His Secretary's Surprise Fiancé

His Secretary's Surprise Fiancé

by Joanne Rock

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373734498
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 03/08/2016
Series: Bayou Billionaires , #2
Edition description: Original
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 4.24(w) x 6.56(h) x 0.53(d)

About the Author

USA TODAY bestselling author Joanne Rock credits her decision to write romance to a book she picked up during a flight delay that engrossed her so thoroughly, she didn't mind at all when her flight was delayed two more times. Giving her readers the chance to escape into another world has motivated her to write over eighty books for a variety of Harlequin series.

Read an Excerpt

Dempsey Reynaud would have his revenge.

Leaving the football team's locker room behind after losing the final preseason game, the New Orleans Hurricanes' head coach charged toward the media reception room to give the mandatory press conference. Today's score sheet was immaterial since he'd rested his most valuable players. Not that he'd say as much in his remarks to the media. But he would make damn sure the Hurricanes took their vengeance for today's loss.

They would win the conference title at worst. A Super Bowl championship at best.

As a second-year head coach on a team owned by his half brother, Dempsey had a lot to prove. Being a Reynaud in this town came with a weight all its own. Being an illegitimate Reynaud meant he'd been on a mission to deserve the name long before he became obsessed with bringing home a Super Bowl title to the Big Easy. A championship season would effectively answer his detractors, especially the sports journalists who'd declared that hiring him was an obvious case of favoritism. The press didn't understand his relatives at all if they didn't know that his older brother, Gervais, would be the first one calling for his head if he didn't deliver results. The Reynauds hadn't gotten where they were by being soft on each other.

More important, his hometown deserved a championship. Not for the billionaire family who'd claimed him as their own when he was thirteen. He wanted it for people who hungered for any kind of victory in life. For people who struggled every day in places like the Eighth Ward, where he'd been born.

Just like his assistant, Adelaide Thibodeaux.

She stood outside the media room about five yards ahead of him, smiling politely at a local sportswriter. When she spotted Dempsey, she excused herself and walked toward him, heels clicking on the tile floor like a time clock on overdrive. She wore a black pencil skirt with gold pinstripes and a sleeveless gold blouse that echoed the Hurricanes' colors and showed off the tawny skin of her Creole heritage. Poised and efficient, she didn't look like the half-starved ragamuffin who'd been raised in one of the city's toughest neighborhoods. The one who used to stuff half her lunch in her book bag to share with him on the bus home since he wouldn't eat again until the free breakfast at school the next morning. A lot had changed for both of them since those days.

From her waist-length dark hair that she wore in a smooth ponytail to her wide hazel eyes, framed by dark brows and lashes, she was a pretty and incredibly competent woman. The only woman he considered a friend. She'd been his assistant through his rise in the coaching ranks, her salary paid by him personally. As a Reynaud, he wrote his own rules and brought all his resources to the table to make a success of coaching. He'd been only too glad to create the position for her as he'd moved from Atlanta to Tampa Bay and then—two years ago—back to their hometown after his older brother, Gervais, had purchased the New Orleans Hurricanes.

There was a long, proud tradition of nepotism in football from the Harbaughs to the Grudens, and the Rey-naud family was no different. They'd made billions in the global shipping industry, but their real passion was football. An obsession with the game ran in the blood, no matter how much some local pundits liked to say they were dilettantes.

"Coach Reynaud?" Adelaide called to him down the narrow hallway draped in team banners. Her use of his title alerted him that she was annoyed, making him wonder if that sportswriter had been hassling her. "Do you have a moment to meet privately before you take the podium?"

She handed him note cards, an old-fashioned preference at media events so he could leave his phone free for updates. He planned to brief the journalists on his regular-season roster, one of the few topics that would distract sports hounds from grilling him about today's loss in a preseason contest that didn't reflect his full team weaponry.

"Any last-minute emergencies?" He frowned. Adelaide had been with him long enough to know he didn't stick around longer than necessary after a loss.

He needed to start preparing for their first regularseason game. A game that counted. But he recognized a certain stiffness in her shoulders, a tension that wouldn't come from a defeat on the field even though she hated losing, too. She'd mastered hiding her emotions better than he had.

"There is one thing." She wore an earbud in one ear, the black cord disappearing in her dark hair; she was probably listening for messages from the public relations coordinator already in the media room. "It will just take a moment."

