Seducing the Single Mom
Widowed mom Sofia Bingham needs a job—fast! Her babies won't feed themselves. Working for real estate tycoon Eric Jenner is the perfect solution. But her childhood buddy is all grown up now…and tempting as hell. Surely one unforgettable night of passion wouldn't hurt? After that, they can go back to being all business!
But Eric doesn't agree that they should put their red-hot romance on ice. He can't deny his connection to Sofia's adorable twins—or his consuming desire for their mother. What will it take to convince her that he's playing for keeps?
Billionaires and Babies
November 2017 from Harlequin Desire
Romance Reviews Today: A romance that is both emotional and sensual, I highly recommend readers pick up a copy of TWINS FOR THE BILLIONAIRE. You won't be sorry.
Thoughts of a Blonde: Sweet, sexy and oh so good! Childhood friends to colleagues ... and more! The characters are really easy to connect with and the story is fast paced. With the added addition of adorable twin toddlers and a sexual chemistry off-the-charts, I was in for quite a treat!
Romance Junkies: This fairy tale romance is nicely written. In addition, Eric’s amazing kindness and desire to be a father tugged at my heartstrings. Billionaires, toddlers, and love are a winning combination in Sarah M. Anderson’s TWINS FOR THE BILLIONAIRE.
The elevator door dinged. Sofia Bingham waited for the rest of the crowd to exit first, nerves swirling in her stomach. She was really doing this—interviewing for the job of office manager at Jenner Properties.
Her breath caught in her throat as she stepped into the foyer of Eric Jenner’s real estate empire. In her mind, this office had looked exactly the same as Eric’s father’s real estate office. Jenner and Associates had been a regal office located on the ground floor of a four-story building. John and Elise Jenner had run their exclusive agency on the Gold Coast of Chicago, catering to the rich and the ultrarich.
Her father, Emilio, had started as a janitor before moving up to staging houses for the Jenners and then starting his own company as a bilingual real estate agent. Sofia’s mother, Rosa, had been the Jenners’ housekeeper and Elise Jenner had had a soft spot for Sofia. Elise had showered Sofia with dresses and toys
When Sofia had been growing up, the Jenners had seemed like the richest people in the world.
None of that had prepared her for this.
Jenner Properties took up the whole of the fortieth floor of the skyscraper at 310 South Wacker Drive. She could see Lake Michigan from here, the sun glittering off the water like a mirage come to life.
She smiled. It had been years since she had seen Eric Jenner, but she wasn’t surprised he had a good view of the lake. He’d always loved the water. Not only had he taught her to swim in his family’s pool but he’d even taught her how to sail his toy sailboats so they could race.
Around her, more elevators opened and more people poured out. Jenner and Associates had been run primarily by John and Elise Jenner and two other agents. But Jenner Properties was staffed by a small army of very serious-looking people, all of whom wore good suits and better shoes. Sofia looked down at her skirt and jacket combo, the nicest outfit she owned that didn’t have baby food stains on it. It was cute—a black-and-white polka-dotted skirt with a white jacket over a black blouse with a bow at the neck—but it wasn’t in the same class of clothing as the people rushing past her.
She stepped to the side and stared out at the lake. She was here for a job interview. The position of office manager had opened up and Sofia simply couldn’t keep working as a real estate agent. She needed regular hours and a regular paycheck. It was easy to say that she needed both of those things for her twins, Adelina and Eduardo, but the truth was, she needed them for herself.
Yes, this job paid enough that she could hire a nanny to help Mom out. Sofia had been a real estate agent with her husband, David. She couldn’t be one without him anymore.
There were other office manager jobs she could apply for, but this one paid more. That wasn’t the only reason she was here, however…
Would Eric remember her?
There was no reason he should. She hadn’t seen him since he’d turned sixteen and gone away to prep school in New York. Their paths hadn’t crossed in the fifteen years since and Sofia was no longer a gangly thirteen-year-old with crooked teeth.
So he wouldn’t recognize her. He probably wouldn’t even remember her. After all, she’d just been the daughter of the family maid and the janitor.
But she’d never forgotten him. Time might have changed her but a girl never forgot her first kiss. Even if that kiss had been the result of a dare, it still counted.
Nervously, she watched Eric’s employees file in. She needed this job, but she wanted to earn it on her own merits. She didn’t want to have to rely on an old family connection that he’d probably forgotten.
But desperate times and all that.
