The barstool stood in a circle of men, who looked heated despite the early morning hour and the chilliness in the bar. They panted like they’d run a marathon. Victoria sat on the high chair, her short skirt hoisted up and barely covering her butt. Matt grimaced. She knew how to attract attention and how to hold it. The spectacle fascinated him, every time again. A drop-dead gorgeous woman, Victoria knew her outer appearance blinded people and she exploited it to the fullest.

Matt sat down on a chair at the far end of the counter. One by one, he studied the men around her until he knew who her latest victim was. The man, a young boy almost, had the goofy smile of a winner who hadn’t realized yet that he wasn’t a winner but today’s loser. The way Victoria had turned her back to him told Matt that she’d milked him for every little business secret he had access to and that she no longer needed him. He suppressed a smile. They all knew that beneath that dazzling outside hid a sly and ruthless bitch and still they’d strip their souls bare in pathetic attempts to become her number one. Granted, she was one of the few women in the internet industry, but that wasn’t the only reason. There was more. Somewhere underneath that pale skin, behind those innocent blue eyes, burned a fire that lured men like moths. Matt signaled the waiter for an espresso. He was glad that he was immune to her seductive attraction.

The waiter brought his coffee. Matt signed off the check and downed the strong espresso in a single gulp. The hot coffee burned his throat but shot an immediate and tingling rush of adrenaline through his brain.

Victoria acknowledged his presence with a casual gesture. She pushed the hand of one of the guys from her thigh. Her skirt tucked up higher when she slid of the stool, exposing her right buttock. As soon as she realized, she shrieked quasi-shocked and pulled her skirt back with what looked more like reluctance. Not an instant later she clung to his arm, leaving the clutter of men rudderless behind. She directed Matt to a quiet corner of the bar and pushed him into a chair, while she snapped her fingers at the waiter, who instantly came running with her tea. She shoved another chair close to his and sat down.

The theatrical swing with which she crossed her legs, giving him a generous view of her panties, was intended for him but missed aim by a mile. Matt grinned. “Tough times?” he asked. “You’re a former beauty queen, V. I’d figure you’d love the attention.”

She leaned into the high-backed chair with an even more theatrical sigh. “Pigs,” she muttered. She sipped at her tea an placed the cup back on the coffee table in between them. Bending over to him, she half covered her mouth and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Where is he?”

Matt switched on his iPhone and showed her the surveillance images.

Victoria cupped her hands around the screen and watched intently for at least two minutes. “We found the right guy,” she said. She placed one of her hands on his thigh and rubbed the inside with her thumb. “If he’s not dead.” Her laugh tinkled through the bar and caused a stir at the counter, where nervous looks were flashed to them. The goofy smiler finally saw the light and accepted defeat. He stole away from the bar and his mates.

“I think you’re right.” Matt took her by the wrist with his thumb and index finger, and moved her hand from his leg to the armrest of her chair.

Victoria narrowed her eyes. It took her a split second only to recover and to open them wide again, but even the layer of make-up hadn’t been able to camouflage the flash of anger. “He’s a world-class loser,” she whispered. “A fistful of dollars.” She giggled, as she quoted a movie that gave away her age more than the crow’s feet underneath her make up.

“It’ll be a bit more,” Matt said.

“Prosperity doesn’t come free, eh?”