I wasn’t supposed to hook-up with my best friend.
(I mean… who the hell does that anyway??)
I definitely wasn’t supposed to end up pregnant with his baby.
One crazy night with my lifelong bestie… and now he’s going to be a daddy.
Lusting after your best friend has a way of complicating things.
Giving into that lust one passionate night – makes things even more complicated.
Like… huge secret about a little bundle of joy – kind of complicated.
He’s a hot as hell billionaire,
The nicest guy I know,
And also the guy I’ve been crushing on for as long as I can remember.
So what’s the problem?
I should be thrilled… right?
We’ve never been more than friends for a reason.
A reason that is becoming painfully clear,
now that I’ve gotten myself into this giant mess.
Payden sees me as a friend.
Just a friend. Nothing more.
To him, I’m the funny, outspoken girl who has always had his back.
Not the girl he was dying to knock up during a spur-of-the-moment hookup.
I may have ruined my life and my longest friendship with one stupid decision.
One hell of a passionate, wild, ride of a lifetime kind of stupid decision.
He thought it was just a one time thing,
But it’s not as easy for me to just leave what happened between us in the past.
How can I tell my best friend that he is going to be a father?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The idea of best friends becoming lovers melts my heart every time! Jessie and Payden are such loveable characters and everyone around them knew they were meant to be… everyone except for them, that is. Telling their journey to discovering love where they least expected it was such a joy.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Jessie and Payden were introduced in book one of the Hardick Brothers Series (Billionaire Protector) as the best friends that everyone knew would end up falling in love. They were wonderful additions to book one of the series because they are both so endearing and loveable, but they stole the show once their story was played out in book two.
Early morning rides are the most enjoyable. Or at least, they had been before things got all weird with Jessie. I shouldn’t have kissed her.
When I’m busy with my work on my family’s ranch, I can almost forget all the twisty heart junk – I can almost forget that night… forget her lips.
I’m always awake before everyone else on the ranch. I’m doing the chores and tending to the horses for hours before I even have to come in contact with another living soul, and I prefer it that way. People talk entirely too much.
Horses understand the bliss of silence.
As long as the weather is decent, I usually take my favorite horse, Gaston, for a ride before returning to the house for breakfast. While the ranch guests and my family are still unconscious in their beds, I’m tacking up my gray Andalusian and taking off on my mother’s favorite riding trail.
I’ve lived on this ranch my entire life, this is my home. It’s all I really know. My three brothers and I grew up here. We’ve laughed here, cried here, loved here… and lost here. Our roots are right here on this ranch – Hardick Ranch.
Watching the sun rise over the mountains always re-centers me, no matter what is going on in the human world. And there is always some drama going on lately. I find it exhausting.
When I was young, I remember following Mom around our acreage and “helping” her with whatever task she’d set out to accomplish. I probably had been more of a distraction than an assistance, but I’d learned a lot of what I know now just from being her tagalong.
Back then life was peaceful. Granted, I was a kid, so I didn’t exactly have the weight of the world on my shoulders to begin with. But I instinctively knew after Mom passed that a certain amount of chaos was going to become a permanent part of Hardick Ranch.
The last decade had proven me correct.
Pierce, my oldest brother, was eighteen when our mother passed – Preston, the second oldest of the Hardick boys was only seventeen. My father entered a deep, reclusive state that lasted almost an entire year. Being the true devoted author that he is, he’d locked himself in his office and began writing nonstop. He’s always found a certain peace from his writing, and during that devastating time, I suppose writing was all he could think to do.
Pierce and Preston were immediately “in charge” of an entire ranch. The responsibility had strained them both. Dad finally snapped out of it and took over the empty CEO position long enough for Pierce and Preston to finish college. Pierce opted to pass his “eldest brother right” and position as the top dog at Hardick Ranch straight to Preston, who was more than happy to take it.
