Connor O'Leary knows nothing about babies, families, or good women, yet he's up to his ears in all three. Coming to Shadow Creek, Montana was meant to be a new start for this former oil rigger, but he had no idea that fresh beginning would include a baby on his doorstep and a hot nanny he can't stop thinking about. Diapers, feedings, and late nights soothing his little bundle of surprise were definitely not on his itinerary.
The last thing Haley Thomson expected to see is the reclusive Connor with a baby in his arms. Before she knows it, she's volunteered as nanny—temporarily. Helping out with baby Rosie is a dream come true and fills a space in her heart she believed will never be filled. But falling for Rosie's hot and sexy bachelor daddy is not on her to-do list…but boy would she ever like it to be...
Each book in the Shadow Creek, Montana series is STANDALONE:
* Christmas with the Sheriff
* The Baby Bombshell
* The Doctor's Redemption
* Baby on the Bad Boy’s Doorstep
* The Firefighter's Pretend Fiance
* A Christmas Miracle for the Doctor
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
One Year Later
"Here's to Haley. Congratulations on your job offer and going after your dreams ... even if it means your dreams are in another state."
Haley smiled at her older brother, Luke, and blinked back the tears that threatened as everyone at the table clinked glasses at his toast. How far she'd come this past year. She'd left her husband, her old life, her old self behind and had been rewarded with all these new friends. They were all her brother's in-laws and they'd accepted her as one of their own right from the first day. All except one — a very hot, handsome, brooding one who was the other outsider. Connor O'Leary. He also happened to be the one who wasn't looking at her right now. Instead, he was taking a long, lazy drink of his beer.
Despite the weekly Sunday night dinners at Luke's in-laws that Connor also attended, she'd barely had a conversation with the man. Connor was ... mysterious. He certainly wasn't the kind of guy she would have ever found herself attracted to. Well, not entirely true because even if he wasn't her type there was no denying he was a fine-looking man, all hard lines, rough edges, and tattoos.
"Thank you," she said finally. "You know there's no place I'd rather be than in Shadow Creek, but I have to go where there's a teaching position available." She and her brother had been over this so many times and she knew he was worried about her, but she wanted to earn a living, to be independent.
"We get it," her sister-in-law, Gwen, said. "And we'll just keep scouting out teaching positions in the area so you can come back as soon as possible."
Haley smiled, trying to be polite. "Sounds perfect." She knew it wasn't going to happen. Shadow Creek was a small town and new, full-time teaching opportunities were very rare.
"Though, you know if you want that job at our chocolaterie it'll always be available for you," Gwen said. Gwen was a co-owner of a newly established chocolate shop in downtown Shadow Creek.
"Yes, we'd love to have you on board!" Lily Bailey said. Lily was the other co-owner of the business and married to Gwen's brother, Jack Bailey.
"I know. I so appreciate you offering it, but I miss teaching so much," she said. It was hard to imagine that a little over a year ago she'd almost given it all up for David. She loved kids, adored them. And knowing she couldn't have any of her own made her want to be around them even more.
"I know, we get it," Gwen said. "Just trying to help your brother out," she said, leaning forward and giving Luke a quick kiss. They were so cute together. Haley knew he was worried. Luckily a few trays of food arrived and they were soon distracted by the appetizers they were all sharing. She looked around the table at them, wondering how the people she'd come to know in such a short time had become so important to her.
They gathered once a week at Gwen's parents' house, but tonight Luke and Gwen had arranged this to celebrate her new job. It was still months away, but Haley had just found out today. As they all dug into the food, everyone took turns telling her how much they'd miss her; everyone except Connor. She tried not to take it personally — they had nothing in common and he'd never shown any interest in her. The last thing she needed was a relationship with a man. Especially a hot man. A hot, silent man. She stuffed a nacho in her mouth and tried not to look in his direction.
Really, the man couldn't express his disinterest in her any more plainly. Could she blame him? Of course not. She had arrived here a wreck and it only felt like she was finding her footing now. She was also assuming she wasn't his type. Connor looked to be the very definition of a ... bad boy. She was the very definition of ... not a bad girl. She was a sad girl. Yes, that would be the appropriate adjective. Or divorced girl. Or unemployed girl.
He was the only one who hadn't really wished her well or asked her about her job.
"Well, we'd better get going," Jack said, he and Lily standing. "My parents are looking after all the babies tonight and I promised we wouldn't be late."
Chase and Julia Donovan also stood up. They were related to the family in a sad story that broke her heart whenever she thought of it. Chase was also the county sheriff and they were the proud parents of an adorable little girl, Maggie, and now a baby boy. "Yeah, we should, too," Chase said.
The table emptied out and soon it was just Gwen, Luke, Connor, and herself. Gwen carried the conversation a few more minutes, but then Connor stood.
"I'm going to head out, too. It's been a long week," he said, adding a few bills to the pile to cover his share. She gave him what she hoped was a natural smile, but she didn't even think he noticed. She tried not to be disappointed as she watched him leave the restaurant.