Adelaide rarely requested his time, understanding her job and his needs so intuitively that she could prepare weeks of his work based on little more than his daily texts or CCing her on important emails. If she needed to speak with him privately—now—it had to be important.

"Sure." He waved her to walk alongside him. "What do you need?"

"Privately, please," she answered tightly, setting off alarms in his head.

Commandeering one of the smaller offices along the hallway, Dempsey flicked on a light in the barren, generic space. The facilities in the building were nothing like the team headquarters and training compound in Metairie, where the Reynauds had invested millions for a state-of-the-art home. They played here because it was downtown and easier for their fans. The tiny box where they stood now was a fraction the size of his regular work space.

"What is it?" He closed the door behind him, sealing them inside the glorified cubicle with a cheap metal desk, a corded phone from another decade and walls so thin he could hear the lockers slamming and guys shouting in the team room next door.

"Dempsey, I apologize for the timing on this, but I can't put it off any longer." She tugged the earbud free, as if she didn't want to hear whatever was going on at the other end of her connection. "I've tried to explain before that I couldn't be a part of this season but it's clear I'm not getting through to you."

He frowned. What the hell was she talking about? When had she asked for a break? If she wanted vacation time, all she had to do was put it on his calendar.

"You're going to do this now?" He prided himself on control on the field and off. But after today's loss, this topic was going to test his patience. "Text me the dates you want off, take as long as you need to recharge and we'll regroup later. You're invaluable to me. I need you at full speed. Take care of yourself, Adelaide."

He turned to leave, ready to get back to work and relieved to have that resolved. He had a press conference to attend.

She darted around him, blocking the door with her five-foot-four frame. "You aren't listening to me now. And you haven't been listening to me for months."

The team owned tackling dummies for practice that stood taller than Adelaide, but she didn't seem to notice that Dempsey was twice her size.

He sighed. "What did I not hear?"

"I want to start my own business."

"Yes. I remember that. We agreed you would draw up a business plan for me to review." He knew she wanted to start her own company. She'd mentioned it last winter. She'd said something about specializing in clothes and accessories for female fans. She hoped to grow it over time, eventually securing merchandising rights from the team with his support.

He worried about her losing the financial stability she'd fought so hard to attain and figured she would realize the folly of the venture after thinking it over. He thought he'd convinced her to reevaluate those plans when he'd persuaded her to return for the preseason. Besides, she excelled at helping him. She was an invaluable member of the administrative staff he'd spent years building, so that when he finally had the right football personnel on the field, he could ride that talent to a winning year.

That year had arrived.

"I've emailed my business plan to you multiple times." She folded her arms beneath her breasts, an unwelcome reminder that Adelaide was an attractive woman.

She was his friend. Friendships were rare, important. Sex was…sex. She was more than sex to him.

"Right." He swallowed hard and hauled his gaze upward to her hazel eyes. "I'll get right on reading that after the press conference."

"Liar," she retorted. "You're putting me off again. I can't force you to read it, any more than I can make you read the messages and emails from your former female companions."

She arched an eyebrow at him, her rigid spine still plastered to the door, blocking his exit. It had never pleased her that he'd asked her to handle things like that from his inbox. But he needed her help deflecting unhappy ex-girlfriends, preventing them from talking to the press and diverting public attention from the team to his personal life. Adelaide was good at that. At so many things. His life frayed at the edges when she wasn't around.

Plus, he was devoting every second possible to the task of building a winning team to secure his place in the Reynaud family. It wasn't enough that he bore his father's last name. As an illegitimate son, he'd always needed to work twice as hard to prove himself.

And Adelaide's efforts supported that goal. He was good at football and finances. Adelaide excelled at everything else. He'd been friends with her since he'd chased off some bullies who'd cornered her in a neighborhood cemetery when she was in second grade and he was in third. She'd been so grateful she'd insinuated herself into his world, becoming his closest friend and a fierce little protector in her own right. Even after the time when Dempsey's rich, absentee father had shown up in his life to remove him from his hardscrabble life in the Eighth Ward—and his mother—for good. His mom had given him up for a price. Adelaide hadn't.

"Then, I'll resume management of the personal emails." He knew he needed to deal with Valentina Rushnaya, a particularly persistent model he'd dated briefly. The more famous a woman, apparently, the less she appreciated being shuffled aside for football.

