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Secret Baby Scandal

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«Secret Baby Scandal» - Джоанна Рок

His proposition: pretend they’re a couple to end a scandal. But she has secrets of her own…Tatiana Doucet has dealt with sexy, arrogant athletes most of her life. But Jean-Pierre Reynaud is a whole different animal—in bed and on the field. Unbeknownst to him, their one amazing night produced a son.Now her family’s biggest football rival is back, offering a seductive wager she can’t refuse.Jean-Pierre despises the media. When rumors fly, he knows a fake relationship is the perfect diversion for the tabloids—and Tatiana’s unbridled passion is the perfect diversion for Jean-Pierre. But when she drops a baby bombshell, the scandal will rock them both!
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“Don’t forget why we planned this outing.”

“Don’t forget why we planned this outing.”

Jean-Pierre’s words were softly spoken, a gentle rumble between them while they stood so close.

“To show any nearby press that we’re spending time together. That there is no bad blood between us.”

“We are going to have to do better than demonstrate a lack of enmity. We need to show we’re more than just friends, Tatiana. We’re building a story so we can introduce our son to the world.” He lowered his head closer to hers, his lips brushing her hair as he spoke into her ear. “But if you leap away every time I touch you, no one is going to buy it.”

The warmth of his body next to hers awakened every nerve ending. He smelled good, like spices and fresh air. She closed her eyes for just a moment, breathing him in. She lifted her palms to his chest, touching him on instinct. And while she might tell herself that touch maintained a few inches of space between them, she knew better.

Having her hands on him was a simple pleasure too good to deny herself after the tumultuous last weeks.

“Agreed.”

* * *

Secret Baby Scandal is part of the Bayou Billionaires series—secrets and scandal are a Cajun family legacy for the Reynaud brothers!

Secret Baby

Scandal

Joanne Rock



www.millsandboon.co.uk

Three-time RITA® Award nominee JOANNE ROCK has penned over sixty stories for Mills & Boon. An optimist by nature and 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 www.joannerock.com or follow @joannerock6 on Twitter.

To the Desire authors and editors who made me feel so welcome in this series long before my first book hit the shelves. Thank you!

Contents

Introduction

Title Page

About the Author

Dedication

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

html#litres_trial_promo">Thirteen

Extract

Copyright

One

“Good game, Reynaud.” The beat writer who covered the New York Gladiators waited with a microphone in hand as starting quarterback, Jean-Pierre Reynaud, stepped into the interview room at the Coliseum Sports Complex.

Jean-Pierre was prepared for the reporter’s questions as he settled into a canvas director’s chair in the small, glassed-in booth after his third straight win at home. Just outside the interview room, thousands of fans lingered in the Coliseum’s Coaches Club, staying after the game to see the players take turns answering questions for the media. Here, fans could relax and have a drink at the bar while the traffic thinned out after the Sunday night matchup versus Philadelphia.

After clipping the small microphone onto his jacket lapel with his right hand, which not too long ago had thrown the game-winning pass, Jean-Pierre gave the crowd a quick wave. The high ticket prices for the exclusive Coaches Club didn’t prevent the fans here from bringing glittery signs or asking for autographs, but team security made sure these kinds of events went smoothly. Jean-Pierre would give an interview and roll out of here in less than thirty minutes, which would leave enough time to catch a private plane to New Orleans tonight. He needed to take care of some Reynaud family business, for one thing.

And for another? He planned to discreetly scout his brother’s team, the New Orleans Hurricanes, before the much touted brother-against-brother football showdown in week twelve of the regular season. Of the four Reynaud siblings, Jean-Pierre’s eldest brother, Gervais, owned the Hurricanes. The next oldest, Dempsey, coached the Hurricanes. And Henri Reynaud, known league-wide as the Bayou Bomber, ran the Hurricanes’ offense from the quarterback position, slinging record-setting pass yardage with an arm destined for hall-of-fame greatness.

Living up to that legacy? No big deal. Right?

Damn.

As the youngest member of Louisiana’s wealthiest family and co-owner of the Reynaud Shipping empire, Jean-Pierre had inherited his love of the game from his father and his grandfather, the same as his brothers. But he was the player the New Orleans papers liked to call “the Louisiana Turncoat” for daring to forge a career outside his home state—and outside of his family’s sphere of influence. But since no NFL club had ever successfully split the starting QB job between two players, and Jean-Pierre wasn’t the kind of man to play in a brother’s shadow, he didn’t care what the Big Easy sports pundits had to say about that. When the Gladiators made him an offer, he’d taken it gladly...once he’d recovered from the shock, of course. Gladiators head coach Jack Doucet had been an enemy of the Reynauds after a football-related falling-out between their families. Jack had been the second in command back on a Texas team that Jean-Pierre’s grandfather had owned, and not only had the split been acrimonious, but it had also severed Jean-Pierre’s brief prep-school romance with Jack’s daughter when they moved across the country.

