Peyton Hart is working two dead-end jobs, broke, and hungry when wealthy Sebastian Coleman walks into her crappy apartment and offers her a deal: have his baby and marry him. A year after the wedding, he’ll give her a divorce and a million dollars. Desperate, Peyton agrees, expecting nothing more than a business relationship—but they find themselves falling reluctantly in love. Can they trust each other with the pain and guilt of their own tragic pasts and make a new life together?
Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Assault, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Drug Use/Overdose, Eating Disorders, Kidnapping, Miscarriage, Rape, Self-Harm, Sexual Assault/Abuse, Violence Against Women, Violent Death, Child Death)
Strictly Baby Business by Bailey King is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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“One triple chocolate mint with caramel sauce and sprinkles along with some whipped cream and chocolate fudge.” Peyton keyed in the order and with a sigh, she turned to prepare the customer’s ice cream.
As she added all the components to the mixture, she couldn’t help but pull a face at how disgusting it not only looked but would probably taste.
People have really messed up taste buds, she thought as she handed the boy his ice cream with a fake smile and then took his cash before he walked away satisfied.
“Yuck!” she exclaimed when she saw him take a bite and enjoy it. High school kids. She rolled her eyes and found herself bored and alone in the store again.
Peyton worked at an ice cream shop in the mall. It was always filled with kids from school, and she was more than happy when she had a day off and got to work her other job, a movie theater clerk.
Not fancy, but it helped her get by. In fact, she wouldn’t have her crummy little apartment without that job.
Peyton might have lived in an apartment where everything was broken, and she might have to work like a slave for bratty teenagers, but there were no jobs available for people in finance.
Not only that, but Peyton absolutely refused to let her parents know about her terrible financial state. They would just throw it in her face and she would never hear the end of it.
She had a hard time paying bills, but she was happy and she was proud. She didn’t need a mansion, or a friend, or her parents, or a fancy job.
She had a degree, and she had a brain.
Peyton smiled when her alarm went off. She could finally clock out, grab her things, and go home.
The teenage boy who worked at the shop and hated Peyton arrived. He rolled his eyes when he saw her.
Obviously, he didn’t understand how a twenty-five-year-old could work at a shop where a teenager also could.
Without a word, Peyton grabbed her sling bag, letting it hang from her shoulder as she made her way out of the mall and down the long street.
Cars and buses passed by as she walked, and she couldn’t help but feel a bit sad about not having her own car yet.
It just isn’t possible, she reminded herself, and looked up at the sky in worry. It was going to rain soon and she needed to get home before that happened.
With a newfound determination in her tired, hungry body, Peyton started to walk even faster to the subway.
Not only did she need to dodge the rain, but she also had to make a ten-minute walk in five minutes or else she’d miss the last train.
That couldn’t happen.
Realizing that she wouldn’t make it otherwise, Peyton started to sprint, bumping into people and hurtling around corners before she finally got to the station and ran down the stairs, almost falling on the second to last step.
She quickly scanned her card and jumped onto the train as the doors were closing. There were no empty seats. When the train started moving, Peyton bent down, grabbed her knees, and took big gulps of air.
After she had calmed her breathing, she slid down the wall and brought her knees to her chest for the rest of the ride.
Peyton couldn’t help but wonder what life would have been like if she’d done what her parents expected. Would she have to live like this, only eating when possible? Or would she have some friends? Maybe she wouldn’t have to live in a run-down apartment building full of stoners.
Soon the train stopped and Peyton ran to the bus stop, again making it just in time, and took a seat in the front.
She stared out of the window for the whole ride, looking at the trees and trying to find her place in her thoughts.
They are just all over the place, today of all days. She just wanted to go home and sleep, but she knew that she wouldn’t be getting any rest.
Soon the bus came to a stop, and Peyton was the first one to get off. She wouldn’t be late for anything now; she could take it easy on the twenty-five-minute walk home.
No more running.
She started to walk through her sketchy neighborhood and greeted people as she passed. The people in the shops and the people in the streets all knew her, and she knew them.
Here, everyone knew each other—maybe not their whole lives, but well enough to help each other.
Soon, her apartment building was in sight. Peyton started to feel raindrops. She groaned in irritation and took off at full speed again.
She made it inside the building, and within thirty seconds of the doors closing the rain started to pour terribly, making her happy she’d done track in school.
Slowly and wearily she climbed the stairs to the fifth floor and unlocked her door, cringing when the hinges squeaked with age.
Slamming the door shut, she threw her bag onto the counter and walked to her fridge, opening it and glaring at the only thing inside; a microwavable pasta.
She took it to the microwave, put it in, and pressed “Start.”
“Stupid!” she shouted. Now her microwave was broken.
As she was about to hit the thing, she heard a knock. She stared at the door for a few moments, then shook her head.
She heard a knock again and waited a moment. Again, and then within five seconds, it turned into banging.
