Billion-Dollar Baby Bargain

By: Tessa Radley

Prologue




W ho would have thought that a baby—cute and gurgly when his mother held him—could be such a demanding little devil? Victoria Sutton sank down onto the couch in the living room of her Auckland town house and gazed at the sleeping baby in the traveling cot with weary disbelief.

Dylan looked utterly angelic as stubby eyelashes rested in dusky crescents against chubby baby cheeks and his mouth moved gently up and down.

Oh, for a shot of caffeine.

Strong, hot Starbucks coffee. Hard to believe the whole weekend had passed without finding time to pick one up. Mandy, her secretary, would laugh herself silly tomorrow when Victoria recounted the events of the past two days.

Had it only been two days?

Propping her elbows on her knees, Victoria rested her chin in her palms, and groaned. Two days, but also two pretty much sleepless nights during which Dylan had turned her normally organized life upside down. Heavens, it seemed like she hadn’t drawn a breath since her best friend Suzy had gabbled her last bits of advice on Friday evening as Michael had tugged his wife out the front door, eager to get away for a brief romantic break to celebrate their second wedding anniversary.

Never again would she imagine that babies slept all the time!

Lifting her head from her cupped palms, Victoria scanned the normally immaculate living room and took in the chaotic disarray of toys, diapers and other baby paraphernalia. Another groan escaped. She knew her bedroom looked worse. She needed to get the mess packed up before Dylan’s parents arrived to collect him.

Victoria glanced ruefully at the apple puree smears on the winter-white fabric of the couch. And that stain on the carpet hadn’t been there before Friday, either. What had possessed her to feed Dylan in the all-white living room this morning? Had she learned nothing over the past two days?

Tomorrow first thing she’d organize to get the marks cleaned.

Tomorrow. Oh, heavens. Victoria’s hands shot to her mouth in dismay.

The weekly Monday-morning partners’ meeting…

Good grief, she hadn’t done any preparation. She thought wildly of how she’d delusionally planned to work while Dylan napped over the weekend.

A glance at the wall clock showed her it was still early. Michael and Suzy would be here within the next two hours to pick up Dylan. The whole evening lay ahead.

If she worked quickly to tidy the apartment, she might even get some work in before the Masons arrived. Grabbing a nappy bag, Victoria started to toss in toys, wet-wipes and unused diapers.

But nothing could take away from the fun she’d had with her godson. They’d played peekaboo and she’d tickled Dylan’s tummy. They’d been to the beach, where she’d dipped Dylan’s toes in the shallows while he squealed in ecstasy. They’d even shared an ice-cream cone—granted, most of it had ended up over Dylan’s face, plus a few smears down Victoria’s favorite Kate Sylvester T-shirt.

So she’d willingly offer to do it again. Her godson was adorable. A memory of his loud, growling screams in the middle of the night made her amend that statement. Mostly he was adorable.

The throaty roar of a powerful motor pulling up outside her town house unit made her pause in the act of retrieving a miniature sock from under the coffee table.

She checked the slim gold watch on her wrist. Too early for Michael and Suzy.

The doorbell rang in a long, insistent buzz. Victoria leaped to her feet, a quick glance showing that Dylan hadn’t stirred. The bell buzzed again. She shot across the room and, without pausing to look through the peephole, yanked the door open before whoever it was could lean on the doorbell again.

“Connor!”

Connor North, Michael’s best man, stood on her doorstep.

To Victoria’s annoyance her pulse kicked up, but with practiced ease she avoided Connor’s gaze. He wore a white T-shirt that stretched across a broad chest, and a pair of jeans that molded the lean hips.

“I probably should have called.”

His voice was gravelly, all male, full of edges with no smooth sweetness. Victoria knew she should reply, should agree that it would have been better for him to have called first—and then hope like blazes that he would go.

Instead, unable to answer him or steel herself to meet his unsettling pale gray eyes, Victoria fixed her gaze on the hard line of his mouth. Mistake. It had been two years since he had kissed her at Michael and Suzy’s wedding. By rights she should’ve forgotten all about the texture of his lips against hers, the desire that had spun dizzily within her.

She hadn’t.

Victoria swallowed.

The memory of the taste of him, the hardness of his body against hers, was so immediate it could’ve happened yesterday. Despite her every effort to pretend it had never happened at all.

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