Read an Excerpt
Caro's searching gaze swept over the sea of happy faces as she left the baggage area at Heathrow Airport, looking for her brother Gavin. It was the day before Christmas Eve, and there were dozens of people waiting expectantly for family and friends to arrive for the holidays. Caro wasn't in the least surprised when Gavin didn't appear to be one of them; her absent-minded brother had probably forgotten she was arriving today!
'I'll take it from here, thanks.'
Caro froze the second she heard that arrogantly forceful voice behind her, the colour fading from her cheeks, the blood in her veins turning to ice, and her excitement at being back in England again turning to cold dread.
It couldn't be
Not here. Not now!
She had been in Majorca for over a year
'Have a good Christmas!' called out the man, who had very kindly offered to push Caro's luggage trolley through for her, happily as he hastened away to be greeted by a pretty blonde woman and two young children.
'Could you get a move on, Caro?' rasped that all-too-familiar voice. 'We're holding everyone up.'
Caro turned sharply, eyes wide, feeling numb with disbelief as she looked up at the man who had now taken charge of the trolley and her luggage. It really was Jake! She took in everything about his face in that single glance. Aged in his mid-thirties, Jake had dark hair, green eyesangrily accusing!high cheek bones either side of an arrogant slash of a nose, and sculptured lips that at the moment were thinned with displeasure. His firm jaw was tightly clenched.
Caro's estranged husband
Jake gave Caro a steely looklong enough to register the fact that, at ten years his junior, she was as beautiful as everbefore turning his hungry gaze to the baby she carried in her arms.
The baby's hair was the same red-gold as Caro's, but eyes the same emerald-green as his own stared back at him with guile less cu ri osity. The nose was small and snub, and the mouth a perfect bow in a chubby face warmly golden from the Majorcan sun.
Magdalena. His six-month-old daughter that Jake hadn't even known existed until a few hours ago.
The six-month-old daughter who had absolutely no idea that Jake was her father!
Jake's instinctneedwas to snatch the baby from Caro and hold her in his arms for the very first time. To bury his face in the baby's silky red-gold curls. To breathe in the essence of her. To feel the solidness of her very existence.
That was Jake's instinct. Logic told him he couldn't do thatthat he was a stranger to Magdalena and she would probably scream the place down if he were to try and take her from the comfort and safety of her mother's arms.
Jake's mouth thinned grimly as he thought of Caro's year-long deception that had made him a stranger to his own daughter, and he clenched his fingers tightly about the handle of the trolley to stop himself from giving in to the temptation to reach out and shake Caro where she stood.
'Let's get out of here.'
'I'm not going anywhere with you, Jake!' Caro's sky-blue eyes glittered with determination, her cheeks aflame with colour now as she stood her ground with her arms protectively about the baby.
'Oh, yes, Caro, you most certainly are,' Jake contradicted her, his long-held patience finally at breaking point. 'Unless, that is, you would prefer to stand here in front of all these people and tell me the reason you didn't inform me of the existence of my own daughter?' he added with pointed challenge.
What Caro wanted to do was to sit down and cry. Or scream and shout. But most of all she wanted Jake to just disappear. To not be here at all. 'We have nothing to discuss,' she told him firmly, unhappily aware that he easily towered over her five-feet-four-inch height as she at tempted to take charge of the trolley herself.
And failed miserably.
'I really don't advise that we have this conversation here, Caro,' Jake reiterated before he strode off, pushing the trolley in front of him.
Leaving Caro no choice but to follow him. All of Magdalena's food, clothes and other baby needs were in that trolleyas was the suitcase she had packed for their week-long seasonal stay.
Caro almost had to run to keep up with Jake's much longer strides as he headed towards one of the exits, and she was not in the least surprised when people moved aside to make a path before himlike Moses parting the Red Sea!
What was Jake doing here? How could he possibly have known Caro would be on that particular flight from Majorca?
She ground her teeth in exasperation. Her totally brilliant but equally impossible and absent-minded younger brother was noticeably absent!
Caro hadn't even wanted to make this trip to England, but Gavin had talked her into it with the claim that with their parents both dead they were now the only family each of them had, and that Christmas was a time for families to be together.
Maybe all with the intention of Jake being the one to meet her at the airport instead of her brother ?
No, Gavin was absent-mindedrarely knew what time it was, let alone which day of the weekbut still Caro didn't believe he would have deliberately put her in this awkward position.
'Where's Gavin?' Caro asked as she unwillingly followed Jake outside into the icily cold wind.
Snow had been forecast in England for Christmas, and Caro had dressed both Magdalena and herself accordingly, the two of them wearing jeans and heavy sweaters beneath their warm coats. Nevertheless, she pulled up the hood of Magdalena's pink coat to keep off most of the biting chill.
Jake turned to look at his wife and daughter, a fist clenching in his chest as he was once again hit with the likeness between them.
Caro's long hair was that same unusual shade of red-gold, her skin tanned with the same golden hue, her nose slightly upturned, her mouth a full pouting bow, and her chin small and stubbornly pointed. But her eyes were a clear sky-blue, and surrounded by the thickest, darkest lashes Jake had ever seen. Caro was undeniably still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
She was alsono matter how much she might wish it were otherwise!still his wife.
As Magdalena was undoubtedly his daughter
'Will you please tell me where Gavin is?' Caro prompted again impatiently.
A satisfied smile curved Jake's mouth. 'When I last saw him?'
He quirked dark brows. 'He was grappling with a particularly troublesome glitch in the program for the new security system he's in the middle of developing for Montgomery Software.'
