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.