Millionaire in Command

By: Catherine Mann

One



Phoebe Slater brought a baby to the millionaire military hero’s seaside welcome-home gala.Undoubtedly most of the guests plucking canapés and champagne from silver trays at this high-profile affair could afford nannies. Of course the Hilton Head Island wealthy could also afford tailored tuxedos and sequined high-end dresses as they mingled the evening away in the country club gardens by the shore. Her basic little black dress had been bought at a consignment store to wear to the few mandatory cocktail parties related to her position as a history professor at the University of South Carolina.

Of course she usually didn’t accessorize with baby drool dotting her shoulder.

Phoebe jostled the fractious five-month-old infant on her hip, smoothing down the pink smocked dress. “Hang on, sweetie. Just a few more minutes and I can feed you before bedtime.”

As waves crashed in the distance, a live band played oldies rock, enticing guests to the dance floor with a Billy Joel classic. Even South Carolina’s governor was dancing under the silver silk canopy with his wife. Darn near gawking, Phoebe stumbled on the edge of the flagstone walkway.

Definitely this was a party for the movers and shakers in the political world—as well as on the polished wood dance floor planked over the sandy lawn. She untangled her low heel from between two decorative rocks. She wasn’t here to socialize tonight. She’d come to find little Nina’s father.

If only she had a better idea of what he looked like.

Her longtime friend and old sorority sister—Nina’s biological mother—had told Phoebe that Kyle Landis was the baby’s daddy a couple of months ago when she’d asked for “just a little help” with Nina while she went on an audition for a dinner-theater production in Florida. Bianca had been so excited to get her prebaby body back, insisting this was her chance to provide a better life for her daughter.

Who could have known Bianca wouldn’t return?

Phoebe hugged Nina closer, all the more determined to make sure this precious baby had a stable life. Which meant finding Kyle Landis, a man she’d never met in the flesh. She’d hoped to ID him by his Air Force uniform, but the place was packed with tall, dark-haired guys decked out in formal military gear. Medals gleamed in the moonlight.

Cupping the back of Nina’s bonnet-covered head as the little one finally dozed off, Phoebe scanned the sea of faces, their profiles shadowy with only the illumination of moon, stars and pewter tiki torches. She only had an older photo to go by, a picture tucked deep in the bottom of the flowered diaper bag slung over her clean shoulder. No way was she going to disturb Nina by looking, not now that the baby was nearly out for the count.

He used to appear in the newspapers frequently when his late father had been a senator. Then his mother and brother had stepped into the political spotlight, too. But the family kept Kyle out of the media’s scrutiny as much as possible for safety’s sake because of his tours of duty in war zones.

The crush of people grew thicker, faces tougher to see. As much as she hated to draw attention to herself, she was going to have to ask for help finding—

“Can I get you something?”

The deep voice rumbled from behind her as if in answer to her very thoughts, jolting her with a clear shot of sexy bass on the salty ocean breeze. Lordy, the waiter must rack up tips with that bedroom voice of his. She glanced over her shoulder to ask for a napkin—she’d forgotten the burp rag again, damn it.

Her smile froze.

Captain Kyle Landis—in the flesh, all right.

His dark brown hair was trimmed military short, mellow blue eyes creased at the corners from a deep tan she knew he’d earned in a Middle Eastern desert. A broad forehead and strong jawline gave him a masculine appeal just shy of harsh.

She should have realized the guy would be even better looking in person. He was a lucky son of a gun from an established old Southern family—handsome and rich, with a smoky voice to boot. He’d even reportedly survived a crash unscathed. His muscled chest in a blue uniform jacket sported at least double the medals of most here, perhaps only outdone by his stepfather, a general.

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