His mood, always mercurial, turned sullen. Folding forward over the table, Logan propped his head on his hands. “I hate it when you call me ‘sir.’”
Which, of course, was why Jessica did it. To remind them both that their relationship might be full of banter that skirted the edge of unprofessionalism, but at the end of the day, Logan could never be more to her than that.
Logan Harrington was her job. Nothing more. And, certainly, nothing less—Jessica took her job extremely seriously.
Hell, at this point, she could write the definitive manual on the care and feeding of brooding billionaire geniuses.
Burrowing his long, agile fingers into his tousled brown hair, Logan tipped back in the chair and blew out a sigh at the ceiling. It was completely unfair, Jessica reflected. As the person whose job it was to bully Logan into sleeping and eating like a normal human being, she knew for a fact he hadn’t slept more than three hours at a time in months. Ever since he started the new clean energy project, Logan’s idea of a well-balanced meal was a stale pot of coffee with a vodka chaser.
By all rights, he should be gaunt and pale, with bags under his eyes and stubble on his cheeks. Instead, with his broad shoulders, powerful physique, and expensive haircut, Logan Harrington looked more like a male model than a mad scientist.
“Why did you bring me here?” he said, all mischief and humor drained from his tone, leaving behind nothing but wire-taut exhaustion. “I have work I need to be doing. The lab . . .”
“The lab will not fall apart without you,” Jessica said briskly, moving to the sink to take stock of the cottage’s kitchen amenities. “They’ll call me if they run up against anything they can’t handle, but you left them a nearly finished project. If your techs can’t take your copious notes and run them into the end zone, we seriously need to start a headhunt for better techs.”
There was no dish towel hanging by the sink, nor were there paper towels on the counter. Jessica hitched up her tailored linen slacks and crouched to investigate the cabinet under the sink for supplies.
The incident at the board meeting the day before had shoved Jessica into High Alert mode, and she’d hustled Logan out of town before he was recovered enough to put up a fight. So they’d arrived at his grandparents’ vacation home unexpectedly, giving the caretaker no time to prepare the summer cottage for guests.
But as it turned out that Logan’s younger brother, Dylan, was already staying up at the main house, and knowing Logan’s love of privacy, Jessica was determined to make the cottage work.
Jessica stood and opened the quaint, vintage refrigerator in the corner of the kitchenette. As she’d suspected, it was completely bare.
“End zone.” Logan perked up. “A football reference. You like football? You grew up with older brothers, or maybe you were close to your father . . .”
Before he could spin one of his elaborate imaginary histories for her, Jessica cut him off. “It’s only an expression. I could just as easily have said ‘hit it out of the park’ or ‘ride the wave.’”
Logan scowled. “Doesn’t it ever bother you that you know every intimate detail of my life, while I know nothing but your basics?”
“No.” In fact, that was the way Jessica liked it.
“Anyway, that’s not the point,” Logan grumped, setting his clenched fists on the table. “Project Reactor might be done, but there’s always more. If I’m not there to direct the lab, who will—”
“The work will still be there when we get back, after you rest. It’s time for a break.” Jessica kept her voice firm. Logan would attack any sign of weakness. “This island is perfect for that. Look at it rationally. If you run yourself into the ground, the quality of your work will suffer. You need to refill the well.”
“I don’t buy into those studies,” Logan snapped. “And I certainly don’t need to refill some mythical, metaphorical well. You’re my assistant. You take orders from me, and I’m ordering you to get on the phone and call the company plane to come pick us up. Now.”
Pushing back from the table with a screech of wooden chair legs on linoleum, Logan made to stand up, but Jessica stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Logan, be reasonable. There’s no place to land a plane on an island as small as Sanctuary.”
“The chopper, then.” Impatience crackled around Logan like a force field.
“I’m not calling the helicopter!”
“That’s it,” Logan snarled. “You’re fired.”
