Expecting His Secret Heir

BOOK: Expecting His Secret Heir
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The one-night stand who got away is back—and expecting...

Security entrepreneur Zachary Gatlin can't decide whether to kiss her senseless or give her the brush-off, but Sadie Adams insinuates herself into his business and he's hooked.

Sadie's on a mission to dig up dirt on Zach and disqualify him from a multimillion-dollar inheritance. Success means she'll be able to pay for her little sister's medical bills. But when Zach once again proves irresistible to Sadie, she faces a fateful choice: follow her heart or save her sister. And then there's the child she's carrying—Zach's child...

Well, look what snuck in while I was in the kitchen.

Zach should stay away—he really should—but knew he wouldn't. Casually making his way across the room, he stopped to check in at a few tables while keeping Sadie in view. Her laughter, her smile were beautiful things, though she wasn't overtly flirting. Still, a surprising surge of anger streaked through him. He found himself circling slowly, almost like a lion studying his prey from all angles.

Coming in from behind, he could no longer see her face, but he could finally hear her words.

“So did they know someone was sabotaging the mill before this?”

Every cell in his body went alert at the question. Why was she asking?

“Oh, yeah,” one of the locals eagerly replied. “Of course, those of us that work there knew it way before any manager did.”

She nodded, which caused the muted lighting to glint off her ruby curls.

Standing right behind her, Zach felt a moment of evil satisfaction that he stood so close, yet she seemed unaware. Every time he was around this woman, his hackles rose.

He wasn't sure whether to shake her or kiss her.

* * *

Expecting His Secret Heir
is part of the series Mill Town Millionaires from Dani Wade.

Dear Reader,

My mama used to say that when you married someone, you married their family, too. In
Expecting His Secret Heir
, family is the one thing that brings Zach and Sadie together—and the very thing that keeps them apart. Family can be complicated, happy, troubled or, in this case...a secret.

Zach and Sadie are each working hard to keep their families safe, and I was amazed how such noble intentions could cause so much conflict between two people trying to do their best. Still, they can't stay away from each other. Will they both get what they want? Or will one of them have to sacrifice their good intentions on the altar of a new family waiting in the wings?

I'd love to know what you think about Zach and Sadie's story! You can email me at
[email protected]
or keep in touch with me through my website
www.daniwade.com
. I'm also active on Facebook at
www.Facebook.com/dani.wade.1
.

Enjoy!

Dani

DANI WADE

Expecting His Secret Heir

Dani Wade
astonished her local librarians as a teenager when she carried home ten books every week—and actually read them all. Now she writes her own characters, who clamor for attention in the midst of the chaos that is her life. Residing in the Southern United States with a husband, two kids, two dogs and one grumpy cat, she stays busy until she can closet herself away with her characters once more.

Books by Dani Wade

Harlequin Desire

His by Design

Mill Town Millionaires

A Bride's Tangled Vows
The Blackstone Heir
The Renegade Returns
Expecting His Secret Heir

Visit her Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
, or
daniwade.com
, for more titles.

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!
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To the Worshams, Tates, Nelsons, Schafers and Raymos, for teaching me all that family can mean during the highs and lows of life.

One

F
rom her crouching vantage point, Sadie Adams sized up the composition before her with an artistic eye.

Wide, straight shoulders of a towering man, silhouetted against the smoking buildings and rubble. A small strip of dead cotton plants in the foreground. The sun lightening the top of his thick head of hair, leaving the rest of him in shadow. Standing in profile, hands on his hips, head hung as if in despair.

As the shutter clicked, she wondered about his story. Had he been an employee of the ruined mill behind him, or was he there to help? As several men approached, he raised his head, giving her a clearer view of his rough-cut features.

I should have known.

Those broad shoulders, clothes that fit a tight, strong body in all the right places—he was the most capable man she'd ever known. The most incredible lover she'd ever had. The one it had almost killed her to walk away from.

Zachary Gatlin was the reason she was back in Black Hills, South Carolina. But he could never know that.

She took a few more pictures, surreptitiously inching in the other direction, as he talked with the men surrounding him. Yet she kept Zachary Gatlin in her line of sight. Five years ago, he had blended in with the crowd. A worker bee. Now, he was clearly in charge, directing those around him with decisive gestures and a firm tone that reached her even though she couldn't make out the words.

Had he worked his way up into management at the mill? Would that change how he treated her? Would it change how he saw her?

Moving along the edge of the parking lot, she attempted to get closer to the ruined buildings. Her high-quality camera had some amazing close-up capabilities that she was eager to test. The piece of equipment was a luxury she couldn't afford—but her employer could, and he was pulling out all the stops to ensure she got the information he needed. She should feel dirty for accepting the camera, but it was the one thing—the only thing—she didn't regret in her current situation.

