Authors: Kimberly Dean
Relentless heat. Uncontrolled desire. And a man to slake her every need…
Delia Jenkins is distressed when a raging fever forces her to leave work on the day before a big bid. She’s brand new on the job, but her delirium has pushed her to the point where she can’t think straight. She goes home to recuperate, but the heat inside her only builds. That night, a man shows up at her apartment to care for her. He’s concerned about her well-being, but the fervor has reached a ravenous pitch.
There’s only one way to douse the flames.
It’s only after the fever breaks that Delia realizes her work situation has gotten hotter than ever before.
Table of Contents
“Man, Delia. Did you get the license plate of the Mack truck that ran over you?”
Delia Jenkins slowly lowered the cold glass of water she’d been rubbing against her burning forehead and glowered at her coworker. The grimace she found on his face killed any delusions she might have had about feeling worse than she looked. Her shoulders slumped. So much for the concealing powers of makeup.
“You silver-tongued devil, Rob,” she said tiredly. “Now I know why you get all the girls.”
“Oh, come on. You know what I meant.” He threw her a lopsided smile that probably did bring all the girls running. The smile dimmed, though, as he stared into her eyes. Reaching out, he caught her chin. “You shouldn’t be here, hon. You’re sick. I can feel how overheated you are.”
“I’m fine.” Delia squirmed in her seat as the lie crossed her dry lips. His touch made her body temperature creep up another two degrees and, although normally she would have enjoyed the reaction, she just couldn’t take it now. She was already boiling over as it was. “It’s just warm in here.”
Trying to act casual, she pulled away and took a quick sip of water. Squinting, she tried to concentrate on the spreadsheet that took up most of her desk. She had to blink twice before the numbers came into focus.
“Nice try,” Rob said as he leaned closer. “Now tell me the truth. What did the doctor say?”
She should have known. He wasn’t going to let it drop. She set down her glass and looked at his handsome face again. Even it was starting to blur, which was a shame. A darn shame.
She let out a heavy sigh. She never should have told him about her appointment. It was just… Well, shoot, he’d invited her to lunch, and she hadn’t wanted him to think that she was blowing him off. She’d waited a long time for that invitation, and she wanted him to ask again. “Dr. Mosely said there’s a bug going around. Nothing too serious. It’s usually gone within a day or two.”
“A day or two? You don’t look like you’ll last that long. Did he prescribe anything?”
She couldn’t help but glance at the drawer where she kept her purse.
“You haven’t taken it?” For as much as Rob played up the carefree, GQ routine, there was an astute brain behind those dark eyes. “Delia.”
She raked a hand through her hair and accidentally dislodged the pencil she’d tucked behind her ear. She bent over to pick it up off the floor, but a wave of heat moved with her. Dizzy, she sat still until her internal gyroscope righted itself.
Damn this fever.
She could feel it burning inside her, trying to escape through her very pores. With every degree her temperature rose, her anxiety level cranked up right along with it. She couldn’t be sick now. She just couldn’t.
“The doctor said the medication might make me groggy,” she explained, “And I’ve got to finish doing the budget for this bid. Mr. Lloyd wants to look over it before we submit it tomorrow.”
Rob slapped his hand down in the middle of her precious spreadsheet, fingers spread wide. “That’s what’s keeping you here? The bid? We’ve already got the job, Del. It’s in the bag.”
Sure it was. Delia rested her weary head in the palm of her hand and looked at the man who’d so casually perched on the edge of her desk. He practically oozed confidence. And why shouldn’t he? He was good-looking, friendly, and outgoing—all the traits of a natural-born salesman. If he said that the Berkshire Hotel deal was in the bag, it probably was.
But contracts couldn’t be signed without an official bid—and they certainly wouldn’t be signed with a budget that didn’t add up.
“Your part of the sales job may be done, but mine isn’t,” she said, trying to make him understand. “Please, just let me concentrate on this.”
Determinedly, she stared down at the spreadsheet, but nerves made the muscles at the back of her neck pull tight. There was an error in here somewhere. She just couldn’t find it! She hadn’t been able to see it on her wavering computer screen, and the printout wasn’t any better. If she got all doped up on medication, she’d never track it down.
