Pregnant by the CEO
Book 1 in the Jameson Heirs Series
His pretend bride-to-be is pregnant!
How to keep control of the family business, bring his estranged siblings together and save his sullied reputation? Step one for billionaire businessman Derrick Jameson involves pretending to be engaged to his enemy’s sister. He just has to keep his heart—and his secrets—to himself.
Out of work and protective of her brother, Ellie Gold reluctantly agrees to a job as Derrick’s fake fiancée. But when their no-romance, no-touching agreement ends with her in love and expecting his baby, will what they have become the real thing?
Pregnant by the CEO
Book 1 in the Jameson Heirs Series
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Ellie Gold had never punched anyone before, but she vowed to end that lifelong streak right now.
Wearing the only cocktail dress she owned, simple and black, with a matching black lace overlay, and spiky heels that made her arches ache, she stepped into the private dining room on the top floor of the historic Hay-Adams Hotel named, interestingly enough, the Top of the Hay.
For a second the anger choking her brain cleared. Her breath hitched as her gaze wandered around the sparkling space with the fancy chandeliers and cream-colored walls. Only the business people milling around with death grips on their drinks, all looking awkward and out of place in their navy suits, threatened to ruin the fairy-tale moment.
French doors lined the outer walls and vaulted skylights soared above her. She stretched up on tiptoes to peek around more than one set of shoulders to the stunning view of the White House below.
Her balance faltered and she might have landed headfirst in a nearby tray of champagne glasses but fingers wrapped around her elbow and steadied her. She glanced up to say thank you and saw a face…his face.
Derrick Jameson, the oldest son of a vast empire that included everything from commercial real estate in Washington, DC, to a prize-winning horse farm in the Virginia countryside. The guy who excelled at making her life miserable.
Just seeing him made her forget how to spell. She wasn’t all that sure she could recite the alphabet if pressed, either. She wanted to blame the fury flowing through her, but even she had to admit that might not be the real reason for her hottie-induced speech lapse.
She’d researched Derrick before tonight, reading online in stories that droned on about his money and dating life. But seeing him up close? No one had prepared her for that.
The black hair and striking light brown eyes. She’d read about his family background and picked up on the subtle hint of Japanese heritage passed on from his maternal grandmother. The firm chin. Those shoulders.
The features combined into a potent package of tall, dark and delicious. He gave off a confident vibe. In control and assessing. But his unspoken determination to destroy her reputation and rip her family apart marred her appreciation of his pretty face.
“Ms. Gold.” He nodded and threw in a little smile for a group of people walking past him. “I didn’t expect to see you at a business function.”
Her voice came back to her in a rush. So did the rage swirling in her gut. “Interesting tactic.”
“That charming thing you’re doing?” She leaned in closer and dropped her voice to a whisper, ignoring how good he smelled. “I’m not buying it.”
He continued to hold her arm. Not in a tight grip. No, his thumb brushed back and forth over her bare skin in a gentle caress, as if trying to soothe her. The guy seemed oblivious to the fact that he was the one causing her stress. Well, him and everyone and everything else in her life.
He might not know it but she hovered right on the edge and his decisions kept shoving her closer to the abyss. Her baby brother Noah was in a strange emotional downward spiral, all thanks to Derrick and his claims about Noah stealing from him.
She’d practically raised Noah after their parents died in a car crash. He wasn’t easy, but he wasn’t a thief. Her brother had been argumentative and frustrated back then, much more so than other kids. She’d dragged him to a specialist who diagnosed him with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, something she’d never even heard of before that moment.
She’d scraped together the money for the therapies not covered by insurance. But even now, at times of stress or when he felt cornered, the flashes of anger would come back and he’d buck authority. Something about Derrick had Noah’s negative behavior kicking to the surface again.
The worst part was that Noah didn’t even see it. She did. She’d watched him make bad choices as a kid, tried to help him to the point where she’d sacrificed her personal life to spend all of her extra time with him. The idea that his issues were resurging now, at twenty, deflated her.
She’d deal with that later. Right now she needed to handle Derrick.
“This is serious.” Serious enough for her to track him down through a series of calls to his office.
“Is it?” Amusement filled his voice as he handed her his glass of champagne.
She couldn’t think of anything more annoying than that welcoming lilt to his voice. The whole fake-charming scene threw her off. She didn’t realize he had shifted and moved them toward the elevators until she looked around the room and saw the space between them and the rest of the party.
She didn’t know if this was a rich guy’s way of escorting her out of the building or something else. Either way, she was not ready to be dismissed. There was too much at stake for her to give up now. “Mr. Jameson, I—”
She’d investigated Derrick’s business when her baby brother got a job there seven months ago. At first, Noah had talked about Derrick in a nonstop cycle of hero worship. His enthusiasm had rubbed off on her. She’d clicked on every photo of him. Let her mind wander, tried to imagine what it might be like to see that shockingly handsome face close up.
