C H A P T E R 1
Alexa’s eyes danced lovingly over the harmonious lines of the Arts
Centre in the digital rendering hanging on Krystof’s office wall.
Her heart swelled with pride at its elegance and beauty, and her pulse
raced in anticipation of Krys’s imminent arrival. The committee simply
had to select it, and then, if all went well, she’d be appointed the project
architect to see her own design through to realization.
“It’s brilliant. Your best work. You know it’ll win,” Peter said from
over her shoulder.
She turned to offer her friend a grateful smile. The buzz had been
encouraging. Today the Coal Harbour Civic Society would award the
new Albion and Beatrice Rose Arts Centre contract. She was convinced
Vision Architecture would win, and at last she would get to be project
architect on the development of her deepest desire. Her castle-in-the-air
would become a genuine, bricks-and-mortar monument in the city.
And she would be a star. "Let's hope I actually get the chance to see it
through, Pete." Then she’d finally get recognition for her talent and
hard work. When others saw and acknowledged her work, then she’d
know she’d achieved success. And the only way she knew how to do
that was with her name: Alexa Jenner.
“Don’t fret, honey. Krys has to give you the job. It’s your concept.
He’s knows you’re the only one who can execute it properly.”
“Thanks, Pete,” Alexa whispered, and gave him a quick hug.
“You’re a contender too, you know.”
“Hardly. But I’ll be happy to work on it with you.”
“You two make me sick.” Nathan’s superior lazy voice cut in as he
sauntered in through the office door late for work, even today, and as
unconcerned as ever. “Not only is that patently untrue, but the odds are
Krystof will assign me as project architect. You know he wants to. The
Roses know me, after all.”
Tension fluttered behind her ribs. Alexa knew that was true, at least
technically. It shouldn’t matter. There was no place for nepotism with
“That's not how you get ahead in this business, Nathan. You’ve got
three years less work experience than Alexa. You couldn't even manage
the Arts Centre if it fell on you.”
“We’ll see,” Nathan replied with a smirk and swivelled, plopping
down into a chair. His usual chair, the one he always seemed to be in
when he and Krystof were joking around, instead of at his desk
working like everyone else.
Arrogant prick, Pete mouthed to her behind Nathan’s back. His eyes
fluttered and rolled to the ceiling in characteristically melodramatic
fashion and Alexa suppressed a smile.
“First we have to win the contract, people,” Alexa said.
The three colleagues and rivals all turned toward the door as a
ripple of awareness fluttered through the office like a Pacific Northwest
gust through the downtown core, telegraphing the boss's arrival.
Outside in the studio, people tensed, sat up, inhaled. Alexa’s pulse
skipped a beat.
She had been an architect long enough to know that the glamorous
image of architecture portrayed in books and movies was only partly
true. It was true enough for a very small number of lucky individuals.
The chosen few. Like Krystof Konstantin. In this business, a lot of
talented people toiled away in obscurity their entire careers. That
wasn’t enough for her. Architecture was a business in which stardom
was determined as much by politics, charisma, connections. And
commitment. She didn't have the benefit of Nathan's connections.
People who didn’t know her well thought she was hard, driven, even
humourless. That stung. They didn’t understand her at all. She’d sacrificed
too much to give up now. She had a plan. This high profile project
was an important step. A recognizable name. One day soon, she’d own
her own studio with the freedom and autonomy that brought. She
could feel adrenalin shudder through her body in anticipation.
2 M. A. CLARKE SCOTT
“Peter,” Krystof said as he entered in his quiet, rasping tenor with
an exotic hint of his native Polish accent. “Alexa. Nate. Sit down,
She looked up as he spoke her name, Her face impassive hiding her
stuttering heartbeat. She had to let things unfold naturally.
No one knew Krystof had as good as promised her this role. No one
knew of their understanding. No one, not even Peter, knew of their
They sat in a row facing his desk. Krystof stood behind it, his back
to them, staring out over the city view. His neatly manicured, elegant
hands were clasped loosely at his back forming a ‘V’, his sapphire ring
gleaming in the sunlight. Alexa could picture them sketching, inspired
fluid lines flowing from the nib of his fountain pen. Krys’s perfectly
groomed salt-and-pepper hair gleamed, and she dropped her eyes. She
looked at the others instead of staring at Krystof’s trim body in his slim
custom Gucci suit. It wouldn’t do to get caught ogling the boss’s ass,
tight as it was. She sighed, feeling a tingle of heat flood through her, not
sure if it was the excitement of his pending announcement that caused
her flux, or the remembrance of his expert kisses and embraces.
