The Billionaire Boss's Innocent Bride (5 page)

BOOK: The Billionaire Boss's Innocent Bride
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Alex came to life and said hastily, ‘I’ll go.’

‘No,’ he said decisively. ‘Finish your drink and in the meantime we’ll organize a lift for you. Lead on, Margaret.’ He went out and closed the door behind him. Alex breathed heavily in relief, then she did blush as she sank back onto the settee. She could feel the amazing heat of it as she put a hand to her cheek and she touched her glass to both cheeks to cool them down.

What had got into her? she wondered chaotically.

She’d never mentally undressed a man in her life before! It was enough to make you blush hectically, just the thought of it—and she swallowed nearly two thirds of a glass of champagne in one long mouthful as she thought of it again. Then she breathed deeply, put the empty glass down and laid her head back. Max Goodwin got to her, she acknowledged. He sent her senses reeling in a very physical way and he destabilized her peace of mind.

She lifted her head suddenly. She could not afford to let this get out of control, she reflected. On one hand, could a man who’d regarded her legs as a cause for annoyance be attracted to her?

But on the other hand, what had been going through his mind while he’d stared at her so intently? Almost as if they’d both been caught in a sensual little moment that had blotted out the rest of the world—or had it been her imagination?

She stared unseeingly across the room for a long moment, then shook herself. Most likely, she decided, but with a frown of confusion. Then it occurred to her to ask herself whether, even if she couldn’t be sure it hadn’t been a mutual sensual little moment, it made any difference to the fact that she was basically a loner?

She looked down at her hands and thought of her parents, whom she hadn’t even had the opportunity to farewell. She also thought of her father’s cousin, her Mother Superior, and how that stern, prickly but lovable woman had also been taken from her, and felt tears on her lashes.

She thought of the few occasions she’d got to know men she’d admired, men it might have been possible to fall in love with—only to withdraw. She thought suddenly of Paul O’Hara, the intern, who had looked rather nice and had displayed consternation in his expression at the thought of her with Max Goodwin…Why? she wondered.

She closed her eyes and wondered what was happening to her lift. It was definitely time for her to go home.

Perhaps it was the champagne she’d drunk so quickly on an empty stomach—she hadn’t partaken of any of the delicious canapés—on top of two hours on her feet, two hours of severe mental concentration. Whatever, she fell asleep. When she woke, after some moments of utter confusion, her watch told her she’d slept for a couple of hours. She was also stretched out on the settee with a pillow under her head, a light but warm cashmere rug over her, and one soft lamp was on revealing the “green” room of Max Goodwin’s penthouse.

She sat up with a gasp of horror. Who’d covered her up and brought her a pillow?

Who’d decided to let her sleep rather than go home?

She ran her hands through her hair and felt around for her purse as she decided her next course of action. She opened her purse for her mobile phone—she’d ring for a taxi and steal away quietly.

She got up and, with her shoes in her hand, left the green room quietly. The foyer was dimly lit and there were no sounds coming from the rest of the apartment, no other lights she could see as she approached the lift with her phone in hand. She pushed the lift button, and started to dial for a taxi, but nothing happened. She cancelled the call and pushed the lift button again. Again nothing happened and she realized the lift was locked—you needed some kind of master key or key card to operate it.

She took a frustrated little breath. What to do now?

If Max Goodwin had gone to bed the last thing she wanted to do was find him and wake him. What about Jake?

Then she remembered Max saying something about both Jake and Margaret Winston staying the night downstairs—were there two floors to the penthouse?

Maybe the sleeping quarters or the staff quarters were downstairs, but how was she to get to them? Was there an internal staircase? Or a service elevator?

There were no more doors in the foyer.

She tiptoed into the main lounge, but it was in darkness. She hesitated, then turned back to the foyer as it slowly dawned on her that she might have to spend the rest of the night in the green room.

Ten minutes later she was back on the settee, her head resting on the pillow and the cashmere rug over her. But now she was wide awake.

She tossed the rug aside and got up to turn the lamp off, thinking darkness might help her to sleep in this ridiculous situation.

It didn’t, and she’d almost convinced herself she would have to find some way to end her imprisonment in Max Goodwin’s penthouse when she heard what sounded like the lift open, and voices.

