Read an Excerpt
The masculine aroma. The strength of those arms. The hard chest her cheek rested against
she'd know this man anywhere. She'd watched him across the grassy meadows, dreamed of him
made love to him.
Lily Beaumont struggled to wake and realized all too quickly she didn't have a clue how she'd gotten here.
Or more to the point, where was "here"?
The straw rustled against the concrete floor beneath her. She lay cradled in Nash James's lap, his strong arms around her midsection. What on earth had happened?
"Relax. You fainted."
That low, soothing voice washed over her. Lily lifted her lids to see Nash's bright blue eyes locked on hers. Those mesmerizing eyes surrounded by dark, thick lashes never failed to send a thrill shooting through her. No leading man she shared the screen with had ever been this breathtaking
But, she'd fainted? She never fainted.
Oh, yeah. She'd been walking to the stables to talk to Nash.
"Oh, no." Lily grabbed her still-spinning head. Reality slammed back into her mind, making her recall why she was in the stables. "This isn't happening."
Rough, callused fingertips slid away strands of hair that had fallen across her forehead. "Just lie still," he told her. "No rush. Everyone is gone for the day."
Meaning the cast and crew had all either gone to the hotel or into their on-site trailers. Thank God. The last thing she needed was a big fuss over her fainting spell, because then she'd have some explaining to do.
Just a few short months ago Lily started shooting a film depicting the life of Damon Barrington, dynamic horse owner and a force to be reckoned with. The Barrington estate had become her home away from home and the quiet, intriguing groom whose lap she currently lay in had quickly caught her attention.
Before she knew it, she'd been swept into a secret affair full of sneaking around, ripping off clothes and plucking straw pieces from her hair
which led her to this moment, this lifealtering moment when she was about to drop a major bomb in Nash's life.
All the trouble they'd gone through to keep their escapades a secret were all in vain. No way could this news stay hidden.
"Nash." She reached up to cup his face, the prickle of his short beard beneath her palm a familiar sensation. "I'm sorry."
His brows drew together, worry etched across his handsome, tanned face, and he shook his head. "You can't help that you passed out. But you scared the life out of me."
Lily swallowed, staring at such an attractive, spellbinding man could make a woman forget everything around her
like the fact that she was carrying this man's child.
"Are you feeling okay?" he asked, studying her face. "Do you need something to eat?"
Just the thought of food had her gag reflex wanting to kick in again. Weren't pregnant women supposed to be sick in the mornings? What was this all-day nonsense?
Lily started to sit up, but Nash placed a hand over her shoulder. "Hold on. Let me help you."
Gently, he eased her into a sitting position as he came to his feet. Then he lifted her, keeping her against his firm, strong body the entire time. Strong arms encircled her waist again and Lily wanted to seek the comfort and support he was offering. This might have been the first tender moment between them, considering anytime she'd come to meet him after dark they hurried to the loft where their passion completely took control.
How on earth would he react to the news? She was still reeling from the shocker herself, but she refused to keep this a secret. He had a right to know. She honestly had no clue what Nash would say, what he would do. A baby didn't necessarily affect his line of work. Hers, on the other hand
She'd been burned so badly before and had fought hard to overcome the public scandal that ensued. How would he handle being thrust into the limelight?
Lily groaned. Once the story broke, the press would circle her like vulturesand they would make her private life a top headline. People were starving, homeless, fighting wars and the media opted to nose their way into celebrities' lives and feed that into homes around the world rather than something that was actually newsworthy.
Lily loved being an actress, loved the various characters she got to tap in to and uncover. But she hated the lack of privacy. A girl couldn't even buy toilet paper without being spotted. Lily prided herself on being professional, doing her job and doing it well, and staying out of the media's greedy, sometimes evil, clutches
a nearly impossible feat.
"You okay now?" he asked, his breath tickling the side of her face.
Nodding, Lily stepped away, immediately missing the warmth of his body, but thankful the dizziness had passed.