Pierce earned his BA in English Lit, and also met his wife, Sarah, while he was away at school. He lost Sarah in a terrible accident a few years ago, and much like my father – he’d thrown himself deep into his writing as a way to cope with such a brutal loss. Unlike my father’s western love story crap, Pierce writes horror novels. Both are equally disturbing as far as I am concerned.
Preston earned his BA in Business Management and dated about eight trillion different girls (with no intention of finding a wife – Pres is the ultimate playboy and will probably never settle down). He returned to the ranch and ran the business like a champ – aside from the days when he was too hungover to function.
I’d only been at veterinary college for two years when Sarah died, and Penn, the youngest of the Hardick boys, had barely clocked a full year toward his teaching degree. But we both knew where we were needed. Family and the ranch trumped everything else. So we came home.
Leaving vet school had sucked, but leaving Jessie at vet school had sucked even more. She’s my best friend – we’ve always done everything together. My sudden departure from school had come at the time that I’d just begun to realize… my lifelong buddy… might mean more to me than just being the closest friend I’ve had since toddlerhood.
I didn’t know then if Jessie felt even remotely the same way, and we’d both always adamantly denied being anything more than friends.
She came back for holidays and worked summers in the front office of our ranch, helping Penn with the guests and cabins and whatnot.
I just liked knowing she was home. I’d watched her go back and forth from college for four years now, always refusing to let myself go back to the headspace I’d been in when Sarah passed.
It really doesn’t matter if I care about Jessie past a friendship level, because I don’t want true love anymore… I don’t even believe in it. I’ve been unfortunate enough to have a front row seat to watch two men become widowers after finding their true love…
I’m not about to sign up for that club.
Who needs the heartbreak?
Jessie will be leaving for college again as soon as the summer is over – in just one month.
That’s fine. Great actually. The local vet is about seven thousand years old and all the surrounding Colorado ranchers are (understandably) getting a bit nervous. Jessie’s degree is needed by at least three counties full of animals. She’s got important work to do, and believe me, the last thing I want to do is stand in her way.
Once upon a time, I thought I would have the same degree… but that hadn’t worked out.
That’s fine too.
Taking care of the horses at Hardick Ranch is more than enough work. It would have been nice to get a little more of the advanced training I’d been headed toward at college… but experience is the best teacher in the world.
I’ve learned a lot just by keeping my head down and doing my job.
A girlfriend, a wife, love – all of that would only be a giant, stressful weight on my shoulders. Even though I do lift weights four nights a week, those are the kind that you can put down and walk away from.
It’s not that easy with women.
So why are you sulking around pouting about Jessie leaving? Why does your gut ache when you think of her?
Emotions are obnoxious.
I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay – normal even – to be down about my best friend leaving yet again. We aren’t really best friends if I don’t care at all. Right?
Jessie has been around since the pre-school days. Missing her is allowed, and it doesn’t have to mean anything more.
I untack Gaston and set him loose in the field closest to the horse barn. Let the old guy get some playtime in.
I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, and in the name of nostalgia, I figure I’ll go grab a cup of coffee at the front office. Jessie should have opened shop by now, and a chat with my friend isn’t a bad way to start the day off.
Everything is good. I have a great life, a loving family, plenty of money, a job that doesn’t involve interaction with other humans (aside from Joe and Matt, our ranch hands), and I have an awesome best friend.
I throw open the office door happily and am immediately greeted by Jessie’s ass. She is bent over the printer, changing out the ink cartridge and… her ass is straight up, curvy, and fantastic.
She whirls around at the sound of the door and smiles. “Pay! Whacha doin’? You never come up here this early. Penn and Val aren’t even here yet.” Jessie tosses her thick blonde hair over her shoulder and walks toward me.
I’ve had my hands on that hair exactly two times. Once when we were five, and I yanked her ponytail for fun. She’d responded by knocking me down and kicking me in the balls.
I never pulled her hair again.
