Executive assistant Lori has finally said those three little words to her boss. Goodbye, I quit. Then she sort of ran over him. It was an accident. No, really. It was. Now he can’t remember anything––and it’s up to her to keep his billion-dollar corporation running until he gets his memory back.
CEO Jackson Sinclair wakes up in a hospital to a life he can’t remember. The only person who feels familiar is Lori. The more he learns about his past, though, the more it disturbs him. He was kind of cold, and he can’t imagine why she put up with him. But he has a company to save, and it seems like his lovely assistant is hiding something from him.
As his condition shows no signs of healing, Lori can’t help but wonder what’s best—telling the truth about his accident and losing the man of her dreams, or keeping quiet and living the best lie of her life.
Each book in the The Billionaire's Second Chance series is STANDALONE:
* A Baby for the Billionaire
* Giving up the Boss
* Catching the CEO
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The breath left her lungs as she said the words. She'd practiced them a dozen times, but there was a massive difference between talking to her own reflection and saying them aloud to the man of her dreams.
Lori lifted her chin and forced herself not to fidget. She was a professional. In theory, anyway. She could survive this.
"What did you say?"
She shivered as Jackson's deep, velvety voice rolled over her.
"I quit," she said again, proud when her voice didn't waver. "I'd offer to give two weeks' notice, but I doubt either of us wants to draw this out. Better if I leave today and make a clean break. I already have a few candidates for my replacement in mind."
The man behind the desk said nothing as he studied her. How many times had she been on the receiving end of that piercing blue stare?
I can take it one last time.
Because after today, she'd no longer be an employee of Sinclair Enterprises and she'd never again have the intensity of the CEO's gaze centered on her.
Chin up, shoulders back. Can't crack now.
She wouldn't waver when it had taken so long to finally pull the trigger.
Lori was the perfect executive assistant. Calm in a crisis, prepared for anything, ready to jump in at a moment's notice. For years, she'd worked alongside Jackson Sinclair, the genius who controlled a billion-dollar empire. Years of seeing him flash his smile as he closed deals for amounts that made her mind boggle. Years of being his patient shadow, ready with all the information he could possibly need at her fingertips. Years of watching him look at everyone but her.
And she was done.
I deserve more than being the afterthought of a wealthy man.
But while that was all true, it didn't prepare her for the reality of standing in front of him, telling him she was walking out of his life forever.
I should have done this in an email. Or with an HR army at my back. Coming alone was a mistake.
Jackson rose slowly to his feet. He rounded the desk, buttoning his black Armani jacket as he moved toward her. The damned thing fit his body as if it'd been made for him. Which, knowing Jackson, it probably had.
It always seemed utterly unfair to her that he'd been blessed with a brain that never stopped and a body that drew every eye in the vicinity to him. How many times had she wanted to brush the dark hair back from his eyes or cup that chiseled jaw?
Even in her heels she'd have to stand on her tiptoes to reach those full lips. And how she'd wanted to. Far too many fantasies had played out on an endless loop in her head. Ones where she'd trip and he'd catch her, pulling her up against that rock-hard chest. Or better yet, she'd lean over him to look at a briefing only to find herself pulled onto his lap.
Or skip the pretense all together. Just lock the door, pop the blouse, and see where the afternoon takes us.
They'd been good fantasies. Her faithful companions for years, really. They'd been the reason she hadn't moved on when other opportunities had presented themselves. The reason she'd turned down invitations to dinner from men much closer to her league.
They were the reason she couldn't leave him.
"If it's about money —"
She laughed, cutting him off. "It's not."
"Then what? You have to admit this is sudden."
But it's not. If you'd ever paid any attention to me, you would have seen this coming.
"It's time I moved on," she replied. "I don't want to be your assistant forever."
He shrugged. "Then pick a job. We can find you a different position if you aren't feeling fulfilled. What do you want?"
You. I want you. A lifetime with you.
But those weren't words she could say. She knew him better than anyone did, and that particular confession would send him sprinting from the room. She was not the woman for Jackson, and it was time she faced that truth.
"I want to leave," she said. "Please let me go."
He stopped before her, those icy blue eyes seeing far more than she ever wanted him to. "I don't let important things slip away without a fight."
Things. Not people. I'm just an accessory to him.
Her heart cracked a little more even as she lifted her chin higher. She could do this. She just needed to focus and remember the hours she'd spent practicing. Sure, her mirror might not have been the greatest stand-in for Jackson, but the basic routine was still the same.
Say your speech and get the hell out of Dodge. Enough of this.
"It's time for me to branch out and tackle new challenges," she said, the words rote. "I will always appreciate my time here and the skills I've learned. I thank you for many good years at Sinclair Enterprises. It will be hard to leave it behind."
"Then why are you going?"
"Because I'm moving forward with my life and no longer feel that the goals of the company and my personal endeavors align as they once did."
