When Cassie Frost reaches out to the biological father of the niece she’s raising, she doesn’t expect him to send in the lawyers. Emily is all the family Cassie has left, and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her niece. But as the owner of a struggling diner going up against a billionaire, the odds aren’t in Cassie’s favor.
When billionaire Will Connelly learns he has a daughter, he’s determined to have a place in her life—even if that means going head-to-head with her proud, stubborn, and irresistible aunt. It’s clear they both want what’s best for Emily, but Will’s not used to being told he’s wrong, and Cassie doesn’t seem to have a problem letting him know whenever she thinks he’s messing up.
Will’s sure they can have it all, even if Cassie is determined to stand on her own two feet instead of being swept off them.
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One moment, the diner was bustling with its usual lunchtime noise: the next moment, silence.
Cassidy Frost looked up from the sandwich she was constructing, and as soon as she saw the men in the doorway, she knew. Unfamiliar faces, expensive suits, and serious expressions. These weren't the sorts of men who walked the streets of little Lyonstown, New York. Cassidy knew why they were there, and with a sick, anxious twist, she knew she'd made a serious mistake.
But if there was one thing Cassidy had learned from her sister, Penny, it was the power of self-delusion, so she turned her attention back to the man standing across the counter and made her smile bright and cheerful. "Does that look about right, Mr. Emerson?"
He frowned at her just like he did every weekday when he came in for lunch. He grunted a reluctant affirmative and then gestured toward the pickles with a hand gnarled by a lifetime of hard work. "Couple of those," he mumbled.
Cassidy paid more attention to the pickles than she needed to, but she still couldn't quite block her awareness of the suited men. Two of them were looking around, at the customers and the decor, and one was staring right at her. None of them seemed interested in the menu on the chalkboard behind her head.
Maybe it was something else, she told herself as she rang up Mr. Emerson's meal. It was probably a coincidence. Just because Cassidy had a bad feeling didn't mean something bad was about to happen.
So she smiled at the man in the suit as he approached the counter. Dark hair in a conservative cut, and cold green eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. He was probably in his thirties but somehow gave the impression of being a couple decades older. "Soup of the day is corn chowder," she told him brightly. "We're almost out, but there's enough for another few bowls."
"Cassidy Frost?" the man asked with an expression that made it clear the question was a formality. "I'm Trevor McCain, an attorney with McCain Devlin in New York City." He had a business card held between his index and middle fingers and stretched his hand across the counter to offer it to her. "We represent Mr. William Connelly. I believe you know why we're here?"
She tried to ignore the feeling in her stomach. This wasn't how she'd pictured things when she'd sent that email, but maybe it wasn't a terrible situation. Connelly was interested, at least. He was taking her message somewhat seriously, even if he'd taken quite a while to get around to it.
"I'm happy to talk to you," she said, fighting to keep her voice level, "but this isn't a good time." The lunch rush was almost over, but there were still a lot of people in the diner, finishing their meals, and listening to whatever they could manage to overhear. And the volume of conversation had stayed artificially low after the men had arrived, so the crowd could probably hear just about everything.
"My cell number is on the card," Trevor McCain said. "We'll be in town overnight. When can I expect your call?"
Never! Cassidy wanted to scream. I didn't mean it, this was a mistake, go away! Instead, she forced another smile and said, "Probably around two thirty?" After the lunch rush had cleared and before her niece, Emily, was out of school.
McCain nodded curtly. "I'll be waiting."
He turned slowly toward the door, clearly inspecting the diner as he went and finding nothing that held his interest enough to interrupt his departure. The other two visitors fell in behind him, all three leaving without another word.
The hush stayed behind them, all eyes in the diner on Cassidy. It wasn't a big place, just six tables, a couple booths, and a kitchen area right behind the counter so one person could act as both cook and server. A small back room, and that was the entire place. The customers were locals, mostly regulars, people she dealt with every day. These were people who knew Emily and who might tell her things she didn't need to hear, at least not from strangers.
"CIA," Cassidy said with a resigned shrug, her voice loud enough to be heard by everyone in the place. "I keep telling them I won't join, but they're really insistent. They say I'd be the perfect operative."
The crowd grumbled a little at the lack of information, but Cassidy didn't have the energy to worry about that right then.
The green-eyed man's stare had been chilling. She didn't want him looking at Emily that way, not ever. If cold, disapproving lawyers were all William Connelly had to offer to the girl who might be his daughter. Then he should stay in the city where he belonged.
