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Authors: Ravenna Tate

Systematic Seduction

BOOK: Systematic Seduction
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Evernight
Publishing ®

 

www.evernightpublishing.com

 

 

 

Copyright© 2016 Ravenna Tate

 

 

 
ISBN: 978-1-77233-767-9

 

Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

 

Editor: Karyn White

 

 

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

WARNING: The unauthorized
reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
 
No part of this book may be used or
reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction. All
names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

Dedicated to my fellow
Evernight Publishing authors. I’ve never worked with such a supportive,
encouraging, and talented group of authors.

 

SYSTEMATIC SEDUCTION

 

The Weathermen, 9

 

Ravenna Tate

 

Copyright © 2016

 

 

 

Prologue

 

In
the year 2112, weather researchers around the globe made history with a
computer program nicknamed The Madeline Project. The program used a complicated
series of electrical pulses to induce changes in clouds. The intention was to
prevent or lessen catastrophic weather events such as major floods, tornadoes,
and hurricanes. The first real-time test, in 2116, proved moderately
successful, and the researchers continued to tweak the program, hoping for
complete weather modification one day.

But
something went terribly wrong in 2117, when a group of hackers gained access to
The Madeline Project and tried unsuccessfully to take it down it with a virus
they called Tommy Twister. The program took on a life of its own, and instead
of lessening the effects of weather events, it increased them to catastrophic
proportions. By 2118, over eighty-five percent of the Earth above ground had
been rendered uninhabitable due to the effects of near-constant and powerful
storms. And to date, no one has been able to stop The Madeline Project, or find
the hackers responsible for this devastation.

Now,
in the year 2125, Earth’s population lives underground in sprawling cities,
built during the nuclear war scare of 2072. Communication between cities and
across continents is only possible via the Internet. And the only people who go
above ground routinely are an international group of weather researchers and
storm chasers dubbed Storm Troopers. Their mission is to collect data during
the barrage of catastrophic weather events, in the hopes this data will assist
researchers in taking down The Madeline Project.

The
financial backing for these cities, the network of interconnected computers,
and the Storm Troopers is provided by a group of friends who met in college,
and who each built multi-million dollar communications and IT companies before
The Madeline Project went awry. They’re a powerful, wealthy, ruthless group of
men who take what they want, when they want it. They call themselves the
Weathermen…

 

Chapter
One

 

Blair
Adams was the one project leader at Fairchild BioSystems who never minded
mandatory weekly meetings with their CEO, Oliver Fairchild, for one simple
reason. Oliver led them. As far as Blair was concerned, Oliver was major eye
candy and always would be.

He
brought up a presentation on the video screen that covered one wall of the
conference room. “I’ve shared this information recently with the other
Weathermen, and now I’m sharing it with this group.”

The
hard stare he gave each of them in turn only served to make Blair squirm in her
seat, but not because his serious gaze had her afraid. It was because when he
looked at them in that way, instead of evoking fear or at least caution, all
she thought about was that smoldering look in those hazel eyes, bearing down on
her as he fucked her silly.

Not
that it would ever happen, of course.
That’s
because you keep turning him down.

“This
information is not to leave this room. I’m only telling you because we have
some serious work on our hands to try to find a way to slow it down. I don’t
want you sharing this with your team members yet. Not until one of you finds a
workable solution.”

She
was familiar with the data on the first slide because the information in this
presentation wasn’t new to her. Oliver highlighted key words while he spoke.
“I’ve been working on this in conjunction with researchers around the globe,
and we’re all in agreement. We have three years left underground before we can
no longer manufacture breathable air, and that’s being generous.”

No
one spoke or moved. It was so quiet, Blair couldn’t even hear anyone breathing.
Nice pun.

“The
rate of oxygen consumption is a constant. We aren’t using it faster than we
have been for seven years. What’s changed is the oxygen content in the air
above ground because of massive deforestation from the storms.”

He
clicked to the next slide, which showed a picture taken on the surface. Blair
had no idea where it was, but she’d seen enough pictures to know it all looked
the same now. Barren, windswept, foreign, as if they were looking at pictures
of a planet too far away from their own sun to sustain human life, not the
planet where they now lived underground like moles.

“At
the rate oxygen is being depleted from the air, we won’t have enough to keep up
with manufacturing it synthetically below ground. Unless one of you comes up
with a way to make it without using the real thing, and I’m talking in the next
few months, it will be gone in three years or less from the surface.”

