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The Billionaire's Borrowed Baby

By:Janice Maynard

The Billionaire's Borrowed Baby
Janice Maynard

       One




It was a hot, beautiful Georgia morning, but all Hattie Parker noticed was the taste of desperation and panic.

"I need to speak to Mr. Cavallo, please. Mr. Luc Cavallo," she clarified quickly. "It's urgent."

The thirtysomething administrative assistant with the ice-blue suit and   matching pale, chilly eyes looked down her perfect nose. "Do you have  an  appointment?"

Hattie clenched her teeth. The woman had an expensive leather date book   open in front of her. Clearly, she knew Hattie was an interloper and   clearly she was doing her best to be intimidating.

Hattie juggled the baby on her hip and managed a smile. "Tell him it's   Hattie Parker. I don't have an appointment, but I'm sure Luc will see me   if you let him know I'm here."

Actually, that was a bald-faced lie. She had no clue if Luc would see   her or not. At one time in her life he had been Prince Charming, willing   and eager to do anything she wanted, to give her everything she   desired.

Today, he might very well show her the door, but she was hoping he would   remember some of the good times and at least hear her out. They hadn't   parted on the best of terms. But since every other option she had   considered, legal or not, had gone bust, it was Luc or no one. And she   wasn't leaving without a fight.

The woman's expression didn't change. She was sheer perfection from her   ash-blond chignon to her exquisitely made-up face to her expensive   French manicure. With disdain, she examined Hattie's disheveled blond   hair, discount store khaki skirt and pink cotton blouse. Even without   the drool marks at the shoulder, the outfit wasn't going to win any   fashion awards. It was hard to maintain a neat appearance when the   little one grabbed handfuls of hair at regular intervals.

Hattie's legs felt like spaghetti. The stoic security guard in the lobby   had insisted that she park her stroller before entering the elevator.   Seven-month-old Deedee weighed a ton, and Hattie was scared and   exhausted, at the end of her rope. The last six weeks had been hell.

She took a deep breath. "Either you let me see Mr. Cavallo, or I'm going   to pitch the biggest hissy fit Atlanta has seen since Scarlett O'Hara   swished her skirts through the red Georgia dust." Hattie's chin  trembled  right at the end, but she refused to let this supercilious  woman defeat  her.

Scary lady blinked. Just once, but it was enough to let Hattie know that   the balance of power had shifted. The other woman stood up with a   pained sigh. "Wait here." She disappeared down a hallway.

Hattie nuzzled the baby's sweet-smelling head with its little tufts of   golden hair. "Don't worry, my love. I won't let anyone take you, I   swear." Deedee smiled, revealing her two new bottom teeth, her only   teeth. She was starting to babble nonsense syllables, and Hattie fell   more in love with her every day.

The wait seemed like an eternity, but when Luc's assistant finally   returned, the clock on the wall showed that less than five minutes had   elapsed. The woman was definitely disgruntled. "Mr. Cavallo will see you   now. But he's a very busy man, and he has many other important   commitments this morning."

Hattie resisted the childish urge to stick out her tongue at the woman's   back as they traversed the hallway carpeted in thick, crimson plush.  At  the second doorway, the woman paused. "You may go in." The words  nearly  stuck in ice woman's throat, you could tell.

Hattie took a deep breath, no longer concentrating on her would-be   nemesis. She kissed the baby's cheek for luck. "Showtime, kiddo." With   far more confidence than she felt, she knocked briefly, opened the door   and stepped into the room.



Luc ran a multimillion-dollar business. He was accustomed to dealing   with crises on a daily basis. The ability to think on his feet was a   gift he'd honed in the fires of corporate America.

So he wasn't easily thrown off balance. But when Hattie Parker appeared   in his office, the first time he'd seen her in over a decade, his heart   lodged in his throat, his muscles tensed and he momentarily forgot how   to breathe.

She was as beautiful now as she had been at twenty. Sun-kissed porcelain   skin, dark brown eyes that held hints of amber. And legs that went on   forever. Her silky blond hair barely brushed her shoulders, much  shorter  than he remembered. He kept the width of his broad mahogany  desk  between them. It seemed safer that way.

