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Scandal on the sand, p.1
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       Scandal on the Sand, p.1

           Roxanne St Claire
 
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Scandal on the Sand


  SCANDAL ON THE SAND

  The Billionaires of Barefoot Bay-#2

  By: Roxanne St. Claire

  Copyright 2014 South Street Publishing, Inc.

  ISBN: 978-0-9883736-3-1

  [email protected]

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  This novella is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is coincidental. All rights to reproduction of this work are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without prior written permission from the copyright owner. Thank you for respecting the copyright. For permission or information on foreign, audio, or other rights, contact the author, [email protected]

  Author’s Note:

  Another beach, another billionaire, another unexpected chance at the love of a lifetime! Welcome back to Barefoot Bay, where everyone is invited to kick off your shoes and fall in love. It’s time to meet the man the tabloids call “Naughty Nate” – Nathaniel Ivory, billionaire bad boy and part of an American dynasty. Nate’s got his hands full with his plans to prove to his family that there won’t be any more trouble, headlines, or scandals. Until he comes face to face with a woman who promises all of those and more.

  Liza Lemanski needs one simple thing from Nate...his signature on a piece of paper to give her peace of mind. But that’s not quite as easy as she’d hoped and before long, she’s swept into a lifestyle that can only be described as pure fantasy with a man who is pure perfection. But perfection isn’t real and fantasies don’t last...or do they? Nate and Liza’s journey to a happily ever after was one of the most fun I’ve ever written. So, climb on board the N’Vidrio (thanks to my awesome Facebook fans for naming Nate’s yacht and the “Red Suns and Hot Buns” bistro in Key West – y’all are the best!) and fall in love!

  This book is dedicated to faithful reader, avid fan, and dear friend Ramona “Mona” Kekstadt who deserves her own umbrella on the sands of Barefoot Bay!

  Chapter One

  It was her eyes. As soon as Nate caught a glimpse of the arresting color, somehow both impossibly ocean blue and bottle green, he had to talk to the woman, listening carefully as she was introduced to one of his friends.

  “You remember Liza Lemanski, the great unraveler of red tape.”

  He didn’t waste a second moving closer, getting a whiff of a barely-there citrus scent. “I like a woman who can unravel,” he said with a wink.

  “Good.” When she turned to him, her turquoise gaze held no hint of playfulness. “Because I’ve come to do a little unraveling.”

  His friend made some kind of parting jab, reminding Nate that he was up third in the exhibition softball game that was about to start, but Nate’s attention was on the beauty in front of him. “So, who’s getting unraveled, blue eyes?” he asked.

  “You.”

  Nice. “And I like a woman who doesn’t mess around.”

  “That’s not what I hear.” She still wasn’t smiling, making him wonder if the comment was a flirt or not. “We need to talk, Mr. Ivory.”

  That would be...not. Did he know her and forget those gorgeous eyes? Anything was possible, of course. With him, everything was possible. Or used to be.

  How long would his past mistakes haunt him? Was he about to get an earful of how he’d made promises he’d never kept or taken phone numbers he’d never used or...worse? It could always be worse. Instantly, he felt his protective privacy walls rise like titanium barriers as he automatically reached for the sunglasses in his pocket.

  “Sure, sure, let’s talk after the game.” Slipping them on, he took all the humor out of his tone and a step in the other direction.

  She came with him, shaking back some long dark hair to make sure he could see she meant business. “Let’s talk now.”

  “It’ll only be three innings and then we’re having a cocktail party at sea. We can unravel anything you want.” He lifted his hand in a halfhearted wave goodbye.

  “I prefer now.”

  Damn. He glanced around the large beachfront deck where he had just finished the press conference announcing the plan to launch a minor-league baseball team in Barefoot Bay. But no one came to his rescue. His business partners were already headed toward the sand for the softball game they’d put together to cap off the media event.

  “Sorry, I gotta run. I’m batting cleanup.”

  “Yes, you are. Right this minute. With me.”

  Pushy little thing, wasn’t she? Protected by reflective lenses, he let his gaze drift over her, lingering on fine cheekbones and lush lips that hadn’t yet given him a real smile. Farther down, things got even better, with generous cleavage peeking out of a V-neck T-shirt and a tiny waist and soft curves under her jeans. She couldn’t be five-four and a hundred and ten soaking wet.

  “What’s this about?” he asked, getting a sense that it wasn’t about seeing her soaking wet, either.

  “I need your signature.”

  “Oh.” Relief washed through him as he let out the breath he’d been holding since he heard the edge in her voice. “You want an autograph?”

  “No, I want your signature.”

  He didn’t like the sound of that. “Listen, sweetheart, I have to play a ball game. So, later’s better.” Later, he’d be surrounded by his rec softball team and some pro ballplayers, safe from any accusations, suggestions, or sob story she might fling at him.

  “Over here.” She gestured toward an empty table that the wait staff of the Casa Blanca Resort & Spa had already cleared. Everyone had disappeared to the beach to watch the game.

  Which was where he suddenly wanted very much to be.

  “Whatever it is, make it fast.” He purposely took all tease from his tone. She was hot, no doubt about it, but for some reason he smelled big trouble in this little package.