He
clicked to the next slide, a schematic of how oxygen was produced, showing the
necessary components. “Either that, or one of you needs to find a way to slow
down the deforestation.”

“Isn’t
that what all of you are working on?” asked Roy Leibowitz. “I mean the
Weathermen. Finding the hackers so you can take back the program?”

“Sure
is, and you see how far we’ve come in seven years.” Oliver’s voice was filled
with sarcasm. He gave Roy a pointed stare. “Find a way to speed
that
up and you’ll be the hero of the
planet.”

He
glanced around at each of them again. “These are our two options, people. Stop
The Madeline Project from its present course, or find a way to make oxygen
synthetically.”

Now
everyone was talking. They fired off questions and spoke over each other as
Oliver tried to regain some semblance of order in the room. Blair leaned back
in her chair and tried to keep up, but her main focus was on Oliver and the way
he handled himself.

The
man had a presence that made her want to kneel at his feet and beg him to take
her, hard, rough, and quick. He might be seventeen years older, but he was
still the most handsome, seductive man she’d ever seen in person. She’d had a
crush on him for seven years, ever since she’d come to work for him at the
tender age of nineteen, right after moving underground from Atlanta.

Oliver
whistled loudly, and the conversation stopped. “Please! One question at a time.
I want to address everyone’s concerns this morning.”

He
pointed toward Roy, but Blair was too lost in her fantasies of Oliver to hear
Roy’s question. Besides, this wasn’t new information.

She
was the one who’d first noticed the irregularities in air quality readings
taken on the surface, over six months ago. She’d emailed Oliver right away, and
he’d asked her to come to his office within minutes.

While
there, she’d showed him the steady decline in oxygen levels, and theorized that
the deforestation had reached a critical stage where unless the storms stopped
and plants began to grow again, the levels had reached the tipping point.

He’d
agreed with her, and immediately contacted other heads of companies doing the
same thing Fairchild BioSystems was doing, asking them to launch their own
studies. Oliver hadn’t wanted to jump to conclusions without making sure
everyone’s data correlated.

“Is
it true that the Storm Troopers and Addison Carlyle’s procurement teams have
begun to take oxygen tanks with them when they go to the surface?”

That
question came from Annie, the one person in this group that Blair was convinced
had either bought her way into this job, or had slept her way in. Roy called
her the weakest link, and not always behind her back.

Oliver
maintained a neutral expression. “Even if that were true, they would soon run
out of it, and then no one could be up on the surface. The air is thin, but
still breathable.”

“What
happens once it no longer is?” asked Marisol.

“We
bring the Storm Troopers underground, and Addison’s company is out of business.
But that will hardly matter because we all will suffocate down here.”

One
of the things his project leaders hated about Oliver was his bluntness. All
except Blair. She loved that quality in him. A woman would never have to wonder
where she stood with him. He’d never feed her a line of bullshit five miles
long and thirty feet deep.

Not now. Pay attention to this
presentation.

“If
the Storm Troopers stop doing their jobs, what hope do we have of gathering
data on the storms?” asked Annie.

“We
have data on the storms,” said Oliver. “Seven years’ worth of data. We had data
before we all were forced underground. Every year we lose dozens of Storm
Troopers to the storms. We don’t need more data. We need more
time
.” He glanced around the room again,
his expression dark and serious.

“That’s
what you’re each charged with from this point forward. The systems run on their
own, thanks to your hard work all these years. What I need now is a solution.
Because I have to be honest with you. I’m not sure even if the last two hackers
are found, we can figure out how to stop The Madeline Project.”

“Why
do you say that?” asked Blair. They all knew by now that three of the five
hackers had been found, but not that finding them still might not halt the
course of self-destruction.

His
gaze softened as he glanced toward her, just like it always did. Oliver had
asked her out at least once a month for the past two years, ever since her
nasty divorce. And every single time she’d turned him down.

“A
few reasons,” he said. “One, as I pointed out a moment ago, it’s taken us seven
years to get this far in tracking them down. We only came this far because of a
few lucky discoveries.”

Two
years and he hadn’t stopped pursuing her. But Blair didn’t want to be his
flavor of the month. He dated a lot. Too much for her taste. A string of toxic
relationships and one huge mistake of a marriage had left her gun-shy. Gun-shy
wasn’t even the right expression. More like terrified of being used or abused
again. But even that didn’t stop her from fantasizing about him.

