Authors: Alyssa J. Montgomery
Roses for Sophie
Alyssa J. Montgomery
From the polished, pacy, passionate pen of Alyssa J Montgomery come a delicious billionaire, a mining heiress, a marriage of convenience and a very inconvenient attraction.
To convince the court that his playboy days are over and to keep a desperate promise, Australian billionaire Logan Jackson needs a wifeâ¦fast.
To make her grandfather happy and sway him into making her managing director of the family company, mining heiress Sophie Hamilton needs a husbandâ¦fast.
With common goals, similar values, and a very definite end date, there is no reason why Logan and Sophie shouldn't be able to strike a deal to satisfy them both. No reason except that the sizzling attraction arcing between them is too hot to trust.
Alyssa lives on acreage south of Sydney with her husband, three children and a menagerie of animals. She has her own busy speech pathology practice and has also been a professional pianist and an international flight attendant. Apart from writing, she loves to travel overseas with her family, play tennis and entertain friends at dinner parties.
Once again a huge thanks to the team at Escape Publishing, to Managing Editor Kate Cuthbert for her support, and to my brilliant editor, Lauren McKellar. I also acknowledge the support from June, Kathy, Elaine and Marita, who always give me valuable feedback before I submit my stories for publication, and thank the amazing Annie West, who critiqued the initial draft of my first few chapters.
The Hunter Valley holds special memories for me. It was where I had my first job as a speech pathologist and where my twins were born ten weeks premature when my husband and I were in Pokolbin for the weekend visiting friends.
To the special women who made my Hunter Valley days so wonderful â Denise, Debbie, Isla and Jan â I will always treasure our friendship and the fun times we've shared.
âLogan, please don't be angry with me!'
The almost-desperate plea in his younger sister's voice made Logan frown as he took her call. A quick glance at his watch confirmed Melissa was supposed to have met him ten minutes ago at the revolving restaurant in Sydney's Centrepoint Tower, but that was hardly something for her to be so apologetic about. âDon't stress, I'm used to you being late and I'm looking forward to catching up. When will you be here?'
Seconds ticked by before she rushed out, âI'm not coming.'
âAre you sick?' he asked, instantly concerned.
Good. But something was wrong. He recognised now that her tone was the one she used when she'd done something she shouldn't have and was working up to a confession. âYou got a better offer?'
His frown deepened. âDon't tell me you can't face me because you've been partying too hard and failed another uni exam?'
âHey, I learnt my lesson,' she protested. âYou know I got distinctions in every subject this semester.'
âYou did and I'm very proud of you. So, what's the problem?'
âWell, you'll probably see it as a problem, but â'
One of his fingers tapped on the table in agitation. âWhat's so bad you're not here in person telling me?' When she still didn't answer but he heard her deep intake of breath, his stomach took a dive. âBloody hell! You're not pregnant, are you?'
âOf course not!'
Thank God for that.
âCut to the chase, Melissa. I presume you have a good reason for standing me up.'
âActually, I have.' Another pause. âI've been thinking about your upcoming court case.'
. For a second the magnificent view of Sydney by night blurred as he heard the intensity of Melissa's tone.
âI don't think the court's going to award you custody of Charlotte.' After her previous hesitations, her words now tumbled forth in a great rush.
His hold on the mobile phone tightened. âYou're wrong.'
âYou won't win the way things stand. Charlotte needs a stable home environment and you can't provide that for her.'
âI can and I will.'
âYou live on another continent.'
âI'm moving back to Australia permanently. I was going to tell you that tonight.'
âTruly?' Her pitch was slightly higher. âNo more jetting around the world and into some of the worst conflict spots in Africa?'
âNo trouble spots, and as little travelling as possible. I'm going to base the company's headquarters in Sydney.'
She gave a little squeal of delight. âThat's fantastic!'
Logan felt a stab of guilt at Melissa's reaction. She'd longed for him to return to live in Australia. Even when their father had died, a move home hadn't been something he'd been prepared to contemplate. Now, he had no choice.
âRelocating will help,' she continued with barely a pause for breath, âbecause I'm almost certain the court wouldn't have allowed Charlotte to live in Canada with you.'
His eyes travelled to the activity in Darling Harbour. Despite the beauty of the city, his memories of Sydney weren't happy ones. âShe won't have to. Most of my business can be done from here.'
âNo more putting your life in jeopardy?'
âNo. All the negotiations will be done through diplomatic channels now that the UN Treaty has been signed.'
âThank God! Apart from my personal relief in hearing that, the possibility of you being kidnapped again by renegades and held for ransom wouldn't have made you an ideal guardian in the eyes of the judge. That's one problem taken care of. But the steady procession of goodness knows how many women in and out of your bed will be a huge strike against you.'
