Just a few more days to go before March 17th, the official release date of The Unwilling Executive (Captured by Love Book 1). And it's time to share Chapter One with you!
Without further ado, here it is!
Jade Tully exhaled her frustration as she checked her watch for the umpteenth time. It was thirty-five minutes past the scheduled start of her meeting with a guy called Lucas Renner, and he still hadn’t turned up.
She drummed her fingers on the wooden table of the busy café in the middle of Sydney’s bustling business district while surveying the patrons. Perhaps Lucas was already here, waiting?
No. She was the only one sitting by herself.
Unfortunately, she didn’t even know what Lucas looked like. She was relying on her new boss’s assurance that Lucas would get the message of where she was sitting and the colour of the top she was wearing.
“Can I take this for you?” a wait staff asked, indicating her empty mug.
“Yes, thank you,” she answered. “And I’ll have another latté, please. Decaf, this time.”
Jade didn’t want another drink, but the establishment was full and she felt guilty hogging a table when there were people waiting for a seat. She grabbed her phone and dialled the direct line for Thomas Bilton.
“Jade,” her employer answered.
“Hello, Mr. Bilton. I just want you to know I’m still waiting for Mr. Renner. He hasn’t turned up yet.”
“Hang on a minute. Let me check if he’s left a message.”
A few seconds later, Thomas was back on the line.
“There are no messages, Jade. Please keep waiting. He must be held up somewhere.”
“Jade, remember it’s of utmost importance that you get him to read the letter and get his answer. And as I’ve said before, don’t worry if he gets annoyed. He’ll be reacting to the message, not to you. Okay?”
“Yes, sir,” she answered, her curiosity spiking once again.
Thomas hadn’t told her anything about this errand, except to say that it was a private but extremely important matter. So she didn’t press for more information. Anyway, how hard could it be to get someone to read a letter and get an answer?
She took out a sealed envelope from her handbag and inspected it again. Not even the recipient’s name was on it.
It was all very strange, and she couldn’t help but think that this extraordinary task demonstrated Thomas Bilton’s eccentric tendencies that Lexie Mead, one of her best friends, had told her about.
Lexie worked in the marketing department at Bilton Machineries and had witnessed some of the odd demands Thomas had made to their team. Evidently though, Thomas had always known what he was doing. After all, the man had single-handedly built a construction machinery company in Australia that now had branches in several countries.
Who knew, maybe Thomas and Lucas Renner were partners in a top-secret project, and they didn’t trust email technology for delivering important documents.
Jade rolled her eyes at herself. Gosh, she was so bored with waiting that she was coming up with ridiculous ideas. In all probability, this assignment might be her boss’s way of testing to see if she was indeed the best person to be his new PA.
Lexie had nominated her for the position when Thomas’ long-serving employee had retired last week. Aided by a glowing reference from her old boss, Jade was the last person standing after a gruelling selection process.
The job offer came at the right time. Jade was still in shock from her previous employer selling the company to an overseas buyer, who’d subsequently closed the Australian branch. Heaven knew she needed a good salary to help her older brother Jerry and his wife with their financial needs. Their baby boy had just had open-heart surgery to fix a congenital birth defect and was in for years of medical care. Even though Jerry didn’t like taking money from Jade, it wasn’t a matter of choice.
But Jade wasn’t guaranteed to keep this new job. She was on the usual three-month probationary period, and Thomas had made it clear that if she didn’t perform to expectations, she’d be replaced immediately.
So it bothered her that Lucas Renner still hadn’t turned up. Damn it. Another important task waited for her in the office—one she was supposed to finish before she went home for the day. It was taking her longer than expected to complete because she was still learning the system.
A commotion outside drew her attention. Someone must have knocked down a lady, who was now gathering what looked like pamphlets from the ground—chasing after some that were being blown by the breeze. Passers-by helped, and a tall, dark-haired man caught Jade’s eye.
He was good-looking. Extremely.
The guy turned his back to her as he stooped down to pick up a loose sheet. While he was wearing a business shirt, she could already picture a hard and muscular body underneath his clothes. He was pure male from the way he moved.
Jade rested her chin on her hands and continued to watch, enjoying her unexpected reaction to the stranger. It had been such a long time since someone attracted her enough to make her want to gape.
A gust of wind blew the paper he was trying to retrieve, causing Mr. Hot to face her way again.
