How is it possible that even though I graduated with a double degree in mathematics and computer science from Georgetown University, saved the Vatican millions of euros, and caught a reality television–obsessed hacker while posing as a dating contestant in Hollywood, I still can’t figure out how to tell my mother I have a boyfriend?
I can visualize it now. I’ll blurt out the news, she’ll hug me and shriek in my ear for a while, and then the analysis will commence. My mother will ask me if he’s rich, if he comes from a good family, and if he has a respectable job.
I don’t know the details of his bank account and, in terms of his family, I’ve only met his grandmother. But regarding the job… Would a super-secret hacker spy who may (or may not) work for the Vatican, but is definitely working for the National Security Agency qualify as respectable? I’m afraid that would be iffy.
Then my mom would want me to tell her all the gory details of how we met, whether or not he’s a foreigner (he is, so that may not go over well), and if he has some weird religion. Maybe I shouldn’t tell her he’s on a first-name basis with the Pope.
After I’ve been forced to give her specifics about my boyfriend’s career, ethnicity and religion, she will take my hand and tell me that a June wedding would be just lovely. Besides, if we held it at the ultra-expensive Willard Hotel in Washington D.C., we could invite up to several hundred guests. By that point, I’d be so panicky and nauseated I’d upchuck on her three-hundred-dollar Manolo Blahnik leather pumps.
That’s my life. My name is Lexi Carmichael and I’m a twenty-five-year-old hacker, gamer and fangirl who isn’t planning on getting within spitting distance of a white dress anytime soon. Normal relationships are murky waters to navigate even if one is emotionally astute and socially capable. For those of us with less than stellar skills on these fronts, entering into a romantic relationship can be exhausting, not to mention terrifying, especially if my mother is involved.
It’s hard enough for me to manage the few relationships I have outside of my boyfriend. I can count the number of close friends I have on one hand. Add in the work relationships I have to navigate, and things really get complicated. Now that I’m the Director of Information Security at X-Corp—a cyberintelligence firm right outside of Washington, D.C.—I have employees to manage and staff to keep busy. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say it’s all a bit overwhelming.
It didn’t used to be that way. I once lived a relatively quiet life working as a tech head for the NSA. Not too long ago, the agency operated in relative obscurity with less than five percent of the American population even knowing that we existed. That anonymity was blown out of the water by the Edward Snowden scandal—he’s the guy that filched an enormous amount of top-secret cyber information from the NSA, implicating the agency in questionable privacy actions. Now everyone in the world knows about the NSA. Although I’ll be the first to admit my life has been anything except quiet since I joined X-Corp, at least I got out of the NSA before the scandal broke. Still, I know a few decent people who continue to work at the agency in one capacity or the other, including my new boyfriend. Slash is a master hacker, one of the best I’ve ever met, and he also supports the NSA in other intelligence efforts, including terrorism and cyberterrorism. He is a man of many, many talents.
My office phone rang and I picked it up.
“Buon giorno, cara.”
His voice was so sexy it almost made me forget how much I hated talking on the phone.
It weirded me out that my stomach felt all tingly. “Hey, Slash. Si deframmenta la mia vita.”
There was silence and then a soft laugh. “You are studying Italian now?”
“Isn’t that a practical thing to do when one has an Italian boyfriend?”
“Not necessarily, but I’m pleased. Did you mean to say that I defragment your life?”
“Yes. Is that inappropriate?”
“No. It’s perfect.”
“Okay. Good. I know I have to work on the accent. I’d like to be able to say at least a few words to your grandmother in Italian the next time we meet.”
“She’d love that. That reminds me, I owe you another trip to Italy, this time for pleasure. Perhaps you can meet some more of my family.”
He said it casually, but my stomach flipped. He wanted me to meet more of his family.
Intellectually I knew this was part of the boyfriend-girlfriend dynamic, but it scared the heck out of me. I mean, Slash had a mother. He’d mentioned her when we were in Rome. What would I say to her? What if she couldn’t speak English? And how could I look her in the eye after having engaged in sexual intercourse with her son? Oh jeez, who knew what would come out of my mouth!
If you enjoyed this excerpt, the rest of the book is available at many ebook retailers and Carina Press.