Authors: Marie Higgins
“You’ll be the first I tell.” Jordan threaded her fingers through her hair, pushing the bulk away from her face. “Why don’t you take the day off. There’s probably not much to do, anyway.”
Erica snorted unladylike. “You just don’t want me there, huh?”
“You got that right.” Jordan laughed.
“Hey, Jordan…thanks for the Christmas bonus. It really helps this time of year.”
“You’re welcome. You totally deserve it. Now good bye, Erica. I’d better hurry and get ready for my interview.”
“Bye. Merry Christmas,” Erica cheered.
“Merry Christmas, Erica.” Jordan clicked off the phone and set it back on the nightstand before sliding her feet off the bed. She stretched her limbs, yawned a few times, then hurried into the bathroom to take a refreshing shower. Hopefully, her appointment would go well. No more jerks like Juanito or Eddie.
Wouldn’t it be lucky to find the right man now? Serena and
were coming into town this afternoon, and although Jordan hated the idea of deceiving Serena—a woman who’d been like her mother for several years—there was no way she’d let Kenneth know of her non-existent dating life. He could never know how much he’d hurt her two years ago.
Once she had the water running at just the right temperature, she stripped off her nightgown and stepped inside the porcelain shower. The fragrance of the rose-scented soap drifted around her as she washed.
As she readied herself for the appointment, visions of last night with Rocky floated through her head and she smiled at herself in the mirror. He’d been wonderful. Even though he was still the aggressive man she’d kissed inside the bar, she’d gotten to know a different side of him, too. She liked that…almost too much. When he told her about his grandfather, and about the pocket watch…she thought her heart would melt.
Then something flashed through her mind. She stopped brushing her hair and gasped. She’d called him Brock. Not Rocky. Her heart hammered against her ribs. Why hadn’t he commented on it? Brock was his brother, for heaven’s sake. Rocky should have said something, unless....
She furrowed her brow. Could they be the same man?
She rolled her eyes and chuckled. What was she thinking? Definitely still in her own little dream world.
But, what if they were? Did that mean Brock had multiple personalities?
A shiver ran through her as she finished fixing her hair and applying her makeup. If this morning’s interview didn’t go well, she’d certainly search out Rocky and ask him to be her pretend boyfriend. With him, it wouldn’t be hard to act like a woman infatuated.
No matter what, she had to discover if Brock and Rocky were the same man. What were the odds…
She dressed in her gray business suit. After all, this was just a business arrangement. Not a love affair.
Toast and orange juice were the only food her nervous stomach could handle this morning. After brushing her teeth and spraying perfume over her body, she hurried out the front door to the car.
Snow had covered the ground during the evening, and thankfully the roads were clear enough to drive. She hurried through cleaning off her car, climbed in and took off toward work.
It worried her that the man applying for the job might not take her seriously. She wasn’t after a tryst, just a great performance. How could she let the man know how important it was that Kenneth didn’t suspect a thing? It’d kill her to see pity written on her ex’s face.
The people who maintained the office building she rented from had already cleaned off the sidewalks and threw ice-melt on the pavement, making it easier to hurry inside. She unlocked the door to her office and stepped in, flipped on the lights in the reception area first, then into her private office. She returned to the reception area and spotted an envelope that had been slipped under the door that she hadn’t seen a minute ago. Then again, the lights weren’t on, so perhaps that’s why she didn’t see it.
Her heart slammed against her chest as she picked it up. The writing on the envelope looked the same as the writing on the other letters. Could it be?
She slit it open with her finger. With shaky hands, she pulled out the paper. The second she saw the magazine cutout words, her stomach clenched.
I’ll get you. I’m watching your every move.
A slight ache pounded in her forehead, but she refused to give into hysterics. Her appointment would be here any moment. She’d not let this deranged person run her life. After she concluded the interview and found a business partner, she’d take the letters to the police.
With the decision firmly tucked in the back recesses of her mind, she wouldn’t think about it again for the rest of the day. Especially not today. Too many things were happening to let a stupid letter disrupt her life.
The front door to her building opened and heavy footsteps echoed through the receptionist area. Her heart raced faster than his steps. She took a deep breath, and with a straight back, walked out to greet her applicant.
The man’s masculine scent of spice aftershave touched her senses before she actually looked at him. A familiar muscular outline of the man stood in her office. Her heart dropped. She lost her ability to speak. Even her limbs refused to move.
Rocky stood looking up at one of her hanging pictures. He slowly turned her way. His smirk spread into a wide grin. “Hello, Jordan. Or should I call you Doctor Reed today?”
Confusion boggled her mind for a brief moment. She found the strength to shake her head, but still, her mouth refused to make any kind of noise.
“No?” he asked. “You don’t want me to call you Doctor?”
Inwardly, she screamed at her mind to work, and at her body to function. She cleared her throat and found her strength. “You don’t need to call me Doctor. You’re not my client, just your brother’s.”
Or was he?
He seemed so familiar standing in her office and looking at her like he was.
Swallowing hard, she tried to keep her eyes focused on his face and not wander down to his long-sleeve blue shirt stretched across his corded muscles and his black jeans that fit his lower half so well. She wiped her moist palms against her skirt.
He shook his head. “Well, not really, Jordan. My brother doesn’t know you.”
His words confused her again. “Brock didn’t tell you he was seeing me?”
“My brother’s name is Jake.”
“Then who is Brock?”
Her head pounded from confusion.
have multiple personalities! She needed to sit. She needed to scream, cry, or just…throw up.
“Can we go into your office and talk?”
