Authors: Delaney Diamond
A Hard Man to Love
by Delaney Diamond
Copyright © February 2012, Delaney Diamond
Cover art by MTheresa Arts © February 2012
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No part of this e-book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and e-mail, without prior written permission from Diamond Press.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following words mentioned in this work of fiction:
Toys ‘R’ Us: a privately held corporation
Nutella: Ferrero Italia
It was a day like any other day, but it wasn’t an ordinary day. Today, Derrick Hoffman became a very rich man.
Twenty-six hours ago, his stepfather—Phineas Hoffman—had been placed in the family mausoleum. Two hours ago, his will had been read and he’d left everything to Derrick, his adopted son. The family was
The smoke from a Cuban cigar snaked upward and dispersed in the night air as Derrick stood outside on the concrete balcony of the mansion he had called home since he was a child. He stared out across the wooded acreage of the property that now belonged to him.
“What were you thinking, Phineas?”
Even though they’d always had a good rapport, Derrick was grateful that in the last days of his father’s life, they had grown closer. He regretted the years he’d spent not appreciating the father-son relationship, skeptical of Phineas’s love for him, even while he longed for his acceptance.
Derrick shook his head and continued the conversation with himself. “You had to know this would cause major problems for me. Why not leave me a nice little inheritance to live off of, instead of everything?”
If he felt like the odd man out in his adopted family before, it was even worse now after the bombshell dropped. His cousins, his uncles, and their wives had stared back at him with stricken looks at the end of the attorney’s reading of the will.
Then the tears fell. Before the tears dried, indignation filled the room as Phineas’s younger brothers rose to their feet and started yelling words like “preposterous,” “not of sound mind,” and “this must be some kind of joke.”
But it wasn’t a joke, and they all knew it. This was Phineas Hoffman’s last will and testament, and his instructions were very clear. After the distribution of the charitable donations, the rest of his estate, which included the mansion in Atlanta, his homes around the world, his cash reserves and investments, and his highly profitable international logistics company, would all go to Derrick.
Derrick was now worth almost a billion dollars, and he had no idea why his father had made such a decision.
“I don’t know why you did this,” he muttered, “but you were a smart businessman. I have to assume you must have had a good reason.”
He stepped back into the first-floor study and stuck one hand in his pocket. He took a deep draw on the cigar and let the smoke ooze slowly past his lips.
A wave of deep sadness washed over him when he looked up at the portrait of his mother and father over the fireplace. Both of them had been taken suddenly from him. His mother died in a plane crash fifteen years ago, and Phineas died from heart failure. His real father, the man he’d never cared to know because he’d never cared to know Derrick, died in the same crash with his mother.
He closed his eyes. Life was short, and death could come at any moment. Time to make some changes in his life.
As Eva Jacob left the house to go to work, she said a silent prayer of thanks that she hadn’t thrown up her breakfast of buttered toast and ginger tea this morning. At almost four months pregnant, she was finally getting a bit of relief. Less than a month ago, she could hardly keep down any of her food.
Before her passing, her mother had told her stories about her own pregnancy with Eva, and she had worried she’d find her pregnancy equally as difficult. She was relieved her doctor’s prediction she would feel better soon had finally panned out.
The drive to the clothing and accessories store in Pier Village on St. Simons Island, the largest of the Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia, took ten minutes. The village was the central location for cultural activities and commercial businesses on the island. Antique stores, souvenir shops, clothing stores, and restaurants lined the main street and the waterfront.
As Eva entered the store, the manager, Ms. Elsie, greeted her with a smile.
“How are you feeling today?” the older woman asked.
Eva started working for Ms. Elsie in February, after the hotel chain she’d worked for laid her off at the beginning of the year. As regional events coordinator, Eva had overseen all their special events in the southern part of the state of Georgia. Now she earned a fraction of her previous salary, and because she worked part-time, she didn’t have any benefits. Ms. Elsie wanted to bring her on full-time, but the business didn’t support such a move.
Eva walked behind the display case and placed her purse under the counter. “Better than usual. I think I might actually keep food in my stomach this morning. That’s three days in a row.”
“Bless your heart. It’ll get better, sugar.” Her sympathetic gaze lowered to Eva’s stomach.
“She’s not making it easy on me, that’s for sure.” Eva rubbed her belly, which didn’t show any signs of her pregnancy.
Ms. Elsie laughed. “They never do. Just think, this is only the beginning. You still have the toddler stage, puberty, and the dreaded teen years to look forward to.”
Her exaggerated shudder brought a smile to Eva’s lips. “Don’t rush me. I already have my hands full.”
They chatted amicably as they went through their morning routine, preparing for the annual end-of-summer sale. Eva was in the midst of writing sale signs in a neat script to place throughout the store when the wind chime on the door tinkled an alert that a customer had entered.
She noticed the shift immediately as an intangible force stirred the air. The next stroke of the black marker in her hand remained suspended as she lifted her eyes toward the direction of the sound. A tall male figure stood in the doorway.
She became a bundle of nerves as soon as she saw him.
