His Son, Her Secret

his-son-her-secret

Their families tore them apart. Can their baby bring them back together?

For more than a year, Byron Beaumont has tried to get over Leona Harper. Not even living overseas could erase the memory of their affair…or her betrayal. Her family has been out to destroy his for decades, and despite Byron trusting her, making love to her, Leona kept her identity hidden. Now that Byron is back—as her new employer—he wants answers.

But what he gets is another surprise. Leona has given birth to his son. He’ll do what it takes to care for his family, even if it means spending days—and nights—wanting the one woman he can’t have…

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The Beaumont Heirs: Book 4
Sept. 2015 from Harlequin Desire
ISBN-13: 978-0373734115




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Chapter One

“This place is a dump,” Byron Beaumont announced. His words echoed off the stone walls, making the submerged space sound haunted.

“Don’t see it as it is,” his older brother Matthew said through the speaker in Byron’s phone. It was much easier for Matthew to call this one in, rather than make the long journey to Denver from California, where he was happily living in sin. “See it as what it will be.”

Byron did another slow turn, inspecting the extent of the neglect as he tried not to think about Matthew—or any of his older brothers—being happily engaged or married. The Beaumonts hadn’t been, until recently, the marrying kind.

Yet it hadn’t been so long ago that he’d thought he was the marrying kind. And then it had all blown up in his face. And while he’d been licking his wounds, his brothers—normally workaholics and playboys—had been pairing off with women who were, by all accounts, great for them.

Once again, Byron was the one who didn’t conform to Beaumont expectations.

Forcibly, he turned his attention back to the space before him. The vaulted ceiling was arched, but the parts that weren’t arched were quite low. Cobwebs dangled from everything, including the single bare lightbulb in the middle of the room, which cast deep shadows into the corners. The giant pillars supporting the arches were evenly spaced, taking up a huge amount of the floor. Inches of dust coated the low half-moon windows at eye level. What Byron could see of the outside looked to be weeds. And the whole space smelled of mold.

“And what will it be? Razed, I hope.”

“No,” Byron’s oldest half brother, Chadwick Beaumont, said. The word was crisp and authoritative, which was normal for Chadwick. However, the part where he lifted his daughter out of his wife’s arms and onto his shoulders so she could see better was not. “This is underneath the brewery. It was originally a warehouse but we think you can do something better with it.”

Byron snorted. Yeah, right.

Serena Beaumont, Chadwick’s wife, stepped next to Byron so that Matthew could see her on the phone. “Percheron Drafts has had a great launch, thanks to Matthew’s hard work. But we want this brewery to be more than just a craft beer.”

“We want to hit the old company where it counts,” Matthew said. “A large number of our former customers continue to be unhappy about how the Beaumont Brewery was sold away from our family. The bigger we can make Percheron Drafts, the better we can siphon off our old customers.”

“And to do that,” Serena went on in a sweet voice at direct odds with a discussion about corporate politics, “we need to offer our customers something they cannot get from Beaumont Brewery.”

“Phillip is working with our graphic designer on incorporating his team of Percherons into all of the Percheron Draft marketing, but we have to be sensitive to trademark issues,” Chadwick added.

“Exactly,” Matthew agreed. “So our distinctive element can’t be the horses, not yet.”

Byron rolled his eyes. He should have brought his twin sister, Frances, so he would have someone to back him up. He was being steamrolled into something that seemed doomed from the start.

“You three have got to be kidding me. You want me to open a restaurant in this dungeon?” He looked around at the dust and the mildew. “No. It’s not going to happen. This place is a dump. I can’t cook in this environment and there’s no way in hell I would expect anyone to eat here, either.” He eyed the baby gurgling on Chadwick’s shoulder. “In fact, I’m not sure any of us should be breathing this air without hazmat masks. When was the last time the doors were even opened?”

Matthew looked at Serena. “Did you show him the workroom?”

“No. I’ll do that now.” She walked toward a set of doors in the far back of the room. They were heavy wooden things on rusting hinges, wide enough a pair of Percheron horses could pull a wagon through them.

