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A paper marriage to the billionaire boss!A marriage of convenience is decidedly inconvenient for Brianne Hanson when the groom is her sexy boss! Resisting Gabe and his baby was already tough, but now they’re sharing a bed!
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When a marriage of convenience is the only answer…things get inconvenient

Gabe McNeill is done being manipulated. By everyone from his ex-wife who abandoned him and their baby to the grandfather forcing him to remarry. Now the only way Gabe can ensure his son’s inheritance is if Brianne Hanson agrees to be his bride. They’ve always kept things strictly business and this is no different…until she falls into his bed and all bets are off!

Four-time RITA® Award nominee JOANNE ROCK has penned over seventy stories for Mills & Boon. An optimist by nature and a perpetual seeker of silver linings, Joanne finds romance fits her life outlook perfectly—love is worth fighting for. A former Golden Heart® Award recipient, she has won numerous awards for her stories. Learn more about Joanne’s imaginative Muse by visiting her website,, or following @joannerock6 on Twitter.

Also available by Joanne Rock

His Secretary’s Surprise Fiancé

Secret Baby Scandal

The Magnate’s Mail-Order Bride

The Magnate’s Marriage Merger

His Accidental Heir

Little Secrets: His Pregnant Secretary

Claiming His Secret Heir

Visit for more information

For the Sake of His Heir

Joanne Rock

ISBN: 978-1-474-07616-6


© 2018 Joanne Rock

Published in Great Britain 2018

by Mills & Boon, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9GF

All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, locations and incidents are purely fictional and bear no relationship to any real life individuals, living or dead, or to any actual places, business establishments, locations, events or incidents. Any resemblance is entirely coincidental.

By payment of the required fees, you are granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right and licence to download and install this e-book on your personal computer, tablet computer, smart phone or other electronic reading device only (each a “Licensed Device”) and to access, display and read the text of this e-book on-screen on your Licensed Device. Except to the extent any of these acts shall be permitted pursuant to any mandatory provision of applicable law but no further, no part of this e-book or its text or images may be reproduced, transmitted, distributed, translated, converted or adapted for use on another file format, communicated to the public, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher.

® and ™ are trademarks owned and used by the trademark owner and/or its licensee. Trademarks marked with ® are registered with the United Kingdom Patent Office and/or the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and in other countries.

For my Writerspace family, Cissy Hartley,

Celeste Faurie, Susan Simpson and

Degan Outridge. Working with you all has been

a bright spot in my career. You’re awesome

all the time, but especially on the days when

I’m tearing my hair out and feeling overwhelmed.

Thank you for the help, the support and making

me feel like I always have a team behind me.


Back Cover Text

About the Author


Title Page



html#u39e9a0b1-042d-5b27-adc7-12e2b447694c" id="back_u39e9a0b1-042d-5b27-adc7-12e2b447694c"> One


















Brianne Hanson’s crush on her boss had died a swift and brutal death when he’d walked down the aisle with another woman. And she hadn’t even dreamed of resurrecting it after his extremely unhappy divorce. She would never want to be that rebound fling a man lived to regret.

But every now and then, the old spark came back to burn her. Like today.

She’d just taken a break from her work in the gardens of Gabe’s resort, the Birdsong Hotel, in Martinique. As a landscape designer, Brianne had worked on dozens of island properties before Gabe convinced her to take on the Birdsong as a full-time gig a year ago. It was a job she loved since she had carte blanche to design whatever she wanted on Gabe’s considerable budget. He was committed to the project and shared her basic aesthetic vision, so they got along just fine. All business, boundaries in place.

Today, however, was different. She’d stopped by his workshop in a converted shed to ask him about his plans for upgrading the entrance to one of the bungalows. The resort grounds were a never-ending labor of love for Gabe, a talented woodworker who spent his free time handcrafting ceiling panels and restoring custom cabinets.

