It's not up on the other stores yet, but hopefully it won't be too long before you can pre-order it from the other places.
For now, here's Chapter Two. Enjoy!
Jade stood by the threshold of Thomas Bilton’s impressive office, her boss so focused on his computer that he hadn’t noticed her standing there. For a man who was almost sixty-five and could retire with more money than Jade would know what to do with, Thomas still worked at least fifty hours a week.
Jade had already experienced how exacting Thomas was as a boss. She didn’t mind it. It was actually quite inspiring. In the handful of days that she’d worked for him, she could see why he’d become very successful.
Besides, she’d heard from Lexie how generous Thomas was to his dedicated employees. Jade hoped to be on the receiving end of some eye-popping bonuses, too.
But right now, she wasn’t looking forward to the conversation she was about to have with her boss. Contrary to what Lucas had accused, she wasn’t someone who did things without question. So even though she’d be risking her boss’s ire, she had to say something about the way she’d been kept in the dark about what Lucas had been told. She didn’t want to establish a precedent she wasn’t comfortable with.
She rapped on the door, making Thomas look up.
“Jade!” Thomas rose from his chair and gazed at her with hopeful anticipation.
Jade hid a sigh as she walked towards her boss’s desk.
“Lucas turned up?” Thomas asked, gesturing for her to take a seat.
“Yes, sir,” she said, sitting down. “His answer was no. He also said he didn’t appreciate being conned—”
Thomas gasped. “He read the letter?”
“He read it?” Thomas asked again in delighted disbelief.
“Yes, and he said no to whatever’s in it, sir,” she repeated, wondering if her boss hadn’t heard her earlier. “But, Mr. Bilton—”
“Oh, Jade. Thank you!”
Jade frowned in confusion.
“This is progress,” Thomas said, still looking thrilled. “Do you know how many times I’ve tried to get him to listen to what I have to say? I sent him emails and tried to call him. But he didn’t want to listen to a single word. Then I got other people to intervene on my behalf. Still no success—until now. I don’t expect him to have a change of heart from the one letter you handed him, but I’m encouraged that he read it.”
Jade took a deep breath. Well, that was an unexpected reaction.
“What did you say to him?” Thomas asked eagerly. “How did you get him to read the whole letter?”
“I pleaded with him, sir,” she said with a shrug. “He really wasn’t happy, Mr. Bilton. And if you don’t mind me saying, I wasn’t either. Lucas said he’d been lied to just so he would turn up to our meeting. I would have appreciated if you’d told me that.”
“Oh, Jade, I apologise. You see, I needed you to look innocent to boost the chances of his reading the letter. If he got an inkling that it was from me, he wouldn’t have opened it. So it worked!”
Jade stared at Thomas. The man was practically glowing, making her ignore her annoyance. Whatever this was about, it was clearly very important to her boss.
Thomas leaned back in his chair. “We must keep on chipping away,” he declared.
“I’ll need you to get him to talk to you again, Jade. And work on changing his mind.”
“I know this is highly unusual,” Thomas said. “But I really need your help.”
“Sir, after today I doubt he’d want to see or hear from me again.”
“Oh, but you must try. You’re the first person who’s gotten him to pay attention to something from me. And at your first attempt too!”
Jade didn’t know what to say.
“You have no idea how important this is to me, Jade,” Thomas said quietly. “It’s an order.”
She sighed. How could she say no when he put it like that? Besides, she’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that Lucas Renner intrigued her. She wouldn’t mind knowing more about him.
“I can only try, Mr. Bilton,” she answered. “I can’t promise you the results you want.”
“And that’s all I expect,” Thomas replied, beaming at her. “There are things I need to sort out regarding this, and they’re taking more time than expected. I’ll let you know when I need you to make contact with Lucas again.”
“Um, sir, I know you said this is a personal matter. But since I’ll be working with you on this, would you mind telling me what this is all about?”
Thomas considered for a moment. “I guess that’s a fair request. When I have the information I’m waiting for, we’ll talk about it, okay?”
Jade nodded. “Thank you, sir.”
“Well, that’s it for now. And thank you again, Jade.”
“You’re welcome, Mr. Bilton.”
Jade walked back to her desk, curiosity tickling her hard. Thomas hadn’t mentioned a time frame for their conversation, but she’d have to settle for a promise.
Jade entered the apartment she shared with one of her best friends. She lifted her eyebrows when she found Cassie Stephens looking glum as she sat in front of the TV, eating a bar of chocolate.
