Final teaser! The Wrong Billionaire's Bed goes on sale tomorrow. Enjoy!!
Audrey wriggled against Reese, trying to free the arms that he had trapped. They were at an impasse. He pinned her arms to her side, which prevented him from reaching for the phone, but prevented her from doing anything with it, either. “Let me go.”
“Nope. I can do this all day.”
She shifted and, to her horror, she felt something hard against her hip. Audrey drew in a scandalized breath. “That better not be your dick I feel against my leg.”
He chuckled. “Can I help it if you’re squirming?”
“You are a loathsome man!”
“Hey, if you chased my date off, I’m happy to trade out and give you a chance—”
That did it. She dropped her phone on the ground. “There. You win. Happy? My phone’s gone. Now let me go.”
Just as quickly, he released her and scooped up the phone. Before she could protest, he tossed it into the hot tub, and Audrey made an outraged sound. “That was my phone!”
“That was my hot ass you were taking pictures of,” he said, heading to grab the other towel on the railing. She noticed—to her relief—that he was wearing a pair of Speedos. And that he had an amazing butt and muscled back. Damn it. His ass was hot. “And Camilla would not appreciate her father seeing pictures of us together, and neither would I. He’d think that I was going after his daughter just for a business deal.”
“A business deal?” Audrey echoed, confused. “Who is she?”
“That was Camilla Sellers, daughter and only heir to the Sellers empire. And I am only after her for a business deal,” Reese said in a devilish voice, wrapping the towel around his waist. “But I just don’t want her father to think that.”
“You’re a pig,” Audrey said, peeling her now wet sweater away from her body. It was clinging to her breasts like a second skin, and she hadn’t missed the appreciative look that the lecher had sent in her direction. “I’m going inside. And you’re buying me a new phone.”
“Anything you say, Ms. Assistant.”
“My name,” she bit out, “is Audrey. Not Ms. Assistant.”
“You’re rather mad,” he said in an amused voice.
“You mauled me and threw my phone into the hot tub. Why wouldn’t I be furious?”
“You were kind of being an ass,” he said lazily, leaning against the hot tub and regarding her.
“I was not,” Audrey said.
“I don’t recall Logan’s assistant being quite so mean. Or having such red hair.” He gave her an up-and-down look, his gaze settling on her breasts. “Or such a rack.”
“Ugh,” she snarled. God, he was revolting. She threw open the door and stomped back into the lodge, scanning the room for her twin.
Daphne was nowhere to be seen. That was good, at least. That meant she’d avoided Camilla and hadn’t seen her capable, uptight twin getting mauled by a wet jerk.
The sound of tires screeching out front made Audrey run for the window, her heart pounding. Oh, no, no, no. Surely Daphne hadn’t run away yet.
But the car that was peeling out of the gravel driveway was the bright red Lyons convertible, with Camilla’s blonde hair ruffling in the breeze.
“Well,” said a male voice behind her. “Guess you’re stuck with me. There went my ride.”
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
Almost there! Two more excerpts before The Wrong Billionaire's Bed arrives!
“You said you didn’t know her,” Camilla said, splashing Reese.
“I’m Logan Hawkings’s assistant,” Audrey said in her most efficient voice. That was where she’d seen him before. Normally she’d seen him in a suit and clean shaven, his hair perfectly parted. He was one of Logan’s cadre, one of the six men she privately referred to as the “deadly half dozen,” since they always seemed to hang out together. She’d seen him plenty of times in and out of the Hawkings office and at business functions. He’d clearly never noticed her before.
Then again, she’d never seen him shirtless and wet.
“Who’s out there?” Daphne hissed from behind the door.
Audrey glanced back at her, noting the strained, pale face of her twin. “One of Cade’s buddies is here with a date.”
“Shit.” She didn’t think it was possible, but Daphne got even paler. “Can you get rid of them? If the paps find out I’m here, they’re going to be crawling up my ass the entire time.”
The worry in her twin’s face was enough to spur Audrey into action. “Go upstairs,” she whispered. “I’ll get rid of them.” Turning back to the two in the hot tub, she pulled out her phone.
“What are you doing?” Reese asked in a warning tone.
“Documenting this rendezvous,” Audrey said blandly, turning on the camera and beginning to take pictures. “I’m sure someone out there will be quite interested in private photos of billionaire playboy Reese Durham and his date—”
“Don’t you dare,” Camilla screamed, lurching from the hot tub at the same time that Reese did.
Audrey ignored them, continuing to take pictures. “If you’re not going to leave, I’m going to have to—” Her words cut off as a wet man grabbed her arms and tried to wrestle the phone from her. “Don’t touch me!”