"Stop it." He touched her then, his hand cupping her arm as he pulled her closer. "Stop talking to me like I'm HR."
Her heart beat faster as she stared up at him.
"You've stood by my side for years. We've holed up in this office working till dawn more times than I can count. Don't you think you owe me more than this?"
"This is a job, and I've given my notice. That's all there is to say."
His gaze dropped to the hand touching her arm. She waited in silence as he processed her words and did her best not to let his nearness divert her attention.
Focus. Ignore that scent of his. What is it, Eau de Torture by Calvin Klein?
"Whatever is wrong, I can fix it," he said at last, those eyes returning to hers.
"No, you can't," she whispered. He couldn't be someone he wasn't. She'd never want him to try. This wasn't on him. It was her stupid heart that had crossed professional boundaries. Her ridiculous crush that was driving her away from the best position she'd ever had.
But if she didn't go now, she'd be stuck wasting her life while she watched him from the sidelines, and that scared her more than anything else.
An expression she couldn't name raced across his face before it was gone so fast she wasn't even sure whether it had just been her imagination.
Her breath caught in her throat. He'd never looked at her the way he was now. There was a healthy dose of disbelief, but there was also something else. A desperation, almost, to make her stay. People didn't walk away from the Sinclairs. Not without a damned good explanation, and what could she say?
"Sorry, I've fallen hopelessly in love with you and I don't think that will lead to a productive working environment."
They didn't exactly make Hallmark cards for sentiments like that.
Steeling herself against the hardest thing she'd ever had to do, she stepped away from his touch.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I really am. But I'm not staying. All my projects have been either wrapped up or passed off to the right people. A temp is already in my office and my top interview picks are scheduled to come in tomorrow during your mid-morning lull, so it shouldn't take too much of your time. You'll be fine without me."
"Have you been headhunted to another company?" he demanded. "Is that it? Running off to join my rivals?"
"Never," she breathed.
He paced around her. "None of this makes any sense."
Maybe, but you're not the person who needs to be okay with this decision. I am. "I don't have anything else to say."
"No, you came in here with your bland, practiced lines that don't say anything at all and expected me to, what? Shake your hand and wish you well?"
She held out her hand to him. "Yes."
He eyed her outstretched palm like it was a snake. "Like hell."
"Give me a damn reason."
With a sigh, she let her hand drop. Closing the distance to him, she allowed herself one tiny slip. Rising to her toes, she brushed the lightest of kisses to his cheek, closing her eyes for the briefest of moments, before stepping back.
"I'll never forget our time together or the work we accomplished. And I know with all my heart that you will be fine. This is a very small bump in the road for you and you'll be back on your feet by next week with a new assistant who's even better than I am. Promise."
"There's no one better."
Her heart twisted. "Just wait and see," she whispered. "You'll forget all about me in no time."
Truer words had never been spoken. It was just too bad she'd spend a lifetime remembering him.
With a last long look, she turned and walked from the office.
In a daze, she made her way back to her desk and grabbed her purse and the last packed-up box. The rest were already in her trunk. She'd said her goodbyes and exchanged tearful hugs with the other EAs. There was nothing left to keep her here.
Her throat was tight as she rode the elevator down to the parking garage. She managed to keep it together almost all the way to her car. But the moment she sat behind the wheel there was no stopping the torrent of tears that came from a broken heart.
She'd done it. She was free.
And for the first time in years, she was well and truly alone.
Throwing her box into the passenger seat, she dropped her head to the steering wheel and sobbed as if her heart had been ripped from her chest.
Go home. Get out of here and fall apart in the comfort of your own apartment. That's where the wine lives.
Wine sounded like the very best idea she'd ever had.
Lifting her head, she glanced at herself in the overhead mirror and grimaced. There was no saving the mascara streaked down her face. Brushing at it in a halfhearted attempted to remove the smudges, she fished her keys from her purse and started the car.
Time to leave.
I have get away. To put as much distance as I possibly can between me and Jackson.
Then maybe she could get over him and heal. They'd just been a victim of their circumstances. That was all. It wasn't his fault he'd never been attracted to her any more than it was hers for falling for the wrong guy.
She'd put a city between them and everything would work out. Life would go back to being normal once again.
Her tires squealed as she took a corner faster than she should have.
Slow down. Breathe.
The exit was almost there. She could see the sun shining beyond Sinclair Enterprises. She was so close.
Until a man stepped into her path.
Lori slammed the brakes but it was too little too late. Her car crashed into the man, sending his body tumbling over the hood before he disappeared off the side.
"Oh God, oh God, oh God," she chanted as she finally pulled a car to a halt and jumped out. She ran over to the prone figure laying on the ground with his back to her.
"Please be alive," she begged. "Please don't let me have just killed a man."
Gripping his shoulder, she gently rolled him over and bit back a cry.
She hadn't plowed into just anyone. No, the man she'd had to go and mow down with her car was the very person she was trying to escape.
