Bargaining for Baby / The Billionaire's Baby Arrangement. Robyn Grady
flexed twice. “So it would seem.”
When he downed the rest of his coffee that must be three parts sugar and stone cold by now, Maddy’s hackles went up.
All her life she’d mingled with powerful men, business associates from her father’s advertising firm, influential patriarchs of the boys she’d dated in university. She’d seen an investment banker multimillionaire for a while. But never had she met anyone who stirred such strong emotions within her.
Both negative and shamelessly positive.
The hot pulse that kicked off low and deep inside whenever she looked at Jack Prescott was real. His presence was so commanding, despite the day, she couldn’t help but be intrigued. The breadth of his shoulders, the strength in his neck … his man-of-the-land build was magnificent. His gestures, his speech, everything about him whispered confidence. Intelligence. Superiority.
The angel asleep in that carriage hadn’t another living relative left in the world. Yet this specimen of masculine perfection, this emotional ice man, couldn’t bring himself to even ask to hold him. She wouldn’t have been able to leave Beau with his uncle and simply walk away, even if she had a choice.
Her stomach churning, Maddy nudged the blanket higher on the baby’s shoulder and kept her eyes on the soft rise and fall of his little chest. There was never going to be a right time. Might as well bite the bullet and get the final bombshell out in the open.
“There’s something else I need to say,” she murmured. “About a promise I made.”
Jack consulted his Omega platinum wristwatch. “I’m listening.”
“I promised that I wouldn’t hand Beau over until you were ready.”
While her heart jack hammered against her ribs, the man across from her slowly frowned and folded his arms. Eventually he tugged his ear.
“I admit it’ll take time to adjust to the idea of having.” His words ran dry, but then he cleared his throat and put more grunt into his voice. “You only need to know that I don’t renege on my responsibilities. My nephew won’t want for a thing.”
It wasn’t enough. If he’d greeted the baby with open arms, she’d still need to keep her word. She’d promised on her mother’s grave to make certain Beau was settled.
Turning from the baby, Maddy clasped her hands in her lap and met Jack’s superior gaze square on.
“I promised Dahlia that I’d stay with Beau until you were comfortable with each other. I imagine you have plenty of room,” she hastened to add, “and I’m happy to pay for any expenses incurred.”
The haunting cool in his eyes turned to flickering questions. He cocked his head and a lock of black hair fell over his suntanned brow while the corners of his mouth lifted in a parody of a smile.
“I need to have my ears checked. Am I getting this straight? You’re inviting yourself to stay with me?”
“I’m not inviting myself anywhere. I’m passing on your sister’s wishes. I’m telling you I made a promise.”
“Well, it won’t work.” He shook his head, almost amused. “Not in a million years.”
Maddy drew back her shoulders. He might be big. He might be intimidating. But if he thought he was inflexible, these days stubborn was her middle name.
She’d try a different tack.
“This baby knows me. I know him. His routine, his cries.” Hopefully what to do when he wakes up, wanting his mummy. “It’s in your best interest to let me help you both adjust.”
“I’ll have help.”
He’d said it without blinking and her heart missed several beats.
Dahlia said this morning that she’d followed what she could of her brother’s life, really only that he still lived at Leadeebrook and hadn’t remarried since the death of his wife. Of course he would need to hire a nanny. But what kind of person would be looking after Beau? Would she be severe and by-the-book or would she use her heart as well as her skills? Would she encourage him with gentle words of praise, or rap his knuckles if he forgot to say please?
“Miss Tyler …” A glimmer of warmth shone in his eyes when he amended, “Maddy. Are you sure this isn’t more about your inability to let go? “
A dark emotion she couldn’t name spiked and she kicked her chin up. “Rest assured, if I could be certain he’d be happy, if I could walk away with a clear conscience, nothing would please me more than to give you both my blessing.”
That glimmer froze over. “Only I don’t need your blessing, do I?”
Given that he was this baby’s sole surviving relative, she conceded, “I suppose you don’t. But then you don’t appear to need anything—” she dammed her words then let them spill out anyway “—particularly this hassle.” Lashing her arms over her chest, she challenged his hard gaze. “Am I right?”
When he didn’t answer—merely assessed her with those striking gold-flecked eyes—her core contracted around a hot glowing knot. Before the heat flared any higher, she doused the flame and pushed to her feet.
Walking out wouldn’t help matters, but she’d had all she could take for one day. The term animal magnetism was invented for this man: Jack Prescott was uniquely, powerfully attractive, but no way was he human. And before she left, damned if she wouldn’t tell him just that.
“I respected Dahlia,” she got out over the painful lump in her throat. “I loved her like a sister, but I can’t imagine what she was thinking choosing you to care for this precious child.”
With unshed tears burning her eyes, Maddy readied the carriage and headed for the exit. Jack called her name, but he could go to hell. He was no more interested in this baby’s welfare than she cared what team won the national dart competition. If he was so uninspired, he could fly back to the scorched red plains of the Australian outback and leave Beau here in civilization with her. No child should need to grow up in a wasteland anyway.
One moment the cafeteria doorway was an arm’s length away, the next Jack’s impressive frame was blocking her escape. His legs braced shoulder-width apart, he deliberately set his fists low on his hips.
Maddy huffed over a smirk.
Well, whaddaya know. I got a reaction.
His head slanted. “Where are you going?”
“What do you care?”
She angled the carriage to swerve around him, but he shifted to block her path again. “I care more than you’ll ever know.”
But she was done with words. She moved again. He moved, too. Narrowing her eyes, she let out a jaded sigh. “I’ve tried being reasonable. I tried understanding. I’ve even tried appealing to your better nature. Now I give in. You beat me, Jack Prescott.” She raised her hands. “You win.”
“I didn’t realize we were in competition.”
Oh, please. “Only from the moment you laid eyes on me.” He’d wanted her gone? He could clap himself on the back. Mission accomplished. If Dahlia had heard this exchange, she wouldn’t blame her friend for walking out.
“So, you’ve made up your mind?” he asked and she smiled sweetly.
“If you’d kindly step aside.”
“And the baby?”
“We both know how you feel about raising Beau.” It was in every curl of his lip.
A sardonic grin tugged one corner of his mouth. “You think you have me figured out, don’t you?”
“I wish I could say I had the slightest interest, but I’m afraid I have as much curiosity