Executive's Pregnancy Ultimatum


by Emilie Rose

Prologue

January 11

“What do you mean I’m still married?” Renee Maddox struggled to keep the hysteria out of her voice as she stared aghast at her attorney.

Unflappable as usual, the older gentleman sat back in his chair. “Apparently your husband never filed the papers.”

“But we’ve been separated seven years. How could this happen?”

“Failure to file is not as uncommon as you might think, Renee. But if you want to know the real reason, then you’ll have to call Flynn and ask him. Or let me do it.”

The pain of failure, of love gone so horribly wrong, still hurt. She’d loved Flynn with every fiber of her being. But in the end her love hadn’t been enough. “No. I don’t want to call him.”

“Let’s look at the big picture. You’re entitled to half Flynn’s assets when we file again, and those assets are considerably more now than they were then.”

“I’m not any more interested in Flynn’s money now than I was then. I want nothing from him.”

The quick flattening of her lawyer’s lips told her the news didn’t make him happy, and no doubt she’d hear more about the subject. “I understand that you want a quick, clean break, but remember, California is a community-property state. You could get more since you didn’t have a prenuptial agreement.”

Another wave of worry rippled over her. “Does that mean he could also get half of my business? I’ve worked too hard to make California Girl’s Catering a success to give it away.”

“I won’t let you lose CGC. But let’s revisit what brought you here today. You can change your last name regardless of your marital status.”

“My name is the least of my worries right now.” Her plan to take control of her life had seemed so simple, beginning with taking back her maiden name, then starting the family she’d always wanted. But Flynn had refused to…

Her thoughts skidded to a halt as an elusive memory teased her. Grasping the arms of the cool leather chair, she struggled to recall the details of the story he’d confessed over too much champagne on their honeymoon, and slowly the pieces fell into place.

Hope flickered to life inside her. She’d been aching for a baby, and when she’d turned thirty-two last month she’d decided to take matters into her own hands and quit waiting for the mythical Mr. Right to appear. Like the he**ines of some of her favorite romance novels, she’d decided to get artificially inseminated via a reputable sperm bank.

She’d been reading donor profiles for weeks, but had never expected to find a donor she’d known—and once loved. She knew how many unanswered questions—some important, some not—she and her child would face down the road if she went through with her plan. She’d grown up not knowing her father’s identity because her mother couldn’t—or wouldn’t—name the man who’d impregnated her.

“Renee, are you all right?”

“I—I’m fine.” Swallowing to ease her dry mouth, Renee studied the wizened face of the man on the opposite side of the desk. “You said I’m entitled to half of everything Flynn’s?”

“Yes.”

Her heart raced with excitement. She struggled to regulate her quickened breaths. The idea of having Flynn’s baby without his consent was ludicrous and even sneaky. It certainly wasn’t the nicest thing she could do, but she desperately wanted a child, and she would never ask him for support. He’d probably forgotten about that college dare, anyway.

She wiped her damp palms on her pant legs. “While Flynn was in college he made a deposit at a sperm bank on a dare. He said he asked them to hold it ‘for future use.’ If the sperm bank still has his…stuff, can I have it? Or at least half of it?”

Kudos to her lawyer for not showing surprise by so much as a twitch of an eyelash. “I don’t see any reason we can’t pursue that option.”

“Then that’s what I want. I want to have Flynn’s baby. And then as soon as I’ve conceived, I’ll want a divorce.”

One

February 1

T he pencil snapped in Flynn’s fingers Monday morning. Ledgers forgotten, he rose with the phone still pressed to his ear and walked around his desk to close his office door. He leaned against it. No one on the sixth floor of Maddox Communications needed to hear what he thought the woman on the other end of the line had just said or his reply to her statement.

“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?”

“I’m Luisa from New Horizons Fertility Clinic. Your wife has asked to be inseminated with your sperm,” a cheerful female voice enunciated precisely as if he was an idiot. At the moment he felt like one.

His wife? He didn’t have a wife. Not anymore. A familiar hollowness settled in his chest.

“Do you mean Renee?”

“Yes, Mr. Maddox. She’s asking for your sample.”

Head reeling, he tried to break down this crazy conversation and make sense of it. First, why would Renee try to pass herself off as his wife when they’d been apart seven years? She’d been the one to file for divorce the minute the one-year waiting period had passed. And second, there was the donation he’d made on a stupid dare back in college. Not a wise decision. Linking the two separate incidents boggled his mind.

“My ‘sample’ is fourteen years old. I thought you would have disposed of it by now.”

“No, sir. It’s still viable. Semen, if properly stored, can last beyond fifty years. But you stipulated that your specimen not be used without your written consent. I’ll need you to sign a form to release it to your wife.”

She’s not my wife. But he kept the rebuttal to himself. The advertising agency dealt with some extremely conservative clients. One whiff of this story getting out and they could lose business—not something Madd Comm could afford in these tight economic times.