"He looked uncomfortable," Gwen said with a frown. "I like Connor, but I feel like we've barely gotten to know him this last year."
"He's not exactly the talkative type," Luke said, polishing off the remains of the nachos.
"I know Jack said he's the most loyal person he's ever met, and he really got him through those difficult years. He claims he probably wouldn't be here if it weren't for Connor."
Haley digested that piece of info as she watched Connor put on his leather jacket at the door and then walk out. He hadn't even bothered with a backward glance or wave. Gwen was right, they barely knew him. She knew he and Jack were very close, but he never spoke about his life before here. He never mentioned family, a girlfriend, nothing. She didn't even think he'd dated in the last year — because in a town the size of Shadow Creek it would be common knowledge.
She had first met Connor on the night of Gwen and Luke's wedding. She'd been trying to soothe her broken heart as inconspicuously as possible at the open bar and Connor had been standing there, looking like a man who'd rather be anywhere but a wedding. She'd immediately felt attracted to him, and that had come as a complete shock because she hadn't looked at a guy in a long time. But with his disgruntled expression, his reluctant conversation, and his undeniably handsome face, he'd intrigued her. He'd made her laugh. Then he'd walked away, before their conversation could turn real.
She focused her attention on Luke and Gwen, forcing her thoughts away from the man that would probably always remain a mystery to her, happy to be enjoying the rest of her night with them.
* * *
Connor, you're an idiot.
Connor swore under his breath as he pulled into his driveway. He hated that he was so cold to Haley, and he hated even more that she seemed hurt by it. He never should have gone tonight, but his best friend Jack's family was pushy. They wouldn't let him be alone. First with the Sunday night dinners, now with a congratulatory get-together for the woman he tried to ignore for the last year.
He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the rearview mirror, his gaze zeroing in on the scar above his lip, courtesy of his father. You're trash, Connor O'Leary.
Hell. He really hated that line. One day, he was going to rid it from his memory. The problem was it had been said so many times to him as kid, it was part of who he was. His dad, his teachers, his ex. None of those people meant anything to him, and yet the words clung to every memory of his childhood. He knew why he was thinking about it now; it was because of Haley. Because he knew that was the reason he could never get involved with someone like her. He'd never be enough. She was a teacher, her brother was a doctor, and from what he'd gathered, she'd been married to some wealthy guy. He hadn't even finished high school.
He pulled the key out of the ignition and leaned his head back in the cold truck. He wasn't part of their family, of their circle. He wasn't part of any family. And yet, here he was, in Shadow Creek for almost a year, attending traditional Sunday night dinners and get-togethers like he was part of their clan. He hadn't mingled with people like the Baileys in all his thirty-two years. They were educated, upper-middle-class, respectable people — not the kind he usually associated with.
Yes, he'd known the first second Jack Bailey had walked onto that oil rig he was different from most of them.
Yes, he'd thought that Jack wouldn't cut it with them.
Yes, he'd thought that Jack was just a pretty boy running away from home.
He'd been wrong on all counts — except the running from home. Bit by bit, the two of them had become friends. Jack didn't have a pretentious bone in his body and hadn't judged him. There were too many weekends with nothing but bottles of whiskey and guy bonding, and he'd found out why Jack had gone running from his family.
He pushed his thoughts of his new friends out of his head and got out of the truck. A blast of wintry air hit him and he quickly made his way up the walkway. He frowned as he spotted something on his doorstep. It was too late for deliveries. As he approached, an uncomfortable feeling ran through his body and he paused for a second.
He blinked, wondering if maybe he was losing it. He blinked again and sure enough it was still there. Panic shot through him at the sight of a baby on a ratty blanket, on his doorstep. He walked forward, feeling like he was in some kind of dream; maybe nightmare. Blood rushed to his ears, his heart beat painfully slow as he crouched down after seconds of standing still. His eyes went from the baby, who was making tiny noises, to the papers that were flapping in the wind and sticking out of the baby's hat.
He slowly crouched down, his limbs feeling heavy, and reached for the papers that were taped to the hat. Here's your baby. I don't want her. Tess.
The baby let out a whale of a cry at the same moment ice pellets rammed the back of his neck in an unusual force, as though the universe agreed about his status as a fool. He stared at the baby — his baby.
She started crying and he fumbled, grabbing the paper and the baby awkwardly and going inside the warm house. He shut the door and placed the baby on the couch, panic increasing as the baby's crying only got louder. He looked at it. Her.
Her face was pink and all scrunched up with her mouth opened wide. She looked tiny. And mad. He couldn't blame her. How long had she been out there? He didn't know anything about babies, but he could tell it couldn't have been long because her skin color didn't look too abnormal. Thankfully she was wearing a snowsuit, or whatever these contraptions were called.
He pulled off the other note — a birth certificate — almost one month to the day, and squeezed his eyes shut. That date ... it was his mother's birthday. It was a coincidence that sent a shiver down his spine. What were the odds? He brushed aside that thought and continued reading. Tessa, his ex, was listed as the mother, and there was no one listed as father. Images of his ex battered him, engulfing him with shame for the stupidity of his choices.
