Baby Bonanza / For Blackmail...or Pleasure: Baby Bonanza. Robyn Grady
a damned one of them would mean anything to him.
Hell, what did that say about him? Laughing silently at himself, Nick acknowledged that he really didn’t want to know. Maybe he’d been spending too much time working lately. Maybe what he needed was just what these ladies were offering. He’d go through the batch of invites, pick out the most intriguing one and spend a few relaxing hours with a willing woman.
Just what the doctor ordered.
Teresa was still holding the envelope out to him and there was confusion in her eyes. He didn’t want her asking any questions, so he took the envelope and idly slid his finger under the seal. Deliberately giving her a grin and a wink, he said, “You think it’s easy being the dream of millions?”
Now Teresa snorted and, shaking her head, muttering something about delusional males, she left the office.
When she was gone, he sat back and thoughtfully looked at the letter in his hand. Pale blue envelope, tidy handwriting. Too small to hold a pair of lacy thong panties. Too narrow to be hiding away a photo. Just the right size for a cabin key card though.
“Well, then,” he said softly, “let’s see who you are. Hope you included a photo of yourself. I don’t do blind dates.”
Chuckling, Nick pulled the card from the envelope and glanced down at it. There was a photo all right. Laughter died instantly as he looked at the picture of two babies with black hair and pale blue eyes.
“What the hell?” Even while his brain started racing and his heartbeat stuttered in his chest, he read the scrawled message beneath the photo:
“Congratulations, Daddy. It’s twins.”
She wasn’t ready to give up the sun.
Jenna set her coffee cup down on the glass-topped table, turned her face to the sky and let the warm, late-morning sunshine pour over her like a blessing. Despite the fact that there were people around her, laughing, talking, diving into the pool, sending walls of water up in splashing waves, she felt alone in the light. And she really wasn’t ready to sink back into the belly of the ship.
But she’d sent her note to Nick. And she’d told him where to find her. In that tiny, less-than-closet-size cabin. So she’d better be there when he arrived. With a sigh, she stood, slung her bag over her left shoulder and threaded her way through the crowds lounging on the Verandah Deck.
Someone touched her arm and Jenna stopped.
“Leaving already?” Mary Curran was smiling at her, and Jenna returned that smile with one of her own.
“Yeah. I have to get back down to my cabin. I um, have to meet someone there.” At least, she was fairly certain Nick would show up. But what if he didn’t? What if he didn’t care about the fact that he was the father of her twin sons? What if he dismissed her note as easily as he’d deleted all of her attempts at e-mail communication?
A small, hard knot formed in the pit of her stomach. She’d like to see him try, that’s all. They were on a ship in the middle of the ocean. How was he going to escape her? Nope. Come what may, she was going to have her say. She was going to face him down, at last, and tell him what she’d come to say.
“Oh God, honey.” Mary grimaced and gave a dramatic shudder. “Do you really want to have a conversation down in the pit?”
Jenna laughed. “The pit?”
“That’s what my husband, Joe, christened it in the middle of the night when he nearly broke his shin trying to get to the bathroom.”
Grinning, Jenna said, “I guess the name fits all right. But yeah. I have to do it there. It’s too private to be done up here.”
Mary’s eyes warmed as she looked at Jenna and said, “Well, then, go do whatever it is you have to do. Maybe I’ll see you back in the sunshine later?”
Jenna nodded. She knew how cruise passengers tended to bond together. She’d seen it herself in the time she’d actually worked for Falcon Cruises. Friendships formed fast and furiously. People who were in relatively tight quarters—stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean—tended to get to know each other more quickly than they might on dry land.
Shipboard romances happened, sure—just look what had happened to her. But more often, it was other kinds of relationships that bloomed and took hold. And right about now, Jenna decided, she could use a friendly face.
“You bet,” she said, giving Mary a wide smile. “How about margaritas on the Calypso Deck? About five?”
Delighted, Mary beamed at her. “I’ll be there.”
As Jenna walked toward the elevator, she told herself that after her upcoming chat with Nick, she was probably going to need a margarita or two.
Nick jolted to his feet so fast, his desk chair shot backward, the wheels whirring against the wood floor until the chair slammed into the glass wall behind him.
“Is this a joke?”
Nick held the pale blue card in one tight fist and stared down at two tiny faces. The babies were identical except for their expressions. One looked into the camera and grinned, displaying a lot of gum and one deep dimple. The other was watching the picture taker with a serious, almost thoughtful look on his face.
And they both looked a hell of a lot like him.
In an instant, emotions he could hardly name raced through him. Anger, frustration, confusion and back to anger again. How the hell could he be a father? Nobody he knew had been pregnant. This couldn’t be happening. He glanced up at the empty office as if half expecting someone to jump out, shout, “You’ve just been punk’d,” and let him off the hook. But there were no cameras. There was no joke.
This was someone’s idea of serious.
Well, hell, he told himself, it wasn’t the first time some woman had tried to slap him with a paternity suit. But it was for damn sure the first time the gauntlet had been thrown down in such an imaginative way.
“Who, though?” He grabbed the envelope up, but only his name was scrawled across the front in a small, feminine hand. Turning over the card he still held, he saw more of that writing:
“We need to talk. Come to cabin 2A on the Riviera Deck.”
“Riviera Deck.” Though he hated like hell to admit it, he wasn’t sure which deck that was. He had a lot of ships in his line and this was his first sail on this particular one. Though he meant to make Falcon’s Pride his home, he hadn’t had the chance yet to explore it from stem to stern as he did all the ships that carried his name.
For now, he stalked across the room to the framed set of detailed ship plans hanging on the far wall of his office. He’d had one done for each of the ships in his line. He liked looking at them, liked knowing that he was familiar with every inch of every ship. Liked knowing that he’d succeeded in creating the dream he’d started more than ten years before.
But at the moment, Nick wasn’t thinking of his cruise line or of business at all. Now all he wanted to do was find the woman who’d sent him this card so he could assure himself that this was all some sort of mistake.
Narrowing his pale blue eyes, he ran one finger down the decks until he found the one he was looking for. Then he frowned. According to this, the Riviera Deck was below crew quarters.
“What the hell is going on?” Tucking the card with the pictures of the babies into the breast pocket of his white, short-sleeved shirt, he half turned toward the office door and bellowed, “Teresa!”
The door flew open a few seconds later and his assistant rushed in, eyes wide in stunned surprise. “Geez, what’s wrong? Are we on fire or something?”
He ignored the attempt at humor, as well as the look of puzzlement on her face.