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Kieran stood on the front porch of the small, daffodil-yellow house and fisted his hands at his hips. In the distance, the sounds of a lawn mower mingled with childish shouts and laughter. The Santa Monica neighborhood where he had finally tracked down Olivia's address was firmly, pleasantly middle class.
He told himself not to jump to conclusions.
The article he'd clipped from one of his father's newspapers crackled in his pocket like the warning rattle of a venomous snake. He didn't need to take it out for a second read. The words were emblazoned in his brain.
Oscar winners Javier and Lolita Delgado threw a lavish party for their only grandchild's fifth birthday. The power couple, two of the few remaining MGM "Hollywood royals," commanded an A-list crowd that included a who's who of movie magic. Little "Cammie," the star of the show, enjoyed pony rides, inflatables and a lavish afternoon buffet that stopped just short of caviar. The child's mother, Olivia Delgado, stayed out of the limelight as is her custom, but was seen occasionally in the company of rising film star Jeremy Vargas.
Like a dog worrying a bone, his brain circled back to the stunning possibility. The timing was right. But that didn't mean he and Olivia had produced a child.
Anger, searing and unexpected, filled his chest, choking him with confusion and inexplicable remorse. He'd done his best to eradicate memories of Olivia. Their time together had been brief but spectacular. He'd loved her with a young man's reckless passion.
It couldn't be true, could it?
Though it wasn't his style to postpone confrontation, he extracted the damning blurb one more time and studied the grainy black-and-white photo. The child's face was in shadow, but he knew her family all too well.
Did Kieran have a daughter?
His hands trembled. He'd been home from the Far East less than seventy-two hours. Jet lag threatened to drag him under. Things hadn't ended well with Olivia, but surely she wouldn't have kept such a thing from him.
The shocking discovery in his father's office set all of Kieran's plans awry. Instead of enjoying a long overdue reunion with his extended family on their remote mountaintop in the Virginia Blue Ridge, he had said hello and goodbye with dizzying speed and hopped on another plane, this time to California.
Though he'd be loath to admit it, he was jittery and panicked. With a muttered curse, he reached out and jabbed the bell.
When the door swung open, he squared his shoulders and smiled grimly. "Hello, Olivia."
The woman facing him could have been a movie star herself. She was quietly beautiful; a sweeter, gentler version of her mother's exotic, Latin looks. Warm, sun-kissed skin. A fall of mahogany hair. And huge brown eyes that at the moment were staring at him aghast.
He probably should be ashamed that he felt a jolt of satisfaction when she went white. The urge to hurt her was unsettling. "May I come in?"
She wet her lips with her tongue, a pulse throbbing visibly at the side of her neck. "Why are you here?" Her voice cracked, though she was clearly trying hard to appear unconcerned.
"I thought we could catch up for old times' sake. Six years is a long span."
She didn't give an inch. Her hand clenched the edge of the door, and her body language shouted a resounding no. "I'm working," she said stiffly. "Now's not a good time."
He might have been amused by her futile attempt at resistance if he hadn't been so tightly wound. Her generous breasts filled out the front of a white scooped-neck top. It was almost impossible not to stare. Any healthy man between the ages of sixteen and seventy would be drawn to the lush sexuality of a body that, if anything, was more pulse-stopping than ever.
He pushed his way in, inexorably but gently. "Perhaps not for you. I happen to think it's a damn good time."
She stepped back instinctively as he moved past her into a neat, pleasantly furnished living room. Though it was warm and charming, not an item was out of place. No toys, no puzzles, no evidence of a child.
On the far wall, built-in bookcases housed a plethora of volumes ranging from popular fiction to history and art appreciation. Olivia had been a phenomenally intelligent student, an overachiever who possessed the unusual combination of creativity and solid business sense.
A single framed picture caught his eye. As he crossed the room for a closer look, he recognized the background. Olivia had written her graduate thesis about the life and work of famed children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. On one memorable weekend, Olivia had dragged Kieran with her to England's Lake District. After touring the house and grounds where the beloved character Peter Rabbit was born, Kieran had booked a room at a charming, romantic B and B.
Remembering the incredible, erotic days and nights he and Olivia had shared on a fluffy, down-filled mattress tightened his gut and made his sex stir. Had he ever felt that way since?
He'd tried so damned hard to forget her, to fulfill his duty as a Wolff son. A million times he had questioned the decisions he made back then. Leaving her without a word. Ending an affair that was too new too fragile.
But he had ached for her. God, he had ached. For Olivia elegant, funny, beautiful Olivia with a body that could make a man weep for joy or pray that time stood still.
He shoved aside the arousing memory. There was a strong chance that this woman had perpetrated an unforgivable deception. He refused to let his good sense be impaired by nostalgia. And let's face it this meeting should be taking place on neutral ground. Because without witnesses, there was a good chance he was going to wring Olivia's neck.
Again, he studied the photo. Olivia stood, smiling for the camera, holding the hand of a young child. Kieran's world shifted on its axis. He lost the ability to breathe. My God. The kid was a Wolff. No one could doubt it. The wide-spaced eyes, the wary expression, the uptilted chin.
He whirled to face his betrayer. "Where is she?" he asked hoarsely. "Where's my daughter?"