The Maid, the Millionaire and the Baby
A baby — in his home…with no instruction manual!
Called on to look after his baby nephew, Jasper Coleman’s flummoxed. He runs a global business but he has no idea about babies! In desperation, he calls on his temporary housemaid, Imogen Hartley, to help. Effervescent, warmhearted, her joie de vivre has irritatingly tempted him ever since she arrived. He even caught her dancing while vacuuming! Turns out Imogen is just what baby George needs. Perhaps she’s what Jasper needs, too…
Uplifting escapes featuring real, relatable women and strong, deeply desirable men.
IMOGEN ADJUSTED HER earbuds, did a quick little shimmy to make sure they weren’t going to fall out and then hit ‘play’ on the playlist her father had sent her. She stilled, waiting for the first song, and then grinned at the sixties Southern Californian surf music that filled her ears.
Perfect! Threading-cotton-through-the-eye-of-a-needle-first-time perfect. Here she was on an island, a slow thirty-minute boat ride off the coast of Brazil, listening to surf music. She pinched herself. Twice. And then eyed the vacuum cleaner at her feet, reminding herself that she was here for more than just tropical holiday fun. A detail that was ridiculously difficult to bear in mind when everywhere she looked she was greeted with golden sand, languid palm trees, serene lagoons and gloriously blue stretches of perfect rolling surf.
Still, in a few hours she could hit the beach, or go exploring through the rainforest, or…
Or maybe find out what was wrong with her aunt.
Her smile slipped, but she resolutely pushed her shoulders back. She’d only been here for three days. There was time to get to the bottom of whatever was troubling Aunt Katherine.
Switching on the vacuum cleaner, she channelled her inner domestic goddess—singing and dancing as she pushed the machine around the room. This was the only way to clean. Housework was inevitable so you might as well make it as fun as you could.
She’d been so quiet for the last three days, but the lord of the manor, Jasper Coleman, didn’t like noise, apparently.
Each to his own.
She shrugged, but the corners of her mouth lifted. At eleven o’clock every day, however, he went for an hour-long run. A glance at her watch told her she had another fifty minutes in which to live it up before she’d have to zip her mouth shut again and return to an unnatural state of silence—and in which to dust, vacuum and tidy his living and dining rooms, his office and the front entrance hall. She meant to make the most of them.
She glanced around at the amazing beach-house mansion. While she might refer to Jasper Coleman as lord of the manor, his house didn’t bear the slightest resemblance to an English manor house. The wooden beams that stretched across the vaulted ceilings gave the rooms a sense of vastness—making her feel as if she were cast adrift at sea in one of those old-fashioned wooden clippers from the B-grade pirate movies starring Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster that she used to love so much when she was a kid. A feeling that was solidly countered by the honey-coloured Mexican tiles that graced the floors, and the enormous picture windows that looked out on those extraordinary views.
She angled the vacuum cleaner beneath the coffee table. She should love this house. But the artfully arranged furniture and designer rugs looked like something out of a lifestyle magazine for the rich and famous. Everything matched. She repressed a shudder. Not a single thing was out of place.
Now if she owned the house… Ha! As if. But if she did, it’d look vastly different. Messier for a start. Her smile faded. There were shadows in this house, and not the kind she could scrub off the walls or sweep out of the door. No wonder Aunt Katherine had become so gloomy.
And those two things—Aunt Katherine and gloomy—just didn’t go together. The weight she’d been trying to ignore settled on her shoulders. She had to get to the bottom of that mystery, and not just because she’d promised her mother. Aunt Katherine was one of her favourite people and it hurt to see her so unhappy.
Another surfing song started and she kicked herself back into action. She had a house to clean, and she’d achieve nothing by becoming gloomy herself. She turned the music up and sang along as if her life depended on it, wiggling her backside in time with the music and twirling the vacuum cleaner around like an imaginary dance partner. While the rooms might be tidy, they were huge, and she had to get them done before Mr Coleman returned and locked himself away again in his office to do whatever computer wizardry he spent his days doing. In a suit jacket! Could you believe that? He wore a suit jacket to work here on an island that housed precisely four people. Just…wow.