And damn if she wasn’t caught by the pull of that old crush as she stood on the threshold of the workshop. The dust extractor hummed in the background, cleaning the air of particles kicked up by the table saw he’d just been using. Gabe was currently laboring over a curved piece of wood clamped down to another table, running a hand planer over the surface. This segment of wood—a molding destined for a curved archway in the lobby, she knew—was at least five feet long. Gabe shaved the length of it with the shallow blade, drawing the scraper toward him again and again while wood bits went flying.

Intent on his work, Brianne’s six-foot-plus boss stared down at the mahogany piece through his safety goggles, giving her time to enjoy the view of male muscle in motion. He was handsome enough any day of the week, as his dark hair and ocean-blue eyes were traits he shared with his equally attractive older brothers. The McNeill men had caused plenty of female heads to turn throughout Martinique and beyond, since their wealth and business interests extended to New York and Silicon Valley. But Gabe was unique among his brothers for his down-to-earth, easygoing ways, and his affinity for manual labor.

With the door to his workshop open, a sea breeze swirled through the sawdust-scented air. Gabe’s white T-shirt clung to his upper back, highlighting bands of muscle that ran along his shoulder blades. His forearms were lightly coated with a sheen of sweat and wood dust, which shouldn’t have been sexy, or so she told herself. But the strength there was testament to the physical labor he did every day. His jeans rode low on narrow hips, thanks in part to the weight of a tool belt.

And just like that, her temperature went from garden-variety warm to scorching. So much for kicking the crush.

“Hey, Brianne.” He turned a sudden, easy smile her way as he put aside the blade, leaving the plank tilted in the brace he’d made to support it. “What can I do for you?”

He shoved the safety glasses up into his dark hair, revealing those azure-blue eyes. Then he leaned over to the abandoned table saw and switched off the dust extractor.

As he strode closer, she sternly reminded herself ogling time was over. She needed to keep her paychecks coming now that the last of her dysfunctional family had deserted her grandmother back in Brooklyn. Brianne owed everything—her work ethic, her life in Martinique, her very sanity—to the woman who’d given her a chance at a better life away from the painful dramas at home. As her grandmother became more frail, Brianne hoped to relocate Nana to the Caribbean to care for her.

Besides, complicating matters more? Gabe McNeill had become her closest friend.

“Hey.” Forcing a smile to mask any leftover traces of feminine yearning, Brianne tried to remember why she’d come to the workshop in the first place. “Sorry to interrupt. I thought you might be ready to break for lunch and I wanted to see if you had a minute to walk me through your plans for bungalow two.”

He unfastened his tool belt and hung it on a hook near the workbench.

“You mean the Butterfly Bungalow?” he teased, winking at her and nudging her shoulder with his as he walked past.

She’d been resistant to using the names Gabe’s new promotions company had assigned to all the suites and villas on the property since they made the hotel sound more like a touristy amusement park.

“Right. Butterfly Boudoir. Whatever.” She had to hurry to catch up with him as he headed there now, his long-legged stride carrying him far even though he wasn’t moving fast.

Gabe never moved fast.

It was one of the qualities that made him an excellent woodworker. He had a deliberate way of doing things, slow and thoughtful, because he gave each task his undivided attention. Tourists who stayed at the resort chalked it up to Gabe being on “island time.” But Brianne knew him better than that. He was actually very dialed in. Intense. He just put a charming face on it.

“Let’s stop at the main house.” Gabe shifted direction on the planked walkways that connected disparate parts of the property and provided the framework for her garden designs. “I’ve got a drawing you can take with you to see what I have in mind for the bungalow.”

He passed two empty cabins in need of upgrades as he approached the back door of the Birdsong Hotel’s central building, which housed ten units with terraces overlooking the Atlantic. The dark-tiled mansard roof with dormers was a nod to the historic French architecture of the island. The rest of the building was white clapboard with heavy gray shutters and louvers over the windows—the shutters were decorative unless a hurricane came, and then they could be employed for safety measures. The louvers, another historic feature of many of the houses in downtown Fort-de-France, the island’s capital, could be used for extra shade.

