Sunday, April 15, 2012

What Came Before...The Tycoon's Secret Daughter

I'm very happy to have a duet out this summer. First Time Dads tells the two stories of the romances of Max and Chance Montgomery and how a  mistake their dad made thirty years before might prevent anyone in their family from having a happy ending.

So get a cup of tea or cocoa, settle in and read this little prologue for book 1...The Tycoon's Secret Daughter. Then click on the excerpts button for and read the first scene. See why Max and Chance hate their dad and why Chance never wants to come home again.


Being the boss's son was difficult under the best of circumstances. But being Brandon Montgomery’s son came with its own special set of problems.

Max Montgomery headed for the break room and a date with a snack cake.

His dad was a cheat. A liar. And he wasn’t above giving or taking bribes. He’d bribed and cheated his way from a one-man handyman company to a construction company which was now a development company. Some people applauded his initiative. Others, like Max, just waited for the house of cards to come tumbling down.

Two feet away from the break room, he noticed the door was open. He heard the hushed voices of two secretaries and winced. He hated walking in on complaint sessions, but if he waited until no one was whining about his dad, he’d never get breakfast.

He sucked in a breath and headed for the door.

“Chance Montgomery really is Chance Montgomery.”

He stopped. Frowned. What the hell did that mean? And why the hell would two secretaries be talking about his adopted brother, as if it was odd he’d taken the family name?

“I’m telling you…He’s a flirt, a runaround. And his wife knows. She has to know.”

This time his eyes narrowed. At first he’d thought they were talking about Chance, who truly was a flirt and a runaround. Eighteen, handsome as sin, and with family money at his disposal, he attracted women like bees to honey. But Chance wasn’t married.

“His wife can’t know! What woman would agree to adopt the son created when her husband cheated? It’s preposterous.”

Max reared back.

“That story has to be an urban legend.”

“Really? Go back through the photo albums from the company picnics. Nineteen years ago, Brandon Montgomery’s secretary was all but hanging on him in half the pictures…then suddenly she’s pregnant.”

“And Brandon and Gwen adopted her son.”

“And then she left.”

“Maybe she couldn’t stand to be around the baby she had to give up?”

“Or maybe he gave her a big payoff. Did you know she opened a shop at the beach?”

“A shop?”

“It’s a little doughnut thing, but she makes oodles of money in tourist season. I don’t think she could have saved up the cash she’d need to rent a space on the boardwalk just by being Brandon Montgomery’s secretary.” There was a pause. “But if Brandon wanted to raise his son…he could have paid her off.”

Max flattened himself against the wall. It was a rumor. It had to be a rumor.

But the mantra fell flat in his brain. He and his adoptive brother looked too much alike. And he remembered that picnic. He was a ten the year Rayanne got drunk and hung all over his dad. Oh, he’d brushed her off. But there was something about the way they interacted that had struck Max in the gut. Then she’d gotten pregnant, his dad and his mom had made arrangements to adopt her child and then she just disappeared.

His stomach twisted. He ran his hand along his mouth. Then turned and headed up the hall to his father’s office.

Faith Martin, his dad’s latest secretary, smiled at him. “Hey, Max. Your dad’s on a call right now…”

He barely heard her as he breezed by and smashed open the door. “Get the hell off the phone.”

Tall, with white “wings” at the temples of his black hair, his dad rose as he said, “My son just walked in. I’ll call you back.” He smiled. “Max, I thought we talked about how you were to treat me.”

He slammed the door. “Just answer one question. Is Chance really your son?”

His dad chuckled. “That rumor has been circulating for…”

“Don’t lie to me! I was at that picnic!”

“All right.” He sat. “You’re old enough now that maybe I should admit some things.”

“Not some things. This thing. Is Chance yours?”

“Yes. And your mother doesn’t know. So unless you want to break her heart, I’d suggest you keep this to yourself.”

Max’s breath hissed out. “You bastard.”

Brandon leaned back in his chair. “Right. Like you’re perfect. Running around on your pretty little girlfriend, Kate.”

“I don’t run around on Kate.”

“Oh, pardon me, Mr. Perfect.”

“Don’t start, Dad.”

“You started this, son. You want your mom upset? You want Chance to question everything he knows?” He leaned back again. “Get your priorities straight. Lots of people depend upon us for an income. We don’t have time to wallow in grief over a mistake or two.” He shook his head. “Such a baby. Get your head out of your behind and get in line or you’ll be the first Montgomery to be fired and kicked out in the street.”

“I’m telling Chance.”

Brandon smiled. “And who do you think they’ll believe?”

“A simple DNA test will straighten this out.”

With that he walked out of the room, his heart racing, his head spinning.

His dad broke a lot of rules, but this one took the cake.

This one would destroy their family. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Prologue A BABY ON THE RANCH -- Cade's Story

In the past two books, we've been learning about the Andreas brothers...three brothers with the same philandering father but three very different mothers...who inherit a sinking shipping company and a six-month-old half-brother when their father dies unexpectedly.

We've watched Darius and Nick fall in love, and through both books we've seen Cade, the richest of the three, poke his nose in where it didn't belong, make trouble and in general make a pest of himself -- all in the name of family! LOL

Well, he meets his match in A BABY ON THE RANCH, but his story isn't without some trouble...

Read what came before...


What Came Before Cade’s Story…

In a lot of ways Ginny Brown’s only child Cade had exceeded any expectation a mother could have. He was smart and shrewd. Right now, he was worth more money than the rest of the residents of Texas combined…or at least that was her best guess. Tall and broad-shouldered, he had sharp dark eyes and wavy black hair. The last two he’d inherited from his father, the father whose last name he’d chosen to use though Stephone Andreas hadn’t ever acknowledged him.

She would think Stephone’s indifference had caused Cade’s decision never to marry. Except he had been married. He’d been one of those guys who’d met the love of his life in high school and married her when they turned twenty-two. But tragedy had struck and she’d died when they were thirty or so. And he’d shut down emotionally. He wasn’t crazy. He didn’t have shrines to her erected at his ranch. He didn’t talk about her incessantly. It was more like he was afraid to risk his heart again.

Which was why Ginny was the woman walking down the wide spiral staircase with him on the way his half-brother Darius’s New Year’s Eve party.

“Have I told you how handsome you look in a tux?”

He laughed. “Yes, Mother. About thirty times.”

“Good, then you won’t be afraid to mingle.”

He glanced at her, his eyes narrowed. “Why would I be afraid to mingle?”

Too late, she realized her mistake. He knew she was worried about him, but that comment had more or less clued him in that she wanted him out on the dance floor, talking with the available women, finding himself a new mate.

Not one who liked to be told what to do, he’d stick by her side like glue.

So she tried to throw him off the track. After all, she was the one from whom he’d inherited his shrewdness. “I understand Maggie’s dad is going to be here tonight.”

They’d reached the bottom of the steps, so he turned to her with a grin. “Maggie’s dad?”

“Hey, he might be a few years older than I am but there’s plenty of fire left in that furnace if you catch what I mean.”

He winced. “Unfortunately I do.”

Good. That mental image should have him scurrying away from her, hopefully into the arms of a pretty girl.

They entered the ballroom of the ostentatious Andreas beach house in Montauk. Darius, Cade’s oldest brother, bent down and kissed her cheek. Almost as gorgeous in his tux as her son, he said, “You look stunning.”

Cade laughed. “She’d better. Rumor has it she has her sights set on Maggie’s dad.”

Darius’s wife Whitney, a pretty blue-eyed blonde, perked up. “Really?”

Ginny adopted a sly expression to perpetuate her ruse. She’d been a single mom when it wasn’t quite as popular or accepted as it was today. She knew how to take a hit for the team. “Really.”

“Then you’ll be very happy.” Darius pointed behind her. “Because here he is now.”

Charlie Forsythe stepped up to shake Darius’s hand. “Who’s here now?”

Whitney said, “You.” She faced Ginny with a smile. “You remember Ginny, Cade’s mom.”

A true Southern gentleman, he took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “I never forget a beautiful woman.”

She couldn’t help it. She laughed. He was handsome with his wavy gray hair, pretty green eyes, and trimmed and toned body from working on his small farm. So as sacrifices for her son went, this wasn’t really a big one. “And I never forget a handsome man.”

Still holding her hand, he directed her toward the ballroom. The room was awash with sparkling dresses, winking diamonds and tuxedoes. Her breath caught. Every time she attended one of Darius and Whitney’s famous balls, she almost had to pinch herself to believe it was real.

Her life had certainly taken an unexpected turn from poor single mom to socialite mom.


She smiled at handsome Charlie. “Love to.”

With that she was whisked off to the dance floor, but even with as good of a dancer as Charlie was, she couldn’t focus. She scanned the room until she located Cade and followed his movements as he walked through the crowd. He got a drink, then found their table for dinner and never moved.

“He’ll come around.”

Her head snapped in Charlie’s direction. “Excuse me?”

“Cade. He’ll come around. I worried about Maggie the same way. Then suddenly one day she and Nick were back together and their lives were good again.”

She smiled. “Cade’s wife isn’t coming back.”

His voice softened. “I know. It’s a damn shame when someone’s taken so young.”

“She was beautiful.”

“And patient too, I’d guess,” Charlie said with a laugh.

“She was everything.” She tried to smile, but her lips trembled. “Even I miss her. I can’t imagine what Cade feels.”

“It will take a very special woman to step into those shoes.”

Abundantly glad he hadn’t said ‘replace her’ Ginny smiled. “Yes, it will.”

“So give him time.”

She would. She had to. What other choice did a mother have?

But it was hard for a mom to watch her thirty-something son gain every material possession in the world and grow quieter and quieter with each passing day.

She took a breath and said a silent prayer that someone would come into his life, someone unexpected, someone he couldn’t ignore.

The words be careful what you wish for popped into her head, but she ignored them.

Cade needed this.

And six months later a woman did show up in Cade’s life. Someone totally unexpected. And someone neither he nor his two half-brothers could ignore. Someone who threatened to take away everything they’d built since their father’s death.

copyright Susan Meier 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prologue Second Chance Baby Maggie and Nick

A lot of times when we write a book, some of the best stuff gets cut. In this case, though the prologue was great and really told a lot of the backstory, it was looooong! And it detracted from the beginning of the novel. So at my editor's suggestion, I cut it.

But Sally and I agreed (Sally is my editor in London) that this prologue was a beautiful example of Nick and Maggie's wonderful love for each other. And we thought you'd enjoy seeing it...So here it is!

Second Chance Baby

Maggie Forsythe Roebuck lay in the tiny bed she shared with her husband, Nick, looking at her round stomach. A lanky eighteen-year-old and only six months pregnant, she wasn’t really big. More like misshapen.

“What do you think my belly will look like after the baby’s born?”

Nick strolled out of the bathroom with a white towel knotted at his waist. Unlike her swollen tummy, Nick’s stomach was flat with washboard abs. A smattering of dark hair dusted his chest. He ran a second white towel across the mass of curly black hair that covered his head. He was, without a doubt, the most handsome man in the world and she couldn’t believe he was hers. Who would have thought a mistake – getting pregnant – could lead to the best gift of her life. Marriage to the man she adored.

“You’ll probably never be able to wear a bikini again.” His dark eyes shone with mischief as he fell to the bed and rolled her toward him for a kiss. “But I’m going to keep you anyway.”

His lips met hers hot and wet. Familiar longings rose inside her. Sweet temptation.

Except now she could indulge anytime she wanted. He was hers. Totally and completely hers. She kissed him back, igniting the fire of passion between them. But just when things would have gotten interesting, a sharp pain squeezed her middle.

She pulled away and sat up. “Ouch.”

He sat up beside her. “What is it?”

Hating the way she behaved like a nervous Nelly because everything about pregnancy was so new to her, she batted a hand in dismissal. “Probably nothing.”

He fell back to the pillow. “Okay. But just to be on the safe side, no messing around tonight.”

Disappointed, but agreeing with his concern, she fell to the pillow beside his. “Okay.”

Nick clicked off the lamp by the bed. The room grew silent except for the muffled roar of the ocean only a hundred yards or so from their open bedroom window. She closed her eyes, but sleep wouldn’t come. They’d gone to bed early for the obvious reason. Now, they lay in silence.

“So what do you think it will be? A boy or a girl?”

Maggie smiled. “I told you. We could have found that out when we had the ultrasound.”

He leaned up on his elbow, his face illuminated by the pale moonlight streaming in from the window behind him. “Yeah, but it’s more fun if we guess.”

“You won’t think it funny if we guess girl and buy all pink clothes and your son has to go around in sundresses with ruffles.”

He scowled, looking sexy and male in a dark, forbidding way that only someone with his coloring could. Nick might not like the Greek tycoon who’d gotten his mother pregnant and abandoned her, but every day Maggie thanked God for the wonderful genes he’d passed on to his son.

“Let’s ask on my next appointment.”

He lay back down. “No. I’m fine. We just won’t shop for clothes until after he’s born.”

“So now you think it’s a boy?”

“I’d like a boy.”

She turned her head on the pillow so she could look into his eyes and saw them shining with hope and anticipation. “Really?”

“Yeah, I’d like to do all the things with him that my dad never did with me.”

Maggie’s breath caught. She’d known all along Nick had married her because he wouldn’t ignore a child the way he’d been ignored by his father, but to hear him talk of his plans for their baby tugged on her heartstrings.

“I finally figured out it was his loss. I mean, I was an okay kid. I was an all star in both football and baseball. He missed his chance to see me from the stands.”

“He did.” Her heart ached with equal parts of pride and sadness. She’d been at every one of those baseball and football games and had watched Nick scan the stands. He’d never even seen a picture of his father, so how he thought he’d recognize him as a face in the crowd, Maggie didn’t know. But he’d still looked. Every game. Still mourned the loss of the father he’d never had.

She nestled into his side. “His loss.”

He squeezed her against him and expelled a relieved sigh. She’d always thought she brought nothing to their relationship. He was the gorgeous one. He was the popular one. He was the guy most likely to succeed. She was the scrawny red head who adored him. But now she knew. Nick didn’t need a pretty face or great legs. He needed a partner who understood what it felt like to be an outcast. To the kids at school he seemed to have it all. She knew he didn’t. She also knew what it was like to be on the outside looking in. Wishing for things you couldn’t have.