Ridiculously beautiful, he had full lips and deep-set eyes that didn’t miss a thing, and that
je ne sais quoi
all men wanted but most lacked. It oozed from his pores and had the ability to surmount the halfhearted objections of any woman. Make her forget her upbringing and drop her panties without a second thought and deal with the consequences later. She’d been one of those women.
The smoky blue-gray of his eyes, inherited from his white mother, found her brown ones. After putting down the marker, she rested her hands on the glass of the display case and asked, “What are you doing here?” at the same time Ms. Elsie inquired, “May I help you?”
For a moment, his eyes shifted to the older woman several feet away, but they slid back to Eva almost immediately. “You know why I’m here.”
Eva willed her trembling fingers to remain still as she squared off against him behind the safety of the case. “No, I don’t. Even if I did, right now isn’t a good time. I’m working. Can we talk later?”
Eva could feel her manager’s gaze and wondered what she thought. If Ms. Elsie guessed this was the father of her child, then she was correct. The last conversation with Derrick hadn’t gone well, and she could only imagine why he’d decided to show up unannounced.
Derrick walked further into the store, his stride confident and sure. He planted himself in the middle of the dark carpet, feet set apart, as if he owned the place. He looked polished, elegant, and wore one of his pricey suits from London’s famous Savile Row, hand-stitched to fit his muscle-packed body. The light complexion of his skin contrasted sharply against the black curls on his head.
His sharp eyes remained on her. “This is important. I’m sure your supervisor won’t mind if you step out for a few minutes before the store gets busy.”
His luscious mouth curved upward into a disarming smile, exposing a set of flawless white teeth. She knew from experience his warm smile concealed a cold heart, a point her quivering belly had forgotten. It only remembered how those same lips had kissed a path from her navel and lower, how for hours at a time he could make her forget the outside world and live only for the moments in his arms.
“I have no problem with it at all,” Ms. Elsie confirmed. Her admiring glance remained riveted on Derrick’s profile. Even Ms. Elsie had easily fallen under his spell.
Eva swallowed. “I’ll only be a few minutes,” she said to her boss, though the words were more for him than Ms. Elsie. She wanted him to know she had no intention of wasting a lot of time talking to him. They’d said everything they needed to on the phone.
She rounded the display case and self-consciously smoothed both hands down her dress. Derrick’s eyes followed the movement, but his face remained expressionless. He was a master at the art of concealing his thoughts.
They last saw each other in May, when he came into town for his sister’s wedding. He hadn’t invited her to go, and the lack of invitation made her realize she had to accept the true nature of their relationship, no matter how much she longed for more. They would never have the kind of relationship she wanted, because Derrick didn’t want a serious one. Even now the pain tore through her, the same as it had when she realized his feelings were nowhere near the extent of hers, and she’d made the foolish mistake of falling in love with him.
Eva swept past him, holding her head high and getting a good dose of expensive cologne. The citrus scent hurtled her back to more pleasurable times they’d spent together holed up in a villa on the beach during his visits to town. What a fool she’d been, holding on to the thought that somehow she was special, when she wasn’t even worthy enough to meet his family when they visited the island. He’d kept her hidden, like some kind of terrible secret. It was her own fault for agreeing to a nonexclusive relationship, but it still hurt like hell.
The town hadn’t fully stirred awake yet. Some of the shops were open, but most would remain closed for at least another hour. Eva stepped in front of the closed store next door so her boss couldn’t see them as they talked.
Derrick squinted down at her. “Are you all right?”
“You don’t look fine.”
As if she didn’t feel bad enough, he had to insult her. She ran her fingers over her slicked-back hair. Her go-to hairstyle nowadays was a ponytail. It made life easier since she no longer had any disposable income to go to a hairdresser regularly. Had she known he would be coming today, she may have tried to look more presentable by fixing her hair and putting on a more attractive outfit.
“I didn’t mean it as an insult. You . . . Are you taking care of yourself?”
“Of course I am.” She stared out at the street and did her best to harden her heart because the sound of his voice did strange things to her insides, filling her with a raw, basic need that always surfaced whenever he came within ten feet of her. His concern tugged at her heart, and she felt weak, but she didn’t want to feel weak because Derrick was strong, and she needed all her strength to handle him. Whatever had brought him here, it couldn’t be good for her. “It’s been hard, that’s all.”
“I haven’t been able to keep down much food for the past couple of months. I actually lost weight.”
He made a noncommittal sound of frustration. “You need to take care of yourself. You’re pregnant.”
“I’m shocked at your concern.” She leveled an angry glare up at him. Her head came only to his shoulder. “I didn’t know you cared since you didn’t even believe I’m carrying your baby. The first words out of your mouth when I told you were ‘Whose baby is it?’ Followed up by my favorite, ‘So I’m supposed to believe it’s mine?’”
He rolled his neck, something he did whenever he wanted to alleviate tension. “It’s not the first time a woman’s tried to pin a baby on me, Eva. It comes with the territory when you have money.”
“Oh, poor Derrick. Is this the part where I feel sorry for you because you’ve been victimized by my gender? Well, I don’t. If you think everybody’s out to get you, that’s your problem, not mine.” She clenched her fingers into a fist. “What do you want? You must want something because like I told you over the phone, I never wanted to see you again, and I don’t want anything from you. My baby and I will be fine.”