Hello my darlings 🙂
I’m so excited about the early release of the 2nd book in my sexy new series : The Alexanders. Since I love teasing you, here’s the opening chapter of The Things I Do for You…
RAINA WINTERS OPENED her eyes to the sight of the neon numbers on her alarm clock. She reached out her arm slowly, trying not to raise her heart rate too much.
After she plucked the digital thermometer from the edge of her nightstand, she stuck it under her tongue and waited for the beep to sound. She grabbed the notepad she kept on her nightstand and jotted 98.2 next to the date. Her temperature was still roughly the same as it had been for the past ten days.
It won’t be long now, she thought.
She’d just finished her most grueling year since she started modeling, taking on twice as many bookings as usual to earn herself some much-needed time off. In her modeling career, Raina was used to working doggedly when she wanted something, and she had been just as strategic when planning her next goal. She took those awful horse-pill vitamins religiously. She’d cut out alcohol, swordfish, and hot baths. It wasn’t even that big of a pain keeping track of her temperature anymore. Nothing was too much if it helped her achieve what she’d been planning for the last six months.
If everything went as planned over the next few days, she could be holding her child nine months from now. Everything inside her softened at just the thought of a chubby little bundle with big, brown eyes.
“Rise and shine, sleepyhead.”
The door to her room pushed open an inch, then her Chief of Security, Sam Gannon, stuck his head in.
“Sorry to wake you. But you have a doctor’s appointment today. I wasn’t sure if you remembered.”
Not many people knew about her fertility issues. It wasn’t something she felt comfortable discussing with anyone other than her twin sister, Ridley, and her doctor. But Sam, as her most trusted advisor and constant companion, had a front row seat to the entire process.
Whether he wanted one or not.
“I definitely didn’t forget that,” she remarked dryly. The thought of more poking and prodding was enough to make her want to roll over and go back to sleep.
But this is part of what you’re signing up for, she thought. If she wanted a baby, regular doctor visits were something she had to get used to. Due to her ongoing fertility issues, it was going to take a minor miracle or some serious medical intervention for her to get pregnant. Once she was lucky enough to be pregnant, there was no way she would risk her or the baby’s health by skipping prenatal visits.
Sam crossed to the window and pulled the drapes open, his muscular shoulders rolling beneath the tight black shirt he wore. With his deep summer tan and his dark hair razored off in a short brush cut, he looked like a model himself. She could definitely see him gracing the cover of some magazine for bodybuilders or something.
“What? Do these jeans make my ass look big?” Sam teased.
Raina laughed, not even embarrassed to be caught staring. “Just admiring the view. Why couldn’t I be smart enough to fall in love with you, Sam?”
Sam grinned. “You couldn’t handle me.” He walked over to her handbag sitting on a chair next to the bed and pulled out her cell phone.
“You have a missed call from Silvestre. Do you need to call him back and let him know you’re running behind?”
Oh boy. Raina pushed back her comforter, figuring if they were going to fight she might as well get up. Sam had made no secret of his disapproval of her fiancé. Or rather, the fact that they rarely saw each other and their relationship was more like a business deal.
“He’s not coming with me. He’s still in New York.” She didn’t meet his eyes. She was going to get up in just a minute. It just felt so heavenly to lie amongst the jumble of pillows. The world could wait for a little bit.
Sam shook his head. “I really don’t get you sometimes.”
She huffed and sat up. It felt like it took a herculean effort but finally she was upright. “What, Sam? What? I already know you don’t like him. You’ve made that abundantly clear.”
He knelt next to the bed. In this position it was impossible to avoid looking at him.
“This isn’t about him. It’s about you. I don’t get you. You can have any man you want. You’ve turned tons of other men, better men, down. But you hook up with Silvestre? Why? That guy would sell his own mother to make a buck.”
“Sam, come on. You don’t think that’s a little harsh? I’ve been accused of being mercenary myself.”
“He’s a weasel.”
“Oh, is that your professional assessment?” Sam had been her bodyguard since her early days of modeling. Now he was her Chief of Security and her best friend.
Possibly her only friend.
“No, that’s my man-to-man assessment. You can do better than him.”
“Steven is educated, sophisticated, and successful. By anyone’s standards, he’s a real catch.”
“He doesn’t love you.” Sam stilled. Neither of them spoke for a moment.