So yeah, it had been a surprise when Jack’s team had offered Jean-Pierre a contract with the Gladiators.

New York was a big enough stage to prove himself worthy of the family’s football legacy, but there was no room for failure. No NFL team sat in a brighter spotlight—the Gladiators doled out the highest number of press passes to media members. And if Jean-Pierre didn’t hold their interest? He lost ink—and fans—to the second NFL club in New York, the one he got stuck sharing a stadium with on the weekends. He’d learned to play the press as well as he played his position on the field, was unwilling to lose the traction he’d gained since arriving in the Big Apple.

“Are you ready?” a New York sports radio personality asked him as the number of interviewers around him multiplied.

Jean-Pierre nodded, shoving his still-damp hair off his forehead before straightening his tie. The fast showers after a game barely took the steam off him. His muscles remained hot long afterward, especially since he did the interviews in suit and tie. His silk jacket weighed on his shoulders like a stack of wool blankets after two hours on the field dodging hits from the fastest D-line in the game.

Around him, the room quieted. The doors had been secured. Waiting for the first question to be fired his way, he peered past the reporters to the fans in the Coaches Club. All around the space, huge televisions that normally broadcast the game were now filled with the feed from the interview room. Jean-Pierre’s gaze roamed over to where the team owner sat, holding court at one end of the bar with a handful of minor celebrities and a few of the first-year players.

And just when he needed his focus most, that’s when he glimpsed her.

The head coach’s daughter, Tatiana Doucet.

Infuriating. Sexy. And completely off-limits.

Their impulsive one-night stand last year had wrecked any chance they might have had at recovering their friendship. But dammit all, just looking at her still set his body on fire in a way that tripled any heat lingering from his time on the field.

He tugged at his tie and took in the sight of her, unable to tear his eyes away.

Tall and lean, she wore one of those dresses that showed off mile-long legs. Even though the rest of the dress was modest—splashes of colors highlighted with sequins, neckline up to her throat, sleeves that hit her wrist—the acres of bare skin from the middle of her thigh that trailed south were enough to stop traffic. She wore a silk scarf around her hair like a headband, no doubt to hold back the riot of dark brown curls that brushed her shoulders. Curls he remembered plunging his hands into during the best sex of his life. She stood at the back of the room, hovering close to an exit as if she wanted to be ready to run at first sight of him.

He understood that feeling well.

The punch to his chest from just seeing her was so strong he missed the first question in the interview, the words a warble of background noise in his head. How long had it been since she’d shown up at any Gladiators event?

Not since last season. Jean-Pierre hadn’t laid eyes on her since that ill-advised night they’d spent tearing off each other’s clothes.

Ignoring the aggravating rush of air though his lungs at spotting the woman he’d once cared about—a woman who’d since traded her soul for the sake of her job as a trial attorney—Jean-Pierre focused on the man holding the microphone.

“Run that question by me again?” He hitched the heel of his shoe on the metal bar of the director’s chair and tried to get comfortable and relax into the interview the way he always did, even though his pulse hammered hard and his temperature spiked.

A low rumble of laughter from the journalists told Jean-Pierre he’d missed something. The throng crowded him, the handheld mics pushing closer while the boom mic overhead lowered a fraction. The sudden tension in the air was thick and palpable.

“No doubt it’s a question you can’t prepare for.” The reporter from Gladiators TV, a popular app for mobile users, grinned at him. “But I have to ask what you think of Tatiana Doucet’s remark to me just a minute ago, that she wouldn’t bet against the Bayou Bomber playing in his home state when you match up against your brother’s team in week twelve?”

The words sunk in. Hard. They damn near knocked him back in his chair.

Tatiana had said that? Implying she would bet against the Gladiators, the team her father coached? Or, more precisely, she would bet against Jean-Pierre.

Her father was going to have a conniption over that remark. Not just because of the suggestion that anyone in his family would bet on a game in any way, which was strictly forbidden. Jack Doucet would also spit nails over the fact that his own daughter was generating media hype in favor of an opponent.