“Give me that damn phone.”
“No!” She held it out from her body as Camilla wrapped a towel around her torso and scuttled past. As he reached again, Audrey continued to maneuver, holding the phone out of his grasp by wiggling and bending. It was childish and ridiculous . . .
And she was determined to win, damn it.
His arms were long and so was his reach, so she turned her back to him and bent over her phone, protecting it. To her shock, strong arms wrapped around her torso and she was hauled against the wet, naked body, his hands clutching perilously close to her breasts.
“Give me the phone, little assistant,” he murmured, sounding more amused than outraged.
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
Every day until October 15th, I'll be showcasing an excerpt from The Wrong Billionaire's Bed. Here's today's snippet!
The couple was kissing passionately. She could see the long, slim back of the tanned woman as she pressed against the man’s chest, her arms wrapped around him. He’d stopped kissing her, though, and was staring at Audrey in surprise. They were bare chested and though she could see nothing untoward, it was pretty obvious what their goal was.
Audrey cleared her throat.
The woman jerked around, saw Audrey, and then slapped the man she was mauling. “You told me you weren’t seeing anyone else!”
He winced, rubbing his cheek. “I’m not. I don’t know who she is.” He pinned Audrey with an irritated look. “Who are you?”
They were both glaring at her like she was the intruder. Worse, like she was a bug. A really unattractive bug. Audrey bristled. “I should be asking that of you, shouldn’t I? This is Cade Archer’s private getaway.”
“So it is,” the man drawled lazily. He looked familiar, but she couldn’t put her finger on as to why. “Which makes me wonder why you’re here.”
“I’m supposed to be here,” Audrey said in a clipped voice. “My sister was assured that the cabin was available for her use for the next month.”
He gave Audrey a wink and pulled the topless woman back against him. “We’ll be done with it in a few hours.”
Ugh. Audrey couldn’t hide her expression of distaste. “I hope you’ll drain the water from the hot tub when you’re done. No one else is going to want to swim in your DNA.”
The woman scowled at him, pushing off his chest. “You didn’t set this up as a threesome, did you?”
“Of course not, Camilla.”
Audrey rolled her eyes. “I can assure you that the last thing I plan on doing is crawling in that hot tub with the two of you.”
“Reese.” The girl pouted, sinking into the bubbling water. “I thought this was going to be our private weekend.”
“I thought so, too,” he told her, still watching Audrey. She was irritated to see that he was still grinning like he was amused, his mouth framed by a rakish goatee.
“Sorry,” Audrey said crisply. “This cabin is already reserved. I’m sure the two of you can find someplace else to go and make out like teenagers.”
“Reese,” Camilla nagged again.
Audrey’s memory jarred, and she narrowed her eyes at the man. His hair was slicked down and he had a goatee, but . . . She raised a hand in her vision, covering the lower half of his jaw, and gasped. “Reese Durham.”
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
Every day until October 15th, I'll be posting an excerpt from The Wrong Billionaire's Bed. Here's today's portion!
Frowning, Audrey glanced back outside, but she could see Daphne in the distance, her phone held up to her ear. It wasn’t her twin. Had Cade brought someone? Dread sunk into her and she stepped quietly forward. When the giggle sounded again, she followed it, smoothing sweaty hands down her jeans. She’d thought about her reunion with Cade on the car ride here. She’d planned on being so very casual. Smile and exclaim about how good it was to see him again, and hug him tight. She’d engage him in conversation, reminding him of what close friends they’d been once upon a time and how different she was from her train wreck twin. And maybe, just maybe, things could lead somewhere else if given time.
None of her plans had ever factored in another woman.
Clenching her fists, Audrey headed to the back door, where the sound of the giggles emanated. She heard a low, constant rumble like the sound of a generator . . . or something else. To her annoyance, the back door had no window and she was unable to see outside. What if she was interrupting something awkward? Should she leave? If she did, though, Daphne would just come barging in and announce that Audrey was spying. That would only make things worse. Best to just open the door and get it over with. Taking a deep breath, Audrey threw open the door and stepped outside.
Three things were immediately apparent.
One was that the sound she’d heard? The low rumble? It was coming from an enormous jetted hot tub.
Which was currently filled with two naked people, a man and a woman.
Neither of which were Cade Archer.