He closed his eyes for a second as he spotted the baby's name: Tess Jr. Holy hell. He couldn't deal with that. He wanted to yell or punch something. He wanted to swear. He wanted a drink. He was a damn fool. You're trash, Connor O'Leary.
He felt a bead of sweat slide down his back. He couldn't process what this meant. Yes, this could be his kid. Maybe it wasn't. She wasn't. But he couldn't think because the crying was increasing exponentially with every minute. He eyed the baby. Okay, he needed to pick the baby up, stop the crying, and then he could think. He'd seen Jack do this lots of time. He fumbled with the zipper of her snowsuit thing that didn't even have arms — who would like that? It was basically a potato sack. He unzipped it and gently pulled free the little arms that were trying to flail around. With one motion, he scooped one hand under her so that he was bracing her neck and the other hand her bottom.
She stopped crying and opened her eyes, and he swore to God in that moment, when her large blue eyes latched onto his, when he felt a jolt of recognition run through his body, that this was his kid. Except she was scarier than him, especially as her mouth opened wider and she let out a roar that would scare the crap out of a bear.
What the hell was he going to do?
Jack. Jack knew about babies — he had two. He grabbed his phone and called his friend.
"I have a situation," he managed to choke out.
"Take a cab."
"No, you idiot, I'm not wasted, I'm at home. You need to get over here. Now."
He heard grumbling, muttering, and then finally, "Be there in ten."
"Wait. Bring baby things."
"Baby things. Like, whatever a baby would need to, you know ... live."
"Oh man, this is starting to sound really bad."
He hung up the phone and looked down at the baby. His daughter. Or Tess Junior, as the name on the birth certificate stated. He was going to have to change that when he applied for paternity. If he applied. If she was his.
He hung up and sat down on the couch, moving the baby off his shoulder and cradling her head while resting her bottom on his knees. They stared at each other again. He found himself remarkably calm considering he just found out he was a father. Also, that his child's mother had dumped her. Right now, he needed to make this baby not cry, then he could worry about her hating him. He took her little hand in his. She stopped crying again, but was hiccupping as she stared at him. His heart squeezed at the sight. She was looking at him as though he might have the answer, like he might be able to help her. Her little pink mouth kept opening and closing, and she reminded him of a little bird. Hell, it was humbling to know that he had no answers. He didn't even have food for her.
She took a shuddering breath, let out a hiccup, a gurgle, and then fixed her gaze on him again. He felt compelled to say something. The right words didn't come. But he supposed any words were better than no words. Maybe she needed someone to tell her that it was going to be okay. "Hi. So, uh, food is coming. I bet you're hungry. I also have people who know what to do with little people like you, so don't worry."
They stared at each other and it was so weird. He didn't know babies. He knew Jack and his family were all about babies, but he usually kept his distance from the under twenty crowd at the Sunday night dinners. He really wanted to think she wasn't his, because that would be easier. And he wasn't sure he knew how she was his, but ... he felt it. Somehow.
He didn't know how long he and the baby sat there, but the sound of car tires crunching over snow indicated that Jack had arrived. He stood, holding the baby close, and opened the door. Ah, hell. The entire Bailey clan was here. Three cars. These people were like pack animals.
"Holy crap, why are you holding a baby?"
"Seriously? You had to call everyone?" he asked as Jack approached. Thankfully the guy was carrying a bunch of stuff.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly as he took off his boots, a car seat thing and large bags beside the door. "Chase and Julia were at my parents. Luckily we were able to hide it from my parents."
He frowned when he saw Luke, Gwen, and Haley walking up the drive. More like running, really. "What about your sister, Luke, and Haley?"
He shrugged. "Lily called Gwen."
"Omigod, who is this adorable baby?" Lily said as she entered the house.
He glanced over at Jack and Lily who were now in front of him. Jack was his best friend in the world. He was the reason he was even in Shadow Creek. He knew Jack and Lily wouldn't judge him, even though he'd judged Jack when he first met him on the oil rig. But when Jack, in a drunken mess, had told him why he'd left home, he'd been shaken. It was a pretty damn sad story and a good wake up call for him, who thought rich people had it all so easy. Jack's twin and nephew had died in a car accident and the guy couldn't deal and took off, ditching Lily. He'd thought that had been bad. But he'd never forget the day he had to pick his friend up off the floor and drag him off the rig; the day he'd learned Lily had lost their baby. After that day, the bond they shared had kind of become forged in steel and they considered each other family.
"You remember Tess?"
Jack gave a terse nod. "Unfortunately, yes."
Connor cleared his throat, before forcing the words out. "Looks like we had a baby."
Jack swore under his breath. "Are you sure it's yours? You didn't know? When did she get here?"
Excerpted from "Baby on the Bad Boy's Doorstep"
Copyright © 2018 Victoria James.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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