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Chapter One

Sunlight gleamed off shimmering panes of the mirage-like monolith of a building, which towered over Jamie Black, dwarfing her. She stood before great glass doors, a letter of acceptance from case agent Jack Harley folded up and tucked inside the breast pocket of her blazer. She'd carried it with her every day since receiving it, like a talisman. That square of paper represented a life-long dream achieved, the nexus of a thousand threads of effort. It was one thing to graduate from the FBI academy. It was something else to get an appointment like the one she'd managed to snag.

She could hardly keep the smile off her face as she passed through the security checkpoint, traversed the lobby, stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the eleventh floor. Case agent Jack Harley's office was there. She'd never met Jack Harley, but he'd chosen her out of a plethora of applicants, so she was already grateful and excited to meet him.

The eleventh floor looked like any other office building, save for the crest emblazoned on the walls and doors and floor mats and pencils and cups and other such items. There really was no missing the fact that she was stepping into FBI territory.

Jack Harley's office was not hard to find. It bore a bold nameplate that said HARLEY in large, no-nonsense letters. She knocked on the door and waited.

“Come!” A deep masculine voice rang out, wrapped around her and proceeded to zip up and down her spine.

She took a deep breath to calm herself, then pushed open the door. “Hi,” she said, putting on her brightest smile. “I'm Jamie.”

The occupant of the office was a tall man, a broad shouldered man with the build of an athlete. He was not sitting behind the large glass topped desk, which would have dominated the room save for the presence of its owner. He was standing at the window, looking out over the city, but he turned as she entered.

“Jamie? Jamie Black?” Her name rolled off his tongue with a hint of Scottish brogue.

“Yes, sir.” There was a husky note of nervousness to her voice.

Green and gold eyes roamed up and down her body whilst a thick dark brow rose in her direction. “You're a woman.”

Jamie bit back the urge to congratulate him on his observational skills. Something about his demeanor told her that would be a very bad idea. It wasn't that he looked brutal or threatening. Quite the opposite. He looked strong, but restrained. There was a certain refinement to his looks, an arch to his nose, wide set eyes. His hair was dark and short, but graying about the temples. His skin was slightly tanned and there was a hint of dimple in his cheeks.

He was wearing typical Fed clothing, dark slacks, shined black shoes, a non-descript pale blue shirt.

“You're Jamie Black?”

“Yes,” she said. “I am.”

“Jamie's a man's name.”

“Not in this case it isn't,” Jamie said. “In this case it's my name.” She tried for a playful smile, something to disarm the agent. It fell flat. He gave her a blank 'does not compute' look.

“There are spare desks in the pen,” he said, making reference to the open office pool Jamie had passed on the way to his office. “Go find one.”

“And then?”

“Sit there.”

Jamie stared at him for a long moment, equal parts disappointed and annoyed. He seemed to expect her to simply trot off to the pen and sit there awaiting further instructions, but she wasn't inclined to obey him right away. She had questions. Questions she really wished she didn't have.

“Sir,” she said, hearing how strained and tense her voice was as she tried to remain polite. “Are you sending me away because I'm a woman?”

“I'm sending you to the pen because that's where you'll be working and because I have an appointment in ten minutes,” he said, quirking those dark brows in her direction.

“Oh!” she said, blushing. “Sorry! I thought... because you said... you seemed...” She stammered explanations whilst backing into the hall. “Sorry,” she repeated. He'd said nothing, but his gaze said it all. Two minutes into her first day and she was already on thin ice with her case agent.

Scuttling off to the pen, Jamie made her way to the office area and sat at the closest empty desk. It was beside low cubicle walls, low enough that she could look out over the whole area. Plenty of people were coming and going. Hardly any of them seemed to notice her presence. They had serious expressions on their serious faces. Jamie wished she had a reason to have a serious expression.

There was a computer on the desk, and a telephone. The drawers revealed a few lonely paper clips and a staple remover, but no stapler. She tapped at the keyboard and the monitor turned on, asking for a username and password. She didn't have either as far as she was aware.

Feeling rather lost, Jamie looked around the office. She wanted to appear as though she was doing something, but there was only so much aimless tapping she could perform at the keyboard.

“Username,” she murmured to herself, typing in the word admin.

“Password.” For this she also typed in admin. She hit enter.


The message flashed three times, then returned her to the login prompt.  She tried again, typing the same admin in the username field. This time she tried password as the password. Again the error message flashed on her screen.

Admin she typed again. Password1234

The screen flashed. Jamie clapped a hand over her mouth as the system loaded. No. Fucking. Way. She was in. With administrator privileges. A little clicking about and she discovered that she had just given herself unfettered access to the intranet. Case files. Memos. Evidence. Agent Information. All of it.

