Authors: Violet Walker
© Copyright 2015 by Kindled Romance Publishing - All rights reserved.
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The Billionaire Christmas Story
The Billionaire Christmas Story: Christmas Surprise
ean Harwood was having a hell of a day and now he was headed home at noon. The last thing he needed to deal with right now was an emergency cooked up by his housekeeper. He was in the middle of negotiations for a new med-tech company and he wanted the deal sealed by Christmas. This new acquisition would forge a new era for Harwood Industries, making them the leader for tech advancement in the medical field. Between research, multiple visits to Switzerland to speak with the developers and trips to China to figure out the manufacturing side, Dean had spent nearly two years on this deal. It was so close he could taste it, yet he was on his way home when he should be behind his sturdy oak desk looking over the latest changes.
Flora wasn’t a woman normally given to histrionics. She was in her fifties with a long grey braid down her back, comfortable and functional shoes and a no nonsense attitude. That perhaps, was the only reason his sleek black Aston Martin was racing down the highway towards his mansion just outside of town. Something must have shaken the woman badly.
He sped down the long private road leading to his home eager to get to the bottom of whatever the hell was going on. Skidding to a stop just inside the circular drive, Dean barely closed the door before he marched up three short steps and barreled through the large wooden doors that opened to a massive foyer. “Flora!” His long strides roamed the first floor of the mansion in search of his housekeeper, trying to keep his temper in check. “Flora!”
“In the solarium, Mr. Harwood.”
Abruptly changing directions to get to his housekeeper, Dean stopped dead in his tracks at the sound of a baby cooing. That didn’t make sense but maybe she worried he’d fire her for bringing a baby to work. He could handle that since Flora always did a spectacular job and she’d been with him for a long time. Finally, he could see the sun streaming through the doorway from the end of the hall. “Okay Flora, what seems to be the problem?”
“There’s no problem Mr. Harwood, just a situation for you to deal with.” The woman’s gaze never left the tiny bundle in her arms, her voice a pitch higher than normal. He did his best to ignore the baby talk from his housekeeper, but he could not ignore the child in her arms.
is the situation?” She said nothing, simply pulled a letter from her apron and handed it to him.
Meet Angel Thorpe Harwood, your daughter. Angel is nine months old and she is a happy, healthy baby. Her mother was Karen Thorpe and though she left little Angel in my custody, I strongly believe a child must be with her parents when possible. You have plenty of money, Mr. Harwood, I just hope you have as much love to give Angel. I’m sure you will do the right thing. ~KH
He balled into his fist the moment he finished reading it. “When will these damn women get it through their thick skulls!” His roar frightened the child and she began to fuss, but Flora quickly soothed her. “Did you see who dropped the letter off?”
Flora shook her head. “I didn’t. The bell rang and I answered it to find this little beauty babbling away. I did get the feeling that whoever dropped her off lingered until she was brought inside. Felt like someone was watching me.” She stood and held the baby out to Dean. “Go on and take her.”
“Why should I when she isn’t mine?”
“Well she is just a baby so you can save your attitude for whoever you’re convinced has done you wrong this time.” She harrumphed and walked over to the window, cooing bundle bouncing lightly.
“You say that as though I’m wrong.” He walked to the window and stood beside Flora. He didn’t dare look at the child. He was too busy; he couldn’t have a kid.
“Well did the person ask for anything or even stick around to get anything? Sounds to me like this person did the right thing by letting you know when the mother couldn’t even be bothered to do so.”
He sighed heavily, knowing Flora was right. She’d been with him for years and acted more like a mother than a housekeeper. “You have a point, but I’ll reserve judgment until after I get the payoff request.” It was coming, he knew it was. “I need to speak with Rinaldo. Can you keep an eye on her until I figure out what the hell is going on?”
“Of course I can,” she said, talking more to the baby than him, “this big old house could use a darling baby.”
Dean pretended not to hear her and continued to his security office.
The next morning, Dean’s Astin Martin ate up the pavement as he drove to a budget motel to find the striking, petite blonde they’d identified from the security footage. In the hours since his world had been thoroughly rocked, Dean found out that the blond, Krista Halloway, was the nanny and legal guardian of baby Angel. Her feelings for the baby were clear and he couldn’t get his mind around the heartbreaking image she made, whispering words to the babbling baby and swiping away tears. A heartfelt kiss goodbye and the woman had hidden behind a manicured hedge until Flora took Angel inside.
