Read THE BILLIONAIRE'S BABY (A Secret Baby Romance) Online
Authors: Mia Carson
“Ahem.” The deep sound of a throat clearing broke me out of my daze, and my eyes flicked back up to meet his again. His eyes danced with amusement, and he took a step closer with a hand held out. “Hey, there. I’m Braden.” His voice was deep and sexy to match his looks, “And you are?”
I blinked twice and placed my free hand tentatively in his. The second my hand touched his strong, warm one, tingles shot along my arm and into my spine. His touch was so powerful I almost jumped back. I forced myself to shake his hand, drawing mine back quickly as my pale cheeks blushed furiously. His quirked mouth widened into a full-on boyish grin, and I realized I hadn’t answered his question.
“Oh, I’m Lexi, with the cleaning service,” I squeaked. Damn. I wasn’t normally so easily frazzled by men, but there was something about this guy that made me feel like a stuttering idiot. Sure, he was ridiculously hot, but that had never caused such a strong reaction in me before, and it scared the crap out of me.
“Well, ‘Lexi with the cleaning service,’ nice to meet you,” he said, as his eyes raked over my figure again. I could feel him undressing me with his gaze, and my entire body flushed. One of the disadvantages of having such a fair complexion was that people could always tell if I was even a tiny bit flustered.
I had no doubt Braden saw my entire face and neck turn bright pink. His eyes glinted dangerously and locked onto mine. “So, going with the traditional maid outfit, huh?” His fingers played lightly with the end of the short sleeve on my right arm and sent a fresh course of tingles through my veins. He continued casually. “They should make it a little more modern. Shorter skirt and lower neckline, you know?”
My mouth dropped open to tell him off as my mind screamed with rage at his audacity, but my ability to speak or move my body appeared to be gone. Braden stepped closer, his solid frame only inches from mine, and I could feel the heat radiating off his body.
“Now that you’re done with this room, why don’t you come assist me in cleaning my bedroom? And Lexi,” his face was an inch away as he leaned in, and his mouth lightly brushed my ear as he spoke, “I’m hoping you do other kinds of servicing as well.” His hot breath tickled my ear.
Even though I was completely turned on against my will, he’d crossed too many lines. My heart hammered as I unfroze and pushed his chest with my open palms as hard as I could, letting the waxing mop clatter to the floor. He took a few surprised steps back, and I pointed an angry finger at him.
“Don’t you dare put your hands on me,” I hissed at him. I maintained my death glare and added in a low, seething voice, “I don’t care if you’re filthy rich, Braden. I’ve never in my life been treated with such blatant, womanizing disrespect!” I moved closer to him and stuck my finger at his very broad chest as he gaped at me, his eyes wide in a mixture of surprise and guilt. “And I won’t be servicing you again in any way, shape, or form. Not housecleaning, or catering, or anything—
. Do I make myself clear?” I left a stunned and speechless Braden standing in his dining room while I marched out the back door to the serving staff parking area. I drove off in the cleaning company’s van as tears of anger and humiliation streamed down my face.
I completely loathed that man, but as I drifted to sleep that night, all I could see were his penetrating, icy-blue eyes and his impish smirk.
As I passed by the dining room on the way to the kitchen of my Malibu estate, I glanced in at the young woman from the cleaning service, wiping dust from the window ledges. The sight of the woman cleaning triggered the memory of another young lady from the same cleaning service who had been in last winter.
I don’t know what had come over me the day I said those chauvinistic things to the beautiful cleaning girl, Lexi. Actually, that was a lie. I knew exactly what had come over me—or rather, who I was acting like. I’d been behaving just like my dad. After four marriages followed by four divorces, my dad was currently running around Brazil leaving broken hearts in his trail.
For as long as I remembered, my dad had been a womanizing playboy. I’d been closer to my mom, his first wife, and viewed Dad as an immature, though charming man. He was mostly on cordial terms with my mom, who lived nearby in Pasadena, which was why I didn’t hate him. I’d just never specifically wanted to follow in his footsteps. However, I’d started seeing my dad’s behavior emerging in my own actions after high school. None of it was intentional, and after I’d taken over my dad’s multi-million dollar Hollywood production company, I was known by all as an infamous, womanizing playboy, just like him.
