June 24, 2021
Available in: e-Book
Miracle Baby is up for preorder and will release on June 24, 2021.
Dori Morales has become the guardian for her infant nephew, JT, after the car accident that killed her sister and brother-in-law. JT is the most important thing in her life, and she plans to adopt him.
After being named executor and trustee of his nephew’s inheritance, Chase Garrett intends to be a big part of his nephew’s life. Chase’s plans face a huge obstacle—Dori’s resentment over Chase’s estrangement from his brother, JT’s dad. Besides, Chase’s father wants custody of his grandson in order to give him everything wealth and privilege can buy, and he will stop at nothing to make that happen.
Chase hopes to give his nephew the best of everything as a way of making up for his fractured relationship with his brother—and a marriage of convenience to Dori just might prevent the nasty custody battle that looms.
“Why is Warren Davis coming here today? He didn’t even come to his own son’s funeral.” Dori Morales gazed out the twelfth-story window at the Dallas skyline. The glass and steel structures in the distance reflected the late morning sun. Turning from the window, she glanced at Barry Houston who sat at a monstrous mahogany desk. She struggled to tamp down the fury roiling through her mind. “Is that horrible man going to disown his grandson just as he did Tyler and Marisa?”
Barry got up and joined her near the window and laid a hand on her shoulder. “I don’t know what Warren Davis wants as far as his grandson is concerned. He’s coming today because he’s mentioned in the will. So maybe we’ll learn his intentions.” Barry turned back to the desk and brought out two folders.
With a heavy sigh, Dori stared at them. The words printed across the top screamed at her. The Last Will and Testament of Tyler W. Davis. The Last Will and Testament of Marisa M. Davis. When her sister Marisa and brother-in-law Tyler had written a new will and asked Dori to be their child’s guardian, she never imagined that a month later they would be dead.
Dead. Dori still didn’t want to believe it.
Now her sister’s baby was Dori’s responsibility. Her child.
Barry adjusted his glasses as he rearranged the file folders on the desk. “Sorry we have to wait, but the others should be here shortly.”
“I don’t care if they ever get here,” Dori replied, thinking about baby Joshua, who was in her mother’s competent care. Being away from the tiny infant made Dori realize how much her nephew meant to her. She loved him and wanted to keep him safe from someone like Warren Davis. As she shook her head, she blinked back the threatening tears. “I’m not sure I can be civil to Warren Davis.”
“He is a difficult man to deal with, but you don’t have to say a thing.” Barry rubbed his hand across his balding head as he again sat behind his desk. “I’ll do the talking. Don’t let him rile you. There’s no sense in letting him know he’s upset you. Your anger will only incite him.”
Anger was the only thing that kept Dori from crying when she thought of the awful car accident that had taken the lives of her sister and brother-in-law. Anger at Warren Davis and anger at God. How could God allow loving people like Marisa and Tyler to die when hateful people like Warren Davis lived and prospered?
“I don’t understand why Tyler left him anything. Do you think Mr. Davis will contest the will?”
“Legally, I can’t think of any grounds he has to contest it.”
“I don’t trust that man.”
“Don’t fret over it. Have a seat. Try to relax until they get here.”
Again Dori fought back tears as she sat in a blue leather wingback chair. She crossed and uncrossed her legs. She picked at a piece of lint on her navy-blue skirt and brushed the sleeve of her navy-and-white plaid jacket. As she battled the misery welling up inside her, she surveyed the shelves of law books that lined three walls of the mahogany paneled room, then glanced at her watch.
The intercom on the desk suddenly crackled and Barry’s secretary said, “Mr. Garrett is here.”
Barry punched the button. “Send him in.”
“Who’s Mr. Garrett?” Dori’s heart jumped into her throat.
“Tyler’s brother,” Barry answered as his eyebrows knit in a puzzled frown. “I thought you knew Tyler had a half brother.”
“Yes, but they’ve been estranged for years. Why is he here?”
Before Barry could answer, the door opened. Not daring to look, she huddled in the big chair. What did this man want now that his brother was dead? Was he after part of Tyler’s estate?
“Good morning, Chase.” Barry’s greeting was congenial. “Is your father on his way?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him.”
“While we’re waiting for your father, let me introduce you to Marisa’s sister, Dorinda Morales.”
