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Billionaire's Secret Babies
Author: Claire Adams

Chapter One

Archer

 

I woke up before the sun and immediately got down on my knees to make my bed. In the Army, they taught me how to smooth down the top and tuck the ends underneath the mattress so that the bed was perfectly flat and stiff. It was so tight I could’ve bounced a nickel off it. When I was done, I stood up to inspect my work. A fleck of lint remained at the foot of the bed, sitting there like a scar on a beautiful face. I snatched it up and threw it into the trash before I hopped into the shower.

Everything in my world had to be perfect. I couldn’t tolerate uncertainties, and I refused to wait and see how things turned out, not with two boys to raise and a business to run.

It wasn’t just any business, either. Sans Contracting was a multi-billion dollar contracting firm. We worked closely with the Navy, providing them a never-ending stream of technological advancements for their aircraft. That meant steady, well-thought-out research and a diligent staff who could work miracles on a daily basis.

If the company couldn’t deliver consistent results, it would collapse. The Navy would pull our contracts, and we’d be left with nothing but an empty warehouse and a worthless pile of stock. The only way to keep things afloat was to maintain a strict measure of discipline in my life.

I pulled on a crisp white button-up, a jacket, and black slacks. Then I checked myself in the mirror to make sure I looked presentable. This wasn’t vanity. I hated worrying about my appearance, but as the old saying goes, the clothes make the man. I had to look the part if I wanted to inspire confidence in my staff and in my clients.

Still, my focus on image extended only so far. I kept my black hair short, almost buzzed on the top with a fade on the sides. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the hairdresser once a week to get dolled up like royalty.

It didn’t matter. I left an impression on everyone I met, whether for good or for bad. It was my eyes that did it. People said they looked unnatural, like green fire set against my mocha-colored skin. I used to play with people whenever I first met them. I’d train my eyes on them with a serious look and watch as they shifted around uncomfortably or shut down altogether. That trick was partially responsible for my success. A man with the ability to disarm people with a single glance could easily get ahead.

When I was done getting dressed, I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and called my nanny, Mona.

“I’m downstairs,” she said. “I’ll be up in a moment.” She hung up. The woman was in her eighties and still managed to get up at four in the morning.

I was almost ready for work when I saw her walk up quietly to my bedroom door. She was short and round, her white hair in a bun. A scarlet broach held the collar of her black dress together.

“You can come in,” I said, once I’d finished tying my shoes.

“I checked on the boys. They’re still sleeping.”

“You didn’t wake them up?” I asked as I gathered my things.

“No, they’re fine.”

I began walking downstairs. “Was Abel’s forehead warm?”

She followed me. “Not that I could tell. I think he got over the worst of it yesterday afternoon.”

“Let me know if he gets a fever.”

“You don’t have anything to worry about,” she said as I walked out the front door.

I wasn’t the kind of man who just left his children with anybody—quite the opposite. An Olympic gold medalist wouldn’t meet my standards, but Mona did. She was the only person I’d ever trusted my children with, and I couldn’t imagine using anyone else.

A hulking black luxury sedan waited for me outside. I got in the back seat and motioned for the driver to get moving. The car had lots of room, so I wouldn’t have to feel claustrophobic and could move around comfortably.

I wanted to drive myself, but that was a silly dream. My life was too demanding. Usually, by the time I got to the car I was already swimming in emails and phone calls, all of them requiring my urgent attention. I could either work or drive. I chose work.

Most of my company’s projects were done on the naval base. I hated the place. It felt like entering a fascist dictatorship, but there was an airstrip and a place for my research and testing departments to work. They were the most important departments. What they did could make or break the company, so I kept them close and did my best to keep tabs on what they were doing.

When we arrived at the base, we passed through a series of security gates where they checked our IDs before letting us in. To the east, I could see the yellow glare of the sun rising over the airplane graveyard, where they kept miles and miles of historic models, all of them rotting in the field. I would’ve killed to get a look at them and tinker around inside, but access was restricted.

It didn’t matter. I barely had time to see what my people were working on. I couldn’t spare a moment to indulge my interest in old planes, even if they would grant me access. Oddly enough, today was different. My phone hadn’t beeped once, so I had a few free moments of silence on the ride over.

A test was scheduled for today at the warehouse near the airstrip. I told my driver to drop me off there so I could take a look and keep an eye on things. When I walked into the warehouse, the supervisor, Rick, had a technician backed up against the wall near the office. The tech saw me come in. He was young, almost a kid. His eyes got wider and wider as I walked closer. It was bad to mess up in front of Rick. It was a newer employee’s nightmare to screw up in front of the head of the company.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Rick asked the tech. “Hold onto that sensor like it’s worth a few million dollars. Because it is.”

“Anything I should be interested in?” I watched the tech closely, forking him with my unnerving gaze. “What did you do?”

“N-nothing,” the tech said, shrinking away and folding his arms over his chest.

I turned to the supervisor and grinned at him evilly. “Do we have to fire another tech this week?”

The poor kid went a sickly shade of green. I thought he might actually be sick right there in the warehouse. Rick shot me a subtle smile before turning back to the tech.

“I don’t know, boss. I think we should give him another chance.”

I turned my gaze back on the tech and nodded slowly. “All right, Rick. But I’ll be keeping an eye on this one. He should probably get out of here before I change my mind.”

The tech practically squeaked in fear as he hurried away from us and out of the warehouse. I was able to hold in my laughter until he was gone. Rick joined in, shaking his head and chuckling.

“You’re pure evil,” he said.

“Oh, come on, Rick. Just having a little fun.”

“You just damaged that poor boy for life.”

“He won’t be making mistakes anytime soon, that’s for sure.” There was a plane sitting in the center of the warehouse. It was an old recreational model, the kind that amateur pilots might fly. I recognized it immediately. “Is Bessie ready to fly?”

“I think so.”

“What was wrong with her?”

“The fuel was contaminated, and the engine needed a bit of a tune up.”

I nodded. “Did you get that sorted out? I don’t want her crashing on her first flight.”

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