Title: Decidedly by Chance
Series: By the Bay #5
Author: Stina Lindenblatt
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: September 19, 2019
She's pregnant with another man's baby.
He's now the father to his little niece.
A sexy romance with all the feels!
Single Mom-To-Be Rule #1: watch out for those horny hormones.
After a childhood of bouncing from one foster home to another and a series of failed relationships, I’ve taken matters into my own hands when it comes to starting a family.
Or rather, someone else’s hand. And a plastic cup.
I’d rather be a single mom than be let down again, and I’m definitely not looking for a baby daddy. That includes sexy workaholic game designer Wes Chiasson, thank you very much.
My software company has been my number one, two, and three priorities. But that all changes when I suddenly become the guardian of my three-year-old niece. Now my world has turned topsy-turvy with princesses and little-girl tea parties.
When Hannah Morrell needs a place to stay after the pipes in her apartment burst, I invite her to move in with my niece and me. Hannah is a pediatric nurse, and given my situation, who could ask for a better roommate?
Sounds easy. Right?
It is—until emotions get tossed into the mix. Because if there’s one thing history has taught Hannah, it’s that the people who’ve gained her love can’t be trusted.
And now I have to put my heart on the line to prove otherwise.
The next morning, I walked into Connor’s office without knocking first. “What can you tell me about a Philip Stevenson? He’s a lawyer at Long and Fairbrother.”
“Any reason why you’re asking?”
“A friend of mine might be doing some business with him, and I want to make sure there’s nothing sketchy about him.”
All right, that wasn’t exactly the truth, but it was close enough. Business. Date. They were pretty much kissing cousins on the grand scale of things, especially where Hannah was concerned.
I knew Hannah’s dating life wasn’t any of my business. It was her choice if she wanted to date some loser—as long as said loser wasn’t also a big creep.
Which was why I was in Connor’s office. As Hannah’s new roommate, it was my duty to ensure things were on the up-and-up with this Philip guy.
“Give me three hours, and I’ll see what I can find,” Conner said.
“Great. Thanks. I owe you one.”
“You owe him what?” Jayden asked, strolling into the office. He handed Connor a short stack of files. “I need a level-four background check on these five guys.”
“I’m right on it.”
“Great. So let’s return to what Wes owes you…” He looked between us, expectantly.
“Have you considered the possibility that it has nothing to do with you?” I inwardly groaned. That was the worst thing I could have said to Jayden. It only spiked his curiosity.
“I have—for maybe one second. Two, tops. So spill it. What’s going on here?”
“Wes needed to run a check on some lawyer,” Connor told him.
“Why does Wes need you to do that?” Liam’s voice came from the doorway behind me.
I twisted away from the desk. “Why is everyone suddenly curious about what I’m doing?”
Jayden smirked. “Because we know whatever you’re up to is bound to be entertaining.”
Connor adopted an identical expression. “He’s got a point there.”
“Looks like we’re all in agreement.” Liam crossed his arms, demonstrating the bad-guy-beware stance he had perfected while with the SEALs.
“All right, if you really must know. A stranger asked Hannah out on a date, and I want to make sure she’s not going out with someone who’s bad news.”
“Are we talking about Hannah Morrell? The woman who’s one step away from getting her black belt, the woman who knows how to look after herself?”
The smirks on Connor’s and Jayden’s faces grew wider.
“That would be the one. Normally I would agree that she knows how to take care of herself. But she’s pregnant now, so I don’t think it’s a bad idea to ensure that she isn’t in over her head.”
All three men exchanged looks.
“And for the record, you didn’t hear about the pregnant part from me. She’s going to tell everyone”—I looked pointedly at Liam—“including your fiancée, when she’s ready.”
Did you hear that? That was the sound of a pin dropping against Connor’s desk. That was how quiet the room was after my little announcement.
Liam was the first to get over his shock. “Hannah is pregnant?”
“I don’t suppose you’re the father?” That would be Jayden.
“Why would you even think that?”
“Because everyone knows you used to have a thing for her.” Jayden might have said it, but his tone implied I still had a thing for her.
“I didn’t have a thing for her, and I still don’t.” Right, just be happy that lightning can’t hit you inside a building, dumbass, an annoying voice in my head said. “And no, I’m not the father.”
“Do you know who the father is?” Liam asked. “Connor can do a background check on him. Just to be sure she won’t be dealing with some major headaches down the line.”
“Is that the guy you want me to do the check on?” Connor asked. “Is he the father?”
I shook my head, even though I had no idea if Philip the lawyer made a recent deposit at the sperm bank. Even if he had, chances were slim that Hannah ended up with his sperm. “No. He’s just a stranger she met in a store yesterday, and he asked her out on a date.”
“Okay, Connor, do the background check on Hannah’s date first. And then report back to us.”
“Us?” I asked.
“Yes, us. We want to know what we’re dealing with. We all like Hannah, and she’s my fiancée’s friend. If Ava even suspects I haven’t done my due diligence when it comes to Hannah’s dating life, I could end up losing my balls. And I’ve grown quite attached to them, no pun intended.”
