THE BILLIONAIRE'S BABY (A Secret Baby Romance) (3 page)

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The early golden sunlight glittered off the tunnel of water I rode through, and I felt like I was in an entirely different world—somewhere magical. When I saw the end of the wave curling in on itself in a tumble of foaming white, I turned my board towards the shore so I could ride out the wave as it rolled toward the sand.

I balanced easily into the shallow edge, hopped off, pulled my board out of the water, and tucked it under an arm. The water was cold, as it was year-round in the Pacific, but I was perfectly comfortable in my black and dark blue wetsuit. I found the cold invigorating.

At this time of day, there were only a few others out on the Santa Monica beach. A single jogger ran by, and I spotted a few early surfers way down the shoreline to the south. I collapsed, tired but happy, onto the dry sand and laid there for a few moments, a satisfied grin on my face.

My head always felt clearer, my body refreshed, and my outlook on life positive after surfing; it was the best therapy for me. Surfing and writing were my two main outlets, my way to re-boot and express myself.

I loved the idea that I could create a whole new world and characters where I was in control of what happened. To have the story come to life on the screen so countless others could share that world would be incredible. That’s why I had to get a job at a production company—any job.




“Yeah, Sean, you got it!” I yelled through my cupped hands later that afternoon. My dad sat in his wheelchair next to where I perched on the edge of the soccer field bleachers. His strong cheekbones and gleaming brown eyes gave him an aura of intelligence and authority despite being in a wheelchair.

His gaze followed Sean’s tall, lithe figure intently as he stopped the ball in front of the opponent’s goal, gaining a clear shot. Sean’s hair was raven-black, like mine, and stood every which way in the ocean breeze. The community soccer field was just a block from the beach.

Dad clapped several times, but didn’t call out. He tended to be quiet and reserved in general. When he did say something, you could count on the fact that he truly meant what he said. Sean took his shot and the ball soared expertly past the fingertips of the goalie and into the right corner of the net. I stood up, whooping and cheering, while my dad nodded his head approvingly, offering a pleased smile as he clapped.

At a few minutes until half-time, my brother’s team was in the lead with a score of two to zero. Sean was tall, fast, coordinated, and among the top three players in his summer league. He was hoping for an athletic scholarship so he could go to college without the loans I had to take out. Though I’d earned a partial academic scholarship, Berkeley was expensive, and I’d be paying off loans for a while yet.

As I sat back down to watch the remaining two minutes of the first half, I noticed a few younger kids, probably around seven, looking at Dad as they whispered. I knew they were young, but I hated when people talked about my dad and his wheelchair. The fact he had to use one didn’t change who he was, not one bit. As always, when I thought about what had happened to my dad since he’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a heaviness formed in my stomach. The disease was degenerative and would attack other parts of his nervous system in the years to come. It had been hard enough losing my mom. Sean and I couldn’t even think about losing our dad as well.

Dad saw a decent neurologist in the area, but I longed to make enough to send him to the top MS doctors. Maybe they’d have different treatments to try, something that could help prevent further paralysis more than the immune-suppressants he took now.

I focused my attention back on the game, trying to shrug off the heavy feeling inside me.
Everything’s going to be okay,
I told myself.
All you need to do is land a small job in a production company, then dazzle them with your screenwriting skills, and the big bucks will roll in.

As if in answer to these thoughts, my phone buzzed with an incoming call. I glanced down and looked apologetically at my dad. “It’s a Hollywood area code. I should take it in case it’s in response to one of my applications.” Dad nodded, and I slipped off behind the bleachers about fifteen feet away to take the call. “Hello, this is Alexandra Montgomery. How can I help you?” I tried to sound as professional as possible.

A woman’s voice spoke on the other end. “Hello, Ms. Montgomery, this is Judith Levy from the Human Resources department at Huntington Productions.” My pulse leapt. It was hard to keep all the places I’d applied to straight, but I recalled Huntington being a big deal movie production company. I held my breath as Judith continued. “We’d love for you to come in and interview for a personal assistant position. The resume we pulled from the job hunting site looks quite impressive. Can you come in tomorrow at three?”