  She responded by scraping a chair over the wooden deck as she pulled it out...for him. He stayed where he was while she took the other chair and opened up a large handbag.

  “Okay...Liza.” He rolled the name on his tongue, taking time to appreciate the sassy and sexy sound of it and wishing she were a little more of both.

  “I really think you’re going to want to be sitting down for this,” she said.

  “What do you have?” Irritation prickled his spine at her icy tone. Irritation and worry. He’d sworn on his life that there wouldn’t be any more scandals, no more headlines, no more sexts that made their way to Perez Hilton’s blog. Oh, that had been a bad week. The Colonel had not been amused.

  She snapped a large manila envelope on the table.

  “Pictures?” he guessed with a mirthless snort. “How original.” Every stinking blackmailing female in a nightclub had their secret cell phone shots. Which was why he’d sworn off the club scene along with the rest of his far-too-active social life.

  When she didn’t answer, he ventured closer. “Oh, don’t tell me, TMZ has offered five figures.” He could only imagine what she had. “Let me guess. You’ve got ‘Naughty Nate’ bare-ass naked in Vegas or Cabo. He’s got a joint in one hand and a fifth of Tito’s in the other. Some dot-com billionaire’s wife is grabbing his johnson, and they’re about to fall into a hot tub with four more blondes.”

  Sickening that he could describe that situation a little too clearly. Swallowing a wave of self-loathing, he watched her slide a packet of papers onto the table, along with a spiral notebook.

  What the


  “Nate! You’re on deck!”

  He ignored the announcement, hollered from the sand, instead dropping into the chair next to her.

  “So, how much?” he demanded, a sixth sense already telling him what was going down here. The question went against everything he’d been taught as a member of a family with the iconic—and ironic—last name of Ivory. A family that was anything but pure and had trained all members that the first check was just that...the first. A blackmailer never went away.

  But he absolutely refused to get embroiled in one more public mess and, damn it, if he had to pay to get rid of her, he would. Whatever it took to prove that he was worthy of the family name and...the chance to see that dark disapproval erased from his grandfather’s eyes.

  “I don’t want money,” she finally said.

  Then what? Access to the Hollywood studio his older brother ran? A meeting with his other brother, the senator? Maybe insider-trading information from his cousin on Wall Street?

  “Everybody wants something, Liza,” he said on a sigh. Especially from an Ivory.

  For the first time, the closest thing to a sweet expression settled on her lovely features. Her lips finally relaxed into a hint of a smile. Dark brows unfurrowed, and a slight blush of pink deepened her creamy complexion.

  “Yes, everybody does want something,” she whispered. “And I want you to sign this document.” She slid the paper toward him. “And then I will go away and you can play softball and drink in Cabo with other guys’ wives and have cocktails under the sea, for all I care.” She flattened him with a dead-eyed look. “Sign, and I promise you will never see or hear from me again.”

  He had to slide off his shades to read the paper, blinking at the legalese, his name typed neatly in the blanks. And...Dylan Cassidy, age four.

  “Who’s Dylan?”

  “Your son.”

  The words slammed like a power-punch to his temple, and for a second he actually saw stars. A kid? He’d been so careful. His whole freaking adult life, he’d been so damn careful about this. Very slowly, he lifted his gaze from the page to her face, digging like a dog in dirt for a shred of a recollection of this woman, a date, a night, an encounter, a damn quickie in the back room of a party.

  Nothing.

  “I don’t even remember you,” he said, the words sounding as jagged as they felt. How wasted had he been to forget this girl?

  “Of course you don’t remember me,” she said. “I’ve never met you.”

  “But...this...” He tried to focus on the paper again, but a slow fire of horror sparked in his gut and rolled up to burn his chest as the words stopped dancing in front of his eyes. Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights. “This isn’t a paternity suit?”

  “No, this is my guarantee that I can live in complete peace without an ax hanging over my head.”

  What the hell? “I’m confused. Do you mind explaining what you are talking about?”

  “I want you to sign this so that I don’t wake up some morning and find out the Ivory family is out to take Dylan away from me.”

  “You said he...we...” He let out a puff of pure frustration. “I don’t get this at all. If I’m signing away rights to your child, how can I have never met you?”

  “I’m not his mother.” She nudged the paper closer. “Not that you care about her or have bothered to check, but his mother is dead, and I’m his legal guardian. And all you need to do is sign right there, and I’ll handle the rest of the red tape. As you heard, I’m good at that.”

  Dead? Was she saying this boy was an orphan? Another cascade of unfamiliar emotions squeezed some air out of his lungs, but he forced himself to breathe and get to the facts, starting with the obvious. “Who is his mother?”

  Her expression was total surprise, followed by a resigned shrug. “I suppose more than one woman has told you she’s pregnant in your lifetime. Her name was Carrie Cassidy.”

  Slowly, he shook his head to say he’d never heard that name in his life. “What happened to her?” Maybe that would jog his memory.

  “She was in a car accident a year ago and died almost instantly.” She held out a pen. “Please. Make it easy on all of us.”

  Easy? Nothing about this conversation was easy.

