Fatherhood wasn't on CEO Travis Callahan's life plan, but his baby niece, Libby, needs him. He's always understood the word duty, and if his new role requires changing diapers and midnight feedings, so be it!
Unfortunately, taking care of a six-month-old isn't as easy as running a corporation, and Travis is soon in over his head. Luckily for him, former flame Kit Wells is more than happy to help. As part owner of the daycares she ran with Travis's sister, Kit can teach him all about diaper duty. But can she teach him what it feels like to be part of a family?
And will Kit be the one who makes it whole ?
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"Ouch," Kit Wells said with a whimper, rubbing the back of her throbbing head. Never had she known such pain.
Well...at least physical pain. The emotional pain of losing her best friend in a freak car accident—that was still as crushing as it had been yesterday when Marlene died in her arms.
Focusing on the task at hand, which was fishing one of her best gold earrings out from under CEO Travis Callahan's desk, she snatched the errant piece of jewelry, then backed up, only to slam the top of her head when she rose too early.
She was still on the floor when the office's door creaked open. Between the stars flashing before her eyes and the ball-and-claw feet of navy leather wing chairs she spied a pair of obviously expensive black, highly polished wingtip shoes. Wearing those were long, long legs encased in creased black dress pants. As her gaze traveled up, she saw a matching black jacket, starched white shirt and red-striped power tie. After a quick gulp, Kit summoned the courage to finish her visual sweep. Precision-cut short dark hair, chiseled features and eyes the shade of fresh-ground coffee made it official—the man was gorgeous. Even better than thirteen years earlier, when he'd last visited her hometown of IdaBelle Falls.
"Um, hi," she said with a faint smile. "Remember me? I'm Kit. The girl you, um...well, you know, under your grandmother's backyard mulberry tree." Though she felt like conking herself on her already swimming head for blurting that bit of inane history—despite that to date, his kisses, among other things, were still some of her best in memory—Kit yanked down the hem of her brown prairie-style skirt, then tried scrambling to her feet. In fact, Travis's kisses had been so dreamy, his technique had even topped that of Brad Foley, the B-movie actor who'd finished the job of demolishing what had been left of Kit's heart after Travis left town. But that was a long story best forgotten.
As of late, she'd settled into a nice, safe engagement with local hardware store owner Levi Petty. What Levi lacked in animal magnetism and flash, he more than made up for in good old-fashioned family values and stability.
"Need help?" She looked up to see Travis's proffered hand, which she took, only to regret it. No way were her sparks for him as intense as when she'd been a gangly teen and he'd been equally handsome.
Both of which were entirely inappropriate observations considering the task she'd flown all the way from IdaBelle Falls to downtown Chicago to do.
"Um, please," she said, releasing him the instant she was back on her sturdy sandals. Never had she wished she was more the polished sophisticate like all the other women she'd seen in the building, but since she was only going to be here long enough to tell Travis her news, then be out on an afternoon flight, it really hadn't made sense to blow much-needed cash on some swanky outfit she'd wear only once. She really shouldn't have spent the money to come here. But when her friend Alex, who was on the IdaBelle Falls police force, said they'd intended to tell Travis the news over the phone, out of love for his sister Kit had begged Mitch to let her break the news herself.
"Thanks," she said, brushing at her behind, then adjusting her fitted brown-and-gold shirt before moving up to secure her disastrous head full of curly dark hair, which had sprung free of its clip.
"You're welcome. And yes, I remember you and the mulberry tree. My sister speaks of you often—at least when she's not barraging me with amazing baby feats performed by my adorable niece." The smile he flashed would've been perfect, only it didn't quite reach his eyes. And as far as Kit knew, through Marlene, Travis hadn't cracked a genuine smile since he'd taken this CEO gig.
At the mention of Travis's sister—Kit's longtime best friend—bone-deep sorrow reclaimed her. Yes, telling Travis in person about Marlene's death was the right thing to do but also agonizingly hard.
"Not to be rude," he asked, "but would you mind letting me in on the gag my sister no doubt put you up to that's led to you being camped out in my office?"
Tears stung her eyes, but Kit stoically blinked them away. Now was not the time for more of her own mourning. She had to be strong. Travis would need her, as would his adorable baby niece, Libby.
"Simple," Kit said, forcing a deep breath. "We need to talk. And..." She fumbled her hands at her waist. "Well, it's one of those conversations best held in person."
"Sure," he said, scratching his head. "Makes perfect sense." Glancing around as if he expected someone else to pop out at any moment yelling Surprise! he asked, "So? Where is she?"
"Marlene?" Kit's heart raced and her mouth went dry. She couldn't tell him his sister was dead like this. Not while standing around his office, shooting the breeze. Forcing a half smile, she replied, "She's not here. How about we sit, then I'll tell you all about her."
"Sure," he said, eyeing her as if she were a three-headed alien fresh off the ship from Mars. "But first I need to take care of business." He gestured toward a private bath she hadn't before noticed.
"Sure." Reddening from the coral-painted tips of her toes to the top of her head, Kit stumbled into the nearest chair. "I'll, uh, wait."
"Thanks. That'd be great."
