Authors: Leanne Banks
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Fiction - Romance, #Non-Classifiable, #Romance - General, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance: Modern, #Romance - Contemporary
“The name LEANNE BANKS signifies the very best in romance.”
—Romantic Times Magazine
PRESENTS AN EXCITING
BY BESTSELLING AUTHOR
These super-wealthy bachelors form a secret Millionaires’ Club to make others’ dreams come true…and find the women of
dreams in return!
Expecting the Boss’s Baby
The Millionaire’s Secret Wish
Don’t miss any of these Silhouette Desire novels!
This book is dedicated to my terrific editor,
Karen Kosztolnyik, a real writer’s “she-ro.”
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is a national number-one bestselling author of romance. She lives in her native Virginia with her husband and son and daughter. Recognized for both her sensual and humorous writing with two Career Achievement Awards from
Romantic Times Magazine,
Leanne likes creating a story with a few grins, a generous kick of sensuality and characters that hang around after the book is finished. Leanne believes romance readers are the best readers in the world because they understand that love is the greatest miracle of all. You can write to her at P.O. Box 1442, Midlothian, VA 23113. A SASE for a reply would be greatly appreciated.
ccording to the headmaster’s speech at the alumni event earlier that evening, they were the Granger Home for Boys’ biggest success stories, multi-millionaires, supposedly role models. The role-model comment still got under Michael Hawkins’s skin.
were Dylan Barrow, Justin Langdon and himself, Michael Hawkins. Uneasily connected by their prosperity, the three men somberly toasted each other’s success at O’Malley’s bar.
“Congratulations, Dylan,” Justin, a stock-market wizard, said, lifting his beer. “I bet you were surprised to find out your father was
Archibald Remington, CEO of one of the biggest pharmaceutical firms in the world.”
Dylan nodded, his dark eyes glinting with cynicism. Of the three of them, Michael thought Dylan pulled off the wealthy-man image with the most ease. If one didn’t look too closely, Dylan gave the appearance of sophisticated wealthy satisfaction. Dylan hid his rough edges fairly well, but Michael could see them just beneath the surface. Easy for Michael to see. He possessed those same rough edges.
“My father was a very wealthy, highly successful coward,” Dylan said, downing his glass of Scotch. “He didn’t claim paternity of me until he died. He left me a lot of money, a seat on the board of a company that doesn’t want me and siblings that are horrified by the scandal I represent. Everything has its price.”
Michael couldn’t blame Dylan for his attitude. He couldn’t recall one boy he’d known at the Granger Home for Boys who hadn’t longed for a father. It was one more bitter thread that united the three of them. None had had fathers. He threw off the depressing thought. “How did you celebrate when you made it?” he asked Justin, knowing the man had started out trading penny stocks and advanced to dollars. Nowadays, he only traded in blocks of a thousand or more.
Justin gave him a blank look. “I’m not sure I celebrated. For years, I lived on a shoestring so I could trade stocks and I didn’t live in the best area of town. When I first hit seven figures, I didn’t do
anything. When I hit the second million, I moved to a neighborhood where the windows don’t wear bars. What about you? How did you celebrate when your Internet company went public?”
According to the press and the headmaster’s speech, Michael was a computer genius who’d founded an Internet business. When his business went public, he’d become, well, rich. According to the press, this seemed to have occurred overnight, but Michael knew years of his life had passed in non-stop work mode.
“I slept for eight hours straight, first time in three years.”
Dylan shook his head and spun his shot glass around. “I thought having money would take care of everything.”
“It takes care of a lot,” Justin said.
“But there’s gotta be more than this,” Dylan said. “Didn’t you feel like a fraud when that headmaster went on and on about what great examples of success we are?”
Michael felt the same emptiness and dissatisfaction Dylan expressed echo inside him. Money had bought him publicity he didn’t want, IRS bills and the sense that he would never find what he’d been looking for. Whatever the hell that was. “For all the good it’s doing, we might as well dump it all.”
Justin choked on his beer. “That’s rash.”
Dylan tilted his head thoughtfully. “It’s not a bad idea. Vegas or Atlantic City?”
Justin looked at Michael and Dylan. “What have you two been drinking?”
“Michael’s got a point. There gets to be a time when adding zeroes isn’t fun anymore. The most fun things that I’ve bought so far are a house and car for my mother. None of us is married or has much family.”
“Marriage is the giant vacuum cleaner of finances,” Justin said ominously.
Michael felt the same avoidance to the big M for different reasons. He’d earned the nickname Tin Man honestly. Although he didn’t place his trust in anything emotional, he felt the insistent nudge of an outrageous idea. “Instead of Vegas, we could be the benefactors we always wished we’d had when we were scraping by.”
