Monday, April 30, 2018

Carrying the Billionaire's Baby

Carrying the Billionaire's Baby is the first in my new Manhattan Babies Series.

Jake and Avery are as different as night and day. The only place they're compatible is in bed. What started out as a one-night stand became a fling...and a baby. Avery's happy, as long as Jake stays and arm-length away. Jake is shocked, and the last thing he wants is to stay away. He wants Avery and the Baby on his terms. But Avery's not like any other woman he's met.

Here's a sample...

Chapter 1
Jacob McCallan strode down the quiet hall of Waters, Waters and Montgomery – the law firm employed by his family – with tall, lanky Pete Waters, senior partner.
“So, how’s your mother holding up?”
Jake glanced at Pete, not surprised he’d asked. His father had died five months before and everyone was worried about his mom. “She’s working to pull herself together. Some days are better than others.”
“Rumor has it she headed the last board of directors meeting.”
Jake grimaced. Nobody was supposed to know about that, but Pete had sources everywhere. Jake chose his words carefully. “She tried.”
“It was no big deal. She walked into the meeting saying she wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture and would assume Dad’s role as Chairman of the Board. I took her out of the conference room and privately told her that the corporate bylaws name the CEO as acting chairman.”
He nodded. “Me. I told her that if we went against the bylaws, we risked being sued by shareholders.”
“How’d she take it?”
“She was a bit confused. A bit hurt. I think she believed taking over as chairman would give her something to do now that Dad’s gone.”
Pete took a long, slow breath and blew it out in a gust. “That’s rough.”
Painter’s scaffolding crowded the end of the private corridor to Pete’s office. He pointed to the right. “We’ll go the long way.”
The “long way” took them past cubicles filled with workers on the phone or frantically typing on computer keyboards, then a file room. A wall of windows exposed rows of files – thinner than they had been before most things were stored on computers – and five copy machines.
Jake frowned and slowed his steps. Was that Avery Novak standing in front of one of those copy machines?
He couldn’t really tell because the tall redhead’s back was to him. But a man didn’t forget silky hair long enough to tickle his chest when she straddled him.
He told himself to keep walking. He and Avery had had a short fling, which she’d mercifully broken off after three weeks. They’d been dynamite in bed. But out of bed? They would have done nothing but argue about politics and principles if Jake had ever risen to any of her bait. The woman was ridiculously headstrong, and she didn’t like rich people.
No matter how hot they were together, he had looked down the board and seen a future filled with her being critical of his privileged lifestyle, and in general acting as if he were Marie Antoinette and she was a beleaguered peasant. His only regret was that he hadn’t been the one to break it off.
Jake and Pete were just about at the end of the long wall of windows, when she turned. Her huge green eyes widened. Her mouth fell open and she quickly lowered the file she held to her stomach. But it was too late. He’d seen the baby bump.
Baby bump!
She had to be at least five months pregnant. Maybe six.
Oh, God…Six?
That took them back to February – when they were dating.
That could be his baby. His child.
He glanced at Avery again. Her figure hadn’t changed much except for the baby bump, yet she’d looked more womanly, more attractive. He remembered her soapy and sexy in the shower, added the baby bump to the naked body he knew so well, and something raw and emotional ripped through him. Stronger than lust, more profound than awe that they’d created a child, the feeling rendered him speechless. The reality that that “bump” could be his child slammed into him like an eighteen-wheeler, mostly because his father had been a terrible parent. He had no idea how a good dad behaved. What a good dad did—
But no. It couldn’t be his child. Avery would have told him. Wouldn’t she?
He and Pete finally walked past the file room. Pete still chatted on about Jake’s mother. “I understand that she’s on shaky emotional ground. But you really have to hold the line with her coming into the business and trying to do things.”
“Actually, I’m thinking of giving her a job.”
“What?” Pete stopped walking.
Jake stopped too. “She lost her husband.” A movement from the file room caught his eye and he glanced up in time to see Avery racing away. His throat constricted. His gut clenched. Why run away from him if that wasn’t his child?
Had to be.
She was probably embarrassed she’d found another man and gotten pregnant so soon after him. Because it couldn’t be his baby…
Otherwise she would have told him.
He faced Pete. “Mom’s grieving. She’s searching for meaning in her life. Trying to be chairman of the board proves she wants something to do. Why not give her something?”
“Because she’s been a socialite for forty years and doesn’t have any skills?” Pete sighed. “Jake, giving her a job is only going to make your life difficult. There are better ways to handle her grief than having her underfoot.”
“I’m not sure I agree. Maybe she has skills we don’t know about? Or maybe she won’t even want a job? At least if I ask, she’ll feel wanted.”
“I think you’ll be sorry.”
“Perhaps. But I think I should ask. She’s leaving today for a week in Paris. I thought if I offered her something, it would perk her up enough that her friends could snap her out of her depression.”
“You’re sure she’s going?”
“She and her girlfriends have been spending the first week of September in Paris for decades.” He took a brief glance up the hall, but Avery was gone. “She’ll recognize she needs to be with her friends and go. Besides, there’s a charity ball over the weekend that I’m attending this year. She won’t miss my first time there and a chance to introduce me to her friends.”
“What if she jumps on your job offer and doesn’t care about going to the event?”
“A condition of her coming to work for us will be that she takes the week in Paris first.”
Pete shrugged as if grudgingly agreeing with Jake’s decision.
They reached Pete’s office and Jake took one final glance up the hall. He didn’t see Avery, but his chest tightened anyway.
As Pete droned on about fulfilling the bequests in his dad’s will, Jake realized three things. First, Avery was independent enough that she could consider it her right not to tell him about his own child. Second, if that baby really was his, he was in trouble. He had no idea how to be a parent and he would need all the time he could get to figure it out before the baby was born. Which meant, number three, he was going to have to confront her.

