Accidentally on Purpose Read online

  Chapter 1


  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.”

  Looking pained, Spence stood. “He’s not going to enjoy you going off on him this early half-cocked, Elle.”

  “Ask me if I care.”

  “I care,” Spence said. “It’s too early to help you bury his body.”

  Elle let out a short laugh. Her and Archer’s antagonistic attitude toward each other had been well documented. The thing was, Archer thought he ran the world, including her.

  But no one ran her world except her. “If everyone would just do what they were supposed to and stay out of my way . . .” she said, trailing off because Spence was no longer listening to her. Instead he was staring out the window, his leanly muscled body suddenly tense, prompting her to his side to see what had caught his interest.

  A woman was coming out of the coffee shop and Spence was staring at her. It was his ex, who had once upon a time done her best to rip out his heart.

  “Want me to have her kicked off the premises?” Elle asked. “Or I could have her investigated and found guilty of a crime.” She was just kidding. Mostly.

  “I don’t need you to handle my damn dates.”

  Given that he was a walking Fortune 500 company and also that he’d been badly burned, he actually did need his women investigated, but Elle didn’t argue with him. Arguing with Spence was like arguing with a brick wall. But he hadn’t dated since his ex and it had been months and months, and her heart squeezed because he was gun-shy now. “Hey, in case you haven’t heard, hot genius mechanical engineers slash geeks are in. You’ll find someone better.” Much better, if she had her say . . .

  He still didn’t respond and Elle rolled her eyes. “How come men are idiots?”

  “Because women don’t come with instruction manuals.” He pushed away from the window. “I’ve gotta go. No killing anyone today, Elle.”


  He took the time to give her a long look.

  She sighed. “Fine. I won’t kill Archer.”

  When she was alone, she applied some lip gloss—for herself, mind you, not for Archer—and left her office, taking her time walking the open hallway. She loved this building and never got tired of admiring the unique architecture of the old place; the corbeled brick and exposed iron trusses, the long picture windows in each unit, the cobblestone courtyard below with the huge fountain where idiots came from all over San Francisco and beyond to toss their money and wish for love.

  She was on the second floor in the far north corner, from which if she pressed her nose up against her office window and if there wasn’t any fog, she could see down the hill to the Marina Green and the bay with a very tiny slice of the Golden Gate Bridge as well.

  She tried to play it cool, but even after a whole year it was a thrill to live in the heart of the city. Although she hadn’t grown up far from here, it’d been a world away and at least ten rungs down on the social ladder.

  It was still early enough that the place was quiet. As she passed the elevator, the doors opened and the woman in charge of housekeeping services came through pushing a large cart.

  “Hey, honey,” Trudy said in her been-smoking-for-three-decades voice. “Need anything?”

  “Nope, I’m good.” Good plus mad, but although she adored Trudy, the woman couldn’t keep a secret to save her life. “Just taking in the nice morning.”

  “Oh, that’s a disappointment,” Trudy said. “I thought maybe you were looking for that hottie with the nice package, the one who runs the investigation firm down the hall.”

  Elle nearly choked on her tea. “Nice package?”

  “Well I’m old, not dead.” And with a wink, Trudy pushed her cart down the hall.

  It was true that Archer was annoyingly hot, not that she cared. Hot was useless to her. She’d much rather h