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
Every day until October 15th, I'll be posting a teaser from The Wrong Billionaire's Bed! Here's today's excerpt:
While their family had a modest cabin on a bit of lakefront property as a timeshare, Audrey had to admit that if they wanted privacy, Cade’s hunting lodge was the way to go. She didn’t think he actually hunted, but the name had stuck. It was in a remote portion of the Adirondack Mountains off a heavily wooded road. It backed up to a lake, but the difference was that their parents’ cabin shared the lakefront with dozens of other small cabins. This lake and all the surrounding property had been bought up by Cade, and it was isolated and quiet.
Perfect, really, Audrey thought. She’d been to the lodge once, and only for a short period of time. She hadn’t been invited—rather, her boss, Logan Hawkings, and his buddies had a weekend getaway and she’d had to bring some work for him. She’d glimpsed the cabin, admired the scenery, and then drove straight back to the city.
But it was clear from Daphne’s knowledge that she’d been here before. Audrey cast her twin a suspicious glance. She hadn’t needed the map, and she’d clearly been in contact with Cade for quite some time. Exactly how many times had Daphne been to this cabin without letting Audrey know about it? A flare of hurt rose through her that her twin would be so secretive. Once upon a time, they’d shared everything. It just reinforced that Daphne had turned into someone who Audrey no longer knew.
“Huh,” Daphne said as they turned down the long, graveled driveway and the lodge came into view.
Audrey glanced up, her train of thought disappearing. “What is it?”
Daphne nodded ahead. “That. He’s here already?”
There was a sleek, shiny Lyons convertible in the driveway, cherry red with tricked-out rims and a personalized license plate. A little ostentatious for Cade, Audrey thought with a wrinkle of her nose. Maybe he liked a little flash with his cars? Anything was possible. He was a generous, low-key man, but perhaps he had a weakness for finely tuned, expensive cars. Lots of men did.
The lodge itself was nothing short of spectacular. Built in an A-frame style, it nestled amongst the trees on stilts, a curved wooden deck flowing around the exterior. The front of the lodge seemed to be made entirely of windows to let the light in, and smoke curled from the chimney.
“Someone’s definitely here,” Audrey commented, heading around to the trunk of Daphne’s car to grab their bags. She pulled out her overnight bag and turned to hand it to her sister.
But Daphne had wandered away, holding her cell phone up into the air, trying to get reception.
She glanced back at Audrey, then put the phone to her ear, waving a hand at her. “You go ahead. I’m going to make a call.”
Audrey gave her an exasperated look. “Please don’t tell me you’re calling someone about drugs already.”
Daphne made a face. “I told you. I’m fine. And I’m not calling about drugs. I just have to make a call, all right? Get off my back.” She made a shooing motion with her hand. “Why don’t you go say hello to Cade? I’ll be in in a minute.”
Audrey hesitated, but when her twin continued to ignore her, she shouldered the bags and headed up the steps. She couldn’t watch Daphne every minute of this vacation. If her twin was calling for drugs, there’d be no saving her. As it was, she had to have a little bit of trust for her sister.
And she did want to see Cade.
The front door to the cabin was unlocked, and Audrey knocked as she opened it. “Hello?”
Audrey stepped into the lodge, admiring her surroundings. A plush rug covered the wooden floor, and three rustic couches framed a massive stone fireplace that flickered with logs and a small fire. The walls were not adorned with animal heads but instead had ornate, wire art pieces that somehow matched the rustic decor. The clock over the fireplace was designed to look like a rusty wagon wheel. Charming enough, Audrey thought. The kitchen was off to the far end of the house, and down a nearby hallway she could see several bedroom doors and a set of stairs leading up. A den? Game room? Interesting.
Still no sign of Cade, though. Audrey set the bags down near the entryway and wandered a bit further into the house, trailing her hand along the back of one of the couches.
A feminine giggle touched her ears.
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
Each day until October 15th, I'll be publishing an excerpt from The Wrong Billionaire's Bed. Here's today's sample!
That was just fine with Audrey. She didn’t care if Daphne was mad. She suspected Daphne was going to get a lot madder before they returned from their mini-vacation. A month in the family lake house? With no one around but the two of them? No drugs and no alcohol? They were bound to butt heads, and that was fine with Audrey. She expected it.
What she hadn’t expected was that, several hours into their drive upstate, Daphne would turn down an unfamiliar highway.
Audrey frowned and reached for the map in the glove compartment of Daphne’s tiny roadster. “I think you missed the turn.”
“Nope,” Daphne said, staring straight ahead at the road.
“I’m pretty sure this isn’t the way to the cabin.”
“That’s because we’re not going to the cabin.”
A sinking feeling moved into the pit of Audrey’s stomach. Her twin was giving up already? This was just like every other time. “Daphne, you promised.”