“I don’t want to plant anything in the front garden that will be in the way of the redesign.” Brianne knew better than to think that an upgrade for Gabe only meant a couple of new windows or a better door. She loved seeing the way the buildings took shape with him guiding the redesign, the thoughtful details he included that made each building unique. Special.

She liked to think they made a great team. Her gardens were like the decorative frames for his work, drawing attention to the best features.

“This project is going to be more streamlined.” He brushed away some of the dust on his shirt, then pulled open the screen door on a private entrance in back that led to his office and downstairs suite. “I was planning on talking to you today about some changes in my plans. I’m going to hand off some of the remodel to a contractor.”

He held the screen door open for her, waiting for her to step inside. She could see his eleven-month-old son, Jason, seated in a high chair. The boy’s caregiver, Ms. Camille, bustled around the small kitchen reserved for Gabe’s use. The expansive one-bedroom unit was larger than most. Gabe kept a villa of his own at the farthest edge of the resort and only needed this space for a centrally located office and day care, so it provided plenty of space.

“A contractor?” She must have misunderstood. “You’ve been personally handling every detail of this remodel for two years because it’s your hotel and you’re the best on the island. I don’t understand.”

“Come in.” He gently propelled her forward, one hand on the middle of her back while he waved a greeting to the caregiver with the other. “Ms. Camille, I’ve got Jason if you want some lunch.”

The older woman nodded. “Be en garde, Monsieur Gabriel,” she said, her native French thick in her accent as she passed Gabe a stack of mail. “Our sweet Jason is in a mischievous mood.”

Brianne’s gaze went to the dark-haired boy strapped in his high chair, his bare toes curling and butt bouncing at the sight of his father. Two little teeth gleamed in an otherwise gummy grin. Dressed in striped blue shorts and a bright blue T-shirt, the boy banged a fat spoon against his tray.

“I’m on it,” Gabe assured her, bending to kiss the baby’s forehead, a gesture that clutched at Brianne’s heart, making her wonder how Jason’s mother could ever abandon him—the child or the father, for that matter.

Theresa Bauder had lived among them for all of six months. She was a beautiful, gifted songstress Gabe met when she’d given up on her dreams to Martinique after a frustrating three years of trying to make it in the music business. Brianne had been envious of everything about the woman, from her eye-popping beauty and natural elegance, to her clear, sweet singing voice on nights when she performed with her acoustic guitar out on the beach.

The fact that Theresa had also landed—in Brianne’s opinion—the most eligible of the McNeill men was also enviable. But then, when the woman was expecting Jason, she’d gotten a call from her former manager back in Nashville. A top country artist wanted to perform one of Theresa’s songs. Even more exciting, the artist was in talks to do a movie about her life, and wanted Theresa to come out to Los Angeles to play a younger version of her in the film. Theresa left. Her home, her husband, her marriage. To hear the local gossips, Gabe had only gone to LA with her to wait for his son to be born since Theresa had also decided she didn’t want to be a mother with a career heating up. Gabe had said little about it, but he’d returned to Martinique with his son when Jason was just four weeks old.

Brianne took a turn kissing the boy’s head, too, as she’d become good buddies with the little one over the last ten months. “How are you today, cutie?” she asked him, her heart melting when Jason gave her a drooly grin. She spotted one of his toys on the counter—a fat green dinosaur—and perched it on the edge of his lunch tray, hopping it closer to him.

“There’s something for you, Brianne.” Gabe plucked a small envelope off the stack of letters Camille had handed him before setting the rest of the resort’s mail in a wooden tray near the door. “Looks like it’s from home.”

“Thanks.” She saw the return address in Nana’s familiar handwriting and hoped everything was okay with her grandmother. Distracted, she forgot about her dinosaur game with Jason until the boy poked at the toy.

Dutifully, she made the figure hop around his lunch tray while she considered the letter from her grandmother.

“And sorry to spring it on you like this that I’m leaving.” Gabe reached into the kitchen’s stainless-steel refrigerator and withdrew two bottles of water, passing one to her. “That’s why I’m handing off some of the projects to a local contractor. I need to finish up a few more of the bungalows to accommodate the increase in visitors, but I’m taking Jason to New York and I’m not sure when we’ll return.”

