Series: Close Quarters Book 1
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Chantal Jones is going through a rough patch. A divorced single mother to two demanding boys, she’s constantly putting the needs of others before her own. She’s exhausted, and the only thing that fuels her fantasies these days is her sexy, off-limits boss, Ronan Nakata.
Ronan has definitely noticed how attractive Chantal is, but he’s her employer and their relationship has to remain strictly professional. Besides, he isn’t looking for anything serious and the last thing he wants to do is get emotionally involved.
But when a chance encounter in the company elevator leaves them both strung tight and wanting, taking it to the next level is seemingly inevitable. In such close quarters, will they be able to get their attraction out of their systems without losing their hearts?
Work had eaten her up today. By the time she’d arrived at the elementary school to pick up Luke and Owen from their afterschool program, it had taken every last ounce of her control to keep from screaming when the instructor complained that her children had been shooting spitballs at the ceiling.
Their afterschool teacher had pursed his mouth and stared at her chest as he told her, “They will not be allowed to return to my classroom until I see a formal written apology for their behavior, Mrs. Jones.”
She’d had to fight the urge to punch him in the neck. Not because she thought he was lying about her kids. Chantal didn’t doubt her boys had been acting up. Ever since the divorce, they’d been behaving this way. But a writtenapology? This guy was the one who should be writing an apology to her. Making her boys write an apology meant more time out of her day, supervising their work, when she could have just as effectively dealt with their behavior by taking away a week of screen time.
Besides, the guy was a sleazy asshole who’d been ogling her breasts since the first day, and sometimes he liked to stand too close so his chest brushed hers. It made her cringe just to think of it.
Except this was the only program that offered care until six thirty, and even then she was sometimes late to pick them up. Even if she could manage the five o’clock pickup time for all the other programs, they were already two months into the semester. Too late to transfer the boys into another class, and they were too young to be at home alone.
Their teacher had her pinned to the proverbial wall and he knew it. Liked it, no doubt.
It made her feel even more alone and exhausted. The scolding she’d given the kids on the car ride home was weak. She was simply too tired, and they’d ignored her.
She pulled into the drive and parked the car, then glanced in the rearview mirror. “Remember to take your—”
Both back doors slammed shut.
They’d jumped out, leaving their backpacks in the car, and were already running to the front door of the Victorian house where they lived.
Chantal sighed. She always loved her children, but from time to time, she really hated them too.
It was difficult not to fume as she’d walked down the driveway to check the mail. Several bills. A lingerie catalog.
“Yeah, right.” She snorted and flipped past it to find an envelope from the law firm she’d used for her divorce.
“Oh.” It came out as more of a squeak than an actual word. She broke the seal on the envelope and pulled out the document, reading only the first couple of lines before folding it and sticking it back into the stack of mail.
Her ten-year marriage was truly over.
The roller coaster of an emotional mess she’d been on lately plummeted, a fast and sickening drop she hadn’t seen coming. She uttered a prayer of thanks that the boys had already gone inside. If they’d seen the way she was having to fight back her tears right now, they would refuse to go to Mike’s this weekend. And if they refused, it would escalate into yet another shouting match with her sonofabitch ex-husband that would no doubt make her want to crawl into bed for days. As it was, she simply wiped her eyes, squared her shoulders, and headed into the house with what had to be the world’s craziest fake smile plastered on her face.
“Boys!” She could hear the electronic music from a game on the PlayStation coming from the next room. Chantal dropped her smile and rolled her eyes. There was a strict weekends-only rule for the stupid thing. Mike had bought it for them a couple of months before she’d found out about the affair, and she hated it for way too many reasons to count.
She slipped out of her shoes in front of the door and strode into the den, where the boys were standing with their faces in front of the TV, eyes glued to the screen. Without hesitation, she clicked the TV off and removed the cable from the console so they couldn’t play anymore.
“Hey!” Luke’s eyes were wide and angry, his wiry body stiff with rage. Chantal was about to remind them of the weekend rule when he threw his controller at her, the hard plastic connecting with her forearm. She screamed in pain, ducking her chin and jerking her arm up to cradle it against her chest.
“Mommy. Mommy, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Mommy, I didn’t mean to I was mad and it was an accident and I—” She looked up to see Luke standing inches from her, his face pinched in concern. He was already crying—worried, frustrated tears falling down his still-chubby cheeks.
Owen had backed up to the wall, staring wide-eyed at his mom and brother. Luke’s arms were extended, but he wasn’t quite touching her, as though he were afraid she might turn him away.
What the hell had happened to her family?
The anger fell away and she pulled Luke to her, hugging him tightly. “I forgive you, sweetie. I forgive you.”
He cried in earnest then, great sobs rolling out of his body as she cuddled him and her arm throbbed. She’d known he was having a hard time with the divorce. Luke had always been a hotbed of emotion, but instead of the intense joy he used to show so readily, this past year he’d been constantly lashing out with anger. And to top it all off, being a single mom meant she had to work to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, but it also meant there was no energy left for them when she got home from a long day.
God. How much longer could they go on like this?
Audra North is the contemporary romance author of the Pushing the Boundaries series from Samhain and the Hard Driving series from St. Martin’s. Sign up for Audra North’s newsletter to get free books, extra scenes, and exclusive subscriber giveaways. You can also connect with Audra on her website, AudraNorth.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.