Home > The Specialist (Norcross #3)

The Specialist (Norcross #3)
Author: Anna Hackett

Chapter One



The man was a tyrant.

Harlow Carlson grumbled under her breath as she climbed out of her Uber and hurried down the sidewalk.

San Francisco was draped in darkness. It was almost nine o’clock at night, and here she was, heading back into the office.

Because her boss was a workaholic control freak who never slept.

She mentally added arrogant, demanding, and bossy to Easton Norcross’ personality faults.

Harlow had been his executive assistant for two weeks. The man had a mind like a steel trap, and never stopped. It was probably why he was a gazillionaire.

She sniffed. She usually worked for Tenneson Industries, a Norcross Inc. subsidiary, and loved her boss, Meredith Webster. When Easton’s usual assistant, Mrs. Skilton, went on leave due to the birth of her grandchild, the imposing woman had selected Harlow to stand in for her.

“Easton needs someone who can keep up with him. Someone smart, with a spine.” The older, gray-haired woman had rolled her eyes. “And who won’t throw herself at him.”

“As if I’d do that,” Harlow muttered. The man might be sex in a suit, but usually, she just wanted to stab him in the eye with her stylus.

She approached the front door of the gleaming office building. Norcross Inc. was housed on two of the upper floors, with killer views of the city and San Francisco Bay.

Harlow pulled out her access card from her glittery, red Roger Vivier clutch. She’d bought it at a little secondhand boutique she’d discovered on Chestnut Street. The bag made her smile every time she held it, and it matched her little red dress perfectly.

Easton’s text telling her to get back to the office to find the missing paperwork he needed for an early-morning call with London had interrupted her date.

She swiped the card. The reader beeped and the glass door slid open.

It had been the most boring date she’d ever been on, so her overbearing boss had done her a favor, but she wasn’t telling him that. Her heels clicked on the marble floor.

She and Michael had sparked about as much chemistry as a couple of wet sponges. Harlow sighed. It’d been so long since any man had been near her lady parts that she’d suffered through the dinner longer than she should have.

Note to self: no more blind dates set up by her mother.

Harlow shrugged off her coat. The security guard at the desk stood. “Good evening, Ms. Carlson.”

She threw her coat over her arm. “Hi, Joe.”

The older man’s eyes widened. “You look like a million bucks tonight.”

She smiled. “Why, thank you.” Her red dress had long sleeves, a deep V neckline, and hugged her curves. It was also short.

“What brings you back tonight?” Joe asked.

“I was on a date before the Grand Master snapped his fingers.”

Joe’s lips twitched. “He works late a lot. Don’t let him keep you too long.”

“I won’t.” The elevator doors closed. One thing she’d learned—it paid to stand toe-to-toe with Easton Norcross, or he’d run right over you. The man radiated “I’m in charge” vibes every second of every day.

Growing up, she’d thought her dad had the same “man in charge” aura, but Charles Carlson was nowhere in Easton’s league.

Thoughts of her dad made her stomach tie up in little knots.

Two days ago, he’d left her a worrying, cryptic message.

Her father was a successful local businessman, who, even though he was retired, still kept busy with a few investment projects. Her mom kept busy lunching with friends, going on yoga retreats, and sitting on lots of charity boards. Eleanor Carlson had never met a charity she didn’t want to support.

That niggle of worry in Harlow’s belly grew. Something was going on with her dad. He’d left her a message saying that he had some trouble, but then he’d told her not to worry. He hadn’t sounded like himself.

Since then, she couldn’t track him down. He hadn’t returned her messages, and her mom said he was working late. Harlow got the feeling he was avoiding her.

Charles Carlson had fully expected his daughters to attend college, launch fantastic careers, and marry socially acceptable men.

So far, he was exceptionally disappointed. Neither Harlow, nor her younger sister, Scarlett, were anywhere close to married.

Harlow had suffered through a boring law degree, before realizing she wanted to be an executive assistant. She loved organizing, solving problems, juggling issues, and finding effective, efficient solutions. She thrived on it and it fed her soul.

She’d been organizing her family for as long as she could remember. As a teenager, she’d helped her father with his work as a side job. And her sister was ten years younger than Harlow, so she’d helped her mother a lot when the new baby had arrived.

When she’d first told her father that she wasn’t going to practice law, he’d lost it. “No child of mine will be a lowly assistant.”

Harlow snorted. She was well aware good assistants kept the business world running. Her father’s included.

The elevator slowed and she straightened her shoulders. She knew a brilliant executive assistant was worth their weight in gold. She was well-paid, and that helped with her ultimate goal—buying her own house.

She felt a giddy little feeling. Harlow wanted to own a lovely San Francisco home all of her own. She wanted to renovate. Decorate. She was a closet reno-show addict. She had a burning need to knock down some walls and gut some bathrooms.

She grinned to herself.

She was so good at her job that she had earned the dubious prize of working for Easton for the foreseeable future.

The elevator doors opened. The main office level was shadowed, the lights on low. Pushing worry for her dad away, she strode forward. She’d pin him down eventually.

The carpet muffled the sound of her steps. There were lights on in Easton’s office.

Maybe the man was part machine?

She passed her own desk. It was exactly how she’d left it several hours earlier. Mostly clear, with a few neat, organized piles.

She paused in the doorway.

Against her will, her belly tightened. The man might be a tyrant, but she was female enough to admit he was a mouthwatering one.

Especially like this.

Usually, Easton wore perfectly tailored suits. He was always pressed, looking gorgeous and intimidating.

Right now, he was in off mode. Or as off as he got.

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