As the man came into view, Dori’s stomach lurched and her palms grew moist. His gray, pinstriped suit emphasized his broad shoulders and his height, which had to be over six feet. He strode toward her with a look of confidence. She willed herself to be calm as she smoothed her hair that was drawn back in a loose knot at her nape.
He smiled, and a dimple appeared in his right cheek. Despite his friendly demeanor, she didn’t want to like him. It wasn’t the Christian thing to do, but he had never associated with Marisa and Tyler when they were alive. Now that they were dead, he suddenly appeared. She wanted to pray that God would help her treat Tyler’s brother as she should, but God had sometimes seemed far away in the past few weeks.
Surreptitiously wiping her hands on her skirt, she stood and extended her hand. “Hello, Mr. Garrett.”
“Please call me Chase. May I call you Dori? That’s what Tyler called you.” His large hand closed around hers.
“Sure,” she said, unable to deny his request even though she didn’t want to like him. His infectious smile immediately disarmed her while little shivers ran up her spine. Surely they came from her desire not to like him, but she wasn’t certain of anything.
When had Tyler ever mentioned her to Chase Garrett? Why was he having this effect on her? There was nothing to like about a man who hadn’t bothered to be part of his brother’s life for ten years. Like Warren Davis, this man hadn’t attended Tyler’s funeral. She withdrew her hand and returned to her chair. She should know by now she wasn’t a very good judge of men, and her reaction was nothing more than her propensity to fall for the wrong type.
Dori observed Chase as he settled in the chair next to hers. The only clue to his thoughts was the rigid set of his shoulders. His eyes, a kaleidoscope of blues, greens, and browns orbiting the sunburst around his pupils, held no hints to what he was thinking. His handsome features remained unreadable.
The secretary’s voice came over the intercom, but before she finished speaking, Warren Davis barged into the room. His finely tailored charcoal-gray suit, flamboyant tie, and Italian leather shoes subtly reminded Dori that he was a very rich and powerful man. His black hair, except for the touch of gray at the temples, and his blue eyes were just like Tyler’s. Except Tyler’s eyes had been like a warm summer sky while Warren’s made her cold like the dead of winter. Chase, with his tobacco-brown hair and multicolored eyes, didn’t look like either one of them.
Casting her a derisive look, Warren took a seat on the other side of Chase.
“Hello, Mr. Davis,” Barry said with a nod. “Now that we’re all here, we can get started.”
“Good.” Warren leaned forward in his seat. “Let’s get right to the point. I’m not going to sit here and let my son’s estate fall into the wrong hands. The Morales family has been after Tyler’s money ever since he married their daughter. They aren’t going to have it now.”
Rage boiled inside Dori. She clenched her fists in her lap. Heat suffused her cheeks as she glared at Warren. He glared back. She wanted to lash out at him and tell him to keep his false accusations to himself, but she looked at Barry and ignored the two other men. No matter what they thought, she had the truth on her side.
“Mr. Davis,” Barry said calmly, but forcefully, “I’m in charge of this meeting. Please be quiet and listen.”
Barry got up from the desk and handed each of them a folder. “In the folder you’ll find a copy of Tyler’s will and a copy of Marisa’s will. You can see they are mirror images of each other. Since they are both deceased, we go on to the next of kin being the minor child, Joshua Tyler Davis. He inherits the bulk of the estate, which is held in trust for him until he reaches the age of twenty-five. Dorinda Morales is named as guardian for the minor child. Chase Garrett is the executor and trustee of the estate. One hundred thousand dollars goes to Warren Davis.”
Taking in Barry’s last statement with disbelief, Dori looked at Chase and found him staring at her. She returned his gaze. How could Tyler have named his estranged half brother as executor of his will? Why had Marisa agreed to it? What had they been thinking? And why had Tyler left money to the father who had disowned him? Dori dropped her gaze to her lap as her mind buzzed with the questions. She jumped when Warren surged to his feet.
“I’ve heard enough.” He strode to the door. “Chase, are you coming?”
Chase stood and looked across the desk at Barry, then at his father. “No, I’m staying. No matter who inherits this estate, I’m still executor.”
“Suit yourself.” Warren exited from the room.