“You’re leaving?” She squeezed the water bottle without opening it, the cold condensation chilling her palms while a wave of disappointment washed over her.

Old crush on Gabe aside, she liked him. Considered him her best friend. He’d given her an amazing opportunity when he’d hired her to design the gardens at the Birdsong, a long-term project that gave her stability and allowed her to be creative. It was a far better job than the temporary gigs she’d been hired for prior to this. She’d met him while helping another landscaper revamp the historic gardens at McNeill Meadows plantation home. Gabe had been building an arbor for his family’s expansive compound in Le François. He’d been planning his wedding back then, so she’d ignored the attraction and concentrated on impressing him professionally.

“Yes. I’m going to New York to spend some time with my grandfather.” Gabe rifled through a kitchen drawer and pulled out a small sheet of paper, then he ambled over to the round table in the breakfast nook with a view of the ocean. “Have a seat, Brianne.”

He pulled out a curved wicker chair for her near the open French doors that led to a side patio shaded by a tall acacia tree. The temperature in Martinique didn’t vary much, but on a February day like this, it was less humid and there was a breeze off the water. Brianne never tired of the beautiful weather here after the cold, desperate winters of her childhood in Brooklyn.

“Your grandfather. You mean Malcolm McNeill?” She’d followed news about his wealthy family online, from the disappearance of his sister-in-law, heiress Caroline Degraff, to the revelation that he had a connection to McNeill Resorts’ wealthy owner, Malcolm McNeill. Gabe’s mother had been Liam McNeill’s mistress. Liam had fathered three children by her but then abandoned them when Gabe was just eleven years old. Liam had been married to someone else at that time, and had three legitimate sons based in Manhattan.

“That’s right.” Gabe drew Jason’s high chair closer to the table, earning more gummy grins from his son and another round of spoon banging. “I have a good life here and I’m happiest working on the Birdsong, but I keep thinking it’s not fair to limit Jason’s future to this place when he’s an heir to the McNeill legacy.”

The thought of her world without Gabe in it unsettled her. She liked working with him. For him. She didn’t want to think about how empty the Birdsong would be without him. And Jason. Her gaze went to the boy, as she thought about all the impromptu lunches they’d had together.

“Are you moving there permanently?” She tried not to let the unexpected swell of emotions show in her voice.

Gabe gave his son a sectioned tray with some sliced-up toast pieces and carrots. Withdrawing the toy dinosaur so as not to distract the baby from his lunch, Brianne clutched it tighter.

“No.” He swung into the chair next to her, keeping Jason between them. “Just until I can learn more about the McNeill holdings and convince my grandfather that the terms of his will are prehistoric.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s stipulated that all his heirs need to be married for at least a year in order to inherit their share of the fortune.” He set down the sheet of paper he’d retrieved from the kitchen drawer; she could see it was a sketch of the bungalow that she’d inquired about earlier, a project that couldn’t be further from her mind now. “I don’t know if the guy is going senile or what, but my personal experience makes me an excellent case study for why marriage is a bad idea.”

His expression darkened, the way it always did when he referred to his ex-wife. It upset Brianne to think Theresa had skewed Gabe’s view of love forever.

“You wouldn’t be eligible to inherit because you weren’t married long enough.” She couldn’t envision Gabe living in Manhattan or moving in that high-powered business world, but that was probably naive of her. He was a major owner of Transparent, the new social-media software-integration giant run by his brother Damon that seemed to be in the news daily.

“Right.” Gabe took a long swig from his water bottle. “I’ll never marry again, but does that mean Jason shouldn’t inherit? It’s not fair to an innocent kid. So I’m going to visit the family in New York and convince Gramps to tweak the will to ensure his great grandson has a fair share of the legacy.” He ruffled his son’s dark wispy baby curls. “Who could resist this little guy?”

Jason kicked the tray with his bare toes, sending carrots jumping on his plate. The movement preoccupied him, and the baby became fixated with studying the bright orange bits.

