Instead she placed her palms over her skirt and removed nonexistent wrinkles as she waited admittance into Piers Anetakis’s office.
She knew she looked cool and professional, a look she strove hard for. The woman who’d let loose with such abandon two nights before no longer existed. In her place was an unreadable face devoid of any emotion.
Still, despite her best efforts, thoughts of her lover drifted erotically through her mind. She’d left while he was in the shower, but she’d hoped to run into him again. A chance meeting. Maybe it would lead to another night even though she’d sworn it would only be one.
It was just as well. He was probably already gone back to wherever it was he lived. She’d move on herself in a few more weeks, armed with enough money to sustain her travels.
At times, she wondered what it would be like to settle in one place, to have all the comforts of home, but such an idea was alien to her. She’d learned long ago that a home wasn’t in the cards for her.
She glanced down at her watch. Two minutes past eight. She was to have been summoned at eight. Apparently promptness wasn’t one of Mr. Anetakis’s strong points.
She clutched her briefcase to her and stared out the window to the waves crashing in the distance. The sea lost some of its romance in the daylight. It was still beautiful and striking, but at night under the flicker of torches and the glow of the moon, it took on a life of its own.
Her mouth twisted ruefully. She was still thinking of her dark-eyed lover. He was hard to forget, and she knew she’d be thinking of him for a long time to come.
Behind her the door opened, and an older woman stuck her head out and smiled at Jewel. “Miss Henley, Mr. Anetakis will see you now.”
Jewel pasted a bright smile on her face and marched in behind the woman. Across the room Mr. Anetakis stood with his back to them, a cell phone stuck to his ear. When he heard them come in, he turned and Jewel halted. Her mouth flew open, and her eyes widened in shock.
To his credit, Mr. Anetakis merely raised an eyebrow in recognition, and then he closed his phone and nodded to the other lady.
“You can leave us now, Margery. Miss Henley and I have a lot to discuss.”
Jewel swallowed nervously as Margery quietly left the room and shut the door behind her. Her fingers curled around her briefcase, and she held it almost like a shield as Mr. Anetakis stared holes through her. God, how this must look.
“You have to know I had no idea who you were,” she said in a shaky voice before he could speak.
“Indeed,” he said calmly. “I could see the shock when I turned around. Still, it makes things a bit awkward, wouldn’t you say?”
“There’s no reason things should be awkward,” she said crisply. She moved forward, holding an outstretched hand. “Hello, Mr. Anetakis. I’m Jewel Henley, your new assistant. I trust we’ll work well together.”
His lips twisted into a sardonic smile. Before he could reply, his phone rang again.
“Excuse me, Miss Henley,” he said in a cool voice. Then he picked up his cell phone.
He wasn’t speaking English, but it was obvious the phone call wasn’t to his liking. He frowned and then outright scowled. He barked a few words into the receiver before muttering something unintelligible and snapping it closed.
“My apologies. There is something I must attend to at once. You can see Margery in her office, and she’ll get you…set up.”
Jewel nodded as he strode out the door. As soon as the door shut, all her breath left her in a whoosh that left her sagging. Of all the rotten luck. And to think she’d hoped they’d run into each other again so they could have a repeat performance.
On wobbly knees she went to find Margery and then prayed that she’d get through the next four weeks without losing her composure.
Piers got out of the helicopter and strode toward the car waiting to pick him up. As they drove toward the airport where his private jet awaited, he snapped open his phone and placed the call that he’d been deliberating over since he left his office.
His human resources manager for the island hotel picked up on the second ring.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Anetakis?” he asked once Piers had identified himself.
“Jewel Henley,” he bit out.
“Your new assistant?”
“Get rid of her.”
“Pardon? Is there a problem?”
“Just get rid of her. I want her gone by the time I return.” He took a deep breath. “Transfer her, promote her or pay her for the entirety of her contract, but get rid of her. She can’t work under me. I have a strict policy about personal involvement with my employees, and let’s just say she and I have history.”
He waited for a moment and when he didn’t hear anything, he said, “hello?” He cursed. The connection had been cut. Oh well, he didn’t require a response. He just wanted action.