Jean-Pierre didn’t spare a glance to see the head coach’s reaction in real time out in the Coaches Club, however. He’d been giving interviews too long to get caught flat-footed twice in a row. He wasn’t about to let the media play him over a thoughtless remark Tatiana must have uttered with no regard to who might overhear. Hell no. Instead, he spouted the first scrap of damage control his brain had to offer.

“My guess is that Miss Doucet would like to fire up the Gladiators and help us play our best, even if that means putting a little good-natured ribbing into the mix.” He flashed his most careless grin in a performance worthy of an Academy Award given the way she’d just kicked his teeth in.

Ten reporters asked questions at the same time, the cacophony making it hard to hear what anyone was saying. They ended up deferring to the New York Post reporter, a cantankerous older guy who scared off any journalist who hadn’t been around since the typewriter era.

“C’mon, Reynaud,” he growled, a sour expression on his face while he took notes in longhand. “Her words don’t sound playful to me. When even the coach’s daughter doesn’t believe in you—”

“Hey. You can stop right there.” Jean-Pierre cut the guy off, unwilling to let him stir the pot with that line of questioning. “Tatiana and I went to school together and I know her well. I guarantee she was joking.” He sensed the unrest in the room despite his reassurances. This remark was the kind of thing that overshadowed games. Teams. Whole freaking seasons. And he was not going to allow one superficial remark to steal the spotlight from the Gladiators’ hard work.

So he lied through his teeth.

“In fact,” he continued, never allowing that fake smile to falter, “Tatiana will be going with me to New Orleans as a special guest of the Reynaud family during the bye week. She can’t wait to visit Bayou country again.”

He glanced outside the glass to where she’d been standing earlier, but she had disappeared. No doubt she hadn’t wanted to field follow-up questions. Or answer to her father.

Or see him? Yes, that bothered him more than it should. But he couldn’t deny he missed her.

When they were teenagers, Tatiana had spent two years at a prep school half an hour away from the Reynaud family compound. Consequently, she’d visited his house on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain plenty of times when they were younger.

The beat of silence following Jean-Pierre’s announcement might have been laughable if he hadn’t needed the time to brace himself for round two of the questions that didn’t have a damn thing to do with the game he’d just played. But he’d set them all back on their heels for a second.

“A guest of the family or of yours?”

One reporter barely finished speaking before the next question.

“Does it bother you that she prosecuted your old teammate in a sexual harassment suit last winter?”

“Is she invited to your brother’s wedding?”

Reporters were talking over each other again, firing off questions left and right, but this time Jean-Pierre could pick out a few of them. He had no intention of discussing the weeks he and Tatiana had sat on opposite sides of a tense courtroom while she used all her talents as an attorney to win a civil suit against one of his old friends. As for the wedding, Gervais planned to marry a foreign princess in New Orleans during the team’s bye week—the week neither the Gladiators nor the Hurricanes played. But since Gervais and his fiancée had done all they could to keep the details private, that question would go unanswered, too. Still, Jean-Pierre didn’t mind letting the press assume Tatiana was his guest for that event.

For that matter, he would have to make sure she was his real date for his brother’s nuptials. No way would the media interest in them die without serious effort from both of them. Their fiery past would have to take a backseat because he couldn’t let her derail his career.

She knew the politics of this world well enough to understand a comment like hers simply couldn’t stand. She would have to help put out the fire she’d started. God only knew why she’d done it since she was normally as cautious in her personal life as she was in the courtroom.

“Any questions you would like to ask me about the game?” Jean-Pierre asked, figuring he’d given them enough to refute Tatiana’s earlier remark.

His gaze slid to the Coaches Club and he noticed that both Jack and his daughter had disappeared. No doubt Tatiana’s father was giving her hell somewhere privately. But then, her old man had always put football before family. He was an okay guy to play for once they’d gotten past the old Reynaud-Doucet rift, but that sure didn’t make him a good father.

Jean-Pierre fielded a few more interview questions, quickly outlining his decision-making for a couple of passes that he’d thrown and discussing a controversial pass-interference call. Then he was on his feet and unclipping the mic for the next player, the Gladiators’ Pro-Bowl star safety, Tevon Alvarez.

“That was some serious grace under pressure, dude,” Tevon muttered in Jean-Pierre’s ear as he clapped him on the shoulder. “You’re my idol with the hacks.”

“I’m used to facing the meanest defensive ends in the NFL every week,” he told him. “The hacks aren’t nearly as scary.”

