Logan had never cared to attend the event, seeing it simply as a shallow excuse for people to dress up and flaunt their wealth under the pretense of charity. But since he had long been keen to close this particular deal, the billionaire asked curtly, “You’ll take care of it then?”
“Easily,” his lawyer answered with a shrug. “And since it’s a pair-only ball—” Claudette’s face was carefully blank. “Shall I go with you to help with negotiations, or do we attend separately?”
Several moments passed, and the billionaire said finally, “I’ll send a car for you.”
Claudette left soon after, but Logan remained in his office, unable to shake off the feeling that he had done something completely wrong, and the disturbing thought persisted even as he headed down to the in-house daycare center to take Tilly and his nephew home.
“So…” Tilly waited until they were in the privacy of the billionaire’s limousine before speaking. “How did your meeting with your lawyer go?” She managed not to make a face at the description, considering what her best friend Google had revealed.
Claudette Berger, 31 years old, divorced, and a former long-term girlfriend of Logan Hardwall.
Tilly struggled not to glower.
A woman who still wanted her husband, in other words.
Logan’s broad shoulders moved in a shrug. “As well as it should be, considering what I’m paying her.”
And because he was never the type to delay the inevitable, he added after a moment, “I’ll be attending the Oil Barons’ Ball with her tomorrow night.”
“Since we’re still at Stage 2 in our timeline, we need to let at least another month pass before I’m able to take you anywhere public.”
“That’s what we agreed on, if you recall,” he went on doggedly. “We need to make this whole thing realistic and credible, rather than risk having people think of us as a whirlwind romance and doubt our capability as parents to Liam.”
Was it just her, Tilly wondered, or was the billionaire really acting so suspiciously defensive?
“And since I’ll only be there to conduct business, it makes sense to bring Claudette along and have her help with negotiations.”
Tilly couldn’t help feeling that the billionaire was somehow forcing himself to put her in her place.
“You understand, don’t you?”
“Of course.” And she did. She had to. Because mail-order brides like her couldn’t be afford to be picky. Billie was safe and healthy, Liam was the sweetest, and Logan was the kind of man she would always be able to count on—
“Mama, look.” Liam, seated on the carpet, tugged at her skirt then proudly showed off the train set he had been able to piece together.
Tilly gasped. “Wow!” She quickly knelt down to give the little boy a tight hug. “You’re so good!” She smiled up at the billionaire. “Isn’t Liam good, Mr. Hardwall?”
“Very much so.” Logan smiled back even as he tried to convince himself that her not calling him by his given name didn’t mean anything.
“The nerve of that man,” Charlotte raged over dinner the next night. “I can’t believe he’s using the stupid timeline as an excuse for his abhorrent behavior.”
“I don’t think he was lying about having business to conduct during the ball.” Despite her own hurt, Tilly simply couldn’t help rising to the billionaire’s defense.
“Logan always has business to conduct,” the other woman retorted. “But for him to ever need help with negotiation? Does he look like the kind of man who’d need such help?”
“Oh.” And Tilly’s shoulders drooped. No wonder she was unable to completely convince herself everything was fine between them. A part of her had already known, Tilly forced herself to accept, that things had once again changed between them.
And this time, it wasn’t for the better.
She had tried to wait up for him last night, hoping he’d visit her at the nursery, and when the night nurse had already come to start her shift, she had paced outside his bedroom rather noisily, hoping it would be enough of a hint for him to come out.
But the door had remained closed, and fifteen minutes were all she had been able to manage before everything became too much to bear for her pride, and she had quickly rushed back to her room so she could lock herself in the bathroom before silently bursting into tears.
The next day, she had spent a good half hour applying makeup to hide the tear-ravaged condition of her face, but the effort had been all for naught. When she and Liam finally came down, it was to find out that the billionaire had already left for work…at five in the morning.
Looking up, Tilly blurted out worriedly, “What if he took one look at Claudette Berger, saw just how different we were, and realized that he had tied himself down to the wrong girl?”
Charlotte rolled her eyes. “Please. I’ve known Claudette for a long time, and Logan even longer. She’s definitely not his type—”