Avery didn’t get home until after nine that night. Law firm associates did all the paperwork and the bulk of the legwork on most cases. Before she’d gotten pregnant, she’d fought for the extra work. She sat in on every meeting they’d permit her to attend, and campaigned to be a part of every important case. She had a plan, big goals, and had only allowed herself five years to get the experience she would need to start her own law firm back home in Pennsylvania. She’d had to cram in everything she could.
Then she’d started hooking up with Jake. It was wrong. From day one, she’d known it was wrong. Her dad had gone to jail for something he hadn’t done because a rich employer had used his money and power to ride roughshod over the system, and her dad couldn’t afford high-priced counsel to fight him. That was why she’d become a lawyer – to be a voice for people who couldn’t pay five hundred dollars an hour to defend themselves from something they hadn’t done. She couldn’t date someone just like the guy who’d sent her dad to prison.
No matter how sexy Jake was, an undercurrent of privilege ran through his life. Riding in his limos, taking his helicopter to Maine for lobster, sleeping in a penthouse monitored by security guards only reminded her that people like Jake didn’t know a damned thing about real life, about suffering and struggle…about being normal.
She didn’t want her baby getting lost in the shuffle of drivers, maids and nannies, any more than she wanted her little girl or boy growing up thinking money somehow made her better, even as he or she stayed behind a wall of bodyguards, rode in bulletproof limos and lived with the threat of being kidnapped.
She also didn’t want to risk the consequences if Jake found out her dad was an ex-con. He could demand that she stay in New York – away from her dad – or even try to take the baby. Then she’d have no way of shielding her child from the craziness of the McCallan life.
So, she’d made the decision not to tell Jake she was pregnant to protect her child. Immediately, relief had coursed through her. Joy at becoming a mom had blossomed. With Jake out of the picture, she was ready to become a parent. Sure, it changed her plans a bit. She’d be returning to Pennsylvania two years sooner than she’d thought, and without sufficient experience, but she’d adapt. She wanted this baby enough that she’d change her life any way necessary.
She kicked off her subway shoes, tossed her briefcase on a chair and headed to her bedroom, but her doorbell rang.
Closing her eyes in misery, she muttered, “Damn it.”
She could ignore the bell, but she had a sneaking suspicion Jake McCallan had been sitting in a limo somewhere down the street from her building, waiting for her to come home. He’d seen her that morning. Seen the baby bump. Stickler for detail that he was, he’d undoubtedly done the math.
The bell rang again.
She headed for the door, shaking off her fears. Lawyers planned for all contingencies. Her first choice might have been not to tell him, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have a backup plan, a Plan B. He was a super-stuffy aristocrat, who wouldn’t want a crying child in his world. All she had to do was remind him that a baby didn’t fit into his well-ordered life and he’d back off.
Wondering how such a serious, stuffy guy could be so good in bed, she walked to the door and opened it.
“Jake. How nice to see you.”
It was nice to see him. He had black hair cut short to be neat, but strands poked out, making him look sexy and interesting. His solemn blue eyes always made her want to tell him a joke. But his body was a work of art. He could be an ad for the gym. Three days a week had virtually turned him into a god. And the sex? Amazing. Just thinking about it made her weak-kneed and breathless.
He pointed at her stomach. “That’s my baby, isn’t it?”
She opened the door a little wider, urging him inside. “Nothing like a little small talk to warm up a room.”
He stayed right where he stood. “There’s no point to small talk. We have nothing to say to each other, except to discuss whether you’re keeping my child from me.”
“I’m not. Technically, I’m keeping a pregnancy from you.”
He cursed.
“See? This is exactly why I didn’t tell you!” She caught his arm and dragged him inside, leading him to one of the two teal-and-white trellis-print club chairs in front of her marble tile fireplace. Though the legs that carried her across the dark hardwood floors were extremely tired, she walked into the kitchen and took a glass from the first white cabinet then filled it at the sink in the center island. Bringing it into her living room, she said, “I knew you’d freak.”
He took the water. “I’m not freaking. I’m in shock. You’ve known about this for months. I just found out today – and only because I ran into you. Not because you told me.”
