For the baby's sake
Secretive billionaire Daniel Lee is known for being ruthless. But he's discovered his conscience when it comes to Christine Murray. Once, he'd smeared her name to win a campaign. Now that she's back in the spotlight, with a precious baby to protect, Daniel's determined to make amends. Even if rescuing Christine and her daughter means sweeping them away to a life he shares with no one
He'll do anything to earn Christine's trustand to have her in his bed. But now that the sexy single mom and her adorable daughter are on his turf, he can't seem to let them go.
Beaumont Bastards: Book 3
March 2017 from Harlequin Desire
ISBN-10:0373838328 ♦ ISBN-13:978-0373838325
As always, he answered the phone on the first ring. “This is Daniel.”
The number was not one he recognized. The voice, on the other hand, was. “Lee! I knew I’d track your sorry butt down somehow.”
“Brian,” Daniel said, trying to keep the cringe out of his voice.
Brian White had plucked Daniel straight out of a political rally on the campus of Northwestern and taught him everything he knew. They had worked together for almost fourteen years on various political campaigns. Brian was a man without morals, scruples or ethics. As a result, he had an amazing track record in getting questionable candidates elected to public office.
“How have you been?” Daniel asked, stalling for time.
If Brian was calling him now, that only meant one thing. The man had been hired to run yet another political campaign and he wanted his right-hand man by his side. Never mind that Daniel Lee had walked away from politics and made it clear that he was never going back.
“I’ve got a job for you,” Brian said, sounding sure of himself.
It was hard to surprise Daniel Lee. He made secrets his business. So he wasn’t all that surprised that Brian was reaching out to him. What did surprise him was his own physical response. Daniel—a man who was rumored by his political enemies to not even have a soul—felt an anxious coiling in his stomach that was only dimly recognizable as guilt. “I have a job, Brian.”
“Doing what? Running a marketing department for a beer company? Come on, Lee. We both know you’re wasting your talents.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. Brian didn’t know the first thing about business—or loyalty. Daniel wasn’t just running a marketing firm for a beer company—he was running a family business. His last name might not be Beaumont, but he was one all the same.
Every time he thought of his position here at the Beaumont Brewery—second-in-command to his half brother, Zeb Richards—he almost wished his grandfather, Lee Dae-Won, could have lived long enough to see Daniel take his rightful place in a family business—even if it wasn’t Dae-Won’s business. “I told you I was out.”
As he spoke, he started searching. Who was Brian working for now?
“Yeah, yeah—that’s what you said. But you and I both know you didn’t mean it. This one’s going to be fun—carte blanche.” There was a pause. “You find it yet?”
Damn. Of course Brian knew him well enough to know Daniel was already looking. “You could tell me,” he said as he found it.
Missouri Senator Resigns In Disgrace; Male Escort Tells All.
Missouri? The hairs on the back of Daniel’s neck stood up. Brian couldn’t seriously mean…
“Clarence Murray wants to hire you to work on his campaign for a special election for the Missouri Senate seat recently vacated by the disgraced Senator Struthers.” Somehow, Brian managed to sound enthusiastic.
It took a lot to surprise Daniel but for a moment, he was truly stunned.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” It hadn’t even been two years since Daniel had destroyed Clarence Murray in a bid for the Missouri governor’s office. “Murray is insane.”
“However true that may or may not be, he has a lot of well-funded campaign donors.” Brian’s voice had leveled out, which was not a good sign.
“After what we did to him two years ago, you still think he’s electable?” But even as he asked, Daniel knew how Brian would respond.
“It’s not my job to decide if he’s electable or not. He and his donors think he’s electable, so it’s my job to assemble a team and get him elected. That’s where you come in.”
Daniel kept searching. Murray, it seemed, had spent the better part of the last two years lying low and rebuilding his supporter base. Clarence Murray was a fire-and-brimstone preacher. He played well across the Bible Belt and had a solid evangelical base. But his beliefs were extreme and would never have a crossover appeal.
“No,” he told Brian.
“Come on, Lee—it’ll be fun. I’m already hearing whispers that Democrats think they can win this seat.”
And then, there she was—halfway down the list of search results. Daniel recognized that headline—he had written it himself. He had chosen the picture of her because the angle was horrible and she looked like she had three extra chins. Seeing it again hit him like a punch to the gut.
Murray’s Daughter Pregnant—Who Is The Baby Daddy?
Clarence Murray might have delusions of grandeur about being God’s chosen politician. But in the end, it had been his pregnant daughter who had cost him the election. His pregnant, unmarried daughter.
Because Daniel was the one who had made her a campaign issue.
All was fair in love and war—and politics. For years, Daniel had played the game as well as anyone. Sometimes his candidates lost. More often than not, they won. Each time Daniel had worked a campaign, he’d gotten better at ferreting out secrets. And if candidates had few secrets, then Daniel had…well, not invented them. But he had always found some kernel of truth that could be stretched into something resembling a scandal. Nobody was completely clean.
Not even Daniel.
He read about Christine Murray, that anxious pit in his stomach coiling more tightly, a snake getting ready to strike. It didn’t seem possible that he felt bad about what he had done. He never had before. But as he looked at the images of her online—and the headlines that he had not written about her—he had to face the fact that he had done a terrible thing to an innocent bystander.
“You know they’re going to come after his daughter again.”