“I don’t love him, either. I don’t need love. I’m probably not even capable of it.”
Sam tipped up her chin until their eyes met. “I think you and I both know that’s not true.”
Raina closed her eyes and after a moment, Sam cleared his throat.
“You still don’t want to talk about Alexander? Fine. I’ll leave you alone so you can call Lover Boy back.”
“Stop calling him that.”
Once he was gone, she punched her pillow a few times. It was funny that Sam thought she could have any man she wanted. If she were just looking for guys who wanted to hang out and have a good time, it would be a different story. But when you were asking a man to get you pregnant, the pool of interested candidates shrank considerably.
Raina closed her eyes, remembering the last time she’d been engaged. It didn’t hurt as much to think about Brian these days, more of an ache instead of a true pain. They’d met at an audition and he’d teased her about being nervous. He’d made her laugh.
They’d been so young and it seemed so ridiculous now but oh, how he’d made her feel. She’d planned to travel the world, modeling, and then retire so he could do photography while she stayed at home with the three kids they wanted. He’d understood her drive and her desire for more. At least until she’d found out his attraction to her lasted only as long as she was popular. When she’d struggled to find work, he’d left her behind like an out-of-season accessory.
She knew better than anyone that people could turn on you at any time. But at least if you didn’t love them, it wouldn’t tear your heart out.
Raina pulled out her phone and hit the first speed dial. She’d been trying to reach Steven since yesterday so she could tell him her good news. He knew how important it was for her to branch out into different areas of entertainment, so he’d be happy for her when he found out the network had picked up her reality show. When she got voicemail, she hung up. It would be better to give him the news in person when he got back in town.
“Are you calling Lover Boy or can I come back now?” Sam called from the living room.
“Give me a minute!” she yelled. “And stop calling him that,” she muttered under her breath.
Steven might not love her, but that didn’t mean he’d be a bad husband. People got divorced every day who’d been oh-so-in-love just months prior. Steven and his first wife had, in fact, divorced because she hadn’t wanted children and Steven did. Wanting a family was one of the things that had drawn them to each other.
What she shared with Steven was common goals and determination to succeed. The reality show she’d just sold to a major cable network would give them both exactly what they wanted. The world would get to watch the carefully constructed fantasy they would put on for the cameras leading up to their uber-expensive, fairy-tale wedding. Steven would get promotion for his new line of nightclubs in New York and she would gain a whole new audience to help her break in to show business.
Sam was wrong. Steven wasn’t a boy like certain other people who were photographed every day with a new girl on each arm.
He was a man.
Most importantly, he was the man who’d agreed to marry her and father her child.
* * * * *
“KAY? DID YOU already bring the latest reports for the foundation youth project?”
Nicholas Alexander flinched as a loud beep followed by the sound of static came through his desk phone’s speaker.
“Oops…” There was another few seconds of fumbling and another loud beep. “Where is that stupid button? Oh, there it is. I have the reports, sir. I’ll bring them now.”
Nick smothered a laugh when the door to his office flew open and Kaylee Wilhelm, his new assistant, stumbled in carrying a stack of files.
“I have it right here!”
Kaylee was a singer in a girl group that his younger brother, a music producer, was trying to launch. She’d lost her prior job as a waitress because she couldn’t work the night shift anymore. Jackson needed her available to record and to attend industry parties in the evening. He was also worried about her being on her feet so much since she was pregnant. Nick had hired her as a favor to his brother when his usual assistant had moved away.
“I want to thank you again for hiring me full time, Mr. Alexander. I know I’m not fully up to speed yet, but I really appreciate you giving me a chance.”
She handed him the files and swiped her hands over her hair. When they’d first met she’d been wearing no makeup and her thick hair had been bound back in a messy ponytail. Today, her smooth brown skin looked perfectly clear and her eyes looked brighter, no doubt due to some sort of mystical female makeup voodoo. Her thick dark hair had been braided back into several neat twists. Jackson’s image consultants had obviously gotten their hands on her and given her a makeover.
It was too bad they hadn’t been able to give her confidence a makeover as well.
“I’ve told you a million times to call me Nick. You don’t need to thank me again, Kay. I should be thanking you. Most of the assistants I got from the temp agency didn’t fit well. I guess I was a little… unorthodox.”