"You will have no choice until you hire a new assistant," Adelaide replied. Then, perhaps realizing that she'd pushed him, she gave him a placating smile. "Thank you for understanding."

Hire a new assistant? What the hell? Was she grandstanding for something, like a raise? Or was she actually serious about launching her business right now at the start of the regular season?

"I don't understand," he corrected her, trying to talk reason into her. "You need start-up cash for your new company. Even without reading your plan, I know you'll be depleting the savings you've worked so hard for on a very long shot at success. Everyone likes an underdog but, Addy, the risk is high. You have to know that."

"That's for me to decide." Fierceness threaded through her voice.

He strove to hang on to his patience. "Half of all small businesses fail, and the ones that don't require considerable investment. Work for one more year. You can suggest a raise that you feel is equitable and I'll approve it. You'll have a financial cushion to increase your odds of growing the company large enough to secure those merchandising rights."

And he would have more time to persuade her to give up the idea. Life was good for them now. Really good. She was an integral part of his success, freeing him up to do what he did best. Manage the team.

The voices and laughter in the hallway outside grew louder as members of the media moved from the locker-room interviews to the scheduled press conference. He needed to get going, to do everything possible to keep their future locked in.

"Damn it, I don't want a raise—"

"Then, you're not thinking like a business owner," he interrupted. Yes, he admired her independence. Her stubbornness, even. But he couldn't let her start a company that would fail.

Especially when she could do a whole hell of a lot of good for her current career and for his team. For him. He didn't have time to replace her. For that matter, as his longtime friend who probably understood him better than anyone, Adelaide Thibodeaux was too good at her job to be replaced.

He reached around her for the doorknob. She slid over to block him, which put her ass right over his hand. A curvy little butt in a tight pencil skirt. Her chest rose with a deep inhale, brushing her breasts against his chest.

He. Couldn't. Breathe.

Her eyes held his for a moment and he could have sworn he saw her pupils widen with awareness. He stepped back. Fast. She blinked and the look was gone from her gaze.

"I'm grateful that working with you gave me the time to think about what I want to do with my life. I got to travel all over and make important contacts that inspired my new business." She gestured with her hands, and he made himself focus on anything other than her face, her body, the memory of how she'd felt pressed up against him.

He watched her silver bracelet glinting in the fluorescent lights. It was an old spoon from a pawnshop that he'd reshaped as a piece of jewelry and given to her as a birthday present back when he couldn't afford anything else. Why the hell did she still wear that? He tried to hear her words over the thundering pulse in his ears.

"But, Dempsey, let's be honest here. I did not attend art school to be your assistant forever, and I've been doing this far too long to feel good about it as a 'fill-in job' anymore."

He didn't miss the reference. He'd convinced her to work with him in the first place by telling her the position would just be temporary until she decided what to do with her art degree. That was before she'd made herself indispensable. Before he'd started a season that could net a championship ring and cement his place in the family as more than the half brother.

He'd worked too hard to get here, to land this chance to prove himself under the harsh media spotlight to a league that would love nothing more than to see him fail. This was his moment, and he and Adelaide had a great partnership going, one he couldn't jeopardize with wayward impulses. Winning wasn't just about securing his spot as a Reynaud. It was about proving the worth of every kid living hand-to-mouth back in the Eighth Ward, the kids who didn't have mystery fathers riding in to save the day and pluck them out of a hellish nightmare. If Dempsey couldn't use football to make a difference, what the hell had he worked so hard for all these years?

"You can't leave now." He didn't have time to hash this out. And he would damn well have his way.

"I'm going after the press conference. I told you I would come back for the preseason, and now it's done." Frowning, she twisted the bracelet round and round on her wrist. "I shouldn't have returned this year at all, especially if this ends up causing hard feelings between us. But I can send your next assistant all my files."

How kind. He clamped his mouth shut against the scathing responses that simmered, close to boiling over. He deserved better from her and she knew it.

But if she was going to see him through the press conference, he still had forty minutes to change her mind. Forty minutes to figure out a way to force her hand. A way to make her stay by his side through the season.

All he needed was the right play call.

