Echo:A Dark Billionaire Romance

By: A Zavarelli

She was a forty-something woman who wore a perpetual frown on her face, and I marveled at the fact she hadn’t succumbed to a heart attack yet. Between the entire pots of coffee, menthol cigarettes, and antacids she ingested on a daily basis, I could only imagine what her blood pressure was like.

“You told me they were supposed to be numerical,” I reminded her.

“No, I specifically said alphabetical,” she barked.

I knew she didn’t, but there was no point arguing with her. Something I’d learned quickly over the last two weeks at The Bennett Corporation. I was a lowly intern, and my job consisted of menial duties I was certain to mess up every opportunity I got. Or at least that’s what Stacey thought. All of the other interns were having a blast, but they were the smart ones. Me? I got saddled with Suffering Stacey. Yes, that’s what they called her here. And while everyone else I worked with was really nice, I couldn’t find it in me to like this woman, no matter how hard I tried.

I suspected that she was intentionally pushing my buttons to get a reaction out of me. She obviously didn’t know me very well. I’d grown up with far worse as a mother, and I learned a long time ago which battles to fight and which to let go.

“I’ll fix them.” I shrugged out of my cardigan and settled in for another long night.

She lingered over my desk with twisted lips, no doubt looking for other ways to torture me. “That’s right you’ll fix it,” she snapped. “You’re on thin ice as it is, Miss Valentine.”

I bit my tongue and nodded, waiting until she walked away to let out a sigh of relief. My fingers started to work while my thoughts drifted elsewhere. I was halfway through my mental composition of Brayden’s next letter when a voice interrupted me.

“Hey, need a hand?”

I glanced up to see Matt leaning against my desk with a grin on his face. He was another intern on this floor, and he claimed to be completely dedicated to the job. Though, I suspected by the way he tossed flirtatious smiles around the office that wasn’t exactly the case.

“Sure.” I slid over to make room for him. “If you feel like staying late again.”

“What else do I have to do?” he teased. “Not like I have a life outside of this place.”

Nicole was on her way out, and she stopped by my desk to say goodbye. It was her little ritual to ask what I wanted for dinner or what my plans were for the evening. But tonight, she looked like she had something else on her mind.


Her and Matt looked at each other and then away. The temperature in the room ratcheted about a thousand degrees, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed this before.

“Hey,” Matt replied.

His face had grown serious, and in place of his usual carefree smile was a look of pure agony. He caught me staring, so he dragged his attention back to the files while I spoke to Nicole. She looked just as miserable herself as she regarded the back of his head, and I wondered what was going on between them.

“Is Stacey keeping you late again?” she asked.

“It’s fine,” I told her. “I made a mistake, and I offered to stay behind to fix it.”

She frowned and then gave Matt one last glance as she clutched her purse against her. “Well, I’ll get you some sushi for dinner if you want.”

“Thanks.” I nodded. “That would be really nice.”

Nicole padded off to the elevators and Matt’s shoulders fell. I wanted to ask him what the deal was, but I didn’t know him well enough to pry like that. So instead we spent the next two hours bantering about nothing in particular, which made the work go by fast. By the time I glanced at the clock, it was already seven pm. Most of the workers had gone for the day, and we had the entire floor to ourselves.

When Matt applied the last label to the file, I sighed in relief.

“Huh,” he muttered.

“Huh, what?”

“Well, don’t look now,” he said beneath his breath. “But we have an audience.”

I didn’t have to look to know who he was referring to. Ryland was always here on nights that I had to stay behind. The man was a certified workaholic. And even though I often felt someone’s eyes on me, I’d been too chicken to turn around and check for myself.

“He seems to have taken quite a liking to you,” Matt observed.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” I laughed. “He doesn’t even know I exist.”

“There’s a rumor going around the building that he pulled you into his office on the first day.”

I glanced up at Matt in confusion, noting his eyes held a hint of concern.

“Nicole said he likes to meet all the interns.”

Matt shook his head and laughed darkly. “Of course she did.”

“What are you saying?” I asked. “Isn’t that normal?”

“Let’s just say that I’ve been here for six months, and I’ve never once seen him bring any other intern into his office for an introduction.”

His words made my stomach flip, and I had more questions on the tip of my tongue. But a shadow passed over my desk, and I could have sworn a gust of cold air moved through the room. When I looked up, Ryland Bennett was standing over us, his expression unreadable.

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