Nick’s voice tiptoed into the silence again. “It’s gonna be so sweet when I beat him.”

This was new. “Beat him?”

“Yeah, I’ve decided that the best revenge really is living well. I did great at sports without him. Now I’m going to do great at my career. I think I’m going to get a degree in business and start a company.”

She twisted her head so she could look up into his face. “Really?”

“Yeah, you want to be an accountant, so you do that, and I’ll get a business degree. We’ll start a manufacturing plan. You can be the brains. I’ll be the brawn.”

She laughed. Because they were only daydreaming, she could agree to anything. “Okay.”

“And we’ll show him.”

She pulled in a breath as a fresh pain raced down her belly. This one was stronger than the last. And heavy. Like a hand pressing down on her tummy. She grabbed her stomach and groaned.

He shot up in bed. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t like to be a crybaby, but this really hurts.”

He rolled out of bed. “I’m getting mom.”

By the time he returned with his mother, blood was running down her leg and she was sobbing. Nick got the car. His mom helped her into a robe and slid her feet into flip flops.

The mood in the car was frantic. By the time they returned home the following morning, it had evolved to despondent and desolate. She’d lost the baby. Their baby. Their little girl. It didn’t help that there was a strange car parked in front of Becky Roebuck’s house when they pulled into the driveway.

“This isn’t a good time,” Becky said, pushing past the man who blocked their path to the front porch. Wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, he had to be a lawyer or someone equally important. But Maggie was so wrapped up in her depression that she really didn’t care.

The man ignored her and looked at Nick. “Are you Nick Andreas?”

Nick scowled. “I’m Nick Roebuck. What the hell do you want?”

His mother turned and said, “He uses my name but his father is Stephone Andreas.”

The man nodded. “Right. I get it. Can we go inside and talk?”

Nick’s already black scowl darkened even more. “My wife is sick. Come back another time.”

The man smiled. “Don’t be so hasty. I’m your dad’s attorney. You turn eighteen today. We need to talk.”

“I don’t have anything to say to my dad and I don’t want to hear anything he has to say—“

Nick’s mom stepped in between Nick and the lawyer, looking first at the lawyer. “First, before anybody talks, we need to get Maggie inside.” She shifted her gaze to Nick. “Second, you shouldn’t make an ass of yourself before you hear what this guy has to say.” Her gaze jumped back to the lawyer. “And, third, you have very bad timing. Take a seat on the swing. We’ll call you into the house when we’re ready.”

Maggie was hustled into the bedroom, where she sat in a chair as Nick held her hand while Becky changed the sheets. In what seemed like seconds, she was out of the scrubs they’d given her at the hospital to wear home and in a nightshirt, lying on her familiar plump pillow.

Still woozy, she let her eyes drift shut and Nick and Becky headed out of the room.

They closed the door, but not completely. The breeze alternately knocked it against the frame then sucked it open. For several seconds it sounded like a noisy tug of war. Then the door slammed against the back wall and stayed there. Had she not been utterly despondent, she would have climbed out of bed and closed both the window and the door. Instead, she lay on her side of the single bed, tears streaming down her cheeks.

She’d lost her baby.

“Your dad has been watching you and is proud of you.”

The words of the lawyer drifted into her quiet bedroom. Maggie blinked. Her tears stilled. She’d thought nothing could take her mind off her monumental loss, but a few words from a stranger had her bolting up in bed.

Nick’s dad was proud of him.

“Your grades are good. You’ve chosen a good college.”

Unexpected happiness burst in Maggie’s chest. For as long as she’d known Nick he’d suffered the torment of the damned over having a father who wanted no part of him. Hearing from his dad, especially hearing that his dad hadn’t ignored his life as Nick had always believed, was like getting a gift to offset the tragedy he’d suffered the night before when they’d lost their child.

Maybe Stephone Andreas was opening the door to be in Nick’s life? Maybe he would become the father Nick had always longed for?

Even as tired as she felt, Maggie rolled out of bed and tiptoed to the door. She stayed to the side, hiding herself as much as she could so no one would realize she was eavesdropping. From her vantage point she could see Nick directly and the side of the lawyer’s face.

“The only thing you’ve done wrong so far is getting a girl pregnant. Actually, you sort of negated the reason for this—“

He handed a big yellow envelope across the coffee table.

Nick said, “What is it?”

“It’s a trust fund.”

“A trust fund?”

“Your father is very wealthy. One of the wealthiest men in the world. So he worried about how you’d grow up.”

Nick snorted again. “Yeah. Take a look around. You can see how much he worried about how I’d grow up.”

Maggie pressed her lips together. The furniture in the little beach bungalow his mom owned was threadbare. They barely had enough money for food and utilities. Nick had worked summers at souvenir shops since he was old enough to get a job and his paycheck usually went for groceries.

“Actually, he was more concerned with you having a normal upbringing.” The lawyer looked around. “And I’d say you did.”

Nick waved the envelope. “And this trust fund is supposed to make up for it?”

“No. The trust fund was designed to help you through the second phase of your life.”


“Women.” The lawyer sighed. “Your father has three sons. You are the second son. He was married to your half-brother Darius’s mom. But after about ten years of marriage, his business exploded and suddenly he was a very wealthy man.”

“So he slept with my mom and some other poor unsuspecting woman because he thought his money gave him that right?”

“No. He slept around because he didn’t know how to handle having money. He says fame and fortune made him crazy. He blames his infidelity on the effect of sudden riches.”

Nick made a sound of disbelief.

“So he gave your older brother Darius, and now wanted to give you, five million dollars. The point was to offer you a chance to experience riches before you settled down, to become the person you are destined to be before you start looking for a life partner.”

Maggie flattened herself against the wall. Her heart hammered in her chest. He’d already ruined his father’s purpose for giving him the five million dollars when he married her. Would the lawyer tell him to divorce her? Now that she wasn’t pregnant there was no reason for him to stay with her—

Realizing she couldn’t miss a word of this conversation, she twisted until she could see the living room again.

“I already have my life partner.”

The lawyer smiled wanly. “Yes. You got married two weeks ago and I didn’t find out until I got coffee at the diner this morning.”

Nick’s chin rose. “So this means I don’t get the five mill?”

The lawyer shifted on the sofa. “Since you’ve negated the purpose of the trust I’m forced to go back to your father and see what he wants to do.”

“Then why the hell come here at all!”

The lawyer cleared his throat. “Nicholas, this is a small town. I heard about more than your marriage at the diner this morning. I also heard your wife lost her baby.”
He cleared his throat again. “If this was a marriage for the sake of a baby you lost, and now you’re considering dissolving the marriage—“

Nick bounded off the sofa. “You stop right there! Don’t say another damned word.”

Unfazed, the lawyer rose too. “Suit yourself.” He tossed a business card on the scarred coffee table in front of the sofa. “I’ll be in touch again about your father’s decision within a few weeks. If ‘something’ happens before then, that’s the number where I can be reached.”

He turned to go but Nick stopped him. Waving the business card, he said, “Tell him to let the trust stand as it is. I’m already married so I can’t have it. I don’t want his money. Never did.”

The lawyer snickered. “Right.” He nodded once. “Good day, Mr. Andreas. You’ll be hearing from me.”

Maggie scrambled back to the bed, but her thoughts were reeling. She hadn’t been raised in poverty. Her dad and step-mom weren’t well off by any stretch of the imagination, but she’d never done without. Nick had done without. So had his mom. Now, because of her, they were losing the money Stephone Andreas should have been paying them all along.

After watching his father’s lawyer drive off, Nick ambled into the bedroom, sat on the side of the bed and took Maggie’s hand. He didn’t tell her about the trust fund. He made up a story about his dad simply wanting him to know he had been paying attention to his life. She watched his face with sad green eyes and his heart squeezed. He knew how much she’d already loved their baby. He knew she was despondent. There wasn’t anything he could say or do about that. So he chatted about the weather. About college. About the plans his mom had to move her daycare out of the basement of the local church.

It wasn’t long before Maggie drifted off to sleep. He left the bedroom, closing the door firmly behind him. He found his mom, told her the story of the trust fund and she shook her head at Stephone’s audacity.

Maggie slept the morning away. Nick and his mom ate salads for lunch, then he flopped on the sofa in front of the TV. He didn’t want to stray from the house. He could have gone into work, but he wanted to be there when Maggie awoke so he could comfort her, or entertain her, or cry with her. Whatever she wanted.

An hour later the bedroom door opened and Nick came to attention on the sofa. He turned and said, “Hey, sleepyhead,” but as the words mindlessly tumbled from his mouth, he noticed she was dressed and carrying a suitcase.

“Where are you going?”

“Home.” Her voice squeaked, so she quietly cleared her throat. “Um, you know…well…we only got married for the sake of the baby.”

Nick bounced off the sofa. “Come on. You know that’s not true.”

She shook her head. “Yes. It is. My parents were angry with me for getting pregnant. Especially since we hadn’t even been dating. My step-mom guessed we had a one-night-stand and she flipped out every day. I didn’t want to live through nine months of her yelling, so when you asked me to marry you, it just seemed like the right thing to do.”

He took the few steps over to her and caught her free hand. “Okay. Take a breath. I know losing the baby was tough, but we’re gonna get through this.” He kissed her forehead. “Together. Because we love each other.”

She shook her head fiercely. “That’s just it, Nick. I don’t think we do. We’ve been friends forever but we never considered each other as anything more until that one night.”

He dropped back as if she’d slapped him. “I thought we agreed that that one night changed everything…that we fell in love.” He combed his fingers through his hair. “I sure as hell fell in love with you!”

She didn’t say anything.

His heart thundered in his chest. A rushing sound filled his ears. “This is the part where you’re supposed to say you love me too.”

She still said nothing.

He stepped back, ran his hand along the back of his neck. His hand shook. The breaths he took felt heavy, like wet cement. His heart began to splinter until all that was left were a million shards of broken glass. Memories of the years they’d known each other rippled through his mind like the circles made by a stone in a pond. They’d grown up together, been friends, become lovers like a natural progression. Now, suddenly, she was telling him it hadn’t meant the same thing to her?

“I just want to get on with my life.”

Nick numbly took another two steps back. His lungs had expanded so much they ached. His stomach felt like it had taken a hard punch. The world felt small and still and totally off its axis.

Suitcase in hand, she stepped around him and walked to the front door. She didn’t look back. Not once. She didn’t even say goodbye. Just left him standing in the living room, the roar of the ocean at his back, the hot August sun slanting in between the slats of the blinds to his right.

She was, he was sure, the love of his life, but she didn’t love him. And he’d been so stupid, so smitten, he hadn’t realized it.

copyright 2010 susan meier

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Baby Project Prologue for Darius's book!

Book 1 of the BABY IN THE BOARDROOM series for Harlequin Romance will be released, April 2011. The series tells the story of the three Andreas brothers. Because wealthy shipping magnate, Stephone Andreas was a womanizer, Darius, Nick and Cade, all have different moms. All three hail from different parts of the United States. Darius from New York City. Nick from the beautiful beaches of North Carolina. And Cade from Texas.

All three have different business philosophies, different philosophies about life and women.

Book 1 is the story of rich, sophisticated Darius, and this is what comes before his story begins.

THE BABY PROJECT, Darius’s story


December 29, Darius Andreas stepped out of his limo. He didn’t look up at the blue, blue sky gracing New York City. He didn’t peer at his reflection in the glass wall in front of him. Tall, dark-haired and slim, he knew that in his expensive black suit, he was elegantly good looking. He didn’t need to check to be sure his hair was in place or his trousers perfectly creased. The woman who smiled at him as she walked by told him there was no reason to look. Everything about him said money, power, sex appeal. He wasn’t vain. Simply a realist.

“Good morning, Charles,” he said to the doorman as he walked through the glass double doors of the building housing the corporate offices of Andreas Holdings. He nodded at the security people manning the semicircle desk in the lobby and strode across the black and white marble floor. Head high, he walked the whole way to the back where a bank of private elevators awaited him. He swiped his key card, the doors automatically opened and immediately swished closed once he was inside.

He didn’t have to press a button. This elevator only went to the top floor. The executive offices for Andreas Holdings.

The bell pinged. The door opened. He stepped out into heaven.

This was where he belonged – at the helm of his family’s shipping conglomerate. He’d begun working weekends during his high school years because his father wanted him here. He’d worked every summer through college, and had gotten a job as a low-level accountant when he finally graduated.

But he’d risen through the ranks quickly. Not because his father was Stephone Andreas, the man behind the company. Darius had risen because he was smart, sharp, organized.

The pretty blonde receptionist looked up. “Good morning, Mr. Andreas.”

He smiled, nodded. “Good morning, Heather.” And walked on by. His heels clicked on the butter-yellow hardwood floors as he passed doors for vice president suites. Doors for conference rooms. Doors for media rooms.

He strode directly to the solid mahogany double doors, to the suite for the Chairman of the Board. His father was in New York again, and making a rare appearance in the office.

He didn’t knock, only opened the door. “Dad?”

Stephone Andreas turned from the wall of windows behind his desk. Late December sunlight spilled over him, washing onto the Persian rug, casting his tall, slender, darkly handsome father in a golden glow.

“Darius! Come in. Come in! How was your Christmas?”

He inclined his head slightly. “Fine.” He wouldn’t tell his father the truth. Since his mother’s death the year before, his life had been odd, disjointed. Holidays were the worst. He’d always set aside the day to be with his mom. Now, every holiday without her simply reminded him how alone he was.

His dad walked to the desk. “Good. Good. I’d worried you’d be alone –“ he peeked over – “with your mother gone. But Missy and I had such a busy schedule we couldn’t seem to fit you in.”

Darius forced himself to relax so he wouldn't say something he’d regret. Missy was his father’s twenty-eight-year-old girlfriend, someone he’d met, of all places, at his attorney’s office. She was younger than Darius. Younger, even, than Stephone’s other two sons, Nick and Cade, sons who were the result of two very public affairs his father had had while married to his mother.

He’d spent his childhood hating his dad, his adolescent years angry with his dad, his early adulthood wanting to be better than his dad, and now, in his mid-thirties, he simply wanted to get along with his dad. He knew someday he’d be chairman of the board of this company. And it wouldn’t be because he was smart, though he was. Lots of men were smart. Lots had ambition. But very few had a dad who could literally hand him a company. It had taken Darius nearly thirty of his thirty-six years to respect that, but he finally did.

So for the years he would spend awaiting his turn as leader, he’d appreciate his father. Even if it meant tolerating hearing about his dad’s affairs, knowing that his mother had pined for him until her dying breath.

“Sit, Darius.”

Darius sat on one of the sleek mahogany chairs in front of the desk. But his father laughed. “No, come here.” He motioned for Darius to come around to the tall-back leather chair.

Confused, he rose. Walked around the side of the desk.

His dad patted the big chair behind it. “Sit. Here.”

Cautious, he ambled over to the chair, folded himself into it.

“How does it feel?”

“It’s fine.” Panic filled him. Nothing angered his father more than things that were broken. Broken chairs. Broken equipment. Broken people. He had no tolerance for weakness.

“Why? Are you having trouble with it? Did you call maintenance?”

“It’s not broken. It’s fine.”

Darius spun the chair around to face his father. “Then what?”

“Are you that slow?”

“What am I supposed to figure out by sitting in your—“ He paused. His mouth fell open. “You’re—“

“I’m turning over the reins.”

Joy bubbled through him. The sweet feel of success. He could hardly take it in.

Still, he wouldn’t take anything Stephone said for granted. He wanted clarification.

“You’re making me CEO?”


“What about Franklin?” Their current CEO was only fifty-something. Too young to retire.

“He won’t be coming back. Seems he had a heart attack over the holidays.” Darius’s face fell in horror, but his dad batted a hand in dismissal. “He’s fine. It was mild. But he got this bug up his behind about not wasting the time he had left.” He paused, smiled at Darius. “And I caught it.”

This was so unexpected that Darius’s heart clenched. He’d be taking over everything? “You’re resigning as Chairman?”

“No. I’ll still be Chairman, but I want to pass that on to you too. Just not now. You’ll have enough on your hands over the next few months just getting to know the ins and outs of the company. There are lots of subsidiaries and divisions that you don’t know much about.”

True. But Darius didn’t care. He was a quick study. More than that, though, he wasn’t afraid to hire good people to work under him. A trait his father hadn’t shared.

“But for right now, I want to spend some time with Missy. Time in on the beach. Time as a family.”

That was odd. His father had never wanted to be a family with his wife or any of his other mistresses, but if he suddenly wanted to play house with his current mistress, Darius wouldn’t criticize. He would simply see it as his good fortune.

He took a breath, glanced up at his father. “I don’t know what to say.”

Stephone laughed and grabbed the top coat that sat on a small table to the right. “I’d tell you to say thanks, but you’re going to find some surprises for which you may not thank me.”

“Like what?”

“If I tell you, they won’t be surprises, will they?”

Darius swallowed back his retort. He didn’t like the idea that bad things awaited him, meaning there was trouble in the company, but he knew his dad had been neglecting the company since he'd met Missy. Making Darius CEO was probably the smartest thing Stephone could do. Wisely, he kept his mouth shut. But as his dad reached the double mahogany doors, he rose.


His father turned. For the first time in years, Darius noticed how old his father looked, how tired. He sucked in a quiet breath. Whether he disagreed with his father’s lifestyle or not, this was a huge promotion. A wonderful opportunity. A vote of confidence. “Thanks.”

He laughed. “I told you, you might not want to thank me.”

Darius shook his head. “I don’t care what shape the company is in. I can fix it.”

Stephone waved his umbrella at him. “I’m counting on that.”

Darius smiled. His dad smiled back. Then a shadow fell over his father’s face. He drew in a breath and caught Darius’s gaze as if wanting to tell him something else. But he shook his head and grabbed the door knob.

“Goodbye, Mr. CEO. Take good care of my legacy.”

Darius’s father died that night in an automobile accident with his live-in girlfriend. And suddenly Darius wasn’t just taking care of a business that he quickly discovered was on the verge of bankruptcy, he had two angry half-brothers to contend with and some unexpected news at the reading of the will.

Read about it in THE BABY PROJECT, available from Harlequin Romance in April 2011.

Copyright 2010 susan meier.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Mom for Missy

What Came Before at Teaberry Farms, the winter wonderland setting for Susan Meier’s A BABY BENEATH THE CHRISTMAS TREE, part of A FAIRYTALE CHRISTMAS anthology with Barbara Wallace

A Mom for Missy

The 1970’s were a confusing time for women. Pert and sassy blonde-haired, blue-eyed Sunny Peabody was no exception. She wasn’t against women’s lib. Quite the contrary. She believed the time had come for women to have a place in boardrooms across the country. But, personally, she loved to cook and wanted to spend most of her time in the kitchen. When she’d married the love of her life, a sophisticated, worldly man six years her senior, Max Peabody, she’d gotten a job working with him at Teaberry Farms.
He worked outside. A former entrepreneur, he’d sold his startup business to a Fortune 500 company and retired quite comfortably at thirty. Having spent eight years in offices, he relished the opportunity to be outdoors as the caretaker for the lush evergreens that grew along the steep West Virginia mountainside.
She worked inside, cooking and cleaning for the elderly Teaberries, two wonderfully wise people, who loved selling the Christmas trees everybody believed were magic. To Sophie and Reggie Teaberry, having Sunny and Max to keep the place open for business was like getting a second wind. A second chance to provide miracles for the people of their small, rural town.
Sunny didn’t necessarily believe the trees themselves were magic, but she did believe in the magic of Christmas. She’d seen wealthy families step up and secretly provide surprises for those less fortunate. She’d seen younger people help older folks hang Christmas decorations or carry shopping bags. She’d seen money show up in mailboxes and gifts appear under trees. All from benefactors inspired by the legend of the Teaberry Trees.
So though it wasn’t conventional magic, good will and harmony sent a twinkle of something wonderful through the air. From the day after Thanksgiving when the Teaberrys opened their farm, “people magic” flowed through the trees, along the mountain, and to the wonderful small town below, Towering Pines.
That snowy Monday after Thanksgiving, Sunny glanced out the kitchen window of Teaberry Mansion just in time to see the shiny red Burkett’s Greenhouse truck driving up the lane. Six-year-old Missy Burkett jumped out of the passenger’s side as her father, Greg, a tall, lean man with thick auburn hair and dark brown eyes, slid out of the driver’s side.
Sunny quickly gathered a plate of chocolate chip cookies, slipped on her black wool coat and raced outside. “Missy! Hello!” she called, walking to the shed where freshly cut trees leaned against the weathered boards, awaiting customers.
“Hey, Mrs. Peabody,” Missy replied with a wave. A bright blue knit cap hid all but the bangs of her long yellow hair. Brisk early December air put color in her cheeks.
“I brought some cookies for you.”
“And for her dad, too?” Greg asked, laughing as he reached for one of the warm chocolate delights. Wearing a lined denim jacket over a red plaid work shirt, he took a bite of his cookie and groaned in ecstasy. “These are great.”
Missy glanced up and tried to smile. “Yeah, Mrs. P. They’re great. Thanks.”
Sunny’s heart turned over in her chest. Since the death of Missy’s mom two years before, the little girl lips barely twitched upward. Sunny wished her father would come by the farm more often so she could bake Missy cookies, ruffle her hair, share girlie secrets the way a six-year-old should. But they only came around once a year to gather trees to sell at Greg’s nursery.
“Are you two here for trees?”
“Yes, please,” Missy said.
“They sell like hotcakes!” Greg said. “The legend of Teaberry Trees brings customers in droves.”
“Well, it’s easier for townspeople to buy from you than to drive up the mountain to our farm,” Sunny agreed.
Missy tugged on Sunny’s sleeve. “Is it true what they say about the trees?”
“That they’re magic?” Sunny laughed. “Don’t you believe?”
She glanced down at the sparkling snow beneath her shiny blue boots then back up at Sunny. “I want to believe.”
Sunny’s heart wept for her. Of course she wanted to believe. Undoubtedly, at some point Missy had wished to have her mom come back, not understanding that some things just couldn’t be fixed. And when that wish went unfulfilled, she’d begun losing faith. A sad thing to happen to a six-year-old.
Mary Alice Carter limped from behind the shed, carrying a huge evergreen wreath. Her long sable hair had been tucked beneath a bright red cap that matched her simple red jacket. Her bright green eyes sparkled.
Sunny’s former best friend from college had been in an automobile accident a few years before. Severe injuries to her lower body had not only left her with a limp, but also with an even sadder consequence. Mary Alice couldn’t have children. When her fiancée was told, he’d broken their engagement. Now, Mary Alice poured out all her passion into floral arrangements in the summer and working for Teaberry Farms making wreaths in the winter.
Seeing the beautiful evergreen arrangement, Sunny clapped her hands together! “Oh my, who is that for?”
Mary Alice grinned. “Mrs. Thomas. She wants it for her front door. She thinks guests are more likely to touch this than her indoor tree. She wants everyone to get a wish this year.”
Sunny laughed at Mrs. Thomas’s creative interpretation of the legend, but Greg quickly hustled over and caught the huge wreath from Mary Alice’s hands.
A quick spark of something passed between them, as Greg said, “Let me.”
Mary Alice shyly glanced away as she handed the huge wreath to Greg.
Sunny looked down at Missy who studied her dad, then Mary Alice.
Her brow furrowed. She wondered if the six-year-old could tell that her dad obviously felt something for Mary Alice and that Mary Alice seemed to feel something for Greg – enough that the two of them would get together. Probably soon.
Tapping her finger on her cheek, Sunny wondered if this might not be a perfect opportunity to help one adorable child get her joy back. She didn’t really believe the trees had any power per se, but she recognized attraction when she saw it and she hated to see someone so young who didn’t believe in the power of wishes. What could it hurt?
She nudged the little girl over to the side of the shed, close to the plump pines awaiting buyers, and whispered, “Touch a branch.”
Missy frowned. “What?”
Sunny nodded at Mary Alice and Greg. “Touch the branch and wish.”
Missy’s eyes widened. She quickly grabbed a branch.
Just then Max strolled up a long thin path between two rows of trees. “What have we here?” Tall and broad-shouldered, with dark hair and bright blue eyes, and wearing jeans and a big black parka, he didn’t look like the stuck-in-the-office entrepreneur he’d been just a few months before. He swung Missy up into his arms and then over his shoulder, tickling her tummy. “You’re not here to steal magic trees, are you?”
Missy giggled. “No! We’re buying them.”
“Then your daddy and I had better get them loaded before the snow comes this afternoon. Sunny, why don’t you take this young lady into the house and get her some cocoa?”
“Or she could come back with me and I’ll show her how to make a wreath.”
Mary Alice looked surprised to have made the offer. Self-conscious since her accident, she stayed in the background more than she associated with people. But Missy’s eyes lit with joy and she didn’t give Mary Alice a chance to change her mind. She glanced back at Sunny, who smiled and winked, insinuating the magic was already taking hold.
Missy scampered over to Mary Alice who took her hand and led her into the shed where she cut branches and knit them together over wire to create luxurious evergreen wreaths for the front doors and fireplace mantles of people in three counties.
Sunny returned to the kitchen and went back to the fruit horns she wanted to bake for the annual Teaberry Christmas party – a lavish event held every year on December 20 as a way to thank everyone for supporting Teaberry Farms. While the dough raised, she made hot cocoa and took it to the shed for Mary Alice and Missy, but she was really hoping to entice Greg inside for a cup of tummy-warming cocoa before he headed back to his business with his trees.
When she stepped into the shed, she found Missy half-standing on a chair leaning against Mary Alice’s worktable as Mary Alice explained the technique for cutting evergreen branches to get the perfect stems for a wreath or floral arrangement. Missy’s bright eyes followed Mary Alice’s every move, but it was the expression on Mary Alice’s face that caught Sunny’s attention. Mary Alice had longed to be a mom. Fate seemed to have stolen that chance from her, but not if Sunny had anything to say about it.
“I have cocoa,” she called, letting them know she was approaching.
Mary Alice brushed her hands over her long apron. “Thanks. It was time for a break.”
Sunny poured cocoa for both Mary Alice and Missy. They had taken only a few sips before Max and Greg returned.
“Have some cocoa,” Sunny said, quickly pouring a cup for Greg, knowing he’d be too polite to refuse it and hoping that would give him some private time with Mary Alice.
“Thanks.” He glanced around then smiled at Missy. “Are you learning to make wreaths?”
Missy said, “Yes,” at the same time that Mary Alice said, “I’m happy to teach her.”
But once again, Mary Alice frowned. Sunny had to put her fingers to her lips to keep everyone from seeing her smile. If she didn’t know better she’d think the Teaberry trees were Johnny on the spot today, getting Mary Alice to say things without realizing it. But the truth was she’d seen that spark pass between Mary Alice and Greg. This relationship might require a nudge, but it didn’t require a miracle.
She turned to Missy. “Why don’t you come inside with me and Mr. Peabody and we’ll fix up a plate of cookies for you to take home?”
Missy jumped off the chair, the prospect of homemade cookies for breakfast in the morning clearly too much to resist.
After they’d packed the cookies and Missy scooted out the door, Sunny stared after her with a thoughtful smile.
“What’s in that head of yours?” Max asked, leaning against the kitchen counter with a cup of cocoa.
“Oh, nothing.” With a private smile she turned back to assembling her fruit horns.
Max frowned and Sunny could all but see wheels turning in his brain as he backtracked over everything that had happened that morning, then he gasped. “I hope you’re not matchmaking.”
Sunny pivoted to face him. “What if I am? I think Greg and Mary Alice are perfect for each other.”
Max shook his head. “Greg doesn’t. He feels sorry for her. Last thing Mary Alice needs is a man who feels sorry for her.”
Sunny pressed her hand to her chest. Max was right. Mary Alice might have some handicaps, but she was a proud, strong woman. If Greg pitied her, it would hurt her. Putting them together would be wrong.
Except what did she do about Missy? She hadn’t only been matchmaking; she’d set this up so Missy would believe in wishes again! Oh, she’d botched this one royally.

Poor Sunny! Go to A Mom for Missy -- Part 2 to see if she's able to fix her mistake!

copyright 2010 susan meier

To finish the story go to

A Mom for Missy -- Part 2

Sunny tried to get into town the next day, but because Missy went to school, she was either too late to catch her before the bus came or too early to see her after school. With her own schedule of needing to prepare meals for the Teaberrys, she kept missing Missy.
Saturday morning, she rose early, served the senior Teaberrys their breakfast and jumped into her little blue car, heading for town. She made the excuse of needing flour and sugar for cookies, but she had a more important errand. With her baking supplies in the backseat of her car, she drove to Burkett’s Greenhouse.
Wearing her thick blue coat and knit cap, Missy stood beside the Teaberry Farms Christmas tree display. Fat fluffy snowflakes danced around her in a strong December wind. “Hey, Sunny!”
Sunny couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to stand outside in a snowstorm. Then she noticed Missy’s glove-covered fingers were wrapped around a branch. She was still wishing, holding onto her belief in a miracle for her dad with as much might as she held onto the branch. Sunny’s heart sank.
Worse, Mary Alice’s car pulled into the greenhouse parking lot. She bounced out with a big smile and a gorgeous wreath. Christmas balls nestled in a thick nest of rich pine. A thin layer of glitter gave the arrangement a festive glow.
“Hey, Sunny. Hey, Missy. Where’s your dad?”
Missy pointed at the glass building. “He’s inside.”
“Did you make that for him?” Sunny asked carefully, hoping she hadn’t inadvertently started something that couldn’t be stopped without Mary Alice getting hurt.
Mary Alice shook her head. “No. I have a business proposition. I’m going to offer him the chance to sell original wreaths by Mary Alice – right beside his Teaberry trees.”
Sunny relaxed. After Mary Alice had slipped inside the greenhouse, she stooped down in front of Missy. Uneasy, she cleared her throat. “Sweetie, the other day when you wished at my house, I might have given you the wrong idea.”
Missy’s head tilted. Her pretty blue eyes grew curious. “What?”
“Well, I think you can wish for your daddy to find a ‘friend’ but I don’t think you should be too specific.”
Missy’s gaze ambled in the direction of her father and Mary Alice, who were laughing.
“Why not?”
Sunny rose, studying the pair. They clearly liked each other. And maybe Max had misinterpreted something Greg had said? She placed her hand on Missy’s shoulder and guided her inside the nursery. She wouldn’t make any mistakes this time. She wouldn’t say or do anything until she had some substantial facts.
“So Saturday night, then?” Greg asked, his dark eyes shining.
“Sure. Why not?”
Overcome with joy, Sunny stopped walking. Surely Max had misinterpreted.
Saturday night, Mary Alice strode up the sidewalk to Greg’s cute Victorian house, armed with a gift for Missy. She didn’t want the little girl to feel left out, but she was thrilled for this chance to go out with Greg. She hadn’t really had a secret crush on him. In fact, she’d barely noticed him at all. Until that Monday morning they’d seen each other at Teaberry Farms. Then suddenly she noticed his shiny auburn hair, his dark eyes. And zing. She felt something that all at once exploded in her heart and made her knees turn to jelly.
His front porch had ornate wood embellishments that made it resemble the porch of a gingerbread house. Glancing around in appreciation, she rang the bell. Within seconds Greg opened the door.
Dressed in a soft green sweater, he looked like a sexy university professor. Her heart quivered and her blood sang through her veins. She thanked her lucky stars that he’d noticed her the same morning she noticed him and stepped inside. The foyer was quaintly decorated with an antique hall table and a chandelier with lights that looked like candles. It was the perfect house. The kind of house she’d always wanted to live in.
“I hope I’m not late.”
“Nope. I was just getting my coat.”
Missy came running down the thin cherry wood stairway. Greg slipped into his leather jacket. “I’m sure you and Missy will have a great time tonight while I’m at the movies.”
Her gaze swung to Greg, who talked on, blissfully unaware that her eyes had widened with surprise.
“We saved some of Sunny Peabody’s cookies for the two of you to eat tonight. Ingredients are on the stove for hot cocoa. I told my date we can’t go out after the show. So I should be back in about two hours.”
Shock thickened her tongue. He’d asked her to his house to babysit? She’d totally misinterpreted his comment about the movies? Oh, God! She wished the floor would open up and swallow her. Since that probably wasn’t going to happen, she pasted on a fake smile and walked over to Missy who hovered on the stairway. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
With that he left and Mary Alice struggled to stop the tears that welled behind her eyelids. It had been years since she’d even felt something for a man. First, there were surgeries and therapy. Then she’d spent another year longing for a fiancée who’d deserted her in her hour of need. Then, she had to confess, there was a year of bitterness. But she was back now. Ready for whatever relationship she could have.
Except Greg didn’t want her. The first man in years to make her feel that maybe, just maybe, she could love somebody again and he wasn’t interested.
Missy tugged on her hand. “Come on! Let’s go to the kitchen. We can make our own cookies instead of eating Sunny’s.”
She glanced down, ready to tell Missy that she shouldn’t mess up her dad’s clean kitchen, but when she saw the shine in Missy’s pretty blue eyes, she thought, “Why not?” Fate had fixed it so she’d never be a mom, why not take advantage of the next two hours and enjoy this beautiful little girl?

Monday morning when Mary Alice arrived at Teaberry Farms, Sunny didn’t waste a second. She put her head out the kitchen door and called, “I have fresh coffee and cookies! Come inside.”
Mary Alice held up a plate of her own cookies. “Actually, this morning I have cookies for you. Courtesy of Missy.”
Sunny frowned as Mary Alice walked into the kitchen and shed her black pea coat. “You baked cookies?”
“Yeah. Greg went out on Saturday night and Missy and I baked.”
Sunny’s eyes narrowed. “You baked?”
“Why are you so surprised? I can bake.”
“I just thought—“ she paused, swallowed.
“Ah, you thought Greg and I were going out.” Mary Alice said it through a smile, but a shadow darkened her eyes.
Sunny caught her hand. “You thought that too?”
She nodded, then shrugged. “But it doesn’t matter. I got to spend two hours with a very sweet little girl. I might not get that chance again.”
But she did. Greg called her that afternoon and asked if she could sit with Missy again that night. He and Diedre MacIntyre were getting serious and he wanted to spend a little more time with her than usual.
Mary Alice’s heart sank.
Still, she quickly showered after work, pulled on jeans and a soft, comforting sweater and headed for Greg’s house.
She babysat every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for the next two weeks, until Greg suggested that he was taking advantage of her. Mary Alice’s heart knocked against her ribs. She knew that when Greg and Deirdre got married, she’d lose the chance to spend time with Missy. She had only their courtship to pretend to be this little girl’s mom. She didn’t want to lose it.
“Are you kidding?” she said to Greg. “I love spending time with Missy. I’m happy to baby sit.”
“At least let me pay you.”
She shook her head furiously as pain ricocheted through her. He wanted to pay her for something she’d do for nothing. He really didn’t know her. She’d been foolish to think, even if it was only for one morning, that he might like her.
“Use the money to do something special for a poor family,” she said, refusing his money. “Be somebody’s Teaberry tree wish.”
He laughed and put his money back in his wallet, walked over and cupped her cheek in his hand. “You really are special, Mary Alice.”
She wanted to lean into the warmth of his palm. But after years of being disabled, then handicapped, she knew most men didn’t see her as desirable. It didn’t matter how wonderful she was with kids, or even how sweet she was, she was damaged goods. She’d never be the object of any man’s affections, let alone his desire.

Move on to Part 3 for more of A Mom for Missy

copyright 2010 susan meier

A Mom for Missy -- Part 3

By December 20, Greg felt as if his world was finally righting itself after his wife’s death. Not only had gorgeous Deirdre begun to really like him, but Missy had found a real friend in Mary
Pulling into a parking space at Teaberry Farms, with Deirdre in the passenger’s seat of his car and Missy in the back, he didn’t think his life could be any better.
As soon as he cut the engine, Missy jumped out. “Wait for us!” he called, but she scrambled ahead, too eager to get inside and see what Sunny and Max had in store for them to lag behind.
He stepped out, taking Deirdre’s hand and headed for the front door. Ten feet away, Mary Alice approached from the other side.
“Good evening.”
She smiled sheepishly. Her gaze strolled over to Deirdre, then back to him. “Good evening.”
He escorted both ladies to the front door which Max opened even before they knocked. Dressed in a Santa suit, he swung Missy up in his arms. “Ho. Ho. Ho! Have you been a good little girl?”
Missy giggled. “Of course!”
“Then scamper on into the living room, Mr. Teaberry’s giving out presents!”
She gasped and darted off.
Max helped Mary Alice shrug out of her simple wool coat, as Greg slid Deirdre’s long leather coat from her shoulders.
“You look really pretty, Mary Alice,” Deirdre said.
She smiled. “Thanks.”
But Greg looked down at her. She did look pretty. Exceptionally pretty. Her strapless red velvet dress brought out the richness of her sable-colored hair. The white skin of her shoulders looked soft and smooth.
He shook his head as if clearing a haze. He couldn’t look at Mary Alice that way. Not when she was so fragile and he had a date.
He escorted Deirdre to the living room, but paused in the doorway. The place looked like sugar plum fairies had spent a week decorating. A string of gingerbread men decorated the fireplace mantle. Tinsel draped from the corners of the walls and met in the center of the ceiling, at the crystal chandelier. Red and green foil-wrapped boxes lay under a magnificent tree decorated in silver and gold balls over blinking red lights. Candy dishes were everywhere. Platters of cookies sat on the coffee table in front of the sofa of the pack-to-capacity room. Every resident of Towering Pines had attended.
He squeezed himself and Deirdre into the crowd. They found chairs in the back and Sunny served them a glass of punch. “Help yourself to cookies.” She winked. “But don’t eat too many. We have a buffet that will make you groan and thank your maker.”
Greg laughed. But when she was gone, he scanned the room. He told himself he was looking for Missy, but he was really looking for Mary Alice. Finding Missy at her side was just a benefit. When had she gotten so pretty?
Missy apparently said something funny because Mary Alice laughed gaily, then she hugged Missy. Really hugged her. Not like a friend, but like someone who really loved her. He swallowed. He’d known Missy longed for female companionship and he’d also recognized Mary Alice had been providing it. He just didn’t realize it would put a lump in his throat to actually see them together.
“You know, Greg, I really want to get married.”
Jarred out of his reverie, Greg bounced his attention back to Deirdre. “What?”
“Married. I was thinking we should get engaged for Christmas.”
Greg swallowed. Ever since the Monday after Thanksgiving he’d felt a weird urgency to get married, too. It had been on his mind so much he’d actually bought a ring. “I can’t believe you’re saying that!”
Dierdre pouted prettily. “It’s not too soon.”
“No! No! I agree completely.” But as he said the words, his gaze drifted back to Mary Alice. He could hear her laugh now. Warm and sweet it filled him with something he’d never felt before.
Deirdre kissed his cheek. “We could make the announcement tonight.”

Mary Alice took Missy by the hand and led her to what she called the “thrones” of Mr. and Mrs. Teaberry. They weren’t really royal seating. They were two tall-backed dining room chairs that found their way into the living room every year for this party. They sat on a little bit of a platform by the Christmas tree and definitely made finding the Teaberrys easier.
“It’s a lovely party,” she said to the pair as she walked over and shook their hands.
“Yes,” Missy said, mimicking Mary Alice by also shaking the hands of both Teaberrys.
Sophie and Reggie laughed, but tears stung Mary Alice’s eyes. She’d actually had an impact on this little girl. She couldn’t believe it.
“I have a gift for you,” Mr. Teaberry said to Missy as he reached behind himself to grab a red foil package from under the tree.
Missy gasped with happiness. But Mary Alice found herself looking back, glancing around for Greg who appeared to be deep in conversation with gorgeous Deirdre. She stifled a sigh. In the end, she knew she’d always lose out to beautiful women like Deirdre, so it was time to quit feeling sorry for herself and simply accept her fate.
“Look at this!” Missy excitedly tugged on Mary Alice’s hand. “It’s a kid-sized oven! With boxed mixes to make cakes and cookies.”
Mrs. Teaberry leaned down. Her gray hair had been caught up in a tight knot at the top of her head. Her blue eyes sparkled. “We hear you love to bake.”
Missy nodded eagerly. “I want to be just like Sunny one day.” She paused and caught Mary Alice’s hand. “And Momma Mary.”
Momma Mary? The tears that had stung Mary Alice’s eyes spilled over. What a lovely name.
She again glanced back at Greg who sat whispering to Deirdre. But it was a name she didn’t deserve.
Swallowing, she turned to the Teaberrys. “Thank you for inviting me to your lovely party. But I have a long day tomorrow. I need to go home.”
“But you’re dressed so pretty!” Missy’s eyes darted from Mary Alice to her dad and over to Sunny. “You can’t go home. This is your special night.”
Sunny scrambled over. “Special night?”
“My dad went to the store today. He came back with a ring. I saw it.”
Mary Alice’s heart squeezed. Oh, good God. That’s why he and Deirdre had their heads together! He was asking her to marry him and they’d probably announce it tonight.
She dropped Missy’s hand. “I’ve gotta go.”
With that she raced to the foyer closet, grabbed her coat and ran out.
She’d thought someone, if only sensitive Sunny, would follow her. No one did.
So what did she expect? That she was Cinderella? That the prince would chase after her?
Ha. She was a twenty-four-year-old floral arranger. Nothing special. Nothing fancy. Even without her injuries, she wasn’t anything a man like Greg would want.
She drove down the mountain with tears streaming down her cheeks. Though she’d tried not to, over the weeks of seeing Greg, babysitting his daughter, she’d fallen in love. And now she’d have to deal with it.

For the conclusion go to A Mom for Missy Part 4

copyright 2010 susan meier