“Okay,” she soothed, sitting on the white sofa across from him, keeping control of the conversation. She had to be calm, rational and appeal to his love of order in his life.
“What do you want to know?”
He looked up at her, his gorgeous blue eyes serious, direct. “How?”
She laughed. “I think you pretty much know the basics of how babies are made.”
“No. How did you get pregnant? You told me you were on the pill.”
The insinuation that the pregnancy was her fault rattled through her like an angry wind, but she gave him a little leeway because he was still processing all this.
“My doctor is blaming the antibiotic she gave me for bronchitis. You and I met –” At a coffee shop on Valentine’s Day, both dateless and treating themselves to a latte. They recognized each other from the law firm and had an impromptu dinner where he was just so charming and sexy they’d ended up in bed. “—when the bronchitis was all but gone from my lungs.” She shrugged. “But while I was celebrating feeling better, I was also finishing up the meds and forgot the antibiotic’s effect on birth control.”
He set his untouched water on one of the coasters she had on the glass coffee table by the club chair. “I never thought to ask about antibiotics.”
Her heart did a crazy little flip. Every time she was ready to write him off as sanctimonious, he’d do something like that. Something that would make her wonder if deep down he was fair. But she knew better. A man with enough money to buy his way into or out of anything had no reason to look at the other side of a situation.
Still, he hadn’t blamed her for the pregnancy, so she could go back to Plan B, remind him of how much trouble a baby could be and let him bow out gracefully.
“My goal had always been to get a job at a big law firm and buy a nice condo that would go up in value as I paid down the mortgage.”
His earnest blue eyes stayed on her face, as he waited for her to explain why she was rehashing things he already knew.
She cleared her throat. “What I didn’t tell you was, I’d made that plan so that I could get tons of experience and learn from some of the best lawyers in the world before I sold the condo for a profit and returned to Pennsylvania to start my own law firm.”
She wasn’t surprised that she’d stunned him. Every damned time they’d gone out she’d said or done something that raised his eyebrows or caused him to frown. Their problem wasn’t merely a case of a middle-class woman with an upper-class man. They were opposites in just about every way.
“I didn’t really keep that from you.”
“Like you didn’t really keep the pregnancy from me?”
She sighed. “We dated three weeks. There’s no law that says I had to tell you my plans for the future.”
“So, you weren’t seriously dating me. What was I? Beefcake?”
The way he said it, with his calm, poised tone, as if he didn’t realize how funny he sounded, made her laugh.
He glared at her. “No. Come on. I’m curious. Did you just go out with me because we were good in bed?”
“You were pretty good.”
He cursed and rose from the teal chair to pace. “Seriously!”
“You do realize another man would be so damned complimented by that he’d probably glow in the dark.”
“I’m not like most men.”
No kidding. “Okay. Why did you continue to ask me out when we both realized on our third date that we weren’t compatible?”
He took a patient breath, but ran the fingers of both hands through his hair. A gesture she’d never seen. She pulled back a bit. The last thing she wanted to do was anger one of the richest men in New York City when she didn’t have a leg to stand on to keep their baby from him. Her moving to Pennsylvania without telling him would have been the easy thing for both of them. But now that he knew, convincing him he didn’t want to be part of this baby’s life was her best option. She’d never do that if they continued to argue over pointless things.
“Anyway,” Avery said, bringing them back to the real discussion. “My life plan has been altered a bit. With my down payment on this place and the extra I’ve put on the mortgage every month, not to mention the increase in real estate values, I can sell the condo early and still make a profit. Then once I pass the Pennsylvania bar, I can start my own firm there.”
“If you wanted your own law firm or even to jump the ranks of Waters, Waters and Montgomery, all you had to do was say the word.”
She gaped at him. “Really? You think it would be okay for me to jump over the heads of lawyers who know ten times what I know? To be made partner before them because my ex is their biggest client?”
He drew a breath and expelled it quickly. “So, you’re really leaving?”
Another thing he had a habit of doing was not answering her questions, but changing the subject so they wouldn’t argue. This time she appreciated his stopping them from going down another useless road, so she let that slide too.