Jean-Pierre stepped into the private tunnel leading toward the players’ lounge, but midway through, he doubled back toward the Coaches Club. He’d approach it from the private entrance, close to where the Gladiators administration kept a couple of offices.

Because there wasn’t a chance in hell he was leaving this stadium without talking to Tatiana first. She might have successfully ducked him since last winter, but with her remark to the media tonight, she’d put herself right back in his world. Now he planned to keep her there for however long it took for this new scandal to die down.

* * *

In her professional life, Tatiana Doucet had often been praised for her cool head and ability to organize her thoughts into a reasoned, intelligent argument. So it seemed unfair that on the day when she needed to make the most important and private announcement of her life, she’d wound up nervously babbling to a reporter, of all people. In public.

Standing outside the New York Gladiators postgame press event, Tatiana folded a cocktail napkin into her palm and mopped it across her forehead. What had she been thinking to spout such an offhand comment to a stranger across from her at the ice-cream-sundae bar? She hadn’t seen the reporter’s press pass—he must have taken it off. Although clearly he hadn’t turned off his recorder. Looking back, it seemed obvious the guy had been baiting her to make a comment about the upcoming Hurricanes game.

And she’d played right into his hands because she’d been nervous about seeing Jean-Pierre. She’d accidentally given a sound bite that would be all the New York sports media talked about for weeks. Her father would strangle her when he found her. But so far, she’d eluded him. The subterranean hallways of the Coliseum were narrow and echoed, making it easy to stay one step ahead of a coach charging around like an angry bull.

But while she’d put off a confrontation with her dad, she couldn’t afford to delay the conversation she needed to have with another man who would have every reason to be angry with her.

Gladiators starting quarterback, Jean-Pierre Reynaud.

She hadn’t stayed in the Coaches Club long enough to hear how Jean-Pierre responded to the reporter who’d blindsided him with her remark. She’d turned on her heels and booked out of there. But somehow, she needed to find Jean-Pierre before she left tonight. Her private announcement was for his ears only.

She’d justified staying away from him after their one night together last winter, since their parting had been as passionate as the sex, although not nearly as fulfilling. They had a tumultuous history, considering their prep-school romance that had failed thanks to their families’ well-documented enmity. Then, after meeting up years later, they’d been on opposite sides of a prominent sexual harassment case she’d prosecuted a year ago against Jean-Pierre’s former teammate. Jean-Pierre had been in the courtroom almost every day after practice until she’d won a verdict against the retired football player. She’d been flush with the professional victory until a coldly furious Jean-Pierre confronted her to inform her she’d ruined an innocent man’s reputation.

Even now, she didn’t understand how their argument had turned into the most passionate encounter she’d ever experienced, but she sure understood his icy parting words the next morning.

That mistake will never be repeated.

She’d been cooking him breakfast at the time and hoping for...what? That they might have a shot at understanding each other even though their romantic history had proved them incompatible before they were twenty years old? Stubborn pride and embarrassment at her foolishness had kept her mouth shut for months. But tonight, she needed to set aside her old hurts and face him once and for all.

The sooner she got this over with, the better, since she needed to head home. Standing on the narrow threshold of a closed door in a deserted corridor of offices, Tatiana debated where to find her quarry. Surely he wouldn’t have lingered around the Coaches Club. Maybe she could ask the security guard outside the players’ lounge where Jean-Pierre was. Or would she be better off staking out his car in the parking garage? That way she could be sure she wouldn’t miss him.

Darting back the way she came, she turned a corner and nearly plowed right into none other than Jean-Pierre himself.

“Oh!” With a yelp of surprise, she gripped his forearm to stay upright.

“Shh,” Jean-Pierre warned her, tucking her under his arm and pressing a finger to her lips. “There’s a camera crew just down that hallway.” He nodded to the ramp just ahead on his right.

Tatiana tensed at his touch. His scent. His maleness. She’d spent so long avoiding him, but in spite of all logic, he affected her. At six-three, and at this close range, he had to peer down at her, his brown eyes flecked with hints of gold and green. She’d fallen for him hard back in prep school, a young love that had only felt more poignant after they’d been torn apart by their families’ sudden rift. They’d both moved on, of course, two thousand miles of separation proving as effective a deterrent as the well-publicized feud. But when he’d joined the Gladiators and she’d seen him at the occasional party, she’d been as drawn to him as ever. It had been an attraction that hadn’t been reciprocated, judging by his cold words about her court case last winter. She still didn’t understand how that terse confrontation in the courtroom had turned so heated.