Unfortunately, Cassidy didn't seem to have much control over that anymore, so she called the lawyer as promised. The conversation was mercifully brief, but it still gave her far too much to think about as she chopped ingredients for the next day's soups.
By the time Emily arrived after school, Cassidy had a plan. Not necessarily a good one, and there were still questions to be answered, but at least she knew what the questions were. And she knew who had to answer them.
Emily swept into the café with her usual energy, backpack on her shoulder, and raised a hand before Cassidy could even begin to speak. "I've got math questions, and that's all. I did everything else at lunch. So, I can help you now, and then do homework later, okay?"
"We need to talk for a second," Cassidy said, pulling two bottles of juice out of the cooler behind her. "More than a second, probably."
Emily's face should never look the way it did right then. Cassidy stared at the girl, then quickly said, "It's nothing bad. I mean, not really bad, I don't think, just serious. Something we need to discuss."
"You're okay?" Em whispered. "And you're not leaving or anything? We're okay?"
Cassidy turned away, ostensibly to grab straws, and took advantage of the chance to blink hard. Em was a kid, trying to be an adult, but still afraid of being left alone. And Cassidy was all she had left in the world. Realizing how isolated Em felt had been a big part of Cassidy's decision to contact the bastard in NYC, but ... well, she didn't need to rush ahead to that.
"I'm fine, you're fine, we're fine," she said quickly and turned back with a bright smile. "Sit down. You want a snack?"
Em shook her head and slid into the booth in the back corner, the one the family always used for their meals. Okay. You can do this. She eased out from behind the counter and slid into the seat across from her niece. They both took sips of their drinks, and Cassidy added a deep breath before she said, "I may have made a mistake."
Best to just get it all out at once, she hoped. "I was going through your mom's papers, and I came across some photographs that were dated the summer you were conceived. The pictures were labeled with the names of the people in them, and there was a guy who was in a lot of the pictures." Some of which were intimate enough to suggest that he was a definite candidate for fatherhood, but Cassidy didn't think she needed to share that bit of information.
"It might not mean anything," she added. "I just thought it was worth checking out. I mean, I love having you with me. I'm more than happy to keep things the way they are. I thought you might want to know, just to know. But I didn't want to tell you about it, to get you worked up about something that might come to nothing. So I contacted him on my own. Just a preliminary thing, to see if I could even find the right guy."
Emily's eyes widened. "You think he's my father? Mom always said she didn't know who he was."
Well, Penny had mostly said that. But there had been a few times, usually after they'd shared a couple bottles of wine, when Penny had let a bit more slip. Enough to make Cassidy think her sister knew who the father was but didn't want to share the information, for whatever reasons. Penny had rarely felt the need to talk over her decisions with anyone, and certainly not with her unworldly baby sister. "I have no idea, really. That's why I didn't tell you about it before now. It was a shot in the dark."
"A lawyer came by today. Well, a few of them. They were sent by the man who might be your father."
Cassidy nodded. Now for the part she wasn't sure about. Was it morally right? And did she even care about right or wrong, or just about protecting Emily? "I'm getting a bad feeling about it, to be honest. I think I might have made a mistake, contacting him. I mean, what kind of man —" She stopped herself. She needed to be careful here, and not say anything too hostile about the man who might well be Emily's father. "I don't like that he sent lawyers instead of coming himself. And the lawyers he sent? The one who talked to me made me feel like I was a criminal. Like I was hitting him up for money, or something!"
"You wouldn't want money?" Emily frowned. "He should have been paying child support, right? So, he should give you money, to make up for everything you've spent on me. Maybe there'd be enough for you to buy Casey back! Enough that you could work less and actually have time to ride him!"
"No," Cassidy said quickly. No matter how much she missed her horse, she had no intention of ever accepting anything from some rich stranger, especially not for taking care of the niece she loved like she was her own daughter. "That's not what this is about. If he didn't know about you, then it's not fair to expect him to pay child support. I thought I should get in touch with him so you'd have someone else in your life. Not because I'm going anywhere," she continued, reaching out to grip Emily's hand. "Just to make you feel a bit more secure. That was my only goal. But now, with the lawyers and everything? You've already had a lot of disruption lately, and I don't think you need any more. I'm wondering if we wouldn't be better off without this guy in our lives. Does that make sense?"
Emily looked uncertain. "Isn't it too late? If there are lawyers here already? They want DNA, right? How do they get that? Blood?"
