Charity Case : The Complete Series by Piper Rayne




Chapter One





The office is quiet today. Then again, it’s Monday morning and most people are either stuck in L.A. traffic, grabbing their lattes or just plain running late. Usually I enjoy the moment of solitude, but today things are different because when my boss, Jagger Kale, arrives this morning, I’m turning in my notice.

I pretend like I’m concentrating on my emails as I scroll through the short list I already answered last night. I jot down a to-do list of things I have to do before moving to Chicago and my gaze veers to the picture of Jade on my desk. The one personal item I brought after I felt secure enough to tell my boss I had a child. I shouldn’t have worried so much. Jagger didn’t care, as long as I did what I was supposed to and didn’t call in sick all the time he was cool.

I smile and greet my co-workers who are staggering in with the Monday morning gloom on their face.

My cell phone dings and as I flip it around I secretly hope it’s not Jagger telling me he’s not coming in today. I’m not trying to be selfish, but I need to get this over with. All weekend, I’ve tried to decipher whether he’ll be mad or happy or indifferent to my departure.

The elevator door dings and I straighten my back, posed like the good employee in waiting. Another throng of co-workers empty out into the office but no Jagger. My eyes flick to the clock. It’s not unheard of him to be an hour late, especially since Quinn reappeared in his life. My shoulders slump and I drink some of the Starbucks coffee I let myself enjoy this morning as a treat for making a big girl decision.

“Am I paying you to sip coffee?” Jagger strides by my desk, inserting the key into his office door.

His hair is damp at the ends, his suit as always wrinkle free. He bears no smile on his handsome face. All signs point to it being a normal morning except for his damp hair which means if I’m lucky, he got lucky this morning.

I stand, grabbing the extra cup of coffee off my desk and take out the plastic stopper before following him into his office.

“I grabbed you one on the way in.”

He stands at the side of the desk, takes out his laptop, his eyes flickering to mine after he’s completed the usual steps to his morning routine.

“Why do I deserve such royal treatment?” He looks at me skeptically.

What’s that saying? You can’t shit a bullshitter?

My hands press on the edge of his mahogany desk. “I get you coffee plenty.”

A deep chuckle comes out of him. “Sure, when you told me about Jade, when you needed that week off to go to Chicago last month and the morning after you called in sick because you had a fever.” He uses air quotes around the word fever to imply that I was lying.

“It was one hundred and four and people always get sick after they’ve been on planes,” I argue.

The first smile I’ve seen this morning tilts his lips up. “Wouldn’t know. I fly private.”

I roll my eyes. Typical Jagger.

“So?” he asks, sitting down in his chair sipping the coffee I got him. He nods to the empty chair across from him. “What is it?”

I sit, my leg shaking, my foot tapping.

“Spit it out, Victoria.” He raises both eyebrows.

He won’t be so cocky once the words leave my mouth.

“I have to turn in my notice.” My voice has never sounded so small and less like me. This job, with Jagger as my boss was on the con list of leaving, as much as I hate to admit it. Jagger isn’t the easiest to work for, but I’ve grown used to our banter and underneath the façade he’s actually a decent guy.

His entire body stills and somehow that’s scarier to me than if he had popped up out of the chair in shock. He sets the coffee down in front of him on the desk, his forearms resting on the edge and his hands clasped together so tightly his knuckles are white. “What?” he says in a quiet voice.

I nod.

“I don’t think I heard correctly,” and coming from his lips it sounds more like a threat than a statement.

So, he’s chosen the asshole approach. I shouldn’t be surprised. His fiancé, Quinn, has made him a little nicer, but that snarky arrogant jerk is still alive and well.

“My mom…remember how I had to go to Chicago?”

He picks up his coffee again. “Yeah, the last time you brought me in coffee. That one was flavored. You should’ve gone the flavored route this time, too, if you were dumping this on my lap.”