There was a lull in people exiting the elevators as she stepped forward to the reception desk. She and David had worked in a perfectly respectable office serving northern Chicago, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Evanston and the surrounding areas. But even the receptionist here had a nicer desk than she’d had at the office.
“Hello,” Sofia began, projecting more confidence than she felt right now. “My name is Sofia Bingham and I have a nine a.m. interview with Mr. Jenner.”
The receptionist was young, blonde and gorgeous. Her eyebrows alone were works of art, to say nothing of the trendy patterned jacket she wore. Her eyes flicked over Sofia, but she didn’t so much as frown, which had to count for something. “You’re here for the office manager position?” Even her voice sounded trendy.
“Yes.” Confident. That was Sofia. She could handle an interview. She could handle this office—although it didn’t seem to need a lot of managing.
“One moment please.” The receptionist turned her attention to her computer screen.
Sofia’s stomach tightened with anxiety. She’d been selling real estate for over seven years and before that, she’d been helping at her parents’ agency. But managing an office like this?
This wasn’t just real estate agents. Eric Jenner no longer bought and sold houses. He bought land and built things, like this skyscraper. He employed agents and architects and interior designers and lawyers. He built exclusive office spaces and luxury apartments. And he did it so well that he had become a billionaire. Sofia didn’t stalk Eric online but it’d been hard to miss when he’d been left at the altar and then, just a few months later, been named one of Chicago’s top five eligible bachelors, following the marriage and subsequent delisting of his friend, Marcus Warren.
What was she even doing here? She didn’t know anything about billionaires. She knew how to sell houses and condos to families, not manage architects and negotiate tax breaks with municipalities. She was struggling to hold on to middle-class respectability, for crying out loud. She’d had to move back in with her parents because she couldn’t afford house payments or daycare. This was not her world.
Her chest tightened and she had trouble breathing.
No, she could not have a panic attack. Not another one, not right now. She took a step back from the reception desk, the urge to flee so strong it was almost overwhelming. Two things stopped her. The first was the image of the twins in her mother’s arms this morning, all waving bye-bye to Sofia as she went off for her big interview. Mom had been training Adelina and Eduardo to blow kisses and it was the cutest thing ever. The twins needed more than Sofia could give them right now. They needed stability and safety. They needed a mom who wasn’t teetering on the edge, trying to keep everything together. To be that person for her children, she needed a steady job.
The other thing that halted her in her tracks was the sound of her name. “Ms. Bingham?”
She looked up and the air rushed out of her lungs. There he was. She’d seen pictures of him in those impossible-to-miss articles, but there was something unexpected about Eric Jenner in the flesh that shook her.
That smile, at least, hadn’t changed. But the rest of him? Eric Jenner was now over six feet tall, moving with an easy grace that projected strength and confidence. He was simply breathtaking in a way she hadn’t ever associated with him. His hair had deepened from bright copper to a rich burnished red, although his skin was still tanned. She almost grinned. Bronzed redheads were such a rare thing that it only made him all the more special.
One thing was certain—he was not the boy she remembered. His shoulders were broader, his legs more powerful as they closed the distance between them. And his eyes… When she lifted her gaze to his, he stumbled to a stop, his brow quirking and she knew he recognized her, even if he didn’t know from where. Something in her chest loosened and she could breathe again because she knew it was going to be all right.
She hoped, anyway.
Then the realization broke over his face. “Sofia?” He took a step forward before pulling up short. “I’m sorry,” he went on in a completely different voice. “You look like someone I used to know.”
She became aware that they were standing in the middle of the reception area and that, while no one was openly staring at them, a lot of people were paying attention to this conversation. She clutched the strap of her handbag harder. “It’s good to see you again, Mr. Jenner,” she said because she did not want to presume anything at this point.
His face lit up and dang if that didn’t make her smile. “What are you doing here? And when did you get married?” He paused and looked at her again. A warm heat flushed her cheeks. Great. Blushing.
It only got worse when he said, “Wow. You really grew up.”
Her anxiety tried to wrestle control, but she powered through. “Actually, I’m your nine a.m. I’m here about the job.” He blinked at her. “The opening for office manager?” she prompted him.
“Oh, oh—right.” He glanced around, as if he was also just becoming aware of how this conversation might look to his employees. “This office could definitely use some management. Come on back.” He cast a critical eye around and people seemed to melt back into their offices but he did so with a faint smile on his face. Sofia caught the receptionist grinning and rolling her eyes. Eric saw it, too, and said, “All right, Heather—back to work.”
