His Ex's Well-Kept Secret

By: Joss Wood

Besides, kids would seriously cramp his style...

By midnight of that awful day, she’d finally received the message that Jaeger wasn’t interested in her or her sapphires or hearing she was pregnant.

Ty, she decided, was hers; she wasn’t obliged to share his existence with a man who would not be excited or interested in her child. Mick had ignored her, and she’d always wondered why he didn’t love her. There was no way she would burden her son with an uninterested, unenthusiastic father.

Piper desperately wished she could forget about Jaeger, but that was impossible when she lived with a miniature version of the man. In Ty she saw Jaeger’s gorgeous, fallen-angel face—light eyes a perfect foil for his olive skin and dark, wavy hair—and then she remembered the scrape of his two-day-old beard against her skin, the breadth of his shoulders, the ridges of his corrugated stomach, the peace she felt in his clever assured touch.

Some nights she woke up from a deep sleep, her heart pounding, an orgasm hovering, her thoughts full of him. On occasion she rolled over looking for him, wanting him to take her to that place where only he could—a dizzying, sparkling place where time stood still and magic lived. When reality crashed down—she was a single mother and he wasn’t interested in her or her son—the following hours were dark and dismal, long on tears and short on sleep.

Ty gurgled and Piper dropped her head to nuzzle his tummy, feeling his tiny hands in her curls. When she’d first found out she was pregnant with Manhattan’s Main Man’s baby, she’d cursed God and Fate and wept and wailed. Now she couldn’t imagine her life without her little man; he was the beginning and the end of her universe.

“What about some lunch and then a walk in the park? It’s cold but sunny.” Piper put Ty on her hip and walked downstairs, ignoring her study to head for the kitchen. “You up for that, Ty?”

Ty shoved his fist in his mouth, and Piper took that to be a yes. Handing Ty a sippy cup filled with water, she pulled out a jar of organic baby food and heard her doorbell buzz. Frowning, she looked at the small screen in her kitchen and saw a man in a suit standing by the front door to her building. He looked very...lawyerly, Piper decided.

Piper lifted the receiver to her intercom, and when she heard he represented the law firm in charge of administering her father’s estate, she buzzed her visitor into the building.

Five minutes later, Mr. Simms sat at her kitchen table as she fed Ty his lunch.

“I understand that you’re a fine arts appraiser, you work from home and you have a steady clientele of both art gallery owners and private collectors.”

Accurate enough. Piper nodded as she spooned sweet potato and carrots into Ty’s welcoming mouth. Wanting to get outside and into the fresh air, she lifted her eyebrows. “All true. But I doubt you came here to talk about my business, so what can I do for you?”

“I also understand you are Michael Shuttle’s daughter?”

There was no point denying it. “I am. My mother and Mick were together for over thirty years. My relationship to Mick is not public knowledge, and I’d prefer it stayed private.”

Piper wiped Ty’s face and hands and handed him oversize plastic house keys to play with. They immediately went to his mouth. “Why are you here?”

Simms nodded. “Unlike his business, your father’s personal assets were very well-documented. On his list were numerous pieces of furniture, with annotations that they are in this house. There is a Georgian desk, a painting by Zabinski, a sculpture by Barry Jackson. A Frida Kahlo painting.”

“He gave those to my mother. They were gifts.”

“The spreadsheet states the items were on loan to Gail Mills.” Mr. Simms looked sympathetic.

From the kitchen she could see into the living room, where the bronze sculpture of a ballet dancer sat on the credenza. “Are you telling me they have to be sold?”

Simms nodded. “Yes. They are part of his estate.”

Piper bit her bottom lip to keep her curses from escaping. “On loan, my ass! They were gifts. I was there when he gave them to her.” Feeling sad and a little sick, Piper stood up to release Ty from his high chair.

Simms made a note in a small black notepad and looked at her as she swayed side to side, Ty on her hip. “I’ll send a crew to collect the table, the art and the bronze. They’ll go up for auction and you can buy them back.”

Yeah, right, that wasn’t going to happen. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you.” Piper looked at the door, hinting that she’d like him gone.

“There’s just one more thing, Miss Mills.”

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