“Correction. I promised I’d go away for a month with you to try and start over,” Daphne said, her eyes shielded by enormous designer sunglasses. Audrey couldn’t read her expression. “But my manager expects me to be at the lake house, which means the label’s going to put pressure on him. And do you know what that means? It means the paparazzi are going to show up at some point when I’m looking my scuzziest and attempt to get something they can sell to the tabloids to drum up some publicity. And I don’t want that.”
Audrey couldn’t blame her twin, though she was still a bit leery of any change in plans. Daphne needed to be in a controlled environment. “So where are we going?”
Daphne glanced over and gave Audrey a sneaky smile she recognized all too well.
“Oh, no,” Audrey moaned. “What did you do?”
“Something that should make you pretty happy, if you’re still carrying a torch for a certain someone.”
Audrey wanted to throw up and throttle Daphne at the same time. “Please don’t tell me we’re going to Cade Archer’s house.”
“We’re not,” Daphne said.
Relief set in.
“We’re going to his lodge in the mountains.”
There went the relief, right back out again. “Seriously, Daphne? You called Cade and arranged this?”
“I did. He said he’d always be there for me,” she said stubbornly. “I’m cashing in that chip. I thought it’d be fun to be just you and me and Cade for a few weeks. He’s so busy all the time he could use a vacation, too. And I thought if he was there, maybe I could help you lock him down.”
Audrey put her head in her hands and stifled the moan that threatened to escape all over again. “Daphne, we’re not doing this so you can try to hook me up with our childhood friend. We’re doing this to get you clean and get your life back on track.”
“I know that,” Daphne said irritably, reaching for her pack of cigarettes. She’d already gone through them, and she sighed at the empty packet and pitched it out the open window. “Gimme a new pack of smokes out of my purse, will you?”
“You shouldn’t smoke.”
“Oh, you’re right,” Daphne said sarcastically. “Let’s stop by the nearest gas station and I’ll ask where I can score some rock instead. Leave me fucking something, Audrey. All right? You can nag me about the other shit but smoking is off limits.”
Wordlessly, Audrey handed her twin the new pack of cigarettes. “Just promise me that this vacation is going to be about you and making healthy choices for your life.”
“I promise,” Daphne said, shoving a cigarette between her lips and punching the car’s lighter in. “You know what’s different this time? I want it for sure. This time I mean it.”
You say that every time, Audrey thought with a sigh. But she couldn’t help but feel a little flutter of excitement in her belly. Cade Archer was going to be spending the next few weeks with them. Sweet, caring Cade Archer. He’d gone from a considerate, thoughtful, handsome teenage boy who she’d had a crush on to a gorgeous and near-perfect billionaire with a kind heart. And she was still ridiculously in love with him.
Self-consciously, she flipped down the mirror on the passenger side and checked her hair. She wished suddenly that she’d worn something a bit more exotic than a plain black sweater over a purple tank top and jeans. Since she was on vacation, she wore no makeup and her hair was pulled into a loose, carefree ponytail. Too casual. She wanted to look good for Cade. After giving her twin another frown as Daphne chain-smoked her way down the highway, Audrey relaxed and tried to think of what she could say to Cade to make it seem like a wonderful surprise to see him.
If she rehearsed, maybe she wouldn’t blurt out her love for him as soon as he came into sight.
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
Every day until October 15th, I'll be posting a teaser from The Wrong Billionaire's Bed. Here's today's portion!
Audrey nibbled on a pretzel stick, flipping the pages of the latest romance novel she’d picked up at the supermarket. She checked the clock, then sighed and dug back into the pretzel bag. It was late and she was in her pajamas. Daphne’s plane was supposed to have landed hours ago, and she had promised—promised—to come straight to Audrey’s apartment from the airport. Audrey had volunteered to meet her twin, but Daphne had demurred, laughing it off and claiming she knew her way around New York just fine.
Except that the later it got into the night, the more positive Audrey was that her twin had made a few pit stops along the way. And it made her furious.
Some time after one a.m., she heard a knock at her door, and then a giggle. Stifling her irritation, she headed to the door and checked the peephole. Sure enough, there was Daphne, along with a stranger. Audrey unchained the door, flipped the lock, and flung the door open to glare balefully at Daphne and her companion.
Daphne leaned heavily on a tall, skinny man wearing black clothes and enormous plugs in his ears. He had several brow rings, neck tattoos, and a bright green faux-hawk. Daphne was, as usual, a disaster. Her jeans and T-shirt were stained, her hair was in a messy braid that hung over one shoulder, and the small suitcase at her side had shed clothes all down the hall. They both listed to the side and couldn’t stop giggling despite Audrey’s clear displeasure.