“Well, I’m not packing up and heading out tomorrow. My doctor is here in New York. I plan to have the baby here. Plus, I have to sell the condo. And I do need the experience I’m getting at Waters, Waters and Montgomery. But eventually I have to go.”
“And you expect me to be okay with that?” When he faced her, his sapphire eyes had gone from serious to furious. “You think I don’t have rights, options?”
Fear raced through her, but she calmed it. This was the most rational man on the planet. If she stayed neutral, he’d stay neutral. If she set out her plan logically, especially highlighting how he benefited from it, he would follow it.
“Okay, let’s start this over again. I am pregnant. The baby is yours. I’ve had the goal since high school to earn a law degree, get some experience in New York City and then return to Pennsylvania to start my own law firm. The baby doesn’t stop that plan. Yes, I have to take the Pennsylvania bar exam and, yes, I will have to get a job at another law firm in Pennsylvania while I study for it. But the goal hasn’t changed. Isn’t going to change. That’s non-negotiable.”
He paced in front of the fireplace. “And, realistically, Pennsylvania isn’t that far away. I can drive there to visit or send a limo to bring the baby to me.”
She winced. There were a billion things wrong with his idea. Especially considering she didn’t want her child sucked into “McCallanville,” a world of pampered rich people who didn’t understand reality.
She argued the easiest point. “I’m not putting my baby into a limo alone.”
“There will be times he should be with me.”
“With you? Don’t you mean with a nanny? Even when you’re home you’re on the phone or computer.” Just thinking about it filled her with anger. “Why should my baby spend his time with a with a driver and a nanny when he or she could be with me? I won’t let my child be raised by a nanny, Jake. Not ever.”
He closed his eyes and shook his head, obviously controlling his temper. Finally, he said, “How much?”
“How much what?”
“How much do you want to make you more agreeable?”
She gaped at him. “Are you trying to bribe me?”
“I’m trying to make you more agreeable.”
“And you think if you give me a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars, I’ll give you what you want in a visitation agreement?”
“I was thinking more like a few million.”
Her eyes widened. “You’re insane! I have a plan. I don’t need your money! I don’t want your money. I want to do what’s best for the baby. So should you.”
He studied her. She could all but see the wheels turning in his head as he came to terms with the fact that this situation wasn’t about money. In his world, everything came down to money. She couldn’t even fault him for trying to find her price – though she did want to deck him. The truth was, she didn’t even want child support. But she figured it was a little too early in the game to tell him that. His brain would have to work so hard to process it that he’d probably have a stroke.
“We’re going to need a written agreement.”
For ten seconds, she wished he hadn’t seen her that morning at the law office. But while her dad had been in prison for something he hadn’t done, she learned wishing for things to be different didn’t change them. Plus, she hadn’t given up on Plan B, convincing him he didn’t want a crying, pooping, spitting up baby destroying the peace of his life. And that would take more tact and diplomacy than she could muster tonight.
“Okay. But we should have a few more conversations to see what we both want before we even try to get anything on paper.”
He considered that. “Agreed.”
He headed for the door. Though Avery gave him a pleasant smile as she saw him out and said goodbye, another alternative jumped into her brain.
If she couldn’t make him see a baby didn’t fit into his life, there was a risky Plan C. She could tell him that her dad had been in prison and remind him of the can of worms that would be opened once the press started digging into the life of the woman pregnant with his child. They both knew he wouldn’t want that kind of media attention any more than she did. If anything would send him scurrying away from her, it would be the horror of that much negative attention from the press.
There was just one little problem with Plan C --
When she told him about her dad, she’d also be handing him the ammo to take her child, or to at least keep her and her little one in New York City. All he would have to do would be tell the court he wanted to keep his child away from Avery’s ex-con dad.
Then even if she kept custody, she’d be stuck in New York, away from the people she wanted to help.
Away from the dream she had nurtured and worked for since she was fifteen.
If Plan C went south, it could ruin her life.

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