Even if he hadn’t already been extremely distrustful of situations that seemed too coincidental, his brother’s assistant had sold valuable company plans to their competitor. After that debacle, they’d all assumed very strict requirements for the people working closest to them. They could ill afford another Roslyn.
Still, his chest tightened as the car stopped outside his plane, and he got out to board. He wasn’t so much in denial that he could refute that the night had been more than just a casual one-night stand. Which was all the more reason to cut ties now. He wouldn’t give up any power, no matter how subtle, to a woman ever again.
Jewel sat in Margery’s chair behind her desk filling out a mountain of paperwork while Margery puttered around in the background making phone calls and grumbling at the printer when it didn’t spit out the appropriate documents.
She’d spent the morning on pins and needles, waiting for Piers to return so they could at least try and air things out and get it behind them. The old saying about an elephant in the room was appropriate, only Jewel felt like there was an entire herd.
At lunch, she went down to the small café and nibbled on a sandwich while watching the seagulls dive-bomb tourists who had bread to feed them. If Margery let her on the company computer this afternoon, she’d e-mail Kirk and let him know she’d arrived on the island and would be staying a few weeks.
He was her only friend, but they rarely saw each other. He was forever taking assignments to far-flung places, and she was equally determined to travel her own way. It amused her that they were essentially lost souls who wandered from place to place. Neither had a home, and maybe that was why they understood each other.
An occasional e-mail, sometimes a phone call, and every once in a while they crossed paths on their travels. Those were good times. It was nice to connect to another person even if it was only for a few hours. He was as close to a brother or family member as she’d ever imagined having.
After finishing her sandwich, she tossed the wrapper and walked back to the employee elevator. Would Piers be back? A flutter abounded in her stomach, but she swallowed back her nervousness and forged ahead. It wouldn’t do to let him know she was put off by their unintentional relationship. If he could be cool about it then so could she.
When she walked back into Margery’s office, Margery looked up, a grim expression on her face. “Mr. Patterson wants to see you immediately.”
Jewel’s brow crinkled. Maybe it was more personnel stuff to sign. Lord knows she’d had enough paperwork this morning to choke a horse. With a resigned sigh, she turned and left Margery’s office and went several doors down to the human resource manager’s cubicle.
He looked up when she tapped on the frame of his open door.
“Miss Henley, come in. Have a seat please.”
She settled down in front of him and waited expectantly. He cleared his throat and tugged at his collar in an uncomfortable motion. Then he leveled a stare at her.
“When you hired on, it was with the condition that it was a temporary position. You were to be Mr. Anetakis’s assistant for the duration of his stay here.”
“Yes.” They’d been through all of this and she was impatient to get on with it.
“I’m sorry to say that he no longer requires an assistant. He’s had a change of plans. As such, your services are no longer required.”
She stared, stunned, for a long moment. “Excuse me?”
“Your employment here is terminated effective immediately.”
She stood, her legs trembling, her fingers curled into tight fists. “That bastard. What a complete and utter bastard!”
“Security will escort you to your room and wait while you collect your things,” he continued as if she hadn’t let loose with her tirade.
“You can tell Mr. Anetakis that he is the lowest form of pond scum. Verbatim, Mr. Patterson. Make sure he gets my message. He’s a gutless piece of chicken shit, and I hope he chokes on his damn cowardice.”
With that she turned and stormed out of his office, slamming the door as hard as she could. The sound reverberated down the hallway, and a few people stuck their heads out of their cubicles as she stalked past.
Unbelievable. He hadn’t even had the courage to fire her himself. He let his personnel director handle it while he ran for the hills. What a crock.
Two security guards fell into step beside her when she neared the elevator. It pissed her off that she was being treated like a common criminal.
She rode the elevator with them in stiff silence. They walked behind her to her door and positioned themselves on either side of the frame while she went in. How long would they give her before bursting in? The thought amused her even as rage crawled over her in waves.