He scanned his office—the last happy project he and his ex-wife had completed together. When he’d resigned from his previous job and joined the family advertising agency, he and Renee together had chosen the glass desk, the pair of cream leather sofas and the profusion of plants. Plants he’d managed not to kill—unlike his marriage. He and Renee had been a good team.

Had been. Past tense.

He intended to get to the bottom of this fiasco, but one thing was certain. Nobody was getting his frozen, fourteen-year-old sperm.

“Destroy the sample.”

“I’ll need your written consent for that, too,” the faceless voice quipped back.

“Fax over the form. I’ll sign it and fax it back.”

“Give me your numbers and I’ll get it right to you.”

Flynn’s mind raced as he gave the numbers by rote. He tried to recall the awful months surrounding Renee’s moving out, but much of it was a blur. He’d lost his father, his architectural career and then his wife all within six miserable months. A year after Renee had moved out he’d received the divorce papers, reopening an unhealed wound. The old anger returned—anger toward Renee for giving up on them so easily and toward himself for allowing it to happen. He detested failure. None more than his own.

The fax machine in the corner beeped, signaling an incoming missive. He checked the letterhead. “It’s here. I’ll return it before the ink dries.”

After ending the call, he whipped the sheets off the machine, read, signed and then faxed them back.

His last memory of the divorce papers was of his brother promising to mail them after they’d sat on Flynn’s desk for a month because Flynn hadn’t had the heart to mail them and break that final link with Renee. What had happened to the documents after Brock took them?

The back of Flynn’s neck prickled. Wait a minute. He didn’t remember receiving a copy of the divorce decree. Hadn’t his divorced friends said something about getting an official notification in the mail?

He was divorced, wasn’t he? But if so, why would Renee lie to the clinic?

Lead settled in his gut. Renee had never been a liar.

He reached for the phone to call his lawyer, but stopped. Andrew would have to track down the information and call back, and Flynn had never been good at sitting and waiting.

Brock was closer.

Flynn yanked open his door so quickly he startled his PA. “Cammie, I’ll be in Brock’s office.”

“Do you want me to call and see if he’s free?”

“No. He’ll make time for this.” He’d damned well better make time.

Flynn’s feet pounded on the black oak floors as he strode down the hall to the opposite side of the sixth floor and Brock’s west corner office. He nodded to Elle, his brother’s executive assistant, but didn’t slow down as he passed her desk. Ignoring her squeak of protest, he barged into Brock’s office without knocking.

His brother, with the phone to his ear, looked up in surprise, then held up his finger. Flynn shook his head and made an X with his forearms in the universal “shut down” signal, then closed the door. Brock wrapped up his conversation.

“Problem?” he asked after he’d cradled the receiver.

“What did you do with my divorce papers?”

Brock jerked back in his chair. Surprise filled eyes the same blue as Flynn saw in the mirror every morning, and then the surprise turned to wariness.

Flynn’s gut clenched. “You did mail them, didn’t you, Brock?”

Brock rose, exhaling a slow breath. He unlocked and opened a file-cabinet drawer, then withdrew a sheaf of papers and swore under his breath. “No.”

Shock rattled Flynn to the soles of his feet. “What?”

“I forgot.”

His heart hammered in his chest and in his ears. “You forgot? How is that possible?”

Clutching the back of his neck, Brock grimaced. “I stalled initially because you were so broken up over losing Renee that I hoped once you two calmed down you’d resolve whatever issue drove you apart. I felt partially responsible for the demise of your marriage because I pressured you into leaving a career you loved to come aboard as Maddox’s VP. And then I forgot. Stupid of me, but if you recall it was a tough time for all of us after Dad died.”

Flynn’s legs went weak. Flabbergasted, he sank into a leather chair and dropped his head in his hands.

Married. He was still married. To Renee.

A confusing swirl of responses swept through him. Tamping them down, he focused on the facts.

If Renee was passing herself off as his wife, then she must have known they weren’t divorced. The question was, how long had she known, and why hadn’t she called and chewed him out for not mailing the forms, or at the very least, sicced her attorney on him?

“Flynn, are you okay?”

Hell no.

“Of course,” he answered automatically. He’d never been one to share his problems. He wasn’t going to start now.

As his shock slowly subsided, a completely different emotion took its place. Hope. No, it was more than that. Elation filled him like helium, making him feel weightless.

He and Renee weren’t divorced.

After years of silence, he had a reason to contact her. A reason besides finding out why she’d tried to pull a fast one with his sperm. But for now it was enough to know they weren’t divorced and she wanted to have his baby.

The surreal feeling left him reeling. “I’ll call my lawyer and find out where I stand. I’m going to take a few days off.”

“You? You never take time off. But as much as I hate to say it, now is not a good time.”

“I don’t care. The situation has to be dealt with. Now.”

“I guess you’re right. Here. Again, I apologize. If you’d ever demonstrated any real interest in another woman, maybe it would have tripped my memory. Maybe not. It’s a lousy excuse, but there it is. What brought on this sudden interest in your divorce? Is Renee planning to remarry?”