A Wife by Accident - Ashe, Victoria

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  • A Wife by Accident

    Victoria Ashe

  • A WIFE BY ACCIDENT

    Copyright 2011 by Victoria Ashe

    All rights reserved. No part of thisbook may be used or reproduced in anyway by any means without the writtenpermission of the publisher, except inthe case of brief quotations embodied incritical articles and reviews.

    Please note that if you havepurchased this book without a cover orin any way marked as an advancereading copy, you have purchased astolen item, and neither the author northe publisher has been compensated for

  • their work.

    Our books may be ordered throughyour local bookstore or by visiting thepublisher:

    www.BlackLyonPublishing.com

    Black Lyon Publishing, LLC

    PO Box 567

    Baker City, OR 97814

    This is a work of fiction. All ofthe characters, names, events,organizations and conversations in thisnovel are either the products of theauthors vivid imagination or are used in

  • a fictitious way for the purposes of thisstory.

    ISBN-10: 1-934912-35-2

    ISBN-13: 978-1-934912-35-5

    Library of Congress Control Number:2011921967

    Written, published and printed inthe United States of America.

    Black Lyon ContemporaryRomance

  • For inspirations.

  • Chapter One

    "I hate my job." Hayely Black clenchedher fist around a tangle of clotheshangers. She twirled the latest additionto her boss considerable wardrobe outof the front seat and onto her arm.

    "I hate my job," she repeated to

  • herself as she struggled to balance astack of oversized boxes on the otherarm.

    "And" She paused and bumpedthe rickety car door shut with her hip. "Ihate my job."

    She couldnt even see to walk,much less put one foot in front of theother safely. She just knew if she felland broke a leg carrying out Kathy L.Marks errands, the woman wouldprobably fire her for lookingunprofessional with a cast that didntmatch her skirt.

    Hayely struggled with the boxes asa gust of wind threatened to knock them

  • out of her hands. No, a year ago shewould have never taken a job workingfor a woman like Kathy. But if she had tochoose between putting up with theabuse to keep a steady paycheck orrunning back home with her tail betweenher legswell, she couldnt evenconsider the latter.

    With the packages precariouslybalanced, she took a few more babysteps, peered out from behind the stack,and moved cautiously forward. So far,so good. Now if she could just make itaround the corner and inside to theelevator, someone in the office would nodoubt see her and help.

    Hayely took a step forward and

  • then another, when the impact ofsomething very large and hard slammedagainst her. The next thing she knew, theboxes went flying up, hitting her in theface as they fell. The force of whatevershed just run into pushed her backwardwith the packages and she wobbled atopher high heels before finally catching herbalance.

    The overpriced clothing was stilldraped over her arm. Good. Shebreathed in deeply. At least she hadntdropped that. She looked down at theground in front of her. The lids on theboxes had held tight. This was her luckyday, she thought, and then her gaze froze.

  • A pair of well-worn, brownleather work boots with rugged blacksoles caught her eye. The realizationstruck her that this was no wall shed runinto at all. Almost afraid to see who waswearing those boots, she tucked herchocolate-brown hair back behind herear and slowly took in the crisp newjeans. Hayelys heart pounded furiously.

    "Im so sorry. It was an accident. Icouldnt see you." She panicked andstarted to take a step back. Shed startedto feel bad about plowing over somepoor man until she saw the collisionhadnt budged him an inch. A wall, sherealized, would have experienced aboutthe same level of damage.

  • He put his hands out with hispalms facing her. "Dont"

    "Really, I didnt mean to."

    Was he going to grab her? Shedheard about criminals targeting womenwho didnt look like they could get awayquickly. And Kathys boxes had ensuredthat. She took another step of retreat.

    "back up," he finished.

    Horrified, Hayely looked down ather feet. Somehow her attacker theorybegan to slip away the second that awfulgrinding, popping noise sounded fromunder her shoe. She grimaced visibly.

  • "Not much for listening, are you?"

    Hayely lifted her foot and staredblankly at the crushed pile of goldenmetal and glass on the pavement. "Thinktheres any chance a little supergluemight do the trick?" She couldnt bringherself to look him in the face.

    "That was a twelve-thousand-dollar watch."

    Hayelys pulse raced. Twelvethousand dollars? That was almost half ayears salary to her. If she were thefainting kind, shed have been flat on theground next to the remains of the watch.The mans voice held a quiet rumble ofpower in it, as if when he used that tone

  • there was no doubt he would talk hisway into getting exactly what he wanted.His voice reminded her of a river,rushing deep and strong around bouldersin its path, wearing them away slowly.