She nodded, then turned and led the way. Her favorite chair was closer, so she hurried and sat on the leather cushions before her legs lost strength. Besides, this also meant he could not sit next to her, but on the couch, instead.
“Do you want to explain to me why you’re Brock and not Rocky?”
“I’m both. Brock Hamill is my name, but my nickname is Rocky.”
“Then why did you lie to me and tell me Brock was your brother?”
“I didn’t…well, not really. You asked if I had a brother. I told you yes, because I do have a brother. Jake. You asked how I knew Brock. I ignored your question and asked how you knew Brock. So, in reality, I never admitted to having a brother named Brock.”
She put her shaky hand on the back of her neck to massage out the stiffness. “Okay, now we’ve gotten that out of the way, which man are you? Are you Brock Hamill with the cheating fiancé, or are you the man I met in the bar?”
He grinned. “Both.”
“No, you can’t be both.”
“A little over two years ago, I was married to Lanie. She cheated on me with my best friend. She was the reason I became an alcoholic. But if you’re asking which man I’d rather dress like, well, my answer will have to be Rocky. I’ll admit, right after the divorce, I looked as pathetic as the client you’ve been seeing, but this is the way I am now. Like it or not.”
Oh, but that’s the problem.
She liked it too much. “Lanie was your
, not your girlfriend. I understand.” Or did she? She forced herself to smile. “Now, the big question. Why are you here this morning? And more importantly, why the charade?”
He leaned forward and linked his large fingers over his knees. “I’m interested in your advertisement.”
“How did you know it was my advertisement?”
“I called the day after the ad came out in the paper. I tried not to sound too interested at first because I had a plan. Once I met you in the bar that first time, I knew I wanted to get to know you better. When I learned you were a psychiatrist, I decided to become your client, in a sense. You see,” he paused and chuckled, “because your ad asked for acting ability, I thought the best way to prove to you I had that talent was to show you.”
Her hand dropped from her neck, and she stared at him, dumbfounded. She wanted to be angry over his trickery, yet…the man amazed her. Could she consider him intelligent for thinking up such a plan? Had all of this been an act? When he touched her so tenderly, kissed her with so much passion, and called her
, was that all an act too? Her stomach churned again, and she worried she would indeed empty her stomach right here.
She cleared her throat again. “Well, I certainly see you can act, but what of the other stipulations in the ad?”
“I’m sure you know how charming and witty I can be.” He winked, which caused butterflies to dance in her stomach, even though she wished they wouldn’t. “I’m thirty-six years old, so I fit in your age category.”
He relaxed back in the couch, propping one leg over the other knee. Darn! He looked so rugged and…manly that way. Even his cocky grin was sensual.
She clasped her cold hands together and rested them in her lap. “All right, I see you fit the qualifications perfectly.”
“Are you going to tell me what kind of business partner you need?”
“Yes, of course.” She breathed deeply, trying to clear her brain from his overpowering masculinity. “I’m looking for a man to portray my um, boyfriend.” His eyes widened, but she continued. “Today my stepmother and her husband are coming for a visit. It’s important they think I’m involved in a serious relationship. They won’t believe me if I just tell them. They need proof.”
He tapped his finger on his chin. “What is this all about? I can feel there’s something you’re not telling me. I think I know you well enough to know you’re not just doing this as a joke.”
“Of course not.” She scowled. “But it’s complicated.”
“Please tell me.”
The sincerity in his voice caused her to catch her breath. Could she be honest with him? Her track record with men wasn’t the greatest, and giving them her trust was like stabbing herself in the heart. Yet, Brock was different. This whole situation was different. She didn’t know if she could trust him after what he’d just done with her. If she didn’t yearn to tell someone about her life so badly, wishing almost daily for someone to confide in…maybe she’d be able to turn him away and not say a thing. The tugging of her heart also convinced her it was all right to tell him. She hoped she was doing the right thing.
She rose from her chair and walked to the window, leaning her shoulder against the wall. In softer tones, she continued. “The man my stepmother married is my ex-boyfriend.” She heard his quick intake, but didn’t dare look at him. “He dumped me and married Serena for her money. Anyway, his betrayal was hard for me to take, and I haven’t had a serious relationship since he left. The reason I want you to be my business partner is because I don’t want him…” She paused, clearing her throat when self-pity began to rise inside her. “I mean Serena is dying of lung cancer, and I don’t want her to worry.”
The cracking of the leather couch let her know he stood. His footsteps echoed on the wooden floor behind her. He clutched her shoulder, and heat from his hand melted through her suit jacket.
“When do you want me to start?”
His breath teased the sensitive skin by her ear, shooting a chill down her spine. She turned her head and looked at him. He was closer than she’d thought. His breath smelled of mints. She dropped her focus to his lips, and her heart picked up rhythm.
“There’s one thing I have to know before I take you as my partner.”
“What’s that, pretty lady?” His fingers lifted from her shoulder and touched her neck in a tender caress.
His nearness made her limbs weak, as always. “I want to know why you kissed me the way you did at the bar, and in my car.”
He shrugged. “I was caught up in the moment.”
She tore her gaze from his mouth and looked into his warm green eyes. “I’m only looking for a business relationship out of this. Nothing more.”
“So you just want me to forget about the passionate woman I know you can be?”
“Yes. I wasn’t Doctor Reed when I was with Rocky.”
“Then bring that other woman back.”
“She doesn’t exist.”
“She sure did last night.”
Pushing past him, she walked to her desk, absently arranging the notepads. “I mean it, Brock. If I agree to take you on as my partner, you’ll not see that woman again.” She looked over her shoulder at him. “Ever.”