“You work too hard.” The voice comes from behind me. I’m standing behind my desk, gazing out over the French Quarter and the Mississippi River from my fifty-fourth floor office windows in New Orleans. The sun is blazing already. It’s only eight in the morning, but it’s a stifling eighty-six humid-filled degrees out there, much hotter than the cool comfort of my office.
It seems all I do is watch the world from this office window.
And where the fuck did that thought come from?
“Earth to Eli,” Savannah says dryly from behind me.
“I heard you.” I shove my hands in my pockets, fingering the silver half-dollar that my father gave me when I took this position, and turn to find my sister standing before my desk in her usual crisp suit, blue today, her thick dark hair pinned up and worry in her hazel gaze. “And, hello, pot, I’m kettle.”
“I’m fine.” She narrows her eyes at me and takes a deep breath, making my lips twitch into a half smile. I love getting her riled up.
It’s ridiculously easy.
“Did you even go home last night?”
“I don’t have time for this, Van.” I lower into my chair and motion for her to do the same, which she does after shoving a banana under my nose.
“But you have time to stare out the window?”
“Are you trying to pick a fight today? Because I’ll oblige you, but first tell me what the fuck we’re fighting about.” I peel the banana and take a bite, realizing that I’m starving.
Savannah blows out a deep breath and shakes her head, while mumbling something about pigheaded men.
I smile brightly now.
“Lance giving you problems?” My hands flex in and out of fists at the idea of finally laying that fucker flat. Savannah’s husband is not one of my favorite people.
“No.” Her cheeks redden, but she won’t look me in the eye.
“Oh, good, you’re both here,” Beau says, as he marches into my office, shuts the door behind him, takes the seat next to Savannah, steals my half-eaten banana out of my hand, and proceeds to eat the rest of it in two bites.
“That was mine.” My stomach gives a low growl, not satisfied in the least, and I give a brief thought to asking my assistant to run out for beignets.
“God, you’re a baby,” Beau replies, and tosses the peel in the garbage. My older brother is taller than my six-foot-four by one inch and as lean as he was in high school. But I can still take him.
“Why the fuck are you two in my office?” I sit back and run my hand over my mouth. “I’m quite sure you both have plenty to do.”
“Maybe we missed you,” Savannah says with a fake grin and bats her eyelashes at me.
“You’re a smart ass.”
She just nods knowingly, but then she and Beau exchange a look that has the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.
“What’s going on?”
“Someone is stealing from us.” Beau tosses a file full of spreadsheets in my direction. His jaw ticks as I open it and see columns of numbers.
“That’s what we don’t know,” Savannah adds quietly, but her voice is full of steel. “Whoever’s doing it is hiding it well.”
“How did you find it?”
“By accident, actually,” she replies crisply, all business now. “We know it has to be happening in accounting, but it’s buried so deep that the who and how is a mystery.”
“Fire the whole department and start over.” I shut the file and lean back, just as Beau laughs.
“We can’t fire more than forty people, most of whom are innocent, Eli. It doesn’t work like that.”
“There has to be a paper trail,” I begin, but Savannah cuts me off with a shake of her head.
“We’re paperless, remember?”
“Oh, yeah, saving the fucking trees. Are you telling me that no one knows what the fuck is going on?”
“It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s big enough to piss me off,” Beau says quietly.
“Just over one hundred G’s. That we’ve found so far.”
“Yeah, that’s enough to piss me off too. They’re not just stealing post-its out of the supply closet.”
“And it’s not predictable. If it was a regular amount, on a routine, we could find it no problem. But I don’t want to cause mass hysteria in the company. I don’t want everyone to think that we’re looking over all of their shoulders every damn minute.”
“Someone is stealing, and you’re worried about the employees’ feelings?” I ask with a raised brow. “Who the fuck are you?”
“He’s right,” Savannah adds. “Having the co-CEOs of the company on everyone’s asses isn’t good for morale.”
“What about having the CFO do it?” I ask, referring to Savannah, who shakes her head and laughs.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“So, we just sit back and let whoever the fucker is use us as his own private ATM?”
“Nope.” Savannah smiles brightly, her pretty face lighting up. “I want to bring Kate O’Shaughnessy in.”
“Your college friend?” I glance at Beau, who has no expression on his face whatsoever. Typical.
“This is what she does for a living.”
“She looks over people’s shoulders for a living? She must be everyone’s favorite person.”
“You’re on a roll today,” Beau says quietly.
“Kate works with companies who are dealing with embezzlement. She comes in as a regular employee and blends in, investigating on the down-low.”
“Can she actually do the job? It won’t work if she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
“She has an MBA, Eli. But I want to put her in as an administrative assistant. They see and know everything, and they talk to each other. She’s likable.”
“Okay, works for me.” I glance at Beau. “You?”
“I think it’s the way to go,” he agrees. “None of us have time to do it ourselves, and I don’t trust handing this off to anyone else. Like Van said, people talk. I’d like to keep this quiet. Kate will sign all the necessary non-disclosure agreements, and from what I’ve heard, she’s excellent at her job.”
“One thing,” Van says, and leans forward to stare at me, the way she does when I’m about to be in deep trouble. “You’re not allowed to mess around with her.”