As odd as it seemed now, it appeared that, at the advanced age of thirty-four, Daniel Lee had developed a conscience.
Christine Murray had been twenty-four years old when her father had run for governor. From what Daniel had been able to dig up, she hadn’t lived at home since she’d gone to college at the age of eighteen. She’d had a wild youth after the death of her mother—the stereotypical preacher’s daughter—but by all appearances she had quickly settled down. She’d gotten a degree in finance. By all accounts, she had very little to do with Clarence Murray. Instead, she had gotten engaged and then gotten pregnant. By itself, there really wasn’t anything scandalous about that.
Except that her father was running on a faith-and-family-values platform and having an unwed, pregnant daughter was exactly the sort of ammunition Daniel had needed to knock Clarence Murray out of the race.
Daniel had dragged that woman through the mud. When her fiancé had dumped her, Daniel had made hay while the sun still shone.
“I wouldn’t worry about her,” Brian said, sounding smug. “I have a plan. But I need you by my side. What do you say to one more—for old time’s sake?”
Consciences were messy things. Daniel’s stomach turned. No wonder he hadn’t had one for so long.
Christine Murray stared at him from dozens of photos on his computer screen. Blond, petite, curvy, with huge blue eyes—absolutely beautiful, except that, in all of the pictures, she looked like a wild deer that had been cornered by a pack of hungry wolves.
“Can’t help you,” Daniel told Brian. Because he couldn’t. He hadn’t felt bad about working to defeat Clarence Murray. The man was not fit to govern.
But Christine Murray?
“Lee, quit joking around. It’s going to be a bloodbath and I need you by my side. No one can uncover secrets like you.”
“Good luck with your candidate,” he said. “But I’m out.”
Brian hesitated. “Is it just because of Murray?”
“No. I’m out for good. Don’t call me again.”
“Is that an order?” Brian’s voice got level again—which continued to be a bad sign. “Because I thought we were friends, Lee. I thought we had been friends for a long, long time.”
Daniel was no idiot. He knew a threat when he heard one. And running a political campaign involved negotiating the ever-moving line between legal and illegal, ethical and unethical. Nobody cared about morals.
Brian’s threat was empty, though. He couldn’t very well throw Daniel under the bus without getting his own legs run over.
“I’ll cheer you on from the sidelines.” As Daniel said it, Christine Murray’s trapped eyes continued to stare at him from the computer screen.
Two years ago he’d realized she was stunning. A man would have to be blind not to see it. But he had ignored the attraction then. He should be able to do the same now. Something as base and inconvenient as desire screwed things up. It always did.
“You’re making a mistake, Lee.”
“I have a business to run. But it’s been good talking to you, Brian.” And with that parting line, he hung up. Daniel tried to turn his attention back to the latest reports on the marketing campaign for the Beaumont Brewery’s launch of a new craft beer. But for once, Daniel couldn’t focus.
He found himself staring at pictures of Christine Murray as his mind spun out all of the possibilities. Naïvely, Daniel found himself hoping that her father’s opponent would leave Christine Murray out of it. He went back to his search results. There wasn’t much. There was an announcement that her child been born, a daughter. There was a teaser article that suggested she was going to sign for the next season of Ballroom Dancing With Superstars—but that was from the previous season. Clearly, she hadn’t.
After digging deeper, he found what he was looking for—a small bio with the standard headshot attached to the First City Bank of Denver’s website. It had to be her—those blue eyes were unmistakable. She was a loan officer at the First City Bank. And she was in Denver? He’d been out of the game too long—he hadn’t realized she was so close.
Christine had nothing to do with her father—especially not if she had been in Denver for the last year and a half. She might not get dragged into this special election.
But Daniel knew that wasn’t how things worked. The opposition’s campaign manager would size up the competition. It would take all of twelve seconds to dig up every piece of useful information he could on Clarence Murray and when he did, Christine would be at the top of that list.
They would come for her again.
Daniel didn’t like guilt. And he shouldn’t care.
But he stared at the small picture on the bank’s website. She didn’t look trapped in that photo. She looked cautious, though. She looked like a woman who believed putting any picture of herself on the internet was inviting abuse.
If Daniel had any faith in Clarence Murray actually being a spiritual man, he might try to convince himself that Murray would close ranks around his daughter, try to protect her.
But Brian White wouldn’t allow that to happen. Christine Murray was a liability. Daniel was willing to bet large sums of money—and he had large sums of money to bet—that Brian would attack her first. He would make an example out of her to show that Clarence Murray did not engage in nepotism and stuck by his beliefs.
Daniel picked up the phone and dialed the executive office. “Yes?” his half brother, Zeb, said into the phone. “Do you have those numbers?”
Daniel absolutely should not get involved. But two well-funded, cutthroat political campaigns were about to descend upon Christine Murray. “Not yet. I need to be out of the office for a little bit—hopefully just a couple of hours, but it has the potential to become more involved.”
Zeb was quiet for a moment. “Everything okay?”
They had a tenuous relationship that was part stranger, part boss, part brother. The familial bonds felt awkward for both of them. “It should be. But if it becomes more involved, I’ll let you know.”
Zeb chuckled. “Yeah, that was reassuring. Good luck.”
“Luck has nothing to do with it.”
Which didn’t change the fact that he was going to need all the luck he could get.