Dori watched Chase, who took a deep breath and released it slowly as he returned to his seat. He appeared genuinely troubled by his father’s behavior. But was this their version of a “good cop, bad cop” routine? She had no reason to trust either of them.
Finally, Chase looked at Barry. “What’s going on here?”
“Didn’t your father explain?” Barry asked.
“No, he’s failed to tell me a lot of things.” A puzzled expression painted Chase’s face. “Why is my father so upset about this will?”
Barry adjusted his glasses. “Your father seems to think the baby might not be Tyler’s.”
“What!” Chase shook his head. “That’s crazy.”
“Not to your father. He knew that Tyler and Marisa had been going to a fertility specialist for a number of years before they conceived Joshua. And he wants to make sure the child is really Tyler’s.”
Chase frowned. “Whether the child is Tyler’s biological child or not doesn’t make any difference, does it? The child is still his legal heir.”
Barry nodded. “That’s correct, but I believe your father thinks there’s some way around that.”
“You heard him.” Dori stared at Chase. “He thinks my family is after Tyler’s money. He thought that was the reason Marisa married Tyler.”
“Tyler never said anything like that to me.”
“When did you talk to him?”
Chase narrowed his gaze, as he appeared to contemplate his response. “A few weeks before he died.”
Frowning, Dori shook her head. “I had no idea. I thought you never spoke to each other.”
“We didn’t for many years, and I regret that deeply.”
“Ahem. Could we get on with this?” Barry interrupted.
“Excuse us. We’ll settle this later.” Gripping the arms of the chair, Chase eased himself back.
Barry proceeded to explain the rest of the will and the duties assigned to each of them. The hurt and pain surrounding the loss of her beloved sister and brother-in-law became more acute with every word. And she couldn’t help wondering why Tyler and Marisa had never mentioned speaking with Chase.
Tyler’s relationship with Chase became a convoluted puzzle in her mind. If they had the same father, why didn’t Chase and Tyler have the same last name? Tyler had never talked much about his family. Whenever the subject came up, his unease had been obvious. He had readily adopted the Morales clan as his own, and they had taken him into their hearts. How did Chase fit into this enigma?
She glanced over at him while he listened intently to Barry’s explanations. The more she learned the more evident it became with her as Joshua’s guardian and Chase as the executor and trustee, she would have to work with him frequently. She could only pray that God would help her get over her bitter feelings toward a man who had been at odds with Tyler and Marisa for years.
When they were done, Dori stood. “Thanks, Mr. Houston, for your help.”
“If you have any questions, feel free to call me any time.” Barry stood and walked around the desk to shake her hand.
“I will. I’d like to discuss some personal matters.”
“Fine. See my secretary on your way out. She’ll set up an appointment for you.”
“Thanks again.” She left the room without glancing back.
Chase wanted to run after her and make her understand he was grieving as much as she was, but he forced himself to remain seated. He couldn’t shake the image of her chocolate-brown eyes filled with grief and distrust. After the door closed behind her, he wondered how he could ever work with a woman who obviously didn’t think much of him. “Am I going to be trapped between two warring factions again?”
Barry sat behind his desk. “You mean Dori and your father?”
Chase nodded. “I want what’s best for my nephew, but if she can’t work with me, maybe someone else should be executor.”
“Even if there is friction between Dori and your father, don’t let that stop you from carrying out Tyler’s wishes. I hope you’ll take my advice. Tyler did when I explained the importance of making a new will after the baby was born. He told me how competent you would be as executor.”
“How well do you know Dori? Will she give me a chance?” Chase asked. Not that he cared about her, but as his nephew’s guardian her approval mattered. Besides, Chase wanted to know what kind of woman was caring for Joshua.
“I know Dori only from my dealings with your brother. Right now it’s obvious she’s hurting, and it may take her a while to work through all this,” Barry replied. “Tyler would want you to work it out. Go after her.”
“You’re right.” Chase remembered her hurt expression. “If she’s not here, where can I find her?”
“She’s been living at Tyler’s. You know where that is?”
“Yes. He gave me the address when we talked.” Chase headed for the door. “Thanks.”
