COUNTDOWN: NINE MONTHS
Mary-Jayne Preston didn't do one-night standsever. Except for her one and only with devastatingly handsome tycoon Daniel Anderson, who swept her off her feet before she knew what was happening! The attraction was powerful and seemingly mutual. But when she told him she was pregnant, all bets were off!
Daniel hadn't let his guard down since tragedy struck his own life four years earlier. Now he's drawn to the irresistible M.J., but cannotwill notlet himself fall in love with her. He insists on marriage to protect her and their twins, but M.J. will accept nothing less than true love from this lone wolf forever.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Not a bout of food poisoning as she'd wanted to believe.
Mary-Jayne walked from the doctor's office and headed for her car. Her head hurt. Her feet hurt. Everything hurt. The snap on her jeans felt tight around her waist. Now she knew why.
She was three months and three weeks pregnant.
She opened the door of the borrowed Honda Civic and got inside. Then she placed a hand over her belly and let out a long, heavy breath.
Twenty-seven. Single. Pregnant.
Not exactly the end of the world but not what she'd been expecting, either.
One day she'd imagined she'd have a baby. When she was married and settled, not while she was trying to carve out a career as a jewelry designer and wasn't exactly financially stable.
She thought about calling her older sisters, Evie and Grace, but quickly shrugged off the idea. She needed time to think. Plan. Sort out what she was going to do, before she told anyone. Especially her sisters, who'd want to know everything.
She'd have to tell them about that night.
She gripped the steering wheel and let out a long, weary sigh. She'd tried to put the memory from her mind countless times. And failed. Every time she walked around the grounds of the Sandwhisper Resort she was reminded. And every time she fielded a telephone call from him she was thrust back to that crazy night.
Mary-Jayne drove through the gates of the resort and took a left down the road that led to the employees' residences. Her villa was small but well appointed and opened onto the deck and to the huge heated pool and spa area. The Sandwhisper Resort was one of the largest in Port Douglas, and certainly one of the most luxurious. The town of Port Douglas was about forty miles north of Cairns, and its population of over three thousand often doubled during peak vacation times. Living and working at the luxurious resort for the past four and half months hadn't exactly been a hardship. Running her friend Audrey's boutique was mostly enjoyable and gave her the opportunity to create and showcase her own jewelry. Life was a breeze.
Life had been a breeze.
Until she'd had an uncharacteristic one-night stand with Daniel Anderson.
CEO of Anderson Holdings and heir apparent to the huge fortune that had been made by his grandfather from ore and copper mining years earlier, he owned the Sandwhisper Resort with his two brothers. There were four other resorts around the globeone in Phuket, another along the Amalfi coast in Italy, another in the Maldives and the flagship resort in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He was rich, successful, uptight and absurdly arrogant.
Everything she'd always abhorred in a man.
He was also reported to be kind, generous and honest.
Well according to his grandmother.
Eighty-year-old Solana Anderson adored her grandsons and spent her retirement flying between the east and west coasts of Australia and America, living at the resorts during the spring and summer months in alternating time zones. Mary-Jayne liked the older woman very much. They'd met the first day she'd arrived at the resort after the desperate emergency call from her old school friend Audrey had sent her flying up to Port Douglas with barely a packed suitcase. Audrey had moved into Mary-Jayne's small house in Crystal Point so she could be close to her ill mother while Mary-Jayne moved into Audrey's condo at the resort. Once she was in residence, she read the scribbled note with instructions her friend had left and opened the boutique at an unrespectable eleven o'clock. It was meant to be a temporary gigbut Audrey insisted her mother needed her. So her planned three weeks ended up being for six months.
And Solana, straight backed and still vibrant at nearly eighty years of age, had come into the store looking for an outfit to wear to her upcoming birthday party, and within the hour they were chatting and laughing over herbal tea and several outfit changes. It was then she learned that Solana's American-born husband had died a decade earlier and how she'd borne him a son and daughter. Mary-Jayne had listened while Solana talked about her much-loved grandsons, Daniel, Blake and Caleb and granddaughter Renee. One hour ticked over into two, and by three o'clock the older woman had finally decided upon an outfit and persuaded Mary-Jayne to let her see some of her handcrafted jewelry pieces. Solana had since bought three items and had recommended Mary-Jayne's work to several of her friends.
Yes, she liked Solana. But wasn't about to tell the other woman she was carrying her great-grandchild. Not until she figured out what she was going to do. She was nearly four months along, and her pregnancy would be showing itself very soon. She couldn't hide her growing stomach behind baggy clothes forever.
He has a right to know
The notion niggled at her over and over.
She could have the baby alone. Women did it all the time. And it was not as if she and Daniel had any kind of relationship. If she wanted, she could leave the resort and go home and never see him again. He lived mostly in San Francisco. She lived in Crystal Point, a small seaside town that sat at the southernmost point of the Great Barrier Reef. They had different lives. Different worlds.
And she didn't even like him.
