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Her Boss's Baby Plan
Chapter OneMARTHA looked at her watch. Twenty to four. How much longer was Lewis Mansfield going to keep her waiting?
His PA had apologised when she had turned up as instructed at three o'clock. Mr Mansfield, she said, was very busy. Which was fine. Martha knew about being busy, and she couldn't afford to make a grand gesture and walk out in a huff. Lewis Mansfield was her best chance - OK, her only chance right now - of getting out to St Bonaventure, so she was just going to have to wait.
Only she wished that he would hurry up. Noah had woken up and was getting restless. Martha hoisted him out of his buggy and carried him over to look at the enlarged black and white photographs that lined the walls.
They were not very interesting. A road stretching out across a desert. A runway. A port. Another road, this one with a tunnel. A bridge. Dramatic in their own way, but personally Martha preferred a bit of life. Including a person in the shot would have given the structures some sense of scale and humanised the pictures. Now, if they had just had a model striding across the tarmac ...
"I'm thinking like a fashion editor," Martha told Noah.
"I'd better stop it, hadn't I? I've got a new career now."
Could you call being a nanny for six months a career? It certainly wasn't the one she had had in mind when she left university. Martha thought about her exciting job at Glitz, and sighed inwardly. Somehow, being a nanny didn't have quite the same ring to it.
Noah, at eight months, was not yet up to much in the way of conversation, but he bumped his forehead affectionately against Martha's jaw in reply and she hugged him back. He was worth more than any dazzling career.
The door to Lewis Mansfield's office opened and Martha turned hopefully as his PA reappeared.
"Lewis will see you now," she said. "Sorry you've had to wait so long." She looked a little doubtfully at Noah.
"Do you want to leave him with me?"
"Thanks, but now he's awake I think I'd better take him with me," said Martha. "Could I leave the buggy here, though?"
"Sure." The PA lowered her voice and nodded her head towards the closed door. "He's not in the best of moods," she warned.
Oh, great, thought Martha, but it was too late to turn back now. "Maybe he'll cheer up when he discovers that I'm the answer to his prayers?" she suggested, but the PA's answering smile was disturbingly sympathetic.
"Good luck," was all she said.
Behind the closed door Lewis shuffled the papers morosely on his desk and waited for Martha Shaw to appear. To say that he was not in the best of moods was an understatement.
It had been a hellish day so far, kicked off bright and early by Savannah turning up on his doorstep in a terrible state, followed inevitably by reporters ringing the bell, eager to discover the sordid details of the last instalment in the long-running melodrama that was Savannah's relationship with Van Valerian.
He had finally calmed his sister down, fought his way through the pack of paparazzi at the door, and champed in frustration at endless traffic delays, only to get to work and discover one crisis after another, all of which had to be dealt with urgently. Just to make things more interesting, the nanny had turned up at lunchtime saying that her mother had been taken into hospital and dumping Viola with him until the evening.
At least Viola was behaving herself, thought Lewis. So far, anyway. He eyed the carry-cot in the corner dubiously. She was sleeping peacefully, but the way today was going that wouldn't last.
He would have to make the most of the time he had left today. He wished he hadn't agreed to see Martha Shaw, but Gill had been so insistent that her friend was just the person he needed to look after Viola that in the end he had given in just to shut her up. "Martha will be absolutely perfect for you," she had insisted.
Lewis wasn't so sure. Gill was a friend of Savannah's and worked on some glossy, glittery magazine. He couldn't imagine her being friends with a nanny at all, let alone the kind of calm, sensible, solid nanny that he wanted.
The door opened. "Martha Shaw," said his PA brightly, and ushered in exactly the kind of woman Lewis least wanted to see right then.
He should have known, he thought bitterly, taking in the slightly dishevelled glamour and the brittle smile. She was attractive enough, with a swing of dark straight hair and that generous mouth, but she was far too thin. Lewis preferred women who didn't look as if they would snap in two the moment you touched them.
So much for a calm, solid nanny. Martha Shaw radiated nervous exhaustion. Her huge dark eyes were smudged with tiredness, and she held herself tensely.
And she wasn't just holding herself.
"That," said Lewis, ignoring her greeting and levelling an accusing stare at her hip, "is a baby."
Martha followed his gaze to Noah, who was sucking his thumb and gazing around him with round blue eyes. Nothing wrong with Lewis Mansfield's powers of observation then, even if his manners left something to be desired.
"Good heavens, so it is!" she exclaimed with an exaggerated start of surprise. "How did that get there?"
Her facetiousness was met with a scowl that made her heart sink. Not only was Lewis sadly lacking on the courtesy front, but he clearly had no sense of humour either. Not a good start to her interview.
Time to try charm instead. "This is Noah," she said with her best smile.
It was not returned. Somehow she hadn't thought that it would be. Lewis Mansfield was the walking, talking embodiment of dour. He was tall and tough-looking, with an austere, angular face and guarded eyes. It was hard to believe that he could be related in any way to the golden, glamorous Savannah Mansfield, with her famously volatile temper and celebrity lifestyle.
Gill might have warned her, thought Martha with a touch of resentment. Admittedly, Gill had said that Lewis could be a bit gruff. "But he's a sweetie really," she had hastened to reassure Martha. "I'm sure you'll get on very well."
On the receiving end of his daunting glare, Martha somehow doubted that.
She studied Lewis with a dubious expression as she waited for him to apologise for keeping her waiting, or at least to ask her to sit down. Very dark, very thick brows were drawn together over his commanding nose in what looked suspiciously like a permanent frown, and she searched in vain for any sign of softness or sensitivity in the unfriendly eyes or that stern mouth. He looked grim and grumpy and, yes, definitely gruff, but a sweetie? Martha didn't think so.
"He's very good," she offered, ruffling Noah's hair when it was obvious that no apology would be forthcoming.
They could hardly stand here all afternoon glaring at each other, so one of them was going to have to break the silence and it looked as if it was going to have to be her. She hoped Lewis couldn't see her crossed fingers when she thought about all the broken nights. "He won't be any trouble."
"Hah!" grunted Lewis, prowling out from behind his desk. "I've heard that before - usually from women who promptly hand over their babies and go off, leaving you to discover for yourself just how much trouble they are!"
Oh dear, this wasn't going well at all. Martha sighed inwardly. Gill had given her the impression that Lewis Mansfield was a frazzled engineer, struggling to build up his own company and overwhelmed by the unforeseen responsibility of looking after his sister's baby. She hadn't actually said that he was tearing his hair out and desperate for help, but Martha had come fully expecting him to fall on her neck with gratitude for turning up just when he needed her.
Excerpted from Her Boss's Baby Plan by Jessica Hart Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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