When he didn’t see Dori in the outer office, he raced into the hall and toward the elevators. He managed to get there as the doors started to close. When he shouldered his way between them, they sprang apart. Dori stood at the back of the elevator. She grimaced and crossed her arms when he stepped in beside her. After giving him a cursory glance, she focused her gaze on the numbers above the door. Even though she wore heels, the top of her head barely reached his shoulder. Her dark-brown hair gleamed in the overhead lighting.
Dori’s response to his presence in the elevator reminded him of the last time he had seen Tyler. Chase had been on his way to the accounting office in the WTD Enterprises building when Tyler had stepped back into Chase’s life after ten years of silence. His reaction to Tyler had mirrored Dori’s reaction now.
“I’d like to talk with you.” Stony silence met Chase’s attempt to open the conversation. “Don’t shut me out. We need to talk.”
“I really don’t think we have much to say.” She didn’t look at him.
“I’m not like my father.”
Chase’s statement caused her to glance his way. “And why should I believe that when you both refused to have anything to do with Marisa and Tyler?”
“Tyler didn’t give me a choice.”
“You had a choice. Maybe you made the wrong one.”
Chase read the censure in Dori’s eyes. Her last words echoed through his mind. Wrong one. Wrong one. Wrong one. Grief and agony over his brother’s death plagued him. Sometimes it all seemed like a bad dream. Chase wanted to wake up and find his brother still alive, especially now that he had a son.
Dori knew him as a man who hadn’t spoken to his brother in years, but she obviously didn’t know the whole story. Most of all, she didn’t know she made Chase’s pulse race. Tyler had been right. She was beautiful. Changing her opinion wouldn’t come easy, but less hostility from her meant an easier job taking care of Joshua’s inheritance.
He had to make her understand. “When can we talk?”
The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Dori made a hasty exit. He strode after her as her heels tapped on the marble floor. She pushed open the glass door, and he followed her out into the noonday heat radiating off the high-rise buildings and concrete sidewalks.
Chase matched her hurried pace. The heat made his shirt stick to his back underneath his suit coat. “Dori, we need to talk. Let me take you to lunch.”
Stopping, she turned, seemingly unaffected by the warm temperature. “I don’t have time for lunch. I have to get home and take care of Joshua.”
“Let me go with you. I’d like to see him.”
She stood for a moment in obvious thought as she released a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry. This was a difficult meeting for me. I just don’t feel like talking now.”
“How about later today?”
She shrugged as her wary brown eyes searched his face. “I don’t understand why you’re so eager to see your nephew. You didn’t bother to see Marisa and Tyler when they were still alive.”
What would make her understand? Tyler’s untimely death had ripped away their plans to get together after Chase’s return from his business trip. He was grieving, too. Everything about this situation tore at his heart. “Why do you suppose he named me executor?”
“I have no clue.” She turned on her heel and marched down the sidewalk.
Chase caught up to her. “I can explain. We have to work together whether we like it or not.”
“Can you explain all the years of alienation with Tyler?”
“Give me a chance.”
When she reached her car, she stopped to unlock it, then looked at him. “Okay,” she said with a nod. “Come over tonight around seven. Do you know where Tyler lived?”
She shook her head. “Not anymore. After today, nothing would surprise me.”
“Let me bring something to eat.” He reached around her and opened the car door. Being near Dori made him remember Tyler’s promise to introduce him to her. Now they had met, and he wanted her to like him and trust him. Doing the best thing for his nephew depended on it.
“That won’t be necessary.” Her eyes held no welcome, only duty. She got into the car and shut the door, closing him out.
Chase turned his silver Lexus onto the quiet street and waited for the GPS to indicate that he was at his destination. When the mechanical female voice told him he had arrived, he looked at the tall brick house with the perfectly manicured lawn. All the houses looked the same, as if they had been cut from a giant cookie cutter and placed along the street against the backdrop of a bright blue Texas sky.
His stomach churned and his heart thudded as he rang the bell. A shadowy figure appeared behind the leaded glass in the front door. Would Dori receive him with guarded acceptance or outright hostility?
The door opened, revealing a two-story foyer. Dori stood on an Oriental rug lying on a golden wood floor. The pink shorts and matching print top she wore made her look young, a sharp contrast to the sophisticated woman he had seen this morning. Tyler had told Chase she was twenty-nine years old, just four years younger than he. Now she looked barely out of her teens. With her dark-brown hair falling around her shoulders, she appeared approachable, even friendly, but distrust still showed in her eyes.
