Liz Fielding.

The Bride's Baby






The bride everyone is talking about!

It should be every womans dream organising a glittering wedding show at a stately home. But for events manager Sylvie Smith, its a total nightmare! Not only is she being forced to wear a wedding dress to the event, but shes also five months pregnant. She just has to hope no one asks her who the father is

Then Sylvie bumps into the new owner of the stately home, Tom McFarlane, her babys secret father! They havent spoken since that sizzling encounter, but now Toms standing in front of her, looking at her bump, and Sylvie knows her secrets out!

Sylvie turned to find her way blocked by six and a half feet of broad-shouldered male and experienced a bewildering sense of d?j? vu.

A feeling that this had happened before.

And then she looked up and realized that it was not an illusion. This had happened beforeexcept on that occasion the male concerned had been wearing navy pinstripe instead of gray cashmere.

Some billionaire her friend had said, but hadnt mentioned a name. And she hadnt bothered to ask, pretending she didnt care.

She cared now, because it wasnt just some billionaire whod bought her family home and was planning to turn it into a conference center.

It was Tom McFarlane, the man with whomjust for a few momentsshed totally lost it.

The man whose baby she was carrying.

The Brides Baby
Liz Fielding


www.millsandboon.co.uk

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LIZ FIELDING was born to travel. She made it to Zambia before her twenty-first birthday and, gathering her own special hero and a couple of children on the way, lived in Botswana, Kenya and Bahrainwith pauses for sightseeing pretty much everywhere in between. She finally came to a full stop in a tiny Welsh village cradled by misty hills, and these days allows her imagination to do most of the traveling. When shes not sorting out the lives and loves of her characters, she works in the garden, reads her favorite authors and spends a lot of time wondering What if? For news of upcoming books and more, visit Lizs Web site at www.lizfielding.com.

CONTENTS

Cover

Title Page

About the Author

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

SYLVIE SMITH checked the time.

Her appointment had been for two oclock. The time on her laptop now read two forty-fivebecause she hadnt just sat there in the luxurious reception of Tom McFarlanes penthouse office suite twiddling her thumbs and drinking coffee.

Chance would have been a fine thing.

The message couldnt have been plainer.

She was the enemy and so shed been left to twiddle her thumbs without the courtesy of a cup of coffee to help fill the time.

Not a problem. Her nerves were already in shreds without adding a surfeit of caffeine to the mix. And she hadnt twiddled her thumbs either. She didnt have time to waste thumb-twiddling. Didnt have time to waste, full stop.

Instead shed occupied herself finalising the details of an Indian-style wedding she was coordinating for a supermodel. Shed even managed to track down an elephant that was for hire by the day.

Shed also soothed the nerves of a fading pop diva who was hoping to revive her career with a spectacular launch party for her new CD.

All of which had helped to keep her from dwelling upon the approaching meeting. Whenifit ever happened.

She knew she was the last person in the world Tom McFarlane wanted to see. Understood why hed want to put off the moment for as long as was humanly possible. The feeling was mutual.

The only thing she didnt understand was why, when hed been so obviously avoiding her for the last six months, he was putting them both through this now.

She checked the time again. Ten to three. Enough was enough. Her patience might be limitlessit was that, and her attention to detail, that made her one of the most sought-after event planners in Londonbut her time was not.

This meeting had been Tom McFarlanes idea. The very last thing shed wanted was a meeting with a man she hadnt been able to get out of her mind since shed first set eyes on him. A man who had been about to marry her old school friend, and darling of the gossip mags, Candida Harcourt.

All she wanted was his cheque so that she could settle outstanding bills and put the whole sorry nightmare behind her.

She closed down her laptop, packed it away, then crossed to the desk and the receptionist who had been studiously ignoring her ever since shed arrived.

I cant wait any longer, she said. Please tell Mr McFarlane that Ill be in my office after ten oclock tomorrow if he has any queries on the account.

Oh, but

I should already be somewhere else, she said, cutting short the womans protest. Not strictly trueher staff were more than capable of dealing with any crisis involving the CD launch party, but sometimes you had to make the point that your timeif not quite as valuable as that of a billionairewas still a limited commodity. And maybe, on reflection, hed be as glad as she was to avoid this confrontation and just put a cheque in the post. If I dont leave now

The receptionist didnt answer but a prickle of awareness as the womans gaze shifted to somewhere over her right shoulder warned her that they were no longer alone.