Suddenly, he glanced up and caught her staring at him through the window.
Jade’s eyes widened before she found herself hastily averting her gaze up towards the ceiling, as if something there had captured her attention.
She almost laughed out loud when she realised what she’d done. Wow, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d behaved like that from being caught ogling.
A wait staff delivered her second latté. She smiled her thanks before looking out the window again. But Mr. Hot was nowhere to be seen.
Ah, damn. Why couldn’t she have smiled at him? She wasn’t shy around men.
She smirked. No she wasn’t usually shy unless the guy was really attractive—as in incredibly. Then she got flustered—an irritating reaction she’d been trying to change. But it hadn’t been easy making improvements in that area when she hardly stumbled across such men. She guessed she had ‘high standards’ when it came to who could make her blush.
Well, considering her luck with men, Mr. Hot was probably already taken anyway.
Jade’s heart fluttered as she glanced up. Mr. Hot wasn’t outside because he was inside.
“Hi,” she responded.
Her jaw dropped. “Yes.”
“I apologise for being so late. I’m Lucas Renner.”
What? She’d expected to meet with a man close to her boss’s age of sixty-four. But the hunk in front of her seemed no older than thirty—about five years older than her, if she wasn’t mistaken.
“Seeing how tardy I’ve been, I can understand why you’re reluctant to shake my hand,” Mr. Hot said, his tone apologetic and teasing at the same time. It was kind of cute.
“Hi, Mr. Renner,” she said, rousing her addled brain and going for the handshake while her face burned. Ugh. Did she have to blush?
“Please call me Lucas,” he said as he sat on the chair opposite her. “I’m really sorry for making you wait. I was at another meeting that took much longer than expected. I didn’t have your contact details so I couldn’t update you. But thanks so much for waiting.”
“No problem,” she responded, her earlier annoyance dissipating. His excuse was understandable, she guessed.
A wait staff approached and offered Lucas a menu.
“What else would you like, Jade?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m fine, thanks.”
“Are you sure? I made you wait for so long that I owe you at least a cake or coffee. Please have another one with me,” Lucas said, smiling.
Her lips curved up in response. “Maybe I’ll have sparkling mineral water then.”
“Don’t you want something sweet to go with it?” Lucas asked, cocking his head to the side.
Was it her imagination or did Lucas’ tone drop a tad? And was that a flirtatious look he was giving her?
“Just that,” she said, taking a deep breath.
Lucas gave his order to the waitress, then leaned on the table, a charming smile still on his face.
“So, Jade, you’re here to interview me about my work?” Lucas said.
Jade’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Uh, no. I’m here to hand you this letter.”
Lucas frowned as he took the envelope from her. “Are these the interview questions?”
“I don’t know, actually. I was just told to give it to you and ask you to read it.” She fidgeted in her seat, getting uncomfortable. What the hell was this about?
Lucas tore the envelope open and pulled out a sheet of paper.
In a second, his friendly countenance disappeared, replaced by a glare of displeasure.
Lucas stared at the signature line of the printed letter. Scrawled in black ink were three unmistakable words: Your father, Thomas.
Heat rose to his face and he didn’t bother hiding his scowl.
“This is from Thomas Bilton,” he said accusingly to the brunette in front of him.
“Yes,” Jade said with a hint of apprehension. “I’m his new PA.”
“I don’t appreciate being conned like this,” he rasped, slitting his eyes.
“Conned? I don’t understand,” she said, her eyes rounding.
He crumpled the sheet and put it in his pocket. “Did you type the letter?” he grunted as he took a couple of bills from his wallet and dropped them on the table.
“No. Mr. Bilton must have typed it himself,” Jade answered, sounding nervous. “I don’t know anything about it. He just told me to come here and hand it to you.”
He inhaled deeply, scrutinising Jade. She held his gaze, looking bewildered… and damned attractive. It was a pity she worked for Thomas Bilton.
“I wouldn’t have turned up if I knew this was Bilton’s doing,” he said, standing up. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m leaving now.”
“Wait, Lucas, please,” Jade said, rising to her feet. “Could you please just read it? I’m supposed to relay your answer back to Mr. Bilton.”
“Please, Lucas,” she said quietly. “He told me it’s imperative that you read it.”
Something in Jade’s tone made Lucas pause, and he found himself pulling the letter out and smoothing it. Admittedly, this whole business of a beautiful woman hand-delivering him a letter made him curious as to its contents.
