A Beauty Uncovered

By: Andrea Laurence

One

 “Confidentiality agreement?”

 Samantha Davis frowned at her godmother. Agnes had been there for Sam her entire life. She trusted the older woman, who had stepped in as a mother figure when Sam was still in elementary school. And she was helping her get a job when Sam needed it the most. But even then, she didn’t like the sound of this.

 Getting up to Agnes’s office had been a feat of its own. Sam was pretty certain there were fewer security measures at CIA headquarters.

 What was she getting herself into?

 Agnes shook her head and pushed the form across the desk to her. “It’s nothing to really worry about, honey. Mr. Eden is very particular about his privacy. That’s why there are so many restrictive measures to get up to this floor. No one in the building has access except me, Mr. Eden and the head of security. I’m the only one at the company that ever has any personal interaction with him. If you’re going to fill in while I’m on vacation, you will interact with him as well, so you’ll have to sign the agreement.”

 An uneasy prickle ran up the length of Sam’s neck. Although she and Agnes were the only people in the room, she felt like she was being watched. Looking curiously around the modern, yet comfortably decorated office, she spied a tiny video camera watching her from the corner. There was a second camera on the opposite wall to capture another angle of the room. Who needed surveillance equipment to monitor their secretary?

 If it was anyone but her godmother telling her to take this job, she’d walk right out the door. But Agnes wouldn’t rope her into a bad situation just so she could go on vacation for her fortieth anniversary. It must seem worse than it was.

 And yet, she couldn’t put her finger on what was really going on here. She scanned over the confidentiality paperwork with distrust. Brody Eden owned Eden Software Systems. Office solutions and communications. Nothing classified. Nothing that might threaten national security if it was leaked. And yet if she failed to follow the terms of the agreement, she would be obligated to pay a five-million-dollar settlement.

 “I don’t know about this. Five million dollars? I don’t have that kind of money.”

 “You think I do?” Agnes laughed. “It’s deliberately high to ensure no one breaks the agreement, that’s all. As long as you do your job and don’t talk about Mr. Eden to anyone but me, you’ll be fine.”

 “I don’t understand. Talk about what?” As far as Sam knew, Brody Eden was some kind of wizard behind the curtain. He was like Bill Gates without a face. Reporters had tried and failed to find information on him, raising even more questions, mystery and interest. He simply didn’t exist before launching his software empire. If people found out she had access to him, she supposed they might come to her for details, but what was so important that she couldn’t tell? How he liked his coffee?

 Sam didn’t understand all the mystery. She’d always assumed it was only to stir up buzz about the company, but the cameras and the contract made her wonder if there wasn’t more to it.

 Agnes sighed. “Sign the agreement and I’ll tell you. It’s not a big deal. Definitely not worth blowing this opportunity and this salary while I’m gone. You need the money. Sign.” She pushed a pen to her and nodded. “Do it.”

 Sam did need the money. And the pay was very good. Too good. Suspiciously good. There had to be a reason why, but apparently she wouldn’t know until she’d already signed her deal with the devil. Well, in the end, it really didn’t matter. Her rent was due and she had fifteen dollars in her checking account. She picked up the pen, signing and dating the agreement at the bottom of the page.

 “Excellent,” Agnes said with a smile. “Mediterranean cruise, here I come.” She got up from the chair and slipped all the paperwork in a folder. She carried it over to a small, silver door mounted in the wall that turned out to be some kind of drawer. Agnes placed the file inside and then slid it shut.

 “What is that?”

 “I was giving Mr. Eden your paperwork.”

 “You don’t just walk into his office and hand it to him?”

 Agnes chuckled. “No. I very rarely go in there.”

 Sam turned to look at the massive oak doors that separated them from the secret lair of Brody Eden. They looked like they would hold up to a battering ram and were likely wired with sophisticated locks and security like every other door she’d gone through. They were intimidating. Damn near unapproachable. And she was itching to find out what was on the other side.

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