“Of course, Mr. Jenner,” Heather the receptionist said, still smiling. She had perfectly white, perfectly even teeth, which was almost enough to distract Sofia from the sly way she winked.
Eric winked back.
Sofia’s heart began to pound again. What did she know about him, really? The boy he’d been had been someone privileged and wealthy but still kind to a little girl. He’d taught her how to swim and roller-skate and had, on more than one occasion, played tea with her and some of his mother’s delicate china dolls.
But that didn’t mean he was the same person now. Yes, he was rich, handsome—and single. Of course he would make eyes at the beautiful young receptionist. And the beautiful young receptionist—well, she wasn’t stupid. Of course she would make eyes back.
Sofia had just begun to feel invisible when Eric turned back to her. “I had no idea you were applying for this job,” he said, motioning for her to follow him. “Tell me about your husband. Who was lucky enough to land Sofia Cortés?”
He said it in a way that was almost believable, the kind of benign flirting a man like Eric no doubt excelled at. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t run-of-the-mill small talk to Sofia. All she could do was keep breathing.
She didn’t say anything until he led her back into his office. The room was huge, with leather couches and a massive mahogany desk, plus a wet bar. And behind it all was a wall of glass facing due east. He had an almost perfectly unobstructed view of Lake Michigan. She didn’t sell downtown real estate, but even she knew this view was worth millions.
He closed the door behind her. For a moment, they stood with less than two feet separating them. Sofia became acutely aware of the heat of his body and it made her flush in a way that hadn’t happened in months. Years.
“What an amazing vista,” she said, striving for lighthearted—and willing him away from conversation about David. Willing away the heat she couldn’t seem to ignore.
Eric Jenner was every inch the billionaire bachelor. There was no doubt in her mind that his suit was custom-made—everything he wore was probably custom-made, right down to his socks. He’d paired a bold royal blue suit with a light pink shirt and a silk tie that probably cost as much as her car payment. It all fit him like a second skin.
A forgotten feeling began to pulse through her body, a steady pounding that got louder with each beat. For a dazed moment, she didn’t recognize it.
Desire. That’s what this tight, hot heaviness was. Want. She’d forgotten she could feel this way anymore. She’d thought…well, she’d thought she’d buried her needs with her husband.
The realization that she could still feel raw attraction was startling enough. But the fact that her body was feeling desire for Eric? Her cheeks got hotter by the second and here in the privacy of his office, there weren’t any winking receptionists or dinging elevators to distract his attention.
He stared at her, his eyes darkening. Her lungs refused to expand and she began to feel light-headed. She couldn’t want Eric and he shouldn’t be looking at her like that. That wasn’t why she’d come.
“You’ve done well for yourself,” she blurted out, making a conscious effort to look around the room. Photographs of him with famous people were mixed in with expensive-looking paintings and pictures of his buildings.
After a pause that was so quiet she was sure he could hear her pulse pounding, he said, “Was there any doubt?”
It sounded so cocky that she jerked back to look at him. He had a wolf’s grin on his face, but then everything about him softened and she almost saw the boy she’d known. “I work hard for what I have, but let’s be honest—I started from a place higher than almost everyone else, thanks to my parents.”
A little bit of the anxiety loosened in her chest. Yes, he had always been the privileged son of privileged people. But the Eric she remembered had been almost embarrassed by that fact. His parents hadn’t raised him to be an entitled, spoiled brat. How much of that boy still existed inside of him? Or was he the kind of man who hired a beautiful receptionist—or even a mildly attractive office manager—just to get her in bed?
She didn’t want him to be like that. If he was, she wasn’t sure she could destroy her fondest memories of him with reality. “How are your parents? I know they still exchange Christmas cards with my parents.”
Eric sighed, an action of extreme exaggeration that made him look younger. “They’re fine. They’re disappointed I didn’t manage to get married and start producing grandchildren, but they’re fine.” Before she could process that statement, he asked, “Your folks?”
“Doing well. I don’t know how much your parents have shared with you, but after you went away to school, my father started selling houses. Your father opened the door for him,” she added, always mindful of what the Jenners had done for her family. “It turned out there was a huge market for bilingual real estate agents and Dad was able to capitalize on that. He owns an agency in Wicker Park. Mom stays home with my children now. They spoil each other rotten.”
His eyes widened before he turned away from her and strode toward his desk. Each step put physical distance between them—but there was no missing the emotional distance that went up like a wall around him.
