Brooks Larson was the luckiest SOB on the planet and he knew it.
He leaned against the railing of his yacht, took a large sip of ridiculously expensive champagne, and a deep breath of crisp ocean air.
Cole Harrington, Brooks’s partner and best friend since college, joined him at the railing.
“Hell, yes. We just closed one of the biggest deals of our career, making us disgustingly wealthy—”
“Which we already were,” Cole said.
Brooks ignored that. “And I’m floating around in this magnificent tub of luxury surrounded by gorgeous women. Is there anything better in this world?”
“Yes,” Cole said with a smile that made his friend’s heart clench.
Brooks followed Cole’s gaze to where Kiersten and Piper, Cole’s wife and baby daughter, were lounging in the shade on a chaise longue.
“Are you really happy?” Brooks asked.
Cole scowled at him, but Brooks shook his head. “No. I’m not being sarcastic or trying to be insulting. I really want to know. You’re married. You have a baby. You’ve promised to be with the same woman for the rest of your life and have produced a tiny, crying little human who has effectively trapped you into adult responsibility. Don’t you miss being…free? Having your own life?”
Cole snorted. “Nice way to describe my family. And your goddaughter. And yes, to answer your question, I really am happy. And no, I don’t miss being free. I am free. I do have my own life. My life is there,” he said, pointing to his wife and daughter. “Everything I ever wanted is right there. I just never knew it until I met her.”
Kiersten looked up at that moment and smiled at her husband and, for a brief second, a small twinge of what might have been jealousy wormed its way through Brooks. What would it be like to have someone look at him the way Kiersten looked at Cole?
He shook his head and pushed the thought to the back of his mind. No one would ever look at him that way, and he sure as hell never wanted anyone to.
“Well, I’m happy for you, but you keep all that monogamy over on your side of the boat. I’m happy playing in the singles pool. Speaking of which…” He nodded at the striking young woman sitting next to Kiersten. “Who is that?”
Cole was already shaking his head. “Don’t even think about it.”
Brooks leaned on the railing, his gaze intensifying. “Well, now you’ve piqued my interest.”
Cole groaned. “I mean it, Brooks. That’s Leah Andrews. She’s one of Kiersten’s oldest friends, and Piper’s godmother. She’s helping out with the baby this weekend until we find a permanent nanny. And you are not to touch.”
“Hey. Poker club etiquette doesn’t apply here. She’s not an assistant, girlfriend, wife, or sister.”
“You really need to let that go.”
Cole snorted. “She’s Kiersten’s friend. She will neuter you faster than you can squeal out your phone number.”
“Oh, come on. Surely the lovely Leah can make her own decisions. She’s not attached to anyone, is she?”
“I think she’s going to be a nun.”
Brooks raised an eyebrow. “A challenge. I like it. A nun? Really?”
Cole sighed and rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know. Maybe she only works with nuns. At a school or something.”
Brooks clutched his chest. “Oh my God, you’re killing me. Seriously? A Catholic school teacher? Does she wear a uniform?”
Cole punched his arm and Brooks grunted. “Ow. Okay, okay. I’ll lay off. Unless she comes on to me. I’m a gentleman, after all. Turning her down would be rude.”
Cole laughed. “I should let you go for her just to watch Kiersten chew you up and spit you out. You know how she feels about you dating her friends.”
Brooks sighed. “Yeah, yeah. Though I still maintain my innocence on that front.”
“Right, because everything about you screams innocence.”
Brooks flashed his best smile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a total angel.”
Kiersten looked up at the sound of her husband laughing and waved at him. Cole blew her a kiss.
Brooks groaned. “Oh, God. You’ve got it bad, don’t you?”
“For my wife? Yes, yes I do.”
Brooks shook his head again. In all honesty, he didn’t blame Cole. Kiersten was a hell of a woman and there had been a brief, fleeting moment when Brooks could have imagined himself possibly trying for something other than his usual flings—before his friend had fallen head over heels in love with her, and she with him. Now, he was content to continue his eternally single ways. Most of the time.
He pushed away from the railing. “I can’t watch that anymore. Come on,” he said, towing his friend back toward the bar, “let’s get another drink.”
“Fine. But I mean it, Brooks. Leah is off-limits.”
Because telling a man that a gorgeous woman was off-limits was the one surefire way to make sure he stayed away, right? No flaw in that logic at all.
Leah Andrews stared down at the sweet baby sleeping in her arms and tried not to vomit.
The rolling waves of morning sickness that hit her without warning were not meshing well with the literal rolling waves of the ocean. Though if she was going to be sick, she could definitely think of worse places to be. Floating around on a private yacht certainly beat lying around on her bathroom floor. Although, the bathroom, at least, was private.
The fresh air on the deck helped. She took a deep, shaky breath and tilted her face up to the sun. The sleepy little bundle of adorableness on her lap squirmed and she glanced down to make sure all was well.
“She doing okay?” Kiersten asked.
Leah smiled at her. “Your baby is perfect.”
Kiersten smiled down at her offspring. “She is pretty perfect, isn’t she?”
Leah laughed and handed the baby back to her mother. Kiersten Harrington was one of the few high school friends with whom Leah kept in contact, and she was seriously the luckiest woman alive. First, she’d done the impossible and won the lottery. Then she’d won the relationship lottery and married her gorgeous, billionaire boss. But, really, if it had to happen to anyone, Kiersten was a good one for it to happen to. She was a genuinely nice person, someone Leah had always felt she could turn to. And she’d never needed her more than she did now.