As he struggled with shock, he was stunned to realize the woman he had   once loved was holding an infant. Jealousy stabbed sharp and deep. Damn.   Hattie was a mother. Which meant there was a man somewhere in the   picture.                       
       
           



       

The sick feeling in his gut stunned him. He'd moved on a long, long time   ago. So why was his chest tight and his pulse jumping like a   jackrabbit?

He remained standing, his hands shoved in his pockets. "Hello, Hattie." He was proud of the even timbre of his voice.

"Hello, Luc."

She was visibly nervous. He indicated the chair closest to him and   motioned for her to sit. For a brief moment, Luc caught a glimpse of   sexy legs as Hattie's skirt rode up her thighs. The baby clung to her   neck, and Hattie wriggled in the chair until she was modestly covered.

He examined her face, deliberately letting the silence accumulate in   tense layers. Hattie Parker was the girl next door, a natural, appealing   beauty who didn't need enhancement. Even dressed as she was in fairly   unflattering garments, she would stand out in a room full of lovely   women.

At one time, she had been his whole world.

And it irked him that the memories still stung. "Why are you here,   Hattie? The last time we had sex was a lifetime ago. Surely you're not   going to try and convince me that baby is mine."

The mockery and sarcasm made her pale. He felt the pinch of remorse, but   a guy needed to wield what weapons he could. The man he was today  would  not be vulnerable. Not ever again.

She cleared her throat. "I need your help."

He lifted a brow. "I'd have thought I would be the last person on your go-to list."

"To be honest, you were. But it's serious, Luc. I'm in big trouble."

He rocked on his heels. "What's her name?"

The non sequitur made Hattie frown. "This is Deedee."

Luc studied the baby. He didn't see much of Hattie in the child. Maybe the kid took after her dad.

Luc leaned over and punched the intercom. "Marilyn … can you come in here, please?"

It was a toss-up as to which of the two women was more horrified when   Luc phrased his next request. When Marilyn appeared, he motioned to the   baby. "Will you please take the little one for a few minutes? Her name   is Deedee. Ms. Parker and I need to have a serious conversation, and I   don't have much time."

Hattie wanted to protest, he could tell. But she reluctantly handed the   baby over to Luc's assistant. "Here's a bottle. She's getting hungry.   And you'll need this bib and burp cloth. You don't want to let her ruin   your nice suit."

Luc knew his assistant would be fine. She might be a cold fish, but she was relentlessly efficient.

When the door closed, Luc sat down in his leather office chair. It had   been specially ordered to fit his long, lanky frame. He steepled his   hands under his chin and leaned back. "So spill it, Hattie. What's going   on in your life to make you seek me out? As I recall, it was you who   dumped me and not the other way around."

She flushed and twisted her hands in her lap. "I don't think we need to go there. That was a long time ago."

He shrugged. "All right then. We'll concentrate on the present. Why are you here?"

When she bit her lip, he shifted in his chair uneasily. Why in God's   name did he still have such vivid memories of kissing that bow-shaped   mouth? Running his hands through that silky, wavy hair. Touching every   inch of her soft, warm skin. He swallowed hard.

Hattie met his gaze hesitantly. "Do you remember my older sister, Angela?"

He frowned. "Barely. As I recall, the two of you didn't get along."

"We grew closer after our parents died."

"I didn't know, Hattie. I'm sorry."

For a moment, tears made her eyes shiny, but she blinked them back.   "Thank you. My father died a few years after I graduated. Lung cancer.   He was a two-pack-a-day man and it caught up with him."

"And your mother?"

"She didn't do well without Daddy. He did everything for her, and   without him, the world was overwhelming to her. She finally had a   nervous breakdown and had to be admitted to a facility. Unfortunately,   she was never able to go back to her home. Angela and I sold the house   we grew up in … everything Mom and Dad had, but it wasn't enough. I   practically bankrupted myself paying for her care."

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