The Billionaire's Lockdown Baby by Holly Rayner

Chapter 1





Aubrey





I was already running late by the time I noticed that the sun was getting entirely too close to the horizon, the bottom tip of it starting to dip down into the ocean. And that meant I wasn’t just late—I was very late indeed.

I hustled onto the beach, saltwater streaming down my body, and made directly for the area where I’d left my things, scanning the pile quickly to make sure it was all still there.

Towel, check. Duffel bag with the usual necessities—contact solution, surf wax, my fins and mask in case I decided I wanted to dive rather than surf—check. Stuffing my hand into the pocket of the duffel bag, I fished around, my heart jumping as it always did when I was taking stock of my stuff after having been out on the water.

Yeah, I’d lived in Hawaii all my life and been surfing—and therefore leaving my stuff on the beach unattended—basically since I could walk. Basically since my dad had followed through on his threat to make me the youngest surfing champion in Hawaii. At least at the competitions, though, there had been lockers to keep my stuff in. When I was practicing, or surfing just for the pure pleasure of it, I had to count on the goodwill of the other people on the beach.

I mean, I always knew my stuff would be safe, especially when we were on a beach as remote as this one. But there was a part of my brain that never stopped worrying about it.

Then I found what I was looking for. Phone and watch, check and check. Thank you, surfing gods of the great and mighty ocean.

I snagged the phone and jerked it out of the bag, already knowing exactly what I was going to see. When I did, though, I groaned aloud.

It was already five thirty. We’d stayed out a whole lot longer than we should have.

“Crap,” I breathed, jumping to my feet and starting to hustle into my clothes. When the zip of the dress I’d brought didn’t want to cooperate, I gave it up as a lost cause and stuffed it into my bag, still cursing to myself.

Then I grabbed the bag, slipped into my shoes, stuck my board under my arm, and started running for the parking lot.

“Where are you going?” Kalani—my best friend and favorite surfing partner, and also the reason I’d stayed out a lot longer than I had planned to—shouted after me.

“I’m late!” I shouted back, not even bothering to turn my head to make sure she heard me.

She’d wanted to have that big chat while we were out there, and though I didn’t usually like to talk during a surf session, she’d looked so desperate that I hadn’t been able to turn her down.

Of course then she’d just wanted to talk about the newest boy in her life and how she thought he might be the one. A story I’d heard at least five million times. Definitely not a story that had required interrupting a surf session.

It hadn’t been how I’d wanted to spend the afternoon. But Kalani was my best friend. When she had boy problems, I was practically required to help her work through them. It was one of the top three rules in the Best Friend contract.

Though I wasn’t sure that contract guaranteed that I would sit there and listen to her when it made me late. In the future, maybe I’d have to put a time limit on her stories. That would be within the contract, I thought.

“Late for what?” I heard her call back.

A date, I thought. Only that wasn’t quite right—and telling her it was a date would only make her ask more questions. Not now, when I was running away from her, but later, when she inevitably came knocking at the door of my little apartment on the beach and demanded to know exactly what was going on, and why it had meant that I needed to literally run out of the ocean and away from her and the surf.

Kalani was my best friend, and in her world, that meant she didn’t need to pay attention to things like boundaries. She’d show up in the middle of the freaking night and wake me up for answers, if that was what it took.

Besides, saying this was a date wasn’t strictly correct. I didn’t even know why I’d called it that in my head, actually. This wasn’t anything like a date. I was having dinner with my boss to celebrate five years of working together, and he was taking me to the fanciest restaurant in Honolulu. Which was why I couldn’t afford to be late. He was my freaking boss.

But there was another very big reason that I was going out of my way to get there in time. I wanted to be early. I wanted to have a chance to get settled at the restaurant, figure out my surroundings… have at least one margarita before he arrived.

Because Damon Parker and I had been working together for five years now. I’d known for four of them that I was in love with him, but I’d never said anything, too scared to ruin the job or make it uncomfortable or destroy whatever reference I was going to get if I ever left the company, or even get myself fired. I knew I’d never find another job like the one I had with him.

Damon owned the largest media company on the island—which didn’t boast that many corporate jobs—and as a marketing major, I’d found it to be the ideal fit. If I lost the job, I didn’t know where I’d go or what I’d do.

If I got fired, I also wouldn’t be able to spend ninety percent of my time around Damon. And though he didn’t know how I felt about him, and I always had to be on my best behavior, getting to work with him was still a huge plus—and one that I didn’t want to throw away.