Jamie forgot about her less than stellar welcome and dived into the files. There was a lot to read. She wanted to shove it all into her eyeholes before someone came and got her to make coffee or something more befitting a rookie agent.


Jack was reviewing a case file when a knock at the door of his office heralded the arrival of a fellow agent. A short stocky man with a bulbous nose and reddened face stuck his thick neck around the door and waved a stubby arm in Jack's direction.

“Weeks,” Jack said. “What can I do for you?”

“Uh, do you, uh, have a rookie by the name of Black?”

“I do.” Jack had not forgotten about the small blonde woman with the eager eyes and the quick smile. She'd been dancing in the back of his head since they met. He didn't know what he was going to do with her, but an hour or so in the pen shouldn't have done her any harm.

“She's in trouble.”

Jack scowled. “What do you mean?”

“Come and see.”

How on earth anyone managed to get in trouble sitting at an empty desk boggled Jack's mind. Especially enough trouble to warrant wasting the time of at least three agents. Agent Weeks was Agent Jones' protégé, so Jack wasn't surprised when they ended up in Jones' office. He was surprised to see Jamie sitting in a chair, smiling as seemed to be her wont. The agent opposite her wasn't smiling.

“What's the problem, Jones?”

Agent Jones had been sitting with his fingers laced together. He unfurled both index fingers and pointed them in Jamie's direction. “Miss Black here accessed administration levels on our system. She was caught browsing restricted files.

“I figured you wanted me to,” Jamie replied. “The password was password.”

Jack choked back a combination of amusement and irritation. His face showed nothing besides his usual impassive expression. He could feel Jamie looking at him, wanting some kind of feedback. He gave her none, besides a firm, hard stare.

It was Agent Jones who gave her feedback. He was one of the more dour special agents at the best of times. At that moment he looked like his face had been carved out of granite and then roughed up a bit.

“If you're intelligent enough to be recruited and to graduate from the academy, you're intelligent to know that you need to stay out of the admin side of our system. This shows a serious lack of judgment and is grounds for a review of your employment status.”

“I'm sorry, sir,” Jamie apologized quickly. “I promise it won't happen again.”

“You're right,” Agent Jones said. “It won't. Wait outside in the hall whilst your case agent and I discuss this matter.”

Jamie bounced out of the chair and left, her head down. If she'd had a tail it would have been between her legs.

“Not your usual rookie choice, Jack,” Jones said when they were alone.

“I thought...” Jack shrugged and admitted his mistake. “I thought Jamie was a guy's name.”

Jones smirked. “Not like you to overlook little details like gender either. You didn't look at the photograph on her file?”

“I looked at her work experience and grades,” Jack said. “I don't choose my rookies by what they look like. Besides, we all make mistakes. Like leaving an open administrator account with password as the password.

“Right,” Jones said. “The less said about that, the better I think. I'll let your rookie off without an official warning this time.”

Of course he would. Reporting Jamie would mean reporting his own fuck up and he wasn't going to do that. Really the rookie had done him a favor, exposed a weakness before it could be exploited by someone with less than stellar intentions.

Jack left the office and found Jamie standing in the hall, back against the wall, hands folded in front of her. For the first time, he looked her over properly. He knew from her file that she was twenty-four and that she'd graduated summa cum laude from an Ivy League school before attending the academy. She was about 5'6", not quite slim, but definitely in shape. Her face was rounded with full cheeks, which puffed out all the more when she smiled. She had a cute boot-shaped nose with a smattering of freckles over the bridge. Her hair was pale wispy blonde and her eyes were a bright blue. She was cute, almost beautiful.

“This would be a pretty good time to get rid of me.” Glancing up at him under long, dark eyelashes, she telegraphed shame.

He almost felt sorry for her. Almost. She was right, it would be the perfect opportunity to dump her on some other case agent. He wouldn't even have to say why. A violation in the first twenty-four hours was more than grounds for dismissal. It would certainly solve his problems where she was concerned.

Truth of the matter was, Jamie had hit the nail on the head when they'd first met. He hadn't planned to work with a female rookie, and her arrival had taken him by surprise. Jack didn't think of himself as sexist, he just knew there were some jobs more suited to men than women. The job he did was one of them.

It was tempting to give her the boot, unfortunately it didn't strike Jack as being fair. She deserved some kind of punishment for sure. A good, long spanking might teach her to keep her nose out of restricted areas. But putting a black mark on her record with an early transfer, maybe damning her career before it had even begun? He wasn't going to do that.