The second song ended and her father’s voice came onto the recording. This was one of the joys of her father’s playlists—the personal messages he tucked away in among the songs. ‘We miss you, Immy.’
She rolled her eyes, but she knew she was grinning like crazy. ‘I’ve only been gone three days.’ She switched off the vacuum cleaner, chuckling at one of his silly stories involving the tennis club. He recommended a movie he and her mother had seen, before finishing with, ‘Love you, honey.’
‘Love you too, Dad,’ she whispered back, a trickle of homesickness weaving through her, before a movement from the corner of her eye had her crashing back to the present. She froze, and then slowly turned with a chilling premonition that she knew who’d be standing there. And she was right. There loomed Jasper Coleman, larger than life, disapproval radiating from him in thick waves, and her mouth went dry as she pulled the earbuds from her ears.
Her employer was a huge bear of a man with an air of self-contained insularity that had the word danger pounding through her. A split second after the thought hit her, though, she shook herself. He wasn’t that huge. Just…moderately huge. It was just… He was one of those men whose presence filled a room. And he filled this room right up to its vaulted ceiling.
A quick sweep of her trained dressmaker’s eyes put him at six feet one inch. And while his shoulders were enticingly broad, he wasn’t some barrel-chested, iron-pumping brawn-monger. Mind you, he didn’t have a spare ounce of flesh on that lean frame of his, and all of the muscles she could see—and she could see quite a lot of them as he’d traded in his suit jacket for running shorts and a T-shirt—were neatly delineated. Very neatly delineated. That was what gave him an air of barely checked power.
That and his buzz cut.
So…not exactly a bear. And probably not dangerous. At least not in a ‘tear one from limb to limb’ kind of way. None of that helped slow the pounding of her pulse.
‘Ms Hartley, am I right in thinking you’re taking personal calls during work time?’
He had to be joking, right? She could barely get a signal on her mobile phone. She started to snort but snapped it short at his raised eyebrow. It might not be politic to point that out at this precise moment. ‘No. Sir,’ she added belatedly. But she said it with too much force and ended up sounding like a sergeant major in some farcical play.
Oh, well done, Imogen. Why don’t you click your heels together and salute too?
‘Not a phone call. I was listening to a playlist my father sent me. He’s a sound engineer…and he leaves little messages between songs…and I talk back even though I know he can’t hear me. So…’ She closed her eyes.
Too much information, Immy.
‘I expected your aunt to have made it clear to you that I demand peace and quiet when I’m working.’
Her eyes flew open. ‘She did!’ She couldn’t get Aunt Katherine into trouble. ‘But, you see, I thought you’d already left for your run.’
She glanced at his office door and had to fight the urge to slap a hand to her forehead. She was supposed to check if that door was open or closed. Open meant he was gone and she could clean this set of rooms without disturbing him. If it was closed that meant he was still working…and she had to be church-mouse quiet. Biting her lip, she met his gaze again. ‘I’m sorry. I forgot to check your office door. It won’t happen again, Mr Coleman, I promise.’
He didn’t reply. Nothing. Not so much as a brass razoo. Which was an odd expression. She’d look it up…if she could get an Internet connection. She eyed him uncertainty. He might not be a big bear of a man, but he fitted her image of a bear with a sore head to a T. Which might not be fair as she didn’t know him, but she wasn’t predisposed to like him either, the horrid old Scrooge.
He turned away, and she sagged with the relief of being released from those icy eyes. But then he swung back, and she went tense and rigid all over again. ‘I’m going for my run now, Ms Hartley. In case my attire had slipped your attention.’
His sarcasm stung. Her fingers tightened about the vacuum cleaner, and suddenly it was Elliot’s voice, Elliot’s mocking sarcasm, that sounded through her head. She thrust out her chin. ‘Did you just call me stupid?’ She might only be the maid, but she didn’t have to put up with rudeness. ‘Look, I made a mistake and I apologised. It doesn’t mean I’m stupid.’
