Scandal on the Sand - Roxanne St. Claire Page 0,2

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.”