Rachel's heels clicked as she roamed down the hall and she made a bee-line for a certain office. Slamming the door open she caught her so-called assistant on his couch hunched over a tablet and poring over the figures displayed. His eyes flickered over to her and he nodded in greeting.

"Where were you last night?" Rachel demanded through grit teeth.

"Excuse me?" He uncoiled like a snake and set the digital device as he stood to full height. "Miss Cerna I'm not sure what has gotten into your mind-"

"Enough," Rachel snapped as she held up a hand. "I had a call last night from one of our employees desperately afraid that everyone around her had quit. So where were you, Ven?"

He gestured to his office. "I was right here. I was choosing to use my time to try to find the origin of the bug and deal with it. As I recall you had some appointment set with that," he paused as he shuddered, "date of yours. I only assumed that was a more important venture than the business and as your second in command I rose to take care of the matter."

Rachel resisted the urge to slap the man. "Great, that means you have the mystery all solved? Who is the one that bugged my game?"

"The identity hasn't been revealed yet. I am still tracking some leads. The only thing I know for sure is that the code originated inside this building by one of our own programmers." He clucked his tongue. "I imagine that if you had let me do the proper background checks on all of our candidates this never would have happened. I know I have told you time and again that hiring riff-raff would cost us."

"And I've told you that I came from a strained background. I worked hard for everything I have and all I wanted to do was provide an opportunity for more for those out there that had the skills necessary to work here. " She wanted to point out that Ven himself was one of those type of people but kept her mouth shut. She didn't need the man going off the deep end again. It was bad enough how he always argued with her about Jace.

"Considering what kind of empire you have here I don't think it would be wise for you continue accepting just anyone. They need proper background checks and even then not too many people would truly be worth hiring. If I had my way even that friend of yours would have never made the cut. She's a novice."

"And my best friend, and who has loved this game since we played it as kids with pen and paper." Every word was forced through grit teeth as her eye twitched. If this man didn't have the skills he possessed she would have thrown him out ages ago. It was only thanks to Jace that he was here, and yet he had nothing but contempt for her boyfriend, well her ex-boyfriend.

"She could have been fine in the creative department then, but as a programmer she lacks the skills to belong. With the way things are going right now, I'm sure you're ready for me to give her the call to let her go?"

Rachel took a deep breath through her nose before she exhaled through her mouth in one long sequence. Maiming her personal assistant would not solve her frustration issues. "You will not be touching Trisha. She is an employee of this company even if I were to die tomorrow, Ven."

He rolled his eyes at her. "If you were to die tomorrow than your wonderful Jace would be in charge and I'd have to take orders from his insufferable ass."

"Jace and I are on a break, not that it's any of your business," she snapped at him.

Ven's back went ramrod straight and he set the tablet down on the couch. "Is that so?" he questioned as he studied her. "I'm sorry to hear that, Rachel. I know how close you were to him."

The bastard was smiling as he spoke. Not for the first time did Rachel long to set him on fire. "Ven, let's just focus on the matters at hand here. I need to talk to the programmers. I'm going to find out just who is doing all of this and I'm going to rip them apart for touching my baby."

"You do know that an interview with you isn't the best strategy, right? They're going to have their guard up the entire time. Why not let me handle it?" He offered with an easy smile on his lips. "You know how personable I can be and when I find the culprit you can have no doubt that I'll bring them to a fierce and well-deserved justice."

"People hate you more than they hate me," Rachel said with a sigh. "No, if I'm going to figure this out I'm going to have to get under their skins and now with the situation with Jace, I have the perfect excuse."

"You do?" Ven raised a well manicured silver eyebrow. "What pray tell would that be?"

"I'm going to go on dates with them." Rachel replied.

Ven didn't answer as he stared at her. His mouth opened and shut but no words escaped it. Rachel smiled at this moment the man resembled a gray-haired fish, not the cool and flawless beauty she was used to.

"It's settled then. I'll start interviewing them now. I'm sure most will be shocked I'm talking to them in the first place. I should be able to find out our enemy very soon with this method."

"You're going to find out just how hard-pressed for money these people are and you're practically waving it in front of them like a bull and a red cape. Please, Rachel, think this over. You could just sit down and offer them a raise to get the same kind of information. Not only is there no possible way for you to get any worthwhile data from this, but why reduce yourself to dating those paupers?"

"I have tickets for a half dozen things I was going to do with Jace and I'm not allowing them to go to waste." Rachel rubbed her hands together. "If we're finished here I'm going to call the first one in and start."

"Date me."

"What?" Rachel stared at him as she too tried to think of something she could say other than the simple word. "Are you trying to be funny, Ven? Because you're really not good at it."

"I'm not trying to be funny. It just stands to reason that if you plan to go through all the others here that I should be on the top of the list. Not only will it prove my innocence on this matter, but it will give you a baseline on what a proper date should be."

Rachel shook her head. "Fine," she agreed. "I don't have time to argue with you. Get your things, we'll go out for ice cream or something."

Ven's eyebrow shot up again. "No," he argued. "If I'm going to date you, even on an occasion like this, it's going to be a real date. We are going to Nakuni's restaurant and having a proper meal and just the right bottle of wine to go with it."

"You really are insufferable sometimes. But fine, whatever, I have no problem with eating Nakuni's food, let's go there."

Ven smiled and bowed to her as he held out a hand. "Well then, shall we go?"

Rachel ignored his hand and marched off in front of him. "I'm just going to let the others know that I'll be back soon and to keep working."

"You most certainly will not," Ven argued. "You're trying to conduct a secret investigation. With you taking each person out one-on-one like this it'll make the rest of them get nervous. It'll be easier to spot the culprit that way. We will not allow him to escape."

"Or her," Rachel pointed out.

"Or her," Ven agreed. "But considering that you've hired the bulk of your staff as male, there's a lot less likely chance that our criminal is indeed female."

Rachel followed after the tall man out of the office and through the series of back entrance ways until they reached the staff parking lot. "Let me get my car."

"I am taking you on the date, Rachel. Just because that rotten Jace could never be bothered to take you on a proper date does not mean that I will not."

"Do you really have to go after him like that every chance you get? Just because we're on a break doesn't mean I hate him or anything. I just don't want tied down by his offer yet."

Ven's nose wrinkled again as he pulled out his key fob and directed her to his Lexus. "How I treat my little brother is my concern. He's not worthy of you, Rachel, and I plan to prove it to you. Give up on him, and date me instead. You already know how we lamias perform in bed so this should not be a tough decision for you." Protection Status