Morgan Hunter sacrificed everything for her career. She had yet to encounter anything she wasn’t willing to do to succeed…until now. When she uncovers evidence that the healthy foods she’s been hired to promote may be dangerous, she must reevaluate her priorities. As questions mount and the body count rises, she finds herself caught in the cross-hairs of an organization that will stop at nothing to hide its secrets and protect its profits. With no one else to trust, Morgan is forced to seek help from the man she drove away, but whom she never stopped loving…
Copyright 2016 © Kim McMahill
“I really appreciate the thorough cleaning job you did prior to my arrival, but I was wondering what happened to Mr. Jacobson’s files. It would really help to familiarize me with the position, and I always hate reinventing the wheel, so to speak. If he implemented a strategy that wasn’t successful, I most certainly don’t want to attempt the same failed practice or program.”
“Mr. Hoyle ordered me to shred everything, get you a new computer, and make sure you had a clean slate to work with. He wanted you to feel free to run operations your way and not be concerned about the way things used to be handled. As you know, the Healthy and Delicious Foods division hasn’t been performing to Mr. Hoyle’s high expectation for the past quarter, so Mr. Hoyle wants a fresh approach.”
Morgan studied Aaron for a moment. He seemed so certain of his rationale, and he clearly followed directions without question. Despite never having walked into a new office without a single scrap of paper from the previous occupant, she decided to drop the subject for now.
“Very well, then. Enjoy your weekend.”
“You too,” Aaron replied as he turned and strode out of the office.
Morgan sank into her chair. She was exhausted. Getting her feet on the ground had proven to be a daunting task. Every night, she poured over spreadsheets until nearly midnight, preventing her from unpacking all the moving boxes stacked in her new duplex apartment.
She spent a good portion of each morning in the factory, watching the production process and picking the brain of her production manager, Wiley Hartman. She enjoyed the manufacturing process, but unfortunately, afternoons were consumed with various staff and board meetings.
Wiley seemed competent and very knowledgeable about the company, having worked his way up through canned, frozen, and snack foods before taking over as the production manager for the Healthy and Delicious Foods division processing facility three years ago. She had taken an instant liking to the man, and decided that if anyone might turn out to be an ally here, it would be him.
Jiggling the mouse, Morgan brought her sleeping computer screen to life. A quick check of her e-mail verified there was nothing new that couldn’t wait until Monday. She opened her calendar for the next week and nearly groaned. Her second week on the job, and she had the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) coming in for routine inspections, and a meeting with the sales and marketing team. On top of that, her new boss and president of the company, Preston Hoyle, wanted a report by week’s end on her observations and initial plan of attack for increasing profits and returning the line to its highest level of sales.
“You’re here late.”
Speak of the devil. Morgan looked up at Preston and smiled. “I’m just wrapping up a few things and wanted to take one last peek at next week’s schedule to make sure Aaron didn’t add anything new since the last time I checked.”
“He’ll definitely keep you organized, and don’t hesitate to utilize his skills. He’s a sharp young man.”
Morgan stood, feeling small and somewhat intimidated by the tall, handsome man towering over her. Even with heels on, she couldn’t quite look him in his pale blue eyes and had to tilt her chin up. He was closer than she had realized, invading her personal space. His gaze seemed fixed on her lips, so she took a quick step back and reached for Aaron’s resume to insert some distance without seeming too obvious.
“I gathered that from his resume, and I can’t help but wonder how long I’ll have him with his education and experience. He seems a bit overqualified for the job.”
“Don’t worry about Aaron. He isn’t going anywhere, but you should. It’s Friday night. You’re new on the job and new in town, and you’ve put in more hours than I expect, especially during your first week. I feel a little guilty about the lack of assistance with your transition, but hopefully, Aaron has ensured you have everything you need. If my in-laws weren’t in town, I’d love to take you to dinner and show you what our fine city has to offer.”
The only way Morgan could describe the smile that followed his last statement was “lecherous,” and warning bells resounded in her head.
“I appreciate the sentiment, Mr. Hoyle, but it has been a long week, and as soon as I can close up here, I’m heading up to Sedona to our family vacation home. I plan to relax with a glass of wine and one of the Healthy and Delicious Foods entrees I haven’t tried yet before I tackle a year’s worth of dust and cobwebs tomorrow.”
“Now that’s dedication, but don’t get too carried away with these products. Your figure is just fine the way it is,” he said, letting his eyes linger too long on her breasts. “And please, call me Preston. I’m sure we’ll be working very closely together, including plenty of late nights, so no need to be so formal.”
Morgan didn’t know how to respond to his last comment so returned her focus to an innocuous topic. “According to the promotional material supplied by the advertising team, the Healthy and Delicious Foods line isn’t just for weight loss. I must admit, I’m very impressed with the data on GCF’s revolutionary natural sweetener, MFHG3, derived primarily from the monk fruit and hoodia gordonii. Not only does it sweeten foods, but the steroidal glycosides found in the Hoodia plant are reported to curb the appetite. It sounds almost too good to be true.”
“Yes, MFHG3 took this company from a small local manufacturer to a national powerhouse, catering to the thin-obsessed and health-crazed society. MFHG3 has changed the playing field and has all the other companies scrambling to catch up, but enough shoptalk. You need to get out of here, and if I miss my dinner reservation, my mother-in-law will yap about it all weekend. I would like to hear more about this place in Sedona soon. Sounds like a perfect weekend getaway from the heat, the city, and the stress of the job. Maybe you’ll even give me a tour one of these days.”
Not in this lifetime. She bit her lip and didn’t respond.
The smile he flashed at Morgan as he departed her office made her shudder. He seemed perfectly professional during the interview process. She hadn’t been alone with him in the same room all week, but this brief exchange warned her to avoid one-on-one time with her boss as much as possible, especially after hours in an empty and dark building.
Morgan dropped into her desk chair, powered down her computer, and stowed the lightweight laptop in her briefcase along with several files she had procured from accounting. Grasping the knob on the lower side drawer of her desk to retrieve her purse, she was reminded of one more thing she had forgotten to do this week.
She had intended to have Aaron submit a work order to have someone fix the drawer. Since it didn’t completely close, she wasn’t able to lock up her purse when she was down in the ground floor factory—not that anyone could get into her office with the tenacious Aaron sitting just outside her door. Mostly, it was simply annoying. The drawer shut enough that she didn’t catch a shin, so she forgot about it until she was stowing or retrieving her purse.
“I can’t believe this little gap is bugging me so much. I must be turning into my ex,” Morgan huffed as she sat down on the floor and scooted under her desk with the small flashlight from her key chain, hoping her boss didn’t return and catch her with her skirt hiked up.
She ran her fingers along the track and felt something at the very back. Wriggling even further under the desk, she shined the small light in the area where she detected the obstruction. The item was affixed with tape, but it took little effort to pry it free.
Crawling back out into the light, Morgan examined the small item. No larger than a paperclip, its identity was clear. She held a tiny flash drive between her fingers.
Hmm, curious place to keep data. She pondered the matter while looking closely at her find. “Wish I wouldn’t have already powered down my computer,” Morgan muttered as she dropped the small device into her purse, flipped off the lights, and headed for the elevator.