That is, until the very end of the last big Hardick event in Denver – a fancy, black tie celebration for my dad’s one hundredth published novel – I'd definitely put my hands in her hair that night.
We were drunk, bored, and the party was lasting forever. Instead of fleeing like my younger brother Penn and his girlfriend Val had, we decided to just hang on the roof and chill. Between the lights and the champagne and Jessie’s adorable constant laughter…
I got thrown off. Suddenly I wasn’t just looking at my best friend. I was looking at Jessie. Her blonde hair was blowing in the night breeze, her black dress was pushing up those perky breasts shamelessly toward my face, and the high cut of her skirt was showing me just enough pink, fleshy thigh to make me hard as hell.
She caught me staring at her and giggled, wobbling slightly on her stilettos. “Can I help you, Payden Hardick?” Her dark brown eyes were mischievous and daring me to do something.
So I did.
I grabbed her face and kissed her lips before she had a chance to say another word. Any shock she registered dissolved immediately, and she pulled me greedily against her.
Jessie’s lips were lush… full… I couldn’t believe I’d never kissed her before. I felt like such an idiot for having her so close all those years and never really having her. But every ounce of energy I put in to passionately assailing her face, she returned with fire and lust.
My hands were wound up in her hair and her hands were just beginning to tug slightly at my tux pants when Pierce, of all people, appeared on the rooftop.
He’d simply been coming to tell me that he was leaving – escaping from the torturous party, as he would put it. But when he saw us – saw what we were doing – his instant reaction had been to say, rather loudly (for Pierce), “Oh shit.”
He obviously hadn’t meant to interrupt us – how could he have known that there would be anything to interrupt – but the hazy mood that had come over me and Jessie dissipated in an embarrassed flash.
We laughed it off, which was easy to do when the both of us were still moderately inebriated. But we didn’t speak of it the next day, or any day after that. June passed, July is now here, and that kiss might as well have never happened.
Except that it did, and I’d been losing my shit over it ever since.
Today she is her usual cute self in a t-shirt and jeans. I try not to notice the way her top seductively hugs her big breasts – two cotton-covered mounds of perfection. Her ass did catch me by surprise, so I’ve already fallen victim to jean pockets stretched across her smooth, round, peach-like –
“You alright? Spacin’ out on me a little, Pay.” Jessie eyes me curiously.
What would have happened if Pierce had never popped up on that rooftop? I would have taken you behind the empty bar and fucked your brains out. That’s what.
“Pay?” Her lips are deep pink and just slightly parted.
Kiss her again. I’m going to kiss her again. I’m going to kiss her right now.
“Good morning, kids!” Preston’s obnoxious voice bursts into the room.
I have too many goddamn brothers… and they all have the worst fucking timing.
“Aren’t you at the wrong office?” I try to keep the snark and resentment out of my voice. Preston runs the main office – the business office – the all-important CEO office.
But today of all days he has to show up in the visitor’s office earlier than he usually even becomes conscious on a regular morning.
“Hey, I’m just as shocked to see you in an office at all. Thought you never left the barn.” Preston jabs back.
Preston and I get along – everybody gets along with Pres – but we’ve never been all that close. Him standing there in his crisp suit while I sport mud covered jeans and a ripped t-shirt gives a clear picture as to why.
We are just too different.
Jessie is triggered in a flash. She’s always been protective of me, which is hilarious. I am incredibly fit. I can handle myself. And this is just Preston being Preston.
“I think you should never leave rehab,” Jessie barks at him, her hands immediately on her perfect hips.
Preston rolls his eyes. “Oh, good one, Jess. Really got me right here.” He puts a hand to his chest and laughs. Jessie is basically the little sister that Preston never wanted. Their bickering is entertaining at times, but I have other things on my mind today.
“Seriously. Do you need something?” I search Preston’s face for any sign of intelligence.