“Come in,” she said, moving aside.
After he stepped across the threshold, she closed the door behind him. On the right the formal dining room contained a beautifully crafted mahogany table, chairs, and china cabinet. Straight ahead a curved staircase with a railing of ornate wrought iron led to the second floor. Glancing around the room, he regretted he had never set foot in this house when his brother was alive. Chase wondered what lay beyond these formal rooms. Would he find a part of Tyler there?
Dori went down two steps into the sunken living room. She motioned for him to sit. He settled on the edge of the off-white couch.
Sitting ramrod-straight in the nearby chair, she held her hands in her lap. “What do you want to talk about?”
“Where’s Joshua?” He feared she might throw him out before he had a chance to see his nephew.
“I’d like to see him. I promise not to wake him.”
Her dark-brown eyes studied him, making him feel as though she could see into his soul and gauge the sincerity of his statement. She sighed. “Okay.”
“Thanks.” If nothing else positive came of this meeting, at least he would see his nephew.
Dori walked toward a hallway on the left. “Follow me.”
She stopped in front of a door, slowly opened it, and peeked inside. In anticipation, Chase hovered behind her. She gradually opened the door to its full width. The room smelled of baby lotion and Dori’s perfume. A light oak crib, decorated with sheets and a mobile depicting bears with balloons in primary colors, sat against one wall.
Dori tiptoed across the room, and Chase followed. The tiny infant with a thatch of dark hair lay peacefully sleeping. Chase remembered the moment when he had seen the baby’s picture and the proud smile on Tyler’s face. If only Chase could see that smile again. Maybe he could catch a glimpse of Tyler in his son.
Chase looked closer at the tiny boy. The shape of the baby’s nose and chin resembled Tyler’s. A tight pressure swelled in his chest as his heart overflowed with emotions he couldn’t define. Grief? Regret? Love?
Life could be so cruel, snatching away his chance to make things right with Tyler. Maybe he could have a second chance with Tyler’s son. Sharing in this child’s life took precedence over everything else. Chase wanted the kind of family he had never had. The kind of family who loved and cared for each other.
The urge to touch the baby played on his mind. He wanted to pick up Joshua and cradle him, feel this tiny life, and cling to the fact that part of his brother lived on in this child. He tamped down the urge. There would be another time for that. He glanced up to find Dori staring at him. Her features softened, and a sad little smile graced her lips. Chase’s heart raced. She was even more beautiful when she smiled. He forced himself to look away. This was no time to get entangled in the alluring look of a pretty woman.
He made a promise. Don’t let tender feelings for this kid make you think you could care about his aunt. Women were only trouble.
She put her hand on his arm and whispered, “Let’s go.”
Her touch radiated a warmth that forced him to realize keeping that promise was going to be difficult. He had to remember she was only being polite. She didn’t think much of him.
They walked in silence to the living room. Chase stood near the couch and waited for Dori to sit. An uneasy tension encompassed the room. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and shoved a hand in the pocket of his khaki pants.
“Could I get you something to drink?” she asked.
“No,” he said, then realized how sharp his reply had sounded. “I just ate,” he added, trying to soften his response.
Finally she sat, and he took a seat on the couch. She looked a little more relaxed as she leaned back in the chair, but her words painted a different picture. “Now that you’ve seen the baby, what did you want to tell me?”
What could he say when there were so many answers to her question? He gazed at her while all the reasons for being there raced through his mind. “We have to understand each other and work together to do what’s best for that little boy in there.”
“I don’t see any problem with that.” Her conciliatory words didn’t match the clipped tone of her voice or the set of her jaw.
Chase leaned forward. “You’re saying what I want to hear, but I want you to mean it.”
“I do mean it. I can work with you.”
“But you don’t like me, right?”
Her gaze dropped to the floor. Her silence gave him the answer. He got up and walked over to the fireplace. At least he didn’t have to guess about her feelings. Studying the mantel clock, he told himself it didn’t matter. He had worked out plenty of financial deals with people who didn’t like him, but this was different. Her antagonism would eventually drive a wedge between him and his nephew. He couldn’t let that happen, not as it had with Tyler.