“How are you feeling?” Kiersten asked her.
Leah took stock of her stomach before answering. “Okay, I think. I was kind of iffy there for a second, but it’s passed. I’d been feeling pretty great compared to the first couple months. Maybe the motion of the boat kick-started it again.”
Kiersten gave her an indulgent smile. “I remember those days.” She adjusted the baby in her arms. “You’re past twelve weeks now, aren’t you?”
Leah nodded, her hand cupping the tiny bump that was only just beginning to show. “Just barely.”
“I’m glad you could help us this week. It’s the first time I’ve been out of the house since Piper was born.”
“Happy to. I could use the practice,” she said with a wry smile.
“Have you heard from the father yet?”
Leah shook her head, keeping her gaze focused on the sea.
“Well…maybe he’ll still contact you,” Kiersten said, her voice bright with false hope.
“Maybe. Though as I told him, I’m fine if he doesn’t. I think I’d prefer it. I don’t know if he’s read the letter yet. I had to message him on Facebook. It’s a terrible way to tell someone they’re going to be a father, but it’s the only way I could get ahold of him. Didn’t really expect my one-night stand to turn out like this. We never exchanged numbers. If he doesn’t answer the message, I guess I can try asking people on his friends list. Though that would be awkward.”
Kiersten patted her hand. “Just don’t ever think you’re alone, okay? You need help for anything, call me.”
“I will,” she said, giving Kiersten a grateful smile.
A shout of laughter came from further up the deck and the girls stopped chatting to see what was going on.
Brooks Larson, best friend and business partner of Kiersten’s husband, sprinted up the deck with what looked like an octopus in his hands. A live, squirming octopus that he was using to chase two other men with. After he got a couple good squeals out of them, he dropped it back over the side.
Leah glanced at Kiersten who just grinned. “That’s Brooks for you.”
“Not really as bad as that, but he definitely likes to be amused.”
Leah looked him over. The man was mouthwateringly gorgeous. Like some model or actor who was too insanely good-looking to be real. He’d give the Hemsworth brothers a run for their money. In fact, he was like the perfect mash-up. The coloring and chiseled features of Chris and the height and build of the slightly less buff Liam. With the good-natured goofiness of Dean from Supernatural. The man was perfection.
Or those could be the hormones talking. Either way, she’d never wanted to get up close and personal with a total stranger so badly in her life. She glanced back over at Kiersten, blushing when she realized her friend had been talking the whole time and she hadn’t heard a word.
“Sorry. What was that?”
Kiersten grinned at her. “I said, you should go for it.”
Leah frowned. “Go for what?”
Kiersten nodded over at where Brooks now leaned against the railing, drink in hand as he gazed out at the sparkling Mediterranean.
“What? You’re crazy.”
“Why? You’re on vacation, have a little fun.”
“I’m pregnant,” Leah said, lowering her voice, though no one was close enough to hear them.
“I know,” Kiersten said. “No reason to tell him that, though. You aren’t looking for a baby daddy. Just a nice little send-off before the craziness begins.”
Leah glanced back at Brooks. It was a crazy idea. But…maybe. She shook her head. “I can’t. Besides, he might not even be interested.”
“Oh, he’s interested.” Kiersten nodded over at him and Leah risked another look only to catch him staring at her with a soft smoldering smile that belonged on some Disney prince.
“Look,” Kiersten said. “I’d normally be the last one to advocate something like this, but I know you. You’ve done nothing but obey the rules your whole life and the one time you step out of line…”
“I get pregnant,” Leah finished for her. Yeah. She didn’t miss the unfairness in it all. She’d always done everything right. Heck, even the little fling that had gotten her in her current predicament had been done by the book. She’d met a guy at a party hosted by good friends. He’d been a stranger, but he was a good, upstanding man as far as she could tell. A businessman based overseas in the city for a meeting. Didn’t drink, at least in front of her. They’d gone into it both on the same page, and they’d used condoms. Several.
One hadn’t worked.
“Right,” Kiersten was saying. “But that’s my point. When you get home, you’ll be preparing for imminent parenthood and starting your new job at a private Catholic school of all places, so you’ll never be able to have a lick of fun again. You might as well seize the opportunity while you can.”
“Oh, ha ha,” Leah said, though Kiersten wasn’t all that wrong. Her employment came with a strict morality clause. Anxiety about what the school would do when they found out about her pregnancy kept her stomach in knots. They wouldn’t be happy, but she hoped since she hadn’t signed her employment agreement until after her one-night-stand-gone-wrong, there’d be some wiggle room. She’d come up with and rejected a dozen plans already. The thought of flat-out lying, saying she was a widow or had a husband who traveled, was a possibility, but not one that sat well with her. Her current plan involved doing the best damn job she could for the first few months, show them what an asset she could be. And then pray they’d be Christian enough to take pity on an unwed mother. There weren’t many other jobs out there that offered free lodging and a good salary and healthcare. Losing it would hurt. She wouldn’t be homeless. Kiersten wouldn’t ever allow that to happen. But she didn’t want to rely on her friend’s charity. She was going to make her own way in the world. Build a life for her and the baby.
Before she could respond further to Kiersten’s suggestion, a shadow fell over her. She glanced up right into the sky-blue eyes of the man in question.