Accidents happen. And so does marriage.
Struggling businessman Burke Carver can’t get Jill Armstrong out of his mind. She’s smart and intriguing, and a year ago they had a fun night at a conference—a night he can’t fully recall. With his company’s profits starting to slide, he knows he doesn’t have time for a relationship but he’s still tempted to look her up…
Only he won’t have to.
Jill Armstrong needs to talk to the handsome and brilliant CEO, Burke Carver. A year ago he made it clear he was happy to date her for an evening but not partner their businesses. Well, it seems they partnered more than they’d planned on because her bank just approved her latest business expansion loan—all because of her husband Burke’s stellar credit rating.
The problem is, neither of them remember their wedding but there’s a marriage certificate on file that has them and their business assets linked. Can these accidental “newlyweds” find a way to band together and strengthen their companies or will they miss out on the happily ever after fate may have tossed their way?
Accidentally Married is the fourth book in the Veils and Vows series. It can be read out of series order and as a standalone.
SNEAK PEEK: CHAPTER 1
Jill Armstrong swiped a damp hand down her skirt and took a deep breath. She pulled on the glass door to the building’s workout room. Locked.
Another road block in her plan. She should just go home. Pretend she never found out about the document in her hand, pretend she’d never come here to try and tell Burke Carver.
A skinny security guard approached Jill from the other side of the locked door and frowned at her attire—heels and a skirt. No visitor badge.
Burke, who she could see on a treadmill about thirty feet beyond the door, would surely notice if the security guard tossed her out.
Stick to the plan and there would be no disasters. That’s the way life worked. She’d fallen to the siren call of spontaneity last April and now look. Disaster.
Jill made an unlocking motion with her hand, and the security guard raised his pale eyebrows. He made a sweeping motion indicating that if she wanted in, she needed an access card. She repeated her motion. The security guard’s shoulders moved as though heaving a tremendous sigh over her stubbornness.
She rattled the door. “Let me in.”
The security guard cracked the door a few inches. “You need an access card to enter.”
“I’m here to see Burke Carver.” Jill pressed a hand against the door’s cool glass, stepping forward.
A few weeks ago Jill had been delighted when the bank had finally approved her latest application for a business loan—until she realized why. It had had everything to do with Burke Carver, the man who’d refused to consider a partnership with her small company a mere ten months ago.
Jill held the large manila envelope against her chest and surreptitiously wiped a palm against her skirt once again. She had a pretty good feeling Burke would remember her, but she wasn’t as certain he’d recall the way their few drinks in the conference hotel bar had culminated in the disaster currently tucked inside her envelope. Although, it was possible he recalled more than she did. But if he had, they surely would have had this upcoming talk almost a year ago.
She was confident he was going to believe she’d been playing him. And even worse, she’d gained weight in the past few months and no longer had a slim build he tended to gravitate toward and he… No, it didn’t matter what he thought. She just needed him to do his part to make their little problem go away. Quickly.
“No access card, no admittance,” the guard said nervously.
“Trust me,” she replied, tone firm. “He’ll want to see me, and he will have your head if he learns I came all this way only to be sent home.”
The man slowly stepped away from the door and Jill gave him a curt smile while pushing past. The workout room smelled of disinfectant, warm bodies and machines, reminding her of the hours she’d spent in the basement workout area with her father as a teen. Her twin sister, meanwhile, had spent her time upstairs with their mother learning how to curl hair and apply makeup.
Across the workout area, Burke was still on the treadmill, his body moving in a fluid, captivating way. His calf muscles rippled as they propelled him forward on the machine, his hair flopping as he landed before he pushed off again, moving at a pace that would surely leave most people winded.
Jill strode over, trying to ignore how her reflection was following her across the room in the long panel of mirrors to her right.
Burke was laughing with a woman on the neighboring elliptical machine. She barely had an ounce of body fat, her hair was in a perfect, smooth ponytail, her makeup not at all impacted by her workout…because she wasn’t even sweating.
How was that even possible? Then again, Jill had once looked like that—and her twin sister still did as she hadn’t gained the same ten pounds Jill had over the past few months. Okay, fifteen after an ice-cream binge.
“Burke?” His name had come out sharply, and he turned, eyes narrowed. His even, powerful stride faltered.
He quickly regained his rhythm, legs pumping.
“We need to talk,” Jill said.
His open expression had changed, shadowing his face. This was where he said no. “Make an appointment.”
Frustration and anger pounded inside Jill and she reached over to slap the treadmill’s emergency stop. The machine came to a quick halt.
“I said we need to talk.”
