EXCERPT & NEW RELEASE: King of Code by C.D. Reiss
Taylor Harden is a man on the edge.
The edge of fame. The edge of untold wealth.
The edge of utter humiliation.
He built an unhackable system, and in front of everyone, it’s hacked.
His reputation goes from king to goat in a split second. Boom. Like that.
Some dude in Barrington, USA (AKA Nowhere) has locked down Taylor’s code, and if he doesn’t get it back, he’s going to be wearing a monkey suit for the rest of his life.
Except, this guy? This hacker from Nowhere? He’s not a guy.
Harper Watson’s all woman. And she has a plan for Taylor, his code, and his body.
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“About time!” the older lady shouted.
“Is Harper back?” I asked, handing the bags to the blushing redhead.
As if summoned, Harper came through the swinging door, keeping it open so everyone could get past. She looked at me through the screen.
“You coming in?” she asked.
“We need to talk.”
“Did the decryption key work?”
The door slapped closed behind her as she came out, and we were alone. The way the setting sun hit her cheeks made her glow, and the strands of gold hair at the edges looked translucent. She belonged on a postcard.
I kept forgetting she was holding me hostage. I kept forgetting I needed to think strategically. I had more at stake with this girl than I’d ever had with another.
“Did you doubt it would work?”
“Not really. I’m just making conversation.”
“What are the thorns about?” I pointed at the thorn bed that had eaten my phone and went down the stairs to the yard.
She came after me. “Don’t you have these where you’re from?” She snapped a dry twig off the end.
“Roses? Yes. Impenetrable, groomed thorn bushes in our yards? No.”
“It’s not normal to give the gardeners in town something to do?” We walked around the perimeter.
“You are not normal.”
“It still blooms in spring. It’s really nice. You should see it.”
We were at the back end of the yard, where the very top of the factory’s roof cut the horizon.
I took her hand, pulling her to a stop. “Harper.”
“Taylor?” Her hair flew in her mouth when she turned, and she drew her finger across her cheek to get it out.
What was I supposed to tell her again? That I knew we’d interviewed her. That I didn’t give her the job despite her having a leg up on everyone else we saw.
But was I contrite? Accusatory? Was I just going to relay information? What did I want out of her after I told her I knew?
“Thank you for helping today,” she said. “If you’d asked me when we met, ‘Would Taylor Harden help clean the factory?’ I would have said, ‘No, not for any reason.’ But there you were. Pushing a broom. Scooping up shit. Not being an asshole.”
“My watch was at stake.”
“Yeah. Whatever. You can say what you want to keep your reputation as a shithead intact.”
“I have a reputation as a shithead?”
“You know you do.”
I did know it, and I reveled in it.
She faced me and put her other hand out. I took it, holding both hands between us. I couldn’t help it.
“Well, you guys are such a bunch of sad sacks I had to help. And let me tell you, every guy in Barrington has a little asshole in him. Trust me. I’ve played pool with them.”
“I want to say…” She stopped herself as if she really didn’t want to say. “Let’s get together tonight and get you another decryption code. But… saying this is stupid.” She bit her lip.
“Say it anyway.”
“The sooner you get four codes, the sooner you leave.”
I looked at our hands so I wouldn’t have to look at her.
“I’m not sure if I want that,” she said.
Meet The Author: CD Reiss
CD Reiss is a New York Times bestseller. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn't pick up she's at the well hauling buckets.
Born in New York City, she moved to Hollywood, California to get her master's degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere but it did give her a big enough ego to write novels.
She's frequently referred to as the Shakespeare of Smut which is flattering but hasn't ever gotten her out of chopping that cord of wood.
If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine.