The Tycoon's Cupid Surprise (a Valentine's novella) (Holiday Babies)

BOOK: The Tycoon's Cupid Surprise (a Valentine's novella) (Holiday Babies)
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The Tycoon’s Cupid Surprise

Tabitha Robbins

 

Part of the
Holiday Babies Series

 

Published by HAT Rock Publishing

Kindle Edition

 

© Copyright 2014 Tabitha Robbins

 

 

All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author, and have no relations whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all the incidents are pure invention.

 

 

 

Kindle Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Chapter 1

 

“I get that you’re
one of the richest guys in California. I’ve read the gossip mags that say you party with movie stars and vacation with royalty. But I’ve already told that committee person when she rang. I can’t go out on a date with you. Not for any reason. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

As
the florist, her apron and those eye-catching curves breezed away, Xander Drake scratched his head. In childhood, his IQ had been placed in the “gifted” range. As an adult, his venture capitalist exploits had enjoyed a ninety-eight percent success rate. More recently, Alexander Drake had been lauded as one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. Even his family behaved.

The ones who were left
.

The po
int was he didn’t have leprosy, and considering Brooke Hart had put herself forward for this date, frankly, her attitude sucked.


You remember this is for charity, right?” Xander said, following Ms. Hart to the display refrigerator, which housed too many flowers of various colors and shapes to count. “You entered your name in the random draw.”


Like I told that woman—I didn’t enter anything.” Opening the unit’s glass door, she gave a tight smile. “I don’t gamble.”

“Even
after the fact, when you know that you won?”

Choosing a long-stemmed something-or-other
from a bucket, she turned to face him. “Guess that depends on your idea of a win.”

H
er expressive eyes were green and fresh, similar to the nearby backdrop of fern framing her head. Her lips were naturally plump in a near irresistible way. Dimples set below a pair of flushed apple-cheeks were icing on the cake.

Xander
had known his share of attractive women. Long, glossy hair. Noteworthy intellect. Something as simple as a laugh might intrigue him. Discovering “the entire package,” however, was a whole other ballgame. Personality, looks, chemistry that sizzled with no more than a touch...

S
omeday Xander knew he would find her...the woman of his dreams. She was out there somewhere. But certainly not here. Not today.

“I’ll let the charity’s funds committee know I couldn’t change your mind,” he said.

Holding that
yellow flower beneath her chin, she took one cagey step closer. “Sorry I can’t help.” Her shoulders lifted then dropped. “I just can’t.”


I would’ve liked to have handed over the money, is all.”

When her head slanted,
a sheet of silky mocha-brown hair slid to one side. “What are you talking about?”

If she really had no idea, he’d clue her in.

“Every year, the committee approach an eligible someone who has a few bucks to spare—”


Someone like you.”

He nodded. “
That someone agrees to donate his time on that upcoming Valentine’s evening. Single ladies donate and enter the draw on line. On top of that, the bachelor makes his own contribution.”


What size contribution?”


In my case...five million.”

Those big green eyes got even bigger.

Dollars
?”


Kids in Need is a great cause.”

When the committee had let him know that the winner wished to decline the prize, he asked to speak with her himself. Now, if Ms. Hart was determined to be a
buzz kill, there was nothing more he could do about it.

A
peculiar noise drifted out from the shop’s back room, and Brooke Hart’s shoulders jerked up as if an alarm had gone off in her head.


I need to go,” she said, making a beeline for that sound. “You have a nice day, Mr. Drake.”


It’s Alexander. Xander to my friends.”


Sure. If I can help with any other Valentine’s needs, or any occasion during the year, you’ll find me on the web.” Her voice trailed as she slipped into that room. “
I Hart Flowers..
.”

On his way out,
Xander heard that sound again and recognized it this time. A baby. When the whimpering suddenly grew louder, frowning, he angled back around. Then came a gut-wrenching sob, like the poor kid was in pain. Was in trouble.

Xander
strode over and grabbed the door knob. Before he could charge inside, however, he caught sight of Brooke through the opening. She was cradling a baby swaddled in a soft blue blanket. A bottle was warming in a saucepan, which sat atop a single burner set up on a bench. A timber cot was wedged into one corner, a recliner with a back cushion waited next to that. As Brooke Hart smiled down, cooing and singing softly, the whimpering eased.

Holding his breath,
Xander pulled quietly away.

Normally h
e noticed whether an attractive woman wore bling on her left hand, specifically the third finger. An engagement ring or wedding band indicated a no-fly zone. Well, obviously.

Had
his father adhered to that simple philosophy, Xander’s childhood would’ve been different. Of course he could thank that confusion and hurt for instilling inside of him the desire—the
passion
—to overcome any obstacle and succeed. For as long as Xander could remember, his motto had been:
roll up your sleeves and find a way
.

Right or wrong, t
hat’s how he felt about the mysterious Ms. Hart now. If she hadn’t put herself in for that draw, who had? The rules had been clear: only single females need apply. The rules said nothing about babies. If that was the reason she withdrew from the contest, what was he prepared to do about it?

A
s he left the shop and its blend of perfumes behind, he recalled those dimples, that defenceless whimper, and the fact that Brooke Hart wore no ring. As sure as double-chocolate ice-cream made him smile, Xander knew one thing...

He
needed to return to this shop, and sooner than Ms. Hart might imagine.

Chapter
2

 

Wincing, Brooke yanked her finger away from her mouth. The part she had gnawed was left stinging and raw. There’d been times when she’d thought she had conquered the habit. For a while, she had even worn
real
polish, not some foul-tasting nibble inhibitor that made her gag. Her friend and employee, Heather Barnes, had suggested acrylic tips or gel.

G
oodbye crappy nails!

Only Brooke
couldn’t waste money on manicures now. For the past ten weeks, she’d had a new baby to care for. Not that he was a burden. God knows she would give anything,
everything
, to know Chance was happy, safe…content. 

She’d
already kicked one giant mistake to the kerb; to think she’d dated Jake Bentley a whole six months. Now Brooke was free again—and, man, did she love her independence, being her own boss, running her own life. She only wished her shop had more orders. Instead sales were looking, well, dismal.

Times were tough for everyone.

After closing the order database on her laptop screen, Brooke tiptoed away from the counter to the entrance that led to the shop’s adjoining living space. She always left that door open a sliver so she could peek inside. At this stage, Chance caught plenty of z’ds during the day, which meant—with Heather’s help when she was here—shop duties ticked over nicely. Nights were long, though, with bottles and lullabies and midnight promises that everything would turn out fine.

It
just
had
to.

Brooke adored her new role
as mom. She loved her little guy’s smile, the way he kicked those strong baby legs. Chance had become her world, her life...even if she wasn’t the one who had carried him to term.

This time
when Brooke jerked that nail from her mouth, she smothered a yelp. At the same moment she tasted blood, the shop doorbell tinkled and her heart leapt.
Please God, make it a bride with a dozen bridesmaids
and a church booked next week.

I
t wasn’t a customer.

“Is my sweetie
-pie awake?” Wearing a yellow spandex jumpsuit, Ella Hart crossed the floor using her recently perfected
don’t-wake-the-baby
tiptoe technique. “I haven’t had a cuddle in two whole days. Major withdrawals happening here.”

Brooke gave
her younger sister a big squeeze. 

“No classes today?” Brooke asked. Ella was an Arts History major
, with top grades, too.


I’m hitting the books tonight.” Ella craned to peer past Brooke’s shoulder. “Can I have a peek?”

“I just checked. He’
s due to wake up soon though. Wanna help with some orders in the meantime?”

“Anything that calls for daffodils?
Did you guess?” Ella struck a pose. “I’m in a yellow mood today.”

“How about tulips
tied with a harvest-gold ribbon?”

Brooke selected
the flowers while Ella inched over to sneak a look at the baby. She covered her mouth to quiet a sigh.


Ohmigod
. He is seriously the cutest baby ever. Tiffany would be
so
proud.”

A familiar lump formed in Brooke’s throat
as memories flooded back...all that blood and exhaustion and, finally, those strangled pleas... She and Tiffany Bird had been friends right through school. They’d had countless sleepovers and had always been there for each other, particularly through the dark times, like when Tiffany’s parents had died in a car crash two years ago. Brooke couldn’t recall her and Tiffany ever having kept secrets.

Except when Tiffany had fallen pregnant with Chance.

Brooke
tried to tamp down the ache. “I’ll make sure he knows how beautiful his mom was. How much he was loved.”

“It’s sad that
Tiffany felt she couldn’t say who the father is,” Ella said. “That no one else’s name is on the birth certificate but hers. But, in a way, I’m glad Chance is ours.” She sent over a grin. “I mean
yours
.”

Brooke
arranged the tulips, red, yellow and, her favorite, mauve. “When I have enough time and money, I’ll look into it. I don’t want to explain one day to Chance why I didn’t at least try to track down his biological dad.”

“Even
if dad is a deadbeat jerk? I mean, there must be something seriously off for Tiffany to have kept the baby a secret from him. Heck, maybe she was assaulted.”

“Or maybe it was a romantic one night stand and she wasn’t able to find him again.”

Brooke wished she knew. When her pregnancy had become noticeable, Tiffany had refused to divulge anything concerning her baby’s father.

Ella cross
ed back to the counter and dropped her bag on the floor. “Have you heard from lover boy lately?”

