Her Little Secret, His Hidden Heir(10)

By: Heidi Betts

One glance from those moss-green eyes and her body went soft and pliant. Her blood turned the consistency of warm honey, her brain functioning about as well as too-flat meringue.

Spending a short amount of time with him while she’d shown him around the bakery had been…not horrible. If it hadn’t been for the secret she was hiding just one floor above, she may even have gotten him that cup of coffee and invited him to stay a while longer.

Which was a really bad idea, so it was better that he’d taken off when he had.

She had Danny pressed to her chest, content now that his belly was being filled, when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Considering that everyone who knew about the second floor apartment—namely she and Aunt Helen—was already up there, she suspected she was about to get a very rude surprise.

There was no time to jump up and hide the baby, no time to yell for Aunt Helen to run interference. One minute she was glancing around for a blanket to cover her exposed chest, and the next she was frozen in place, staring with alarm at her stunned but furious ex-husband.


Marc honestly didn’t know whether to be stunned or furious. Perhaps a mix of both. He wondered if the whooshing sound in his ears and the tiny pinpricks of white marring his vision would ever go away.

It wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on.

First, Vanessa had lied to him. The space above the bakery wasn’t used primarily for storage and as a place for her octogenarian aunt to nap when she started to feel run-down. It was actually a fully furnished and operable apartment, complete with a table and chairs, a sofa, a television…a crib in one corner and a yellow duckie blanket covered with baby toys in the middle of the floor.

Second, Vanessa had a child. She wasn’t sitting for a friend; hadn’t adopted an infant after their separation just for the thrill of it or to exert her independence. Even if she hadn’t been breast-feeding the baby in her arms when he’d walked in the room, the protective flare in her eyes and the alarm written all over her face told him everything he needed to know about her connection to the child.

Third and finally, that baby was his. He knew it as well as he knew his own name. Felt it, deep down in his bones. Vanessa would never have been so determined to keep him from discovering she was a mother if that weren’t the case—if she didn’t believe she had something momentous to hide.

Not only that, but he hadn’t become the CEO of his family’s very successful textile company by being stupid. He could do the math. The only way Vanessa could have such a young infant was if she’d either been pregnant before their divorce had become final or if she’d been cheating on him with another man. And despite the differences that had pushed them apart, infidelity had never been one of them—not by him and not by her.

“Want to tell me what’s going on here?” he asked, slipping his hands into the front pockets of his slacks.

It was safer that way. Burying his hands—now curled into tight, angry fists—in his pockets kept him from reaching out to strangle someone. Namely her.

And though his words might have been delivered in the form of a calm, unruffled question, the sharp chill of his tone let her know it was a demand. He wasn’t going anywhere until he had answers. All of them.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a blur of blue-topped motion as Aunt Helen bustled forward and tossed a blanket over Vanessa’s half exposed chest and the baby’s head. Marc didn’t know which was more disappointing—losing sight of his ex-wife’s creamy flesh…or of the child he hadn’t known existed until thirty seconds ago.

“I’ll be downstairs,” Helen murmured to her niece before turning a critical glare on him as she passed. “Yell if you need me.”

What Aunt Helen had to be annoyed about, Marc couldn’t fathom. He was the victim here. The one who had never been told he was a father, who’d had his child kept from him for so long. He didn’t know how old the baby was, exactly, but given the amount of time they’d been divorced and the nine months of her pregnancy, his guess would be about four to six months.

Vanessa and her wily Aunt Helen were the bad guys in this situation. Lying to him. Hiding pertinent facts from him for the past year.

After glancing over his shoulder to be sure they were finally alone, he took another menacing step forward.

“Well?” he prompted.

At first she didn’t respond, buying some time by rearranging the lightweight afghan so that it covered her exposed flesh, but not the baby’s face. Then with a sigh, she raised her head and met his gaze.

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