She froze. She’d left the door slightly ajar and she could hear every word of what Max Goodwin was saying…

‘Listen, Cathy—’ his voice was harsh ‘—a month ago you chose to inform me I had a six-year-old son I knew nothing about—’

‘Max, look,’ a woman’s voice broke in, ‘I tried to explain at the time how that came about.’

‘Oh, yes,’ he said sardonically. ‘You couldn’t be sure whose son he was to start with.’

He paused briefly. ‘But then, when you began to suspect he was mine, you made the absolutely arbitrary decision that, since we wouldn’t suit, you’d bring him up on your own and not even tell me.’

The woman he’d called Cathy raised her voice in emotional frustration. ‘Max, you know as well as I do, if there’s anything we like to do better than love each other, it’s hate each other.’

‘That didn’t alter my right to know,’ he said savagely. ‘And now you want to leave him with me, a complete stranger! How’s that going to affect him? Surely you must have some other back-up!’

‘My mother’s always been my back-up, she’s been wonderful, but she’s going into hospital so I need to be with her and my nanny’s walked out on me. But, Max—’

Cathy’s voice changed again, to husky with strain ‘—somehow—somehow—we had to break the ice, you had to meet him. And Nicky’s, well, he’s a very well-adjusted child and I’ve always told him his father is a wonderful person. Anyway, he’s got Nemo.’

Alex shook her head as she absorbed all this and the words started to make sense. Then she flew up as she heard Max Goodwin swear graphically, and, without bothering about her shoes, ran out of the green room to make her presence known. The effect was electric. The two people in the foyer moved convulsively.

‘I—I’m so s-sorry,’ she started to stammer.

But Max Goodwin said murderously, ‘What the hell are you still doing here?’

And Cathy, probably one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful women Alex had ever seen, murmured, ‘Without her shoes? I wonder. But you always did have good taste in women, Max.’

That was when, as Alex stared at the other woman incredulously, a very harassedlooking Margaret stepped out of the lift.

‘He’s fine, he’s asleep,’ she said immediately to Max, ‘but I just remembered Miss Hill. She looked so peaceful I let her sleep, but I didn’t get a chance to tell anyone and when you and Ms Spencer—’ she gestured towards Cathy ‘—decided to come upstairs to—well, discuss things, I suddenly thought I should do something…’ She trailed off awkwardly.

At eleven o’clock the next morning, Alex waited nervously in Max Goodwin’s outer office.

It had been Margaret who’d called a taxi for her last night. A perturbed-enough Margaret to lose some of her infinite discretion and even murmur distractedly,

‘How could she just turn up with him? I couldn’t believe it. And he won’t be parted from Nemo.’ Margaret’s expression as she’d said the last bit had been full of a sort of helpless, horrified apprehension.

Alex had not asked for clarification; most of the dramatic events of the evening had become clear to her anyway. She did think that if the boy refused to be parted from his pet fish, that was not so serious, but everything else she’d overheard caused her to share Margaret’s sentiments. How could a mother behave like that?

She had no idea what else had transpired overnight, but she’d half expected a call this morning, terminating her services. Not that she felt she was in any way to blame for overhearing what she had, but it did place her and Max Goodwin in an awkward situation.

Nor was she too sure he didn’t blame her for eavesdropping. He hadn’t said much to her before she’d left, but he’d still looked and sounded murderous. She looked down at herself. She was wearing a cocoa-brown linen trouser suit over a fawn silk blouse with a Chinese collar, and fawn leather high heels. Her badge was pinned to her suit collar. Her hair was perfect—she’d taken advantage of Mr Roger’s offer to comb it for her and since Mary, the make-up girl, had been free, she’d done her make-up.

It had been rather relaxing, Alex had thought, to be pampered, and she’d realized that she needed relaxing. The events of the night before had left her feeling tense and she’d had trouble sleeping. Cathy Spencer’s lovely face had been hard to get out of her mind…

She would be in her late twenties or early thirties, Alex had decided, with long dark hair and a heart-shaped face with a wide, smooth forehead. She had blue eyes herself, although not as dark as Max Goodwin’s, but with sweeping dark lashes, a full, provocative mouth and a long, slender neck.

You would not have known she was a mother—her waist was narrow, the curves above and below highlighted beneath a fitted oyster satin blouse tucked into a short, straight biscuit linen skirt. A pair of very high heels had emphasized her slender ankles.