It was that heartbreaking image that made him question her motives. If he was the father, a quick paternity test would get a handsome child support payment on which Angel and Krista could live. She must have a bigger payday planned. It was the only thing that made sense.
He smacked the steering wheel in frustration, pulled into the parking lot of the only budget hotel in Loving, New York, and climbed out of his car. A quick trip to the lobby and a fifty dollar bill and Dean was walking off the elevator and straight to room 321. He stood in front of the door poised to knock when the door was wrenched open and a short body capped with wild blonde curls backed up into him.
“Oh, shit. Sorry.” She turned and looked up, took a step back and looked up further. He saw the moment recognition flashed. “How can I help you, Mr. Harwood?”
? You’re joking, right?” He leaned down uncomfortably so he could look the woman in her eyes. Her big almond-shaped eyes that were the perfect blend of blue and green. “I’m here to tell you, Ms. Halloway,” he practically spat her name, “that if you continue with whatever this scam is, I’ll have my lawyers on you so fast your head will spin!”
Smacking his hand out of her face, Krista’s tiny face reddened and a small growl escaped her mouth. “You arrogant fool! That precious baby is yours and I was trying to do the right thing to make sure Angel grew up knowing her father, knowing she was wanted. If that’s not the case I’ll happily pick her up and we can go back home and I
you won’t hear from us ever again.” She turned and began to pull her luggage down the hall. “What will it be, Mr. Harwood, am I taking Angel or are you keeping her?”
Dean grabbed her arm a little rougher than he meant to and she yanked out of his grasp. “Neither of you are going anywhere until we’ve all had DNA tests!”
“Get your paws off me, you animal!” She stopped walking and shook her head. “I’m not the mother, you idiot. Do you remember having sex with me?” At his silence she laughed bitterly, “I didn’t think so. Angel’s mom was Karen Thorpe, one of your many conquests. Is that ringing a bell? It doesn’t matter that you don’t remember. What matters is that Karen is dead and God help Angel, but you are all the family she has left. That is, if you can stop working long enough to give her any of your
Her words dripped with such disgust Dean was taken aback. Had he gotten this wrong?
. He hadn’t. He just needed to figure out her angle. “And I’m supposed to just take your word for it.”
“I don’t give a damn what you believe. If I wanted, I could have just kept Angel and never said a word to you. If it makes you feel better, have the test. I’ll sign papers giving my consent to a paternity test and when it comes back telling you what you obviously don’t want to hear, you can find me and I’ll sign over guardianship to you.”
“And how much is that going to cost me?”
“No wonder Karen didn’t tell you. You really are an incredible jackass.” With those words she brushed by him and entered the elevator just before the doors closed.
lone in her apartment,
rista looked around and tried not to bawl like a baby at the absence of a dark haired girl with beautiful green eyes. She’d spent the past few days crying every time she spotted a stuffed animal in the corner, pulled a bottle from the dishwasher or folded a onesie with her laundry. It was torture, seeing remnants of Angel when she wasn’t around. She knew she was doing the right thing. No matter what Karen had said, Dean Harwood deserved a chance to be the father Angel needed. She was giving him that chance, success or failure was up to him.
That didn’t mean she had to like it. She didn’t. It was torture being here without Angel but she would get used to it. She had to. Once Dean made up his mind, she would leave New York and search for work elsewhere. She would go somewhere there were no memories of a negligent mother and a sweet baby. Maybe she would spend some time traveling. She always wanted to see more of the world, and thanks to Karen’s generosity, her savings could afford to spend some time sightseeing.
Maybe she could even make time for romance and dating. It would be nice to fall in love and have a few children. Krista had never really thought about having children until Angel, but now she knew her life would never be complete without a little angel of her own. First, she would have to pick a city and get a new job. Then she could focus on her happy ending.
For now, she would clean. Her apartment wasn’t dirty but it was extremely cluttered. Most of Angel’s belongings were scattered around her place and she needed to tidy up to keep busy and to keep from going stir crazy. She hadn’t had so much free time in forever and she wasn’t sure how to fill her time other than cleaning.
Unfortunately, it took less than an hour to have the two bedroom apartment so clean it gleamed. Her apartment had never gleamed. Dressed in black workout shorts and a white tank, she collapsed on the sofa and gulped down a cup of water. It was cool and refreshing. As soon as she could get her legs working again, she would hop in the shower.