They were drunk. Sloppy drunk.
“You were supposed to be here hours ago, Daphne,” Audrey told her. “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick.”
Daphne shrugged, pushing her way into Audrey’s apartment. “The flight sucked and made me all tense, so Stan and I went out for a nightcap.”
Audrey eyed Stan as Daphne staggered past her. When her date tried to follow, Audrey put a hand on his chest, stopping him. She gave him a polite smile. “Thanks for bringing her home.”
He grinned, showing a gold tooth. “Don’t I get to come in, too?”
“No, you don’t.”
He looked as if he’d argue, but then began to head back to the elevator, too wasted to even realize he’d just abandoned his famous hookup. Audrey quickly shut the door and re-bolted it, then turned to glare at Daphne.
Her sister was passed out, face down, on Audrey’s couch.
“I don’t believe you, Daph,” Audrey said. “Drinking? Weren’t you coming out here to clean up?”
“Tomorrow,” Daphne mumbled from the couch cushions, not bothering to get up. “I’m starting tomorrow. Quit yelling.”
“I’m not yelling!” Audrey bellowed, then winced when the neighbor pounded on the wall in response. Frustrated, Audrey grabbed Daphne’s suitcase and hauled it to the bedroom. Fine then. Daphne wanted to be like that? Audrey wouldn’t give her a choice in the matter. She’d simply have to take control—again—and save Daphne from herself.
Tossing the suitcase on her bed, she returned to the living room to grab Daphne’s purse. On the couch, her sister snored, oblivious to Audrey’s movements. Audrey snagged the purse, returned to the bed, and dumped the contents out.
The usual clutter fell onto the bedspread—half a protein bar, three lipsticks, a few pens, hair clips, and credit cards. Several prescription bottles fell out as well, and Audrey bit her lip, frowning as she read the names. Two of them weren’t even Daphne’s prescriptions.
She flushed those, along with the small baggy of white powder she found. Daphne would be pissed when she woke up, but Audrey didn’t care. Next, she searched the luggage and found several more pill bottles under different names, more drugs, and a thick packet tucked into the liner of her suitcase. It all went into the garbage, and with every item tossed, Audrey grew more and more determined.
Daphne wanted Audrey’s help in getting clean? She was willing to help, all right, but she was pretty sure Daphne wasn’t going to appreciate it. And that was too damn bad for her twin, because Audrey was in this for the long haul.
She returned to the living room and watched Daphne, snoring, on her couch. Makeup was smeared across Daphne’s delicate features, and her mouth hung open, slack, as she slept.
Audrey would get her twin back. No ifs, ands, or buts. Daphne would be furious and threaten her, but it didn’t matter.
Audrey had to do this once and for all, because it felt as if she’d already lost Daphne.
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
Each day until October 15th, I'll be posting a teaser of The Wrong Billionaire's Bed. Here's the newest part!
Audrey hadn’t relished asking [her boss] for the favor. Logan knew she was twins with Daphne; he’d met her at a rather unfortunate dinner party once. Most people didn’t know she had a twin, and Audrey didn’t volunteer the information. She’d learned the hard way that the conversation usually went in one of three directions:
Scenario one: Oh, my God. You’re related to Daphne Petty? The Daphne Petty? The singer? Can you get me her autograph? Free tickets? A visit to my kid’s birthday party?
Scenario two: Daphne Petty? Really? You don’t look anything like her. She’s so thin and glamorous. You’re . . . not.
Or Scenario three: Daphne Petty? You poor thing. Is she really like that?
Scenario one was simply annoying, but she’d learned to deflect it a long time ago. No, she couldn’t get free swag/tickets/CDs of Daphne’s latest. No, she couldn’t have Daphne show up at someone’s birthday party. She kept business cards of the manager of Daphne’s fan club and handed them out when pressed.
Scenario two was irritating, but again, she’d learned to deal with it a long time ago. Stage Daphne dressed in wild, colorful outfits and thick makeup. She never left her car without six-inch heels, a thick fringe of fake eyelashes, and her hair dyed some trendy shade. She’d gone Hollywood thin years ago at her label’s suggestion (though secretly Audrey suspected drugs more than a healthy diet) and it was just another way that Audrey no longer looked like her twin.
Audrey’s hair was straight, smooth, and a pale orange-red that hadn’t faded when childhood did. Her skin was still lightly freckled, which was only obvious when she didn’t wear makeup. She never wore much, either because it would have looked out of place with her conservative business suits. And she was several sizes larger than Daphne. Where her twin had been a svelte size two, Audrey was soft, curvy, and just this side of plump. She didn’t wear false eyelashes or six-inch heels. She looked like Daphne, but only if one squinted hard and compared photos.