“Hey, Cassie, what’s wrong?” she asked.
“My boss is a prick,” Cassie said. “Someone resigned today, and he announced that he won’t be looking for a replacement. He expects the rest of us to share the work, but we’re already overloaded as it is!”
“I keep telling you to look for another job.”
“I’m still waiting for you and Lexie to recommend me for a role at Bilton Machineries,” Cassie said with a grin.
Jade chuckled. “Don’t worry. We’re keeping an eye open for you.”
“How was your day?”
“Weird!” Jade sat down to tell her friend about the meeting with Lucas and her conversation with her boss.
“Wow. Sounds very intriguing.”
“I know. The best—or worst—part, I’m not sure which yet, was that Lucas Renner is a total hunk.”
Cassie lifted an eyebrow. “You met someone today who you think is a total hunk?”
“I looked up at the ceiling as if it were the most interesting thing in the world when he caught me staring at him.”
Cassie gasped. “You know what this means. You are so interested, Jade Tully.”
“Yay. Glad to know my heart hasn’t permanently turned to stone after all,” she said dryly.
“Yes. Yay,” Cassie said, looking pointedly at her. “It’s okay to give your heart a rest after it’s been hurt. But it’s been too long since you’ve taken a risk in the relationship department, Jade. That’s why I think it’s exciting that this Lucas guy had a strong effect on you.”
“But don’t you think it would be totally unprofessional if I flirted with him? Besides, considering his obvious issue with my boss, I doubt he’d even want to be in the same room as me again.”
“But didn’t Thomas say he wants you to keep working on him? Use your charm and see how effective it is,” Cassie teased.
“Ha-ha. I don’t think my feminine powers would have any effect on him. He’s too good-looking,” she said with a pout.
“Ah, you are most definitely interested.”
“You should have seen him, Cassie. You’d know what I mean. But then again, I think I’ll keep him to myself.”
“Now you’re really making me curious about this guy. Maybe the next time you have to meet with him, I could lurk in the background.”
Jade sighed. “Then he’ll see you and fall for you. And there goes another guy stolen from me by a so-called friend.”
“Excuse me. How dare you think I’m like that woman you used to call friend?” Cassie said, giving her a censuring push. “But… if this Lucas Renner is as hot as you say he is…”
“Glad you’re able to laugh at that joke, Jade,” Cassie said quietly.
“Yeah. I guess I’m really ready to move on now,” she said with a grin, Lucas Renner’s handsome face floating in her mind.
“Jade, I know it’s late in the day but I need you to do something for me before you leave for home,” Thomas said over the phone.
“Sure, Mr. Bilton,” Jade answered.
“My wife’s niece just had a baby girl. We’ll be visiting her in the hospital tonight, and Diana and I want to bring a big bunch of flowers and some gifts for the newborn. Could you get them, please?”
“Of course,” she answered. “Do you have a particular gift in mind?”
“Diana’s niece had hinted that a bracelet engraved with her child’s name would be nice, along with some clothes and toys. You can get the bracelet from our favourite jewellers.” Thomas gave her the name of an exclusive store.
“What’s the budget, sir?” she asked.
Thomas told her.
Jade gulped. Her most expensive necklace was less than half the price of the bracelet Thomas wanted her to buy.
Jade walked towards a flower shop two blocks away, carrying a large shopping bag full of baby stuff. The expensive bracelet she’d just bought was safe in her handbag.
Ruby, the florist, would be surprised to see her back again so soon. She’d been there just last week.
Since her nephew had been diagnosed with a heart condition, Jade had been buying flowers every two weeks for her brother and sister-in-law. At first, Jerry had asked her not to waste money on things that wilted and got thrown away after several days. But the lovely blossoms cheered his wife so much that sometimes Jerry would even remind Jade to pick up a fresh bunch on her way home. Good thing that Ruby had been giving her a good discount for being a frequent customer.
Jade used to buy from a different florist, but when Cassie came home one night with flowers from her workmates for her birthday, Jade had started buying from Ruby. Ruby’s arrangements were much more beautiful and the quality of her flowers was superb. She’d been a regular of Ruby’s now for over four months and had developed a friendship with the older woman. Ruby had been an additional source of comfort when Jade had been so worried about her nephew’s heart surgery.