‘Oh, Imogen!’ She could practically hear her mother’s wail. ‘What about Aunt Katherine? You promised!’
Jasper Coleman had been in the act of moving towards the front door, but he turned back now with intimidating slowness. Rather than back down—which, of course, would be the sensible thing to do—she glared right back at him. She knew she might be a little too sensitive on the topic of her sharpness of mind and her reason—her intelligence—but she wasn’t being paid enough to put up with derogatory comments directed at it.
At least, that was what she told herself before she started quaking in her sensible ballet flats. Her sense of self-righteousness dissolved as Jasper drew himself up to his full height. Any idiot knew you didn’t go poking bears.
‘I don’t know you well enough to make a judgement call on your intelligence, Ms Hartley.’ He gestured to his office door. ‘A question mark does, however, hang over your powers of observation.’
She bit her tongue and kept her mouth firmly shut. Thankfully it appeared that he didn’t expect an answer, as, without any further ado, he strode from the room. A moment later she heard the click of the front door closing. He didn’t do anything as uncouth as slam it.
‘Of course your attire hadn’t slipped my attention,’ she muttered, pushing her earbuds into the pocket of her skirt. She was a dressmaker. She noticed what everyone wore.
Though for some reason she’d really noticed what he’d been wearing. Which didn’t make a whole lot of sense because his attire had been so very generic. Those nondescript running shorts had come to mid-thigh and were neither ridiculously tiny nor ridiculously tight. His T-shirt, though, had hugged his frame as if it’d been spray-painted on, highlighting the flex and play of firm muscle.
Oh, Imogen, who are you trying to kid?
It wasn’t his clothes but the body inside the clothes that had held her attention so avidly.
Scowling, she pushed the image of her perplexing boss from her mind and completed the rest of the cleaning as quickly as possible, vacuuming and dusting immaculate surfaces. But, as her aunt said, they were immaculate because they were cleaned five days a week. Without fail. Because it was what the lord of the manor decreed, apparently.
Jasper’s office was as immaculate as the rest of the house. And just as cold. Unlike her workspace at home, he didn’t have any photographs sitting on his desk, no sentimental knick-knacks or anything personal. His room was functional and blank. He was supposed to be some kind of computer wunderkind, though how on earth he could create in a space that was so beige was beyond her.
She gave a final flick of her duster to the enormous desk, glanced around the room with a critical eye, and was about to leave when her gaze shifted to his computer…for the third time in about as many minutes. She bit her lip. She’d bet—given all the fancy tech gadgetry he had in here—he could log onto the Internet without a single problem.
She’d been trying to find out—for three days now—if the waters surrounding the island were safe. Aunt Katherine had no idea. She preferred the calm waters of the lagoon to the surf.
Jasper swam in his twenty-five-metre pool twice a day—from six to seven each morning and again in the evening. The man was obviously a fitness freak—three hours of cardio a day. Imagine? ‘Kill me now,’ she muttered. Not that she disapproved of fitness. She just couldn’t do fitness for fitness’s sake. She had to do something fun or it just wouldn’t happen. Give her a Zumba or dance class, or the surf. She loved swimming in the ocean.
If it was safe.
Not giving herself any time to hesitate, she slid into her boss’s chair, woke his computer from sleep mode and clicked the Internet browser icon. Surely he wouldn’t mind? It’d be in his best interests to keep his staff safe, right? Occupational health and safety and all that.
She recalled the look in his eyes less than thirty minutes ago, and her own churlish, ‘Did you just call me stupid?’ and grimaced. He might make an exception in her case and feed her to the sharks.
‘So just hurry up and find out what you need to find out,’ she ordered, typing in: Swimming in Brazilian waters.
The search engine results loaded onto the screen. ‘Eureka.’