“I do. I’m out of my favorite pens at the ranch office. Penn keeps a box of them behind the counter.” Preston instantly is rummaging through office supplies on the shelves. “And before anyone says it – yes, I’m taking Penn’s pens. Ha ha. A real knee slapper there.”
I exchange a look with Jessie. Pres is obnoxious when he’s being his normal, crazy self, but when he’s motivated – God help us all.
“So should I tell Penn he’s out of pens now?” Jessie inquires, raising an eyebrow.
“Not necessary.” Preston gives her a wide smile. “But you should probably order some more pens.”
“Thanks for droppin’ by Preston. Always a pleasure,” Jessie calls out after him as he struts out the door.
He gives a peace sign over his shoulder and just keeps walking.
“He’s special, that boy,” I quip, shaking my head and grinning.
“I feel like he’s been more annoying lately. Way too much energy,” Jessie straightens the random containers and boxes that Preston had disturbed.
“He’s in the zone. Or at least, he’s in a zone. Who can ever tell with Pres?” I suddenly remember that I’d come here under the guise of getting a cup of coffee, so I busy myself at the little bistro station.
“Coffee at the castle wasn’t good enough this morning?” Jessie teases in reference to the enormous Hardick mansion, giving me a grin that makes my insides twist into pretzels.
“Just thought I’d come here for a change. You’re leavin’ soon and…” I didn’t really think the sentence all the way through before I started it…
You’re leaving soon, and I’m sad as hell.
You’re leaving soon, and I don’t want you to.
You’re leaving soon, and I think we need to try that whole kiss thing again.
“It’s still a month away, Pay. Plenty of time to wreak havoc on Hardick Ranch,” she winks.
I want to wreak havoc on you. Now. Yesterday. Tomorrow.
“Yeah, yeah I know. No big deal,” I assure her, giving the weakest fake laugh in the history of… well… in the history of Payden Hardick’s fake laughter.
“I have something kind of fun for us to do anyway, if you’re game.” Jessie cocks a hip to the side and smiles mysteriously.
“Do you?” I take a few steps toward her. The room seems hazy all of a sudden, and I feel myself gearing up for…
Jessie seems to hesitate for a second – she feels it too – and then she shakes her head slightly, as if to clear the fog away.
“A couple of my college buddies are coming down for the weekend – Missy and Brandt. I thought maaaybe we could go on a double date. You know, just for fun or whatever. A little human interaction. Can you handle that?” She smirks at me sweetly.
Did Jessie Timms just ask me out on a date? Of course, I would rather be alone for our first official date, but I am more than willing at this point –
“Oh c’mon, Pay. We can get all pretty and make fun of people. That’s like, our superpower.” She is so cute in this mode… Not really begging, but kind of begging and…
I really need to kiss her again.
“Fine. Yeah. Whatever. I’ll go,” I nod my consent, taking another step toward her.
“Awesome! Missy’s gonna flip. She’s been on me to get her a date with you for like… Years.” Jessie turns away from me, and her words hit like a Mack truck.
Missy is my date? Missy? Not Jessie? And that means Jessie’s date is…
“So who’s this Brandt guy?” Nonchalant. I can do that. I’m great at that.
Jessie waves a hand in the air. “Oh God, he’s just a buddy. Like I said, this is just for fun. It’s not like, official matchmaking or anything.” She turns back to me and smiles widely.
Just a buddy. I’m just a buddy too, Jess, and you kissed me like your life depended on it not too long ago…
Maybe that is just what Jessie does now. She is single, and she’s always been way more outgoing and up for a good time than I am. When we were at college together she was constantly trying to get me to go to this party or that game or something.
College girl. She’s older now, but she’s still a college girl. College girls are nuts, and Jessie’s always been crazy to begin with.
I’d had plenty of interactions with the female collegiate specimens before leaving campus for good. I was, admittedly, shy as hell. That had kept me a virgin throughout the entirety of high school.
But college girls didn’t need me to pursue them. They were more than happy to attack without the slightest notice.