Now, heart hammering, she simply nodded, knowing they needed to avoid the press. Heaven forbid the media were to overhear what she had to tell Jean-Pierre.

He frowned down at her, not moving.

“What?” she whispered, shaky and off balance as she peered up into his shadowed face.

“We could let them find us,” he suggested, his gaze roving over her as he seemed to weigh the idea. “They could photograph us kissing.”

The mention of kissing should not have sent a bolt of lightning through her. Especially when Jean-Pierre seemed to be mulling over the idea with the same attention he might give a playbook. Dispassionate. Assessing.

“Are you insane?” Her whisper notched up an octave as she grabbed his sleeve and tugged him in the other direction.

Not that he moved.

“It would end the speculation that we’re enemies,” he said. They stood facing each other in silence for a moment until she could hear the echo of footsteps in the northern corridor.

“We are enemies,” she reminded him, tugging his arm with more urgency. “Just because you and my father patched things up enough for you to play in New York doesn’t mean the Reynauds and Doucets suddenly became friends. When your grandfather fired my father from his old director-of-personnel position with the Mustangs, it might as well have been an act of war.”

Her father had moved the whole family across the country, pulling her out of school and demanding an end to her relationship with Jean-Pierre. And if her father hadn’t been adamant enough, her mother had been downright immovable on the subject. Seventeen at the time, Tatiana had fallen in line and put Jean-Pierre in her past...right up until that day he’d approached her after court and her old feelings had spun out of control for one passionate night.

“You think I don’t remember?” He fell into step beside her now, guiding her deeper into the private areas of the stadium. “But I’d call us casualties of that battle, not enemies. And either way, I would have preferred to lock down any mentions of bad blood to the media.”

He nodded to one of the guards outside the locker rooms as they passed a secured area.

“I realize that.” Her heart hummed along at high speed even as she warned herself to be coolheaded. To ignore the feel of his hand on her waist when he ushered her through the heavy steel door that led to the parking garage. “I’m out of practice dealing with the media or I never would have been so flippant with a stranger. Obviously, I know better. I apologize.”

His terse nod gave away nothing.

“I’m parked over here.” He hit the fob on his key chain and the lights on a nearby gray Aston Martin coupe flashed twice. “I can give you a ride home and we’ll...talk.”

She wondered at that meaningful pause. Was he still stewing about her comment to the reporter? Regardless, she needed to do some talking of her own.

“Thank you.” The clamminess that she’d felt on her skin earlier returned. Her time to tell him was running out. “I took a car service to the game so I appreciate the ride.”

She’d timed her arrival so that she wouldn’t set foot in the stadium until a few minutes before the game ended, hoping to avoid her father and spend as little time away from home as possible.

The tail end of the silk scarf she’d tied around her head caught on one of the sequins of her dress and she struggled to untangle it as she walked to his car. She was hot, tired and out of sorts, so it was no surprise that she popped a whole row of sequins off. They bounced around the floor of the parking garage while Jean-Pierre held open the door of his sports car.

It wasn’t fair that he looked impeccable in a custom Hugo Boss suit while her life frayed at the seams. With an impatient swipe, she slid the scarf off her hair and lowered herself into the leather seat.

When he came around to the driver’s side, he wasted no time putting the car into Reverse and heading out the exit. Game traffic had thinned out by now, putting them on the highway in no time. At this rate, in ten more minutes they’d be at her front door. Her stomach tightened at how fast her time was running out to make her cool, calm announcement. If she could even remember that speech she’d practiced in her mind a thousand times. She toyed with the fringe on the edges of her silk scarf, watching the play of pink, green and blue threads over her fingers.

“You didn’t hear my answers in that interview, did you?” Jean-Pierre said suddenly, diverting her thoughts.

“No, I’m afraid not.” She seized on the reprieve with both hands. “I ditched the Coaches Club the second I recognized that reporter’s face on the big screen over the bar. I knew he was about to corner you with what I’d just told him, so I left before my father could blow a gasket and blast me in front of five thousand fans.”

She studied Jean-Pierre’s expression in the dashboard lights, his chiseled profile deep in five-o’clock shadow and a fresh scrape visible on his right cheekbone. He’d been lucky today. She’d spent enough time in her father’s world to see the toll that football could take on the strongest men.

“I told the media you were joking.” He glanced at her as they neared signs for the Lincoln Tunnel.

“Of course I was. I thought I was talking to a Gladiators fan and I was just messing around.” She knew from experience she didn’t need to stroke this man’s ego, but she also didn’t like the idea that he might think she’d been in earnest. “Obviously you and Henri are supremely well-matched. If you played ten games, I’d give you each five.”