She was used to being insulted about her looks and being asked for favors. But worst of all was scenario three: the pity. The look she’d come to recognize all too closely in the last two years. The look on someone’s face as they recalled one of the more recent tabloids with Daphne’s escapades splashed across them, her stints of jail time, her public fiascos, the rumors of drugs, alcohol, men, and excess. The train wreck that bright, wild Daphne Petty had become.
And Audrey hadn’t been able to do a thing about it. She’d stood by, helpless, as her headstrong twin pushed her away and embraced all that her fast-paced lifestyle had to offer.
It was killing her. And that was why Audrey hated the pity more than anything else. Because she desperately wanted to do something about it, and now she had the chance. Daphne had called her last night at three in the morning, crying, from the back of a squad car. She’d called Audrey instead of her handlers, and though she’d been in LA instead of someplace that Audrey could have actually helped out with, her sister’s misery had broken her heart.
Daphne was reaching out to her. She wanted help. Not rehab, she said, because that would be all over the tabloids and she’d already been to rehab twice, without success. Just a chance to get away and reconnect with her old life, with Audrey’s assistance. This time, Daphne swore, it was going to be different. This time she’d leave behind the drugs and alcohol, if Audrey would just help her. She didn’t trust anyone else.
And so Audrey had promised to help. She’d go away with her twin. Put her life on hold and come to Daphne’s aid once again. She’d soothed her weeping twin on the phone, and then quietly contacted Daphne’s management about the most recent visit to the police station. Like most of Daphne’s incidents, they were able to make things disappear and Daphne was released from custody and flying to New York in the morning.
And then Audrey would start the slow process of finding Daphne again. Hopefully.
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
Each day until October 15th, I'll be posting a teaser of The Wrong Billionaire's Bed! Here's today's portion:
Twelve Years Later
Audrey glanced in the bathroom mirror, smoothed a stray lock of hair into her tight bun, and then straightened her jacket for the eighth time that morning.
She left the bathroom, her nerves tingling with a mixture of dread and wariness. Not that her outward expression showed it. She was very good about remaining calm and in control in a stressful situation, and this was definitely a situation. Her low heels clicking on the marble floors of Hawkings Conglomerate’s headquarters, she swept the mail out of the delivery basket and returned to her desk. Once she’d sorted all the envelopes for Logan’s personal attention, she rubber-banded the rest and set them into her mailbox to attend to later.
Her hand paused over the tabloid on her desk. After a moment’s indecision, she folded the magazine in half lengthwise and tucked it under her arm. Then, with mail in hand, she headed to Logan Hawkings’s closed door and rapped twice.
“Enter,” he called.
She did, her stomach churning just a bit.
He didn’t look up as she approached, continuing to type on his laptop. As was their usual routine, Audrey moved to his outbox and picked up any outgoing memos or faxes that he needed her to handle. She slipped his personal mail into his inbox, picked up his faxes, and glanced over at him. But she couldn’t make her mouth form the request.
So she stalled. “Coffee, Mr. Hawkings?”
She moved to the Keurig machine in her adjoining office and brewed him a cup, waiting impatiently for the machine to finish. Once it was done, she sweetened it, added creamer, and stirred, all the while mentally cursing herself for not broaching the conversation yet. She returned to his office with the cup in hand and set it on his desk.
Again, he didn’t look up.
“Dry cleaning today, Mr. Hawkings?”
“No.” He picked up the mug and gave her a suspicious look. “Something wrong?”
And here she thought she’d hidden it so well. Audrey clutched the folded tabloid in her hand, hesitating in front of his desk. “I . . . need some time off work.”
Over his coffee mug, Logan frowned. “Time off?”
Just as she’d thought, it hadn’t gone over well. In the three and a half years since she’d been working for Logan Hawkings, she’d never missed a day of work. She was here before he was, left after he did, and took her vacation time concurrent with his so as not to disrupt his schedule.
She was the model employee. She kept things quiet and running as smoothly as possible for Mr. Hawkings. When he needed something handled, she took care of it.
And she never, never asked for time off until today.
Audrey swallowed. “I’m afraid so.”
“How much time off?”
“I . . . don’t know. It’s a personal matter.” And very quietly, she unfolded the tabloid and offered it to him.
