Her Little Secret, His Hidden Heir(9)

By: Heidi Betts



Instead, he allowed her to lead him back through the front of the bakery and outside to the space for rent next door. Though it was locked and they were unable to enter, he could see clearly through the plate glass windows that it was half the size of The Sugar Shack, but completely empty, which meant that there would be very little remodeling necessary to turn it into anything Vanessa wanted. And if his vision of the mail order aspect of the business matched hers, he imagined it wouldn’t take much more than a few computers, several packing stations, and a direct and open path connecting it to The Sugar Shack for easy access.

While he continued to peer inside, studying the structure of the connected, unrented area, Vanessa stepped back, standing in the middle of the sidewalk.

“What do you think?” she asked.

He turned to find the afternoon sun glinting off her hair, making it shine like a new penny. A flash of desire hit him square in the chest, nearly knocking him back a pace. His throat clogged and he felt himself growing hard despite the knowledge that he had no right to be attracted to her any longer.

But then, who was he kidding? They might not be married anymore, but he had a feeling it would take a lot more than a signed divorce decree to keep his body from responding to his ex-wife’s presence. Something along the lines of slipping into a coma or having a full frontal lobotomy.

Tamping down on the urge to step forward and run his fingers through her mass of copper curls—or do something equally stupid, like kiss her until her knees went weak—he said, “I think you’ve done very well for yourself.” Without him, he was sorry to acknowledge.

She looked only moderately surprised by the compliment. “Thank you.”

“I’m going to need some time to look at the books and discuss things with Brian, but if you’re not still completely set against working with me, there’s a good chance I’d be interested in investing.”

If he’d expected squeals of joy or for her to throw herself into his arms in a display of unabashed appreciation, he was doomed to disappointment. She nodded sagely, but otherwise didn’t respond.

And he didn’t have a reason to stick around any longer.

“Well,” he murmured, stabbing his hands into his pockets and rocking back slightly on his heels, “I guess that about does it. Thank you for the tour—and the samples.”

Damn, he felt like a teenager out on his first date, and the polite smile she offered only made matters worse.

“I’ll be in touch,” he told her after a moment of awkward silence.

Tucking a strand of hair behind one ear, Vanessa tipped her head, but said, “I’d prefer you have Brian call me, if you don’t mind.”

He did mind and a muscle in his jaw ticked as he ground his teeth together to keep from saying so. As much as it annoyed him, though, he understood her reluctance to be in contact with him again. He suspected that even if he offered to sink a boatload of money into Vanessa’s enterprise, she might refuse just on principle. A ridiculous principle that would only cause her to end up shooting herself in the foot, but principle all the same.



Vanessa remained on the sidewalk outside The Sugar Shack, watching as Marc walked away, back toward the offices of Blake and Fetzer. Not until he was well out of sight, and she felt sure he wasn’t going to turn around and come back, did she let herself release a pent-up breath.

Then, as soon as the pressure in her chest eased and her heart was beating normally again, she spun around and returned to the bakery, heading straight for the stairs that led to the second floor apartment. Halfway up, she heard some of her aunt’s favorite 1940s big band music playing, and beneath that, the sound of Danny fussing.

Taking the last several steps two at a time, she hurried in and found her aunt pacing back and forth across the floor, bouncing and hushing and doing everything she could think of to calm the red-faced child in her arms.

“Poor baby,” Vanessa said, reaching for Danny.

“Oh, thank goodness.” Helen sighed in relief, more than happy to hand over her squalling charge. “I was just about to give him a bottle, but I know how much you prefer to feed him yourself.”

“That’s all right, I’ve got him now,” Vanessa told her, continuing to bounce Danny up and down as she moved to the ugly, beige second-hand sofa along the far wall, unbuttoning her blouse as she went. “Thank you so much.”

“How did things go? Is Marcus gone now?” Her aunt wanted to know.

“Yes, he’s gone.”

When the words came out more mumbled than intended, she realized it was because she wasn’t entirely pleased with that fact. She might have thought Marc was out of her life for good, and may have been desperate to keep him away once he’d shown up in Summerville unexpectedly, but she realized now that seeing him again hadn’t been entirely unpleasant.

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