My pulse skyrocketed, and I had to cover my mouth to muffle an excited gasp. “Yes, that sounds great,” I said in the calmest voice I could muster. “Three works perfectly. What address should I come to, and who should I ask for?” Since I hadn’t even applied to this position, I had no idea. I was thrilled that they’d liked my resume enough to ask for an interview. This was promising.

Judith gave me the address, which was in Hollywood, as I expected, and then said, “Just ask for me, since I’ll be conducting your interview personally. The position is to assist someone high-up in our company. I’ll tell you more details tomorrow.” We said our cordial goodbyes and hung up.

I stared at my phone and let out the squeal of excitement I’d been holding in. While I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high, I had a good feeling about this interview. I’d been politely turned down after an interview time and time again over the course of the summer, but for some reason, I sensed this one would be different.




That night, after I congratulated Sean on his goal and told both him and my dad the good news about the interview over dinner, I drove the three blocks from my dad’s duplex to my third-floor apartment. It might seem silly to drive three blocks, but I had a six a.m. cleaning appointment and the job interview in Hollywood after that, so I needed the car for a quick morning departure.

I sat on the old, two-seater sofa in my studio apartment, which had a kitchenette next to the bathroom, an old-fashioned tube TV, a twin bed in one corner, and a small round table with two chairs for eating. I’d also scored a used dresser from Goodwill last year, which Sean and his friends helped me carry up.

As I sat with my legs curled under me on the sofa, I held a notebook in my lap, my pen poised above a blank page. I already had several complete scripts for both movies and TV series pilots saved on my laptop, all part of the portfolio I’d created while at Berkeley. But the possibility of getting this personal assistant position at Huntington Productions tomorrow inspired me to start a new screenplay. Another one to slip into the hands of someone high-up at the company. Maybe even into the hands of my potential new boss.



“Braden, sweetie, leave those. I’ll get to the dishes later.” My mom set three dirty plates on the counter next to the kitchen sink where I was rinsing dishes and loading them into her dishwasher.

I shook my head. “Not a chance. You cooked—it was amazing, by the way—so you shouldn’t have to clean.”

Adrianna pulled herself up on a kitchen bar stool and placed her half-empty wine glass on the high counter that ran along the top of the sink where I stood and cleaned. She took a long sip of her wine and smiled at me. “Yeah, let him clean up, Mom, while us girls sit and relax. I like that idea.” She grinned at me.

We’d finished our usual Sunday dinner at Mom’s, which was a good-sized house, but nothing like my mansion in Malibu or my dad’s estate in Beverly Hills. Mom preferred a sizable, less showy home done in the traditional California-Spanish tile roof and stucco walls. The house’s layout was modern, with four bedrooms upstairs and a spacious, open floor plan downstairs. From where I stood at the kitchen sink, I could see over the kitchen bar counter where Adrianna sat and to the dining area just to the right, the living room to the left, and through the sliding glass doors out to the patio and backyard pool.

The kitchen itself was a decent size, with an island in the middle and a new gas-burning stove along with a good amount of counter space. One of my favorite things to do to help me relax was cooking. Working with my hands and all the various textures and scents of food helped me unwind.

My mom had made dinner that particular night, but I’d made dessert—chocolate mousse—from scratch, topped with whipped cream, raspberries, and dark chocolate shavings. Mom finally relented and sat down at a kitchen bar stool next to Adrianna and faced me as she sipped her glass of Merlot.

“Well, thank you, honey. And next time, it’s your sister’s turn.” She gave Adrianna a jokingly stern look. My sister was always trying to get out of chores, and Mom and I teased her relentlessly about it.

Adrianna rolled her eyes and changed the subject. “So, Mom, paint anything new lately?”

