Mommy for Hire
“So you’re the best ForeverLove.com has to offer.” The silky male voice engulfed Alexis Graham the moment she walked through the imposing double mahogany doors and into the elegant executive suite of Grady McCabe Enterprises.
“And you must be Mr. McCabe,” Alexis replied, striding forward and holding out her hand. Although why the eldest son of the legendary Josie and Wade McCabe would need to hire a matchmaking agency was beyond her.
At thirty-five, the wildly successful Texans was renowned for the skyscrapers he built and leased to businesses throughout the Southwest. He was no slouch in the looks department, either. Six foot four inches tall, with the kick-butt physique of a Hollywood heartthrob, he had a strikingly masculine face that commanded attention. He wore his dark brown hair in a short, sexy cut that looked great even now in rumpled disarray. His tie was loosened, the first two buttons were undone, and the sleeves on his pale blue dress shirt were rolled up to his elbows, revealing strong, sinewy forearms. As he moved, Alexis couldn’t help but notice his flat stomach and lean hips.
His lips curved upward. “Call me Grady.” He clasped her hand in his big, rough palm. “And let’s get right to it, shall we?”
Her skin still tingling from his brief, warm touch, Alexis sat down and removed a notepad and pen from her leather briefcase.
Grady circled his desk and sat down in his high-backed leather chair. “I need a mommy for my five year old daughter, Savannah, and I’m willing to marry to get one.”
Alexis made a note of that, before gazing up into his deep, velvet blue eyes. “I have to tell you—that’s not the best opening for a man on a first date.”
Grady McCabe obviously couldn’t have cared less. “I’m not going to be less than honest,” he told her bluntly. “Which is where you come in.”
Alexis was beginning not to like this. Or at least not the commercial real estate developer’s attitude. She had gotten in the matchmaking business because she believed wholeheartedly in the possibility of lifelong love. She knew how short life was, how cruel fate could be, and she wanted to be instrumental in helping well-meaning couples find each other. But what she did not want to do was promote loveless unions. Unfortunately, her employers were not as idealistic. The four business partners who owned ForeverLove.com cared only that the customers left happy, and the bottom line remained healthy.
Grady McCabe was an important client. Not only was the multimillionaire a member of the famed Texas McCabe clan of Laramie, Texas, he was one of the premiere businessmen in Fort Worth. His mixed-use development projects were the pride of the downtown area.
Alexis had been given the task of ensuring that Grady found whatever he wanted in a woman, no matter what it took. A lot was riding on her success.
Grady sent her a level look. He seemed to know that what he was asking was highly unusual. That made him no less serious in his ambition, however.
“I already had the best. I lost my wife shortly after our daughter was born. A few days after we took the baby home from the hospital, Tabitha had an aneurysm and cerebral hemorrhage that resulted in her death.”
Alexis recalled reading about it in the paper. Grady had been at work and come home to find his wife, but by then it was already too late. The funeral had brought many prominent people to Fort Worth. Grady’s grief, the tragedy of a young mother dying so suddenly and the newborn baby growing up without a mother, had been all folks talked about for weeks. “I’m sorry.”
Grady accepted Alexis’s sympathy with a grim nod. “Since then I’ve had nannies. A lot of them, actually. My eighth one just quit.”
“Goodness,” Alexis murmured before she could stop herself.
Grady kicked back in his chair with a heavy sigh. “I’m not surprised. Savannah doesn’t need a nanny. She needs a mother.” He paused to give Alexis a pointed look. “Which is where you come in.”
Alexis did not deny Grady needed help, when it came to the domestic front. “I’m supposed to find women for you to date, and hopefully, marry.”
He shook his head. “You are supposed to find a woman will make a great mommy to Savannah.”
It was Alexis’s turn to disagree. “That’s not really what we do at ForeverLove.com.”
“I’ve spoken to your boss, Holly Anne Kirkland, and she assures me that not only will it be done, but that you are the right person to do it.” Grady’s deep blue eyes narrowed in obvious displeasure. “Was she wrong?”
That should have been an easy question, Grady thought. One that brought forth a flurry of apologies and assurances that yes, his demands would be met, without any further delay.
Instead, Alexis Graham studied him in thoughtful silence.
He couldn’t say he minded. The pause in conversation gave him a chance to size her up, too. Decide if she was indeed the right woman for the task.
Outwardly, she certainly looked it.
The thirty-something matchmaker had the city-chic sophistication of the upwardly mobile career woman she was reputed to be. Her figure-hugging suit was made in a pale yellow fabric perfect for the balmy June weather. Understated make-up accented the delicate, feminine features on her oval face, drawing attention to her high cheekbones and stubborn chin, soft full lips and long-lashed teal-blue eyes. Her shoulder length honey-blond only added to the aura of pulled-together perfection. Had he been in the market for a dalliance with an intelligent, engaging female, he would have had to look no further. He wasn’t.
All he wanted was a solution to his problem.
And the sooner Alexis Graham understood that, the better.
“Should I ask for another matchmaker from the agency?” Grady drawled.
“No. Of course not.” Alexis exhaled sharply. “I’ve been assigned the job. I’ll do it.”
“Good, then let me tell you what I want.”
Alexis Graham picked up her pen and notebook and began to write, but, Grady couldn’t help but note her exasperation.
“First and foremost, my daughter Savannah has to like this woman. She has to be the mommy of Savannah’s dreams.”
Alexis inquired coolly, “What does Savannah want?”
If Grady had a clue about that, he wouldn’t be in this position. “You’ll have to ask her.” His little girl was not cooperating with him on any level right now, for reasons known only to his daughter.
With no discernible change in her expression, Alexis continued taking notes.
Grady added even more seriously, “Second, and equally important, the candidates you present to us will have to understand a marriage to me will be in name only. There will be no romance, no sex, no emotional intimacy--other than the normal family dynamic. There, I can promise everything will be status quo.”
The elegant arch of Alexis’s blond brows lifted slightly.
“You have a problem with that?” he asked.
“I don’t think any woman in her right mind will agree to that. Unless…” faint color tinged Alexis’s cheeks “…you’re giving your potential mate license to look elsewhere for… um…. companionship?”
Grady frowned. “Absolutely not. Any woman who marries me will have to be completely and unquestionably faithful to me and our marriage and family. Otherwise, it would be too confusing for Savannah.”
Alexis sighed. “So this woman is just supposed to do without sex and romance for the rest of her life?”
Her sarcasm grated on his nerves. “It’s not impossible.” He had been doing without both since his wife died and had been managing okay. “Particularly when one trades that for the love of a family and a luxurious lifestyle.” He paused, discerning Alexis Graham was still not convinced. “I am sure there are women who get that,” he said dryly.
She nodded and scribbled something else. “Oh, I have no doubt that you are right.”
“Then…” he prodded.
Looking reluctant to speak her piece, but also determined, Alexis sat back in her chair and eyed him carefully. “If I may?”
Grady had a feeling he was going to regret this, but not knowing what was on the tip of her tongue would be worse. “Go ahead.”
She lifted her slender shoulders in a shrug. “I think you’re selling yourself short. It’s not just the woman who deserves more, Grady. You do, too.”
Also available in this Harlequin Cowboys and Babies Collection