Her Little Secret, His Hidden Heir

By: Heidi Betts

Vanessa Keller—soon to be simply Vanessa Mason again—sat at the foot of her hotel-room bed, staring at the small plastic wand in her hand. She blinked, feeling her heart pound, her stomach roll and her vision go fuzzy around the edges.

As bad luck went, this ranked right up there with having your plane go down on the way to your honeymoon destination or getting hit by a bus right after you’d won the million-dollar lotto.

And the irony of the situation…

A harsh laugh escaped her lungs, taking with it a puff of the stale air she’d been holding onto for the past several minutes.

She was newly divorced from a husband she’d thought was the man of her dreams, staying in a downtown Pittsburgh hotel because she didn’t know quite what to do with her life now that the rug had been yanked out from under her. And if that wasn’t enough to make her wonder where things had gone so wrong, now she was pregnant.

Pregnant. With her ex-husband’s child, when she hadn’t managed to conceive in the three years they’d been married, even though they’d tried…or at least hadn’t worked to prevent it.

What in heaven’s name was she going to do?

Pushing to her feet on less-than-steady legs, she crossed to the wide desk against the far wall and dropped into its cushioned chair. Her hands shook as she laid the small plastic stick on the flat surface and dragged the phone closer.

Taking deep, shuddering breaths, she told herself she could do this. Told herself it was the right thing to do, and however he reacted, she would handle it.

This was not a bid to get back together. Vanessa wasn’t sure she would want to, even with a baby now in the picture. But he deserved to know he was going to be a father, regardless of the current state of their relationship.

With cold fingers, she dialed the familiar number, knowing his assistant would answer. She’d never cared for Trevor Storch; he was a weaselly little brownnoser, treating her more as an annoyance than as the wife of the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company and his boss.

After only one ring, Trevor’s squeaky, singsong voice came on the line. “Keller Corporation, Marcus Keller’s office. How may I help you?”

“It’s Vanessa,” she said without preamble—he knew full well who she was. He was probably privy to more of the details about her marriage and subsequent divorce than he deserved to be, too. “I need to talk to Marc.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Mason, Mr. Keller isn’t available.”

His use of her maiden name—not to mention calling her Miss—struck Vanessa’s heart like the tip of a knife. No doubt he’d done it deliberately.

“It’s important,” she said, not bothering to correct or argue with him. She’d done enough of that in the past, as well as overlooking his snide attitude just to keep the peace; she didn’t have to do it anymore, either.

“I’m sorry,” he told her again, “but Mr. Keller has instructed me to tell you that there’s nothing you could possibly have to say to him that he wants to hear. Good day.”

And with that, the line went dead, leaving Vanessa openmouthed with shock. If hearing herself called “Miss Mason” rather than “Mrs. Keller” felt like a knife tip being inserted into her heart, then being told her ex-husband wouldn’t even deign to speak with her any longer thrust the blade the rest of the way in to the hilt and twisted it sharply.

She’d known Marc was angry with her, knew they’d parted on less than friendly terms. But never in a million years would she have expected him to cut her off so callously.

He’d loved her once, hadn’t he? She’d certainly loved him. And yet they’d come to this—virtual strangers who couldn’t even speak a civil word to one another.

But that answered the question of what she was going to do. She was going to be a single mother, and without Marcus’s money and support—which she wouldn’t have taken, with or without the prenup—she’d better find a way to take care of herself and the baby—and she’d better do it fast.


One year later…

Marcus Keller flexed his fingers on the warm leather of the steering wheel, his sleek black Mercedes hugging the road as he took the narrow curves leading into Summerville faster than was probably wise.

The small Pennsylvania town was only three hours from his own home in Pittsburgh, but it might as well have been a world away. Where Pittsburgh was ninety percent concrete and city lights, Summerville was thick forests, green grass, quaint houses and a small downtown area that reminded Marcus of a modern version of Mayberry.

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