Jack, Sebastian, and nearly all of the Sebastian’s TA team were already situated in the War Room when Winnie entered. She was surprised but figured the job must be a full on security gig since that would be the only reason to get an entire team together with the resident hacker to evaluate a potential client.

Rico, a smooth-talking Puerto Rican with caramel-colored skin and soulful brown eyes, waved her over to the empty seat beside him. His real name was Angel Davila, and his first name was pronounced the Spanish way as An-hel, but no one called him by his given name. Everyone referred to him by his call sign, Rico. She guessed it was a guy thing to not be able to call another man Angel.

“Saved you a seat, chica. You always have the best insults, so you can sit by me.”

Winnie laughed as she set her stuff on the table as she sat down.

“What can I say? I think you bring it out in me.” She chatted with Rico and a few of the other members of Sebastian’s team while they waited for the last few stragglers to arrive.

Feeling a prickling sensation skitter across her shoulders, she turned her head to find Sebastian scowling ferociously at Rico and the other men around her while they studiously ignored him. Winnie, however, could feel the phantom sizzle of his gaze.

She had to block the memories that threatened to overwhelm her as his gaze blazed over her skin. Even after months apart she still struggled with her desire to submit to Sebastian. She’d spent so long in his arms, bed, and life that moving on was a daily struggle, but she’d patted herself on the back in congratulations at how valiantly she’d held her ground during all the times he’d begged, demanded, cajoled, seduced, ordered, and reasoned with her to get back together.

The day they’d broken up was the day Sebastian had admitted flatly that he didn’t love her and never would. At the time it had flipped her world inside out. The devastation had flooded her, overwhelmed her, and she’d ended their relationship on the spot.

Despite her unstable teen years she still believed in love and happily ever after. Her parents had been happy together, and her grandparents had been hopelessly in love with each other for sixty-three years when her grandfather had passed. Even afterward her grandmother had loved her husband without wavering until she’d gone to join him three years later.

Winnie wanted that kind of love in her life. Even though she wasn’t anyone’s definition of traditional and her desire to submit wasn’t what the average Jane Housewife wanted she still craved love that would last a lifetime. She wanted a partner who would adore her unconditionally. A man to grown old with, a man to raise a couple of untraditional kiddos with.

She could just picture a little boy with a Mohawk and teeny tiny Chuck Taylor tennis shoes, or a little girl in skinny jeans and a cheetah-print onesie with a big bow on her head. So cute.

While they’d been together she’d thought she’d have that with Sebastian until he’d crushed her dreams with his fear of love and his decision to never marry. Two things she hadn’t known before getting involved with him. Though to be fair, he’d never promised to be anything other than a good Dominant and lover. On that score she had nothing to fault him with. He’d been—

“Okay, let’s get started.” Jack’s hands clapping brought her out of her ruminations.

“We’ve got a potential new client. Meet Théo Bessette.” Jack clicked the remote in his hand and pulled up the picture of a handsome man with dark hair and a smug smile. “Bessette is the Count of something that doesn’t exist anymore. Basically, he’s your typical rich French businessman. He’s reached out to us to assess the security at the Lake Como home he’s recently purchased. He intends to make it his main residence and wants to make sure that everything there is secure before moving in. He claims there have been kidnapping threats though I haven’t been able to verify anything.”

Jack clicked the button again, and the screen switched to a picture of the blueprint of the house and a satellite image of the surrounding area.

“Winnie, I need you to do your thing and find out if Bessette is legit before we take him on. Think you can get it all together by tomorrow?”

“Ask for the moon why don’t you.” She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically before making some notes on her paper.

“I’ll get it done,” she said finally once Jack had started to turn her favorite shade of red with impatience.

Jack huffed out a breath before turning back to the rest of the room’s occupants, but Sebastian kept staring at her. So she did the only thing she could think of and winked at him as saucily as possible while Rico chuckled beside her.

She smirked at Sebastian’s confused scowl as she gathered up her notebook and pen. There was no need for her to stay while the men discussed ways to get through the door of the house. That was all them with their military door-kicking mojo.

She felt Sebastian’s gaze on her as she left the room, so she put a little extra sway into her walk.

That’s right, baby. This is what you let walk away. Eat your heart out.

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