âMelissa â' he began on a warning note.
âYour average relationship lastsâ¦what? A month, at the most? That doesn't look good for your ability to commit. Are you prepared to stop gracing the world's social stage with one beauty or another on your arm and settle down to be a father?'
âDamn it, Melissa, I can hardly alter the way I've lived, nor would I want to, but the court can't hold my lifestyle against me. I didn't know I was going to have to raise a five-year-old girl. Things will change now because they have to. I'll be far more discreet in my affairs.' He waved an approaching waiter away and lowered his voice. âI have Charlotte's best interests at heart and if there was a better alternative for her, I'd support the decision. I won't, however, sit by and watch that gold-digging maternal grandmother of hers keep custody when you and I both know the woman's a closet alcoholic with a history of neglecting her own daughter.'
There was another pause before Melissa ventured, âThere's only one way you can get the edge over Charlotte's grandmother.'
âI know. I've got a private investigator employed right now to dig up the dirt on her. By the time I'm finished, Thea Winston won't have a snowflake's chance in hell of keeping Charlotte.'
âThat's not enough. It might stop Charlotte from being placed in Mrs Winston's care, but it won't guarantee you being awarded custody.'
âThere's nobody else. I have to do this. I have the financial means to support Charlotte and the expertise to manage her inheritance.' He reached for his glass of scotch.
âWealth and money management isn't what the court will place importance on. Having such a successful company could actually go against you. It means you're a very busy man with no time to raise a little girl.'
âI've already employed an excellent nanny.'
âOh great.' The sarcastic note in his sister's voice was impossible to miss. âCan't you see this situation requires more than a good nanny? You need to get married.'
âMarried!' The word jarred through him with the force of a land mine exploding, and had him jerk so hard his scotch sloshed out of his glass en route to his mouth.
âYes,' she said tartly. âI presume you know the meaning of the word?'
âDon't be ridiculous,' he grated as he dabbed in annoyance at where the spirit had dampened his shirt. âI'm not the marrying type.'
âThen you're hardly the type to be able to raise your goddaughter either, are you? Just what sort of moral example would you provide for her with a string of affairs?'
Melissa pressed on. âThat's what Mrs Winston's lawyers are going to argue and you know it.'
His own lawyers â the best that money could buy â had also raised the issue of his playboy reputation with him. He'd declared his personal life a no-go zone and they'd pointed out that just as he was hiring a private investigator to discredit Mrs Winston, her lawyers would try to discredit him. Her lawyers wouldn't need to do much digging. Due to his high-profile lifestyle, photos of him with many different women had been plastered all over the North American and European tabloids. Occasionally, from what Melissa told him, some photos filtered through to Australian magazines. Without doubt, the number of images of him available via the Internet would tell the tale of the number of beauties he'd dated. Melissa and his lawyers had a point, but surely the court would see beyond that?
âYou need a good wife,' Melissa asserted.
âI have a good nanny.'
âCharlotte needs a mother. Nannies come and go.'
âSo do mothers. Hell, my mother proved that and yours was no better!' Once the words were out, he regretted them. He might've come to terms with his mother walking out on their father when he was only a young child, but Melissa was still sensitive about her mother's desertion. âI'm sorry, I shouldn't have â'
âIt's okay. I'm a big girl now, Logan,' she told him briskly. âNeither your mother nor mine was worthy of the title, and it's hard to let go of the betrayal. Regardless of the hash our father made of his marriages, you have to put that behind you. Marriage is the only option you have if you want to be assured the court will appoint you as Charlotte's legal guardian. You have to get married, fast.'
He ran his free hand through his hair in agitation and felt the tension from his shoulders creep up with vice-like tightness to the back of his neck. It took savage determination to close his mind on all thoughts of his parents. Those memories were better off buried. As for marriage? No way! He'd thought about it once and suffered another betrayal for his efforts. Marriage would never be on his agenda.
âThis is a nightmare,' he confessed raggedly. âI still can't believe Scott and Kathleen are dead.'
âI know how close you guys were.' Her voice was sympathetic now. âI understand this has been a shocking time for you, losing your closest friend and his wife.'
His eyes fixed on the flickering candle that was in the centre of the table setting. âFrankly, the idea of raising Charlotte daunts the hell out of me. When Scott asked me to be her godfather and guardian, I really didn't expect to ever have to step in to fill their shoes.'
âLogan, nobody could've foreseen the way their lives would be cut short in that dreadful car accident, but they chose you because they knew you loved their little girl and would always do the right thing by her.'