This was all casual small talk, every bit of it. But there was something else going on that Sofia couldn’t put her finger on. When he’d complained about his parents wanting grandbabies, it hadn’t sounded quite right. And the look in his eyes when she’d mentioned her kids? On anyone else it would’ve been longing. She couldn’t believe that someone like Eric Jenner, who literally had the world at his feet, would be interested in an old acquaintance’s babies.
He didn’t sit at the desk, didn’t turn around. Instead, he stared out at the lake. Although it was still early, she could see a few boats out on the water, ready to enjoy the beautiful summer day. “I hadn’t heard that you’d gotten married. Congratulations.” His voice was level—unfeeling, almost.
“Oh.” She couldn’t help the dejected noise that escaped. Eric half turned, his silhouette outlined in sunshine. “I’m not. I mean, I was. But he…he died.” No matter how long it’d been, her voice caught every time she had to state that fact out loud. “Seventeen months ago.” Not that she was counting the days—the hours—since the worst day of her life.
She took a deep breath and lifted her chin. If she did this quickly, it wouldn’t hurt so badly. That was the theory, anyway. “I don’t know if you’d ever heard of him—David Bingham? We worked at a real estate agency up in Evanston.”
He turned and took a step toward her and for a second, she thought he was going to fold her into his arms and she was going to let him. But he pulled up short. “Sofia,” he said, his tone gentle. “I’m sorry. I had no idea. How are you doing?”
That wasn’t small talk. That was an honest question from one of her oldest friends. God, she’d missed Eric.
It was so tempting to lie and smooth over the awkward moment with platitudes. Lord knew Eric was probably looking for an easy answer.
But none of her answers were easy. “That’s why I’m here. My twins are—”
“Twins?” he cut her off, his eyes bugging out of his head. “How old?”
He let out a low whistle of appreciation as his gaze traveled the length of her body. Her cheeks warmed at his leisurely inspection but then his face shuttered again. “I can’t even imagine how difficult that must have been for you. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“I…thank you. It’s been hard. Which,” she went on before he could distract her from her purpose again with his kind eyes and kinder words, “is why I’m here. David and I sold houses together and since he passed I just…can’t. I need a job with regular hours and a steady paycheck to provide for my children.” There. She’d gotten her spiel out and it’d only hurt a little.
“What are their names?”
“Adelina and Eduardo, although I call them Addy and Eddy—which my mom hates.” She pulled her phone out of her handbag and called up the most recent picture, of the twins in the bath with matching grins, wet hair sticking straight up. “They’re officially toddlers now. Mom watches them but I think she’s outnumbered most days. I’d love to hire a nanny to help out.” And pay off the bills that were piling up and put a little away for the kids’ college funds and…
The list of problems money would solve for her was long. Even at the best of times, real estate involved odd hours and an unpredictable income. But if an agent couldn’t sell a house without sobbing in the car, then the income got very predictable. Zero.
Eric took the phone. She watched him carefully as he tilted the screen and studied their little faces. “They look like you,” he said. “Beautiful.”
Her face flushed at the sincere compliment. “Thank you. They’ve kept me going.”
Because if she hadn’t had two helpless little babies that needed to be fed and rocked and loved, she might’ve curled into a ball and given up. The numbing depression and crushing panic attacks were never far, but Addy and Eddy were more than just her children. They were David’s children—all she had left of him. She couldn’t let him down. She couldn’t let herself down.
So she’d kept moving forward—one day, one hour, sometimes even just one minute at a time. It’d gotten easier. That didn’t make it easy, though.
Eric stared at the shot of her babies for a long moment before finally motioning Sofia to one of the plush leather seats before his desk. “And you want to try your hand at office management? This isn’t a typical real estate office.”
She lifted her chin again. “Mr. Jenner—”
“Eric, Sofia. We know each other too well for formalities, don’t you think?” It was a challenge, the way he said it. “I’m not sure I could think of you as Mrs. Bingham, anyway. You’ll always be Sofia Cortés to me.”
She understood because she wanted to keep him as that fun, sweet boy in her mind forever. But she couldn’t afford to romanticize the potential billionaire employer sitting behind his executive desk and she couldn’t afford to let him romanticize her.
“That’s who I was,” she said, her words coming out more gently than she meant for them to. “But that’s not who I am now. We’ve grown up, you and I. We’re not the same kids splashing in the pool we used to be and I need this job.”
His gaze met hers and she saw something there that she didn’t want to think too deeply about. “Then it’s yours.”
Billionaires and Babies
November 2017 from Harlequin Desire