Jade walked into the inviting flower shop, spotting Ruby with another customer. Her assistant wasn’t around, so Jade put the shopping bag down in a corner and browsed the greeting cards section while she waited. Thomas hadn’t asked her to buy a card, but she’d get one anyway. There were several cute ones for welcoming a new baby girl into the world.
“What are you doing here?” a low growl came from behind her, making her jump and whirl in surprise.
Lucas glared at her, looking more pissed off than he’d been when he’d left her at the café yesterday.
“So?” he whispered harshly, his handsome face marred by a deep scowl.
“Um… I’m here to… buy some flowers.” She gave herself a mental shake to get back her composure.
“I don’t believe you,” Lucas said in a soft but angry tone. “Please leave now.”
“What? No! I told you I need to buy some flowers,” she whispered heatedly, annoyance replacing her earlier fluster. How dare this guy order her about?
“Come with me,” Lucas said, grabbing her arm and steering her to the exit.
She resisted, frowning at him. What the hell was wrong with this man?
Cheery goodbyes came from Ruby and her customer, then Ruby appeared from around the corner.
“Jade! Hello. I thought it was you,” Ruby greeted, looking at her and Lucas with curiosity.
“Hi, Ruby,” Jade said, walking away from Lucas with relief. “I need a big bouquet for someone who’s just had a baby girl.”
“Sure,” Ruby said as she lifted her eyebrows at Lucas. “You two know each other?”
“Yes,” Lucas answered, smiling at Ruby. “Jade’s a friend of a friend. Anyway, Mum, there’s something I need to talk to her about first. Excuse us for a while.”
Mum? The revelation disconcerted Jade enough that she let Lucas lead her outside.
Lucas faced her when they were far enough away from the entrance to Ruby’s shop. “Thomas sent you here, didn’t he?” he asked. “What’s your assignment this time? To get my mother to talk to him?”
“Don’t lie, Jade.”
Jade gasped indignantly. “I am buying flowers for Mr. Bilton, but he did not send me here. For your information, I was Ruby’s customer way before I started working at Bilton Machineries. And I had absolutely no idea she’s your mother, because in the four months that I’ve been coming here every other week, I’ve never seen you around. So please don’t accuse me of a hidden agenda.”
Lucas narrowed his eyes, but she held her head high and glared back at him. She might find him attractive enough to get muddled every once in a while, but she refused to get intimidated by this infuriating male—even though her lashes were batting involuntarily despite her anger.
Argh! Damn him for being so good-looking.
The suspicious look in Lucas’ eyes disappeared and his lips curved upwards.
Shit. Jade Tully, you’re so freaking obvious.
“I’m sorry,” Lucas said.
Her brows rose.
“You really didn’t come here to talk to my mum about Thomas?” Lucas asked.
“And you didn’t know she’s my mother?”
“No. How could I have known that, Lucas?”
“Does she know you work for Bilton Machineries?”
She shook her head. “I only just started, so we haven’t had the chance to talk about it yet. I’m sure she’ll ask where I work now, though. She knew I was looking for a new job.”
“Please don’t tell her.”
Lucas rubbed his face. “It’s a long story, Jade. And it’s private.”
“In other words, it’s none of my business,” she said.
Lucas gave her a tight smile that held sadness she was surprised to see. It pricked her conscience and, unthinking, she squeezed his arm in a gesture of comfort.
She pulled away, cursing herself for being too touchy-feely towards a man she hardly knew.
“Lucas, I see your mum every two weeks,” she said hurriedly. “Unless there’s a long line of customers waiting, we usually have a friendly chat. What should I tell her if she asks me?”
“Anything, as long as you don’t say you work for Bilton Machineries. It would upset her if she finds out that Thomas is trying to contact me. Please.”
There was no sarcasm on Lucas’ tone, only a soft plea. She had lots of questions for him and opened her mouth to ask one. But she shut it and nodded instead. Judging from Lucas’ stance, Thomas would be more forthcoming with details. She’d have to wait.
“Thank you, Jade. I appreciate this. Let’s go back in.” Lucas motioned for her to go first.
She headed back to the flower shop, trying to get a fake story clear in her head. She didn’t look forward to dishing out fibs to Ruby, but she couldn’t find a good enough reason to argue with Lucas’ request. Her gut told her it was the way to go for now.
She only hoped she could be convincing. Her expressions and gestures often gave her away even if her words didn’t.
###End of Chapter Two###
I can't wait until the book goes live on the 17th! Hope you're looking forward to it as much as I am 🙂
Till next time, take care.