He read it and his lips twisted. The old man was good. He penned quite a moving piece—if Lucas didn’t know any better. But he did. Thomas Bilton was simply trying to manipulate him to protect his reputation.
He shoved the paper back in his pocket. “You said you don’t know what this is all about?”
Jade shook her head.
“So if your boss tells you to jump off a cliff, you’d do it without any question?”
Jade’s face reddened. “Of course not. I didn’t ask questions because he said it was a private matter.”
“So you’re the kind of person who doesn’t care if your job requires you to lie, as long as you get paid good money for it.” Why he felt the need to goad the truth out of her, he didn’t know.
Jade lifted her chin up in defiance. “I’m sorry, but I never lied to you. I was simply following instructions to meet you.”
They glared at each other, and Lucas felt his anger start to evaporate. Jade’s expression seemed honest enough. And hell, her captivating face was distracting him. Those long lashes that framed her beautiful hazel eyes didn’t seem embellished by mascara. And her lips—full and sexy, and—
“I need your answer, Lucas,” Jade said.
The bitter taste came rushing back in his mouth. “My answer is no. And if the circumstances were different, I would have said it was a pleasure meeting you, Jade Tully.”
Then he walked off.
Lucas entered the Bondi car service centre owned by his close friend, Connor Reid. He walked to the state-of-the-art service area at the back and found Connor there, checking a computer monitor that gave the condition of one of his client’s vehicles.
“Hey, bro,” Connor said. “How was your meeting with Jade what’s-her-name?”
“She was a fake,” he said flatly.
“What do you mean?”
“She wasn’t there to interview me for an article. She’s Thomas Bilton’s PA.”
Connor stared at him before pressing a button on the screen. Then Connor led him to his office.
Lucas started for the sofa in Connor’s big room, but changed his mind and sat on a chair by the desk.
“What’s wrong with the couch?” Connor asked.
“Please,” he said with snicker. “I’m not going to sit where you and your wife have sex when no one’s around.”
“Hey, it’s been treated with a stain-resistant thing. And Amanda changes the blanket all the time.”
“Amanda was here last night while you worked overtime, wasn’t she?”
Connor just grinned at him and sat on his chair behind the desk.
Lucas shook his head good-naturedly. There had been a time, when he and Connor had worked for the same Formula One team as mechanics, that the two of them had competed for the title Mr. Fuck King—a label jokingly given to Connor by their workmates because of Connor’s popularity with women from different parts of the globe. Now the title was all Lucas’, but it had lost its lustre. He’d only wanted it for the fun of stripping it away from Connor, anyway.
A picture of Jade Tully popped into his head. Unfortunately, it came with the remembrance of whom she worked for.
“So this Jade woman was sent by Thomas to talk to you?” Connor asked.
“Yup. She made me read this letter where Thomas pleaded for me to talk about the possibility of being part of Bilton Machineries. He said he’s getting old and wants to make sure that the company continues to be owned and operated by his own flesh and blood. And since I’m his sole heir…” He couldn’t help but say the last word with a good dose of sarcasm.
“And you still don’t want to have anything to do with the company? Or him?” Connor asked gently.
“Come on, bro. You know the whole story. Why would he want me to run his company?”
“Hey, you’re the one responsible for making your mother’s flower shop a success because you made sure she has efficient systems for online ordering and fast delivery. Sure, there’s a difference between a flower shop and a billion-dollar company, but—”
“That’s not what I mean, Connor,” he interrupted. “This is all a joke. Thomas never acknowledged me as his son, much less his heir, until recently. He’s up to something.”
“Okay, fine,” Connor said, raising his arms in surrender. “So did you tell off that Jade woman for lying?”
Lucas sighed, Jade Tully’s apprehensive but beautiful face appearing in his mind. “I don’t blame her. I’m sure she was just following Thomas’ orders. She’s new, so she must be desperate to keep her job.”
“You have to admit she was effective,” Connor commented. “How many times did the other PA try to get you to talk to Thomas, or read the emails and letters she sent for him?”
“Yeah,” Lucas said, wondering if he’d ever cross paths with Jade Tully again.
###End of Chapter One###
Stay tuned for Chapter Two! It'll be hitting your inbox soon 🙂 .
Enjoy your day/night!
Lots of love,