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The Boss's Baby Affair

By´╝ÜTessa Radley


Home meant…Jennie.

Nicholas Valentine stared at the glossy black front door and drew a deep breath. The imposing lion-head brass knocker had been one of the few touches he’d selected for the modern three-story Auckland house.

Ignoring the lion’s ferocious expression, he keyed a security code into the access pad concealed in the doorframe. The heavy door swung inward.

Pocketing the keys to his Ferrari, Nick stepped forward. Carrara marble gleamed under spotlights that illuminated a triptych of tangled forms painted on three canvases facing the front entrance. He should’ve been pleased to be home. He should’ve been elated following a week of success after several months of living on the lip of a volcano.

Instead, he was too jet-lagged to care. He wanted a shower and a bed…but first he had to see Jennie.

It wasn’t going to be a comfortable moment, but it had to be done, regardless of the feelings her existence aroused in him.

Nick stopped at the foot of the white-marble stairs that ascended halfway up the two-story lobby. Resisting the urge to flee into the safety of the living room, where he could take refuge in the television remote, he placed a foot on the first stair.

He hadn’t seen Jennie for almost a month.

Nick couldn’t identify whether his overwhelming response was guilt—or relief. How was it possible that he could deal with a multimillion-dollar company, several hundred employees and a barrage of reporters without missing a beat, yet Jennie scared him witless? Not that he’d ever admit that to another living soul. Or even a dead one…

At the top of the stairs, a landing ran the length of the house. To the right lay two king suites, to the left four bedrooms with en suites, one of which had been converted into a nursery. In front of the four bedrooms the landing widened into a sitting area decorated in black, gray and white, and highlighted with colors that Jilly had referred to as pistachio and chartreuse yellow.

Nick paused. The usual clutter-free look of the designer-decorated space had given way to bright yellow and pink storage bins he didn’t recognize. The glass coffee table had been pushed to one side, and foam squares patterned with numbers covered the area between two white love seats.

Someone—his sister?—clearly had high aspirations for Jennie’s mathematical abilities. Nick was positive he hadn’t been away long enough for Jennie to learn to count—after all, she was only six months old. A little farther along, some sort of contraption was rigged up on the white wool carpet. What—?

The door to Jennie’s nursery stood ajar. Nick pushed it open and entered.

One sweeping glance revealed that the room was empty. Three strides took him past a tea party of teddy bears sitting on the floor, to the wall of windows overlooking the pool deck. There was no sign of the child or her motherly nanny—Nick couldn’t remember the woman’s name—by the pool, or on the expanse of manicured lawn rolling down to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

He glanced at his watch. Five o’clock. He knew from the schedule he’d memorized that it was Jennie’s dinnertime. The baby should be home. Mrs. Busby, his housekeeper, would have an answer.

Downstairs, Mrs. Busby was not in the high-tech chrome-and-black kitchen. Where had all his staff gone? Impatient now, Nick rang the bell.

Long minutes later, Mrs. Busby appeared through the swing doors that led to the basement suites where the staff lived. At the sight of him, the housekeeper tugged at her dress collar. “I’m sorry, Mr. Valentine. I didn’t know you were home yet.”

Nick didn’t bother to tell her that he’d gotten an earlier connection; instead, he got to the crux of what he wanted to know. “Where is Jennie?”

“Candace took her to the park—you can reach her on her cell phone.” The housekeeper headed for the kitchen island with its bank of drawers. “I’ll get the number—”

“Wait!” Nick’s brows jerked together. The nanny’s name wasn’t Candace. He would’ve remembered that. “Who is Candace?”

Mrs. Busby hesitated, clearly flustered. “The new nanny. Didn’t Mrs. Timmings let you know?”

New nanny? His sister hadn’t said a word about any such thing. “What happened to…?” He searched his memory for the woman’s name and came up blank.

“When Jennie got sick, Margaret resigned,” Mrs. Busby explained hurriedly.

Nick tensed. “Jennie’s sick?” He hadn’t been notified. “What’s wrong with her?”

Mrs. Busby looked increasingly uncomfortable. “She’s much better now—Candace has been looking after her. Mrs. Timmings didn’t want me worrying you about it.” For a moment the housekeeper looked as if she wanted to say something more. Then she added, “She thought it best to wait for you to come back.”