Turning, she found her view blocked by a broad chest, wide shoulders encased in a white linen shirt. It was open at the neck and the sleeves had been rolled back to the elbow to reveal brawny forearms, strong wrists.

A silk tie had been pulled loose as if its owner had been wrestling with some intractable problem. She didnt doubt that, whatever it was, hed won.

Despite the fact that shed spent the last six months planning Tom McFarlanes wedding, this was only the second time shed actually seen him face to face.

Make that forehead to chin, she thought, forced, despite her highest heels, to look up. Shed known this was going to be a difficult afternoon and had felt the need to armour herself with serious clothes.

The chin was deeply cleft.

She already knew that. Shed seen photographs long before shed met the man. Tom McFarlane wasnt much of a socialite, but no billionaire bachelor could entirely escape the attention of the gossip magazines, especially once his marriage to the daughter of a minor aristocratone whod made a career out of appearing in the glossieshad been announced.

The cleft did nothing to undermine its force; on the contrary, it emphasised it and, for the second time, her only thought was, What on earth was Candy thinking?

Stupid question.

From the moment shed bounced into her office demanding that SDS Events organise her wedding to billionaire businessman Tom McFarlane, Sylvie had known exactly what Candy had been thinking.

This was the fulfilment of her life plan. The one with which, years ago, shed enlivened a school careers seminar by announcing that her career plan was to marry a millionaire. One with a house in Belgravia, a country estate and a title. The title was negotiable; one should apparently be flexiblethe size of the bank account was not.

Why waste her time sweating over exams when she had no intention of going to university? Students saddled with overdrafts and loans held no interest for her. All her effort was going to be put into perfecting her natural assetsat which point shed performed a pouty, cheesecake poseand making the perfect marriage.

Everyone had laughedthat was the thing about Candy, she always made you laughbut no one had actually doubted that she meant it, or that she was capable of achieving her goal.

Shed already looked like coming close a couple of times. Maybe, rising thirty, shed realised that time was running out and shed jettisoned everything but the core plan although, inflation being what it was, shed upgraded her ambition to billionaire.

A better question might have been, What on earth had Tom McFarlane been thinking?

An even dumber question.

It was a truth universally acknowledged that a smile from Candy Harcourts sexy mouth was enough to short-circuit the brain of any man who could muster more than one red blood cell. She might have bypassed her exams but she hadnt stinted on the midnight oil when it came to enhancing her career assets which were, it had to be admitted, considerable.

Gorgeous, funnywho could possibly resist her? Why would any man try?

And while Tom McFarlane might give the impression that hed been rough-hewn from rockand eyes that were, at that moment, glittering like granite certainly added to the impression of unyielding forceshe had absolutely no doubt that he was a male with red blood cells to spare.

Something her own red blood cells had instantly responded to with the shocking eagerness of a puppy offered something unspeakable to roll in.

As their eyes had met over Candys artfully tumbled blonde curls, the connection had short-circuited all those troublesome hormones which had been in cold storage for a decade and theyd instantly defrosted.

She was not a puppy, however, but a successful businesswoman and shed made a determined effort to ignore the internal heatwave and stick to the matter in hand. Fortunately, the minute hed signed her contract, Tom McFarlanewho obviously had much more important things to dohad made his excuses and left.

Just thinking about those ten long minutes left the silk of the camisole she was wearing beneath her linen jacket sticking to her skin. But shed got through it then and she could do it again.

It was part of the job. As an event planner she was used to handling awkward situationsand this certainly came under the heading of awkward. She just needed to concentrate on business, even if, feeling a little like the space between the rock and the hard place, it took all her composure to stiffen her knees, stand her ground, keep the expression neutral.

If you dont leave now? he prompted.

Ill be in trouble Wrong. She was already in trouble, but with the hardwood reception desk at her back and the rock blocking her exit she was stuck with it. Reminding herself that drooling was a very bad look, she summoned up a professional smile and extended a hand. Good afternoon, Mr McFarlane. I was just explaining to your receptionist

I heard. He ignored the hand. Call whoevers expecting you and tell him hell have to wait. Youre mine until I say otherwise.