“Let's go to my office.”

She followed after him, oozing woefulness. She thought she was in trouble. She was, in a way. Just not the trouble she thought she was in.

“Take a seat,” he said, putting his hand on the back of the chair in front of his desk. She slid into it, still looking sheepish as he walked around the desk and took his own seat.

“Interesting start to your first day,” he said mildly.

She flinched and he felt a little sorry for her. She'd come in so excited, so eager. If she hadn't been left to her own devices, she probably wouldn't have gotten into trouble. Probably.

“I'm sorry,” she said. “I was just looking for something to do.”

He gave her a hard look. Just looking for something to do. That wasn't even a remotely good excuse for getting and taking advantage of administrator access.

“Listen, Miss Black. I'm an old-fashioned man, especially when it comes to discipline. My rookies toe the line, or they pay the price.”

“Yes sir,” Jamie agreed quickly. “I understand.”

She didn't understand. Not even a little bit. But she would.

“Usually I work with men,” he said. “As you know, the cases I take on tend to be dangerous. I deal with violent criminals day in and day out. I don't think that's a suitable role for a young woman, especially one without previous law enforcement experience.”

“I'm here to get experience,” she pointed out.

“Right. It's like you're learning to swim,” he said, “and when you learn to swim, you don't throw yourself into the ocean. You start out in a shallow pool.”

“I passed the weapons course at the academy like everyone else,” Jamie said. “I'm proficient with firearms.”

“On a range,” Jack replied. “And the thing about range targets is that they hardly ever fire back.”

“I'm prepared to take fire,” Jamie said.

There was something about the way she spoke, a steely resolve that Jack admired – then she went a little too far.

“I understand what's involved in this job. I know what it is you do. I didn't wander in here by accident on my way to buy flowers.”

“The sarcasm isn't necessary.”

“But a penis is.”

She looked him dead in the eye as she said it. No shame. No concern. Just a straight up statement of fact.

“Miss Black,” Jack said, leaning forward. “You are heading the right way for a smacked bottom.”

Her eyes widened and her cheeks flushed. She lost some of that bad girl composure she'd been working so hard to maintain.

“You wouldn't say that to a man, I bet.”

“You're right,” Jack said. “I wouldn't. But I'd deal with him just as firmly as I intend to deal with you.”

“You intend to get rid of me,” Jamie said. “Because I'm not a man.”

“I haven't said that,” Jack replied. “I said that I don't think this position is suitable for a woman. Especially not one who manages to find trouble five minutes into her first day. You knew better than to log on as an administrator, didn't you?”

Jamie glanced down at her lap, then up at him under those pretty dark lashes. “Maybe,” she admitted.

Oh she was naughty. Jack felt a stirring in his nether regions. A desire to discipline the little minx who sat before him and dared give him attitude when she was so very in the wrong. “I should take you over my knee for that,” he said. “You strike me as being in dire need of a good spanking.”

“Is a good spanking part of the disciplinary procedures here?” She was trying not to blush and stammer, and almost pulling it off. A commendable effort.

“It's not,” he said, “but we each deal with our rookies in our own ways. Official disciplinary procedures have a nasty habit of ending up on permanent records.”

“Well I have no intention of letting you or anyone else spank me,” Jamie said, lifting her chin. “I am to be treated with the same respect that would be accorded any other new agent.”

Jack snorted. “Be careful what you wish for. Last week we had two rookies sitting in a pile of garbage for five days. This job can be very physical, Miss Black. Very physical, very uncomfortable and very dangerous.”

She looked him dead in the eye with that sweet, innocent gaze and said one word that simultaneously piqued Jack's interest and made him even more certain that he had a serious case of trouble on his hands.



Jamie felt as though she'd scored a point. Jack Harley sat back in his chair and looked at her with an incredulous half-smile on his handsome face.

“Well then, agent,” he said. “You can start by fetching coffee. I take it black, one sugar.”

She wrinkled her nose, then realized he was doing exactly as she'd asked him to do. He was treating her like any other rookie. Rookies got coffee.

Without a word of argument, Jamie got up and went to the kitchen. There she discovered she was not alone in the quest for caffeine. A young man was pouring coffee. He looked nice and relatable, slightly on the skinny, gawky side. She didn't recognize him from her graduating class, but he had 'rookie' written all over him.

“Hi,” he said. “I'm Richard.”

“Jamie,” Jamie said, offering her hand. It was shaken quite nicely, not too hard, not too firm. A perfectly balanced shake.

“You're new, right?”

“Yes,” Jamie smiled. “My first day.”

“Who have you got for a case agent?”