Logan tossed it down on his desk, eyeing the picture on the cover. The headline was a bold yellow that screamed out of the grainy photo. POP PRINCESS CAUGHT IN A COKE-FUELED ORGY! PICTURES ON PAGE 17! And there was the unmistakable face of her twin, blade-thin, her hair matted and dyed a hideous shade of black, a dopey smile on her face as she snorted lines in a club bathroom and leaned on an equally dopey-looking pair of men. Audrey didn’t know who they were. She never knew who Daphne ran with anymore. Daphne’s manager handled all that . . . theoretically. She suspected Daphne’s manager took care of his own needs first, and Daphne’s second.
Logan glanced at the magazine, then back up at her. “Your sister?”
She nodded succinctly. “I understand that this is an inconvenience, but I’ve taken extra precautions to ensure that your schedule is not interrupted. I talked with Cathy in personnel, and she’s agreed to send a temp for me to train on daily duties.”
“I’ll make sure she’s prepared before I leave. I’ll have my phone with me so you can contact me—or she can—if you need something. And I’ve made sure that your address book and calendar are up to date. The meeting next week—”
“It’s fine, Audrey. Take the time you need.” He folded the magazine and offered it back to her. “I take it you’re getting her some help?”
She took it from him, her fingers trembling with a rush of relief. “She refuses to go to rehab, but she’s agreed to go away for a time if I go with her. No parties, no drugs. I’m basically going to chaperone and try to get her to sober up.” She hesitated. “It might be a few weeks. It might be longer. If that’s a problem—”
“If you need personal errands run—”
“I said it’s fine, Audrey.” Now he was getting annoyed with her. She could tell by the set of his eyebrows. “If I have personal errands, I’ll ask Brontë to step in and help. It’s not a big deal. Take the time that you need. Your family comes first.”
Words that she’d never thought she’d hear billionaire Logan Hawkings say. His fiancée must have mellowed him quite a bit. She nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Hawkings. I’ll make the arrangements with Cathy.”
“Close the door when you leave.” He turned back to his computer and began to type again.
She quietly exited his office, then shut the door behind her. Only when it was shut did she allow herself to lean against it, the breath whistling out of her in relief.
That had gone much better than she’d anticipated. Mellowed out, indeed. Two years ago—heck, six months ago—Logan would have given a few thinly veiled hints that if she’d valued her job, she’d find a way to make things happen. He paid her very well, after all, and if she couldn’t find a way to perform her job to his satisfaction, he’d find someone who could.
Of course, that was BH—Before Hurricane. And before Brontë.
“Today’s my thirteenth birthday,” Daphne Petty told the boy at her side, giving him a coy look and winding a bright red lock of hair around her finger. “You know what that means, right?”
“That it’s Audrey’s birthday, too?” Cade glanced around Daphne’s shoulder to smile at the quieter twin.
Audrey gave him a shy smile, flustered that he’d remembered her. She sat on the opposite side of her vivacious, flirty twin, saying nothing. That was usually how it went. Daphne commanded attention and Audrey just sort of stood by her side. Not that she minded much. Daphne was also the bad twin, and Audrey liked being the good twin. You got into trouble a lot less when you were the good twin, and if there was one thing Audrey hated, it was being in trouble.
“That’s not it,” Daphne said with a pout. She nudged his shoulder. “Pay attention to me.”
Instantly, Cade’s amused gaze went back to Daphne. “I am paying attention to you.”
“No, you’re paying attention to Audrey. Don’t you like me, Cade?” She continued to twist that lock of hair around her finger, imitating a move they’d seen their older sister Gretchen pull, to great effect. Gretchen always had interest from boys, and Daphne wanted to learn everything she knew.
“I like both of you,” Cade said in a cheerful voice, then ruffled Daphne’s hair like she was a child. “You two are my friends.”
“Best friends,” Audrey said shyly, swinging her legs.
Daphne rolled her eyes at her twin. “We can’t be best friends with a guy. Guys can only be boyfriends.”
Cade choked on a laugh. “You two are too young for me. I’m fifteen now. You just turned thirteen.”
“Well, it’s my—” she turned to look at her twin “—our birthday and you need to give us a present.”
Cade tugged on the frayed collar of his shirt. It was faded and worn, much like everything he owned. No one talked about it, but the Archers were the poorest family on a rather low-end block of the neighborhood, poorer even than Audrey and Daphne’s parents, who worked long hours for little pay. “I don’t have money, Daphne. I can’t get a job until next year, remember?”
“It’s okay,” Audrey said. “You can give us something that doesn’t cost anything.”
A kiss, Audrey thought dreamily, staring at Cade’s handsome blue eyes and blond hair.
“You could teach us how to make out with a boy,” Daphne said slyly, that wicked tone in her voice. “I need to practice so I’m ready for my first boyfriend.”