“You have a point.” Smiling, Brianne reached over to give the baby’s feet a fond squeeze, her heart warming at the sight of the two McNeills, one so adorable and the other

Damn it.

No matter how appealing Gabe might be, he wasn’t in any position to start a relationship in the wake of his unhappy marriage. Brianne knew it was too soon to get involved with a man nursing a broken heart. And now? She might never have the chance to be more than a friend.

“So Jason and I are going to spend some time in Manhattan. A few months at least.” He tipped back in his chair and reached behind him to drag the baby’s sippy cup off the granite kitchen counter. “I’ve been making drawings of the next few units for you so you can see the changes I’m going to ask the contractor to implement.” As he passed her the sketch, his hand stalled on the envelope from Nana. “Should you read this?” he asked, handing it to her a second time. “Your grandmother doesn’t write you very often.”

As her gaze returned to the shaky scrawl on the outside of the note, a pang of worry pierced through the knot of unhappy emotions she felt over Gabe’s departure. How disloyal of her it was to put her life in Martinique—her complicated feelings for Gabe—in front of her own family.

“You’re right.” Brianne slid a finger under the envelope flap and raked it open. “I know she doesn’t write as much lately because her arthritis has gotten worse.”

“All the more reason it might be important if she took the time and effort to write to you now,” Gabe added, standing up to grab a damp dishrag from the sink.

He used the cloth to clean up some stray carrots on the tray while Brianne read the brief letter. The scrawl was shaky. Nana took a couple of paragraphs to talk about the failed effort to get a rooftop communal garden in her building, something she’d been excited about. Brianne scanned the rest quickly, thinking she’d take her time to read more closely later. The last paragraph jumped out at her.

I had a little run-in with a mugger yesterday—your standard local junkie, nothing personal. I’m fine. Just a bit sore. It’s not a problem really, but makes getting to the market harder. If the offer is still open to have some groceries delivered, your Nana might just take you up on it. I’ve got plenty to get me through this week, though, so don’t you worry.

Love you, child.

“Oh, my God.” Brianne’s heart was in total free fall.

Her grandmother, the most important person in her whole world, was hurt and alone this week while Brianne had been planting beautiful flowers, living in a Caribbean paradise and mooning over an impossible man. The knowledge sliced right through her.

“What’s wrong?” Gabe was by her side instantly, a hand on her shoulder.

“I need to go home.” Shakily, she tried to stand, her knees feeling unsteady. “Now.”

* * *

“Whoa. Wait.” Gabe half caught Brianne in his arms, something that at any other time would have brought with it a forbidden pleasure he’d enjoy even though he didn’t deserve to.

Today, however, she was clearly distressed. Pale and shaking. What the hell was in that letter?

“I need to go home, Gabe. She’s hurt.” The broken sound of Brianne’s voice stunned him.

He’d seen this woman heft twenty-five-pound bags of dirt under one slender arm and collar snakes with lightning-fast reflexes so she could “relocate” them. He would have never imagined her in tears, but her dark brown eyes were unnaturally bright with them.

“Who’s hurt? Your grandmother?” Reluctantly, he pulled his hand from her back, where his fingers briefly tangled in her thick, dark ponytail. He made sure she was steady before he let go of her. Her black T-shirt with an American rock-band logo was wrinkled, the fabric hitching up on one side away from the lightweight cargo pants that were her everyday work uniform.

Her breath came in fast pants as one tear rolled down her cheek. Her normally olive skin had gone as white as the envelope she still clutched. Just a moment ago, she’d been teasing smiles from his son, her beauty naturally captivating even when she wasn’t making silly faces to entertain the boy.

“Read it.” She thrust the note at Gabe and his eyes scanned the short message from Rose Hanson while Brianne fumbled in the leg pocket of her cargo pants and pulled out her cell phone. “I’ve been saving money to move her down here with me. I was going to talk to her this weekend when we’re supposed to have a video call. I should have been connecting with her every day, but I’m calling her now.”