"No." One of the other lawyers had arrived at the diner about two minutes after Cassidy had gotten off the phone with Trevor McCain, dropping off a box small enough to fit in the pocket of her apron. She pulled it out now. "It's a cheek swab. You rub the end along the inside of your mouth, then put it back into the tube and send it to the lab. Not a big deal."
"But if I don't do it, will they just go away? Everything will go back to normal?" Em sounded doubtful, and Cassidy had a rush of pride. This kid was smart. She'd been given a huge dose of information, and she was zeroing in on the most important parts, figuring it all out as she went.
"I don't think they'll go away," Cassidy said slowly. "Not if they think you're refusing to take the test. But if you take it, and it comes up negative, we'll be fine."
"So I don't really rub my cheek?"
Cassidy had another flash of doubt. What was she teaching her niece, just by suggesting this? Well, maybe she was teaching her to be smart, and to approach the world on her own terms. Penny would certainly have gone along with that philosophy. "No, someone has to take the test. But it doesn't have to be you."
Emily frowned. "You'd swab your cheek?"
"I'm sorry to ask you to make this decision. I was wrong to not get you involved sooner, so I don't want to make it even worse by keeping you out of things now. If the test comes back negative, I assume they'll leave us alone. But that means you'll likely have a tougher time down the road if you decide you want him to know about you. If he's even your father, which is far from certain. But if he is, he could probably pay your way through school, and maybe help you out even more. Faking the test now would just buy us some time."
Emily nodded slowly, but Cassidy wasn't quite done. "But if you're sure now, if you feel like you need to know, then you should take the test. Whatever happens afterward, we'll sort it out together. I promise."
Sometimes Emily looked so mature Cassidy could barely stand it, wondering where her cherished baby niece had been stolen away to. And sometimes, like now, she seemed like a little girl. "What do you think we should do?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
Cassidy knew the answer she wanted to give. Send the lawyers away, put this interruption on hold until they were better able to handle it. But was that fair? Not to William Connelly, with his cold, efficient lawyers. She didn't care what was fair to that bastard. But to Emily? Was it fair to ask Emily to be part of a lie, to step away from a man who might at least offer her more financial security than she currently had? Was it fair to ask Emily to keep herself from a man who might be her father? "I don't know," Cassidy said. "I honestly don't."
Emily stared at the little box, then shook her head and pushed it across the table toward Cassidy. "I don't like this. Having a father shouldn't make me feel more insecure. So, if having him in my life means I have to feel this way? No, I don't want him. At least not right now. You do it."
Cassidy nodded. She didn't know what it said about her, but she felt relieved. She'd messed up, but it was fixable. "I'm going to do it in the back," she said. "Don't want someone coming in and wondering what's up."
She grabbed the box and headed to the small bathroom. She re-read the instructions, took a moment to look at herself in the mirror and wonder whether this deception was wise, and then she ran the swab over her cheek and stuffed it back in the plastic tube. There was no going back, even if she'd wanted to.
She couldn't have been gone for more than a few minutes, but she heard voices in the front of the diner as soon as she opened the bathroom door. Nothing to be worried about, she told herself. It was a public space, and they wanted customers, after all. But she still hurried out faster than she normally would have and sure enough, the lawyer was there, sitting opposite Emily, talking to her as if he had the right.
"Hey!" Cassidy said. She tried to calm herself. No need to freak Emily out. She strode forward, test kit outstretched. "Here. We're done, right?"
The lawyer's eyes were as cold as ever, but now Cassidy felt as if they were burning into her, seeing things they shouldn't. He'd been straightening the items on the table, lining the empty juice bottles up with an abandoned straw, like it was his job to make the universe orderly. She wished there was some way to move herself between him and Emily, but the table was in the way. So she stared him down, and eventually he stood up and nodded in Emily's direction.
"It was nice to meet you," he said smoothly. Then he turned toward the door and left Cassidy and Emily alone.
"All right," Cassidy said, trying to slow her pulse. "It's over. For now, at least. If you want to start it up again, you let me know, okay?"
"Okay," Emily said. And the two of them started prepping for the dinner rush together, both of them trying to act like it was just another day.
Will Connelly was wired. Two days of uncertainty waiting for the DNA test results, and then the rage that had pushed him out of the city and all the way to this nothing town in upstate New York. The town wasn't even near an airport, so it ended up being more efficient to drive than take a plane, which was just one more added aggravation. Maybe he should have put this meeting off until he was in a better state, but he'd be damned if he'd let the farce continue a moment longer.