  She leaned forward and speared him with her jewel-toned gaze. “She left enough details about how you dumped her, penniless and pregnant, to fill a whole issue of the National Enquirer. Imagine the headline: Nathaniel Ivory, Deadbeat Baby Daddy.”

  It didn’t take much of an imagination to visualize how well that issue would sell.

  She was right about one thing—signing would be easy. Two scratches of a pen and he could go play softball and drink scotch and live his life. No scandal, no problems, no...

  No way.

  “I’m not signing anything.”

  * * *

  Close. She was so close that every cell in Liza’s body was quivering, but somehow she managed to keep her cool. Finally facing Nathaniel Ivory, after eleven months of planning for this moment, she wasn’t about to let him know that her insides were mush and her heart was exploding against her ribs and she could throw up from the nerves. She couldn’t let him know how much this mattered or that she was totally bluffing about the Enquirer because...she wouldn’t dream of dragging Dylan through mud like that.

  She was doing this for Dylan, who was everything to her.

  “What’s in that notebook?” Nate asked, attempting to reach for it, but she snatched it away.

  “No, you don’t.”

  “I knew you were lying.” He spat out the accusation with disgust.

  “I’m not lying!” She clutched the book, holding it to her chest. “You could take this and run. I’m not letting you have it.”

  “Run? Run where? To the beach? Who is this dead woman and what fiction did she write in that book? What proof do you have? Have you ever heard of DNA testing? Do you really think I’m going to sign something without answers? You think I can’t smell the stink of your scam from a mile away?” The questions came at her like bullets from an automatic rifle, each one lodging in her throat and chest and gut. “Forget the pretend mother and bogus baby, what is your deal, Liza Lemanski?”

  Oh, she’d been so close. She saw the moment he’d wavered and nearly signed the document. Almost but not quite there…like everything in her life. And now he thought she was a con artist. Great.

  “My deal is that you sign this paper.” Stay on point, Liza. Don’t let him sway you.

  “Why now?” he asked. “Didn’t you say she died a year ago? And this alleged son is four? What took so long to collect your cash, huh?”

  “I’m not…” She shook her head. “You told her you wouldn’t help her, and I didn’t know you were the father until she died and left me as his guardian. I’m not scared of you or your family like she was.” A white lie, but she had to appear strong. “I want a clean slate as I start the formal adoption process, so, please”—she tapped the paper—”let me have that and that will be the end of this.”

  “And you come up to me at the end of a press conference and throw this at me?”

  “I read in the local paper that you’d be here this morning and I…” Called in sick, grabbed the papers she already had prepared—working in the County Clerk’s office did have its advantages—and put her plan into action.

  “Why not approach my lawyer? That’s how things like this are done.”

  “I thought it would be—”

  “Easier to extort money.”

  “I don’t want money.” She fisted her hand, punching the air. “And I know you don’t want a child.”

  “How do you know anything about me?”

  Holding the brightly colored spiral notebook, she picked at the half-peeled $3.99 Ross price tag on the back. “It’s all in here, your name, your description, your words to her. But when you read all that, I have to be sure this book is protected. It’s all I have to prove my case.”

  “Then maybe you don
t have much of a case.”

  “Oh, I have a case. And I have a child who...” Looks a hell of a lot like you. “Who I want to keep, without living in fear that someone is going to try to claim him.”

  “So you’ve said.” He inched forward. A lock of chestnut hair fell over his brow, close to the golden-brown eyes that looked so much like...like Dylan’s. “What do you really want, honey, because I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”

  Tiny beads of perspiration stung at her neck and temples, her cool slipping with each second that she had to face him. “I want that child. I want him safe and protected with me.”

  Something flickered in his eyes, a flash that went by so fast she wasn’t positive she’d seen it, but she knew she’d hit some kind of emotional hot button.

  “And you don’t,” she added, because what if that was the hot button she’d hit? What if he wanted a child? “It says so right here.” She tapped Carrie’s journal, maybe a little harder than necessary. “It says a lot of things about you that I don’t think you want out in public.”

  Hollow threat, of course, but still she threw that trump card down again, hoping it would work. Surely a man with his lifestyle, money, and famously documented inability to commit didn’t want a child he’d fathered almost five years ago.

  Did he?

  “Hey, Nate!”

  Startled at the man’s voice, Liza turned to see Zeke Nicholas, one of the other men who’d been involved in the announcement today, jogging across the patio deck, impatience darkening his expression. “You missed your at bat, man. Come on!”

  Nate held up his hand and shook his head.

  “‘Scuse me,” Zeke said to Liza as he reached the table. “But I have to steal this heartthrob for just a—”

  “Shut it, Zeke!” Fury sparked in Nate’s eyes, but he didn’t take them off Liza, making her certain his anger was not directed at his friend.

  Zeke froze midstep. “Everything okay here?”

  “We’re fine,” Liza said, seizing the opportunity. “I’m getting Mr. Ivory’s autograph.” Not that she had any real hope left that he’d sign, but maybe with his friend here, he’d buckle. It was worth a shot. “Right here, sir. And then you’ll make the second inning.”

 
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