If Zachary knew the truth, he'd make sure she deeply regretted ever coming back here. He wouldn't rage or get physical. He wouldn't need to. That dark stare and hard features would be enough to make his point. At least, that was the Zachary she'd known—or thought she'd known.

Would he be the same now?

Turning to the smoking ruins, she focused on the things she knew. Angle, lighting, depth, perception. Her circumstances had prevented her from pursuing photography at a professional level, even though she'd had a few photographs published, thanks to a friend. But if her life had been different, with fewer obligations, maybe she could have followed her own dreams instead of lying awake at night wondering how her family would all survive.

Lost in her art, she'd almost blocked out her surroundings until a masculine voice spoke near her. “Ma'am?”

For just a moment, her heart jump-started. Had Zach finally spotted her? But she turned to find a generic security guard by her side. “Yes?”

“If you'll come with me, please?”

Though it was a question, his firm gesture in the direction he wanted her to go brooked no arguments.

After ten steps she had no doubt where he was leading her. Desperate to delay the inevitable, she paused. “Excuse me? Could you explain what happened here?”

Possibly fooled by her innocent expression, the man stopped, too, and cocked his head to the side. “You aren't from around here, are you?”

She shook her head. “No. I've visited before, and really wanted to come back. But I didn't think I would find the quiet place I remembered in such an uproar.”

That was the truth. The single hotel in the area had been booked full. Sadie had managed to get the last room in the last B and B with an opening. From the types of people she saw coming and going, most of the influx consisted of firefighters and construction crews. From the looks of the half-full parking lot, quite a few of those guys were out here today.

“I kinda guessed, based on the accent,” he said with a smile.

Yep. No matter how she tried to tame it, her Texas breeding colored her every word.

The guard went on, “Well, the admin building on this side of the plant had a bomb go off in it.”

Sadie made herself look surprised, even though she'd picked up this tidbit of information around town already. “Really? Who would want to do that? This is the main source of employment for the town, if I remember right.”

“It sure is,” the man said, shaking his head. “They say they have a suspect in custody but haven't released any names yet.” He stared up at the building for a moment, looking confused. “I have no idea why someone would want to ruin the mill, but after all the bad stuff that's happened around here in the last year—”

“Steve,” Zach barked from over a dozen feet away.

“Oops. Better get movin',” the guard said.

Each step felt like a final walk down death row, but Sadie forced herself to move. After all, making contact with Zach was the reason she was here. She needed to spend as much time with him as possible—and she hoped their previous one-night stand might give her a bit of an in, even if the fact that she'd disappeared after it wouldn't make it a positive in.

Zach still had a group of workers around him who parted as she drew near. She expected them to skedaddle now that the boss had new business, but no. Not a single one moved away.

Her petite five-foot-five stature had been the bane of her existence ever since she'd realized she wouldn't be growing anymore, and being surrounded by a bunch of six-foot-tall men did not set her at ease. She felt like David approaching Goliath against his will.

Not that she had any sort of righteousness on her side.

There was only a moment to study Zach up close. His thick jet hair was a little longer than it had been the last time she'd seen him. Remembering that night long ago, she couldn't help the itch to bury her fingers in those silky strands again. Or to run her fingertips over the weary lines of his chiseled features until the tension melted away.

Her sensual memories were dimmed by the current hard look on his face. There was no glimmer of recognition or softening as she stood before him, even though she could remember every detail of the body that now towered over her. No smile of welcome softened his sculpted lips as he asked, “What are you doing?”

“I'm just taking some pictures,” she said quietly, lifting the camera still in her hand.

If anything, his dark eyes hardened more. “On private property.”

She glanced around, uncomfortable under the stares of the other men. “This is...was a business, right? There aren't any signs posted about private property or trespassing.”

“That's because they were all blown down by the bomb.”

Really?
She wanted to challenge him, push past that stony facade to find out if he was simply making that up. Was he trying to punish her for walking away? Or did he really not recognize her? Had she been that unmemorable? The thought made her slightly ill.

She settled for a simple, “Sorry, I didn't realize.”

Zach stared her down. What would he do next? She had a feeling this wasn't going to end as a friendly little chat. Her cheeks started to burn. Inwardly cursing her fair skin, she tilted her chin up to counteract the feeling of inadequacy. So what if he didn't remember her...she'd still find a way to get what she needed.

But she couldn't force her gaze back up to his.

“As you can see, this is still an active fire zone, and we've got a great deal to investigate before we know how safe it is.”

She smirked at the lame excuse. “I wasn't anywhere near the fire. I was in the parking lot with a bunch of other people.”

The crowd around her shifted, as if uncomfortable with her spark of courage. But Zach didn't back down. “Do you have a press pass?”

“What?”

“A press pass,” he said, enunciating each word with careful control. “Do you have permission to be taking photos of the scene?”

She seriously wanted to roll her eyes at his show of dominance but held herself in check. “No.”

