Seeking Happily Ever After (Ever After #8) - Elena Aitken
The cry jolted Nick Newton awake from a dead sleep. He grappled around in the dark for his glasses, followed by his cell phone.
It was quarter past two.
Too early. Way too early.
He held his breath, hoping whatever had caused her cry was a one-off. A fluke. Maybe he’d dreamed it and—
Another ear-shattering scream, this one more insistent than the last, split the air.
No, he definitely hadn’t imagined it.
With a shake of his head, he threw the quilt aside and crossed the room to the crib he’d set up in the corner. “Hey there, princess.” He reached down, but stopped short to see Amelia, seven months old, standing in the crib, her chubby fists clamped around the rails of the wooden crib. “This is new.” He smiled, marveling for a moment, even in his sleepy state, that she’d reached another milestone. It was the first time she’d pulled herself up in the crib. But the baby was in no mood for pleasantries. She cried out again, so Nick quickly gathered her up in his arms.
“What’s this all about, kiddo?” He rocked her close. “Why are you awake? It’s not a normal time of day. Daddy doesn’t function at two a.m.” If he hadn’t been so exhausted, Nick would have laughed at himself. It wasn’t that long ago that he was only getting the party started at two in the morning. Now, his party consisted of him, in a one-bedroom guest house, with a baby.
Things had changed.
Amelia had settled and was reaching up to his face with her chubby hands. He couldn’t help but smile and bend down, offering his nose to be grabbed.
Yes, things certainly had changed. Absolutely everything had changed—for the better.
He yawned as Amelia’s fingers clamped around his nose and squeezed.
Okay, maybe not everything had changed for the better. The lack of sleep he was still dealing with was definitely not an improvement.
At least before, when he was in the club partying, or entertaining a young lady or two in his fancy, overpriced penthouse until the sun came up, he could sleep well through the afternoon if he needed. And that was a very different type of exhaustion. Being the sole caregiver for a baby was next-level exhaustion. A bone-deep tired that never seemed to go away, no matter how much sleep he managed to get. Which, truthfully, was not much at all.
Just when he thought he had Amelia’s schedule sorted out, she mixed it up on him.
“What do you need, princess? It’s too early for breakfast, and…” He patted her bottom. The diaper was dry. He was too tired to think clearly, but if it wasn’t the diaper, or hunger, then…what?
Nick shifted her in his arms and collapsed onto the couch in the guest house he was temporarily calling home. Amelia giggled. It was something she was doing more and more of lately, and he never tired of the noise. It was the sweetest thing he’d ever heard. To say that he was completely head over heels with the little girl would be a massive understatement. Never had another female had such an immense impact on him. Ever.
And that was saying something, considering for the last few years, since he and his best friend Damon Banks had sold their microchip design and had in turn become billionaires, Nick had turned into somewhat of a ladies’ man. Which was a nice way of saying that, basically, he’d been sowing some wild oats and probably having too much fun. He’d had plenty of chances to meet the one.
Instead, he’d met the one who would make him a father.
The word still felt strange, even to think. Let alone to say aloud. Especially because despite his feelings for Amelia, and they were strong, he knew he wasn’t her father. Not her biological one anyway. And that was going to be a problem. A big one.
If anyone found out.
It was something that occupied more and more of his thoughts over the last few weeks. Nick wasn’t stupid; far from it. He rocked the baby, who’d finally lost interest in Nick’s nose and was settling back into slumber, now content in his arms, and with his free hand, Nick pulled out his phone and clicked onto the file he’d received a few weeks earlier.
It was all in there. Everything about Amelia’s mother, the woman he’d dated—if you could even call a few hook-ups dating—over a year ago. Well over a year ago. Nick hadn’t made his fortune being unsure about anything. He’d done