“I’m coming!” she shouted and opened the door, staring at the person on the other side in confusion.
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Brown hair. Green eyes. Proper.
There stood Sebastian Coleman, disgusted with himself for resorting to…
He stared at the woman in front of him for a moment before he scanned the inside of the crummy little apartment, and then he looked at her again.
“Are you lost?” Peyton asked, since people like him didn’t belong in places like this.
However, the mystery guy merely glared at her before pushing past her and walking into her little place. Anger coursed through Peyton.
“Look, I don’t know who you think you are, but this is my place. You have no right to just walk in here like you own it.”
Sebastian simply took a seat on her couch, staying silent and motioning for her to join him on the chair across from him.
“Sit!” he barked, and Peyton glared, crossing her arms on her chest, shaking her head no.
He rolled his eyes.
“I’ll explain when you sit down,” he said, frustrated.
Peyton squinted questioningly at him.
Silence reigned in the room for a minute before Peyton sat, rolling her eyes.
“Who are you and why are you here?” she asked. I’m not in the mood for this.
This guy looked way too fancy to be in this part of town, and Peyton got the feeling he wanted something from her.
“I’m here to make a deal,” he replied, intertwining his fingers in a businesslike way.
Peyton started to question her sanity for not kicking him out.
“And you are?”
Now it was his turn to give her a questioning look.
“You don’t know who I am?”
She shook her head and he fought off a smile.
“Sebastian Coleman. Now, about that deal.”
He nodded, glaring at her for interrupting his little speech.
“I’ve been watching you for a while now, and I want to make a deal with you.”
Peyton raised an eyebrow at him and waited for him to continue. He spoke in a businesslike tone.
“I need something from you, and by the looks of it,” he glanced around the room in disgust, “you need what I have to offer.”
Before Peyton could say anything about how blatantly rude he was, he continued speaking.
“It’s simple, really. I’ll get you pregnant, and then we have to get married. You have the child and after one year of marriage we go our separate ways and I give you $1.5 million.”
Shock took over Peyton’s features as she glared at him.
“Is this some kind of joke? I am not a hooker! No. No way! You were literally just rude and glaring at me, making it clear that you don’t like my little place.”
He rolled his eyes as if to say that she was being overdramatic while he waited for her to stop ranting.
“It’s very important that you say yes. Think about it like this; you won’t have to live in a shoebox or work like a slave the way you do now.”
She glared at him, shaking her head in disbelief.
“You’re rich. Why don’t you go pay a prostitute? Why me?”
Extremely offended, she stood up and walked behind the small kitchen counter.
He stood up and followed her, standing in front of her, authority and power radiating from him, a storm swirling in his green eyes.
“Because I’m not sleeping with some prostitute, let alone having her carry my child.”
A sigh fell from Peyton’s lips. A million dollars was a lot of money, a lot, and she really could use it.
“So, if I say yes—and I’m not,” she added quickly when she saw his eyes fill with hope, “if I say yes, and we do this whole thing, get divorced and go our separate ways, and I get my money. What happens to our child then?”
As if it was the simplest thing ever, Sebastian let out a snort before answering “They stay with me.”
Disbelief crossed Peyton’s face as she shook her head.
“No, they’ll stay with both of us on different days.”
Sebastian wanted to object but knew that he really did need her to agree, or else he would lose everything.
So, with a long, overdramatic sigh, he agreed with a nod and awaited Peyton’s next words. He had done his research all the way to where she had studied; anything before that was untraceable. Almost like she’d simply appeared one day and decided to be the smartest person at her university. There was no trace of any family at all, or she had been born, or anything; therefore, the fact that she also needed money made her the perfect choice.
Sebastian had followed her around for many weeks and found that she recycled, had two jobs where she dealt with annoying people, and that she wouldn’t hurt a fly. The fact that she always stared longingly at a lady who had a husband and child or was pregnant told him that she was a perfect choice.
He could see the wheels turning in her head as she considered his offer. He didn’t really care to elaborate too much.
Then again, she didn’t need to know everything.
“Only one year, right?” She spoke with uncertainty clear in her voice, watching him with wary eyes.
“One year and we’ll both happily go our separate ways.”
With her emotions all over the place, she agreed with a simple, “Okay.”
Sebastian found himself smiling widely at her answer and took out his phone from his suit pocket telling Mike to leave and fetch him first thing in the morning.
“All right, let’s get to it. The sooner the better.” Peyton’s eyes widened in realization at what he’d just said.
Sebastian nodded with a shrug.
“Yes, I promise you may take a moment to gawk at my gorgeous body.”
Peyton’s mouth fell open as Sebastian led her to the only room he could see which happened to be hers.
“And remember, this is strictly baby business.” He said already thinking of the fit she was going to throw when he gave her the contract to sign.
Oh well, she’d already agreed and he’d recorded it.
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