She leaned forward, intent on clicking the link to a website that looked as if it would give her the information she needed.
‘Do not move a muscle, Ms Hartley,’ a deceptively soft voice said from the doorway.
Imogen froze. She moved nothing but her eyes to meet her employer’s gaze. ‘Is there…?’ She swallowed. ‘Is there a snake or a scorpion about to pounce on me?’ Her voice came out hoarse, but she was too afraid to cough and clear her throat in case she incited some animal to attack.
‘Don’t be ludicrous. Of course there isn’t. Unless you call yourself a scorpion or a snake,’ he added, striding towards her with a purposeful step, his lips pressed into a thin line.
Danger. The word whipped through her for the second time. This man was dangerous. She should’ve followed her first instincts. Leaping to her feet, she shot around the farthest side of the desk, keeping its wide expanse between them. She grabbed a paperweight in one hand, and then seized a pen and held it like a dagger in her other.
He slammed to a halt so quickly he swayed where he stood. ‘What are you doing?’
‘I don’t like the look in your eyes.’
For some reason, her words made him pale. His chest lifted as he dragged in a breath. ‘I don’t like undercover journalists.’
‘I’m not a journalist,’ she spluttered, ‘undercover or otherwise!’
‘I hold the same contempt for industrial spies.’
She pointed the pen at his computer. ‘You think I’m snooping in your personal files or…or your work files?’
Lips that shouldn’t look quite so full twisted. ‘The thought had crossed my mind.’
Wow, was this man paranoid or what? No wonder he lived on a desert island. And no wonder her aunt had warned her to be circumspect around him—difficult and temperamental had been the words she’d used.
‘We seem to be at an impasse, Ms Hartley. I never for one moment meant for you to think that you were in physical danger from me.’
Oddly enough, she believed him.
‘But I want to look at that computer screen to see precisely what it was that had you grinning like a Cheshire cat and shrieking “Eureka”.’
That was probably a very good idea. ‘How about I go this way until I’m standing in front of your desk?’
‘And I’ll go this way—’ he gestured in the opposite direction ‘—until I’m behind my desk.’
‘I want it on record that I take exception to the charge of shrieking, Mr Coleman. I don’t shriek.’
‘Duly noted, Ms Hartley.’
* * *
‘Right, well…let’s call that Plan A, shall we?’ Imogen Hartley’s lips lifted, but that didn’t assuage the acid burning in Jasper’s gut. The fear in her eyes as he’d started towards her had nearly felled him. What kind of brute did she take him for?
‘Do you want me to count?’ He didn’t want to give her any further cause for alarm. ‘On the count of three—’
With a frown in her eyes, as if he puzzled her, she shook her head and started moving around the desk. He kept his own steps measured and unhurried as he moved in the opposite direction.
Once they’d switched places, rather than looking meek and mild, or guilty and ashamed, Imogen Hartley made an exaggerated flourish towards the computer like a model in an infomercial.
He muffled a sigh and took his seat. At least she didn’t look frightened any more. Steeling himself, he turned to his computer. He stared at it for several long moments, blinked, and then eased back, his shoulders unhitching. ‘You’re checking the surf conditions?’
He tried to keep a frown from forming. ‘Did you really think Ilha do Pequeno Tesoura—’ he used the full Portuguese name of the island ‘—would be in the database of some surfing website?’
‘Well, no, not exactly. But we’re only a leisurely thirty-minute boat ride from the coast. Which means it’d be quicker by speedboat,’ she added with a shrug, as if that explained everything.
A speedboat would reach the island in less than fifteen minutes. And her shrug explained nothing.
‘So I thought that checking the surfing conditions on the coast might tell me what I needed to know.’
She gestured, presumably towards the Atlantic Ocean on display outside his office window. ‘If it’s safe for me to swim on your beach.’
Two vertical lines appeared on her brow as if he’d just asked the most ridiculous question ever put to her—as if two seconds ago she’d considered him a sensible man and now she didn’t.