WITH THE RESTROOM DOOR closed, for the first time since grasping Kit's hand, Travis Callahan breathed.
On the outside he might seem as if he had life by the balls—at least he hoped that was how he came across—but on the inside it was a whole different beast. Not that he wasn't one hundred percent at the top of his game, but the international electronics world kept changing. Growing evermore high-staked. Though he happened to be damned good at what he did—supervising the design and manufacture of an array of electronics ranging from flat-panel TVs to personal MP3 players—that didn't mean Travis liked his job.
What he did, in the simplest of terms, was done out of respect for the paternal grandparents who'd raised him. The company had been his grandfather's baby since a time when phonographs had been all the rage. So when, on his deathbed, Mitchell Callahan handed the reins to Travis days before his twenty-second birthday, what else could he have done but graciously accept, then carry on the family tradition? Up until five minutes ago he'd been mindlessly numb doing just that. Which was why being faced with this fresh-faced, pretty blast from his past had caught him off guard. Reminded him of secret hopes and dreams best forgotten.
After taking care of business, then washing and drying his hands, he stood at the counter for ten long seconds, staring at himself in the mirror. Maybe, with any luck, when he stepped outside that door, his security team would've gotten their heads out of their behinds enough to realize the woman who looked better dressed for a relaxed day at the county fair didn't belong at Rose Industries.
Forcing a deep breath, he squared his shoulders, knowing most folks found his six-three height intimidating. Why, he didn't pretend to know, but that's how he wanted Kit to feel—intimidated. Because, dammit, that's what she'd done to him. He'd once felt comfortable around not only her but other women, like Natalie—the college coed he'd fully planned to marry after getting out of Notre Dame. But then he'd caught her in bed graduation night with his supposed best friend and frat brother. Ever since, he'd sworn off women in favor of business. Oh, sure, he enjoyed long-legged companionship as much as the next guy—assuming she left his Lakeshore Drive penthouse long before sunrise—but for the most part he preferred avoiding the fairer sex altogether.
"Better?" she asked when he emerged from the bathroom.
He cast her a half grin before landing behind his antique mahogany desk. Oddly enough, that one small step went a long way toward regaining the control that'd only briefly been lost in his head. Suddenly Travis did feel better. In control.
He cleared his throat. "It's been great catching up, but as you can see—" he gestured to the foot-high stack of paperwork threatening to topple "—I've got a full plate. So, what's the problem? My sister need more shopping cash or lost her ATM card? Where is she, by the way?"
Even though it'd been over a decade since Travis had last seen Kit, her grass-green eyes were still piercing, her smile still pretty—at least until it faded like the sun blanketed by clouds. She then began fidgeting, rummaging through a purse that looked more like a small picnic basket until she found a tissue. Next came a slight hiccup before a full-force gale leading to a teary monsoon.
"Hey, whoa..." he said, walking out from behind his desk to slip his arm around her—in a strictly brotherly way. Nothing remotely like the way he used to hold her all those years ago. Not sure what else to do, he gave her a few awkward pats. "I'm, uh, sure everything's going to be okay."
"No," she said, "not ever. Oh, Travis. Marlene, she's—"
Travis's intercom buzzed. "Mr. Callahan, Steve Ford from Kline and Foster is holding on line three. He says it's urgent."
Crap. Torn between the sobbing beauty in front of him and the make-or-break deal awaiting him on the phone, Travis weighed his options. Door number one: do the decent thing and help his sister's gal pal through whatever crisis had her down. No doubt boyfriend or money trouble. Temporarily frustrating but ultimately fixable. Door number two: get the kinks worked out of a merger he'd been setting up for close to a year that would net Rose Industries a cool fifty million.
"Sorry..." he said to the woman who might as well have been from another lifetime. One in which he hadn't been the jaded, world-weary soul he was today. "I've got to take this call."
She nodded and sniffled.
He gave her back another pat.
Five minutes later, back behind his desk, he hung up the phone. "You any better?"
"No," she said, even though she'd nodded.
"Well, if it's love that's got you down, no doubt Marlene and her big mouth have let you in on the fact that I don't get it—the whole institution—so I won't be of much help to you there. However, if you've got creditors on your back, I'd be happy to see what I can do."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Kit Wells travels from IdaBelle Falls to downtown Chicago to inform CEO Travis Callahan that his sister Marlene died in a car accident and that his infant niece Libby needs him. Marlene also told her best friend not to give up on her brother, whom she kissed under the mulberry tree back home. Though in shock, Travis will raise his kin even if he has no idea how to deal with a baby.----------- However, managing a major corporation is a piece of cake when compared to managing a six month old child as Libby makes demands at any hour and the smell could force Bin Laden to surrender. Still he is fortunate as Kit remains in the Windy City to help him adjust though she hopes that adjustment takes a lifetime as she still loves the boy next door who broke her heart once before.---------------- This is an interesting family drama in which death and an infant serve as matchmakers. Kit and Travis keep the story line moving forward as both wants to do what is right for his young niece while fearing rejection if they take that first step towards one another. Though Travis adapts too easily from workaholic CEO to loving family man, contemporary readers will enjoy his new role as the head of DADDY DAYCARE.----- Harriet Klausner