Jen Jones hides a horrible secret behind her new degree, toned body, and exciting job at Silicon Valley’s hottest startup—until a man linked to her past is killed in a hit-and-run.
CEO and founder Dave Jewell is about to land a huge deal. He doesn’t need blood on his car, threatening phone calls, and Jen wrapped in broken code and blackmail.
A gang of thugs hunts Jen, and she takes refuge in Dave’s protective arms. Together, they must thwart a killer and rescue an innocent victim from their past. Love blossoms, but a damaging revelation points straight at Jen, threatening to tear them apart forever.
She drove down Trimble and turned left on Zanker. She had to install the new fileserver today. A single car sat in the Shopahol parking lot. Jen pulled next to it and smashed the curb with a sickening crunch. Damn. She reversed it and cut the engine.
A gust blew dried leaves in a circle on the sidewalk. Jen locked her car and bent to examine the damage—a cracked air dam on her brand new Eclipse. She dropped her keys and spit on her finger to rub out the black scratch.
The neighboring car’s bumper stretched over the sidewalk. That’s why she had misjudged. Her eyes widened. Dried brownish streaks flaked off the bumper and grill, and a tuft of black hair was pinched to the license plate holder.
Jen stood and backed from the car—a white Camry! She must not scream. Drive away. Pretend she didn’t see it. Whose car was this? Her breath came in sharp puffs, and she doubled over, trying not to hyperventilate or faint. She quickly retrieved her keys from the sidewalk. A pair of trousered legs met her on the way up. The scream erupted from her throat, and strong hands clamped her wrists.
Steel-grey eyes bore into hers. “Calm down. Are you okay?”
Words scattered from her throat. She tried to pull away, but the man, the CEO, the delectable Dave Jewell held her tight. He picked up her backpack and pulled her toward the building.
“I-I ah…” Jen gasped, but she followed him through the door.
“Let’s get you some water.” He handed her the backpack and steered her through the lobby toward his office. “It’s only a little front end damage. I’m sure your insurance will take care of it.”
He appeared calm, too calm to have blood on his car. Jen’s brain burst with silent screams. She forced herself to breathe evenly. A CEO wouldn’t be driving a Camry, would he?
There had to be an innocent explanation, and she sure as hell didn’t want to get involved. She’d pretend nothing was wrong. Consciously relaxing, she disengaged from his hold and accepted the bottle of water. “Sure. I’ll be down in the server room. I hope Bruce unpacked the boxes and racked the filer. Is that his car parked next to mine?”
Dave looked up from his Blackberry. “Huh? I have to go. I came to grab a file. Let me know if you need anything else.”
He jingled his keys, one with a Toyota emblem, and he patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry about your car. I’ll pay for the damage. I should have had parking blocks installed, especially where the curb’s too high. Let’s go check it out. I know a body shop that’ll do you good.”
Jen fought for her breath again. How could he be so light-hearted and casual? But wasn’t that the case with psychopaths? Especially charming, handsome, successful ones. The last one anyone suspected. He acted as if he didn’t remember meeting her last night at the pizza place. Oh, yes. Stupid. Of course. He was the boss, and this was work. Well, she’d pretend she never shared a video game with him, either.
“No… no, I have to go to the lab.”
“Okay, I’ll take a look on the way out and call someone to fix it. You just worry about the filer. Promise me you won’t break anything?” He smiled and pantomimed tipping his nonexistent hat.
Was he a loon on top of being a murderer? Jen shuddered and backed out of his office. When she saw him exit, she ran to a window near her cubicle.
Dave squatted in front of her car. He traced the crack and pulled on the broken air dam. He glanced at the white car and froze. Slowly he eased himself to his feet and looked at the office building. Their gazes locked.
Jen threw her backpack over her shoulders. She had to get away. He’d seen her staring. She tore down the stairs toward the back exit. Yes. It would set off the alarm. But she had no choice. She didn’t want to know about the blood nor be the one to tell the police.
The motion sensors lit the lights over the cubicles. She dodged and wove through the maze of partitions, and rounded a corner. Her foot caught in the slots of a pallet, and her ankle turned with a jolt of pain. She fell, splattering empty boxes and Styrofoam packing material.
“Whoa, Jen, are you all right?” Bruce bent over her, his bulky frame blocking out the overhead lights. Running footsteps approached them.
“What happened?” Dave knelt in front of her.
“She ran right into the pallet,” Bruce said. “I think she twisted her ankle.”
Jen gritted her teeth when Dave pulled her up, her ankle too tender to put weight on. He helped her to a cot in the break room.
“Bruce, get me an icepack.” Dave took off her shoe and probed her ankle.
Jen stared at the top of his head while he examined her. He pushed the jean leg up to her knee with surprisingly gentle hands.
Bruce rummaged in the freezer and handed Dave an icepack. “I’ll clean up the corridor. Should we call an ambulance?”
Dave pressed the icepack over her right ankle. “No. I’ll drive her to the emergency room. Go back and rack the filer.”
Bruce waddled out of the room. Jen swallowed and pulled away from Dave. She backed into the corner. He knew she knew. What would he do now?
He leaned over the cot, his weight shifting the flimsy mattress. “It’s not what you think.”
“I’m not thinking anything.” She hoped her jaw would stay still and her teeth would not chatter. He hovered so close—she sensed his rapid heartbeat—his cologne and maleness incited a riot of firing nerves deep in her belly. All systems flashed ‘Danger’ in bright red letters, and sirens erupted in her inner ear.
“Good.” His voice lowered into a hoarse whisper. “Because you’re going to lean against me quietly, get in my car, and go with me to the occupational clinic. No screaming, no hysterics, nothing. Got it?”
“But… but the blood on your car.” The hard concrete wall was at her back, cold and unyielding.
He edged into her space. She hadn’t noticed how warm grey eyes could get. How did he do that? And why was he? His lips touched hers ever so slightly. His hand moved up and appreciated her neck and her jawline, caressing.
Jen told herself to breathe, to back away. She pressed his chest. Tighten and push. But the well contoured muscles, firm yet inviting, stirred her insides into a consistency of gooey, hot syrup. And instead of pushing, she grasped his shoulders.
Copyright© Rachelle Ayala. All rights reserved.