Hailey is the careful one. The sensible one. And now she’s the one in trouble – about to go into the Witness Protection Program.
When Hailey does something, she does it properly. So when she picks the wrong man to have an affair with, he’s really wrong. Organized crime wrong. Now she, her mom, and her baby are adjusting to life in the small town of Trouble Bay, Wisconsin, where the streets are quiet in winter and loud with tourists in the summer. Not a place where the mafia would think to look for her. She feels safe, but someone took her control away once, and she’s not going to let it happen again.
And then there’s the man next door and their disturbing first encounter…
Wounded physically and emotionally, US Army Sergeant Wes Harding fights to attain peace of mind, which might be the best – or the least – that he can hope for.
Soon after Wes loses half of his left leg in a botched military mission, he loses his fiancée, who can’t live with his injuries. He tells himself he’s lucky to have a therapy dog and a prosthetic leg. His uncle, too, who insists that Wes stay in his home in the town of Trouble Bay, Wisconsin.
Wes suspects his new neighbor isn’t telling the truth about where she came from. He’s getting his own life together, and he’s not about to intrude on hers. But she’s impossible to avoid and more impossible to ignore. He knows she has secrets, and he wonders how dangerous they may be…
This is a new life for both Hailey and Wes. Anything can happen – for the good or the bad.
The housekeeper ushered Hailey into the living room of Leo’s south Miami penthouse, or—as Hailey thought of it now—the scene of the crime and the last place she wanted to be.
Despite the Miami heat, the vast white-and-gray living room gave her chills. She stepped up to the wall of windows and gazed down at the ocean meeting the sky. Beautiful, but she was too tired to appreciate the view. Since she’d found out the test results last week, she hadn’t slept well, and she was wobbling on her feet. Maybe once she told Leo why she needed to talk to him, she could sleep like—
‟You’re here.” Leo’s voice was thick with emotion.
Taking a deep breath, Hailey turned to see him striding toward her, a big man with dark hair and matching eyes. She held out her hands to stop him from embracing her.
This was so wrong. Her life was beginning to feel like a soap opera, and she was the last woman anyone would expect to be in this situation.
Which proved that even the most sensible woman could do stupid things when a man was involved.
‟Don’t. Please. I’m here because I have something to tell you.”
Leo stopped two feet away, but his eyes burned into hers. As if he knew why she was here, which was ridiculous.
‟Then we’ll talk.” He moved to the couch and patted the seat next to him. ‟Sit.”
The sit command sounded like he was talking to a dog, and she took the cream-colored leather chair across from him. His dark eyes lit up, as if he took her reluctance as a challenge. An obstacle he planned to overcome.
Looking at this tall, muscular man, she wondered what she’d been thinking of by dating him. But the real mystery was why he’d pursued her. He was a multimillionaire who bought and sold stocks like she bought and sold … well, not much, because she was notoriously careful with her money.
Leo was out of her league. She didn’t feel a twinge admitting it, because it was a league she didn’t care to join. Her time with him had been a fling. It had taken her two months to realize she’d rather stay home and read a good book than spend an evening listening to him talking about his great stock choices, the celebrities he knew, and the golf games that he always seemed to win.
‟You’ve come back to me.” He leaned forward, his eyes brighter, demanding her attention.
She frowned, wondering for what must be the thousandth time why he was fixated on her. Stinking-wealthy men like him could have their pick of beautiful women.
She wasn’t modest. She knew she was attractive. Not gorgeous or stunning, but pretty in an understated way. Instead of fiery and hot, like Leo, she was cool and reserved. Not a woman whom a man would carry on his sleeve the way wealthy women wore diamonds and the latest fashions. Anything that shouted to the world: Look at me! Look how important and rich and fabulous I am!
Maybe she reminded him of the auburn-haired wife who was divorcing him. Because, of course the first thing Hailey had done after giving him her phone number was to check him out online. She’d even seen a photo of his wife that had stopped her breath for a long moment. Polina Vasnev, a daughter of a former Russian diplomat, was a brighter, vibrant version of her.
When Leo had met Hailey at her favorite South Beach restaurant, he’d told her he had a penchant for redheads. He’d even mentioned his divorce, telling her their lawyers were fighting over who should get what. She understood that. Where there was wealth, there were people fighting to get the biggest shares. Though his marriage situation had bothered her, in the end she’d stopped seeing him because she just didn’t like him that much.
He’d pleaded with her to stay, but she’d walked away, feeling a huge sense of relief. Every single woman she knew would probably think she was insane, but she’d sensed that she’d jumped out of the path of a train heading straight toward her.
Only the train hadn’t missed her after all. Now, nearly two months later, she carried the proof of their short relationship inside her.
Like millions of women before her who’d been in a similar situation, she was wondering why her birth control hadn’t worked.
She thought that some people would say it was meant to be.
She wasn’t one of them.
Facing him, she took a deep breath, then blurted, ‟I’m pregnant.”
He sat still, not one muscle moving, his eyes bright, radiating triumph. Almost as if he’d been waiting for her to say that, which was ridiculous. They hadn’t had sex the first three weeks. When they had, she’d been taking birth control pills and she’d insisted that he use a condom.
