The Rochester Sisterhood Book 1
When the perfect staffing storm hits Jane Rochester’s temp agency, she winds up being Lincoln Chandler’s assistant for a week. Jane doesn’t do office romance, and her last relationship was one-sided. But one hot kiss from Lincoln changes everything. Now she has to decide if it’s love at first sight or just a fiery physical attraction.
Lincoln Chandler’s been focused on building his real estate development firm into a Fortune 500 company. He wasn’t looking for a relationship—particularly when his last girlfriend married Lincoln’s biggest competitor and took proprietary information with her in the bargain. But Jane Rochester is an undeniable force of nature, and the heat between them might be more than just a few hot nights in the bedroom.
“No. I think it’s quite admirable.”
“I’m glad you approve.” At the wry amusement in his voice, Jane looked in his direction. He arched an eyebrow at her, and she looked back at the roadway in front of her.
“Not that it matters, but yes, I do approve,” Jane replied as a yawn parted her lips. A soft masculine laugh rumbled out of his chest.
“If I didn’t know about your late night, I’d have to think you were bored with my company.”
“My late—oh, what you heard this morning,” she murmured with embarrassment.
“It must have been a good book for you to stay up into the early morning hours.
“It was.” Jane nodded not taking her eyes off the road as she remembered turning the last page of the novel. “Although I should never have assumed I could claim boss’s privilege and arrive late at work today.”
“That’s definitely a perk when you’re running the show. But you make up for it with late nights.”
“That I’m accustomed to,” she said with a laugh.
“You should laugh more often.”
“What?” She darted a surprised look at him.
“You have a nice laugh.” His voice was a gentle caress across her skin.
“You also find it hard to take a compliment.” His chuckle made her lips twist with chagrin.
“You’re welcome,” he said as he directed that devastating smile of his in her direction. “Mary indicated you have a sister, whom I assume you were talking to earlier.”
“Adele,” she said with a nod and cringed slightly at the memory of her phone conversation with her baby sister. “Actually I have four.”
“Yes, Helen, my twin, and I came first. I’m the oldest by ten minutes. I have a younger brother too.” She laughed at his astonishment. “It makes for rowdy, but fun, family dinners.”
“Are you and Helen identical twins?”
“Yes, although most people can easily tell the difference between us now. When we were younger we were able to switch places when we wanted, and usually got away with it. What about you?”
“I have two sisters, although Mary’s kids, my cousins, are like siblings. We all grew up together and are still close even though we only see each other once or twice a year.”
“Mary Parker. She’s my dad’s sister. She’s been working for the company since she lost her husband more than ten years ago.”
The response made her jerk her head to look at him in shock. It wasn’t until he reached for the wheel and steered the car back into its lane she realized how distracting his revelation had been. Jane cringed at the thought of what might have happened if he’d not acted quickly. She couldn’t wait until she dropped the guy off at his place. She needed to get home and crawl into bed. Maybe she’d wake up to find today was nothing more than a nightmare. She twisted her lips in a frown of self-disgust.
That wasn’t going to happen. But if she really wanted to daydream, there was more than six-feet of hot male seated next to her to focus on. The moment the thought crossed her mind, she closed her eyes for a brief second. She was mad, just stark raving mad. Alice. She had to call Alice and plead with the woman to come back to work. Hell, she’d find a nanny for Alice if the woman would come to Chandler Enterprises first thing in the morning. The loud jangle of her car’s hands-free phone system filled the air. The screen showed her assistant’s number, and Jane pushed the button on the steering wheel to accept the call.
“Cassie’s in the ladies room.” To Jane’s horror Adele’s voice floated out of the speaker. “So how’s your day going with Mr. Hot Stuff? Bought any nightgowns yet?”
“Oh my God,” Jane gasped. “Adele, you’re on speaker, and Mr. Chandler is with me.”
“Oh.” Adele paused for a moment and Jane heard Lincoln laughing softly at her side. Less than a second later Adele picked up where she left off. “Hi there, Lincoln. I hope my sister is treating you right. Here at the Thornfield Agency we pride ourselves on giving our clients the best service possible.”
“Under the circumstances, I think Jane is doing a terrific job. Thanks for asking.” The amusement in his voice made Jane want to crawl into a hole and die. She was going to kill her baby sister and no one in the family would blame her for doing so.
“Mr. Chandler’s car is in the shop.”
“Lincoln.” The sinful whisper made her right ear burn as her brain tried to right itself.
“I’m taking him to an appointment and then back to his place.”
“Well you have to eat. The two of you should check out that new restaurant in Shockoe Bottom,” Adele said blithely. It was official. She was going to murder Adele Rochester slowly and with great pleasure.
“Was there a reason you called?” Jane said as she gritted her teeth.
“Okay. I just wanted to let you know that Gordon Somerville looked over the contract and signed it right away. I knew you were a little worried he might not like the contract termination clause, but he didn’t even question it.”
“Great thanks for letting me know. Let me call you in the morning.”