He yanked on the diner door and strode inside, looking around the empty restaurant for the target of his anger.
"Hello!" he yelled, and a woman appeared from the back room.
She was taller than he'd imagined, wearing jeans and a black Springsteen T-shirt partially covered by a white apron. Her eyes widened with recognition and apprehension as she looked at him, but the rest of her expression was more disciplined. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.
He shouldn't have come. He was too angry, and it was going to be too hard for him to handle this the way he insisted his affairs be handled. He couldn't be smooth, not after this woman's deception. But it was too late to turn around. "I got the DNA results," he growled.
She wiped her hands nervously on her apron and looked around as if confirming that the diner was empty. "And?" she finally asked, her chin jutted out in challenge.
"And the swab came up negative. No relationship whatsoever."
"Well, I said this wasn't a sure thing. In my email, I said I was just chasing down possibilities. You're the one who made it a big deal. I'm not sure why you're so angry."
"Angry?" She'd seen it, had she? Good. He wanted Cassidy Frost to know how he felt, and know how eager he was to exact his revenge. "I'm angry because of the other test."
That froze her. Again, he took a vicious satisfaction in seeing her uncertainty. "What other test?"
Excerpted from "The Billionaire's Forever Family"
Copyright © 2017 Cate Cameron.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Received an ARC at no cost to author..This book was not what I wanted, regret to have asked for it..I did not like Cassie at all, only thing I appreciated from her was that she was raising her niece, she didn't have to but she did..I also never really like when people get into sexual relationship with someone their brother/sister had one with, that just grosses me out. Will was more likeable to me than Cassie, but it is what it is.
This is one hell of a book. Talk about "I didn't see that coming" nothing in this book is a given. It's not your typical rich dad finds his kid book. Not a chance. This book is intense, emotional and with it's cast of characters a really great story and fantastic read. It's visceral. I felt every emotion throughout the whole book and yes I wanted to kick Will in the backside on more than one occasion. As much as he tried, he just couldn't leave things alone. Thank God for his friends, otherwise I'm sure aside form losing his mind, he'd have lost Em and Cass as well. Cass is strong and I love a writer who can write a strong woman lead, but also writing a strong 13 year old? Perfection! Em is an amazing kid. Both of them are in this life together and without giving too much away, she even manages to help her biological Dad get his act together. I'm keeping this short because saying too much gives the story away. I'm just going to say that Cate has written a fantastic story, one that will keep you glued to the pages and feeling every emotion that Cass and Em go through. Don't miss this one. It's a fantastic book. Great story Cate!! arc from NetGalley and Entangled in exchange for a fair and honest review
I LOVED this story! Cassie and Will are fantastic characters and Emily is a great uniting force. It was heartwarming to watch as the relationship between the three changed and developed as the author crafted a well thought out story of an unknown daughter first meeting her father. Emily has been living with her aunt Cassie since the death of her mother. Now Will is around and able to give her a life Emily has never been able to manage. Will the lure of that life take the only family Cassie has left away from her? This is a wonderfully done story and one I think everyone will enjoy. I highly recommend it.
I thoroughly enjoyed Will and Cassie's journey to forge their family. He was a little abrupt in the beginning but I loved how Cassie did not cower to him and put him in his place a couple of times. She was a strong woman, even though she did not have much. She put her niece first and her own wants aside, as a mama bear does. I liked that Will accepted that and even grew to admire her for it. They did have a great connection, both Will and Cassie and then her niece later. The scenes with Will and his daughter were great. I loved how he could see himself in his daughter and then how they worked together to prove to Cassie that they could all have everything they want. Ms. Cameron will hopefully write books for Will's friends, because those guys are hilarious and definitely helped Will realize what he wanted out of life. And it was great meeting them and knowing them a little, especially Trevor. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher through Netgalley.