But no amount of describing her shape and her colouring could capture the—what was the right word?—passion, the spark, the living, breathing warmth and vitality of Cathy Spencer, Alex had decided during her wakeful night.

The other thing that had kept her awake had been her own confusion. Could one day have produced more issues for her, in fact?

There’d been the physical impact of Max Goodwin, the width of his shoulders, the strength of his tall, elegant body, that difficult-to-read but so interesting face—all of it, together with the rather mind-blowing, sexy force you sensed in him, had slammed into her consciousness during their second encounter in the green room. And that moment when she’d almost believed he’d been as captivated by her…

How could she believe it now, though? How was it possible for any woman to compete with Cathy Spencer even if theirs was a love-hate relationship? And not only that, she was the mother of his son…

She came back to the present from all these disturbing thoughts as the door to the inner sanctum clicked open and Max Goodwin stood in the doorway with a boy by his side.

Alex’s lips parted. You couldn’t doubt whose son this was, the same dark, dark hair, the same dense blue eyes. He was also quite tall for a six-year-old. He wore corduroy navy trousers, a blue sweater and in one hand he carried a backpack. In his other hand he held a lead that was attached to a bundle of grey with black points—a Blue Heeler puppy, probably three or four months old. It pricked its ears, advanced towards Alex and barked.

‘Nemo,’ the boy said, ‘don’t. It’s not polite.’

So this was Nemo, Alex thought, with an inward gurgle of laughter. A lively bundle of pure mischief, no doubt. No wonder Margaret had looked so apprehensive last night.

She stood up and put her head to one side. ‘How do you do, Nemo?’ she said down to the dog. ‘I must say you don’t look at all like a clown fish to me.’ She bent down to pat the puppy and was rewarded with several enthusiastic licks that made her laugh and tell the boy she thought his dog was lovely.

‘He never did look like a clown fish,’ the boy confided. ‘I just wanted him to have a different kind of name. How do you do?’ he added. ‘I’m Nicholas. Are you my new nanny?’

Alex’s eyes flew to Max Goodwin. He hadn’t said a word, just absorbed the little play of boy, dog and Alex, but now he stirred.

‘No, Nicky,’ he said. ‘This is my interpreter. I told you about the lunch today?’ The boy nodded. ‘Well, she’s driving down with us. This is Alex.’

Margaret came out from behind her desk carrying a padded dog basket. ‘I got this, Mr Goodwin. For Nemo. In the car. It’s also waterproof just in case…’ She stopped and shrugged.

Max Goodwin, who looked, Alex suddenly detected, a bit less vital than usual, shuddered slightly.

‘So where is my new nanny?’ Nicky enquired.

‘Well, for the time being we have a housekeeper down at the house and she’s happy to look after you. Jake will also be there—remember Jake from last night?’

‘Yes,’ Nicky said tonelessly and he blinked several times, then he said in a high, tight little voice. ‘Did my mummy say when she would be coming back?’

‘As soon as possible, Nicky,’ Max said. ‘I—’

But the boy interrupted him. ‘Couldn’t you please be my nanny, Alex? At least you like my dog and he likes you.’ A single tear stole down his cheek. There was silence and as Alex straightened slowly she found her thoughts on the subject of mothers who did this to their children to be highly uncharitable.

‘Nicky,’ she said quietly, and slipped her hand into the boy’s, ‘I would love to, but I have another job to do, you see, so—’

‘We could—merge jobs,’ Max said. ‘You do have three days off from tomorrow,’ he reminded her. ‘Anything on that you can’t cancel?’

‘Well, no, but—’

‘Would it be impossible to spend three days at Sovereign Island with Nicky? It’s very pleasant down there.’

Alex shook her head rather helplessly and opened her mouth, but Max Goodwin looked at his watch. ‘Then we just have time to stop off at your place, Alex, so you could pack a bag.’ He turned to Nicky. ‘She won’t be able to be with you all the time, but quite a bit. How’s that?’

‘Brilliant!’ Nicky carolled and Nemo barked in joyful agreement. Alex stood stock-still and stared at Max Goodwin incredulously.

‘You couldn’t disappoint them, now, could you, Miss Hill?’ he drawled. Alex almost bit her tongue on words like ‘blackmail’ and phrases such as ‘taking unfair advantage’. ‘No,’ she said in a stifled sort of way, instead.

BOOK: The Billionaire Boss's Innocent Bride
10.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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