“Lover boy being code for
Jake Bentley?”

Ella pretended to stick a finger down her throat
and reach. “To think he wanted you to choose him over Chance. As if that would ever happen.”

Jake
couldn’t accept that his girlfriend’s life had changed...that her priorities were different now and a thousand times more important. Initially after she’d brought Chance home, Jake had been curious. Brooke had had faith; who couldn’t bond with that gorgeous little bundle?

A
s the weeks had wound on, however, Jake had grown distant, surly and, finally, resentful. Apparently she wasn’t spending enough time with him. With Heather usually here to help, Brooke spent her days tending shop, caring for Chance, or catching forty winks whenever she could. Two weeks ago, Jake had lain down an ultimatum: “the baby or me.”

After that
, she didn’t want Jake anywhere around. If he didn’t want to be part of it, fine by her. No more Sunday dinners with his hermit mother whose face would crack if she ever smiled. By the time the relationship fell apart, the end was a relief...even if there were times—some secret, stupid moments—when Brooke missed the idea of what she and Jake were
supposed
to have shared.

As
Ella sheared off a length of ribbon, her cell phone sounded. Brooke finished up the tulip bouquet as her sister replied to a text.


Gotta go.” Ella scooped her bag up. “My roomie’s had a home salon disaster and the new guy’s due in an hour for their first big date.”

Brooke mulled that over.
“A date you say?”

Slotting her phone away,
Ella looked at her sister sideways. “Ah, yeah. That’s when two people share time together because they are either attracted to one another or want to see if they could be.”

Brooke grinned.
Smartass.
“Did you set up your roomie’s date?”

Ella’s lips twitched.
“Might have.”

Ella’s middle name was Matchmaker. Which
was the reason Brooke wondered now...


The other day, I had a visit from a man,” she said.

Ella leaped
to sit atop the counter. All ears, she thatched her fingers on her lap. “Samantha can wait. Please continue.”

“He thought I’d entered some contest or other.”

“What’d you win?”

“You don’t know anything about it?”

“Wish I did.”

Brooke
took over looping and tying the ribbon. “Doesn’t matter. It was just...weird.”


The guy was weird?”


I didn’t say that.”

Ella pretended to pull
at her hair. “Details, woman.
Details
.”

Remembering Xander Drake’s white smile, his broad shoulders and sparkling, all-knowing blue eyes...

“He was...well... ” Giving in, Brooke exhaled. “He was
hot
.”

“As in simmering?”

“As in
blistering
.”

Since his
surprise visit, Brooke had googled Mr. Drake. He hung out with “the beautiful people,” was mega wealthy, liked a good time, but wasn’t an adrenaline junkie idiot along with it. With a “500 listed” company to oversee, he must have his head screwed on right.

T
he more Brooke searched, the more she realized Xander Drake was an exceptional man, even more so in person. That deep, smooth baritone...the fluid almost predatory precision of his gait. More than anything, she’d felt his energy...deep, molten, but also electric. She could tell just by looking...he’d be a knockout in the bedroom.

And a million miles out of her league.

As nice as a date with Mr. Drake might sound, frankly, she didn’t need the distraction. These days, her idea of a good time was slipping into sweats and stealing more than four hours sleep in one hit. Although she
had
wondered where he’d planned to take her...

When
Brooke brought herself back, Ella was studying her like she knew precisely what her sister was thinking.

“So, you didn’t sell
this guy a bunch of flowers or, um, anything?”

Grinning,
Brooke looped the ribbon’s ends into a bow. “Don’t you have a catastrophe to fix?”

Ella jumped down. “Give my boy a kiss for me.
And don’t forget, Hannah and I are desperate to steal him for a night. Just say the word. Aunties of infants are loving-slash-clucky people.”

Brooke’s older sister
had married Daniel Ramsey, a first-rate gentleman with his own engineering firm. They couldn’t wait to start their own family. Both Brooke’s sisters were attentive and level-headed. It was just that Chance was still so small. Obviously, at some stage there’d be sleepovers with relatives or friends, just like she and Tiffany had shared. 

Brooke assured her sister with a confident smile.
“Soon.”


Three words to help convince you.” Ella counted off each finger. “
Good. Night’s. Sleep
.”

Brooked almost sighed.
What a heavenly thought.

Five minutes later,
Ella was gone, Chance was still asleep and Brooke was up top a stepladder. She was adjusting one of the shop’s Valentine’s Day signs—a banner with red roses and silver hearts that had seen better days—when the doorbell rang again. Ready to offer her services, she smiled across.

Then h
er jaw dropped and the ladder wobbled as all the blood drained to her feet.

BOOK: The Tycoon's Cupid Surprise (a Valentine's novella) (Holiday Babies)
3.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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