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I hadn't taken more than two steps beyond the washroom's threshold when raised voices met my ears.

An alcove blocked sight of the ladies' room entrance from the abutting service corridor where the stilted conversation emanated, a door left ajar as if it'd been slammed and the latch hadn't caught. I had no intention of eavesdropping, but the sudden tension in their voices, the abrupt snarl like a ripcord being pulled on someone's anger, drew me short.

"—against the law. If you think I have any intention of standing here and listening to this, you have another thing coming. I'm going to contact our legal department right now and—."

That's Mr. Eoul, I realized, though I'd hadn't heard the man speak with such vitriol before. Despite the muffled noise coming from the kitchens, his words echoed in the corridor like the pops of distant gunfire.

"Go right ahead, Gregor, and spare me your puerile posturing," spoke the second voice—a voice I'd heard for the first time not a full hour past. Ms. Amoroth didn't shout as Mr. Eoul did, and yet her words carried with cold, unflinching apathy.

"You can't swoop in at the eleventh hour and take it out from under us!"

"But that's where you're wrong. You see, I can do...well, whatever I want." Amoroth laughed and my stomach writhed. "Your party was a bit premature it seems. Poor Gregor."

"The patent was set to finalize next week! How—?!"

"If you weren't aware, next week is next week and today is today, and as of today your fancy new...innovation is no longer yours." Heels clicked on the stone floor as Eoul sputtered. "It's a funny thing, how very quickly one can pass a new design through the patent office with a little bit of pocket change."

"You can't do this!"

"And yet I have. We've come full circle in this delightful conversation and now you're simply repeating yourself. This visit was a courtesy; you either pull the Magna-Chip and cease production or IMOR will fold under the impending lawsuit."

"This will bankrupt me!"

Hinges creaked, heels again snapping to attention. "That's not my concern."

"You conniving bitch!" Something solid—a chair, I assumed—struck a wall and toppled to the floor with a clatter. In contrast to the woman's more succinct steps, the heavy slapping of Eoul's feet sounded uncoordinated and feeble. "Do you think I'll just accept this? That I'll just lay down and take this blatant—."

"Your posturing is tiresome."

Ducking my head from the alcove, I could see Ms. Amoroth silhouetted in the light escaping the small conference room, her narrow countenance only partly illuminated, the visible angles of her face taut with a kind of vicious, self-satisfied humor that chilled my blood. Beyond her shoulders' rigid line, her shadow seemed to flare like a cloak hugging the sharp delineation between light and dark, and where the dark lingered, the woman's presence swelled.

"I'll see you ruined for this," Eoul spat. He hadn't left the room, but I could see him in the doorway, his paunchy face red and his pate slick with beaded perspiration. "Ruined, you hear me?!"

"Do be careful, Gregor, or they might not find your body."

"Is that a threat?!"

The woman scoffed as she turned—and her eyes landed upon me.

My heart relocated into my throat with a painful lurch, pulse throbbing in my ears, her gaze honed like that of a predatory cat spotting a lame bird in the grass. Eoul slammed the door and threw the hall back into the dim ambiance filtering through the lobby.

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