"Your ex-wife applied for the job as your assistant."
Nick Andreas glanced up at his current assistant,
soon-to-be-retired Julie Farnsworth. He'd just flown back to
North Carolina after six weeks in New York City. He was
exhausted and wanted nothing more than to go to his beach
house, get out of his monkey suit and take a nap on his
hammock. He'd only popped into the office because he had a
huge bid due to renew the government contract that was the
bread and butter of his manufacturing plant. He had to get
an assistant in now.
He just wasn't sure hiring Maggie Forsythe as Julie's
replacement was the best way to go. When he had a bid due,
his assistant worked with himâ€”directly with him, at his
sideâ€”ten hours a day, six days a week. No man wanted to
spend that much time with his ex-wife. Not even an ex-wife
he hadn't seen in fifteen years. An ex-wife he barely
He tossed his pen to his desk. "You wouldn't be telling me
this if she wasn't qualified."
"She's qualified. Overqualified in some respects."
"And she actually applied?"
"Well, we certainly didn't drag her in off the street." He
laughed and leaned back in his chair. So Maggie wanted to
work for him? He smiled skeptically as weird feelings
assaulted him. He hadn't thought about Maggie Forsythe in
over a decade. Now, suddenly, he could vividly recall how
the sun would catch her red hair and make it sparkle, her
wide, happy smile, the sound of her laughter.
"Sorry if I'm finding all this a little hard to believe, but
we didn't exactly part on the best of terms. Andreas
Manufacturing should be the last place she wants to work."
His sixty-five-year-old assistant caught his gaze with
serious dark eyes. "She needs the money."
She was broke? The way he'd been when they'd met?
Memories of his childhood and teen years cascaded through
his brain like water spilling from a waterfall. Maggie at
six, toothless in first grade, dividing her morning snack
with him before they went into the building so no one in
their class would see he hadn't brought one. Maggie at
twelve, fishing with him so he and his mom could have
something for supper. Maggie at sixteen, hanging out in the
souvenir shop where he worked, entertaining him on long,
boring afternoons before the tourist season picked up.
Maggie at eighteen, swollen with his child.
A long-forgotten ache filled his chest and made him scowl.
The woman he was remembering with such fondness had dropped
him like a hot potato when she'd lost their baby. She hadn't
loved him. She'd only married him because he'd gotten her
pregnant one reckless night. Twenty minutes after they'd
returned from the hospital after her miscarriage, she'd been
out the door of his mom's house. Out of his life.
"She should have as many reservations about working with me
as I have about working with her."
"Her stepmom died while you were in New York. Rumor has it,
she came home for the funeral and decided her dad needed
her. She quit her job and moved back permanently but in
three weeks of looking she couldn't find workâ€”unless she
wants to commute to the city." Julie peered at him over the
rim of her glasses. "Aside from tourism, you're the only
real employer in Ocean Palms."
He picked up his pen again. "Hire her."
Julie gasped softly. "Really?"
"Sure. We were married as kids. Fifteen years have gone by."
He wasn't such a selfish, self-centered oaf that he'd let
someone suffer because she had the misfortune of having a
history with him. He knew what it was like to have no
options. He'd spent his entire childhood living
hand-to-mouth. He wouldn't ignore the person who, as a
child, had shared with him, helped him, even rescued him a
time or two.
Plus, if Julie said Maggie was the person for the job then
Julie rose. "Okay. She's in my office. She said she can
begin today. I'll bring her in and we can get started."
Nick sat up in his seat. Today? He didn't even have ten
minutes to mentally prepare?
Julie walked to his office door and opened it. "Come in,
A true Southern gentleman, Nick rose from the tall-back
chair behind his huge mahogany desk. Ridiculously, he
couldn't squelch the pride that surged up in him as he took
in the expensive Persian rugs that sat on the hardwood
floors of his office, the lamps from China, the heavy
leather sofa and chair in the conversation area, the art
from the broker in New York City. He was rich, successful,
and his office showed it. He'd fulfilled the promise of his
youth. He had brains and skill and he'd parlayed those into
wealth beyond anyone's expectations. One look at his office
would tell Maggie he wasn't the eighteen-year-old boy she'd
The click of high heels on the hardwood announced her
arrival two seconds before she appeared in his doorway. Her
gorgeous red hair flowed around her, but it was shaped and
curled in a way that framed her face, not straight as she
had worn it when they were married. Her once sparkly green
eyes now held soul-searching intensity. Her full red lips
rose slightly in a reluctant smile.