Two minutes ago, she’d thought him a scary man. He’d never forgive himself for that.
Still, those lines on her brow were oddly cute…and kind of disturbing. Disturbing in the same way that seeing her dancing and singing while she’d been vacuuming had been disturbing. This woman was full of life and energy and spontaneity—full of unguarded reactions. It reminded him of normal people, and the outside world, and life. It was why he’d been so unforgivably short with her. The ache she’d unknowingly created inside him—an ache he’d thought he’d mastered a long time ago—had taken him off guard. It was why he’d come back early from his run—so he could ask Katherine to apologise to the girl on his behalf.
Apologise yourself now.
He opened his mouth. He closed it again. Katherine had rolled her eyes when she’d spoken of her niece—had said she was flighty and impulsive…recovering from the latest in a string of unsuitable relationships…had hinted, without saying as much, that her niece would find him irresistibly attractive. Be that as it may, while she might be irresponsible this girl was untouched by all the ugliness that surrounded him. And he’d like to keep it that way. It’d be better for all concerned if she considered him a temperamental grump rather than a reasonable human being.
He watched, fascinated, as she forced her face into polite lines. ‘The reason I was checking the surf conditions is because I want to swim on the beach out there. My aunt couldn’t tell me. She doesn’t like the surf. If she wants a dip, she swims in the lagoon. You only swim in your pool. So…’
It took an effort of will not to lean towards her. ‘So?’
‘So I wondered if there was something wrong with it. Is there a great white shark colony camped just off the reef? Are there hidden rips or strange jellyfish? I mean, I’ve not noticed anything unusual, but…’
She trailed off with a shrug, her meaning clear. She’d evidently grown up with the same ‘swim safe’ messages that he and most other Australian children grew up with. The main beach here on Tesoura was a sheltered haven with rolling breakers created by the offshore reef, but the thought of her swimming alone disturbed him. ‘Are you an experienced surfer?’
‘I’m not a board rider, but I swim a lot at the local beaches back home.’
He searched his mind for where it was that Katherine’s family called home.
‘Wollongong and Kiama way,’ she clarified. ‘The beaches an hour or two south of Sydney.’
He’d swum those beaches once upon a time. A lifetime ago. A life that felt as if it had belonged to somebody else.
He shook the thought off. ‘The beaches here are similar to the ones you’d be used to back home.’ Tesoura’s beaches were probably safer than most.
‘Thank you.’ The smile she flashed him pierced beneath his guard, making that damn ache start up in the centre of him again. Her smile faded, though, when he didn’t smile back, and he did his damnedest to not feel guilty about it. ‘I’m sorry, I should’ve asked your permission before using your computer.’
Which raised another question. ‘I don’t want you touching any of the equipment in this room, Ms Hartley.’
She nodded and apologised again, hesitated and then said, ‘I guess there’s no chance of you calling me Imogen, is there?’
‘None whatsoever.’ He did his best not to feel guilty about that either. ‘Didn’t you bring a laptop or tablet to the island?’
For some reason that made her laugh. ‘Ah, but, you see, I haven’t been given the keys to the kingdom.’
What on earth was she talking about?
‘The Wi-Fi password,’ she clarified.
Why on earth not?
‘Apparently I don’t have the right security clearance.’ Her lips twitched irresistibly. ‘It must be above my pay grade.’
She quoted that last sentence as if it was a line from a movie, but he wasn’t familiar with it. Then again, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d watched a movie.
He pushed that thought aside. Why on earth hadn’t Katherine given her niece the password?
None of his business. He knew Katherine was keeping secrets from her family, but he had no intention of getting involved. Without a word, he wrote the login details down and pushed them across to her.
She glanced at them and her eyes started to dance. ‘Does that mean I just got a promotion?’
He resisted the urge to smile back. ‘It now means you can log onto the Internet using your own devices rather than mine, Ms Hartley.’
The smile dropped from her lips. Again. Banter with the boss wasn’t going to happen and the sooner she understood that, the better.