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His Secretary's Surprise Fiancé 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SusanFrank More than 1 year ago
Good friends to lovers story. Dempsey and Addy have known each other since they were kids growing up in a poor part of New Orleans. Dempsey protected Addy from bullies and she helped him deal with the results of an addicted mother. Then when he was thirteen, his billionaire biological father found him and took him to live with his family. Though Dempsey tried to keep in touch with Addy, it was difficult, until he became an adult. Then he offered her a job as his assistant until she was ready to branch out on her own. As the illegitimate brother, Dempsey has always felt that he had to work extra hard to earn his place in the family. After years working his way up, he is now the head coach of his family's pro football team. A big part of his success he attributes to the work Addy has done for him. So when she announces that she is quitting and finally going on to pursue her own dreams, he panics. He can't convince her to stay until the end of the season, so he announces their "engagement" during a press conference - without her consent. Unless she wants to create a scandal, she's stuck for the near future. Addy has long had a dream of using her art degree and ability to create a line of sports accessories for women. She has been working on her business plan and is ready to go for it. She has been telling Dempsey her plans for weeks, but he has been completely ignoring her. She stunned when he once again ignores her and instead uses a fake engagement to keep her tied to him. Because she has spent her life trying to make him happy, she agrees to go along for a short time, but insists that she will end it in one month. Addy has always had feelings for Dempsey, but knows nothing will come of them. Dempsey, on the other hand is pretty clueless. He dates empty headed women for short periods, with definite requirements of what he will and will not allow. While they had a great friendship when they were younger, after separating he became driven to succeed. Even after he hired Addy, his focus was on business and he didn't really treat her as the friend she was. Her plans to leave make him realize how much he depends on her, but he doesn't see how much deeper his feelings really are. Rest of the review at: http://susans2016readingblog.blogspot.com/2016/03/his-secretarys-surprise-fiance-joanne.html
MarcieR More than 1 year ago
Best Friends to Fake Engagement “His Secretary’s Surprise Fiance” is book two of the Bayou Billionaires four book series Joanne Rock teamed up to write with Catherine Mann. This story features Reynaud brother Dempsey, head coach of the family’s NFL football team and who always considered himself the black sheep of the family. Feeling pushed into a corner by his best friend and assistant Adelaide Thibodeaux, he announces to the press he and Adelaide are engaged. Adelaide would do anything for Dempsey, her childhood friend, so she plays along with the fake engagement. Her plan is to show Dempsey her ability to launch her own business and leave the position as his assistant. She needs to do for herself without the help of Reynaud money. Dempsey’s heart is in the right place when it comes to wanting to help Adelaide with her business. He just doesn’t think with his heart, only his mind when it comes to having Adelaide in his life forever. One of my favorite lines is an internal thought from Dempsey during a conversation with Adelaide: “And just like that, he stood alone in a minefield with no foreseeable way out”. “His Secretary’s Surprise Fiance” has sexy scenes that are playful as they are steamy. This story also has the most beautiful happily-ever-after scene that made me smile. For all of Dempsey’s stumbles in showing Adelaide how much he loves her, he finally gets it right. Kudos to Ms. Rock for writing such a scene and creating a hero like Dempsey.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this story and looking forward to more in this series.
Nicolerko More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read. It's the second book in the Bayou Billionaires series. This time we have Adelaide and Dempsey. They have been friends since forever and look out for one another. Dempsey is thrown into a tailspin when Adelaide says she leaving her assistant job to break out into her own business. Dempsey makes a rash decision and announces their engagement to try keep her to stay at all costs. Now Adelaide finds herself saddled with the man she has been crushing on since she was a teenager. One problem Dempsey has no clue, but soon this new development in their relationship he sees Adelaide in a new light. It was a beautiful thing watching these two explore the chemistry between them and for Dempsey show off his romantic side. Dempsey doesn't know what love looks like because his childhood wasn't the greatest and though he's there for his brothers they aren't super close. Can Adelaide show him what true love looks like and what a beautiful gift it is.
LynnB888 More than 1 year ago