Cade sputtered. “Make out? I don’t think so. You two are like my little sisters.”
That was not the first time he’d referred to them as his little sisters. It crushed Audrey’s heart a bit, but she could tell her twin was undeterred. Daphne usually didn’t take no for an answer.
“Maybe just a hug, then?” Daphne asked sweetly.
“Of course,” Cade told her, leaning in and reaching an arm around Daphne.
Daphne immediately wrapped her arms around Cade and thrust her mouth against his, trapping him into a surprise kiss. Audrey’s jaw dropped in shock as her twin kissed—no, mauled—the boy she knew that Audrey had a crush on. Their friend.
Cade made a noise of surprise and tried to pull away, but Daphne clung to him like a leech.
“Daph, stop it,” Audrey hissed. Anger began to bubble inside her. How dare Daphne make a scene with Cade. It was bad enough that she monopolized him constantly. “Just stop it!”
But Daphne didn’t stop. She made a loud mmmmm in the back of her throat, just to goad Audrey.
So Audrey shoved her twin into the pond.
Daphne fell with a splash and a yell, and Cade barely managed to scramble backward onto the dock. He stared at Audrey in surprise.
That was okay, because Audrey was pretty surprised at her actions, too.
Dang it. There went her impulsive temper. Audrey tried to keep it under control, she really did, but sometimes it got the better of her.
Like right now.
Daphne surfaced in the pond’s scummy water, screeching as she flailed. “Audrey, you suck!” she yelled. “Cade, help me out!”
“That was not cool, Audrey,” Cade told her, leaning over the side of the dock and extending a hand to Daphne. When she continued to flounder in the water, he sighed and looked over at Audrey, who stood on the dock, frozen in horror.
She tried so hard to be the good twin, she really did.
“Here, hold this,” Cade told her, and pulled off his T-shirt. Then he jumped into the water and grabbed Daphne, who went into his arms, sobbing, and began to pull her to the nearby shore.
A moment later, both of them were dripping on the bank of the shore. Audrey still stood on the dock, clutching Cade’s shirt and mortified by what she’d done. She’d pushed her twin in, all because Daphne’d been kissing the boy Audrey wanted.
But it wasn’t just any boy. It was Cade. Audrey had adored him for what seemed like forever, and Daphne only wanted him because Audrey did. That was how it always went.
“You came for me,” Daphne sobbed, clinging to Cade.
“Of course,” he soothed. “I’ll always come for you, Daph. You know I will.”
It was true. Though two years separated them in age, the three of them had roamed their neighborhood for years, fishing for crawdads, playing in the pond, and riding bikes. It never failed that Daphne would get into some sort of scrape—like the time she’d pulled up a manhole and climbed down—and Cade would have to come after her.
Daphne caused trouble, and Cade rescued her. And Audrey stood by, because she was the good twin.
Until today, of course, when Audrey’s temper got the better of her, and she’d suddenly become the bad twin in a blink.
Daphne wiped streaming hair off her brow and scowled at Audrey. “I’m going to the house and telling Mom. You’ll be sorry, Audrey.” She turned and stomped off, heading back to the neighborhood.
Audrey sucked in a breath. She was totally going to be grounded.
“Looks like the birthday celebration’s going to end early,” Cade told her, heading down the dock and reaching for his shirt. He pulled it over his head and then ran his fingers through his wet hair.
“It’s okay,” Audrey said. “She’ll forgive me. We’re twins. We can’t stay mad at each other.”
Cade smiled, reaching out and ruffling Audrey’s hair. “Well, since you’re twins, I can’t give one a present and not the other, can I?”
And he leaned in and kissed her on her freckled cheek.
Audrey flushed bright red, her mouth gaping.
Cade pulled back, tousled her hair again, and grinned. “Happy birthday, Audrey.” When she continued to stand there, he added, “You should probably go home and check on Daph.”
Audrey nodded, then raced after Daphne. Her cheek throbbed in the perfect, perfect spot where he’d kissed her.
Sure enough, Audrey was grounded that day. Daphne had sobbed her story to their parents, who were appropriately horrified. Audrey was sent to bed early, without TV or computer while they let Daphne stay up late, feasting on birthday cake. Daphne was upset, and that was almost as bad as getting in trouble on its own.
As of that day, Audrey learned two things.
One, that she was never going to slip up and be the bad twin again.
And two, that she was absolutely, without a doubt, in love with Cade Archer.
Mirrored from Jill Myles Dot Com.
If you want to follow me, friend me on Facebook or my twitter @jillmyles :) I still blog (though infrequently) at my actual blog at jillmyles.com.