The doorbell sounded and she groaned. “Go away, please,” she moaned at the door. Krista refused to move from her place on the floor so she yelled. “Who is it?” The voice was muffled by the door so she didn’t understand, but she knew the voice was male. “Who. Is. It?”
“Dammit,” she collapsed back on the floor, in no mood to deal with him today.
“I heard that.”
“Yeah well I wasn’t trying to be quiet. What do you want?”
“Do you really want to do this through the door?”
She smiled, his exasperation crystal clear even with a door between them. “It depends on what you want.” Then she heard it, a tiny voice on the brink of tears. She shot up from the floor in one fluid move and yanked the door open. “Angel!” The baby girl reached out to her nanny and wrapped her tiny arms around her neck. Excited baby squeals pierced the air. “Come here, sweetie pie,” she turned and walked into her apartment. “You can come too.”
“Gee, thanks,” he grumbled and shut the door behind him. He entered the room slowly and looked around, taking note of the photos and artwork on the walls. “This place is homey.”
“Okay.” She could hear the barely contained disdain in his words. “So are you going to tell me why you’re here or should I guess?”
“If I told you to guess, what would you say?”
Krista nuzzled Angel close, taking in her fresh baby scent and chubby baby parts. “I missed you, Angel baby.” She kissed her fat little cheek and turned her attention to Dean. “My guess, my
is that you’ve decided to be a real father to her. Barring that, I would say you’re here to admit defeat and give Angel back to me .”
He barked out a laugh. “Good guess, but not quite.”
She said nothing and let Angel’s baby noises fill the room. If Dean Harwood thought she was going to sit around and play some stupid guessing game, he was sadly mistaken. Finally, the silence became too much for him and he sighed.
“Look I need your help okay? Angel knows you and she loves you.”
“And I need your help.”
Of course he did. That’s what the Dean Harwoods of the world did: they hired people to do what they didn’t want to do themselves. “For how long?”
“I’ll pay you, whatever you deem sufficient.”
She scoffed. “How long?”
He raked both hands through his chestnut hair in frustration. He wasn’t quite used to women questioning him, harassing him, not willing to do his bidding. “Until I can handle it on my own, I guess.”
“You mean until you can find an old woman with no other obligations than to raise Angel for you?” Looking over her shoulder at him, her gaze dared him to disagree.
“I have a job.”
“Don’t you have minions to do your bidding?” Guys like him always had a handful of personal and executive assistants following them around.
“Some things the boss has to do.” And what he needed to do was get back to the office and finish these negotiations. “So can you help? I’ll make it worth your while.”
Standing with Angel secure in her arms, she whirled on him. “You think everything is about money, don’t you? Well I can’t be bought by you or anyone else! If you want to pay someone, go find your Mary friggin’ Poppins and get the hell out of my face!” She kissed Angel and thrust her into his arms.
“I’m sorry, Krista, but I really need your help. Angel needs you.”
And that was her problem. Angel was her weakness and the arrogant bastard knew it. She had to place limits on this help because she wouldn’t stay longer than she was needed, longer than it was smart to stick around. The longer she stayed with Angel, the harder it would be to say goodbye, and Mr. Hot & Arrogant--well being around him wasn’t good for her mental well-being. “You have until Christmas Eve. That’s three weeks.”
Dean’s life was back to normal. Mostly. With Krista looking after Angel, he was able to focus on finishing off the latest Harwood Industries acquisition. He hadn’t spent much of the past few days with his daughter or her nanny, but he would change that. Soon.
“Hey man, how’s the contract looking?”
Dean looked up and smiled into the piercing blue eyes of his cousin, River, who was more like a brother to him. River was the charm behind Harwood Industries while Dean was the nuts and bolts guy. They were a great team. River schmoozed clients in and Dean made sure the company got the best possible deal. “It’s looking good. Have a seat.” He watched River fold his long lean body into the seemingly-tiny office chair. “I think this will be the last round of changes. The company will officially be ours before Christmas.” He leaned back in his chair and returned his cousin’s satisfied smile.
“We can announce it at the Christmas Ball?”
Dean nodded. “Yes. The ball may actually be tolerable this year.”
“Are you going to bring that adorable daughter of yours and her sexy nanny?”
Dean tried to hide his visceral reaction to his cousin’s words, but his fists balled up anyway. He didn’t want anyone talking about Krista like that. She was his. At least she would be. “Leave Krista alone.”
