A Clandestine Corporate Affair - By Michelle Celmer
Oh, this was not good.
Ana Birch glanced casually over her shoulder to the upper level of the country club deck, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man in the dark leather jacket, praying that she had been mistaken, that her eyes had been playing tricks on her. Maybe it just looked like him. For months after he dumped her she would see his features in every stranger’s face. The dark, bedroom eyes and the sensual curve of his lips. She would see his broad shoulders and lean physique in men she passed on the street. Her breath would catch and her heart would beat faster…then sink miserably when she realized it was only someone who looked like him. In the eighteen months since he’d ended their affair, he hadn’t so much as called her.
She finally caught sight of him standing by the bar, drink in hand, talking with one of the other guests. Her heart bottomed out, then climbed back up into her throat and lodged there. This was no illusion. It was definitely him.
Oh, God. How could Beth do this to her?
Hitching her nine-month-old son, Max, higher on her hip, she crossed the pristine, rolling green lawn, her heels sinking into the soft, spongy sod. Note to self: never wear spiked heels to an outdoor kids’ party. Or a silk jacket, she added with annoyance, as Max wiggled and slid south again down her side.
In her skinny jeans and knee-high boots, with her freshly dyed, siren-red hair, she was the antithesis of the society mothers who drank and socialized while harried nannies chased their children. A fact that clearly escaped no one as curious glances followed in her wake. But no one dared insult the heiress to the Birch Energy empire, at least not to her face, which Ana found both a relief and an annoyance.
She spotted her cousin Beth standing by the gigantic, inflatable, plastic-ball-filled, germ-breeding monstrosity, watching her six-year-old daughter, Piper, the birthday girl, screaming and flailing inside with a dozen other children.
She loved Beth like a sister, but this time she had gone too far.
Beth saw them approaching and smiled. She didn’t even have the decency to look guilty for what she had done, which didn’t surprise Ana in the least. Beth’s own life was so abysmally uneventful and boring, she seemed to take pleasure meddling in other people’s business. But there was more at stake here than harmless gossip.
“Maxie!” Beth said holding out her arms. Max screeched excitedly and lunged for her, and Ana handed him over. Beth probably figured that Ana couldn’t physically assault her while she was holding a baby. “Why is he here?” Ana demanded under her breath.
“Who?” Beth asked, playing the innocent card, when she knew damned well who.
Ana shot a look over her shoulder at Nathan Everette, chief brand officer of Western Oil, standing by the railing, drink in hand, looking as conservatively handsome and casually sophisticated as he had the day Beth had introduced them. He hadn’t been Ana’s type, as in: he had a successful career, and he didn’t have tattoos or a police record. But he was a bigwig at Western Oil, so having a drink with him had been the ultimate “screw you” to her father. Then one drink became two, then three, and when he asked to drive her home she’d thought, what the heck, he’s pretty harmless.
So much for that brilliant theory. When he kissed her at the door she’d practically burst into flames. Despite what she led people to believe, she wasn’t the precocious sex kitten described in the social pages. She was very selective about who she slept with, and it was never on a first date, but she had practically dragged him inside. And though he might have looked conservative and even came off as a bit stuffy, the man definitely knew how to please a woman. Suddenly sex had taken on an entirely new meaning for her. Then it was no longer about defying her father. She just plain wanted Nathan.
Though it was only supposed to be one night, he kept calling and she found herself helpless to resist him. She was head over heels in love with him by the time he dumped her. Not to mention pregnant.
Nathan glanced her way and their eyes met and locked, and she found herself trapped in their piercing gaze. A cold chill raised the hair on her arms and the back of her neck. One that had nothing to do with the