He walked across the room and sat on the couch nearest her chair. “Why don’t you like me?”
She gripped the arms of the chair and blinked. “I…you…you judged my sister, the sweetest person I’ve ever known, without meeting her. You didn’t think she was good enough for your brother. You refused to associate with them. Now that they’re dead you want to insinuate yourself into your nephew’s life.”
“You’re judging me by my father’s actions, not mine.”
“As far as I can see, they’re the same.”
“No, they’re not.”
“And now you’re going to tell me how they’re different, especially since there’s no one here to refute what you say.” Her chin jutted out as a flush rose in her smooth olive complexion.
“You can choose not to believe me if you want to.” Chase shrugged, feeling helpless to convince her. He had to remain calm and change her mind because having a good relationship with his nephew depended on it. This child was the only bright spot in his life. “Three weeks before he died, Tyler and I talked. He told me he’d just had a son and that he and Marisa were making new wills. They wanted me to be executor and trustee if both of them should die. He wanted me to see his newborn son.”
Dori slumped back in her chair. “Why would he do that? You hadn’t spoken in years.”
“Tyler wanted to change that. He told me he had become a Christian and couldn’t be right with God without being right with me. Do you share those beliefs?”
Dori stared at him for a moment. She appeared to be struggling for an answer. “Do you?”
“Tyler’s death has made me aware I could be on better terms with God myself. But you didn’t tell me whether you shared Tyler’s beliefs.”
She turned away from him, then replied in a voice barely above a whisper, “I should, but it’s not always easy to do the right thing.”
“And what is the right thing?”
“To forgive you for judging my sister. To forgive my enemies.” Dori turned her gaze on him again.
“I didn’t know your sister. The split between Tyler and me had nothing to do with her. It was between him and me only.” Pausing, he studied her. Why was she intent on making him the bad guy in all of this? “Do you consider me your enemy?”
“You always seemed like Tyler’s enemy.”
“Tyler and I were never enemies. We were just two brothers who had chosen different paths where our father was concerned.”
She shook her head. “Tyler never mentioned talking to you.”
“He’d tried to reach me for weeks at work because he didn’t have my personal phone number.” Warren learned about it while I was out of town and made sure I didn’t get the messages.” Chase glanced at the floor, then back at Dori. “Tyler wanted to make amends.”
“Tyler wanted to make amends?” A frown wrinkled Dori’s brow. “What did he have to make amends for? You’re the one who disowned him.”
“That’s not true.”
“But you didn’t even come to the funeral.”
“I didn’t know about it. When the accident happened, I was in Japan on business.”
“Surely your father called you.”
Sighing, Chase leaned his elbow against the mantel and put his head in his hand. He suppressed the rage that surfaced every time he thought about what Warren had done. The man had no heart. He hadn’t cared about hurting his wife or how he’d driven a wedge between his sons. “No, he didn’t. I got back two days ago. We hadn’t talked until today in Barry’s office.”
She narrowed her gaze as she stared at him. “I never heard any of this.”
“You never heard about the new wills?”
“I heard about the wills, but Marisa and Tyler never said anything about you being executor.”
“Why are you so surprised I was named executor?”
Her expression wide eyed, she said, “Because you hadn’t seen each other in ten years. I don’t understand anything.”
He refused to let her goad him into saying something he would regret. “What don’t you understand?”
“Why do you have a different last name than Tyler if he was your brother and Warren Davis is your father?”
Taking a deep breath, Chase walked over to the window and looked out. Why had he insisted on explaining everything to her? He had unlocked a door he didn’t want to walk through. Now just the thought of revealing the past brought up old wounds he didn’t want to share with this woman he barely knew. He hadn’t bargained on making his life an open book. In the process of building a protective wall around his heart, he had buried a lot of hurt and pain he didn’t want to unearth. Not now. Not ever.
He felt comfortable with the life he had etched for himself. When he’d come back from college and realized he’d walked into an emotional minefield, he had tried to make the best of a bad situation. In retrospect, Dori may have been right. He’d made the wrong choice.
He turned. She sat forward in her chair and stared at him with those wary, chocolate-brown eyes. He steeled himself against her reaction. “Warren Davis is my father, but he never married my mother or made an attempt to give me his name.”
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