Over the past couple months she'd actually come to crave his touch, miss him when he wasn't near her. She should've known then she was getting in over her head where this virtual stranger was concerned. Their passion had swept her into a world she'd never experienced before. How could any single woman turn away from a man who touched her beneath the surface, who looked so deep within she was certain he could see in to her soul?
A physical connection was something she could handle. But all of those nights of sneaking around, of giving in to their desires had caught up with them. Now they would have to pivot away from the sex-only relationship and actually talk about the future
a future she'd never expected to have with this man.
With her back to him, Lily tried to conjure up the right words, the words that would soften the blow, but really was there a proper way to tell someone they were going to be a father? No matter how gentle the words were, the impact and end result would still be the same.
Before she could finish her sentence, Nash took hold of her shoulder, eased her around and framed her face with his firm hands. Hypnotized by those vibrant blue eyes, she said nothing else as his mouth claimed hers.
And that right there was the crux of their relationship. Passion. Desire. Instant clothes falling to the floor.
Some might have said having a secret affair in the stables on a film set was not the classiest of moves, but Lily didn't care. She'd been classy her whole life
now she wanted to be naughty. The secret they shared made their covert encounters all the more thrilling.
Who knew Hollywood's "girl next door," as they'd dubbed her, had a wild side? Well, they'd caught a glimpse of it with the scandal, but she had since reclaimed her good girl status. She certainly had never been this passionate with or for a man. Definitely not the jerk who had used her and exploited her early in her career.
Before she'd become a recognized name, she'd fallen for another rookie actor. He'd completely blind-sided her by filming her without her knowledge. Their most intimate moments had been staged; everything about their relationship had been a lie. After that scandal, Lily had to fight to get to where she was now.
Nash's arms enveloped her and Lily was rendered defenseless as his mouth continued its assault on hers. Her arms slid up the front of his shirt, taut muscles firm beneath her palms.
He eased back slightly, resting his forehead against hers. "You sure you're feeling okay? Not dizzy anymore?"
"I'm okay," she assured him, clutching his T-shirt.
Nash's lips nipped at hers. "I missed you today. I kept seeing you and Max together. It was all I could do to ignore the way his arms were around you. His lips where mine should be."
Chills spread over her body. Tingles started low in her belly and coursed throughout. That hint of jealousy pouring from Nash's lips thrilled her more than it should
considering this was supposed to be a fling.
"We were acting," she murmured against his mouth. "You know we're playing a young couple in love."
Lily had wanted to play the role of the late Rose Barrington since news of the project had first spread, and having Max Ford as the leading man was perfect. She and Max had been friends for years
so much so that he was like a brother to her.
Nash's hands slid between them, started peeling down the top of her strapless sundress.
"If Max weren't married with a baby, I'd think he was trying to steal my time with you."
Baby. Just the word threw a dose of reality right smack-dab in the middle of their minor make-out session.
Lily covered Nash's hands with her own and eased back. "We need to talk."
Vibrant eyes stared back at her beneath heavy lids. "Sounds like you're breaking things off. I know we never discussed being exclusive." Nash attempted a smile. "Don't take my Max joke so seriously."
Shaking her head, Lily took a deep breath and pushed through her fear and doubts. "I didn't take you for the jealous type. Besides, I know what this is between us."
Or, what it had started out being.
"Oh, baby, I'm jealous." He jerked her against his body. "Now that I've had you, I don't like seeing another man's hands on you, but I know this is your job and I love watching you work."
"I can't think when your hands are on me," she told him, stepping back once again to try to put some distance between temptation and the truth.
A corner of Nash's devilish mouth kicked up. "You say that like it's a bad thing. Because I'm thinking plenty when my hands are on you."
Smoothing a hand through her hair, Lily tried to form the right words. Since seeing the two blue lines on the stick this morning and confirming what she'd already assumed, she'd been playing conversations on how to break the news over and over in her mind. But now it was literally show time and she had nothing but fear and bundles of nerves consuming her.
Abandoning his joking, Nash's brows drew together as he reached for her once again. "What is it? If you're worried about when you leave, I don't expect anything from you."
