Eden leapt from the airport taxi, thanked the driver as she thrust the fare
into his hand, and hurried through the bewildering maze of hospital corridors
to the maternity ward.
By then, the drama was over.
Her sister Flora was sitting in bed, with her newborn son in her arms.
‘Come and look at him,’
Flora called, grinning madly.
Claire came and looked. The
baby was tiny and red-faced, wrinkled and bald and he looked like an old man
in a bunny rug.
Her sister’s eyes shone.
‘Isn’t he perfect? Isn’t he gorgeous?’
‘Gorgeous,’ Claire repeated,
but she was looking at Flora, rather than the baby.
Her sister’s wild, dark hair
tumbled over the pillows and her pretty face, though paler than usual, was
luminous. She was gazing at her infant son with damp, bright eyes, and with a
look that was at once awestruck and wondering, fearful and courageous.
She had never looked more
‘Does Harry’s father have
fair hair?’ Claire asked later, after the baby had been bathed and dried, and
his neat cap of fine red-gold hair became visible.
Flora closed her eyes and
sank back against the pillows. Despite Claire’s advice to the contrary, she’d
refused to inform the baby’s father about her pregnancy and she still hadn’t
told Claire his name.
‘No, the father’s not fair,’
Flora said now in a clipped, let’s-drop-that-subject voice.
But Claire felt a need to
persist. ‘Our family has always been dark.’
Flora’s eyes flashed open
and Claire recognised her sister’s stubborn look. ‘Lots of babies start out
fair and go dark later. Like chickens and ducklings.’
‘So you can’t even confide
‘Leave me alone, Claire, and
stop being the bossy big sister.’
Flora was tired, so Claire
let the prickly subject of Harry’s father drop. She gave her sister a kiss and
a hug, and went off to find a motel room for the night.
The next morning, she
returned with a massive bunch of roses and lilies.
Flora beamed at her.
‘Harry’s a brilliant feeder. You should see the way he latches on. Like a
little tiger shark.’
‘Does he hurt you?’ Claire
‘No, but funnily enough, my
leg’s a bit sore.’ Pushing the bed sheet aside, Flora reached down to massage
her shapely calf. ‘I think I must have bruised it. Probably banged it when I
was in labour and didn’t even notice.’
‘Tell the doctor about it,’
Dismissing this suggestion
with a shrug, Flora smiled. ‘All my friends from the island are coming over on
the ferry to see Harry today.’
Claire suppressed her sigh,
but secretly, she envied her sister’s idyllic lifestyle as an artist on a
tropical island. Claire’s life in Brisbane, much further south, was madly
hectic. As the co-owner of a company that managed special corporate events,
she mostly felt like a hamster on a wheel – on call twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week – continually stressed.
In fact, Harry couldn’t have
chosen a worse possible time to arrive. This very day, Claire’s company, C&C
Events, was overseeing their biggest gig yet – a massive launch for Brisbane’s
Inner City Traders, designed to lure shoppers out of suburban malls and back
into the city heart.
All the clothing shops had
come together to put on a huge fashion parade. Restaurants were hosting a
gourmet food fair out in the street. Rock bands, a youth orchestra and school
bands were to perform on a central stage. Buskers, fire eaters, and sidewalk
artists had been hired, and radio stations had set up outdoor studios.
The success of an event of
this scale rested on meticulous planning and attention to detail, and
yesterday afternoon, Claire had been halfway through her last-minute
checklist, when she’d received Flora’s text message.
My labour’s started and I’m
frightened. Can you come? Now???
Ever since their parents’
death, Claire had been weighed down by a motherly concern for her baby sister,
so she’d dropped everything in the hands of her business partner, and hopped
on the first plane north.
Claire knew Flora didn’t
hold with working to deadlines. She claimed that her creativity couldn’t be
forced inside timetables and she couldn’t understand why Claire let her
clients rule her life. It was impossible for her to appreciate the sacrifice
Claire had made to be here.