What? That was outrageous but the glitter in those eyes warned her that provocation had been his intent. That he was waiting for the explosion. That he would welcome it.

Not in this life, she thought, managing a fairly creditable, She. Delores Castello, she added, naming the pop diva. So youll see why your request is quite impossible. She wanted this over and done with, not dragged out, but when a man started tossing orders around as if he owned the world, it was a womans duty to stand her ground and prove to him that he did not.

Even if the knees had other ideas.

I do have a window in my diary, she began, flipping open the side pocket of her bag.

If shed hoped to impress him with her client list the strategy signally failed. Before she could locate her diary he said, Whats impossible, Miss Smith, is the chance of you getting another chance to talk me into settling your outrageous account.

Sylvie grabbed her bottom lip with her teeth before she said something shed regret.

The man was angry. She understood that. But her account was not outrageous. On the contrary, shed worked really hard to negotiate the best possible cancellation deals, pushing people to the limit. She hadnt had to do that but she had felt just the smallest bit responsible for what had happened.

She would have told him so if her lip hadnt been clamped between her teeth.

Your call, Miss Smith, he prompted, apparently convinced that hed proved his point. But if you walk away now I promise you youre going to have to sue me all the way to the House of Lords to get your money.

He had to be kidding.

Or, then again, maybe not.

Glacial, his voice went with the raw cheekbones, jutting nose, a mouth compressed into a straight line. It did nothing to cool her. Like a snow-capped volcano she knew that, deep beneath the surface, molten lava bubbled dangerously. That if she wasnt careful the heat would be terminal.

Tom McFarlane was made from the same stuff that centuries ago had driven men across uncharted oceans in search of glory and fortune. He was their modern equivalenta twenty-first-century legend whod worked in the markets as a boy, had been trading wholesale by the time hed been in his teens, making six-figure deals by the time hed left school. His first million by the time hed been twenty. The expression self-made man could have been invented just for him.

He was the genuine article, no doubt, but, much as she admired that kind of drive and tenacity, his humble beginnings had made him a very odd choice of mate for Candy.

He might be a billionaire but he had none of the trappings of old money. None of the grace. He wasnt a man to sit back and idle his time away playing the squire.

There was no country estate or smart London town house. Just a vast loft apartment which, according to an exasperated Candy, was on the wrong side of the river.

Apparently, when shed pointed that out to him, hed laughed, ridiculing those who paid a fortune for a classy address to look across the river at him.

Shed been forced to hide a smile herself when Candy had told her that. Had thought, privately, that there had to be billionaires out there who would be less abrasive, easier to handle.

But maybe not quite so much of a challenge.

The chase might have been chillingly calculated but Sylvie was pretty sure that when the quarry had been run to earth and the prize claimed, the result would have been hot as Hades.

Maybe Candy was, when it came right down to it, as human as the next woman and had fallen not for the money, but for the testosterone.

The fact that Tom McFarlane had exactly the same effect on her, Sylvie thought as, not waiting for her answer, he turned and walked across reception to the wide-open doors of his officeleaving her to follow or not, as she chosedid not make her feel one whit better.

On the contrary.

But if Candy had thought shed got him where she wanted him, shed been fooling herself.

She might have momentarily brought him to heel with her silicone-enhanced assets but he wasnt the man to dance on her lead for long.

Unlike his bride, however, Sylvie wasnt in any position to cut and run when the going got tough. This wasnt her money. Her account was mostly made up of invoices from dozens of small companiessingle traders whod done their job. People who were relying on her. And, sending a stern message to her brain to stay on message, she went through the motions of calling her very confused assistant and explaining that she would be late.

The call took no more than thirty seconds but, by the time shed caught up with him, Tom McFarlane was already seated at his desk, a lick of thick, dark brown hair sliding over the lean, work-tempered fingers on which hed propped his forehead as he concentrated on the folder in front of him.

An exact copy of the one that must have arrived in the same post as his brides Dear John letter. The one hed returned with the suggestion that she forward it to the new man in his ex-bride-to-bes life.

Except he hadnt been that polite.

Shed understood his reaction. Felt a certain amount of sympathy for the man.