His gaze traveled to her gut and she instinctively sucked in. Less than a year ago they’d shared a million laughs, dinner, drinks, his room. And more according to the document she was holding. But she was not a new mom looking for her partner to pay up.
Burke’s gaze had flicked to the security guard who was standing behind Jill. She shot the nervous man a dirty look and he backed up a step, his adam’s apple bobbing.
“You’ll want to see this,” Jill said as Burke restarted the machine.
“I’m not taking proposals right now.” He was just about up to his previous pace again. “Excuse me, I’m working out.”
“Fine.” Jill moved to the vacant treadmill on the far side of Burke and used it for support as she shucked her heels. She stepped on to the machine, placing her envelope in the magazine holder.
“What are you doing?” Burke asked.
Burke stared at her while she started the machine.
This was such a horrible idea. Absolutely horrible. She’d been too busy to workout much over the past year and she was going to be sweaty and panting within thirty seconds. Not to mention what she was about to do to her sister’s borrowed pantyhose.
“Here,” Burke stated. “Wearing that? Just so you can speak to me?” There was a twinkle of something in Burke’s eyes. Reluctant respect for her moxie perhaps? He had reacted to that in the past—and she’d found that powerfully heady.
“Yes,” she said primly. The machine was going too fast and she had to jog to get her feet back under her as she worked to control the speed. “If your secretary was a bit more helpful…” She paused to suck in a breath.
“I could have made an appointment—” She inhaled. “—where we could discuss this in an office like civilized adults.”
Oh, man. She was already panting.
“So your stalkerish harassment isn’t a coincidence?” he said, his tone dry.
“There’s no such thing as coincidence.” Coincidences were like a Trojan horse. They looked like a gift to get you to let your guard down, then they led to nothing but disasters. Plans were the only thing you should trust.
Burke stopped his machine and flicked a white towel over his shoulder. He was watching her again, his gaze back on her belly.
“Let’s talk somewhere more private.” He gave the woman he’d been chatting with earlier a nod, then without a word, began walking away. Jill scrambled to follow, hustling back to the treadmill to reclaim her abandoned heels.
Burke was moving swiftly through the maze of clanking weight machines and she caught up just as he opened a stairwell door.
As the door closed behind her, he turned, arms crossed.
The concrete landing suddenly felt too small, too closed in.
“Hi,” she said breathlessly. His gaze was traveling over her, slowly, noting changes perhaps. “I didn’t have a baby if that’s what you’re thinking.”
He gave her a sharp look. He turned, walking up the flight of stairs, his hands clenched around each end of his towel. “Tell your friend Emma Carrington I said hello. You can also tell her my decision hasn’t changed since last year despite her recommendation.”
She’d set up the meeting between them at the conference, her name opening the door for Jill who ran a small botanical business. She’d been hoping to partner with Burke’s large online store that specialized in eco-friendly clothing. Jill had hoped he’d agree to feature her products online as add-on items.
She had been too small beans, according to him. She got that, she did. But he hadn’t even looked at her growth plan.
She lowered her voice. “I’m here about something else. Something more…personal.”
Burke turned to face her and she swallowed, feeling suddenly as though the enclosed, cool space of the stairwell was way too warm. His look had intensified, bringing out his handsomeness. The sharp lines of his jaw strengthened, his dark brown eyes turned practically black. Without a word he began taking the stairs upward, two at a time. She took her time in following him, trying to prevent her heart from blasting out of her chest. It had taken her a week to get the courage to come here, and had only come because she knew it would be worse in the long run if she didn’t.
One floor up, Burke held the massive door to his company offices, letting her pass. Then, he led her through a large open area dotted with thriving potted plants and streaming with natural light from the large windowed offices that were glassed in along the building’s outer walls. No flickering fluorescent lights, just sunshine and the odd soft LED floor lamp to brighten a sitting area or work area. Desks speckled the edges of the room, several offices off to the left and right with one large one straight ahead. Just about everyone looked up with a smile, ready to wave until they caught their boss’s expression.
Wordlessly, Burke strode into the large office, saying over his shoulder, “Close the door.”
He sat in a bamboo executive chair with worn cushions and faced her, fingers steepled, his eyes boring through her with that familiar intensity of his.
She took the chair across from him and nervously handed him the envelope. Nothing but the whirl of his computer fan filled the silence as he looked at the vital records document.
As he skimmed it, she braced herself for what would surely be an explosion.
End of sneak peek!
Keep reading Accidentally Married:
Copyright © 2018 Jean Oram. All Rights Reserved. Not to be copied or distributed in any form without explicit permission from the author Jean Oram. Contact her to inquire further.