Candace hesitated. She’d known from that first heart-in-her-throat moment when she’d met him that her name had meant nothing to Nick. Candace wasn’t a common name, yet he hadn’t even done a double take when he’d said, “You must be Candace.”
For one wild instant she’d thought he was pretending. Yet even when she’d revealed her surname, his expression hadn’t changed. And finally she realized that Nick Valentine had never bothered to find out the identity of his baby’s egg donor and surrogate mother. And now he was making out as though he knew nothing about it all…
Jilly had made it clear that he was a busy man, and Candace had slowly pieced together the image of a driven, workaholic husband who cared more for his multimillion-dollar company than his wife. Jilly had assured her that was all going to change when the baby was born.
Yet Nick Valentine had shown no interest in Candace’s pregnancy—unlike Jilly, who’d traveled all the way to the exclusive Namkhet Island clinic to be there while the IVF took place, who’d kept every prenatal appointment once they’d gotten back home to New Zealand, who’d visited Candace every week and bought her treats, and loved showing her photos of the nursery she was preparing for Jennie.
Right from the outset Jilly had explained that Nick hadn’t wanted to meet the surrogate…that he wanted to imagine the child as his wife’s. Candace had accepted the explanation. She’d so badly wanted to be convinced that she’d done the right thing—even after the stomach-churning second thoughts had started to creep in.
Now she challenged him. “You can’t walk away—this is too important. You must listen to me.”
“Okay, you’ve got my attention…” he glanced at his watch “…for one minute.”
That was better than nothing. Speaking rapidly, she said, “Jennie’s a baby. She needs a parent. I gave her to you and Jilly. I trusted you to look after her…to love her and—”
“You gave her to me and Jilly?” Nick hooted with derisive laughter.
Something wasn’t adding up. “You and Jilly needed a surrogate,” Candace said slowly.
“Stop this!” His brows jerked together and glared at her again. “I’m not listening to any more of your crazy creations. My wife was pregnant… I witnessed her debilitating morning sickness, saw the pregnancy develop. Jilly gave birth to Jennie.”
Jilly hadn’t been pregnant!
Candace couldn’t help herself. “You’re crazy.” She advanced on the stroller that he’d let go and grasped the handles. “I’m not leaving Jennie alone with you.”
He tussled with her and the stroller jerked.
“You’re going to wake Jennie,” she warned.
“If you think I’m going to let some deluded woman kidnap my daughter, you can think again.”
“I have no intention of kidnapping her. I’m coming with you back to your home. I’m not letting Jennie out of my sight—and if you think you can brush me off, think again. I’ll walk up to every customer in this garden center and tell them I’m your baby’s mother and you’re trying to pay me off.”
He went very still. “Don’t threaten me. I’ll call the police.”
“You think I’m bluffing? Do you really want to stage a scene here…and get the police involved?”
“We’ll finish this discussion at the house.” Nick gave her a killing glare, and Candace knew she’d won a temporary reprieve.
The drive back to the Valentine mansion passed in Arctic silence.
Once the tall, imposing electronic gates swung soundlessly shut behind them, Candace started to lose her nerve. What if Nick Valentine truly was crazy? What had she done to put herself—and Jennie—at his mercy?
The Daimler came to a stop behind a Lexus parked in the circular driveway edged by clipped boxwood hedging. The evidence that someone else was at Nick’s house eased Candace’s apprehension.
It would be okay; they would get this sorted out, she reassured herself. But whatever happened she wasn’t abandoning her baby to Nick’s negligent care. He might have all the money in the world, but she’d seen firsthand what kind of parent he was. She wasn’t leaving Jennie alone with him.
A glance into the backseat showed that Jennie was still sleeping. By the time Candace had gathered up the diaper bag at her feet, Nick had the rear door open and was carefully taking the baby out of the car. Watching him, Candace had to shove aside the momentary doubt that he was the uncaring, crazy man she knew him to be. Mr. Busby, Nick’s chauffeur and handyman, had arrived and taken the stroller out of the trunk, and was carrying it up the white marble stairs to the front door.