Nick thought back to the days prior to hiring Kaylee. Assistants who spent the majority of their workday bringing him files he didn’t need, standing entirely too close, and finding every excuse to lean over his desk and flash their cleavage.
Things that he might have found amusing at one point, but not any longer.
Kaylee had been honest about her work experience and confessed that she had no prior experience in office administration. Something he would have known even if she hadn’t told him. She’d had no idea how to work a multiline phone system, seemed slightly afraid of the copy machine, and still looked terrified when she had to greet visitors who came to his office for meetings.
But despite all that, she had adapted quickly. Nick was used to keeping crazy hours and had never expected his assistants to get in as early as he did. But once Kaylee found out that his day started at seven a.m., she’d started showing up then, too.
He’d fallen asleep at his desk after a really late night and asked Kaylee to go pick up his dry cleaning when she got in that morning. He could shower at the gym downstairs and change into one of the suits he’d just had cleaned. Not only had Kay done it without any hysterics or unnecessary questions, but at the end of the day, she’d pointed to his lower desk drawer and said “just in case.” He’d pulled the drawer open to find a stack of neatly folded shirts, slacks, and ties. The remainder of his cleaning she’d left on the hook behind his office door.
That had been the day he’d decided he was keeping her.
“Even though I hired you as a favor to Jackson, I kept you on because you’re doing a hell of a job. You’ve earned the right to be here.”
Kay looked down at her shoes, clearly embarrassed by the praise. “Thanks. I’ve been enjoying it. This is certainly the most unusual job I’ve ever had.”
“Good. I’m a lot of things, but I hope I’m never boring. So, did we get word yet about our bid for the Alexander Foundation youth project?”
Kay was suddenly very interested in the pattern of the carpet. “Yes, sir. Unfortunately, we were outbid.”
“We were outbid? Damn it.” Nick pounded his desk in frustration. He’d started the Alexander Foundation to help kids who hadn’t been lucky enough to grow up with parents like his. He’d been searching for months for the perfect piece of land to build his retreat for troubled youth.
Not that he hadn’t always wanted to help others, but watching his little brother fall head over ass in love had made him start thinking about the future. Being a bachelor had always suited him. His brothers, Bennett and Elliott, seemed to feel the same way. They had the freedom to do what they wanted and when they needed a fix of family time, they had a blast playing uncle to Jackson’s two boys, Chris and Jase.
Marriage and parenthood were things he’d considered to be on a distant horizon. He knew he’d want them one day, but that day had never seemed particularly close.
Lately though, as he spent more time with Jackson and Ridley, he wondered if that time was finally here. Actually, if he was honest, it was spending time with his future sister-in-law, Raina Winters, that had him thinking differently.
Their one-night stand earlier in the year had rocked him down to the core. He hadn’t been able to get her out of his mind since. But she obviously hadn’t felt the same way—she’d avoided his calls and emails afterward. They’d been forced to spend more and more time together lately as Jackson and Ridley planned their wedding. He’d hoped their forced interaction would cure him of his obsession, especially since they seemed to annoy each other at every opportunity.
Unfortunately, as time went on, he fell deeper in love and she became more and more indifferent.
“I’ve already starting working on the bid for the next site on our list,” Kaylee assured him. “I know we’ll find something soon.”
“Great. I was really hoping to get this project off the ground before winter, but I guess that was too good to be true.”
“It’s an amazing project. It’s going to help a lot of kids. You might want to be careful, Mr. Alexander. You’ll tarnish your image as a happy-go-lucky playboy. People might actually start taking you seriously.”
Nick tried and failed to crack a smile. “We can’t have that, can we?”
Normally it wouldn’t bother him to joke about his playboy status. He’d always done whatever he wanted and hadn’t cared if other people liked it or not. It was only in recent months that his lack of relationship experience had been a problem and his reputation had stood in the way of him getting something he wanted.
Someone he wanted.
All he could do was hope she’d finally thaw toward him a little. She didn’t have his cell phone number, but she knew she could always reach him at his office.
He could only hope, anyway.
“Any messages?” he asked. Most of his family called him on his cell phone, so he doubted there were.
“Oh yes, just one.” Kay raced back out to her desk and then reappeared a few moments later. “Your brother wanted to remind you that you were supposed to come over and look at his investment portfolio today.”