Now she knew.
She worked in human resources up until six weeks ago. She hadn’t reached management level yet. The Jameson family was the equivalent of D.C. royalty. She didn’t move in their world. She also possessed a general distrust of people who rolled around in that kind of money. But Noah had been impressed. And, up until that point in his life, almost nothing had impressed her brilliant but moody brother.
In theory, Derrick was more mature and reasonable than her brother. But thanks to this gossip site silliness she wasn’t totally convinced that was true.
“The DC Insider posted a note about us.” The comment rolled out of her mouth as if it made any sense. She still couldn’t believe she had to confront him about this.
For a second Derrick stared at her, not saying a word, then he nodded. “I know.”
Words backed up in her brain until she finally pushed them out. “What kind of response is that?”
“My name is in the social column because I allowed it to be there.”
Good grief. “Are you kidding?”
He frowned at her. “No.”
“I’m thinking people have let you get away with nonsense for far too long.” When he started to pipe in, she talked right over him. “I mean, really. Do you know how condescending you sound?”
This time he studied her. She could feel him assessing and reordering his strategy as they talked.
“I called you lovely in that Insider quote, if that helps,” he said.
It took a second for her brain to catch up again. She silently blamed all the people in suits standing around, staring at them and whispering, but she worried his smooth tone might be the real issue with her concentration. “It doesn’t, and that’s not the point.”
“Should I have used a different word?”
His focus on vocabulary made her head pound. She shifted until she put her back to most of the room. Maybe not seeing the gawkers would help. “Stop talking.”
He made a sound that came close to a growl. “People don’t usually speak to me that way.”
“Which is probably part of the problem here.” She’d never worked in a classroom but her mother had. Ellie called up that disappointed-fifth-grade-teacher tone without even trying. “Okay, so you’re admitting you planted the article?”
The champagne sloshed over the side of her glass. “The one about me?”
Because that was the point. She came there to pry the truth out of him about the planted story, maybe put him on the defensive. He ruined her plans by admitting to spreading the gossip, like it was no big deal.
He slipped the flute out of her fingers and put it on the small table behind him. “Technically, the story is about me.”
She inhaled, trying to bring some air into her lungs and refresh her brain cells. She refused to get lost in his words or have a “him” versus “them” fight because she had the very clear sense confusing wordplay was one of the ways he won arguments. “Okay, why do it?”
“To change the public conversation from your brother’s false allegations while I figure out what he did with the money that is now missing from my business accounts.” Derrick answered without blinking, following their conversation with ease as it bounced around.
She decided to ignore the money part for now. “But you named me as your…well, I guess as the woman you’re dating?”
She had no idea what to think about that nonchalant response. “We don’t even know each other. Why would you think that’s okay?”
“My business is the most important thing to me.”
She didn’t try to hide her wince at his sudden stern tone. “My brother is the most important thing to me.”
“Wrong answer, Ellie.”
Was he really making a tsking sound? “What is wrong with you?”
“I have two brothers, both adults,” Derrick explained with all the emotion of someone reading a recipe. “They take care of themselves. I take care of me and the business.”
He actually smiled. “Is it possible you’re the one with the confused priorities?”
She swallowed a gasp, along with a bit of her anger and possibly some of her dignity. The whole conversation was ridiculous but she could not tear herself away from him…not yet.
“Let me get this straight. A perpetual bachelor and notorious ladies’ man who is being trolled on the internet by my little brother in his anti-business videos is giving me advice on interpersonal relationships?” She wanted to sigh, throw things. “Listen, Mr. Jameson.”
“It’s still Derrick.”
The way he stayed calm made her temper spike even more. The heat rose inside her and flooded her cheeks with every controlled word he uttered. She refused to believe the sudden need for a fan had anything to do with his perfect face or that sexy smile. Not that she found either all that appealing. “Do not mention my name to anyone ever again.”
“Now, Ellie.” His eyes narrowed. “You don’t think that’s maybe—just a little—extreme.”
Apparently she was not the only one familiar with the teacher tone. He threw it out there and nailed her with it. As if she needed another reason to dislike him. “Leave my brother alone.”
“When your brother comes clean and then backs off those videos, I will.”
“You’re a grown-up.”
“So is he.” Derrick leaned in close enough for his warm breath to brush her cheek. “My suggestion to you is that you start treating him like one.”
“I’m not kidding around.”
His eyes traveled over her face, lingered on her mouth. “I can see that.”
She fought off the tremor moving through her. “Leave me out of your games.”
Before he could say anything else or touch her again, she slipped around him and through the crowd of people heading toward them. Kept going until she got on the elevator and watched the doors close on his smiling face. Getting her breathing to return to normal and the image of his face to disappear from her mind took longer.