“Very generous of you.” He downshifted as traffic slowed in a sea of brake lights. “And probably accurate given our stats in backyard games. But back to the interview. I not only told the reporter you were joking, I also assured him you were going to be my guest for the bye week and that you couldn’t wait to return to Louisiana for a visit.”

He said it so tonelessly that she hoped she’d misheard. Surely he wouldn’t have done that. He didn’t even like her anymore. He’d made sure she knew as much when he’d walked out of her home the last time.

“No. You. Didn’t.” The words were a soft scrape of air, her voice vanishing as they entered the tunnel, the regular intervals of fluorescent light flashing through the car and making her dizzy.

“Oh, yes, I most certainly did. What would you have suggested I say, Tatiana?” His grip on the wheel tightened for a moment before he loosened his hold again. He removed one hand from the wheel altogether and flexed his knuckles, as if forcing himself to relax. Or maybe he was nursing an injury.

And, oh, God, how could he have just told the whole world they were going to be spending a week together?

“I just—” She swallowed hard. Tried to channel her inner lawyer and come up with a quietly reasoned argument. But all the arguments that came to mind were conversational dynamite. “That can’t happen,” she said lamely.

“And yet, we’ll have to make a good show of it since your comment could cause the kind of media uproar that steals focus away from a team. I can’t afford that distraction right now.” He lifted a hand to his tie and loosened the knot, looking for all the world like a dissolute playboy with his unshaven jaw in his sexy car.

But looks were deceiving, and nothing about this man was dissolute or inclined to play. It didn’t matter that his weekly contests were labeled “games,” Jean-Pierre Reynaud was one of the most serious and hardworking men she’d ever met. He was relentless in achieving what he wanted, in fact. So she understood immediately that he wouldn’t back down on the good show for the media now that he’d promised it.

“You don’t understand—” she began, only to be cut short.

“It might be you who doesn’t understand.” He steered off the exit toward 42nd Street and she wished she could turn back the clock on this evening to make the outcome different. To give her more time. She took in his tight jaw, his tense shoulders. “I didn’t have time to consult you for a plan. You put me on the spot in front of my team, the league, the media and the fans.”

“You’re right. That part, I do understand.” Her breasts ached beneath her dress, the need to return home a sudden, biological need. Thankfully, all the lights on 10th Avenue went green and they surged through one after the other as they headed north.

“Excellent. You are already invited to my brother’s wedding.” He resumed laying out the calm, controlled plan that she knew would never happen. “We can attend the ceremony together and then you will stay in New Orleans until the Gladiators game against the Hurricanes the week after. I’ll have to commute back and forth for practices, but I’ll be around enough to ensure we’re photographed together. We can put a quick end to the old rumors about our families. And about us.”

Only a Reynaud would seriously contemplate “commuting” between New York and New Orleans. She would have laughed if she hadn’t been so upset, rapidly bordering on panicked. But she’d certainly learned how to deal with unexpected consequences. Now, Jean-Pierre would have to learn, too.

“Fine,” she agreed rather than waste her breath arguing, already knowing whatever plans he made now were about to be blown up anyhow. “You may not want me in New Orleans with you once you hear what I have to say.” She gritted her teeth as they hit Central Park West and neared her building. The ache in her chest shifted painfully. “Would you come in with me so we can continue this discussion inside?”

“Of course. We have a lot of plans to make.” He pulled in alongside the valet and handed over his keys.

On the elevator, she realized she had effectively put off her important announcement so long that very soon no words would be necessary and she would lose her window to tell Jean-Pierre herself. She wasn’t proud of that. But she was tired, aching and uncomfortable. And didn’t he bear half the blame for this impossible situation?

Yet, as soon as the elevator stopped on her floor and the doors slid open, she knew she couldn’t let him find out this way.

“We do have a lot of plans to make.” She spun to face him, the words spilling out fast. “But not the kind you think.”

“I don’t understand.” His jaw flexed, his gaze narrowing.

She drew in a deep breath.

“Remember that night last winter?” She didn’t wait for his reply, as she heard a long, high-pitched wail from inside her apartment. “I should have told you sooner, but you walked out the next day and said it was a mistake. Talking was all but impossible after a parting like that and then, well—” She shook her head, impatient with herself and the excuses that didn’t matter now, with her baby crying on the other side of her front door. “Come and meet your son, Jean-Pierre.”

.

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