To be fair, I wasn’t actually like that, not underneath the image. Unknown to the media, I often hung out with my younger sister and my mom, or my graphic designer best friend, Scott. I’d had my fair share of women, though, and had never been in a relationship that lasted past three months. At big celebrity parties or in a VIP club, I felt myself sliding into the flirting playboy role, even though I seldom meant it. Often times, when I acted macho and demeaning towards women, I felt pangs of guilt and an underlying emptiness inside.
After I’d treated Lexi the same way I acted towards women at the club, and she’d called me on it, I was determined to find her and apologize. I wanted to do more than apologize. I wanted her—and not just in a physical way, though my body had burst into flames the second I’d seen her. Even in that dowdy maid’s uniform, Lexi’s stunning curves, wide green eyes, and long black hair were hot as hell.
But something else drew me to this young lady. She had a certain depth and intelligence I had recognized right away. I should’ve listened to my instinct that told me not to use the usual, up-front, demeaning flirting. But apparently, the instinct to imitate my dad and stick to my playboy habits won out.
Last month, I’d finally decided to hire a private investigator to track down important information, such as Lexi’s last name, where she’d gone to college, and what kind of job she was looking for. I had it all on the paper that I carried, along with my latte, from the kitchen out to the ocean-view back porch.
Her name was Alexandra Montgomery, Lexi for short, and she lived in a poorer area of Santa Monica. She’d earned her degree in creative writing from UC Berkeley three months ago and was currently applying for jobs at production companies. It couldn’t be more perfect.
I grabbed my phone and called the number for Huntington Productions Human Resources. As the sole owner, I could definitely pull some strings. “Good morning, Judith. I’d like to create a very specific, new position, and I’d like you to offer it to a woman named Alexandra Montgomery—after a legitimate interview, of course.”
Five minutes later, I hung up and Judith was busy setting everything up. If all went as planned, Lexi Montgomery would have an interview with my company tomorrow that included an offer she wouldn’t be able to refuse. She wouldn’t know I’d be her boss or that I owned the company until after accepting the position. This plan was a bit controlling and devious, but I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the young woman since the moment I laid eyes on her.
Twenty minutes later, I went out on the beach, which was a short trip down the stairs in front of my mansion. I was due for a jog and a bite to eat after with my younger sister, Adrianna. At twenty-two, she was four years younger than me, spoiled, and sweet. She lived with Mom in her huge house in Pasadena.
“Hey, Brady.” My sister called out the nickname that only she used for me as she stretched her quads in the sand below my stairs. Adrianna had the same clear blue eyes as me, but her hair was nearly platinum-blonde. Mine was such a dirty blond that you could almost call it brown.
“Hey yourself.” I hugged her. “You up for five miles today?” Our regular Sunday tradition was to jog and have lunch together, and after that, we’d head over to join our mom for dinner in Pasadena.
I tried hard to maintain this routine with my two closest family members, making sure we stayed connected. Sometimes, work dinners or celebrity auctions caused me to miss family time, but I put in the effort and the three of us remained close-knit. I stretched for a few minutes, and we began our jog along the shoreline, close enough to the water that the sand was wet and easier to run on.
“So, you thought any more about my genius movie idea?” she puffed out as we ran side by side.
I shook my head. “Sorry, Addy, I just don’t think a documentary on the history of fashionable handbags is going to fly. Besides, you know we almost never do documentaries, no matter what the subject.” I glanced at her with a half-smile.
She’d been pushing this idea for a month as part of an attempt to figure out if she wanted to be a filmmaker. Adrianna was lost as far as her purpose in life. She liked to shop, party, exercise, and hang out with friends, and she had a degree in modern dance from USC, but my sister really had no idea what she wanted to do.