Something rebellious and resentful at the strictures he’d placed upon himself prickled through him, but he squashed it. It was for the best.
She shifted from one leg to the other. ‘Look, I wanted to apologise again about earlier. I—’
‘It’s all forgotten, Ms Hartley.’
‘I’d appreciate it if you’d close the door on your way out.’
He turned back to his computer and opened a fresh spreadsheet. She stood there frozen for a moment, and then shook herself. ‘Yes, of course, sir.’
And if her sir held an edge of sarcasm, he didn’t bother calling her on it. He wasn’t interested in winning any Best Boss of the Year awards. Imogen was only here temporarily while Katherine sorted a few things out. She’d be gone again in a flash. And peace would reign once more.
The moment she left he closed the spreadsheet. He’d only opened it to look busy and get Imogen to leave his office. Ms Hartley, he corrected. Not Imogen. He checked his Internet browsing history more thoroughly.
She’d started precisely one search. That was it. She’d wanted to know the surf conditions. As she’d said. She wasn’t a journalist. She hadn’t lied.
Good. He hadn’t relished the thought of telling Katherine her niece was a thief, liar or cheat. He eased back in his seat, glad that the open friendliness of Imogen’s face wasn’t a front for deception. He was glad his instincts hadn’t let him down.
You could’ve made an effort to be a little friendlier.
He squashed the notion dead. No, he couldn’t. It started with a couple of shared jokes, and evolved to shared confidences, and before you knew it a friendship had formed—a friendship you’d started to rely on. But when it all went to hell in a handbasket you found out that you couldn’t rely on anyone. Not your friends, not your girlfriend and sure as hell not your family. He wasn’t walking that road again.
It was easier to not start anything at all. He’d learned to rely on nothing beyond his own resources. It’d worked perfectly for the past two years, and if it wasn’t broken…
A sudden image of Imogen’s face—the fear in her eyes as she’d edged away from him—speared into his gut, making a cold sweat break out on his nape. Who was he kidding? He was broken.
And a man like him needed to stay away from a woman like Imogen Hartley.
Shooting to his feet, he strode to the window, his lip curling at the tropical perfection that greeted him. He should’ve chosen the site of his exile with more care—picked some forlorn and windswept scrap of rock off the coast of Scotland or…or Norway. All grey forbidding stone, frozen winds and stunted trees.
Two years ago, though, all he’d cared about was getting as far from Australia as he could, as quickly as he could.
He wheeled away from the window. He’d never cared that the island was beautiful before, so why wish himself away from it now? He should never have cut his run short—that was the problem. Running and swimming kept the demons at bay. He should’ve stuck to his routine. And a hard forty minutes’ worth of laps would rectify that.
He flung the door of his office open at the exact same moment the front doorbell sounded. He blinked. He hadn’t known that the doorbell even worked. It hadn’t rung in the two years he’d been in residence. All deliveries—food and office supplies, the mail—were delivered to the back door and Katherine. The villa was huge and sprawling, and the back entrance was closer to the jetty, which suited everyone. Nobody visited Tesoura. Nobody.
He’d bet his life it was Imogen Hartley. She’d probably rung it for a lark. She was exactly the kind of person who’d do that—just for the fun of it, to see if it worked. He waited for her to pop her head into the room and apologise. She’d probably feed him some story about polishing it or some such nonsense. He’d even be gracious about it.
Imogen came rushing through from the direction of the kitchen. ‘Was that the—?’
The doorbell rang again.
‘—the doorbell?’ she finished.
He gestured towards the front entrance, his gut clenching. ‘I’d appreciate it if you’d answer it, Ms Hartley.’
Those vivacious eyes danced as she started for the door. ‘Butler is definitely a promotion.’
Even if he hadn’t put his ‘no smiling’ rule into place, he couldn’t have smiled now if he’d wanted to. Somebody ringing the front doorbell here on his island miles from civilisation could only mean one thing—trouble. ‘If it’s the press…’ he managed before she disappeared into the front hall.
