Thirteen months after having a one-night stand with a sexy bachelor, Cassandra is laid off from her job. Determined to raise her new baby alone, she becomes a receptionist at an internationally renowned bank—only to discover that the company’s formidable boss is her son’s father. Emiliano, meanwhile, only cares about his work and his mother, but when he meets Cassandra again, even he can’t deny their chemistry. He decides to marry her for their son’s sake, on one condition: neither of them will fall in love. Thus begins their tumultuous affair, but what will happen if their lust fades…or if it turns into something more?
Age Rating: 18+
Cassandra Miller steps out of the shower when she hears her four-month-old baby’s cries coming from her bedroom. Manhattan really is hot in July, and she presumes that’s why her son doesn’t sleep for long during the day. He usually calms down after she has given him a nice, cool bath.
At least he sleeps through the night, only waking once for his feed.
Cassandra rushes out of the bathroom and is by Alexander’s side in no time. After gently taking him out of his crib, she slowly strokes his tiny back up and down, soothing him until he quiets down.
Gazing down at his adorable face, Cassandra thinks he is the cutest little being she has ever laid her eyes on. His black hair, piercing black eyes—just like his father’s—and dark brows and lashes made her melt at first sight.
Alex was conceived in just one night, but despite only being twenty-four, Cassandra has no regrets about having him.
Her mind drifts back to when she met the tall, dark, handsome stranger who swept her off her feet. The company that she worked for at the time had hosted a costume party, and everyone had worn masks. Yet with one look Cassandra could feel the chemistry between her and Emilio Rodriguez.
Never before had she met a man who made her blood hot, who made her heart hammer against her breastbone, who gave her butterflies in her stomach. He had been her first—and her last. She hasn’t found another man whose innocent touch or caress could send her over the edge.
Cassandra sighs. When she discovered she was pregnant, she tried to find Emilio, but apparently no one knew who she was talking about. Her internet search came up empty as well, so eventually she gave up and made the choice to raise her baby alone.
Nine months later, Alex came into this world, and Cassandra couldn’t have been happier—until three months ago, when her company filed for bankruptcy and let her go. Ever since, she has been struggling to find a job as an assistant or receptionist.
Things are starting to look bad. To help cover her bills, Cassandra asked an old college friend to rent out the spare bedroom, but now Gwen’s company has moved to Seattle. At the end of this month, she will move out, leaving Cassandra alone to buy food and pay full rent.
She wonders how she’ll manage all that without a job. Her savings are nearly gone; they’ll only last another month, and then she and Alex will probably be out on the streets. The thought terrifies her.
Alex doesn’t deserve that. Cassandra will ensure the worst doesn’t happen.
When her son is asleep again, she lays him down and gets dressed. She plaits her long, red hair in a fishtail and hangs it over one shoulder, since Alex has a habit of pulling her hair whenever it is loose. Then, when she’s done, she heads to the kitchen.
While Cassandra is preparing Alex’s afternoon bottle, Gwen comes in with a bright smile on her face. Gwen is tall and slim, and above those thin lips, she has brown eyes and a small, straight nose—all framed by long, brown hair.
Cassandra, on the other hand, is barely five feet tall. High heels boost her height a little, but in general, she is so short that most people think she is too young for Alex to be hers. She has also always been curvy, having gone through puberty at a very young age.
Cassandra was the first in her class to develop breasts, so she received a lot of unwanted attention. That’s why she avoided social gatherings during school, only attending if it was for a class project. She’s a bit of a loner.
Growing up was also tough for Cassandra because she constantly moved from one foster home to the next. She never knew her biological parents, and she never tried to find them. She figured, if they didn’t want her, why should she look for them?
“What is the smile for?” she asks.
“Guess who’s going for a job interview next Friday?” Gwen smiles even more broadly when Cassandra looks at her quizzically. “You, silly!”
What? Not one of the companies she applied to has gotten back to her.
“You’ve lost me?”
“Cass, promise me you won’t get mad at what I’m about to tell you.”
“I gave your resume to Rodriguez International. You know that bank, right? They recently opened another branch, and they’re looking for a receptionist. I secretly sent your credentials to them, and they want you to come in for an interview. I hope you don’t mind.”
Rodriguez. Cassandra stiffens, but then she tells herself that there are many Rodriguez’s here in Manhattan. Why is she getting nervous?
“No, Gwen, I don’t. I need the job desperately. Thank you for looking out for me again.”
“That’s what friends are for.”
“Where will the interview be?”
“Midtown Manhattan. Their head offices are in Times Square, and you should be there at seven. You can use my laptop if you want to know more about the bank; they are quite famous.”
“I trust you, Gwen, and right now I’ll take anything I can get. No one wants to share the apartment with me and a four-month-old baby.”
“Hang in there. You’ll find someone,” Gwen assures her.
“I hope so, or me and Alex will have to move into something smaller than this.”
The three of them have been quite comfortable in their two-bedroom apartment with its small kitchen, living room, and half-bath. Cassandra also appreciates that Gwen likes Alex a lot, even babysitting for her when she is job hunting.
“I’m going to miss you, Gwen.”
“Me too. I’ll call whenever I can, but for now, I’m still here. Want to order some pizza to celebrate? My treat.”
“I can’t…,” Cassandra begins.
“I wasn’t really asking you, Cass,” Gwen says over her shoulder as she heads to her room.
Right then, Cassandra hears Alex on the baby monitor that rests on the kitchen island. She retrieves his bottle and fetches him from the room, then sits comfortably on the couch. As Alex sucks hungrily, his tiny mouth making a ton of noise, Gwen joins her again.
“Is Brian going with you?” Cassandra asks. Brian is Gwen’s boyfriend of five years.
“Yes. He’ll meet me in Seattle after he sorts out a few things here.” Gwen touches Alex’s hair. “He’s so cute, Cass. Any luck with his father?”
“No, but now I don’t want to look for someone who might have a wife.”
“I’ve thought long and hard about this, Gwen. What if I do manage to find him, and he has kids and is living a happy life? Who am I to mess that up?
“Besides, it was one night of fun—nothing more. The condom broke by accident, and when we realized, it was too late. He could’ve reached out to me, and he hasn’t. I took it as a sign he doesn’t want to be known.”
“So you are going to raise him all alone. It will be hard, Cass.”
“Yes, it will be, but I owe it to him to give it a try instead of doing what my parents did. Alex won’t have a dad, so it is up to me to give him the life I never had.”
“You are very courageous and strong, Cass. Most women your age would’ve given up long ago.”
Cassandra gently lifts Alex up so that he can burp. “Everything I do is for my Alexander.” She rubs his back until the gas releases.
An hour later, the pizza arrives, and Cassandra relishes both her slices. It isn’t every day that she gets to eat takeaways; her pockets have become smaller with the arrival of Alex and especially with the layoffs. She cannot remember when she last bought something nice for herself.
Late that night, while lying in bed unable to sleep, Cassandra’s thoughts return to Alex’s father. Where is he? And who is he really? ~Does he even exist, or did he portray himself as someone else?~
Cassandra isn’t proud of how her son was conceived, and she isn’t sure what she’ll tell him the day he asks about his father. But for now, Emilio’s piercing eyes and sexy, masculine voice—with that hint of a foreign accent—haunt her dreams.