“Sure, I’ll talk to you later.”
“Okay, hey wait!” Adele exclaimed. “Mr. Chandler, you wouldn’t happen to own a black BMW do you?”
There was more curiosity in her sister’s voice than anything else, but Adele’s question made Jane’s knuckles grow white as she gripped the steering wheel tightly. Oh dear God, it was Lincoln’s car she’d hit. She knew it with a certainty that made her stomach churn. Desperately, she fought to keep the bile down. It made perfect sense. He’d called for his car to be repaired, which was why he was currently in her car.
“Adele, I’m on sixty-four and traffic’s already getting bad. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” With a quick press of a button, Jane abruptly ended the call. Eyes fixed on the road in front of her, Jane struggled to collect herself then swallowed hard.
“Was my sister right, Mr. Chandler? Do you own a black BMW with a sumo wrestler handprint on the front bumper?”
He didn’t answer and Jane’s heart sank. She glanced sideways. He was watching her with that enigmatic gaze of his. He didn’t have to say a word to confirm what she knew was the truth. She’d been teleported to an alternative reality designed to humiliate and reduce her to tears. What had she done to deserve this today? Staying up reading a book. That’s what she’d done. Next time lights out by midnight no matter how good the damn thing was.
“I asked you a question, Mr. Chandler.” She said sharply as her grip on the steering wheel tightened further. Why she wanted verbal confirmation, she didn’t know. In all likelihood it was because she was simply a glutton for punishment.
“It’s been pretty obvious to me that this is not one of your good days. I don’t believe in kicking someone when they’re down. I figured it could wait twenty-four hours.”
Jane didn’t know whether to sob or throw up. The man was making an understatement when he’d said that today had been a bad day for her. Mistakes happened. She knew that, and she was far from perfect, no matter how much she tried to be. But today? She couldn’t remember ever having a meltdown on the monumental scale this day had become. The urge to cry made her blink as she pushed back the tears. She had zero intention of making herself look even more unprofessional than she already had today. Jane swallowed the ball of tears lodged in her throat.
“I’m not sure what to say except I’m sorry, which is sounding far too repetitive,” she whispered.
“Accidents happen. It can be fixed.”
The matter-of-fact response created a large crack in the fragile shell of control she’d encased herself in. The man was being kind, and that wasn’t helping her keep it together. She’d come into Chandler Enterprises this morning expecting Lincoln Chandler to be an ass. Instead, he was turning out to be a nice guy. Never in her life had she been so eager to see a day disappear into oblivion.
Unwilling to speak for fear of becoming a blubbering idiot, Jane concentrated on getting him to his appointment. As if understanding her need to drive in silence, he didn’t speak until she took the exit off of the interstate. Quietly, he directed her to their destination off of route sixty. A large Navigator was parked on the side of the gravel road Jane turned onto several moments later. She parked in front of the realtor’s car, and shut off the engine. Hands still on the steering wheel, Jane shot a quick look at the man beside her.
“Do you need me to go with you?”
“It’s not necessary, but the fresh air will wake you up. You look like you’re about to fall asleep at the wheel.” His words sent images of a horrific car wreck flooding through her head, and Jane nodded.
“Fresh air is definitely a good idea.”
Without waiting for a response, Jane opened her car door and stepped into a sizeable patch of thick mud. Staring down at her shoe embedded in the mud, Jane sat there dumbstruck. The absurdity of it all had her wavering between laughter and tears. Lincoln had already left the car, and she heard him utter an oath beneath his breath as he squatted next to her foot.
“Hold on, Cinderella.” A warm hand cupped the back of her calf as he eased her foot out of her shoe. There was something intimate about the action, and the air left her lungs as electricity streaked up her leg. It spiraled through her with the strength of an out-of-control wildfire until her thundering heartbeat was ringing loudly in her ears. His hand still on the back of her leg, Lincoln cradled her foot in his hand and gently urged her to swing her leg back into the car. With a small tug Lincoln pulled the ruined shoe from the mud. What had been a sensible, serviceable pump would have to be tossed. She’d never be able to get the mud out of the black suede material.
“You haven’t pissed off a gypsy recently, have you?” Lincoln said wryly as he lifted up the shoe to examine it. “I’m beginning to think you’re cursed.”
“I have a pair of tennis shoes in the back. I’ll just—”
“Nope, you’re staying here. Turn on the stereo, roll down the windows, lean back and close your eyes. I shouldn’t be too long.”
Lincoln’s expression dared her to argue with him, but she was more than happy to follow his instructions. He shut her car door then opened the rear door to place the mud-soaked shoe in the floorboard of the back seat. Hands braced on the roof of the car, he stared down at her for a moment.
“Your eyes aren’t closed.” Despite the lazy, seductive note in his voice, it was still a command.
He arched an arrogant eyebrow at her, and Jane obediently closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the headrest. The scent of honeysuckle brushed across her senses, and something like the kiss of a butterfly caressed her cheek. It was the last thought she had before she sank into a dreamless sleep.