She swung around. ‘Short shrift?’
She gave him a thumbs-up in reply before disappearing, and despite himself a smile tugged at his lips. The woman was irrepressible.
He stayed out of sight but moved closer so he could listen.
‘I understand this is the residence of Jasper Coleman,’ a pleasantly cultured male voice said.
‘May I ask who’s calling, please?’
He couldn’t fault Imogen’s tone—courteous, professional…unflappable.
‘I have a delivery for him.’ There was a series of dull thuds, as if things were being dropped to the ground, and then a softer click and scrape. ‘Don’t worry, he doesn’t have to sign for it.’
Unflappable disappeared when Imogen yelped, ‘That’s a baby!’
‘Hey, wait! You can’t just leave a baby here.’
‘Those were my instructions, miss.’ The voice started to recede. ‘Just following orders.’
Jasper shot out from his hiding place in time to see his butler accost a man almost twice her size and pull him to a halt. ‘What is wrong with you? You can’t just go around dumping unknown babies on people’s doorsteps.’
‘The baby is neither unknown nor am I dumping him. I was hired to escort the baby to Mr Coleman. And I’m rather pleased to have managed it before his next feed is due. As far as I’m concerned, my job here is done.’
Ice trickled down Jasper’s spine. Ignoring it—and the baby capsule sitting on his doorstep—he forced himself forward. ‘There has to be some mistake.’
‘No mistake,’ the man said, turning towards Jasper. ‘Not if you’re Jasper Coleman.’
Imogen released the man’s arm and stepped back to let Jasper deal with the situation, but she didn’t disappear back inside the house and he didn’t know whether to be glad of her silent support or not.
‘You are Jasper Coleman, right?’
He wanted to lie, but there was a baby involved. ‘Yes.’
‘Then there’s no mistake.’
His gut clenched. There was only one person who would send him a baby, but… It was impossible! She’d said she hated him. She’d said he’d ruined her life.
The man gestured to the baby capsule. ‘Mr Coleman, meet your nephew.’
On cue, the baby opened his eyes and gave a loud wail.
Jasper couldn’t move. ‘What’s he doing here?’
‘Your sister hired me to escort the baby here from Australia.’ He pulled a card from his pocket and handed it across. ‘Belforte’s Executive Nanny Service, sir.’
‘You’re a nanny?’
‘One of the best. If you check with the office, you’ll see that everything is in order. I believe you’ll find a letter from your sister in one of the bags. I expect it’ll explain everything.’ And then he frowned as if suddenly recalling something. ‘Mrs Graham did say that if I saw you to say the word Jupiter. She said you’d know what that meant.’
His gut twisted. Jupiter had been their password as kids.
The baby’s cries grew louder and more persistent.
He was aware of Imogen glancing from him to the nanny and back again, but he couldn’t meet her eye. He couldn’t move.
‘You’ll have to excuse me. I’m expected in Rio for my next assignment by nightfall. Have a nice day.’ And then he turned and strode away, evidently washing his hands of them all. And who could blame him? It wasn’t his baby.
It didn’t stop Jasper from wanting to tackle him to the ground and force him to take the baby back. Damn! What game was Emily playing now? He swallowed down his panic and channelled the coldness he’d spent the last two years perfecting. He would find a way to deal with this and—
Imogen pushed past him to sweep the crying baby up into her arms and cuddle him. ‘Hey there, little dude, what’s all this fuss about? You feeling a bit discombobulated? I don’t blame you.’
The baby batted his face into her shoulder a couple of times, rubbed a fist across his eyes, while Imogen cooed nonsense, and then he finally looked up at her. She sent him a big smile before blowing a raspberry into his hand. To Jasper’s utter astonishment the baby not only stopped crying but smiled back, as if Imogen was the best thing he’d seen all day.
And Imogen Hartley visibly melted.
Right, she’d said she’d wanted a promotion. He wondered how she’d feel about the position of nanny?