“I’ve got it, babe,” Chadwick said as Serena struggled to get the huge latch lifted. “Here, hold Catherine,” he said to Byron.

Suddenly, Byron had a baby in his arms. He almost dropped the phone as Catherine leaned back to look up at her uncle.

“Um, hey,” Byron said nervously. He didn’t know much of anything about babies in general or this baby in particular. All he knew was that she was Serena’s daughter from a previous relationship and Chadwick had formally adopted her.

Catherine’s face wrinkled in doubt at this new development. Byron didn’t even know how old the little girl was. Six months? A year? He had no idea. He couldn’t be sure he was even holding her right. However, he was becoming reasonably confident that this small human was about to start crying. Her face screwed up and she started to turn red.

“Um, Chadwick? Serena?”

Luckily, Chadwick got the doors open with a hideous squealing noise, which distracted the baby. Then Serena lifted Catherine out of Byron’s arms. “Thanks,” she said, as if Byron had done anything other than not drop the infant.

“You’re welcome.”

Matthew was laughing, Byron realized. “What?” he whispered at his brother.

“The look on your face…” Matthew appeared to be slapping his knee. “Man, have you ever even held a baby before?”

“I’m a chef—not a babysitter,” Byron hissed back. “Have you ever foamed truffle oil?”

Matthew held up his hands in surrender. “I give, I give. Besides, no one said that starting a restaurant would involve childcare. You’re off the hook, baby-wise.”

“Byron?” Serena said. She waved him toward the doors. “Come see this.”

Unwillingly, Byron crossed the length of the dank room and walked up the sloping ramp to the work room. What he saw almost took his breath away.

Instead of the dirt and decay that characterized the old warehouse, the work room had been upgraded at some point in the past twenty years. Stainless-steel cabinets and countertops fit against the stone walls—but these walls had been painted white. The overhanging industrial lighting was harsh, but it kept the room from looking like a pit in hell. Some cobwebs hung here and there, but the contrast between this room and the other was stunning.

This, Byron thought, had potential.

“Now,” Matthew was saying as Byron looked at the copper pipes that led down into a sink that was almost three feet long, “as we understand it, the last people who used this brewery to brew beer upgraded the workroom. That’s where they experimented with ingredients in small batches.”

Byron walked over to the six-burner stove. It was a professional model. “It’s better,” he agreed. “But this isn’t equipped for restaurant service. I can’t cook on only six burners. It’s still a complete teardown. I’d still be starting from scratch.”

There was a pause, then Matthew said, “Isn’t that what you want?”

“What?”

“Yes, well,” Chadwick cleared his throat. “We thought that, with your being in Europe for over a year…”

“That you’d be more interested in a fresh start,” Serena finished diplomatically. “A place you could call your own. Where you call the shots.”

Byron stared at his family. “What are you talking about?” But the question was a dodge. He knew exactly what they were thinking.

That he’d had a job working for Rory McMaken in his flagship restaurant, Sauce, in Denver and that not only had Byron been thrown out of the place over what everyone thought were “creative differences” but that Byron had left the country and gone to France and then Spain because he couldn’t handle the flack McMaken had given him and the entire Beaumont family on his show on the Foodie TV network.

Too bad they didn’t know what had really happened.

Byron’s contact with his family had been intentionally limited over the past twelve months—his twin sister Frances notwithstanding. Nearly all of the family news had filtered down through Frances. That’s how Byron had learned that Chadwick had not only gotten divorced but had then also married his secretary and adopted her daughter. And that’s how Byron had learned Phillip was marrying his horse trainer. No doubt, Frances was the only reason anyone knew where Byron had been.

Still, Byron was touched by his family’s concern. He’d more or less gone off the grid to protect them from the fallout of his one great mistake—Leona Harper. Yet here they were, trying to convince him to return to Denver by giving him the blank slate he’d been trying to find.

