A Family for the Billionaire

By: Dani Wade

“The draw at a charitable event isn’t even the charity,” she said, “which is a shame, but true.”

A shuffling sound had him looking up. The baby’s chubby cheeks and pale round face surrounded by a halo of inky black hair made her look like a cherub. She stared at him with her eyelids at half mast, thumb firmly held between her lips. When had the cooing stopped?

Jasmine leaned over to reach into the back of the stroller. When she straightened, she held a bottle that the baby eagerly reached for. Royce couldn’t help but notice that there wasn’t a ring on Jasmine’s ring finger. No wedding band? He should have been even more upset by this situation, given his own childhood. Instead, a relief he was ashamed of snaked through him.

The fact that she was available shouldn’t matter to him.

Settling back into the chair, Jasmine cuddled the sleepy child against her chest. The juxtaposition of working woman and mother unsettled him. His own mother had never seemed that at ease. Royce had always felt like he hindered her work whenever he was around.

“People want to be entertained,” Jasmine said. “You have to sell an experience in order to get people to show up and spend their money. Build something that intrigues them and they’ll tell all their friends and soon you’ll have people begging for tickets.”

The brief flicker of her thick lashes as she looked down at the dozing child in her lap had him holding his breath until she looked back up. But then she narrowed her gaze on him, giving him the uncomfortable feeling that she saw more than he wanted her to. “The more people who talk about wanting to attend, the more likely the buzz will get back to the Jeffersons. The name connected to the event matches the name on the newest bid they received. Mission accomplished—or at least you’ll have made progress.”

Royce was far more comfortable talking strategy than entertainment. “I wondered how we would make that connection.”

She seemed to pull the baby a touch closer in her arms. He didn’t want to notice, didn’t want to think about the child. Royce had never attended a business meeting that gave rise to this many emotions—unease, lust, surprise, irritation. How long until this meeting was over?

“Besides being the talk of the town?” she asked. Her smile turned as mysterious as the woman in the photograph. “I may have a few tricks up my sleeve. After all, we need to get the word out in certain circles...so I thought I would use a few exclusive invitations I receive to introduce you around, talk it up.”

“You want me to make social appearances...with you?” As if social appearances weren’t awkward enough for him.

She nodded. “Including at the Jeffersons’ Sunday Salon.”

“You get invited?” So, she hadn’t been exaggerating when she’d claimed a connection.

“About every other month.”

The Sunday Salon was a coveted invite that didn’t come around that often for most people. The Jeffersons must adore Jasmine Harden, which told Royce he’d made the right choice of event planner—even if he didn’t feel all that comfortable with it.

“All right,” he said. “Tell me more.”

He couldn’t complain that Jasmine wasn’t thorough. In ten minutes, he knew more than he really wanted to, but he had no doubt she was the best woman for the job. Before she finished he was convinced she would oversee every detail and nothing would be missed. She addressed every aspect of the planning, including quite a few things he never would have thought about.

“So what do you think?” she asked.

A lot of things he couldn’t say at the moment—because they were completely unbusinesslike. Luckily she wasn’t looking at him as she efficiently laid the baby down in the stroller. Was it terrible of him that he didn’t know the child’s name and was afraid to ask?

“Sounds good,” he said, eager to be away from all the churning thoughts this meeting had raised. “Send the mock-up and budget projections to Matthew. Let me know when you need me for anything.”

Her brows rose at his short tone, but she didn’t question him. “I’ll do that.” She gathered her bag and tablet, then faced him once more. “When you look at the budget, remember that successful events involve getting all the details right, and that takes a lot of people.”

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