"Oh God. Jackson. What have I done?"CHAPTER 2
Something was beeping.
He frowned, or tried to, at least. Even that small change in his expression sent needles of pain stabbing into his brain.
Hissing in a breath, he tried to figure out what he was doing in a dark, pain-filled world.
"I think he's waking up," a voice said. It was soft, light, and feminine. Something tugged at him, telling him he should know that voice, but the instinct was fleeting and gone in a second as he tried to open his eyes.
Light seared his already battered brain, making his body twist in agony.
"Let's up his pain meds," a male voice said, filled with authority and surety.
He was dimly aware of activity going on around him before some of the pain ebbed. Still, he waited another minute before trying to open his eyes again.
When he did, several things became clear.
The first thing he saw was the white, sterile hospital room. The second was a woman leaning over him, her hazel eyes filled with a worry so deep he might have said it bordered on panic.
The dark blonde hair around her face was pulled back in a messy bun as if she'd done it automatically instead of intentionally. Blood dotted her white dress shirt, and he thought he saw a trace on her cheek as well. Instinct made him try to lift his hand to wipe it away, but while his fingers rose a few inches from the bed, they fell just as quickly.
"W-what ... "
"Step aside, miss," the doctor said, ushering the woman away. She moved to the foot of his bed but refused to go any farther, her eyes never leaving his.
"Mr. Sinclair, I'm Dr. Warren, the senior physician in charge of your care. You gave us a scare there. We're all very lucky your accident wasn't any worse."
"Acc —" The word wouldn't form properly but it appeared he didn't need to say more.
"Car accident," the doctor clarified. "You were hit and thrown over the hood of the car. You've got some bad scratches and a fractured wrist, but given the circumstances, your injuries could have been far more severe. Ms. Carlow called the ambulance immediately. You were here in minutes."
Carlow. Something about that name made his gaze go back to the woman at his bedside.
"I'm sorry," she said, her voice broken and watery. "I'm so sorry, Jackson."
He frowned again, this time with far less pain. "Jackson," he breathed, managing to get the whole word out.
The doctor leaned over him. "Yes?"
It took concentration for him to form the words he needed to get out. "Wh ..."
The woman came up the left side of his bed and took his hand, careful of the tubes and IVs still running into him. "It's okay," she said. "You're getting the best medical care money can buy. Literally. I've called your brother, and he's on his way, too. He'll be here any minute. You're not alone."
Her touch calmed something inside him. Something he couldn't even name yet even though he felt the storm coming.
"I should have been paying more attention," she whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "I should have been more careful. I'm always careful. I think everything through twenty times before I act, and the one time I don't ... " She hung her head. "I swear to you I'll make this right. Okay, Jackson? Anything you need."
He licked his lips, ready to try one more time. "Good," he croaked. "Then ... tell me."
She raised her head. "What? Tell you what?"
"Wh — who is Jackson?"
* * *
"Clearly he's suffered some head trauma."
"You think?" Lori snapped.
Dr. Warren leveled an even stare at her.
She merely arched a brow in response. Leaning against the nurse's station, she crossed her arms. "One of the richest men in the country is lying in a bed ten feet away unconscious and you want to take issues with my tone?"
"My apologies. All I meant is, traumatic events are difficult to cope with."
"Tell me about it." She ran a hand over her face. "I mean, it's not every day you run over your boss. And I know some people might think I'm living the dream here, but I actually liked working for him."
The doctor reached out to touch her hand. "Accidents happen. Blaming yourself won't do any good."
"Trust me, he'd blame me, too, if he could remember who I was." She squeezed her eyes shut. "Oh my God. He's going to kill me when he finally remembers."
Dr. Warren cleared his throat.
"He will remember, right?" she demanded, opening her eyes.
"Amnesia is a hard thing to predict. There is still just too much we don't know about the brain. In all likelihood, yes, he will remember who he is eventually, but I can't make any absolute promises at this stage in his treatment."
"But what sort of timeline are we looking at?"
"It's hard to say, and I can't get into the specifics of his case since you're not family."
She jerked back, stung.
You have no right to be upset. You have no legal claim here. He's nothing to you. Not anymore. You don't even work for him.
"There must be something you can tell me. I need to know he'll be okay."
"We're doing everything in our power to take care of Mr. Sinclair, I assure you. But I'm afraid that's all I can tell you until a family member arrives."
"Talk about making an entrance."
They both turned to see tall, dark-haired man striding toward them.
"Marc," Lori greeted.
Jackson's younger brother barely spared her a glance. "I was about to get on a plane to Melbourne when my phone rang. Imagine my surprise to learn my only family is in the hospital, apparently put there by his right-hand woman."
"I didn't mean to."
"Finally get tired of jumping to his demands?" Marc asked, turning to her, his gaze so similar to his brother's.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Giving Up the Boss"
Copyright © 2018 Victoria Davies.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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