Perhaps that was why Claire
blurted out the thought that had been bothering her all night. ‘What are you
going to do about Harry’s father?’
Flora rolled her eyes to the
‘Flora, you have to tell
him. Any man deserves to know he has a son.’
‘I can’t tell him.’
‘Why ever not?’
‘I don’t know where he is.
He’s gone away, sailing around the world, climbing mountains, jumping out of
planes. Anything he can find that’s extreme and reckless.’
Claire wouldn’t let this
distract her. ‘Is he Australian?’
‘Then he’s bound to come
‘But he won’t want to know
about the baby.’
‘How can you be certain?’
Flora’s fingers plucked
anxiously at the bed sheets.
‘He made it clear his life
was all about fun. He’s irresponsible and selfish. He certainly wouldn’t want
to settle down. Besides, if I tell him, his family will find out and I don’t
‘What’s wrong with his
‘They’re filthy rich.’
‘Excuse me? And that’s a
This was not making sense.
Claire and Flora had inherited quite tidy sums from their parents. Claire had
used her share to go into business with an old school friend. Flora had bought
a cottage on the island with world class views across Sapphire Bay.
‘You’re not exactly poverty
‘But I like to live simply,’
Flora protested. ‘You know that. I want to be close to nature and I want Harry
to have a healthy, stress-free childhood, out of the public eye. On the
She heaved another
exaggerated sigh. ‘If the father’s family knew about Harry, they’d have him in
a private prep school in Sydney before he was out of nappies. He’d have a
nanny or three, his own chauffeur, the whole circus.’
‘Good grief. Who have you
slept with? A royal prince?’
Her sister had the grace to
blush. ‘Near enough.’
‘Oh, for heaven’s sake,
Flora, you’ve got to tell me now.’
Flora’s eyes flashed to
Harry, tucked innocently asleep in his blue and white blanket and then, she
swept her gaze to a bland painting of lavender orchids on the wall and sighed
theatrically. ‘All right, if you must know, his name is Jack Dysart.’
At first this meant nothing
But then the penny dropped.
‘Not the Dysarts. You
don’t mean –’ Claire gulped when she saw the telltale wariness in her sister’s
eyes. ‘Don’t tell me – he can’t be one of Theodore Dysart’s sons?’
Flora nodded sadly.
A Dysart has bedded my sister.
Claire recalled the many
photographs she’d seen in newspapers and magazines of this famous Australian
dynasty. ‘I thought the Dysart sons were married. I seem to remember they’re
called Joseph and – and Nick?’
‘Jack’s the third son and
he’s not married. He prefers to let his older brothers have the limelight. I
guess he’s a bit of a black sheep.’
‘But – but – he’s still a
It was the only thing Claire
could say. She stared at baby Harry with renewed respect. Today he looked
pink, rather than red, and his tiny lips were making cute sucking movements in
his sleep. His ears were incredibly neat and sweet, and so were his pink
fingers as they curled over the rim of his blanket.
Claire was rather relieved
that she could say, in all honesty, that he was gorgeous after all, but
she found it impossible to accept his connection to his father’s powerful
family. The Dysart’s wealth was massive! And so was their power.
And the very mention of them
had turned Flora into a lioness, fighting to protect her precious cub.
Claire’s day at the hospital
was punctuated by calls to and from her business partner.
‘Everything’s going really
well,’ she was assured. ‘As usual, your nitpicky attention to detail has paid
off, Claire. We haven’t had a single hitch.’
‘Great. Have a glass of
bubbles for me,’ Claire replied. ‘Better still, have more bubbles ready for
when I get back. I’ll be home by Friday evening.’
Very early on Thursday
morning, Claire received another phone call.
‘This is Jonathan Bryce,
your sister’s obstetrician.’
His voice was deep and
solemn and Claire knew immediately that something was wrong. Then she heard
the terrible words.
‘I’m very sorry, Miss Eden.
I have bad news.’
From “The Billionaire's Baby Surprise?"
By: Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon Romance
Copyright: © Barbara Hannay
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement
with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com