She might honestly believe that hed had a lucky escape, but obviously he didnt feel that way and he had every right to be hurt and angry. Being dumped just days before your wedding was humiliating, no matter who you were. Something she knew from first-hand experience.

She and Tom McFarlane had that in common, if nothing else, which was why she understoodno one betterthat an expression of sympathy, an I know what youre going through response, would not be welcome.

If she knew anything, it was that no one could have the slightest idea what he was feeling.

Instead, shed tucked the account and the thick wad of copy invoices into a new folderone of the SDS Events folders rather than another of the silver, wedding-bells adorned kind she used for weddingsand had returned it with a polite note reminding him that it was his signature on the contract and that the terms were payment within twenty-eight days.

She hadnt bothered to remind him that five of those days had already elapsed, or add, After which time Ill place the account in the hands of my solicitor

Shed been confident that hed get the subtext. Just as shed been sure that he would understand, on reflection, that coordinating a weddingeven when you were doing it for an old school friendwas, like any other commercial enterprise, just business.

Shed hoped for a cheque by return. What shed got was a call from the man himself, demanding she present herself at his office at two oclock the next day.

She hadnt had a chance to tell him that her afternoon was already spoken for since, having issued his command, hed hung up. Instead, shed taken a deep breath and rescheduled her appointments. And been kept waiting the best part of an hour for her pains.

When she didnt immediately sit down, Tom McFarlane glanced up and she felt a joltlike the fizz of electricity from a faulty switchas something dangerous sparked the silver specks buried in the granite-grey of his eyes. The same jolt that had passed between them on their first meeting. Hot slivers of lightning that heated her to the bone, bringing a flush to her cheeks, a tingle to parts of her anatomy that no other glance had reached sinceno, forget since. Shed never felt that kind of response to any man. Not even Jeremy.

What on earth was the matter with her?

Shed never done anything at first sight. Certainly not love. Shed known Jeremy from her cradle. Actually, that might not have been the best example

Whatever.

She certainly didnt intend to change the habits of a lifetime with lust. Mixing business with pleasure was always a mistake.

But it meant that she understand exactly what Candida had been thinking. Why she hadnt settled for some softer billionaire. Some malleable sugar daddy who would buy her the country estate and anything else she wanted

Id advise you to sit down, Miss Smith, he said. This is going to take some time.

Usually, she and her clients were on first name terms from the word go but they had both clung firmly to formality at that first meeting and she didnt think this was the moment to respond with, Sylvie, please

And since her knees, in their weakened state, had buckled in instant obedience to his command, she was too busy making sure her backside connected securely with the chair to cope with something as complicated as speech at the same time.

He watched as she wriggled to locate the safety of the centre of the chair. Continued to watch her for what seemed like endless moments.

The heat intensified and, without thinking, she slipped the buttons on her jacket.

Only when she was completely still and he was certain that he had her attentionalthough why it had taken him so long to realise that she couldnt possibly imagine; hed had her absolute attention from the moment shed set eyes on himdid he speak.

Have you sacked him? he demanded. The Honourable Quentin Turner Lyall.

She swallowed. Truth, dare She stopped right there and went for the truth.

As Im sure youre aware, she said, falling in love is not grounds for dismissal. I have no doubt that the Employment Tribunal would take me to the cleaners if I tried.

Love? he repeated, as if it were a dirty word.

What else? she asked. What else would have made Candy run for the hills when she had the prize within days of her grasp?

She had Tom McFarlane, so presumably she had the lust thing covered

But, having dismissed her question with an impatient gesture, he said, What about duty of care to your client, Miss Smith? In your letter you did make the point that I am your client. He regarded her stonily. And I imagine Mr Lyall did go absent without leave?

Oh, Lord! Actually, he No. He asked me for some time off

He sat back, apparently speechless.

Are you telling me you actually gave him leave to elope with a woman whose wedding you were arranging? he said, after what felt like the longest pause in history.

This was probably not a good time to give him the dying grandmother excuse that shed fallen for.

When Candy had borrowed Quentin for bag-carrying duties on one of her many shopping expeditions it had never crossed Sylvies mind that shed risk her big day with the billionaire for a fling with a twenty-five-year-old events assistant. Even one whod eventually make her a countess. He came from a long-lived family and the chances of him succeeding to his grandfathers earldom before he was fiftymore likely sixtywere remote.





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