    "Youre kidding? You haveinsurance for it? I hope." She closed hereyes as he approached her. Please lethim be insured.

    "I just bought it five minutes ago.So, no. Theres no insurance." He heldout a receipt for an item that cost a sumwith more zeros on the end than shecared to count.

    Hayely opened her eyes andlooked from the piece of paper up to his

  • face. He didnt seem as angry as shewould have been in his place. Shechecked to see if his lips were clenchedtogether into a tight line. The way a manheld his mouth could reveal his emotionsthank goodness this particular mansmouth still seemed relaxed. The cornersof it even turned up just a bit. His hazeleyes didnt looked crazed with furyeither, but he certainly wasnt letting herescape his narrowed gaze.

    "And I knocked it out of your handand stepped on it?"

    He nodded.

    "You didnt just drop it? It wasntalready broken?"

  • He shook his head the other wayand crossed his arms over his plaid-shirted chest.

    She ran her hand over herforehead and felt a tiny indentationwhere the corner of the box had found itsmark. "Well, I dont know what to doabout it."

    He unfolded his arms. "You couldtry offering to pay me back for starters."

    "Look, Mr."

    "Tarleton. Gary Tarleton." Heheld out his hand to shake hers.

    Hayely took his hand and was

  • surprised his touch comforted her,finishing off her nagging fears of beingmugged. In fact, her insides did a funnylittle flip-flop as she felt the warm skinand rough calluses brush against herfingers.

    "Im Hayely Black and theres noway on Gods green earth Ill be able topay that much money back. I just donthave those kinds of funds at myfingertips anymore."

    "Dont you have a job?" Garyasked in a matter-of-fact tone.

    "Ever see what an executiveassistant makes?" she asked.

  • "Youre a secretary then. Cantyou get a higher paying job?" Hisarrogant expression told her it ought tobe simple for her to just run out to thenearest company and take over the keysto the executive washroom.

    "What do you think? I have exactlyone month of work experience to myname, and I had to start somewhere."

    She hadnt meant to run into him.She hadnt meant to break his watch.And he wanted to lecture her on careeradvancement? What was she? A magnetfor people who wanted to launch intothis subject? This guy would get alonggreat with her father.

  • Gary scraped his hand across hisrough, stubble-covered chin. "Monthlyinstallments then."

    Hayely shook her head and thoughtof the two-weeks-past-due electricitybill on her kitchen table. "My paycheckbarely covers the bills. I have to eat, too,you know." Of course he didnt know.The man bought twelve-thousand-dollarwatches.

    "How about getting a loan?"

    "No collateral," she countered.

    "From a family member?"

    "Definitely not."

  • If she ran back to her family forhelp with anything, her father wouldhave her married to a wealthy old-money millionaire and registered forHarvard medical school before shecould blink. She could hardly imagineanything she was less interested in.

    "Do you have any better ideasthen?" That gentle, gruff roll in his voicetold Hayely that the manGary was stillcalm. Maybe twelve thousand dollarswasnt all that important to him after all.

    Hayely shook her head miserablyand her shoulder-length brown hairslipped out from behind her ears. "No.Im all out of ideas."

  • Gary stood and scrutinized her fora moment. "In this job of yours, I assumeyou do some supply ordering, someshopping?" he finally asked.

    "Yes. Why?"

    He ignored her question. "Howsyour sense of style?" He surveyed hersuit and saw that it matched her shoes,which was good enough for him. Hermakeup was applied with some subtleclass, too. He took that as a sign of goodtaste.

    "Im alright with colors and such,if thats what you mean."

    "Are you responsible?"

  • "Usually. I mean, yes. Look, Idont want to get personal with you. Ijust want to figure out what I can do tomake it up to you for breaking yourwatch."

    Gary smirked, turning one cornerof his mouth up just a little more. He ranhis fingers through his already unrulybrown hair. "Youll do."

    "Ill do what?"

    If he thought shed trade her bodyfor forgiveness of a debt, theNeanderthal had another thing coming.The way he was looking her up anddown, it wouldnt surprise her if hesuggested it.

  • Gary fell silent again. He walkedover to her side and examined herhairstyle. Her sleek, unlayered hair andsoft bangs gave her an air of simplesophistication. She kept herself in goodshape and wore an understated suit thatwouldnt draw any unwanted attent