Chadwick started to say something but paused and looked at his wife. Something unspoken passed between them. Just the sight of it stung Byron like lemon juice in a paper cut.

“You wouldn’t have to get independent financing,” Serena told Byron. “The up-front costs would be covered between the settlement you received from the sale of the Beaumont Brewery and the capital that Percheron Drafts can provide.”

“We bought the entire building outright,” Chadwick added. “Rent would be next to nothing compared to what it would be in downtown Denver. The restaurant would have to cover its own utilities and payroll, but that’s about it. You’d have near total financial freedom.”

“And,” Matthew chimed in, “you could do whatever you wanted. Whatever theme you wanted to build upon, whatever decorating scheme you wanted to use, whatever cuisine you wanted to serve—burgers and fries or foamed truffle oil or whatever. The only caveat would be that Percheron Drafts beer would be the primary focus of the beverage menu since the restaurant is in the basement of the brewery. Otherwise, you’d have carte blanche.”

Byron looked from Chadwick to Serena to Matthew’s face on the screen. “You guys really think this will sell beer?”

“I can give you a copy of the cost-benefit analysis I prepared,” Serena said. Chadwick beamed at her, which was odd. The brother Byron remembered didn’t beam a whole hell of a lot.

Byron could not believe he was considering this. He liked living in Madrid. His Spanish was improving and he liked working at El Gallio, the restaurant helmed by a chef who cared more about food and ingredients and people than his own brand name.

It’d been a year. A year of working his way up the food chain, from no-star restaurants to one-star Michelin establishments to El Gallio, a three-star restaurant—one of the highest ranked places in the world. He had made a name for himself that had absolutely nothing to do with his father and the Beaumonts, and he was damned proud of that. Would he really give all that up to come home for good?

More than anything, he liked the near total anonymity of life in Europe. There, no one cared that he was a Beaumont or that he’d left the States under a swirling cloud of gossip. No one gave a damn what happened with the Beaumont Brewery or Percheron Drafts or what any of his siblings had done to make headlines that day.

No one thought about the long-running feud between the Beaumonts and the Harpers that had led to the forced sale of the Beaumont Brewery.

No one thought about Byron and Leona Harper.

And that was how he liked it.

Leona…

If he were going to move back home, he knew he’d have to confront her. They had unfinished business and not even a year in Europe could change that. He wanted to look her in the face and have her tell him why. That’s all he wanted. Why had she lied to him for almost a year about who she really was? Why had she picked her family over him? Why had she thrown away everything they’d planned—everything he’d wanted to give her?

In the course of the past year, Byron had worked and worked and worked to forget her. He had to accept the fact that he might not ever forget her or her betrayal of him—of them. Fine. That was part of life. Everyone got their heart ripped out of their chest and handed to them at least once.

He didn’t want her back. Why would he? So she and her father could try to destroy him all over again?

No, what he wanted was a little payback.

The question was how to go about it.

Then he remembered something. Before it’d all fallen so spectacularly apart, Leona had been in school for industrial design. They’d talked about the restaurant they’d open together, how she’d design it and he’d run it. A blank slate that was theirs and theirs alone.

It’d been a year. She might have a job or her own firm or whatever. If he hired her, she would work for him. She would have to do as he said. He could prove that she didn’t have any power over him—that she couldn’t hurt him. He was not the same naive boy who’d let love blind him while he worked for an egomaniac. He was a chef. He would have his own restaurant. He was his own boss. He was in charge.

He was a Beaumont, damn it. It was time to start acting like one.

“I can use whomever I want to do the interior design?”

“Of course,” Chadwick and Matthew said at the same time.

Byron looked at the workroom and then through the doors to the dungeon of the old warehouse. “I cannot believe I’m even considering this,” he muttered. He could go back to Spain, back to the new life he’d made for himself, free of his past.

Except…

He would never be free of his past, not really. And he was done hiding.

He looked at his brothers and Serena, each hopeful that he would come back into the family fold.

This was a mistake. But then, when it came to Leona, Byron would probably always make the worst choice.

“I’ll do it.”

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