Our mom had two active hobbies—painting and gardening. She had an extensive herb garden out back along with several tomato plants and a few orange trees around the yard’s edge. When I cooked meals here, I enjoyed going out back and picking fresh tomatoes or herbs like basil and thyme to use as ingredients. Several palm trees lined the backyard next to exotic bushes and flowers, adding bright fuchsias, vivid oranges, and luminescent whites to the vibrant yard.

For painting, Mom used water colors, oils, and watercolor pastels to create landscapes and, occasionally, portraits. I loved that she pursued her interests. Since she had no need to work because she was supported by Dad’s wealth, she had the time for these hobbies.

“I just started on an oil painting of a spectacular view in the San Rafael Hills. I’m going tomorrow morning to work on it if you want to come, Adrianna.” Mom said.

My sister shook her head. “No thanks, Mom. I’m going to a vineyard with some friends, but have fun. It sounds beautiful.”

Ten minutes later, the dishes were done, and we devoured the chocolate mousse in lounge chairs out back as we watched the sun set. “This is incredible, Brady,” Adrianna gushed. “You could be a chef, seriously.”

I smiled as Mom nodded in agreement. “You know, honey, with cooking talents like this, your willingness to clean dishes, and such a handsome face”—she pinched my cheek teasingly—“you’re quite the catch. Seriously, why don’t you have a steady girlfriend? Are you still cavorting around those silly clubs with Keith?”

Her tone was light, but the worried look behind her crystal-blue eyes was clear. I exchanged a glance with Adrianna, who was under strict advisement not to tell Mom about my Lexi-plan. I didn’t want my mom getting her hopes up. I knew how much it meant to her that I stop fooling around with women the way Dad did and settle into a serious relationship.

I gave her my most charming, little-boy grin and answered, “I’ll try to ease up on the cavorting, Mom, I promise. And who knows? Maybe I’ll have an actual girlfriend before you know it.” I shared another knowing look with my sister. Adrianna had been excited to hear about my plan to apologize to and hopefully date Lexi—after she’d chastised me for what I’d said to the poor girl. I was excited, too. I just had to wait and see if it worked.




“A party at your beach house Friday? I’m in,” I told my media-image best friend, Keith, who’d called me at work the next day. My eyes cut to my real best friend, who sat with me at a table in his office eating takeout sushi. He looked right back at me, rolling his dark brown eyes. He and Keith didn’t get along.

I grinned at Scott as I half-listened to Keith’s response. He was going on about some new young actress who was apparently wickedly hot, and he had big plans to get her into bed Friday at his party. At this point, I rolled my eyes, too. “She’ll be putty in your hands, Keith. They always are. Okay, gotta get back to work. See you Friday, bro.”

I hung up and braced myself for Scott’s commentary. He swallowed a piece of spicy tuna and said, “‘
?’ Did you really just call that douchebag ‘
?’” Scott’s dark eyebrows were up, almost above his shaggy brown hair. “And putty in your hands? Ugh, I swear I don’t even know you when you’re talking to that idiot.” Scott’s voice was full of disgust, though he tried to keep it light.

I winced in apology. “Hey, he started the bro thing, and now it’s just a habit,” I defended weakly. “I know, I know. I’m a douchebag around Keith. It’s just that stupid media-image thing, you know? It doesn’t mean anything. Are you jealous, honey?” I asked the last part in a sappy tone in an attempt to lighten the mood.

Scott proceeded to throw one of his chopsticks at my head, which I skillfully blocked with my hand as I laughed. He laughed as well and retrieved his chopstick. “See what you make me do. I’m resorting to physical violence now,” he joked. Then his expression grew thoughtful. “But honestly, Braden, why do you care what the media thinks?”

I shrugged as I chewed a piece of California roll. “I don’t know. I mean, I am the owner of one of the biggest production companies in L.A. It makes sense that I care at least a little about what the media says and about my reputation. Keith is the hottest male actor right now, so I guess you could say hanging with him and the other celebrities is good for business.”

Scott shook his head. “I guess, though I don’t think your business is going south anytime soon. Anyway, you still on for hiking the Santa Monica Mountains Saturday, or does Keith have more chick-hunting plans for you?”

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