A part of her mind shied away from the truth of her affair with
Krystof, but she knew in her heart that if she got this project, it would
be because of hard work, sacrifice and merit, not because she also
happened to have a relationship with the boss. That was another thing
altogether. No one worked harder or was more committed than she
was. And she had talent too. Plenty of it.
Peter shifted his weight from one side to the other, uncrossing and
crossing his legs. Nathan leaned back, stroking his pretentious little
moustache, unable to hide his eagerness, despite his entitlement and
expectation of success. He hardly needed to shave at all, but that didn't
stop him from pretending to be mister haute couture, with his slicked
back hair and trendy almost-beard.
Alexa tried to stay calm, but her nervous energy couldn't be
contained, either. Her own foot jiggled uncontrollably.
Krystof turned and braced his manicured fingers on the polished
hardwood desktop, immaculate and clear of clutter as usual, and
leaned forward slightly, his graphic Dior tie swinging out gently like a
clock’s pendulum. Tic-toc. She glanced at his lean handsome face at the
exact moment his lips parted in teasing grin.
She recognized a predatory gleam of amusement and sexual energy
DISRUPTION BY DESIGN 3
in his pale silvery eyes. He loved this opportunity to perform, to hold
an audience in his grip. To say he was vain was an understatement, but
he was awfully good to look at.
They had both long ago mastered their emotions and their body
language in the office. His family, her career, both their reputations
depended upon discretion. Office romances were problematic, that
much they acknowledged.
Finally he spoke, his voice as seductive as a wisp of opium smoke,
slipping across one’s senses. Hypnotic. No wonder he was such a
successful architect. That, and being brilliant.
“I want to commend all of you on your very hard work on this
proposal.” He sat down, spine straight and clasped his fingers in front
of his chest. “Also, I wish to congratulate you on a well done job. You
have reason to be proud, especially Jenner for her brilliant concept, as
we know. I have good news." He flashed his best Hollywood smile as
he looked at each of them in turn, Alexa lastly and very briefly. "We
have been awarded the contract for the new Rose Centre for the Arts.”
She followed suit when Peter and Nathan shot their fists into the air
with hoots and shouts of triumph. News travelled quickly through the
thin office partitions. As their colleagues interpreted the news of their
collective success from their own cheer, the walls muffled a thundering
reply of shouts and applause.
Krystof smiled indulgently and continued. “This is a big one, even
for a firm the size of Vision. At least two of you will continue working
on this project to completion.”
Alexa sensed rather than saw Pete and Nathan nod, each holding
“Unfortunately, I can name only one of you as Project Architect. But,
as you know, I value each of you the same, and it will be a difficult…”
He waved a expressive hand through the air, “…and somewhat arbitrary
decision. You are each worthy and capable.”
Silence. That wasn't true and they all knew it. Alexa caught a smug
expression on Nathan’s face from the corner of her eye. He was so sure
of himself, but he would be sadly disappointed. It would feel good to
wipe that cocky look off his face.
“But!” Krystof’s white smile was broad and sunny. “We will not
think of that today. I will decide in next week. Today is a day of celebration
So. No decision today. They let out their held breaths as one, and
4 M. A. CLARKE SCOTT
began to rise. She wouldn't mind facing down the envious stares of her
peers when she was chosen. At least Pete would congratulate her, and
mean it. But from Nathan, she dreaded the suppressed animosity. He
was such an ass.
She turned to Peter, who embraced her. “Congratulations, Alexa.
You did it.”
She had. “We did this together,” she said, leaning into him with a
“Oh please. Are you girls done hugging so we can get back to
work?” Nathan opened the door and stepped out murmuring, “Who
do you think you are Jenner, a star-chitect?”
Ever loyal, Peter elbowed past him, head shaking, and returned to
his desk without acknowledging Nathan’s snark.
“She’s got some serious design chops, Nate, and you know it,”
Krystof said. “You could learn a thing or two from Alexa if you got out
of your own way, boy.” At Nathan’s petulant look, Krystof sent him a
“Go to work. Try to get something done, and later we’ll all have a
Alexa lagged, affecting indifference, but moved towards the door
without looking back.
“Jenner. Just a moment. May I have a word with you?”
She stopped and turned, feigning mild surprise. “Sure, Krystof. I
was going to ask you about that change order on the Surrey research
“Yes, about that… Close the door, please.”