And there would go her job.
The thought made her feel even worse, and she pushed it aside. She couldn’t think like that. She had until her four o’clock meeting with Mr. Lloyd to fix things. She’d just have to do a low simmer for the next three, long, slow-ticking hours.
Rob drummed his fingers on her desktop. “I’m not going to leave you when you’re feeling like this.”
“Rob, please. It’s not that bad. Really.”
Wearily, she wiped the back of her hand across her forehead. She was surprised when it came away dry. How was that possible when her brain felt like it was frying? Shouldn’t she be sweating? She glanced again at her desk drawer. She hoped the antibiotics would work. The moment she got home, she was going to do battle with that childproof cap. Until then, though, she had numbers to crunch.
“Go home,” Rob said.
She couldn’t risk it. She’d only been with Lloyd Security Systems for two months. She needed this job. The market for bookkeepers wasn’t exactly hopping; she knew that from personal experience. She’d been unemployed for six months before Jackson Lloyd had hired her. There was no way she was going back on that unemployment line. Not for a little hot flash.
Okay, a burning inferno. She could manage.
“That’s it,” Rob declared. Suddenly, he pushed himself to his feet. The wheels of Delia’s chair squeaked as she instinctively pushed herself back, but he rounded the desk and caught her by the arm before she could roll to safety.
She looked down at the unyielding grip. His hand was big, and his strength surprised her. His touch was cool compared to her hot flesh, and her belly squeezed. There were other, more needy places that would welcome that cool touch. “That’s what?” she said distractedly.
“The end of my patience. You’re going home if I have to strap you to that chair with duct tape and roll you there.”
Her belly squeezed even tighter. Bondage? Ooh. She shook her head and laughed off his outrageous suggestion. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“No?” Still keeping his clutch on her, he rolled her to the supply cabinet a few feet away.
“Wait!” she sputtered when he found a roll of gray tape. She scrambled out of the chair and held up her hands to ward him off. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Taking care of you. Somebody needs to.”
Delia rolled her eyes and summoned her patience. “Listen, I appreciate your concern, but you’re not my boss. You can’t send me home, and I don’t want to go. I want to finish my job.”
“You have finished your job—at least as much as you can. Stop worrying about big, bad Jackson Lloyd. I’ve got an in with him. If I say you need to go home, he won’t have a problem with it.”
Right. Maybe in Rob’s dream land. Not hers.
She let out a long, calming breath. It was time to compromise. A determined look had settled onto her coworker’s face—one that told her he meant business. She’d seen that look before when he’d set his sights on the new IT gal.
The pretty blonde had been in his bed before the weekend had rolled around.
Delia’s lips flattened as the usual feeling of jealousy nipped at her. She’d been waiting for Rob’s look to be focused on her, but not after he’d just told her she looked like roadkill. “I’m almost finished. Just let me double-check the numbers. Then I’ll go.”
He shook his head.
“I hate to show you this, but you’re off your game today, Del.” He walked her back to her desk and pointed at the spreadsheet. “Two plus two is four. Not twenty-two. You’re going home.”
Her jaw dropped in horror. “You’re lying. I didn’t do that.”
She bumped him out of the way and leaned down to see better.
“I just sat there and watched you.”
“Where?” She picked up her pencil and began searching for the unforgivable error. If only the numbers would stop dancing!
“Uh uh. Come on.” He plucked the pencil from her fingertips and dropped it on the desk. “Let’s go.”
“But Mr. Lloyd—”
“Jack won’t care. If he was here, he’d be telling you to get your shapely little butt home.”
Delia gaped at her coworker. He couldn’t be talking about the same Jackson Lloyd she knew. First off, her boss probably had no opinion whatsoever on her backside, but more to the point, since when had he not cared about something? She’d never met a man more focused, more intense. And when a job was up for bid? Forget about it. “He’ll fire me.”