"If only it were that easy," she whispered, looking down at his scuffed boots, inches from her pink polished toes.
Nash was a hard worker, so unlike the Hollywood playboys who always tried to capture her attention. Money and fame meant nothing to hershe had plenty of both. She preferred a man who worked hard, played hard and truly cared for other people
a man like Nash.
This wasn't supposed to happen. None of it. Not the deeper feelings, not the lingering looks that teetered on falling beyond lust and certainly not a baby that would bind them forever.
"Lily, just say it. It can't be that bad."
She met and held his questioning stare. "I'm pregnant."
Okay, maybe it could be that bad. Pregnant? What the hell? Suddenly he felt like passing out himself.
Nash stared at Lily, knowing full well she wasn't lying. After all, she looked just as freaked out as he felt and what would she have to gain by lying to him? She didn't know his true identity, or how something like this would be perfect blackmail material.
In Lily's eyes, and the eyes of everyone else on the estate, he was a simple groom who kept to himself and did his job. Little did they know the real reason he'd landed at the Barringtons' doorstep.
And a baby thrown into the mix?
Talk about irony and coming full circle.
"You're positive?" he asked, knowing she wouldn't have told him had she not been sure.
Lily nodded, wrapping her arms around her middle and worrying her bottom lip. "I've had a suspicion for several days, but I confirmed this morning."
Well, this certainly put a speed bump in all the plans he had for his immediate future here at Stony Ridge Acres. Not to mention life in general. A baby wasn't something he was opposed to, just something he'd planned later down the road, after a wife came into the picture.
"I have no idea what to say," he told her, raking a hand through his hair that was way longer than he'd ever had. "I
damn, I wasn't expecting this."
Lily kept looking at him as if she was waiting for him to explode or deny the fact the baby was his. Of course, she could've slept with someone else, but considering that they'd been together almost every night for nearly the past two months, he highly doubted it.
Besides, Lily wasn't like that. He many not know much about her on a personal level, but he knew enough to know she wasn't a woman who slept around. Despite that whole sex scandal she'd endured years ago, Nash wasn't convinced she was some crazed nympho.
But he also wasn't naive and he wasn't just an average groom, so he needed to play this safe and protect himself from all angles.
"The baby is yours," she stated, as if she could sense where his thoughts were going. "I haven't been with anybody since months before I even came here."
"I thought you said you were on birth control."
"I am," she countered. "Nothing is foolproof, though. I'm assuming it happened that one time we."
"Didn't use a condom."
One time in all those secret rendezvous he had thought he'd put one in his wallet, but they'd used it already. They'd quickly discussed how they were both clean, amidst clothes flying all over the loft floor, and they'd come to the mutual decision to go ahead
Thus the reason for this milestone, lifealtering talk they were having now.
Emotions, scenarios, endless questions all swirled through his mind. What on earth did he know about babies or parenting? All he knew was how hard his mother worked to keep them in a meager apartment. She'd never once complained, never once acted worried. She was the most courageous, determined woman he'd ever known. Traits she'd passed down to him, which gave him the strength to carry on with his original plans, even with the shocking news of the baby. He would not let his child down, but he had to follow through and take what he had come for.
"I don't expect anything from you, Nash," Lily went on as if she couldn't handle the silence. "But I wasn't going to keep this a secret, either. Secrets always become exposed at the wrong time and I felt you deserved to know. It's up to you whether you want to be part of this baby's life."
Secrets, hidden babies. Wow. The irony kept getting harsher and harsher as if fate was laughing at him. This hurdle she'd placed in front of him really had him at a crossroads. What started out as a fling had now escalated into something personal, intimate
anchoring him in for the long term. Because now he couldn't keep pretending to be someone he wasn't, unfortunately he couldn't come clean with his identity, either.
He wanted to give his child, and Lily, the absolute best of everything. Even though Lily wasn't financially strained, Nash would be front and center in his child's life in every single way. How the hell could he do that without her discovering his identity?
Damn it. He'd never, ever intended for her to be hurt, but he'd passed the point of no return and now the inevitable heartbreak lay in the very near future.