Three weeks later, she’d missed her period.
She never missed her period. Ever.
She’d waited a week, hoping it would come soon.
Then another week.
She was twenty-six and, oh, God, she just didn’t want to be pregnant with Leo’s baby.
When the seventh week had come and gone, she’d stopped off at the drugstore and bought three different pregnancy tests. She’d prayed, but as many other women had found out before her, her prayers were weak, and his sperm was strong. All three tests had affirmed her pregnancy.
The next week, so had her gynecologist.
So here she was, staring at a man she wished now that she’d never met.
‟It’s my baby,” he said, his voice rough.
‟You swear?” He pushed off his chair and took long strides toward her, his eyes drilled into hers. ‟You swear on the baby’s life?”
She frowned. Swear on the baby’s life? Who said things like that? ‟It’s yours. I don’t need to swear on anything. I haven’t slept with anyone else since we dated.”
‟Yes!” he said. ‟Yes!”
Then he reached down, his hands on both her shoulders, drew her up to her feet and kissed her hard, his teeth digging into her lips.
‟Woohoo!” he shouted, lifting her so her head was above his, his hands gripping her upper arms too tightly as he grinned triumphantly.
‟You’re hurting me.” She squirmed.
He lowered her, his eyes glittering. ‟I’ll take care of you. I’ll take care of all the expenses. I’ll find the best doctor. You’ll stay here, and I’ll make sure you eat the right foods.”
‟Excuse me?” She was getting a bad feeling about this. ‟I have insurance. I don’t need your money or your advice on what to eat. I don’t need your help. Of course, once the baby is born, I expect you to pay support, but I’m not giving up my life for you. I don’t need a man to control me.”
He straightened his spine. ‟You’re having my baby.”
‟And you’re still married.”
‟Argh.” He put his hands on each side of his head and exhaled again, reminding her of a frustrated grizzly. ‟The baby needs a father. A woman is not enough.”
She crossed her arms under her breasts, wishing that while he’d held her above the floor, she’d taken advantage of the position and kicked him in his tender place. ‟I was raised by a single mother. My father was always there for me, but he didn’t live with us, and she did most of the hard work. I think she’s done a damn good job.”
He made a growling sound low in his throat. Then he sucked in his breath and nodded. ‟Perhaps I said that wrong.”
Perhaps? She stared at him, not blinking, not saying anything.
‟You’re right. I understand. You don’t need me, but I need you. I need the baby.” He held his hands out in a pleading motion. ‟You and the baby will make my life complete. I don’t want to control you. I just want to make sure both of you have the best doctors in Miami.”
She narrowed her eyes at him, then felt a great yawn overtaking her. Oh, no. Not this. Not now. She’d read about this. Pregnancy tiredness in the first trimester. Add that to her lack of sleep—and the relief that she had finally told Leo about the pregnancy—and she felt like she could curl up on a wooden floor and start snoring.
She swallowed the yawn, her chin jutting up. ‟That sounds like the definition of control to me.”
‟It’s not control. It’s caring.”
Another yawn overtook her, this one stronger. She put her hand over her mouth but couldn’t hide it.
‟You’re tired,” he said. ‟You need a nap.”
‟I’ll be fine.”
‟You’re not fine. You need to take a nap.”
Another yawn started. She put her hand over her mouth again, but now her eyelids wanted to close.
‟I’ll take you to the guest room. I won’t bother you.” He put his hand over his heart. ‟You have my word.”
‟I’m fine. I’ll just go home and—”
‟You are not fine. When was the last time you slept through the night?”
She counted in her head. Two weeks? Or was it longer? Of course, she’d slept during the two weeks, though not through the nights. And during the days, she’d worked. Going through life as if nothing had changed, when, in reality, her life was turning upside down.
And now the sleepiness had caught up to her and was sapping her energy. She reluctantly nodded. ‟Just for a short time.”
He put his hand over her back, as if she were fragile, and she allowed him to escort her to the guest bedroom. She didn’t want to argue now. Not with another strong wave of tiredness clogging her brain. She needed to be at her sharpest when she asserted her independence.
Leo was too suffocating her. Too bossy. Already trying to take her over.
At least he wasn’t taking her to his bedroom. He probably knew she wouldn’t allow that. That she could walk right out of his life as easily as she’d walked into his penthouse tonight.
The baby was growing inside her body. Right now, it was up to her to make the decisions that were best for both of them.
She’d tell him that when she wasn’t so tired.
It did seem that he genuinely wanted the baby. But how odd was that? Most men who were in the middle of a divorce wanted anything but a baby.
She wanted to trust him, but doubts niggled inside her mind, and she didn’t know why.
He ushered her into the bedroom. She kicked off her shoes and lay down on the bed and closed her eyes. Feeling his stare on her, she muttered, ‟Go away.”
He chuckled. A second later, she heard the door click shut. She opened her eyes to make sure he’d left, then she closed them again. ‟Good,” she whispered. ‟Good…”