“Two,
even with the real names of three of them now, there isn’t a damn thing we can
do yet. If we out them, we risk never finding the other two.”

“Don’t
you think three are enough to get the answers we need to shut down the
program?” asked Roy.

A
shadow of annoyance crossed Oliver’s face as he cut his gaze toward Roy. “My
friends and I don’t believe so. We want the other two as well.” He glanced back
toward Blair. “And three, the latest information we have indicates it was a
mistake on their part. The hackers didn’t mean to send the program on a rogue
course.”

Blair’s
pulse raced. This was worse than she’d realized. “So what happened? A coding
error?”

“That’s
what we were told, yes. It’s now self-sustaining. It’s feeding off the
electromagnetic fields around the Earth. It’s on autopilot, if you will.”

A
cold shiver ran down her spine. “Which means you might not be able to stop it,
ever.”

He
nodded, then shifted his gaze as yet more questions came from the team. Blair
watched him, enjoying the way his clothes hugged his muscular frame perfectly.
Her thoughts wandered to what might have happened if Oliver Fairchild had
caught her eye when she had first started in this company as a customer service
rep.

Would
she have married Donny Gallagher four years ago? Would she have gone through
the craptastic men she seemed to attract like the magnetic fields Oliver
mentioned?
Probably. Likely
. Her fate
seemed to have been sealed the first time Mommy Dearest brought home a
boyfriend who tried to crawl into bed with Blair when she was only twelve years
old.

“If
there are no more questions, that’s it for today. You have your marching
orders, gang. Let’s save the planet.”

Oliver’s
parting words took a back seat to the flood of emotions coursing through her
body. She rose from her chair, ignoring the excited chatter around her, and
made her way toward the nearest door.

Allowing
the memories of her terrifying teen years inside always brought on a panic
attack, and this time was no different. Even Oliver’s sexy smooth voice and
dark wavy hair wouldn’t stop it this time. She’d let the images in too far
already.

Sweat
broke out along her hairline and under her arms. Her breathing was too rapid,
and spots danced before her eyes. This was a bad one. She needed to get
somewhere alone where she could talk herself down.

Blair
heard her name called but ignored it, heading for the bathroom at the end of
the hall. Everyone’s offices were in the other direction, so she knew she’d
have a few moments alone in there.

Bursting
inside, she leaned over the closest sink in the row, blinking against the glare
of lights to splash cold water on her face. It ran down her top, but she didn’t
care. It was cotton. It would dry.

She
grabbed a handful of paper towels and wet them with cold water, then slid to
the floor and curled up against the wall, placing the cool towels across the
back of her neck. She bowed her head and closed her eyes.

Breathe. Just breathe. You’re okay.

Her
heart pounded in her ears, banging out words to its rhythm that she ignored.
Instead she turned them into her own litany, the way she’d been taught to do.

You are okay. You are safe here. You
can’t be hurt.

The
door opened and she gasped, blinking against the lights again as her head
snapped up.

“Blair,
are you okay?” Oliver knelt next to her and took her face in his hands. “Are
you ill? Should I call the medical team?”

“No,”
she whispered. “I just need a moment. I’ll be all right.”

“Do
you need food? Water?”

“Neither.”

He
opened his mouth to say something else, then closed it and sat on the floor
next to her, crossing his legs. Normally, anyone else’s presence when she had
one of these episodes was about as welcome as a root canal, but having him
there next to her was comforting. She felt safe, in a way she hadn’t for a very
long time.
Why?

She
handed him the paper towels. “Will you wet them again, please? With cold
water.”

He
rose and turned on the tap. Her gaze traveled up his jeans to his firm ass, but
then she closed her eyes again.
Not the
right time, Blair.

How
she was able to entertain her erotic fantasies of this man at a moment like
this amazed her. Did he have super powers? It wouldn’t surprise her to learn
that.

He
slid back to the floor. “Here you go.” Instead of handing her the towels, he
placed them on her back of her neck and stroked her hair gently. “Is there
anyone I can call for you?”

His
voice was so calming, so controlled, that her heart rate slowed and her
breathing grew less erratic. “No.”

“Is
it backing off now?”

“Yes.”
How did he know? She gazed into his eyes. This close, she could count his
eyelashes. Why was it men always had longer ones than women? “Thank you.” The
sentiment was totally inadequate, but it was the only thing she could manage to
say.

“You’re
welcome. I hope you don’t mind me intruding like this, but I’ve seen that look
before.”

BOOK: Systematic Seduction
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