Scandal on the Sand
Billionaires of Barefoot Bay #3
Nathaniel Ivory is known in the tabloids as “Naughty Nate,” and this member of one of America’s wealthiest families has done everything he can to earn that nickname. But Nate is determined to change all that…until he meets Liza Lemanski, an arresting and irresistible woman who makes some claims about his past that rock him to the core.
Can Nate give her what she wants to avoid another scandal…or is Liza the one woman who has what it takes to tame this sexy billionaire bad boy?
It was her eyes. As soon as Nate caught a glimpse of the arresting color, somehow both impossibly ocean blue and bottle green, he had to talk to the woman, listening carefully as she was introduced to one of his friends.
“You remember Liza Lemanski, the great unraveler of red tape.”
He didn’t waste a second moving closer, getting a whiff of a barely-there citrus scent. “I like a woman who can unravel,” he said with a wink.
“Good.” When she turned to him, her turquoise gaze held no hint of playfulness. “Because I’ve come to do a little unraveling.”
His friend made some kind of parting jab, reminding Nate that he was up third in the exhibition softball game that was about to start, but Nate’s attention was on the beauty in front of him. “So, who’s getting unraveled, blue eyes?” he asked.
Nice. “And I like a woman who doesn’t mess around.”
“That’s not what I hear.” She still wasn’t smiling, making him wonder if the comment was a flirt or not.
“We need to talk, Mr. Ivory.”
That would be not. Did he know her and forget those gorgeous eyes? Anything was possible, of course. With him, everything was possible. Or used to be.
How long would his past mistakes haunt him? Was he about to get an earful of how he’d made promises he’d never kept or taken phone numbers he’d never used or…worse? It could always be worse. Instantly, he felt his protective privacy walls rise like titanium barriers as he automatically reached for the sunglasses in his pocket.
“Sure, sure, let’s talk after the game.” Slipping them on, he took all the humor out of his tone and a step in the other direction.
She came with him, shaking back some long dark hair to make sure he could see she meant business. “Let’s talk now.”
“It’ll only be three innings and then we’re having a cocktail party at sea. We can unravel anything you want.” He lifted his hand in a halfhearted wave goodbye.
“I prefer now.”
Damn. He glanced around the large beachfront deck where he had just finished the press conference announcing the plan to launch a minor-league baseball team in Barefoot Bay. But no one came to his rescue. His business partners were already headed toward the sand for the softball game they’d put together to cap off the media event.
“Sorry, I gotta run. I’m batting cleanup.”
“Yes, you are. Right this minute. With me.”
Pushy little thing, wasn’t she? Protected by reflective lenses, he let his gaze drift over her, lingering on fine cheekbones and lush lips that hadn’t yet given him a real smile. Farther down, things got even better, with generous cleavage peeking out of a V-neck T-shirt and a tiny waist and soft curves under her jeans. She couldn’t be five-four and a hundred and ten soaking wet.
“What’s this about?” he asked, getting a sense that it wasn’t about seeing her soaking wet, either.
“I need your signature.”
“Oh.” Relief washed through him as he let out the breath he’d been holding since he heard the edge in her voice.
“You want an autograph?”
“No, I want your signature.”
He didn’t like the sound of that. “Listen, sweetheart, I have to play a ball game. So, later’s better.” Later, he’d be surrounded by his rec softball team and some pro ballplayers, safe from any accusations, suggestions, or sob story she might fling at him.
“Over here.” She gestured toward an empty table that the wait staff of the Casa Blanca Resort & Spa had already cleared. Everyone had disappeared to the beach to watch the game.
Which was where he suddenly wanted very much to be.
“Whatever it is, make it fast.” He purposely took all tease from his tone. She was hot, no doubt about it, but for some reason he smelled big trouble in this little package.
She responded by scraping a chair over the wooden deck as she pulled it out…for him. He stayed where he was while she took the other chair and opened up a large handbag.
“Okay…Liza.” He rolled the name on his tongue, taking time to appreciate the sassy and sexy sound of it and wishing she were a little more of both.
“I really think you’re going to want to be sitting down for this,” she said.
“What do you have?” Irritation prickled his spine at her icy tone. Irritation and worry. He’d sworn on his life that there wouldn’t be any more scandals, no more headlines, no more sexts that made their way to Perez Hilton’s blog. Oh, that had been a bad week. The Colonel had not been amused.
She snapped a large manila envelope on the table.
“Pictures?” he guessed with a mirthless snort. “How original.” Every stinking blackmailing female in a nightclub had their secret cell phone shots. Which was why he’d sworn off the club scene along with the rest of his far-too-active social life.
When she didn’t answer, he ventured closer. “Oh, don’t tell me, TMZ has offered five figures.” He could only imagine what she had. “Let me guess. You’ve got ‘Naughty Nate’ bare-ass naked in Vegas or Cabo. He’s got a joint in one hand and a fifth of Tito’s in the other. Some dot-com billionaire’s wife is grabbing his johnson, and they’re about to fall into a hot tub with four more blondes.”
Sickening that he could describe that situation a little too clearly. Swallowing a wave of self-loathing, he watched her slide a packet of papers onto the table, along with a spiral notebook.
What the— “Nate! You’re on deck!”
He ignored the announcement, hollered from the sand, instead dropping into the chair next to her.
“So, how much?” he demanded, a sixth sense already telling him what was going down here. The question went against everything he’d been taught as a member of a family with the iconic—and ironic—last name of Ivory. A family that was anything but pure and had trained all members that the first check was just that…the first. A blackmailer never went away.
But he absolutely refused to get embroiled in one more public mess and, damn it, if he had to pay to get rid of her, he would. Whatever it took to prove that he was worthy of the family name and…the chance to see that dark disapproval erased from his grandfather’s eyes.
“I don’t want money,” she finally said.
Then what? Access to the Hollywood studio his older brother ran? A meeting with his other brother, the senator? Maybe insider-trading information from his cousin on Wall Street?
“Everybody wants something, Liza,” he said on a sigh. Especially from an Ivory.
For the first time, the closest thing to a sweet expression settled on her lovely features. Her lips finally relaxed into a hint of a smile. Dark brows unfurrowed, and a slight blush of pink deepened her creamy complexion.
“Yes, everybody does want something,” she whispered. “And I want you to sign this document.” She slid the paper toward him. “And then I will go away and you can play softball and drink in Cabo with other guys’ wives and have cocktails under the sea, for all I care.” She flattened him with a dead-eyed look. “Sign, and I promise you will never see or hear from me again.”
He had to slide off his shades to read the paper, blinking at the legalese, his name typed neatly in the blanks. And…Dylan Cassidy, age four.