His hands gripped her hips silently from behind, and pulled her
into the hard ridge of his groin, his face nuzzling her shoulder, his hot
breath on her hair. She turned in his arms, and he pulled her close so
she could inhale the scent of his warm body and expensive cologne.
More hot flashes.
“Oh, Krys. I’m so happy. This is a… such a coup for us.” She kept
her voice low, just above a murmur, despite wanting to squeal.
Between clenched teeth, on his breath, he whispered, “This is your
triumph. Your vision and your energy, Jenner. You’re the reason we
won this job.” He squeezed her butt and pulled her more tightly
against his erection, the rasp of his face against her neck.
She stifled the urge to make mewling, falsely humble denials. It was
DISRUPTION BY DESIGN 5
her and she knew it. That proposal and those presentations contained a
piece of her soul. “Why are you stalling with the assignment?”
“I want everyone to be able to celebrate the win before having to let
anyone down with mundane project management decisions. The whole
team worked on it together. I don’t want any sophomoric jealousy to
spoil the day.
Alexa conceded, he had a point. That was one of the reasons he was
such a good leader. He really understood people.
“And I want to have a private celebration with you, my dear,” he
whispered, his voice hoarse with need as his mouth closed in on hers.
“Give me that sexy mouth of yours.” He covered her mouth with his
own, his tongue probing urgently, possessively, sending a coil of heat
spiralling through her core. But this was not the time or place.
“Easy, Krys, you’ll wrinkle my shirt. Not in the office.” What was
up with him? He was usually more discrete. She squirmed and pushed
gently at his chest as he resisted, then stepped away, whispering, “I
want it settled so we can start work.”
He straightened up, stepped back with a frustrated sigh. Then he
flashed her a charming leer. “You’re so sexy when you’re working. Your
brain makes me hard as a rock. I love you bossy. It makes me want to
She dipped her head and smiled up at him. “If you do I’ll make you
very sorry, in more ways than one.” He could tease, but she wouldn’t
be distracted. She'd work harder than ever to convince him to give her
He laughed. “I can’t wait. When can we meet?” His silver eyes
darkened under the square shelf of his brow.
She shrugged. “That depends on you.”
A shadow passed across his eyes and he turned back to his desk.
“It’s true. Biljiana wants me around to help with the kid.”
“What's he doing now?”
“Jaroslaw’s fifteenth birthday is this weekend. I have to be there.”
His voice was soft, apologetic. “But tonight?”
She nodded. She was glad he made himself available for his son,
even though he always complained about spending time with his exwife.
“I’ll see you later.” She shrugged, opening the door. Not a proper
date. They could perhaps slip away from the work crowd for a brief
6 M. A. CLARKE SCOTT
Krystof’s voice rose and carried out the door with her. “Don’t be
afraid to put your foot down, Jenner.” His smile patronized as he
followed her to the door, standing there. “You need to be tough with
these guys or they’ll push you around.” For appearances sake, he
always gave her a gentle rebuke.
It was kind of ridiculous, given her reputation at construction sites.
She shook her head, smiling a little at the ruse. As if she’d ever had
trouble dealing with contractors. They shook in their steel-toed workboots
when they saw her coming, all five foot feisty two of her. Krystof
liked to play off her petite size, coaching her to be tougher. But he knew
exactly how tough she could be, on the job and after hours. Tough was
how he liked her.
When she got back to her desk, the message light was blinking. She
picked up the receiver and pushed the button.
“Alex! It’s me.”
Kate! And she sounded frantic.
“Markus and I are on our way downtown. Meet us at the food fair in the
mall for lunch. I have to tell you something important!”
What could be so urgent?
he morning sun refracted into a startling starburst through the
dark branches of the fir and hemlock trees that capped the ridge
of Eagle Point to the east. The sun was still too low to shine its weak
light on his Belle-Etoile, docked under the morning shadow of the ridge.
Bruce Koczynski stopped on the tarmac, mopping the water that
dripped from his freshly washed hair onto his brow and bare shoulders.
The cool sea air lifted moisture from his bare skin, tingling, raising
goose bumps. He gazed across the forest of masts swaying gently at
their moorings, and his soul sung. He gazed at the glittering jewels of
bright white light dancing on the surface of the rippled water, and his
heart soared like the seagulls drifting overhead. He gazed at his
beloved sailboat, his freedom, his home. At least for now.
He would never tire of this view.
