Accidentally on Purpose

By: Jill Shalvis

Dedication




Laura Reeth and Sarah Morgan

for the unfailing friendship.

Always in my heart . . .




Chapter 1




#TakeMeToYourLeader



It was a good thing Elle Wheaton loved being in charge and ordering people around, because if it wasn’t for the thrill of having both those things in her job description, she absolutely didn’t get paid enough to handle all the idiots in her world. “Last night was a disaster,” she said.

Her boss, not looking nearly as concerned as she, shrugged. He was many things and one of them was the owner of the Pacific Pier Building in which they stood, located in the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco. A detail he preferred to keep to himself.

In fact, only one person besides herself knew his identity, but as the building’s general manager, Elle alone handled everything and was always his go-between. The calm, kickass go-between, if she said so herself, although what had happened last night had momentarily shaken some of her calm.

“I have faith in you,” he said.

She slid him a look. “In other words, ‘Fix it, Elle, because I don’t want to be bothered about it.’”

“Well, and that,” he said with a smile as he pushed his glasses further up on his nose.

She refused to be charmed. Yes, he was sexy in that utterly oblivious way of smart geeks and, yes, they were best friends and she loved him, but in her world, love had limits. “Maybe I should recap the disaster for you,” she said. “First, the little lights in every emergency exit sign in the entire building died at midnight. So when Mrs. Winslowe in 3D went to take her geriatric dog to do his business, she couldn’t see the stairwell. Cut to Mr. Nottingham from 4A—whom, it should be noted, was sneaking out of his mistress’s apartment in 3F—slipping and falling in dog poo.”

“You can’t make this stuff up,” he said, still smiling.

Elle crossed her arms. “Mr. Nottingham broke his ankle and very nearly his ass, requiring an ambulance ride and a possible lawsuit. And you’re amused.”

“Come on, Elle. You and I both know life sucks golf balls if you let it. Gotta find the fun somewhere. We’ll pay the hospital bill and buy Mr. Nottingham new pants. I’ll throw in a weekend getaway and he can take his girlfriend or his wife—or both if he wants. We’ll make it right.” Spence smiled at her snort. “Get yourself some caffeine. You look like you’re down a pint.”

“My life isn’t normal,” she said with a shake of her head.

“Forget normal. Normal’s overrated. Now drink that gross green stuff you can’t survive without.”

“It’s just tea, you weirdo. And I could totally survive without it if I needed to.” She paused. “I just can’t guarantee anyone else’s safety.”

“Exactly, so why take chances?”

Elle rolled her eyes. She was still taking what had happened last night personally. She knew everyone in this building, each and every business on the first and second floor and every tenant on the third and fourth floor, and she felt responsible for all of them.

And someone had been hurt on her watch. Unacceptable. “You do realize that the emergency exit system falls under security’s jurisdiction,” she said. “Which means the security company you hired failed us.”

Spence, following her line of thought, stopped looking so amused. He put down his coffee. “No, Elle.”

“Spence, a year ago now you sought me out for the general manager job. You put me in charge of covering your ass, which we both know I’m very good at. So I’m going to go discuss this matter with Archer, your head of security.”

He grimaced. “At least let me clear the building before you two go at each other.”

“There won’t be a fight.” At least not that she’d tell him about. “I’m simply doing my job and that includes managing one Archer Hunt.”

“Yes, technically,” Spence allowed. “But we both know that he answers to no one but himself and he certainly doesn’t consider you his boss. He doesn’t consider anyone his boss.”

Elle smiled and mainlined some more tea, the nectar of the gods as far as she was concerned. “His problem, not mine.”