“No, he won’t. To tell you the truth, he’d be more pissed if you screwed up the numbers because your brain overheated.” Taking charge, Rob pulled open her desk drawer and grabbed her purse. He slid the strap over her shoulder and nearly swooped her up into a fireman’s carry before Delia yelped and backed away. Her shapely little butt promptly bumped up against the corner of her desk, and his eyebrows lifted in challenge. “Are you going to go willingly?”
She froze as her nerves flared once again. Was he right? Was she doing more harm than good if she stayed? She didn’t know which was worse, leaving when she didn’t have any sick leave time accrued or doing a poor job.
He never gave her time to decide. He grabbed their coats from the rack, swung an arm about her shoulders, and started to usher her out of the office.
Delia glanced fretfully over her shoulder at her desk. She never left it that messy—and she never left before ferreting out a misbalance. It would drive her crazy all night. “Shouldn’t we call Mr. Lloyd? Or at least leave a note?”
“I’ll tell him.”
The door swung open just before they got there, and Delia came up short when her foot landed hard on the toe of a sharply polished shoe. Strong hands latched onto her waist before the top of her head could clip a man’s chin. She came to an abrupt stop and found herself staring at a familiar tie and a well-shaped Adam’s apple. Her heart lodged in her throat. Oh, God. “Mr. Lloyd!”
“Whoa,” he said. “Where’s the fire?”
Burning inside her chest. Delia felt a twinge of panic. Why couldn’t she have fended off Rob for five more seconds? Just five teeny seconds would have saved her from this…this embarrassment. For heaven’s sake, she’d nearly mowed her boss down. She did everything she could to make herself seem professional, efficient, and indispensable to the man, and here she was scuffing up his shiny loafer—caught as she tried to sneak out.
The shoe was the easiest problem to fix. “Your shoe.”
She immediately started to bend down. To do what, she didn’t know. Spit-shine it? His hands tightened, though, and her spine snapped straight.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I didn’t see you there.”
“That’s obvious,” he said.
For a second, neither of them moved. They stayed together, only inches apart, in a near embrace. Delia had to remind herself to breathe. She inhaled shakily, and his tangy aftershave filled her senses. His big hands nearly spanned her waist, and the heat radiating through her thin, silk blouse branded her.
She’d thought she’d felt warm before.
His touch had her smoking.
The moment was swiftly gone. A glance from her to Rob had the expression on Jackson’s face going hard. Delia sucked in her breath when he lifted her off his foot and set her away from him. She teetered, though, and latched onto his forearms for balance. The strength hidden by his suit jacket stunned her, and she looked up quickly. She could have sworn she saw a muscle flinch in his firm jaw.
“You two going somewhere?” he asked.
Flames colored her cheekbones and, for the first time all day, the fever wasn’t to blame. Meekly, she shuffled backwards. His disturbing touch dropped. The way he was looking at her made her uneasy. His lips were flat in displeasure. His jaw was tight, and his eyes were…flinty. There was no other way to describe it.
Rob looked at Jackson for a long moment. Then his arm smoothly re-encircled her shoulders. Protectively. Almost possessively. “Ease up, Jack.”
Her boss’s demeanor went so icy, even Delia could feel it slicing through the shimmering haze of her fever. What in the world? She was too intimidated to look at him straight out, but she glanced at him through the curtain of her lashes. Understanding hit her like a lightning bolt.
Oh, dear Lord! Not only did he think two of his employees were cutting out on the day before a bid; he thought they were heading out for a quickie! She felt faint and reached out for the door handle. This couldn’t be happening. She needed this job!
“Delia’s feeling under the weather,” Rob said smiling, oblivious to the undercurrents. “I’m taking her home to bed.”
Jackson’s dark eyes narrowed, and Delia wished the ground would open up and take her. Why? Why had Rob felt inclined to mention her bed? Was he trying to make matters worse?
“Mr. Lloyd,” she said anxiously. “I don’t think you understand.”
“I understand plenty.” His piercing gaze swung over to her. “Are you finished with the budget?”
She flinched at the harsh tone.
“Almost,” she said weakly. She knew she shouldn’t have listened to Rob. The trouble-making hottie. She turned on her heel, even though the sudden move made the room spin. “I’ll have it finished by our four o’clock meeting.”