Tien and Juan could keep their fancy corporate offices with corner
views of sprawling parking lots in Silicon Valley. Bruce missed his
friends and ex-business partners, of course, but he wouldn’t miss the
DISRUPTION BY DESIGN 7
amorphous years of back-breaking, eye-crossing drudgery cooped up
in a stuffy, windowless room. He wouldn’t miss breathing the stale offgases
of yesterday’s pizza, Red Bull and beer. He wouldn’t miss the
accumulated body odours of a bunch of overgrown adolescents who
never went home to bathe.
And he didn’t need any more money, thank you very much. He had
his millions and now he was living the life of his choosing. A life free of
responsibilities and encumbrances.
No, he would never tire of this view. A grumbling voice drew his
attention from the water.
“Goddam kids! Why don’t you carry your own shit?”
Bruce turned toward the exasperated exclamation, his neck tensing
in reflex at the echo of his bullying father’s strident voice. A man about
his own age wrestled with a wheelbarrow filled to the gunwales with
gear, half of it tumbling onto the pavement as he struggled to open the
security gate leading down to the dock.
Bruce loped forward. “Hey man. Let me give you a hand.” He
leaned on the gate, holding it open with his back, the cold steel grid
pressing into his bare skin. While the guy wrestled with a heavy,
lopsided duffle bag that threatened to topple to the ground, Bruce bent
and retrieved a few of the objects that had already fallen, including a
grimy threadbare stuffed cat with a missing ear.
A family man. Bruce gut twisted. He may be Bruce’s age, but he
carried himself like an old man, browbeaten. Broken. Almost the way
Bruce had felt at the end, before they’d sold the company. All worn out.
“Thanks,” he said as Bruce straightened up, handing him his stray
items. His smile was ready enough, but Bruce saw the lines of exhaustion
and stress around his eyes.
Bruce grinned. “No problem. Take it easy, dude.”
The guy trundled his load down the ramp, lurching with the effort.
Despite the early hour, his blue t-shirt was darkened with patches
Bruce followed him down the dock as he approached a forty-two
foot Catalina with the name Sea-Renity painted on her hull– that was so
obviously not the case. She was really more of a floating RV than a
serious sailing vessel, and the guy wouldn’t be finding any serenity
there. The deck was crowded with small bodies, water toys, colourful
bags, plastic crates. It was a miracle the tub was still afloat under all
that family crap.
8 M. A. CLARKE SCOTT
He shook his head. Bruce preferred his Spartan subsistence aboard
his thirty-seven foot racing X-yacht. Belle Etoile. His one true love.
“Dad-deee!” shrieked a tiny voice as a small red-haired girl hurled
herself at her father, nearly toppling him off the dock into the chuck.
“Neil? Did you unload the cooler?” murmured a distracted woman,
her head popping up through the hatch, pokes of auburn hair straying
from its long faded braid, a small infant strapped to her torso like koala
to a tree. “I’ve got to get that stuff put away before it gets warm. And
Cicely needs her milk.” The wife’s head swivelled toward Bruce as he
sauntered past, a wistful admiration in her eyes. The harried mother
yearning for escape. The dad looked desperate.
“Gimme a goddam chance, Sarah,” he muttered under his breath.
Bruce’s throat threatened to close up, and he forced air through his
nostrils, pushing the sensation away. Not exactly a picture of marital
bliss, as if there were such a thing.
He tossed Sarah a sexy wink and a charming smile. Let her believe
she was attractive and desirable. Her jaw dropped, she blinked, and
then she lit up with a bright, bashful smile. He recognized the girl
under the burden. It was always nice to be noticed and admired by the
ladies, even if they were overwrought mamas.
“Neil? Did you hear me?”
A beleaguered sigh issued from the guy as he parked the wheelbarrow
and unloaded it onto the deck of the boat. “No-oo. Not yet.”
“Aayeea Mateeeeee!” An older, freckled boy leaped from the foredeck
into the cockpit and climbed up onto the gunwale again, swinging
on the lifeline. “Can I drive, Dad? Can I?”
“Get down off of there.”
“But Daaaad. You promised!”
“Not now.” Neil stepped over the gunwale and, unexpectedly,
leaned in to kiss his beleaguered but now smiling wife. With a broad
grin, he cast his gaze at the colourful disorder around him.
Poor bugger. No one thinking clearly about their future could
possibly want a wife and three kids. No privacy. No peace. No solitude.
It was exactly the chaotic mix of mayhem and misery he remembered
from his own childhood. Minus the mother. Bruce ignored the tightness
in his chest and walked on, paying no heed to the cheer that rose up
from Neil’s menagerie.
Bruce laughed off the family drama and carried on down the dock.
