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The Nanny Proposition

By:Rachel Bailey

The Nanny Proposition, - Rachel Bailey

Liam Hawke held the cell phone tightly against his ear, but it didn’t help. The person on the other end of the phone wasn’t making any sense.

“Mr. Hawke? Are you there?”

“Hang on a moment,” he said and pulled his Jeep to the side of the road. At his brother’s enquiring stare, Liam said in an undertone, “Listen,” and hit the speaker button on his cell. “Can you repeat that, please?”

“I’m a midwife at the Sacred Heart Hospital and I just informed you that you’ve become a father. Congratulations.” Liam frowned, Dylan’s eyes widened and the woman continued. “Your daughter, Bonnie, is two days old and still here with her mother. Unfortunately, her mother has had some complications following the birth and has asked me to contact you. It would be best if you came right away.”

A baby? Dylan mouthed as Liam loosened his tie and undid the top button on his shirt, which had suddenly become too tight. There had to be a mistake. Babies didn’t magically appear. Usually there was nine months’ notice, for one thing.

The L.A. sun shone down on them through the sunroof as Liam swallowed and tried to get his voice to work. “Are you sure you have the right person?”

“You’re Liam John Hawke?” she asked.

“I am.”

“You were in a relationship with Rebecca Clancy?”

“Yes” —if you could call their arrangement a relationship— “but she wasn’t pregnant when we broke up.” Which had been a good while ago. He struggled to remember when he’d last seen her but couldn’t bring a time or place to mind.

How long had it been? It could have been eight months ago.... An uncomfortable heat crawled across his skin. Then another piece of information registered. “You said Rebecca had some complications. Is she all right?”

The midwife drew in a measured breath. “I think it would be better if we spoke in person.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he said and disconnected. He pulled the Jeep back out into the flow of traffic and made a U-turn.

Dylan pulled out his cell. “I’ll cancel the meeting.”

When Dylan ended the call, Liam threw him a tight smile. “Thanks.”

“You had no idea?” Dylan asked.

“I still have no idea.” He ran a hand through his hair, then brought it back to grip the wheel. “Sure, I was dating Rebecca back then, but that doesn’t prove I’m the father of her baby.” He’d heard she’d been dating again soon after their breakup. First order of business would be a paternity test.

After a frustrating delay in L.A. traffic, they arrived at the hospital. They made their way to the neonatal unit, where they were greeted by a woman in a pale blue uniform. She led them through to the nursery. “Ms. Clancy took a turn for the worse after I called you, and she’s been taken back to surgery. Her parents went up with her, so they’ve left Bonnie with us here in the nursery.” She leaned over and picked up a bundle of soft pink blanket with a tiny face peeping out.

“Hello, sweetheart,” she cooed. “Your daddy’s here to meet you.”

Before Liam could head the nurse off with an explanation about needing a paternity test, she’d placed the baby in his arms. Large eyes fringed by long dark lashes blinked open and looked up at him. Her tiny pale pink face seemed so fragile, yet somehow more real than anything else in the room.

“I’ll leave you two to get to know each other for a few minutes,” the midwife said. “There’s a comfy chair over there in the corner.”

Dylan cleared his throat. “I’ll just...ah...pop out and get us a couple of coffees.”

But Liam was only vaguely paying attention to them. Bonnie was all he could see. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d held a baby and he wasn’t one-hundred-percent sure he was doing it right, but he held her closer and breathed in her clean, sweet smell. He could feel the warmth of her body through the blanket, and a ghost of a smile crept across his face.

All three Hawke brothers had their mother’s unusual hair color of darkest brown shot through with deep red—and Bonnie already had a thick crop of hair exactly that shade. He’d still demand a paternity test, no question, and he’d need to have a full and frank discussion with Rebecca, but he was sure of one thing: Bonnie was his.

She was a Hawke.

As he sank into the chair and stared into the eyes of his daughter, the world stilled. His baby. His heart clenched tight, then expanded to fill his chest, his body. And for the first time in his life, Liam Hawke fell head over heels in love.