Dylan glanced at him for a long moment and his lips curved in a slow gambler’s smile. “If we pool our resources, we could do some big things.”
“Wait a minute,” Justin said, clearly alarmed. “Pool our resources?”
“Are you sure your name isn’t Ebenezer?” Dylan asked. “As in Scrooge?”
“You don’t know how many cans of Beanee Weenees I ate.”
“It would be tax-deductible,” Michael said, and Justin’s frown lifted.
“Tax-deductible,” Justin repeated, warming to the idea. “Capital gains tax eats into my profits like a killer shark.”
“We could make it a sort of club,” Michael said, warming to the idea with a wry grin. “A secret millionaire’s club.”
“A secret millionaire’s tax-deductible foundation,” Justin clarified.
“Let’s do it,” Michael said. He hadn’t felt this right about something since he’d started his business and hired his assistant Kate Adams. She was one of the few people on the planet in whom he could trust, and if he were a different man, a man with a heart, their relationship might have been more than business. One night it had been, but thank goodness Michael had come to his senses in time the next morning to salvage their business relationship.
“I’m in,” Dylan said and nodded to the bartender. “A round of Scotch.”
A long silence followed as Michael and Dylan looked expectantly at Justin. “Okay, okay. But if I get stuck eating Beanee Weenees because of this, I’m coming after both of you.”
“Cheers,” Michael said, lifting his glass. An odd sense of anticipation raced through him. “To the Millionaires’ Club.”
ate Adams stared at the man she’d developed a monster crush on three years ago and felt her stomach dip and turn. Kate hadn’t fallen for Michael Hawkins at first sight. Although she’d been attracted to him immediately, her passion, care and, heaven help her, her heart had taken a deceptively slow slide into the pit where they now resided. It wasn’t love, she insisted, but it was something very strong.
The leather chair beside his huge gleaming walnut desk sat empty as usual. Instead he propped his tall, masculine frame against an upright desk with a tall chair to accommodate his need for move
ment. Michael wasn’t the type of man to sit. His blazing topaz eyes belied his detached demeanor. His fierce intelligence and unswerving tenacity challenged her creativity in ways she’d never experienced. They’d worked together closely, and, after a time, she began to long for his low-voiced words of appreciation, the gentle, fleeting touches of approval. Every once in a while she’d felt his gaze on her, and the attraction had shimmered between them, but he’d always been quick to snuff it out.
She had waited for him to look up from his work, see her and realize that she was the woman for him. She’d thought Michael had done that two months ago on that fateful night when he’d looked at her and reached for her.
Kate felt a rush of heat as the memory sizzled through her. It could have been yesterday. They’d both been giddy from lack of sleep over an ongoing project. When Michael had received word of a new contract from a large company on the west coast, he’d pulled a forgotten bottle of champagne from the refrigerator in his executive suite and insisted they celebrate.
He’d opened the bottle and accidentally sprayed her with the cold champagne. She shrieked, he apologized, and they both laughed at her damp blouse. No flutes in sight, so they drank from mugs. One drink turned into two, and Kate couldn’t say which intoxicated her more—the wine
or the way Michael’s gaze had remained focused on her, hungry.
He’d tipped his mug against her lips, spilling once more.
“I’m going to end up wearing more of this than I drink,” Kate had told him, laughing and pulling at her blouse. She’d glanced up at him and the look in his eyes stole her breath. Her laughter died, and a lump of fear and exhilaration had formed in her throat. She had longed for him to look at her this way.
His gaze had dropped to her lips. “I can’t help wondering how champagne tastes on your mouth.”
Still unable to breathe, Kate had licked her suddenly dry lips. She felt as if she were on a precipice, and what she did in the next moment would determine which way she would go. Her heart hammered so hard she knew he must surely hear it. “Maybe,” she said in a voice so low it was almost a whisper, “you should find out.”
His gaze holding hers, he’d lowered his head and kissed her. His mouth was seeking, yet sure, inviting and aggressive enough to keep her off-balance. One kiss turned into two, and three, and after that, Kate lost count. Her damp blouse was discarded, and she grew hot beneath his touch. His hands seduced and demanded, and there was no place on her body he left untouched. The night had turned into a haze of repeated passion. Deep inside
her, a tight bud of hope bloomed that Michael wanted her as far more than his secretary.
By the following morning, however, her dream had shattered: Michael had apologized profusely for stepping beyond the bounds of their professional relationship. He’d been so clearly upset that she couldn’t hate him. She didn’t know that she could ever hate him anyway.