“Steve, please escort this lady back to her car.”

Startled, she snapped her gaze up to meet his eyes once more. Surely he wasn't throwing her off the property?

He stepped closer, close enough for her to catch the scent she'd missed all too often, mixed with perspiration from his work despite the cool October air. His fingers—the same ones that had explored her body that long-ago night—caught her chin, tilting it up just a touch more until it was uncomfortable. Then she had no choice but to meet his gaze, despite their height difference. Her heart thumped hard, though she didn't know if it was from his nearness or fear.

“I suggest you stay away from where you don't belong.”

As the guard escorted her back to her car, she had only one thought.

Guess he does remember me after all...

* * *

Zach Gatlin stood behind his desk, lost in thought as he stared at the large monitor. Where had she come from? Did he really want to know?

Unfortunately, he did.

As much as he wished he could forget the red-haired beauty he'd taken to bed five years ago, the memory of her eager passion had resurfaced all too often. As had the memory of her love of sunsets and people and nature—her artistic eye had taught him to see the gentler world he'd forgotten in the midst of war.

Then, with no warning, she was gone. He'd consoled himself with the thought that if she hadn't been willing to say goodbye, she wouldn't have stayed in the long run anyway. Probably for the better, since Zach's responsibilities were a heavy load.

Sometimes he wondered if that inner voice lied.

Shaking off the memories, Zach focused on the present. The question was: Did he look into her or not? Running a background check would be all too easy, especially now that he ran his very own security business. The tools were within close reach. Close enough to make his fingers twitch. He could know all he wanted within minutes, every small detail of her life within days.

But was it the right thing to do?

Maybe he should have asked himself that before he threw her off mill property yesterday. He'd had a gut reaction to seeing her there, so close but seemingly oblivious to him. He wished he had controlled himself, but what was done was done. He couldn't go back.

With his life, he knew that all too well.

Turning away from the computer, he decided to confront this problem head-on rather than hide behind snooping. Security might be his business, but it didn't have to be his life.

Thirty minutes later, he wondered if he should have taken the easy way out. Figuring out where Sadie was staying had been easy—this was, after all, a small town. Getting past the nosy owner of the B and B? Well, that was an altogether different problem.

“Gladys, I know she's here, I just need to know what room she's in.”

“Is she expecting you?”

“Probably.” At least that much was the truth. If Sadie remembered anything at all about him, it should be that he was a man of action.

Gladys leaned against the high desk in the foyer. “Now, why would Black Hills's newest hero want to see some strange woman who just came into town?”

Lord, this woman wanted a pound of flesh, didn't she? “I haven't always lived here, Gladys.”

“So you met her somewhere else?” Was that a gleam of excitement in her eyes? How sad that his life had gone from daily drudgery to full-on gossip mill fodder.

He'd met Sadie right here in Black Hills, but it had seemed like another time and place. “The room number?”

Probably recognizing the obstinate look on his face and realizing she wasn't getting any gossip from him—outside of his very presence here—Gladys relented. “Room three.”

Back straight, he refused to look over his shoulder to see her watching him as he climbed the stairs. He hesitated before knocking, but luckily there was no one to see it.

The door opened, revealing Sadie. She was just as he remembered her, with smooth, translucent skin, an abundance of fiery red hair and green eyes that appeared guileless. A trap he wasn't falling for this time.

“Zachary,” she said.

He stalked through the doorway. The suite was more spacious than the tiny hotel room she'd occupied the last time she'd been here. This was open and airy, with a lightly feminine touch. His gaze bounced away from the bed in an alcove and came to rest on the laptop in a low sitting area in front of a fireplace. He made his way forward with measured steps.

“It's been a while, Sadie,” he finally said.

“Five years,” she murmured.

He paused, giving away the fact that he'd heard her when he would have preferred not to show any reaction at all. He was ashamed to admit, even to himself, that he'd often thought about what he would say if he ever saw her again. He'd pictured himself as calm, slightly condescending as he asked her why she'd left without a word, without any explanation.

Nothing in that scenario came close to the amped-up emotions he was experiencing at the moment.

Eager for a distraction, he paused in front of the open laptop. Several pictures shared space on the screen, showcasing the smoldering mill from different angles. He'd never had much time for art, but to his inexperienced eyes, these looked pretty good.

Which for some reason made him even angrier.

“You weren't authorized to take pictures there.”

“Did you tell that to every bystander in that parking lot with their cell phones in their hands? Or just me?”

He glanced in her direction, mildly surprised by her return salvo. He hadn't known her to be very confrontational. Not that they'd spent much time arguing, but they had talked—a lot. He wouldn't have called her a doormat, exactly, but she'd shown a lot more spirit in the last twenty-four hours than he'd seen in the week he'd known her five years ago. A week that had ended in a night he couldn't forget.

BOOK: Expecting His Secret Heir
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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