Just as he wasn't the eighteen-year-old she'd left behind
anymore, she didn't look a thing like his Maggie.
He relaxed as his gaze involuntarily fell from her face to
her dress. A simple red tank dress that showed off a newly
acquired suntan, but also couldn't hide her slightly
She was pregnant?
He gave her tummy a more thorough scrutiny. She was pregnant.
And suddenly he was that eighteen-year-old boy again.
Seeing his woman, the love of his life, swollen with his
child. More memories washed over him. The dreams he'd had
for the kind of father he would be rose up as if he'd been
lost in them only yesterday. Love for her, the woman bearing
his child, burst in his chest.
But this wasn't his child. She'd lost their child.
And she didn't love him.
Hell, he no longer loved her.
"Come in," he said. His voice was tight with a bit of a
squeak but he ignored that, motioning to the chair in front
of his desk.
Maggie took a few hesitant steps inside. Now trim instead of
lanky, she wore her pregnancy the same way another woman
would wear a designer dress.
That was when he realized she was probably married.
Happily married. Not scared and hesitant, with no other
options because her stepmom had kicked her out of the house.
But happy. Having a child with the man she loved.
He swallowed the knot that formed in his throat, reminding
himself that these emotions churning through him were
ridiculous. He was over her. Plus, they hadn't even seen
each other in fifteen years. The feelings weren't really
feelings. They were residue. Like cobwebs that had clung to
the walls of his brain and would disappear once he got to
know the adult Maggie.
"Julie wants to hire you but I have a few reservations."
He didn't even try to stop the words that flowed from his
mouth. Though he'd already told Julie to hire her, now that
he saw she was pregnant, he had some concerns. Not about the
"feelings" seeing her pregnant aroused, but about her
ability to do the job.
She gracefully sat on the chair in front of his desk, smiled
softly. "You mean because we were once married?"
He snorted a laugh, but Julie's hand flew to her throat.
"You know, I think I'll just go get us some coffee."
Nick said, "She can't drink coffee," at the same time that
Maggie said, "I don't drink coffee."
Julie said, "Then I'll get some coffee for myself." She fled
the room, closing the door behind her.
Nick sat back in his chair, reaching deep inside himself for
the calm that was his trademark. He had to treat her as any
other employee and speak accordingly.
"For the next four weeks I need my assistant to work
"Six days a week. I get that. Julie told me."
"Can you keep up?"
"Of course I can keep up. I'm pregnant not sick." The room
plunged into eerie silence. Memories of the day she'd lost
their baby haunted him like menacing ghosts.
As if recognizing where his thoughts had gone, Maggie
sighed. "Nick, I'm fine. Really. And I need this job. If you
don't hire me I'll have to get work in the city and commute
an hour each way."
"An hour commute might be better for a pregnant woman than
racing around the plant looking for documents I need,
assembling information from different departmentsâ€”"
He paused to catch her gaze and when he saw green eyes
sparking with fire, everything he intended to say fell out
of his head. He remembered that look very well, remembered
how many times it had taken them straight to bed.
"I already told you I can keep up."
He took in a quiet breath, reminding himself that Maggie was
a married woman who wanted to work for him. The last thing
he needed to be thinking about was how her fiery need for
independence had played out between the sheets.
"Yeah, well, maybe I want some kind of proof."
She smiled sweetly, calmly. "In a couple of months, I'm not
going to be pregnant anymore. Then you're going to be sorry
you lost the chance to hire me."
A laugh escaped. Dear God. This really was his Maggie. Fiery
one minute, serene the next. And the common sense, logical
Maggie could be every bit as sexy as the impassioned one.
But she was married.
And he was a runaround now.
Having a father who'd abandoned him had made him want
commitments, but Maggie leaving him had set him straight on
that score. And he'd changed. He wasn't simple Nick Roebuck
anymore. The guy who hadn't taken his father's name. The guy
who wanted commitments. A wife. Family. Nope. Nick Roebuck
was gone. He was now Nick Andreas, playboy.
"Besides, my father needs me."
Shifting in his chair, Nick blew his breath out in a gusty
sigh. Who he was didn't matter. Who she was didn't matter.
She was off-limits. "I'm sorry about your stepmom."