That was one of the problems with being from such a wealthy family and having everything handed to you. None of us had to work, so we were free to explore the thousands of different interests and career fields as much as we wanted, though this was truer for Adrianna, being a girl and the youngest. My own career path had been mapped out early on—take over as owner of Huntington Productions and make it thrive, as it had for years.
I felt bad that Adrianna seemed lost and searching for a direction, yet there was no way I’d run her handbag documentary idea by the board. I saw Adrianna pouting from the corner of my eye, but she didn’t say anything more about it. We finished the five miles in decent time and sat down at one of our favorite casual beach grills.
If I were out with my friends or trying to impress a date, I’d go somewhere fancier and with more prestige. But Addy and I liked to eat at this down-to-earth grill with its low-key atmosphere, and they didn’t care about having two sweaty customers like us sit on their open patio.
After I ordered a burger and fries and Addy ordered seared fresh tuna and salad, she leveled me with her gaze. “I heard you were chatting up my friend Katrina at the club Saturday.” Her tone was casual, but her eyes narrowed.
I let out a sigh as my face heated with embarrassment. “Sorry, Addy,” I said with a sheepish expression. “It was just for show in front of Keith and the gang.” Keith was, according to the gossip magazines, my best friend and just as much of a chauvinistic pig as me. He was the hottest young male actor on the scene right now and loved the attention.
Though I hung out with him and other celebrities in our circle at clubs and parties, he wasn’t my true best friend. We started to hang out when Keith did a movie with Huntington Productions, and our friendship, so to speak, took off from there. He was part of my media image, but I didn’t feel close to him. Keith was the typical hot-shot, good-looking, egotistical movie star. My real best friend was Scott, who did post-production graphic art and design at my company.
Adrianna lifted an eyebrow at me as she sipped her water. I added in a hushed tone, “It was just some harmless flirting, Addy, I swear. I didn’t sleep with her or anything.”
My sister disapproved of my playboy tendencies, especially when I directed it at her friends. Adrianna shook her head in dismay. “Brady, seriously? Why do you keep acting like that—like Dad—when I know you’re not really like that underneath? I know you, and you’re nothing like him.”
At that point, our food arrived and the conversation paused as we dug in, which gave me time to figure out an answer to her question. Why did I keep acting like Dad? She was right—it wasn’t really me, but once I’d started getting heavily involved with Huntington Productions and spent more time around my dad, and then Keith, it became a habit to act like they did. Now, the media and all my celebrity friends had given me the same, hot-shot playboy reputation. It felt easier to go along with it in public, even if I wasn’t really like that in private.
I swallowed a bite of the big juicy burger and finally responded. “I know. I really should try to be more myself in front of everyone. And you know I actually respect women, especially you and Mom. It’s just hard to change my rep, you know?”
Adrianna rolled her eyes but offered a half-smile. “I guess. As long as you understand women aren’t really men’s playthings. We’re actual people.” I winced at her words, but she gave me a sympathetic smile and said, “Speaking of playboy behavior, have you heard from Dad lately?”
I let out a short laugh. “Not since his little postcard from Sao Paulo a month ago. You knew he was traipsing through Brazil now, right?”
She nodded and her expression hardened. “Yup. Mom and I got a lovely postcard with bikini-clad girls on the front. Charming as always.” Her voice had a bitter edge.
While I didn’t love Dad’s behavior, I wasn’t as bitterly against it as Adrianna and Mom. I gave Addy a sympathetic smile and decided to change the subject. Maybe if I told her about my real interest in a woman, she’d think better of me, even if Dad was a lost cause.
“Look, don’t let this leak out, but there’s a young woman I’m interested in, and not just in a playboy kind of way.” I proceeded to tell her about Lexi, telling her the whole story of how we met, how I couldn’t get her off my mind, and about my cunning plan to see her again. If all went according to this plan, I’d see a whole lot more of Lexi in the coming months.
Adrenaline pulsed through my veins as I crouched low on my board. Ocean water sprayed my face with a refreshing, salty taste. I was in the curl of a nice-sized wave at six-thirty in the morning on Monday, and all my worries and troubles washed away with the water.