Even at this moment, she felt the sliver of seductive hope that he would look up and realize he wanted her. The time had come to find out, she thought, and felt her stomach jump with nervousness. She took a calming breath. Time to lay it on the line. Win or lose, she couldn’t afford to wait any longer for Michael.
She approached him and opened her mouth.
Michael glanced up with a piece of paper in his hand. “Would you mind doing some research on this home for unwed teenage mothers?”
Kate’s heart stopped.
Did he know?
She worked her mouth, but no sound came out.
“I need you to keep it quiet,” he said in the same low voice that reminded her of the night they’d shared together, the night he’d shown her with his body and words how much he could want her. “It’s a favor for a friend.”
Kate sucked in a shallow breath. “Favor for a friend?” she echoed in a voice that sounded high and strained to her own ears.
Michael shrugged his broad shoulders in discomfort. “Yeah, something about a charity thing.”
She gripped the piece of paper tightly. “I’ll try, but I may be leaving.”
“Leaving?” Michael glanced at his watch, then studied her. “It’s only ten o’clock. Are you sick?”
“In a manner of speaking,” she muttered under her breath and felt her courage slip. Kate locked her knees and lifted her chin. She had to do this. “I can’t go back,” she blurted out.
His utterly clueless expression fueled her frustration and stabbed at her heart. “Back to where we were before that night we spent together.”
Realization dawned on his face and he rubbed his hand over his eyes. On a long exhale he met her gaze. “I told you I was sorry. Messing up our professional relationship is the last thing I want to do. You’re the best assistant,” he said, then added, “the only assistant I could ever have.”
He was referring to the fact that he’d gone through seven assistants before Kate arrived on the scene. If she hadn’t fallen for him, his words might have offered a bit of comfort. Not now. “I can’t go back. I have feelings for you,” she said in halting tones and felt her heart crack when his gaze slid away from hers.
Determined to give this her best shot, she continued despite her unsteady voice. “I have feelings
for you that aren’t going away. I don’t just care about you as a boss. I care about you as a man.”
“Don’t,” he said bluntly, finally looking at her again with stormy eyes. “I’m not the right man for you. I don’t believe in romantic love. I’m not sure I believe in any love. Emotions come and go. You can’t depend on them. Your odds of winning would be better in Vegas than with something as capricious as human emotion. I’m not cut out to be someone you can depend on. I’d be a rotten husband and father. Don’t get involved with me. Not that way.”
Kate’s heart twisted viciously and nausea rose in her throat. She was going to be sick. Panic flooded her and she spun around to run to the rest room.
“Kate!” Michael called after her.
Feeling him on her heels, she slammed and locked the door behind her. She flipped on the exhaust fan, jerked on the water faucet, and dropped to her knees until she was finished. Ignoring the pounding on the door, she rose and splashed water on her face and took a few cool sips.
“Kate, you’ll get over this,” Michael said through the door.
Kate felt like such an idiot. She was humiliated, mortified and pregnant. She thought about the tiny life she carried in her womb, the result of that one night with Michael. A lump formed in her throat,
but she shook her head. She refused to cry. Perhaps later, but not now.
Glancing in the mirror, she saw her pale face and hopelessness and hurt in blue eyes her friends once had said always sparkled. Something was terribly wrong with this picture.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” She recited the quote from a book she’d recently read. “Time to do something different,” she said and steeled herself once again.
“I’m quitting,” she simply said when she opened the door.
Michael’s eyes narrowed in consternation. “Quitting? Why would you give up a job you love because of one night when we both made a big mistake?”
Because I’m having your baby.
She refused to tell him right now. Sometime later when she was more composed, but not now. Anger burned inside her. She latched onto the hot emotion, letting it chase away the cold chill inside her. “It’s impossible for me to stay. I quit,” she said and headed for her office.
Michael walked beside her, his long stride easily matching hers. “This is ridiculous. You’ll get over it. I’ll give you a raise.”
“I don’t need a raise,” she said, barely holding herself in check. She pushed open her office door.
“My company stock options have insured my financial security.”
“I’ll give you your own project,” he offered.
A plum, she distantly thought, but not for her. “No.”
“There must be something you want,” he said, exasperation swelling in his voice. “Everyone has their price.”
His words angered her so she could barely speak. She took a deep breath. “I always believed the people who called you Tin Man were wrong. I always believed there was more to you. That’s why I stayed.” She turned and looked him in the eye. “I quit. I quit organizing your day, reminding you to eat, being your sounding board. I quit being seduced by your intelligence. I quit wishing you would want me. I quit working for you.”