DISRUPTION BY DESIGN 9
Nothing could disturb his sense of peace and contentment on this most
perfect of days.
His friend Simon, with two kids already, was an intelligent guy.
Bruce’d always looked up to him, envied him even. Ever since college,
Simon seemed to have the edge. He was the one who was better at
everything, the first to do everything, including getting married and
having a family. But that went pretty sour the first time around, and
Simon had a rough go of it for a while, raising Maddie on his own.
Which only proved that having a family was a huge mistake. You
couldn’t expect both parents to stick around for the duration. And if
you couldn’t be there for your kids when they needed you, you
shouldn’t have them at all.
He was glad Simon was now married to Kate, though. What a transformation.
Finally he could be happy with someone who loved him
and appreciated him. He deserved that more than anyone. Bruce
guessed it was to be expected that they would have kids together.
But, as much as he admired his friend, Bruce preferred his peaceful
solitude. He had it good. After dodging decisions and shirking responsibilities
since he’d sold the software company last year, Bruce finally
had it all figured out. He’d bought his beautiful sailboat, Belle Etoile.
He’d found the perfect little investment property to renovate. And he
was going to have the summer of his dreams.
He was living an uncomplicated bachelor’s life aboard the boat, and
would turn that tumbledown shack into a sexy bachelor pad and a tidy
profit. It would be fun. Excellent fun.
He’d lost his direction the past few years, working too hard and
playing too hard, and then woke up one day and realized he wasn’t
having fun and he didn’t much like himself, either. Selling the company
was part one. Deciding to buy the house and work on it gave him
something to focus on, a project with tasks and a goal, something to
add structure and discipline to his new life as well as make him feel
productive. He was counting on it to pull himself out of the hole he’d
dug himself into.
It was easy to make money when you had money. And he was
looking forward to doing much of the work himself. Despite his
father’s opinion of him, he wasn’t a soft, klutzy computer geek that
didn’t know one end of a hammer from the other. After growing up the
underdog and perpetual novice in a family of tradesmen and handymen,
Bruce was anxious to put his renovation skills to the test. He’d
10 M. A. CLARKE SCOTT
always enjoyed working with his hands, but his craftsman’s approach
had never met with anything but criticism and scorn. For once in his
life, he’d be in charge of a job and would do it his way, testing and
honing his skills as he went. And if that didn’t go well, he had the
money to hire the help he needed.
Movement up ahead caught his eye. The old guy was up and about,
sitting in his fishing boat three bays over, sorting and untangling his
gear. It stupefied Bruce how much time the old guy could spend
mucking with his fishing gear. But then, unlike family-dude Neil, he
had plenty of time on his hands. Just like Bruce, he was alone. Peaceful
Bruce raised a hand in salute, and…what was his name? Oh, right,
Jørgen. From Norway. Jørgen waved back with a nod of his speckled
balding pate. He was a nice guy.
Jorgen’s melodic voice rose up over the sounds of rigging pinging in
the breeze. “Do you still want to go out fishing with me, son?”
“Sure do, Jørgen,” Bruce replied. “When?”
Jørgen glanced up at the sky. “Tomorrow.”
“You bet.” Bruce smiled and dropped down into his own cockpit,
ducking into the cabin. It was roomy for one. What did a guy need,
after all, besides a sleeping bag, a bit of granola and some beer, and a
good book for the evenings? He missed having a television, since his
was in storage, but there was always somewhere you could go to catch
a game and a little company.
It would be great when he finally moved into his new place, though,
even if it would be for only a year. Meantime, he would have a little fun
with his summer project.
His cell phone rang, and he rummaged for it under last night’s
discarded clothing. “Yeah. Bruce here.”
“Bruce. It’s Simon.”
“Sharpy! What’s up?” Speak of the devil.
“I have a favour to ask. Have you got some time today?”
Bruce consulted his watch. “I’m heading up to the house in a while.
Meeting a guy up there. Have lunch with me. You want to bring the
burgers and I’ll pick up some beer?”
“Okay. See you in about an hour.”
“You remember the address? Seaview Place, you’ll see my truck.”
Bruce pocketed his phone, wondering what could be important
DISRUPTION BY DESIGN 11
enough to drag Simon out of the office and across the bridge mid-day.
He had time to pick up a cold six-pack from the pub and deal with the
hauler before Simon showed up. He hadn’t had breakfast, but what the
hell. Burgers and beer for breakfast were okay with him. After all, he
was used to cold pizza and Red Bull.