She'd met him three times before the night of Sola-na's birthday. The first time she'd been in the store window, bent over and struggling to remove a garment from the mannequin. When she was done she'd straightened, turned to avoid knocking the mannequin over and came face-to-face with him on the other side of the glass. He'd been watching her, arms crossed.
Of course she'd known immediately who he was. There were several pictures of him and his brothers in Solana's villa, and she'd visited the older woman many times. Plus, he looked enough like his younger brother Caleb for her to recognize the family resemblance. Caleb ran the resorts in Port Douglas and Phuket while his twin Blake looked after Amalfi, Maldives and San Francisco. And according to staff gossip Daniel lorded over the resorts, his brothers and the staff from his private jet.
Still, it was hard not to be impressed by his ridiculous good looks, and despite the fact he was not her type, Mary-Jayne was as susceptible as the next woman. The impeccably cut suit, creaseless white shirt and dark tie were a riveting combination on his broad, tall frame, and for a second she'd been rooted to the spot, unable to move, unable to do anything other than stare back, held captive by the look in his gray eyes. For a moment, at least. Until he'd raised one brow and a tiny smile whispered along the edges of his mouth. He'd then looked her over with a kind of leisurely conceit that had quickly sent alarm bells clanging in her head.
There'd been interest in his expression and if he'd been anyone else she might have made some kind of encouraging gesture. Like a smile. Or nod. But Daniel Anderson was out of her league. A rich and successful corporate shark with a reputation for having no tolerance for fools in business, and no proclivity for commitment in his private life. He was the kind of man she'd always planned to avoid like the plague. The kind of man that had never interested her before.
But something had passed between them in that first moment. A look Recognition.
When her good sense had returned she'd darted from the window and got back to the customer waiting in the changing room. By the time she'd moved back to the front of the store and began ringing up the sale he was gone.
Mary-Jayne saw him a day later, striding across the resort foyer with his brother at his side. She'd been coming from the day spa, arms loaded with jewelry trays, when Caleb had said her name. She'd met the younger Anderson many times over the previous weeks. He was rich, charming and handsome and didn't do a solitary thing to her libido. Not so his older brother. She'd fumbled with the trays and stayed rooted to the spot as they approached and then managed to nod her way through an introduction. He was unsmiling, but his eyes regarded her with blistering intensity. Caleb's attention had quickly been diverted by the day-shift concierge and she'd been left alone with him, silent and nervous beneath his unfaltering gaze.
Then he'd spoken, and his deep voice, a smooth mix of his American upbringing and Australian roots, wound up her spine like liquid silk. "My grandmother tells me you're here for six months rather than the few weeks you'd originally planned on?"
He'd talked about her with Solana? "Ah, that's right," she'd croaked.
"And are you enjoying your time here?"
She'd nodded, feeling stupid and awkward and not in the least bit like her usual self. Normally she was confident and opinionated and more than comfortable in her own skin. But two seconds around Daniel Anderson and she was a speechless fool. Ubergood looks had never interested her before. But he stirred her senses big time.
"Yes, very much."
"And I trust your friend's parent's health is improving?" He knew about Audrey's mother? Solana had been busy sharing information.
"A little yes."
A small smile had crinkled the corner of his mouth and Mary-Jayne's gaze had instantly been drawn to his lips. He had seen her reaction and his smile had increased fractionally. There was something extraordinarily hypnotic about him, something she couldn't quite fathom. Something she'd known she had to extricate herself from and fast.
She'd hastily excused herself and taken off as fast as she could.
And hadn't seen him again for two days.
She'd left the resort for a run along the beach and had come upon him jogging in the other direction. He'd slowed when he was about twenty feet from her and come to a halt right next to her. And the look between them had been electric. Out of this world and all-consuming. She'd never experienced such blatant and blistering physical attraction for anyone before. And it shocked her to the core. He wasn't her usual type. In fact, Daniel Anderson was the epitome of everything she didn't want in a man. Money, power, arrogance They were attributes her small-town, middle-class self had decided long ago were not for her. She dated musicians and out-of-work artists. Not corporate sharks.
His expression had been unwavering and contained hot sexual appreciation. He wanted her. No doubt about it. And the look in his eyes had made it clear he thought he'd get her.
"You know," he'd said with a kind of arrogant confidence that made her tremble. "My villa is only minutes away."
She knew that. The family's quarters were secluded and luxurious and away from the main part of the resort and had a spectacular view of the beach.
"And?" she'd managed to say, despite the way her heart had thundered behind her ribs and her knees wobbled.
He'd half smiled. "And we both know that's where we're going to end up at some point."
Mortified, she'd quickly taken off like a bullet. But her body was thrumming with a kind of intoxicating awareness that stayed with her for hours. For days. Until she'd seen him again two days later at Solana's birthday party. The older woman had insisted she attend the celebration and Mary-Jayne respected Solana too much to refuse the invitation. She'd ditched her usual multicolored skirts and long tops and rummaged through Audrey's wardrobe for a party dress. And she'd found onea slip of silky black jersey that clung to her like a second skin. The huge ballroom was easy to get lost in or so she'd thought. But it had only taken ten minutes until she'd felt him watching her from across the room. He'd approached and asked if she wanted a drink. Within half an hour they had been out on the balcony, talking intimately. Seconds later they'd been kissing madly. Minutes later they'd been in his villa tearing each other's clothes off.
