Their Christmas Baby Contract by Shannon Stacey (Book Showcase)


Striking the deal was the easy part.

He’ll help her make a beautiful baby.

Brady Nash is handsome and anti-marriage. And with IVF completely out of her financial reach, Reyna Bishop is running out of time to have the child she so very much wants. Theirs is a practical baby-making deal: no emotion, no expectation, no ever-after. They’ll even “date” through Christmas to silence their hometown gossips. It’s foolproof…till the time she spends with Brady and his warm, loving family leaves Reyna wanting more than a baby…

 

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Chapter One

 

“Nice day for a hockey game.”

Reyna Bishop would know that smooth, deep voice anywhere and, after tucking her debit card into her back pocket and accepting two steamed hot dogs from the vendor, she turned to face Brady Nash.

A ball cap with the minor league hockey team’s logo was covering his thick, dark hair, but the brim didn’t hide the blue eyes Reyna wished she didn’t find so attractive. They’d probably been in middle school when she discovered she had a thing for blue eyes and a hint of dimples, thanks to him. “Hi, Brady. I didn’t know you’d be here.”

“No reason you would,” he responded, a not-so-subtle reference to the fact they hadn’t spoken beyond polite greetings in a few years, despite having been friends since childhood.

“But half the town’s here, at least, so I probably could have guessed.”

The game tickets had been sold as a fundraiser by the eighth-grade class, which was hoping to take a trip to Washington, DC, in the spring, so she’d seen quite a few residents of Blackberry Bay in the stands. It was a long drive, but everybody loved a school fundraiser.

“A soft pretzel and a lemonade, please,” Brady told the vendor, and Reyna was about to take the opportunity to make her escape, but he looked at her again. “Who did you come with?”

Her face warmed, which was ridiculous since nothing she did was any of his business. “Lucas. My boyfriend.”

“Right. The guy you brought to the Fourth of July fireworks?”

“Yeah.” That had been their first date, but Brady probably knew that since they had a lot of mutual acquaintances. It was hard not to when you’d gone to school with a guy since kindergarten.

“He looked…stable.”

She leveled him a seriously? look because she knew that was his way of saying Lucas looked boring. Maybe Lucas didn’t ooze charm and sex appeal, but she was looking for a life partner, not a fling. “I’m surprised you’d recognize stability, since it’s not something you’re familiar with when it comes to dating.”

He chuckled and put his hand over his heart as if she’d wounded him, but before he could say anything else, she turned and walked away. Lucas was waiting for her, and their hot dogs were getting cold for a conversation that was only going to keep going south.

It was always awkward when she ran into Brady, but she wasn’t sure how to fix it. About four years ago—a year before Reyna’s dad passed away from cancer—she’d run into him at a bar. She’d been out with friends, and so had he. Years of chemistry and flirtation had escalated pretty quickly, and they’d both ditched their companions and left together.

Falling into bed with him had been an utter disaster and they’d avoided each other whenever possible since. Blackberry Bay, New Hampshire, was too small a town to allow for much of that, though, and somehow they’d gone from awkward avoidance to straight up not speaking to each other unless they had to.

She couldn’t really do anything to fix it since she wasn’t sure she even understood it. So he’d been too quick on the draw, she’d been unsatisfied and they’d both been embarrassed. So what? They’d known each other their entire lives and it should have been the sort of thing they could laugh off and move past. Unless he couldn’t stand the fact she knew he wasn’t the ladies’ man everybody in town believed him to be.

“No mustard?” Lucas asked when she reached the empty seat next to him and handed him his hot dog.

“Sorry, I got distracted.” She didn’t really want to tell him what—or rather, who—had made her forget condiments, so she changed the subject. “Anything interesting happen while I was gone?”

“Some raffles and then some sort of competition for little kids.” She wasn’t sure if it was her imagination, but she thought she heard a hint of irritation in his voice and she wondered again why he’d bothered coming with her to an event that clearly wasn’t his thing. “I was beginning to wonder if you were coming back.”

If he was that worried about how long it took to get his hot dog or not getting his mustard, he could go with her next time, instead of letting her go alone. “The line was long.”

 

“The game’s starting again,” he said with about as much enthusiasm as he’d announce he was making an appointment for a dental cleaning.

Reyna and Lucas had been dating for several months, so when he’d heard about the hockey fundraiser, he’d assumed they’d go together. That had surprised her, since he didn’t care about sports, but maybe he was trying to support her interests, which was nice. She’d originally planned to take her friend’s daughter, Sophie, to her first hockey game, but she’d caved and invited her boyfriend instead.

Boyfriend. She was still having some trouble wrapping her head around the word, though she supposed that’s exactly what Lucas was. She’d met his sister and she was supposed to go with him to see his parents for Thanksgiving. It was a lot for so early in their relationship, but she’d had a run of bad luck with men before she met him, so she was going with it.

He lived twenty minutes away, which worked for her. They could get together easily, but not so easily she felt suffocated by him. He was a tax accountant she’d met through a recommendation when she and her mom needed advice after her dad passed away, and he dressed nicely. His sandy-blond hair was always perfectly cut, and he had great manners. He was stable and nice and would probably be a solid family man.

That made him a strong contender for being Mr. Right. That stability that Brady mocked was one of the things she found most attractive about him because that’s what she was looking for in the father of the children she was more than ready to have. He’d be patient and help with homework—especially the math. He was the kind of man who’d make pancakes on the weekend and show up to parent-teacher conferences. He’d be the rock of their family, and when it came to men, that was a priority for her.

He was pretty much the opposite of Brady Nash, she thought as she took the last bite of her hot dog, and then she was annoyed she’d allowed him to creep into her thoughts again.

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