Jessica gritted her teeth. “For the millionth time, you can’t fire me. I work for your brother—I take my orders from him. It’s my job to take care of you. Let me do my job.”
“Your job is supposed to be making my life easier, not dragging me off to some backwater island with no decent Internet access or cell service,” he complained.
His shoulder was rock hard with tension under her light touch. Blowing out a breath, Jessica played her trump card. “Logan. You collapsed in the middle of a presentation to the entire board of Harrington International. You are going to take the time you need to get healthy. Period. If I have to sit on you to make you slow down for a while, I will.”
A glimmer of interest lit Logan’s intense blue eyes. “I could be into that.”
She ignored him and continued, “I don’t ask for much from you. But I’m asking now. Please, give Sanctuary Island a chance.”
He glanced aside, jaw working, and Jessica’s heart quickened. He was close to giving in, she could feel it.
But when he met her eyes once more, head canted to one side in sudden calculating consideration, her blood froze. She knew that look.
Logan Harrington had one of his genius ideas.
“How much is it worth to you?” he asked. “Me here on this island, soaking in all the mind-numbing serenity and wasting days of my life when I could be working. What would you be willing to give me in return for my time?”
The rush of heat to her core was as shocking and confusing as it was unwanted. Jessica dropped her hand from Logan’s shoulder and backed up a step.
Anger mixed with disappointment curdled in her stomach. As much as Logan flirted, as many times as he’d come on to her, she never thought he would stoop to emotional blackmail.
“I’m not going to sleep with you to get you to do what’s right for your own health,” she snapped.
Genuine surprise flashed across his expressive face. “What? No, Tink, that’s not what I meant.”
Jessica stared into his wide eyes and felt her anger dissolve. She believed him. And that nickname—Tink, a play on her last name, Bell, and the fact that Logan considered her fine-boned features pixie-like—gave her the usual, undeniable thrill.
She hid how much she liked the nickname with the ease of long practice. “What did you mean, then?”
Arching a brow, Logan warned, “You might not be any happier about this. But here are my terms: for every day I waste on this island, you answer one personal question.”
Jessica sucked in a breath, an instinctive denial on the tip of her tongue. Before she could say anything, Logan held up a hand. “I’m talking full and complete answers, to my standard of satisfaction—no simple yes or no. I want details, specificity.”
What Logan was asking was dangerous—to her mental health, if nothing else. Jessica knew him. He wasn’t going to be satisfied with inane questions about her favorite color. If she gave her insatiably curious, demanding boss this opening, he’d make the most of it. He wouldn’t be happy until he knew all the secrets she’d worked so hard to bury.
But . . . Logan needed this. He needed to rest, and he also needed a puzzle to solve, something to keep his brain just stimulated enough without overloading his system.
“So. What do you say?” He crossed his arms over his chest, drawing her gaze to the play of muscles under his T-shirt. For a guy who rarely took time off to hit the gym, Logan was ridiculously ripped. Must be all the heavy machinery he lifted in his lab, building his prototypes.
Tilting up her chin, Jessica planted her feet and mirrored his stance. “One question per day—and in that day, you eat what I tell you to, sleep when I tell you to, and in all other ways follow my instructions to rebuild your strength, or that day’s question is revoked.”
Those wickedly arched brows quirked up, and she knew she’d surprised him. Good. She was surprising herself, too. But this was a chance she had to take. If she could get him to listen to her, the way he rarely did back in New York . . . if she could get him to let her in enough to help him . . .
“You’re actually agreeing,” he said, wonder lightening his voice.
“I promised your brother I’d take care of this situation.” Take care of you, Jessica added silently. “You know me. I do whatever it takes to get the job done. Sir.”
His reflexive frown at the honorific lifted Jessica’s sprits. She could do this. She could bare a bit of her soul and her past to keep Logan on the island long enough to heal, without forgetting the essential truth.
Logan Harrington was her job. Nothing more, nothing less. And if anyone knew the dangers of mixing business and pleasure, it was Jessica Bell.