Kay looked up from the paper. “Huh?”
Nick smiled. “Which one of my brothers? I have three.”
“Oh. Right! Sorry, it was Jackson. Actually, it was Ridley who called but she told me to say the message was from your brother,” Kay said sheepishly.
“No worries. I know firsthand how hard it is to say no to my future sister-in-law.”
“Yeah. Ridley is awesome. Anyway, I’ll bring in that new bid when I’m done with it.” She nodded at him and then turned to leave.
Just before she reached the door, Nick called out, “Kaylee? Just out of curiosity, did you happen to hear who won the bid?”
She stopped in her tracks but didn’t turn. “Yes, sir. It was Steven Silvestre. Again.” She rushed out and pulled the door closed behind her.
* * * * *
RAINA PARKED BEHIND Jackson’s car and sat staring at the house for a moment. Her phone let out a chirp. Recognizing Steven’s ringtone, she immediately answered.
“Hey, there you are! I’ve been trying to get in touch with you since yesterday.”
“I know, I’m so sorry about that. Negotiations aren’t going well here. I meant to call you last night and then just passed out when I got back to my hotel.”
She’d always loved Steven’s voice, perfectly smooth and well-modulated. At thirty-four, he was just so much more mature than the other guys she’d dated.
“I’m sure you were exhausted. I know you’re working really hard on this deal. I just missed hearing your voice, that’s all.”
There was an awkward pause as if he didn’t know how to respond.
“Well, I’ve missed you, too. I’m flying back in tomorrow. Let me have the honor of taking you to dinner. You pick the place. We haven’t had time to really talk in a while. There’s been a lot going on.”
Raina smiled. Typical Steven. Even when they were just talking on the phone, he was always so formal. “Of course we can have dinner. I have a lot to tell you, too. I think you’re going to be excited when you hear my news.”
He knew she was trying to work out a deal for her own reality show and had already agreed to allow himself to be filmed for a certain number of episodes after they were married. He’d even given her pointers on negotiating with the network.
Steven was truly her perfect complement. Someone calm and steady to keep her focused on what was really important. He never raised his voice or lost his temper.
She thought of her last conversation with Nick. Calm and steady were not the adjectives that came to mind. She’d probably used every four-letter word in the English language during that conversation.
She looked up and saw her sister standing in the doorway of Jackson’s house. “Oh, I have to go. I’m meeting Ridley for lunch.”
“That’s fine. I’ll see you tomorrow. Just text me the time and place and I’ll meet you at the restaurant.” He paused for a moment and then said, “I’m glad things seem to be going well for you, Raina. I want you to be happy.”
She frowned as the call disconnected. She enjoyed spending time with Steven, but she couldn’t help wishing he wasn’t always so… stuffy. He’d been so busy working on his latest acquisition deal that she’d barely seen him over the last month. He was flying back and forth to New York several times a week and holed up in his office the rest of the time.
Raina considered herself a completely modern, enlightened woman and wasn’t even slightly ashamed of her healthy sex drive. Which was why it was a shame that she didn’t really miss the sex when Steven was traveling. They’d never been overly demonstrative with each other and to be honest, their sex life was much like the rest of their interaction. Calm, steady, and mature.
Steven was simply too cultured to get worked up about much of anything other than business.
It probably didn’t help that she’d met him right after the most intense sexual experience of her life. No, don’t think about Nick. She refused to believe that one night with Nicholas Alexander had ruined her for all other men.
Besides, sex isn’t everything, she thought, feeling slightly disloyal. Steven wasn’t the most exciting man, perhaps, but he knew what was important. He’d never hurt or embarrass her, at least. He’d be a steady father figure for the three children they planned to have.
She pushed open the car door just as Ridley noticed her.
“Raina! You’re here.” Ridley stepped onto the porch and set the oversized pot of flowers she was carrying down on the step. “Come on, I’ve just finished cooking.”
When Ridley had invited her over for lunch the prior day, she’d agreed before she remembered her doctor’s appointment scheduled for ten o’clock. If she’d been thinking clearly, she would have rescheduled lunch.
The last thing she needed after hearing that her chances of having a baby were getting worse every day was to watch her sister and Jackson coo at each other.
~ End of Chapter 1 ~