fact that I didn't get a bonus at all last year is proof of that.

"My brother is responsible for the bonuses." I finger one of the buttons on the front of the navy blue dress I'm wearing. "That fact alone means I'm more of an expert than you'll ever be."

"Who the hell is talking about bonuses?" She leans closer to me, lowering her voice. "I'm talking about Mr. Moore's dick."

I squirm in my seat, resisting the urge to cover both of my ears with my hands. This is not a conversation that's suitable for the boardroom. I'm not going to talk about Ryker Moore's nude photo scandal at this conference table. Ten of our co-workers are here. They're all within earshot and even if Dexie and I whisper they'll know what we're talking about.

It's been the primary discussion topic for the past two days. Everyone in the office, except for most of the men, has been focused on the candid shots of Mr. Moore and his girlfriend that were posted online last Friday night. I thought that people might forget about them over the weekend, but that didn’t happen. Bright and early Monday morning I arrived at the office to see several of my co-workers huddled together whispering and staring at the screen of a phone.

Those pictures left nothing to the imagination. The two people in the photos were completely naked and apparently unaware that they were being photographed.

"I'm not talking about this." I elbow Dexie as I shoot her a look. "How would you feel if someone took naked pictures of you and posted them online without your permission?"

"I'd send them a fruit basket and my latest purse as a great big thank you." She laughs. "If it takes flashing a camera to get more eyes on my line of handbags, I'm up for it."

I think she's kidding about going nude for publicity, but I wouldn't put it past her. Dexie works at Matiz for two reasons and two reasons only. She's using the bulk of her pay to fund her burgeoning handmade purse business, and she's soaking up all the marketing knowledge that our boss, Ryker Moore, is always dishing out.

He's a genius when it comes to selling cosmetics. That's impressive on its own, but before he came on board as the head of marketing here, he helped Liore Lingerie reach a billion dollar in sales. My brother thinks Mr. Moore can shoot Matiz's numbers into the stratosphere.

"You'll catch a break one of these days, Dexie," I say as I eye the doorway expecting Crew to walk in at any second. "I've been sharing all of your designs on my social media accounts. I don't have a ton of followers yet, but every little bit helps, right?"

"I can't argue with that." She starts to sketch something with a pencil on the notepad in front of her. "My time will come."

"Speaking of time," I segue awkwardly. "Crew is late. This meeting was supposed to start at ten, wasn't it? It's almost ten-thirty."

She glances up at the circular clock hanging over the doorway. "The email Crew sent out specifically said that we all had to be in the boardroom at ten or risk having to get him coffee for the entire month of January. He never follows through on those threats, does he?"

The only person he'd order to get him coffee would be me, but he knows that I'll flip him the bird in response. Working at Matiz under the watchful eye of one of my three older brothers has been both a blessing and a curse.

I'm grateful knowing that Crew always has my back even if I've told him on more than one occasion that I want to be treated the same as every other employee in the organization. He's done exactly that since I started working here thirteen months ago. We may be siblings, but I'm making a name for myself as one of the most innovative members of the marketing team. Knowing that he's in the same building as me every day offers a sense of comfort that I've never admitted to him I need.