Brianne held the phone to her ear. Gabe could hear someone speaking on the other end, but the call must have gone straight to voice mail message because Brianne punched a button and tried again.

“It’s okay.” He moved around the high chair so he could be closer to her, and yes, put his arm around her again. He gave her a gentle, one-armed hug, hoping to comfort her somehow as he steeled himself for the shock of pleasure that touching her created. “We’ll send someone to check on her. A home health nurse.”

Brianne left a message for her grandmother, asking her to call her back right away. Shoving her phone back in her pants pocket, she slumped over the table.

He regretted that he didn’t know more about Brianne’s family background. All he knew was that her upbringing had been rough enough to make her grandmother cash in the last of her savings to send her off to Martinique with a friend who was retiring to the island. Brianne had been just twelve years old at the time. Her guardian had been little more than a stranger, but she helped Brianne finish her schooling and find an apprenticeship with a local botanist.

Gabe had been caught up in his own drama for so damn long he’d never really gotten to know Brianne as well as he would have liked to. Of course, there was always a hint—just a hint—of a spark with her. He’d ignored it easily enough when he’d been with Theresa, telling himself that the feelings for Brianne were of the creative-professional variety, that he admired her design skills and commitment to her projects.

But there was more to it than that, and it roared to life when he tucked her head under his chin. The scent of her hair was as vibrantly floral as the gardens she tended every day. He couldn’t ignore the feel of her against him, the lush feminine curves at odds with her utilitarian work clothes.

“There’s no one.” She shook her head, her soft, dark hair brushing his jaw. “My stepmother was living with Nana Rose, but then Wendy got a new boyfriend and moved out last month. I’ve been so worried—”

“I’ll find a home health-care service and make a call right now.” He pulled his phone from the back pocket of his jeans, hoping Jason’s caregiver returned from lunch soon so Gabe could give Brianne his undivided attention.

The protective instinct was too strong to ignore. Brianne had been a positive force in his life during his worst days. And her daily, sunny presence in his son’s world soothed a small portion of Gabe’s guilt and resentment over not being able to provide a mother for his own child.

“No.” Brianne straightened suddenly, tensing as she withdrew from his touch. “It’s my job, not yours, Gabe. But thank you.” She took out her phone again and keyed in a code with trembling fingers. “That’s a good idea to have someone check on her until I can get there.”

“Gah!” his son shouted behind him and Gabe turned to see the boy tossing a carrot in the air.

Even though she was upset and distracted, Brianne managed a shaky smile for Jason. She was so different from the baby’s mother, who seemed content to leave the parenting to Gabe no matter how often he’d offered to fly to the States so she could see their son. She had no plans to see her baby until Valentine’s Day, when she’d arranged a photo shoot in New York with a country-music magazine. As if a child was a prop to show off when needed.

Nevertheless, Gabe would be there to facilitate in the small window of time available for his son to see his mother.

“Maybe you won’t have to travel all the way to New York once you have a report on how she’s doing from an outside source.” Gabe hated to see Brianne return to a life that made her unhappy. No matter how much she loved her grandmother, he knew Brianne had bad memories of the home she’d left behind. “You can have a health-care aide for her as often as you want until you’re ready to move her down here.”

He wanted to fix this. To keep her happy and comfortable in a life she seemed to thrive in. Something about the gardens and Brianne was forever connected in his mind. She had a healthy vibrancy that was reflected in her work and he knew somehow the hotel wouldn’t be the same—nothing would be the same here—if she left.

“I’m taking the next available flight.” Her fingers stilled on the phone as she scrolled through screens, her dark eyes meeting his. “That is, I hope you understand I’ll need some emergency time away from work.”

“Of course, that’s a given.” He didn’t want her to worry about her job. Although selfishly, he hoped her family wouldn’t somehow convince her to relocate to New York. He wanted her to return to Martinique eventually since this was his permanent home. He hadn’t realized how much he looked forward to working with her every day until he considered the proposition of not seeing her cutting fresh blooms for the lobby desk each morning. “Your position here is secure.”