Shedding her uncomfortable heels, she sank onto the bed like a deflated balloon. Damn the man. She had enough money to get off the island, but little else. Certainly no money to plan her next venture. She’d spent what she had to get here and taken the good-paying job to restock her resources. With the money earned in this job, she would have been able to travel, albeit economically, for the next six months without worrying about finances.
Now she faced the only choice available to her if she wanted a roof over her head. Going back home to San Francisco and the apartment that belonged to Kirk was her only option.
It had been an agreement between them. If she ever needed a place to stay, she was to go there. The utilities were taken care of each month and the pantry was stocked with staples.
She didn’t even have a way to contact him other than e-mail, and sometimes he went weeks without checking it. She just hoped he hadn’t planned one of his rare trips home at the same time she’d be there.
Her fingers dug into her temples, and she closed her eyes. She could look for work here on the island, but she’d already exhausted most of her possibilities when this job had landed in her lap. Nothing else paid nearly as well, and now she had no desire to stay where she might actually run into Piers Anetakis. The worm.
San Francisco was it, she admitted with forlorn acceptance. Hopefully she could land a job, save up some money. Having a rent-free place to stay would be helpful but she hated to take advantage of Kirk’s generosity.
“Damn you, Piers Anetakis,” she whispered. He’d managed to turn the most beautiful night of her life into something tawdry and hateful.
With a resigned shake of her head, she knew there was little point in feeling sorry for herself. There was nothing to do but pick up and go on and hopefully learn a lesson in the process.
Five months later…
P iers descended the steps of his private jet and strode across the paved runway to the waiting car. The damp, chilly San Francisco air was a far cry from the warm, tropical air he was used to. He hadn’t taken the time to pack appropriate clothing, and the thin silk shirt and light suit coat didn’t offer much in the way of protection from the pervading chill.
The driver had already been instructed as to Piers’s destination, so he sat back as the car rolled away from the airport toward the hospital where Jewel was being treated.
What had happened to her? It must be serious if she’d broken down and phoned him after he hadn’t been able to uncover her whereabouts for five months. Guilt was a strong motivator, and yet his efforts had come to naught.
No matter. He now knew where she was. He’d see to it that she had the best care and settle an amount on her to compensate her loss of employment, and then maybe he could get her out of his head.
When they finally rolled up to the hospital, Piers wasted no time hurrying in. At the help desk he was given Jewel’s room number, and he rode the elevator to the appropriate floor.
At her door, he found it slightly ajar and issued a soft knock. Not hearing any summons, he pushed the door open and quietly walked in.
She was barely more than a rumpled pile of sheets on the bed, her head propped haphazardly on her pillow. Her eyelashes rested on her cheeks, and her soft, even breathing signaled her sleep.
Even in rest, she looked worried, her face drawn, her brow wrinkled. Her fingers were clutched bloodlessly at the sheet gathered at her chest. And yet she was as beautiful as he remembered, and unfortunately for him, he’d been haunted by her beauty for the last five months.
He removed his suit coat and tossed it over the chair beside her bed and then settled himself down to sit and wait for her to wake. The slight movement alerted her, and her eyes flew open.
Shock registered as soon as she saw him. Her eyes widened in what looked to be panic. Her hands moved immediately to her stomach in a protective gesture he’d be blind to miss.
Then he saw what it was she was protecting. There was an unmistakable swell, a taut mound that shielded a baby!
Her eyes narrowed. “Well, you needn’t sound so accusing. I hardly got that way by myself.”
For a moment he was too stunned to realize her implication, and then when it came, it trickled like ice down his spine. Old memories came back in a wave, and hot anger quickly melted away the cold in his veins.
“Are you saying it’s mine?” he demanded. Already his mind was moving in a whir. He wouldn’t be trapped again by a conniving woman.
“She,” Jewel corrected. “At least refer to your daughter as a human being.”
Damn her. She knew that by personalizing the vague entity she shielded that he’d be inhuman not to react.
Against his will, his voice softened, and he found himself examining her belly closer. He impatiently brushed aside her cupped hands and then snatched his own hand back when her belly rippled and jumped beneath his fingers.
“Theos! Is that her?”
Jewel smiled and nodded. “She’s active this morning.”