A great friends-to-lovers story! I enjoyed getting to dig into the life of the 2nd Reynaud brother and follow him on his journey to discovering what was right under his nose for years. :) Adelaide Thibodeaux grew up with Dempsey Reynaud and they have remained friends for what seems like forever. She has been his assistant for years, and now that he's settled in as Head Coach of the New Orleans Hurricanes, she's ready to spread her wings and do her own thing ... only Dempsey doesn't want to let her go. To stop Addy from resigning, Dempsey announces their engagement to the press ... only they aren't engaged and have never been anything but friends and boss/employee. She doesn't call his bluff because she doesn't want to cause a scandal, so Dempsey takes advantage of that and moves her into his home for a few weeks. Will the crush she's had on him rear it's head again? And when Dempsey feels a hit of attraction when he touches her, will he decide to act on it?
beckymmoe More than 1 year ago
I really, really wanted to read Dempsey and Addy's story after reading book one in the series, His Pregnant Princess Bride , so I was very excited to get my hands on this one. I won't go as far as to say I was disappointed, but while I did like it, I didn't love it. On the one hand, it was a sweet best-childhood-friends-to-romance story. Addy and Dempsey have know each other since they were both in the single digits, and Addy's been starry-eyed over him for nearly that long. They had some considerable chemistry going on, and clearly felt things for each other that they were reluctant to admit and/or give voice to. And ho boy, can Dempsey bring on the woo once he puts his mind to it. On the other hand, it was hard to get a handle on Dempsey's character. Even though we saw roughly half the book from his POV, I just never felt like I really knew him. I guess that's probably my biggest issue with the story--a lack of connection with the hero. He had all kinds of things going for him, but something was missing. Addy made things easier. Who can't identify with the longtime crush who just never seems to really "see" you? I felt for her when she could no longer enjoy chocolate (for Dempsey-related reasons, gosh darn that man!) and cheered for her when she finally got her man in the end. Two more brothers to go--bring them on! Rating: 3.5 stars / B- I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
blonde_betty More than 1 year ago
His Secretary’s Surprise Fiancé by Joanne Rock may be a bit of a clichéd title, but the story inside the covers is anything but. This second of the Bayou Billionaires series is all original and filled with the heart that I always associated with Rock’s writing. Dempsey has always considered himself the black sheep of the Reynaud family. His best friend and personal assistant Adelaide knows better. When her efforts to leave force him to declare them engaged things get very interesting. Dempsey and Addy are fun to watch. Their long standing friendship provides a solid foundation for their story. At the same time, that friendship also gives Rock the room to show that long-term friends are often taken for granted. This story is as much about them finding their way back to their childhood friendship as it is them finding their way to forever. Copy received in exchange for an honest review.
Lost-N-Love-N-Hopeless More than 1 year ago
Harlequin hallmark simple and to the point. . . . For me this read was quick and simple. I felt as if the story was a recycle with some added spice. I was interested but no fully pulled in to the world. Adelaide was a strong woman with a mind of her own and desires that she could control. She did not allow her feelings for Dempsey to overshadow her logic. Dempsey seems to be a man out to prove something more. He was totally oblivious to Adelaide but the way he went about things was not quite the way I was hoping would happen. There needs to be a change in the way fake relations come together. There needs to be some honesty in the friends to lover to engaged to married. Harlequin hallmark simple and to the point. Its all about the desire established. **This ARC was provided via Tasty Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.**
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
I find it fitting that the central backdrop chosen for the Bayou Billionaires series was New Orleans. The rich history, dramatic charm and the option of new discoveries make it the perfect location for Dempsey and Adelaide to fall in love. I received an ARC of His Secretary's Surprise Fiance' by Joanne Rock in exchange for an honest review. Dempsey thought their friendship was solid but Adelaide had been seeing the cracks for a while. A resignation, a spur of the moment engagement of convenience and a reevaluation of what type of relationship they have is just the antidote to heal this fractured union. Joanne Rock has created a drool worthy hero that maybe a little clueless but is loyal to a fault. Adelaide is the perfect blend of brains, emotion and uncertainty. They meshed well together. I enjoy a good romance.
2kasmom More than 1 year ago
This is book # 2 in the Bayou Billionaire's series. You can read this as a standalone novel. This book contains spoilers for other books in the series, so I recommend reading the series in the order the author intended. Adelaide has been in love with Dempsey, her boss for some time. She has finally told herself it is time to move on. She has given her notice and is ready to walk away. Underestimating him was not on her agenda. Dempsey knows if he does not act fast, Adelaide will be out of his life. He announces publicly the change in their relationship. Only Adelaide was not in on the plan. Such fun surprises all through the story. I enjoyed the heat and the fun too. These characters were to fun to read about. Great addition to the series. ***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review.