'Yes, as a matter of fact ' Jake drawled unapologetically.
Caro gave a pained grimace as she closed her eyes. Her younger brother was currently, and probably always would be, one of the most brilliant computer programmers in the world. He was also one of the most single-minded. Nothing penetrated his concentration once he was caught up in one of his beloved computer programs. That single-mindedness was the very reason Jake Montgomery had employed Gavin at Montgomery Software two and a half years ago, after he'd left university.
It was that employment that had led to Caro meeting and falling in love with Jake only weeks later
None of which was of the least help now, with the awkward situation she found herself in!
She attempted a conciliatory smile. 'It was very kind of you to meet us, Jake, but'
'Believe me, Caro, kindness didn't enter into my emotions at all when I learnt that Gavin had taken the unprecedented step of taking the afternoon off on the day before Christmas Eve because he had to go to the airport to pick up a relative. As you're the only relative Gavin has ' He shrugged. 'I cashed in a few favours with a friend who owns one of the airlines, and he managed to ascertain that a Caroline Montgomery was arriving on a flight from Majorca. Along with her six-month-old baby daughterMagdalena Montgomery,' Jake gritted.
Caro eyed him warily, noticing as she did so the lines of grimness beside Jake's eyes and mouth, the touches of grey in the darkness of the hair at his temples. Neither of which had been there when she had seen him a little over a year ago.
Not that Caro thought for a moment that it had been her walking out of their marriage that had brought about those changes in Jake. As she knew only too well, he simply hadn't cared enough about her or their marriage for that to be the case. He'd found someone new to occupy his time with, and she hadn't been able to bear that.
'It was easy enough after that to come up with something that would distract Gavin so that he totally forgot he was going anywhere this afternoon,' Jake added with an evil smile. 'Don't worryI've left a message with my secretary to assure him of your safety once he does emerge from his programming trance.'
Gavin was now the least of her worries. 'Jake'
'I don't intend continuing this conversation now, Caro,' he stated.
'When, then?' She stubbornly stood her ground.
'When I'm good and ready!' His eyes glittered dangerously.
'I hate to burst your bubble, Jake, but I no longer give a damn Where are you going with my luggage?' Caro demanded as Jake turned away to push the trolley across the road.
He didn't even glance back as he answered her. 'Wherever it is I'm going, I would advise that you follow me!'
'I But Jake!' Caro protested, making no effort to follow himher days of following where Jake led were long over!
Jake drew in a deep controlling breath as he came to an abrupt halt on the island in the middle of the road, appreciating the fact that if he did follow his instinct to shake Caro right here and now there were enough police men and women milling about the airport to arrest him on the spot!
How could she have done this to him? No matter what their differences were, how could she have kept her pregnancy from himlet alone the birth of their daughter six months ago? Did Caro really hate him that much ?
Jake had been asking himself those same questions for the last three hourssince learning of Caro and Magdalena's imminent arrival in England. Since he had learnt of his daughter's existence
He still had no answers to those questions.
But Caro did. And before this day was out she was going to give Jake those answers. Just not here. And certainly not now.
He turned slowly, steeling himself not to be affected by how young and defenceless she suddenly looked, with her hair flowing about her shoulders and her coat buttoned up against the cold. Fitted jeans emphasised her slenderness, and her expression was once again defensive as she held Magdalena to her tightly.
Caro was wise to feel apprehension! 'My car is parked over here,' Jake informed her abruptly.
'Your car?' Caro shook her head, her expression becoming stubborn. 'Magdalena and I can easily get a taxi to Gavin's apartment.'
Jake's eyes narrowed. 'You and I both know there is no way I'm going to let you go anywhere until the two of us have had a chance to talk.'
She swallowed hard. 'You can't stop me'
'No?' Jake challenged softly.
Caro felt a shiver of apprehension run down the length of her spine as she saw the cold and ruthless determination on Jake's handsome face.
A face she had fallen instantly in love with over two years ago
But she hadn't fallen in love with just his face, Caro accepted heavily. She had fallen in love with the whole package. The self-assurance that bordered on arrogance. The air of power that his incredible wealth gave him. The athletic fitness of his six-foot-two-inch frame. The experienced and mesmerising lover who had held Caro so totally in his thrall that she hadn't even noticed that Jake had never, evernot even during the height of passion told her that he loved her.
No, she wouldn't even go there!
She couldn't go there.
It would remind her all too painfully of how her father had damaged their whole family with his fickle behaviour
'I'm not about to argue with you on this point, Caro,' Jake bit out as he saw stubborn resolve return to her expression. 'You're going to come to my car with me. Then I'm going to drive us somewhere private, so that we can talk about this like two rational human beings.'
Sky-blue eyes warred with his for several long seconds as Jake waited for Caro to capitulate to his demand. And she would capitulate. Jake simply wouldn't accept any other outcome to this conversation.
Yes, Jake wanted answers from his wife. Explanations for what she had doneif she had any! But he also wanted to sit somewhere quietly and hold his daughter in his arms for the first time. To familiarise himself with the weight and feel of her. To check all of her fingers and toes. To see her smile
Damn itCaro had better have a really good explanation for denying him knowledge of his own daughter for all these months.
'Well?' he pressed. 'What's it going to be? A slanging match here? Or a more civilised conversation some where less public?' He gave a pointed glance at the stream of people constantly leaving the airport building, several of them shooting curious looks their way as they obviously sensed the tension of their exchange.