I almost felt sorry for Hannah’s idiot date if Connor did turn up dirt on him. If the guys’ expressions were anything to go by, he’d be canceling soon after.
But none of this surprised me. The team had already dealt with the individual who had been fast on the draw when it came to towing Hannah’s vehicle. Connor had found dirt on him, and Jayden and Liam had a little chat with the douchebag to make sure he demonstrated restraint in the future.
“Is he picking her up for the date, or is she meeting him somewhere?” Jayden asked.
“She said she’s meeting him at Swizzle Sticks Lounge.” It was some fancy-ass place I’d taken a couple of dates to in the past.
“That part didn’t come up in our conversation yesterday.” I was lucky I even found out his name and where they were meeting up.
And that was only because she wasn’t expecting me to crash the date.
“Not a problem,” Liam said. “We can set up a detail to follow her from Travis’s building.”
“What exactly are you guys planning to do?”
“Quite simple. Jayden and Isabelle will show up at the meeting and make sure everything goes smoothly.”
My gaze shifted to Jayden. “You mean you two will be pretending to be on a date?”
“More like two colleagues going out after work to discuss work-related matters.”
Plausible? Quite possibly. “There’s only one problem with that plan,” I said, stalling on revealing the next part. “Hannah isn’t staying with Travis and Emma anymore.”
Liam’s eyebrows raised in either surprise or disbelief. “She’s already found a new apartment?”
“Not exactly. She’s moving into my condo this afternoon.”
Whatever emotion Liam had experienced with my first revelation had just done an unexpected U-turn. It was now fully in the disbelief zone.
“She’s moving in with you?” Liam asked, enunciating each word slowly.
“Well, not permanently. Just until she finds a new apartment. She wanted to give Travis and Emma some alone time before they become new parents.”
I’d already revealed the part about her being pregnant. I had no intention of also mentioning about the audio porn and her heightened level of horniness, thanks to the pregnancy.
A level of horniness her dumbass date might get to appreciate—unless Jayden and Isabelle succeeded in disrupting his plans.
What does it matter if she and the dumbass have sex? the annoying voice in my head asked.
I ignored it.
“But why with you?” Liam asked.
“Because I invited her to stay with me while she’s searching for a new apartment. But you have to admit, it’s a brilliant move on my part. She’s a pediatric nurse, and who knows kids better than a nurse who specializes in them? She’s about five steps ahead of where I am as Everly’s guardian and uncle.”
I had expected them to see the genius behind my inviting Hannah to stay with Everly and me. Instead, skepticism stared back at me.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Liam finally voiced.
“Why wouldn’t it be? She needs a place to stay. And now she has plenty of time to find the right apartment to move into. She doesn’t have to settle for less. I’ve seen some of the locations she’s been looking at. If you’d seen them, you would agree with me, too. They weren’t the right apartments for her to raise her baby.” And because I was on a roll, I threw in for added benefit, “Apartment hunting is exhausting and stressful enough when you aren’t pregnant. Hannah doesn’t need that extra stress now that she is pregnant.”
Clearly, the guys didn’t agree with me. The skepticism had been turned up several notches.
“Honestly, there’s nothing going on between us. So don’t make more of this than there is. I’m just being there for her as a friend. Any of you guys would do the same if you were in my situation.”
Yep, that didn’t do much to erase their disbelieving expressions either. “Do you want me to text you when she leaves for her date?” I asked Jayden.
“That will work. But first things first. I need to check that Isabelle is free tonight.”
“Tell her it’s for work,” Liam called after him. “She’s been after me to let her be more hands-on with our cases,” he added once Jayden was out the door. “Hopefully this will appease her for a while.”
Connor leaned back in his chair. “It’s one of our least dangerous cases.”
Right—not dangerous at all. Unless Hannah puts two plus two together when Jayden and Isabelle mysteriously show up at the same location as her and her dumbass date.
I kept that thought to myself.
Jayden returned a few minutes later to let us know Isabelle had agreed to the scheme. Connor got to work on gathering intel on Hannah’s date, and the rest of us returned to our own jobs.
Several hours later, we were in his office again, ready to hear the dirt on Philip Stevenson.
“I swear, he has to be the most boring man on the planet,” Connor said. “He’s a contract lawyer with no dings on any aspect of his work ethics. He hasn’t had a single speeding ticket, parking ticket, or accident. He has lived in San Francisco his entire life. His mother owns a store that specializes in Christmas and his father is an accountant. He volunteers once a month at the food bank and plays racquetball twice a week with a colleague, who was also his best friend in high school.”
By boring, I assumed Connor was referring to the man’s lack of a criminal record.
Or an indication that Hannah was in for a very dull night.
None of this matters, I reminded myself. As long as she has fun and he’s not a jerk, that’s all that matters.
Nope, I didn’t believe that either.
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Born in Brighton England, Stina Lindenblatt has lived in a number of countries, including England, the US, Finland, and Canada. This would explain her mixed up accent. She has a kinesiology degree and a MSc in sports biological sciences. In addition to writing fiction, she loves photography, especially the close-up variety, and currently lives in Calgary, Canada, with her husband and three kids.