“Your contract specifies that you’re required to give two weeks’ notice.”
She felt the edge to his voice cut inside her. She knew he could be tough. He’d just never been tough with her. Her hands began to shake. She needed to leave before she fell apart, she realized, and decided to return for her belongings later. “Dock my pay. Good-bye, Michael.” She slung her pocketbook over her shoulder and left the room feeling his gaze burn a hole in her back.
The sound of her footsteps echoed on the tile office floor of the executive suite as Michael stared
What in hell had just happened?
He had been so careful to put their professional relationship back in place after that night he’d given in to the dark hunger and need he’d so often denied, and they’d made rock-your-world love.
He’d always been physically attracted to Kate, but what man wouldn’t be? Her silky dark hair swung in a sexy curtain to her shoulders, her blue eyes glinted with intelligence and humor, her full mouth often formed a secret smile that made him curious, and she moved her lithe feminine body in a way that reminded him of a sensual feline.
She brought out the urge for conquest in a man, but he’d denied himself food and sleep while he’d been building his company. He told himself sex was just one more need denied. Michael had valued Kate for other, more important reasons. She had been the most solid, dependable person in his life during his last three roller-coaster years. She’d treated him the same way when he’d been in debt for the company up to his eyeballs as she did when he became a multi-millionaire. He trusted her. He could count on her, and for a man who’d spent his life not counting on anyone, that was something.
Her scent lingered in the air—a scent that smelled like cookies and sex. That alone could have driven him crazy. She probably had no idea of her importance. But now she was gone. The wild, yet sad look in her eyes haunted him. She was neither impulsive, nor given to irrational dis
plays of emotion. Michael had the uneasy sense that she had meant every word she’d said, and he had not only lost the best assistant he’d ever had, he’d lost his best friend.
The ringing of the phone on Kate’s desk jolted him. He picked up the receiver. “Hawkins,” he muttered in a rough tone.
“Michael? What are you doing answering the phone?”
Michael instantly recognized the voice of his personnel specialist, Jay Payne. “Good timing, Jay. I need a new assistant.”
A long silence followed. “Pardon? Did you say a new assistant? What about Kate?”
“No,” Michael said, feeling his impatience grow.
“Is she sick?”
“No,” Michael answered shortly, then remembered she had in fact appeared sick just before she’d left. “She quit.”
Another long silence followed. “Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“But she’s required to give two weeks’ notice,” Jay sputtered. “Did she give a reason? Did one of our rivals steal her? I know she’s received offers,” he added.
Michael frowned. Something about this didn’t add up. “Put her on sick leave and I’ll see if she changes her mind. Give me the names of the companies who have been after her. In the meantime, get me an interim assistant.”
“Any special requirements?”
“Someone like Kate,” Michael said and knew he had just delivered mission impossible.
Two weeks later, when he joined Dylan and Justin at O’Malley’s, Kate’s departure still bothered Michael.
“Hey, Michael, you’re falling down on the job,” Dylan said. “You’re in charge of the home for unwed teenage mothers, Justin’s looking into the after-school program for underprivileged kids and I’m checking into a medical research program.”
“Medical research,” Justin echoed with an uneasy expression on his face. “Sounds expensive.”
“If you don’t watch out, we’re gonna start calling you the tightwad millionaire,” Dylan threatened with wry humor.
“Call me anything. Just don’t call me broke.” Justin popped an antacid and glanced at Michael. “You don’t look too good. What’s up?”
Michael paused, then reluctantly said, “I lost a key employee a couple of weeks ago.”
Dylan grimaced. “A death? I’m sorry—”
Michael shook his head. “Not a death,” he said,
wondering why it felt like one. “My assistant quit. No notice. Just walked out. I’d just given her the assignment to check out the home for unwed teenage mothers.”
Dylan raised his eyebrows. “Flighty?”
Michael shook his head again. “Not at all.”
“Maybe she got a better offer,” Justin said.
“Nah, I checked.”
Dylan signaled for the bartender. “Well, I haven’t yet met a woman who doesn’t act on her emotions every once in a while. PMS, pregnancy…they all get a little crazy every now and then. Maybe she’ll come to her senses and come back soon.”
Michael’s mind locked onto Dylan’s words.
He shook his head. Not pregnancy, he told himself. Maybe PMS, maybe anything, but not pregnancy. It had been just one night. One night full of making love. Hell, they’d made love at least four times, each time more uninhibited than the previous. Contraception had been the last thing on his mind. Losing himself and his hunger in Kate had been his driving focus.