In Ruth Cardello’s sexy and emotional new romance, a billionaire dares to invest in the riskiest proposition of his life—a second chance at love—and I have an excerpt for you.
She took my hand in hers and placed the teddy bear in my hand. “Yes. Five years, Sebastian. You’ve tortured yourself enough. Don’t tell me you’ve moved on and only think about them one day a year. I’m your mother. Even if you lie to yourself, you can’t lie to me. You hurt every day. You’re angry every day. Denying it won’t change it—all it does is stop you from moving on.”
“Is that what you think I should do? Move on? Forget about them?” I could barely get the words out.
Her eyes misted with love. “No. No. Remember them. Let yourself honor them the way they would want you to. Be the man Therese loved.”
“That man died with her.”
My mother shook her head and laid her hand on my chest. “He didn’t. He’s right here. You think you’re the only one who lost someone that day? I lost them, too, and my son. But he can come back—he just has to want to.”
I hated the tears that filled my eyes, but I couldn’t hate the woman before me. “I fall apart when I remember.”
She took my hand in hers. “Because you push the memories so far down, they come back with the power of a volcano.” We stood there for a long moment without saying anything. “I have something else to show you.”
I wouldn’t have stood there for anyone else, but there was no doubt my mother was acting out of concern for me. She was the kind of woman who loved with her whole heart and without condition. On my worst day, I would never so much as raise my voice to her.
She fiddled with her phone for a moment, then held it out toward me. “A friend of mine shared this post with me. I know this sounds crazy, but when your brothers told me about what you found last night . . . I couldn’t help thinking that it might be what this woman is looking for.”
It was a post that offered a hundred-dollar reward for the return of a missing stuffed animal. The post described how it had been lost along the same road I’d found it on and that her little girl was missing him terribly. A hundred-dollar reward? Her child must be pretty attached to it.
I groaned. Wolfie? Yes, I knew those glassy blue eyes and that his fur was every bit as sticky as it looked in the photo. “I had him, but I told Miss Steele to throw him out this morning.”
Because I’m an asshole.
My mother smiled. “I bet she still has him.”
“I’m sure she doesn’t.”
“How sure are you?”
“Sometimes things are not as lost as we think they are. If Miss Steele threw the stuffed animal away, I promise to leave and not bring it up again.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“But if I’m right and she still has it, you have to promise to do something.”
“Why do I get the feeling you already know she has it?”
My mother’s eyes rounded with innocence. “Are you suggesting I’d cheat?”
“Never.” Think it—yes. Suggest it? No. I’d never hear the end of it.
“Okay, then, if Miss Steele still has this Wolfie, you’ll personally deliver it to the child who lost it.”
“If she still has it, Miss Steele is welcome to leave early to deliver it herself.”
“No, you, Sebastian. You need to do it.” She gave my hand a squeeze. “The Sebastian I raised would have, and he would have done it gladly.”
“I’m not that man anymore.”
“Then maybe it’s time you start acting like him. One act of kindness to bring a smile to a child. You owe this to yourself and to the memory of your family.”
I shook my head. “I can’t.”
“I know what it brings back, but one day your brothers will have children. Will you avoid them too? Do this one thing for me.”
My answer was a curt nod.
She dropped my hand, walked over, and opened the door. “Miss Steele, could you come here, please?”
“Of course,” my assistant answered before appearing in the doorway.
My mother turned to me.
I cleared my throat. “Miss Steele, that thing that was left on your desk last night?”
“Did you throw it away?” I asked with more growl in my voice than I meant to.
She looked from me to my mother and back. Her hesitation was telling. I could have let her sweat it out, but I decided to be kind. “If you haven’t, we appear to have located its owner and would like to return it to her.”
Only then did I realize I was waving my child’s brown teddy bear around as I spoke. I have finally completely lost my mind.
Red-faced, Miss Steele said, “Oh, good. I thought you were upset I hadn’t thrown it away yet. I was going to, but I didn’t have the heart to. I had a stuffed zebra, Harvey, when I was little, and, I don’t know . . . this toy looks like it is loved by someone. I’m so glad I trusted my gut. You found the owner? That’s amazing.”
“Yes,” I said curtly.
“Oh, I’ll go get it,” Miss Steele said before rushing back to her office.
“She has it,” my mother said, smiling.
“So it seems.”
Back in a flash, Miss Steele handed me the wolf. I stood there with a toy in either hand, feeling like I’d completely lost control of the situation. I held them up. A pristine teddy bear and a wolf that had known a much more active, child-rich life—one that had apparently required sewing one of his legs back together.
Miss Steele made a smart and hasty retreat.
My mother returned to my side. “There’s a phone number on the post. Christof did a little checking into them for me. The mother’s name is Heather Ellis.” My mother pulled a piece of paper out of her purse. “This is their address.”
I took it in the same hand as the damn stuffed wolf. “I don’t have time to do this today.”
“You promised, Sebastian.”
“Fine. I’ll drop it off on my way home. Is there anything else?”
“We’ll see you Sunday?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
She gave my cheek a warm pat. “I know you’ll tell me it doesn’t matter, but there’s one more thing I think you should know.”
I was already a tangle of emotions, but there was no escape. “What?”
With a Mona Lisa smile, my mother said, “She’s single.” Then she walked out of my office and left me standing there with a pounding headache, two stuffed animals, and the address of a woman I had no desire to meet.