Baby Bonanza / For Blackmail...or Pleasure: Baby Bonanza. Robyn Grady
the blonde said, opening the door wider. “Just…” She stopped. “I have no idea where you can put it. Find a place, okay?”
While the waiter disappeared into the cabin, the blonde stuck out one hand to Jenna. “Hi, I’m Mary Curran. My husband, Joe, and I are on vacation.”
“Jenna Baker,” she said, shaking the other woman’s hand. “Maybe I’ll see you abovedecks?”
“Won’t see much of me down here, I can tell you,” Mary admitted with a shudder as she tightened the sash on her blue terry-cloth robe. “Way too creepy, but—” she shrugged “—the important thing is, we’re on a cruise. We only have to sleep here, after all, and I intend to get our money’s worth out of this trip.”
“Funny,” Jenna said with a smile. “I was just telling myself the same thing.”
She left Mary to her breakfast and headed for the elevator that would carry her up and out of the darkness. She clutched the envelope that she would have delivered to Nick and steeled herself for the day to come. The elevator lurched into motion and she tapped her foot as she rose from the bowels of the ship. What she needed now was some air, lots of coffee and a pastry or two. Then, later, after Nick had read her letter, she would be ready. Ready to face the beast. To beard the lion in his den. To look into Nick’s pale blue eyes and demand that he do the right thing.
“Or,” Jenna swore as the doors shushed open and she stepped into the sunlight and tipped her face up to the sky, “I will so make him pay.”
“The sound system for the stage on the Calypso Deck has a hiccup or two, but the techs say they’ll have it fixed before showtime.”
“Good.” Nick Falco sat back in his maroon leather chair and folded his hands atop his belly as he listened to his assistant, Teresa Hogan, rattle off her daily report. It was only late morning and together they’d already handled a half-dozen crises. “I don’t want any major issues,” he told her. “I know this is the shakedown cruise, but I don’t want our passengers feeling like they’re guinea pigs.”
“They won’t. The ship’s looking good and you know it,” Teresa said with a confident smile. “We’ve got a few minor glitches, but nothing we can’t handle. If there were real trouble, we never would have left port last night.”
“I know,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at the white caps dancing across the surface of the ocean. “Just make sure we stay one step ahead of any of those glitches.”
“Don’t I always?”
“Yeah,” he said with a nod of approval. “You do.”
Teresa was in her late fifties, had short, dark hair, sharp green eyes and the organizational skills of a field general. She took crap from no one, Nick included, and had the loyalty and tenacity of a hungry pit bull. She’d been with him for eight years—ever since her husband had died and she’d come looking for a job that would give her adventure.
She’d gotten it. And she’d also become Nick’s trusted right arm.
“The master chef on the Paradise Deck is complaining about the new Vikings,” she was saying, flipping through the papers attached to her ever present clipboard.
Nick snorted. “Most expensive stoves on the planet and there’s something wrong with them?”
She smirked a little. “According to Chef Michele,” Teresa said, “ze stove is not hot enough.”
Not a full day out at sea and already he was getting flak from temperamental artistes. “Tell him as long as ze heat is hot, he should do what I’m paying him to do.”
One of Nick’s eyebrows lifted. “Then why tell me at all?”
“You’re the boss.”
“Nice of you to remember that occasionally,” he said, and sat forward, rolling his chair closer to the desk where a small mountain of personal correspondence waited for his attention.
Ignoring that jibe, Teresa checked her papers again and said, “The captain says the weather outlook is great and we’re making all speed to Cabo. Should be there by ten in the morning tomorrow.”
“That’s good.” Nick picked up the first envelope on the stack in front of him. Idly, he tapped the edge of it against his desk as Teresa talked. And while she ran down the list of problems, complaints and compliments, he let his gaze shift around his office. Here on the Splendor Deck, just one deck below the bridge, the views were tremendous. Which was why he’d wanted both his office and his luxurious owner’s suite on this deck. He’d insisted on lots of glass. He liked the wide spread of the ocean all around him. Gave him a sense of freedom even while he was working.
There were comfortable chairs, low-slung tables and a fully stocked wet bar across the room. The few paintings hanging on the dark blue walls were bright splotches of color, and the gleaming wood floors shone in sunlight that was only partially dimmed by the tinted glass.
This was the ship’s maiden voyage under the Falcon name. Nick had bought it from a competitor who was going out of business, and over the past six months had had it completely refitted and refurbished to be the queen of his own cruise line. Falcon’s Pride, he’d called her, and so far she was living up to her name.
He’d gotten reports from his employees on the reaction from the passengers as they’d boarded the day before in the L.A. port of San Pedro. Though most of the guests on board were young and looking to party, even they had been impressed with the ship’s luxurious decor and overall feel.
Nick had purchased his first ship ten years before, and had quickly built the Falcon Line into the primary party destination in the world. Falcon’s Pride was going to take that reputation and enhance it. His passengers wanted fun. Excitement. A two-week-long party. And he was going to see that they got it.
He hired only the best chefs, the hottest bands and the greatest lounge acts. His employees were young and attractive—his mind shifted tracks around that thought and instantly, he was reminded of one former employee in particular. A woman he’d let get under his skin until the night he’d discovered her lies. He hadn’t seen or spoken to her since, but he was a hell of a lot more careful these days about who he got involved with.
“Are you even listening to me?”
Nick cleared his thoughts instantly, half-irritated that he was still thinking about Jenna Baker more than a year since he’d last seen her. He glanced up at Teresa and gave her a smile that should have charmed her. “Guess not. Why don’t we take care of the rest of this business after lunch.”
“Sure,” she said, and checked her wristwatch. “I’ve got an appointment on the Verandah Deck. One of the cruise directors has a problem with the karaoke machine.”
“Fine. Handle it.” He turned his attention to the stack of hand-delivered correspondence on his desk and just managed to stifle a sigh. Never failed. Every cruise, Nick was inundated with invitations from female passengers to join them for dinner or private parties or for drinks in the moonlight.
“Oh,” Teresa said, handing over a pale blue envelope. “One of the stewards gave me this on my way in.” She smiled as she handed it over. “Yet another lonely lady looking for companionship? Seems you’re still the world’s favorite love god.”
Nick knew she was just giving him a hard time—like always—yet this time her words dug at him. Shifting uncomfortably in his chair, he thought about it, tried to figure out why. He was no monk, God knew. And over the years he’d accepted a lot of invitations from women who didn’t expect anything more than a good time and impersonal sex.
But damned if he could bring himself to get interested in the latest flurry of one-night-stand invitations, either. The cards and letters had been sitting on his desk since early this morning and he hadn’t bothered to open one yet. He knew what he’d find