Slow Burn
interest and background in science that worried him. Would she think less of him for not sharing that particular passion? He was smart, but she was brilliant.
    Before he could think about it much more, Marty came into his little cubicle and dropped a giant stack of papers on to his desk. He barely looked at him when he said, “Double sided and bound, please. Bring it to my office when it's done.”
    “Sure thing, Marty,” he said, standing up. It always gave him a little burst of pleasure to remind Marty how small he was.
    He grinned as Marty scuttled away and then looked at the papers. These weren't like the other packets he'd made before. Those had been mostly useless slide presentations and expense reports. This had specs for something that looked rectangular. He paged through the documents and read notes from testing. Nearly fire proof. Burns twenty times slower than sheet rock. He didn't need to be a genius to tell what this was. He had to stop himself from grinning gleefully.
    Unless he missed his guess, he was about to photocopy proprietary information and then bind it so Marty could helpfully deliver it to Cynertex's competitor. This idiot was making it way too easy for him. He was going to enjoy the hell out of this.
    He took the thick stack of paperwork into the copy room and got to work. Thirty minutes and one nasty paper cut later, he had managed to bind the documents and drop them in Marty's office. His next stop was security. He clocked out a bit early for his morning break and then made his way upstairs.
    He was surprised to find Wallace there waiting for him. Apparently, his message this morning had been received. A few minutes later, a plan was in action to search Marty as he left the building.
    When he got back to his desk, Marty put him on beaker washing duty. That was actually fortunate, though. He was able to keep an eye on the door. He knew security was at the exit waiting, but he didn't want to take any chances.
    A few minutes before lunch, Marty called him into the office and passed him a large manila envelope. “Take these downstairs for me, would you? My wife is going to meet you at the entrance.”
    At Rick's hesitant look, Marty added, “It's estate planning paperwork. Not that it's any of your business. Just do what I told you to do. And get me a coffee while you're down there.”
    Rick held out his hand, waiting for Marty to fish out a few coins, then asked, “How will I know who she is though?”
    “She'll find you. Go. She's out there waiting,” he said, annoyance written on his face.
    “Sure thing, boss,” he said, taking the package.
    Tessa caught him as he was leaving the lab and asked, “Hey. What about lunch?”
    He frowned and said, “I have an errand to run. It completely slipped my mind. Can I call you later?”
    Her face fell but she said, “Sure. I guess. Is everything okay?”
    Rick felt a guilty pang at her concern and said, “Everything's fine, Tessa. I'll call you tonight, okay?”
    “Okay,” she said, a hesitant look on her face.
    He reached out, cupping her face, then brushed a thumb across her cheekbone. “I promise. Everything is fine.”
    She nodded and asked, “Can you stop by my place later?”
    “I will,” he promised. Then he winced and said, “I'm sorry, Tessa. I have to go now.”
    Everything unfolded really quickly once he made his way to the security office. Giana Valenti was escorted off the premises when security found her lingering out front. Once someone from the lab verified the bound book contained proprietary information, Marty had been called into the office and summarily fired.
    Marty had tried to lie about the whole thing. Then he'd lashed out and blamed it on Rick, not realizing he'd been planted in the department. When Rick had broken it down, step by step, Marty had crumbled, confessing everything. In a mess of tears and whimpering, he'd come clean about his gambling debts, how he'd approached Armitage, and how much he'd been paid for

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