“Thank you.” She nodded, long bangs catching on the thick fringe of her eyelashes. “I need to pack in case I can catch something on stand-by tonight.” Backing toward the door, she shoved the letter in her pocket. Her cargo pants momentarily pulled tight across her hips.

What was the matter with him that he noticed all the wrong things on a day she needed his friendship? She’d been a rock in his world. He wouldn’t allow her to deal with this family emergency on her own when she was clearly upset.

“Don’t fly stand-by.” He wanted to help her. She never asked for anything and worked hard every day to make the hotel a more beautiful place. She’d been a source of laughter and escape during the hellish weeks after his separation from Theresa.

And he couldn’t let her go this way.

“Gabe, I have to.” The passion—the vehemence—in her voice surprised him; he’d never heard her use that tone. “She’s hurt. Someone hurt her. She’s eighty years old and she gave me everything I have.”

Just like that, he knew he wasn’t going to let her go alone. Not when it was this important to her and she was so upset.

“And you shouldn’t figure all of this out on your own when you’re so distracted and worried.” He didn’t want her driving when she was still shaking. Or hiring a car from the airport that would take her the long way to Brooklyn because she was too rattled to notice. “I was planning to go to New York anyhow.” It made far more sense for them to go together. “I’ll take you there myself on my family’s jet. Tonight.”

“You can’t do that.” She lifted her arms in the air, exasperated. A long section of dark hair escaped the ponytail to tease against her cheek and she blew it aside impatiently. “You have a son to think about. You can’t disrupt Jason’s schedule to fly at the last minute.”

Brianne gave the boy a tender look, her expression visibly softening as she stroked the back of her knuckle along the baby’s arm.

Through the window Gabe spotted Camille, Jason’s caregiver, walking up the planked path. He was glad she was back so he could focus on convincing Brianne to travel with him.

“My grandfather has been trying to entice my brothers and me to spend time in Manhattan for months,” he explained, pulling Jason out of his high chair and giving the boy a kiss on his head. “I can move up my departure date. My half brother Cam gave me the number of a local pilot who can have a flight plan filed with an hour’s notice. If you want to go to New York tonight, I’ll call him to take us. It will be faster than navigating the airport crush.”

As Camille entered, he passed her the boy and asked her to pack the child’s clothes for a two-week trip. He planned to stay longer than that, but would buy more things once they were settled. Camille cooed at Jason and gave Gabe a nod to indicate she’d heard him while he ushered Brianne out of the kitchen and into the afternoon sun outside.

“Gabe, I could never begin to repay you—”

“Why would you have to?” he interrupted, unwilling to let her think in those terms. “I told you, I need to be in New York anyhow so it makes sense for us to travel together. I owe you more than I’ve paid you, Brianne, if it comes right down to it. But you never hear me complain when you work long hours and contribute more to this place than anyone else. Now it’s your turn to accept something extra from me.”

She seemed to weigh this, her lips pursing as she visibly wrestled with the idea of arguing. But in the end, she put up both her hands in surrender.

“You know what? For Nana Rose, I’m just going to say thank you and go pack.”

“Good.” He nodded, already making a mental to-do list, starting with booking the plane and contacting the nanny who would be making the trip with them. “I’ll let you know when I’ve got our flight time confirmed. After we land, we can share a car from the airport, so count on me to bring you straight to your grandmother’s doorstep.”

“Fine.” Her jaw tightened. “That is, thank you.”

As she retreated, he wanted to offer more. To suggest additional ways he could help out since she might be facing more medical bills and travel arrangements where her grandmother was concerned. But he didn’t want to push his luck with his proud and prickly landscape designer. He had a whole plane ride to talk to her and convince her to let him give her a hand moving her beloved relative back to Martinique. He and Brianne made such a good team at work. Why couldn’t they carry that into their personal lives, especially when they were both going through some tough transitions?

The idea held a whole lot of appeal. Maybe that should have troubled him given that he’d just emerged from a disastrous marriage and divorce. Instead, he felt an undeniable pull of awareness that had been absent from his life ever since his wife was two months pregnant and had announced she was leaving him.


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