I definitely hadn’t left campus still a virgin. I’ve got plenty of experience under my belt – no pun intended.
I still haven’t dated much at all in these last four years. Meeting girls on the ranch is rare as hell, and in my free time, I don’t really like to go anywhere else besides the trails through the forests and mountains.
Plus, I always know Jessie is coming back anyway… in a month, two, maybe a few more. She’d be back, and a girlfriend would just be an annoying obligation that kept me from hanging out with my best friend.
I haven’t wanted anything to keep me from spending time with Jessie. Ever.
And Brandt – (what kind of stupid effing name is that, anyway?) – isn't going to keep me away from her either.
Sure. A double date. Why not. If this is how Jessie wants it to be, then I am one hundred percent fine with it too.
“Is Missy hot?” I crack.
A flash of something that is definitely not “good humor” crosses Jessie’s face, but she recovers like a champ. “Missy is totally hot. She’s a brunette. She’s funny…ish. She’s as close to a degree as I am, so at least you know she’s not an idiot.” She shrugs.
“Hey. Idiot or not, hot brunettes are my favorite.” I am surprisingly good at lying to my best friend – much better than I thought I’d be. “What night? What time? What we doin’?”
Jessie’s face goes blank. She gives two exaggerated eye blinks and raises both of her eyebrows. “Payden? Payden Hardick? Where’s Payden? Who are you and what have you done with my best friend?” Then she cracks up.
I laugh along with her. Why not? This is all just so fucking hilarious. Great times ahead. Great.
“A man’s got needs, Jess.” I say the words lightly, but both of us instantly freeze while they hang in the air.
Jessie stares at me hard, no longer laughing. “I suppose that’s true, Pay.” She turns her back again and busies herself with a stack of papers.
Hello folks! It looks like Jessie Timms’ sense of humor just left the building!
“This was your idea, Jess. I’m tryin’ to be a good sport,” I say gently. All she has to do is turn around and tell me no – she doesn’t want me going on a date with her friend or anybody else – she wants me all to herself.
But she doesn’t say any of those things.
“Well you keep that attitude up, cuz I don’t wanna hear about it from Missy if you decide to crawl back into your turtle shell that night.” Jessie has managed to make her voice light, but she still won’t look at me.
“So… You still haven’t told me what night,” I try to steer the conversation somewhere else.
There isn’t much in life that I despise more than getting reminded of how quiet and shy I am. It’s not like I try to be a certain way. I was born like this. Generally, there are very few people I open up to – mostly just family.
She finally meets my gaze. I can see that she is struggling to be pleasant. “Friday night. Let’s say seven. Meet at my house? We can go to dinner or something and then… whatever.”
“Wow, Jess. That’s quite the exciting plan you’ve got there. How could I possibly miss out on ‘or something and then whatever’?” I laugh, and she can’t help joining me.
The tension is gone. For now.
“It’ll be fun. We’ll figure it out. Just some buddies. No big.” Jessie has fully recovered in an instant.
“Yeah. Yep. Alrighty then. If I don’t see ya before, I’ll be at your house tomorrow night at seven sharp.” I nod and walked toward the door with my coffee cup. “Hope you’re not lying about the hot part!” I shoot at her as I exit, attempting to keep the good-humored banter alive.
Jessie doesn’t respond, and I keep on walking.
If she just wants to be friends, then that’s exactly what I’ll give her.
I’m Alexa. Author, wife, mommy to two adorable fur babies and big-time hopeless romantic. When I’m not writing I love spending time with my amazing husband (my real-life bad boy), growing gorgeous flowers in my garden and finding inspiration for my next book literally everywhere I look. Love is all around us and it brings me so much joy to bring that love to life in each story I write.
I love bad boys and a good sweet and dirty romance. I can’t wait for you to check out my books and let my hot, filthy guys rock your world! Buckle up! This is going to be a wild ride.
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