He lost track of time as he sat there, holding his daughter and telling her stories about her new family, of her two uncles and of his parents, who would adore and spoil their first grandchild rotten. An hour ago he was on his way to a business meeting with Dylan for their family company, Hawke’s Blooms. How had his day gone from thinking about the business of growing and selling flowers to thinking about a having a little girl in his life?

A movement out of the corner of his eye made him look up to see a middle-aged couple enter the nursery. They stumbled to a halt just inside the door. “Who are you?” the heavily made-up woman demanded.

Instinctively, he held Bonnie a little tighter. This had to be Rebecca’s parents. He’d never met them when he’d dated Rebecca—given the relationship had barely lasted three months before he’d ended it, the opportunity had never arisen. He guessed he’d be seeing more of them now.

“Liam Hawke,” he said calmly, politely. “Bonnie’s father.”

Scowling, the man stepped forward on one Italian-shoed foot. “How do you even know about Bonnie?”

“Rebecca asked the nurse to call me.” Not wanting to disrupt the baby, he stayed in the chair and kept his voice level. “But the real question is, why wouldn’t I know about her?”

“Rebecca would never have done that,” the woman said, her eyes narrowing. “When Rebecca’s discharged, she and the baby will be coming back to live with us—she moved in two months ago. We’ll raise Bonnie together. In fact, you can hand her over now and leave before Rebecca gets out of surgery. If she’d wanted to see you, she’d have mentioned it before now.”

Liam took a breath, prepared to give the couple some slack given their daughter was in surgery. But they were seriously mistaken if they thought he was going anywhere.

“So your plan was to never tell me I have a child?” he asked and met their gazes steadily.

“Rebecca’s plan,” the man corrected.

Their arrogance was astounding. To deliberately keep a baby’s birth—the existence of a person—secret was beyond comprehension. “She didn’t think I’d want to know? That Bonnie would need a father?”

The woman sniffed. “You can’t provide anything that she won’t already have. Your wealth is nothing to ours. And she’ll have people around her capable of love.”

He heard the unspoken critique of his family’s wealth clear enough—the Hawke family didn’t just have less money, they had new money. He felt his blood pressure rise another notch. He’d come across the prejudice often, always from people who’d never put in a hard day’s work in their lives, whose riches had been passed down and all they’d had to do was spend and perhaps adjust the investments. He’d never been able to conjure up any respect for someone who’d inherited their money and position.

About to respond, Liam frowned and paused. Something in that last dig had been especially pointed. What exactly had Rebecca told them about him? They hadn’t broken up on the best of terms, sure, but he hadn’t thought it had been too bad. Though, now that he thought about it, hadn’t Rebecca talked about her parents being cold and manipulative? Was this coming from Rebecca or from them...?

A man in a surgeon’s gown appeared in the doorway. His face was drawn as he took off the paper cap that had covered his hair. “Mr. and Mrs. Clancy?”

“Yes?” Rebecca’s mother grabbed her husband’s hand. “Is she out of surgery? How is she?”

“I’m afraid I have some bad news. Rebecca fought hard, but her body had—”

“She’s gone?” Mr. Clancy said, his voice hoarse.

The doctor nodded. “I’m sorry.”

Mrs. Clancy let out a loud, broken sob and slumped against her husband, who pulled her against him. The noise made Bonnie’s face crumple, then she began to wail. Stunned, Liam looked down at her. Her mother had just died. She was motherless. Her life would always be affected by this one tragic incident.

And he had no idea what to do.

The midwife rushed through the door, jostling to get past the doctor, who was still talking to Rebecca’s parents, and took Bonnie from him. Liam watched her soothe Bonnie as if from a distance. As if it wasn’t really happening.

“I’m so sorry about the news, Mr. Hawke,” she said.

“What—” He cleared his throat. “What happens to Bonnie now?”

“Rebecca had already filled in the birth certificate and named you as the father. So as far as the hospital is concerned, you have custody of her. If you don’t want her, I know Rebecca’s parents were talking about raising her. How about I call the social worker to help you sort through your options?”