“Jack Harley.”

“Wow,” he said, smiling. “Is he as much of a hardass as they say?”

“Not sure,” Jamie said. “I really just got here. He's not so bad so far.”

“Give him time,” the young man smiled. “He'll make your life hell soon enough.”

A bead of nervousness started rolling around in Jamie's tummy. “Tell me,” she said, taking the friendly agent partially into her confidence. “What can the case agents do with you if they want to? I mean, if you do something wrong?”

“They can do pretty much as they please,” Richard said. “Your case agent owns you, more or less. They're the ones who decide what work you do, whether you get promoted. It's a good idea to stay on your case agent's good side, put it that way.”

“But they can't... you know... beat you or anything?”

“Beat you?” Fuzzy brows furrowed in confusion. “No, I wouldn't think so, I mean... beat you? Where did you get that idea from?”

“I don't know,” Jamie shrugged. Now she was having a conversation with a normal person, it seemed ridiculous to even think about the possibility of Agent Harley laying hands on her. Large, strong, but possibly tender hands... long fingers stroking sensitive skin...

She snapped herself out of it just in time to grasp the latter part of what Richard was saying.

“...It's not beatings you have to worry about,” Richard said. “It's the work. It can be grueling, especially when you get all the grunt work.”

“Like getting the coffee.”

“Like getting the coffee,” he agreed. “I better be getting back. Good luck, agent.”

“Thanks,” Jamie smiled.

She retrieved the coffee as per instructions, carried it back to Agent Harley's office and placed it on his desk without so much as spilling a drop. Mission accomplished.

“Thanks,” he said, taking a sip. “All right. I have some work for you to do. Best to keep you busy, I think.”

Jamie perked up. “Will we be going out?”

“No,” he said. “We'll set up a desk for you in here. I want you to review some files.”

“Oh. Review files?” Her lips drooped at the sides. “You mean, confirm that they are files?”

“It will be a little more challenging than that.”

It was a little more challenging than that. But only a very little. Jamie was soon installed in his office, partially obscured behind a wall of fist-thick files that were indeed, files. Strange how coming across a bunch of information on a computer was exciting, but being faced with a smaller amount in the real world was intimidating.

Of course, the files she had been given to 'confirm' were not nearly as interesting as the classified ones. Knowing full well she was lucky to still have a job, Jamie tried not to slip into some half-mad dissociative state as a result of her boredom. For the most part, she succeeded. The files she was reviewing were not nearly as interesting as the ones she'd found on the intranet. They were mostly detailed financial records from old fraud cases. It was busy work. Not even that. It was brain-rotting work. The punishment for getting into the system appeared to be having her brain cells murdered by boredom.

It wasn't what Jamie had signed up for. She'd signed up for action and yes, maybe a little danger. Heck, she'd been promised action and a little danger. The only thing she was at risk of behind the desk was paper cuts.

“Uh, Mr Harley, sir?”

“Yes, Black?”

“How long will I be doing this for?”

“The foreseeable future.”

That was not the answer she wanted to hear. Sitting back behind a stack of paper taller than her head, Jamie chewed her bottom lip and thought hard. Maybe she just needed to be tougher. Maybe she needed to show this agent that she was serious. A force to be reckoned with.

“I think you should take me out.” Gathering her courage, she stood up and looked him dead in the eye. She realized she probably looked like a stack of papers with a head, so she moved out and around to gaze the fellow right in his face.


She was almost surprised that he asked the question. “Well,” she said, “for starters, it's your job.”

Harley sat back in his chair and fixed her with what would have been a death stare if there were such a thing as a death stare. “Have you anything to add to that, besides telling me what my job is?”

“I didn't join the FBI to stare at a desk,” she said. “And I'm sorry my vagina disappoints you, but I can't change that.”

He blinked. Then he blinked again. “Did... your...” He closed his eyes, as if hard resetting his brain. When he opened them again, there was a frown. “That's not appropriate language for the office, Black.”

“Then take me out of the office.”

“Take you... oh, I'll take you somewhere if you want to talk like that. I'll take you over my knee.”

“I'm not afraid of that threat,” Jamie said. “I know you're bluffing.”

“Bluffing? Hardly.” Jack pushed back from his desk and tapped his thigh. “Come over here and we'll see who is bluffing.”

Jamie felt her face flush hot. The sensible part of her mind told her to apologize, go sit down and watch her mouth from there on out. The more dominant side of her personality told her to go ahead and call him on it.

Striding forward, Jamie walked around Jack's desk. She stopped with her hands on her hips and glared down at him. “Are we done with this silly charade now?”



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