>Decode, Chapter 1: Craig from Marketing

>And here begins my web serial, Decode! Veronica Wood is a small-time web designer who lands in the middle of some big time corporate intrigue. Check back each week for a new installment. For now, let’s get rolling with chapter one. Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Craig from Marketing

It all started when Veronica began consulting with Maddox Technology.

She stuck change into a vending machine inside the Maddox Technology building, her mouth drying up just thinking about the forthcoming meeting. She worked as a freelance web designer and usually met with some small business owner at an office or a coffee shop. The moment she walked through the glass doors of Maddox Technology and clipped on the glossy visitor’s badge, she knew she’d left small business association world.

Veronica pressed the button again when no water came out, making a fist at the machine. A man with rectangular glasses and neatly parted brown hair smiled at her from the corner. He strode over to the machine, gave it a hard kick, and plucked the water bottle out of the receptacle. Veronica turned, embarrassed. She studied his sculpted cheekbones and beak nose, her brown eyes widening as she flashed back to the corporate party Jesse had brought her to in the summer.

“Craig from marketing!” She wagged a finger in his direction.

“You working for us now?” Craig surveyed her body still wrapped in a wool coat, and dug his hands into his pants’ pockets. Veronica admired his sharp-fitting suit.

“I’m consulting.” She glanced at the elevator. “I can’t really say more than that.”

Craig shrugged. “Confidentiality agreements. A Maddox Tech hallmark.” He lowered his voice and peeked behind him. “We can’t talk about anything either.” He flashed her a conspiratorial smile.

Veronica stepped into the elevator, smiling back at him tentatively.

“See you around then,” he said. The elevator doors closed, amusement lighting up Craig’s face.

Veronica only had a moment to wonder what that was about as she sat next to David Moore at an oval table, scribbling notes as he described the new web development software program and what they wanted from her. The door opened, Moore’s pale eyebrows rising as Craig entered the room. Veronica paused to acknowledge him.

“Maddox,” Moore said, shaking his hand. “Didn’t expect you to show up for this.”

Maddox clapped him on the back, setting his eyes on the paling face of Veronica Wood. He smiled, his hazel eyes sparkling in amusement like they had a few minutes earlier. Veronica gulped, her pen rolling across the table as she accepted his hand automatically.

“I wanted to deliver the beta program to you personally.” Maddox winked at Veronica, whose face was still frozen in surprise. Maddox slipped his fingers into his inside coat pocket, clasping a clear jewel case. “I’m confident you’ll provide us with helpful insight.”

Veronica accepted the CD-ROM, gaining enough of her wits to glare into his twinkling eyes. He grinned even wider, setting all of Veronica’s nerves on fire. The meeting over, Maddox walked Veronica to the elevator while Moore hurried back to his office. Maddox watched him scuttle down the hallway.

“Going down?” he said, ushering Veronica into the elevator, his eyes still directed toward David.

Veronica’s soft features hardened ever so slightly. She adjusted her glasses, brushing a piece of chestnut hair from her eyes and smiled.

“Sure thing, Craig.”

He wanted to laugh but only smiled and followed her into the elevator, standing too close in Veronica’s opinion. The doors shut and Maddox’ smile evaporated.

“I want you to look at the contents of that disc carefully,” he said once the doors closed. “Don’t miss a thing.”

He sounded a tad serious for beta program testing and Veronica promised she would do her best. She stepped out with Maddox gripping her elbow.

“Not a thing,” he whispered, pulling her close.

Veronica could feel his breath on her neck and she wrenched away from him. His whole countenance darkened and no spark lit up his eyes.

“What’s your deal anyway?” Veronica said, taking a step back.

“Just follow my instructions and you’ll know soon enough.”

With that, Maddox rushed off, leaving Veronica with nothing more than the echo of his footsteps in the white lobby.

After his meeting with Veronica Wood, David slipped out of work, glancing at his watch as he speed-walked to his car. Maddox started his engine as his employee raced out of the parking lot, keeping a safe distance.

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