Confession time: I love, love, love Entangled's Billionaire romances. It's gotten to the point that as soon as I see the words 'Entangled' and 'Billionaire,' I instantly add the book to my TBR, no questions asked. It's worked out quite well for me, as they have yet to let me down. Thankfully, Cate Cameron's The Billionaire's Forever Family has kept that trend going strong. Equal parts sweet as well as sexy, The Billionaire's Forever Family is a book that easily worked its way into my heart. There's many aspects that I loved about The Billionaire's Forever Family, but I have to say my ultimate favorite was the emphasis on family! The bonds between Emily and Cassie as well as Emily and will and eventually Emily, Cassie, and Will warmed my heart and brought plenty of happy tears. I loved that Cate showed that "family" can take on so many different meanings. Better yet, she showed the ups and downs that those relationships can bring, especially when it comes to letting pride get in the way of happiness. Tying into this, I adored the main characters. Cassie is strong, determined and feisty. It broke my heart that she had to give up so much to provide a loving home to her niece, but at the same time, it warmed my heart to see the kindness and protection she was willing to offer. Throughout the book, Cassie is torn over a big decision. She's drowning in hospital bills, her roof is leaking, and her business is barely breaking even, but in the form of Will she's given the easy way out: a surplus of money. Casey struggles with this solution - yes, it would be easy, but is she willing to let this man, one she barely knows, in and loose her pride and self respect in the process? I really liked that Cate Cameron included this struggle in Casey's story. It added zest and realness to Casey's character, and I especially liked that she wasn't someone who'd just take the easy way out and run. Like Casey, Will was incredibly lovable; however, I will admit that at first he made me want to rip my hair out with his actions. I mean, seriously, who thinks it's a good idea to send a group of lawyers into a tough situation when you could just do the "right" thing and go yourself. As the book continues, though, it's easy to see that overall Will is a stand-up guy. He's kind and warm and he even wants this make-shift form of a family; however, he struggles with using money as his solution to everything. Together Casey and Will are a fantastic couple. The banter was strong and the chemistry even stronger. Throughout the book, I was rooting for them (well, mostly Casey) to get off their high horses and see that love was there. As hinted to above, I loved the ups and downs they faced. It made their relationship all the stronger, and better yet, it added some delicious tension to the mix. In all, The Billionaire's Forever Family has become a forever favorite in my eyes. It's adorable, sweet, and romantic - the perfect weekend read. Grade: B+
Loved this book! Casey is a single parent to Emily, the niece she has sacrificed everything for and loves more than life itself. Casey put her dreams away when her sister came home pregnant and without the father in sight. When she died suddenly, Casey became a single parent working desperately to keep things afloat while raising her daughter. When she finds Will's information in her sister's things, Casey reaches out to him and is stunned when her tentative inquiry is returned with an aggressive lawyer's visit and things quickly spiral out of control. This novel got me hooked from the first page and kept me engaged until the very last page. I loved the characters and felt invested in their story. Fans of the genre will love this book and will want to put it at the top of their TBR list.
Billionaire Will Connelly discovers he is the father of a 13 year old daughter when her aunt, Cassie Frost approaches him. Cassie's sister Penny was a free-spirit and never told anyone who was the father of her daughter Emily but Cassie pieces it together from old photos and approaches a complete stranger. But instead of responding in person Mr Connelly sends a trio of hard-faced lawyers to meet Cassie. Will Connelly is beyond mad that his daughter was kept a secret and he doesn't appreciate being lied to by her aunt, but underneath it all they are both reasonable people who only want what's best for Emily. So a truce develops, Will spends much of his time in Lyonstown, upstate New York getting to know his daughter, but he can't seem to stop himself from trying to 'fix' everything: from Cassie's job to her home. Cassie has given up pretty much everything in order to help her sister look after Emily before her death and since. Her dreams of being a vet, of training horses have all been sacrificed and she runs a tiny diner. All she has left is the love for her niece and her pride which that arrogant billionaire seems determined to trash. I enjoyed this, although Cassie had a few self-esteem issues (and who wouldn't when confronted by a gorgeous billionaire) she could also take criticism and accept when she was wrong. Similarly, Will might keep riding roughshod over Cassie but he does it with the best of intentions and is truly sorry when the error of his ways is pointed out to him (again). Also, huge plus for me, this didn't quite go where I thought it was going which was a nice surprise. Romance is so predictable at its most basic level that a few surprises along the way are good. Now, since Will has a number of single male friends I predict that this will become a series, will it be Trevor? I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Love is not about possession, it's about protection. Love entails sacrifice. The ability to put someone's well being before your own. To risk your heart is never an easy thing to do. With The Billionaire's Forever Family, Ms. Cameron put into words, emotions that we often find hard to convey. One adorable teenage girl teaches two adults the meaning of love. It's not about broken promises and long kept secrets. It's about giving freely of one's self and building something special together.