Ebony eyebrows raised, River’s blue eyes sparkled with amusement. “You’ve already claimed her? I can respect that.”
“No. I didn’t say…dammit, River.”
His loud laugh boomed loud in the big office. “Hey man, I’m just glad you’re interested in something besides business. Speaking of, did you get the paternity results yet?” Dean shook his head and River sighed in frustration. “What the hell, Dean? With our resources you could have those results in 24 hours, so why the delay?”
He couldn’t explain it himself, but it didn’t take a genius to figure it out. “I haven’t done the test yet.”
River frowned and then understanding dawned. “How long is Krista staying?”
Dean shrugged, not wanting to answer the question. He and River were close and never lied to one another. “Three weeks. Christmas Eve is her last day.”
River unfolded his long body. “Then you’ve got your work cut out for you, don’t ya?” With a casual wave, River lazily ambled through the office door and down the hall.
Dean didn’t really understand his cousin’s words but he knew he wasn’t ready for Krista to go yet. He had no idea what he would do with her, but he needed to keep her under his roof. Within his reach.
That much, he knew.
Krista was enjoying herself, dammit. Spending her days with Angel, bundled up and roaming Dean’s ridiculously large estate was amazing. Every day there was something new for her and Angel to explore, and despite Dean’s neglect, Angel was blossoming under Flora’s love and care. The woman had taken to both Krista and the baby as though they were already family.
She was stripping Angel out of her heavy coat, hat, scarf and gloves when Flora came over to pinch her chubby baby cheeks. “Oh even cold as a block of ice, she’s the most beautiful baby the world has ever seen.”
Krista smiled. Angel kicked her legs and giggles, the love between her and Flora went both ways. “She is adorable, aren’t you baby?” More kicking and giggling and squealing followed. Krista hoisted the baby up on her hip and slid her into the high chair at the tall counter. Even though Dean was never around, he’d made sure Angel had every little thing a baby could possibly need. The chair was high end cherry wood with hand-carved engravings around the legs and the tray. “Here you go sweetie,” she placed a few chunks of fruit in front of Angel and watched her attack them with a smile.
“Here’s some hot tea for you, sweet girl.” Flora sat tea in front of her and watched. “He’s a good man, you know.”
Now it all made sense. She wondered why Flora was hovering more than usual. “I’m sure he is, Flora. But is going to be a good father?” That had been her concern even before she met the arrogant man, but three days under his roof, and she was rethinking her impulsive decision to give Angel to her father.
“What he needs,” Flora slid a mouthwatering bowl of stew at her, “is a good woman who will help him,
him how to be a good father.” She gave Krista a pointed look.
She needed to quash those thoughts right away. “That won’t be me Flora, whatever you’re thinking. He thought I was after his money and I’m sure he still does. He needs to learn how to be a father for Angel and for him. No one else.”
Flora looked at her for a beat and then burst out laughing. “And that’s exactly why he needs a woman like you. The women he dates, a term I use loosely mind you, only care about his money and his status. You don’t seem to care at all about those or him. You’re perfect.”
Now it was Krista’s turn to laugh. “You’re sweet, Flora, but that’s not going to happen.”
“Never say never, dear. Now I better get started on dinner, so you two eat up.”
She watched the woman head to the other side of the kitchen where a pile of vegetables sat in a colander awaiting her sharp knife. No matter what she thought, Krista knew Dean wasn’t the man for her and she wasn’t the woman for him. He was handsome and there had been a few sparks of chemistry between them during their brief encounters, but he couldn’t help but question her motives regarding his money. She didn’t need that in her life.
She needed to make sure he knew how to take care of Angel so she could start the next chapter in her own life story. She would say goodbye to the sweet baby she’d cared for since birth and find a way to heal her heart. Every day she came downstairs with Angel on her hip and regretted that she’d ever tried to do the right thing. She should have just done as Karen had asked and raised Angel on her own. Dean left for the office before they were awake and most nights he came home well after Angel’s bed time. Usually she was up, but in no mood to deal with him she curled up with a book on her bed.
She’d plowed her way through several Jane Austen novels, using her lengthy evenings to job hunt and read the books she didn’t have time for. As a young woman, she’d gone through a list of the all-time greatest books while she cared for her grandma during her last days. One day, she would have a life in which she was the star, not one where she watched the only person who’d ever cared for her slowly die of cancer. Or one where she watched someone else’s child grow into a beautiful young woman.
No, her new life would be all about her.
At least for a little while.