But Mary-Jayne wasn't under any illusions.
She knew enough about Daniel Anderson to realize she was simply another notch on his bedpost. He was handsome, successful and wealthy and played the field mercilessly. Something he had done without compunction since the death of his wife and unborn child four years earlier. He certainly wouldn't be interested in her for anything other than a one-night stand. She wasn't his type. Oh, he'd knocked on the door of her villa the day after Solana's party and asked her out. But she'd shut him down. She'd piqued his interest for a moment and that was all. Thankfully, he'd left the resort the following day and returned to San Francisco, exactly as she'd hoped. But she hadn't expected that he'd call the store two weeks later and announce that he wanted to see her again when he returned from California.
Yeah right. The only thing he wanted to see was her naked body between the sheets. And she knew that for a man like Daniel Anderson, the chase was all that mattered. She'd refused him, and that was like pouring oil onto a fire.
When he'd called her again two weeks later she'd been in South Dakota for a friend's wedding. Annoyed that he wouldn't take the hint and all out of patience, she'd lost her temper and told him to go to hell. Then she'd returned to the Sandwhisper Resort and waited. Waited for another call. Waited for him to arrive at the resort and confuse and seduce her with his steely-eyed gaze and uncompromising intensity. But he hadn't called. And hadn't returned. As one week slipped into another, Mary-Jayne had slowly relaxed and convinced herself he'd lost interest.
Which was exactly what she wanted.
Only now, the tables had turned. She was having his baby. Which meant one thingshe'd have to see him and tell him she was having his baby. And soon.
Daniel had struggled with the remnants of a headache for two days. The three other suits in the conference room were grating on his nerves. Some days he wanted nothing more than to throw off the shackles of his name, his legacy and everything else and live a simple, quiet life.
Because it was his birthday. He was turning thirty-four years old. He had money and power and a successful business at his command. He had apartments in San Francisco, another in London and then there was the family-owned hilltop chateau in France that he hadn't been near for over four years. He also had any number of women willing to warm his bed with minimal notice and who understood he didn't want commitment or anything resembling a serious relationship. He traveled the world but rarely saw anything other than the walls of boardrooms and offices at the resorts he'd helped build into some of the most successful around the globe. Nothing and no one touched him.
Well except for Mary-Jayne Preston.
She was a thorn in his side. A stone in his shoe. A pain in his neck.
Months after that one crazy night in Port Douglas and he was still thinking about her. She was incredibly beautiful. Her green eyes were luminous; her lips were full and endlessly kissable. But it was her hair that had first captured his attention that day in the store window. She had masses of dark curls that hung down past her shoulders. And of course there were her lovely curves, which she possessed in all the right places.
He'd checked out her history and discovered she came from a middle-class family in Crystal Point, had studied at a local technical college and had an online business selling her handcrafted jewelry. She rented her home, owned a dog, volunteered at a number of animal shelters, had strong opinions about the environment and politics and liked to dress in colorful skirts or jeans with holes in the knees. She had piercings in her ears and navel and a butterfly tattoo on one shoulder.
She wasn't his type. Not by a long shot.
Which didn't make one ounce of difference to the relentless effect she had on him whenever she was within a twenty-foot radius. And the night of his grandmother's birthday party he'd almost tripped over his own feet when he'd caught a glimpse of her across the room. She'd looked incredible in a dress that highlighted every dip and curve of her body. And with her dark hair cascading down her back in a wave he just about had to cleave his tongue from the roof of his mouth. She looked hot. Gorgeous. Desirable.
And he knew then he wanted to get her in his bed.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dragged in a few places but all in all a good story
THE CEO’S BABY SURPRISE by Helen Lacey is Harlequin Special Edition release for April 2015. Unable to ignore the sizzling chemistry, Mary-Jayne Preston gave in to passion and had a fling with the CEO of the hotel group where she was looking after a boutique for her friend. She walked away the next morning before Daniel Anderson even woke up. Yet Daniel doesn’t think one night was enough and he pursued her. But she thwarted all his effort. She knew widower Daniel had closed off his heart to love and commitment. Wanting it all, she was not ready to be Daniel’s short-term fling. Then she found out that one night had consequences and she was pregnant. Would she tell Daniel? And what would Daniel do? Would he commit to her for his twin sons she’s carrying or for the love he had in his heart for MJ? Would MJ accept Daniel’s proposal of marriage knowing he was doing the honorable thing only? THE CEO’S BABY SURPRISE is a story that will stay with a reader long time after she closes the book. It has that momentous impact by all the emotion depicted in this romance. Another shimmering and mesmerizing romance full of breathtaking emotions from author Helen Lacey. Highly recommended for all readers of romance.