Home > His Challenging Lover (The Thorpe Brothers #4)

His Challenging Lover (The Thorpe Brothers #4)
Author: Elizabeth Lennox

Elizabeth Lennox - The Thorpe Brothers #4 - His Challenging Lover

His Challenging Lover (The Thorpe Brothers #4)
Elizabeth Lennox



Chapter 1

Autumn stood by the side of the receptionist’s desk, praying the woman wouldn’t say the words that would once again break her heart. Just ask for any other name, she silently prayed. Any name, even someone who didn’t work here would make her feel better.

Unfortunately, fate wasn’t playing nice today.

“I’m here to see Xander Thorpe,” the blond woman with the almost dripping red lips said while flicking her thick, blond hair back over her shoulder.

Autumn knew that the hair flip was only to show off her impressive bosom, perfectly displayed by the deep V of her red dress.

Diane, the receptionist, acted professionally, exactly as Autumn had trained her. She turned to her computer with a gracious smile, her fingers poised over the keyboard as she said, “Do you have an appointment?” Diane knew that her boss, the amazingly lovely brunette with the deep brown eyes, was standing beside her stiffly, watching to see how this exchange played out. And everyone knew that there was something going on between Autumn and the gorgeous Xander Thorpe, although none were entirely sure what that “something” was.

The blond bimbo, as Autumn now thought of the latest female intrusion, laughed and waved her hand. “I don’t, but I’m pretty sure he’ll see me,” she said and smoothed her hands down her hips. “Just tell him Jessica is here to speak with him.”

Diane knew the process. She typed the information into the computer, then sent off the notice to Xander’s assistant, a new woman by the name of Tilly. She was a temporary employee, brought in yesterday when his last one quit without any notice. Xander had a bad habit of going through assistants at a horrible rate. With gritted teeth, Autumn slapped the file folder down onto the table and walked quickly out of the area. Her feet pushed her faster, desperate to not see…

Unfortunately, Autumn didn’t make her escape fast enough. When the woman in red entered Xander’s office and closed the door, the jokes and money from the other staff members quickly started exchanging hands.

“How much did you win?” James, one of the third year lawyers asked another associate just as Autumn hurried past his desk.

Autumn gritted her teeth and shook her head, walking quickly by him but trying to paste a calm-looking smile on her face. As usual, wagers were being settled now that the previous girlfriend, a lovely brunette, had been replaced by the gorgeous blond. Autumn desperately didn’t want anyone in the office to know how painful she found the betting. Xander’s love life served as entertainment for the rest of the office, but it hurt her more than it should. Every time a new woman came into his life, Autumn hated Xander just a little bit more. Why should she even care who he dates? He could date anyone he wanted! She just wished he would keep his personal life outside the office.

Maybe that’s what bothered her so much about his philandering ways. She hurried down the hallway, ignoring the laughter and money changing hands. It looked like a new pool was being set up. If Xander would keep his private life more private, it wouldn’t bother her so much. She preferred efficiency and order, trained her support staff to work hard, look and act professionally and be exceptionally helpful and competent.effective. The bets about how long the current flavor-of-the-moment would last reduced everyone’s productivity.

Autumn knew that the betting on Xander’s love live occurred but she never participated. Everyone thought she was just being polite and trying to ignore her boss’s dalliances. But she knew better why she wasn’t delving into the bitter world of Xander’s girlfriend office pool.

Axel and Ash were walking towards her and she quickly looked down. But Axel wasn’t having any of that. He caught the flash of pain in her eyes and touched her arm gently, obviously concerned.

“What’s going on, Autumn? You look like you’ve just lost your best friend.”

Autumn laughed bitterly. “Oh, goodness, nothing so dramatic as that,” she came back, her shoulders squared off against the pain ripping through her silly, vulnerable heart. “It’s just the changing of the guard.” At their blank looks, she sighed and said, “Xander’s old girlfriend is out and a new one is in. Everyone in the cubicles is paying up on their bets and placing new wagers on this next woman.” She was looking downwards, wishing she could just race to her own office and hide away until the pain abated, but then she caught the twenty dollar bill exchange from Axel to Ash. “That was thirty-one days, right?” he asked.

She nodded numbly, unaware that her mouth was hanging open in shock that even Xander’s two younger brothers would be involved in the betting.

When those dratted tears threatened to spill over her lashes, she took a deep, frantic breath and started moving around the two extremely large men. “If you’ll excuse me,” she said, but didn’t bother finishing the sentence as she raced down the hallway and into her office.

She wasn’t aware of the two men staring after her, both of them frozen into stunned silence. “Well I’ll be…” Axel said, watching until she slammed the door to her office.

Ash stopped staring at the now-closed door and grinned towards his brother. “I think that’s another twenty you owe me,” he said.

Axel looked at his brother, then back at the closed door one more time. “I would have sworn…” he started to say, then shook his head. “You were right.” And he handed Ash another twenty. “At least it was just around us.”

Ash nodded his head as well, his mouth grim with irritation over his older brother’s insensitivity. “Yeah. She’s usually more in control.”

Axel grinned as they both turned to continue their walk down the hallway. “Want to bet on when he’ll crack and admit it to her?”

Ash was already shaking his head. “Hell no! Big Brother Xander realizing what’s going on?”

Both men laughed as they continued towards their destination, unaware of the woman leaning against the doorway fighting back the tears. Thankfully, Autumn didn’t hear their conversation or she would have been even more humiliated. As it was, she just had to deal with the pain of seeing Xander with yet another beautiful woman. She hated this, she told herself, brutally wiping the tears from her cheeks. He was such a jerk! Why did he have to bring those women here? It was an insult to everyone’s professionalism and productivity.

He should be more inconspicuous about his personal life during business hours, and he should never have his girlfriends trot around here like that! It was unprincipled and inappropriate!

And it hurt! Damn the man!

She sat down behind her desk and dropped her head onto her hands, trying to control the painful emotions that were threatening to choke her. She should find another job, she told herself firmly. She shouldn’t put herself through the pain of watching him come and go with those women.

The idea of not being here, of not seeing…all the Thorpe brothers, caused another sharp stab of pain. She liked her job, except when there was a changing of the guard. She really shouldn’t let it bother her so much. She should just look the other way and leave him to his philandering ways.

Or maybe she should talk to him, try and convince him to keep his lady loves outside the office. Too many staff members watched them come and go. Not to mention the younger men on the staff seeing ridiculous antics like that. Xander was a role model! He was teaching the younger men that women were disposable, that they weren’t worth the effort to invest in a real relationship.

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