With his sun-streaked blonde hair, ocean blue eyes, and sinewy muscles, maverick Jack Van Buren has spent his twenties living the playboy life that comes along with being handsome and the heir to a billion dollar business empire. But when Jack resolves that he wants more out of life that dating the latest reality TV starlet, he decides what he yearns for most is a child to raise. The only catch is that he’s not ready to settle down with one woman yet.
Bianca Forrester is an independent-minded medical student with fiery red hair to match her personality who dreams of one day tending to the health of the less fortunate. Bianca’s determined that she doesn’t want high student loan debt to dictate where she works and who she treats one day. When she decides to become the surrogate mother for Jack Van Buren’s child to finance her education, Bianca’s confident that she can give him the most important gift of all…the love of a child…and then move on with her life.
But when both Jack and Bianca begin to realize that they would pick each other if they were to enter a long-term relationship, can the two of them ignore the growing sparks they feel and the child on its way to keep things between them “just business?”
He knew she was the one from the moment he laid eyes on her she walked into the fertility clinic. After meeting a parade of women that the surrogacy agency had set up, Jack Van Buren had started to come to the conclusion that he would never find the woman who would carry his baby, his heir. Each woman he had been introduced to had been perfectly lovely, smart, and engaging in conversation. Each one spoke of how healthy she was and how much she wanted to help someone’s dreams of parenthood come true…at a very hefty price of course. Jack couldn’t put a finger on it, but none of them felt right. He was looking for much more than an egg donor and a rented uterus. Jack wanted the woman who actually carried his child and lived at his home from the second trimester until she delivered to be someone he felt some sort of connection with, someone he admired.
Just when he thought he might give up the search, he met Bianca.
“This is Ms. Bianca Forrester,” Shannon O’Dailey, the surrogacy agency owner, said smiling widely. Jack knew that Ms. O’Dailey was growing concerned that he wouldn’t meet the woman who would seal the deal and land her hefty commission.
“Pleased to meet you,” Bianca said.
Her flowing, wavy auburn locks, green eyes, and peaches and cream complexion spoke of the Irish heritage written about in the profile he read on her. And she had a twinkle in her eye that suggested she may be skeptical of him versus ready to dive head first into an agreement. Jack liked that.
“My pleasure,” Jack said, shaking her hand. “I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me this afternoon.”
“Why don’t we all sit and have a chat?” Ms. O’Dailey said, motioning to the black leather sofas in her office and a coffee table that had a tea set on it. “Please, also help yourself to some tea.”
Jack noticed that Bianca’s eyes had grown wide when she walked into the room and saw him. He wondered if she recognized him from one of those unfortunate recent tabloid articles he appeared in when he’d dated an ex-reality TV star. His family, including his brothers Max and Bruce, couldn’t understand why he just didn’t find the right woman and settle down if he really wanted to be a father. Max had finally settled down and married, and Bruce, long considered to be the last brother to probably get hooked up, had just gotten engaged to a woman from the office. In addition, his family was worth over a billion dollars and owned a chain of successful Mexican restaurants named Tio Jose’s, or TJ’s for short. Money mixed with handsome usually equaled a prime catch in most people’s world.
Jack was still a little shy of thirty, and if pressed, he’d admit that many women found him attractive. At over six feet tall with crystal blue eyes, shoulder length sun-bleached hair he sometimes wore in a ponytail, and a trim muscular body he could look like the stereotypical handsome Southern California surfer boy one moment. But put him in one of his tailored Armani suits and he looked like the successful young businessman he actually was.
He had developed the reputation of being quite the party animal and had appeared more than once in the Hollywood gossip rags. Most recently for renting Jackie Onasis’ former yacht and taking a group of his thirty closest friends on a sun and boozed filled trip to Cabo San Lucas. The previous year he had even briefly dated a one hit wonder pop star who’d made a name for herself with one of those embarrassing sex tapes with a famous rap artist.
There was no shortage of women hoping to be hanging onto the arm of Jack Van Buren at the latest Los Angeles hotspot, but Jack held a secret that he shared with no one. Deep down he wondered if he could really trust any woman who wanted to be with him. If it hadn’t been for his looks or more importantly his money, would they still want to be there with him watching the sun rise early in the morning from the deck of his Malibu Canyon house? His parents’ continuing stormy, drama-filled marriage, their third to each other to be precise, also hadn’t fostered a sense of future healthy romantic relationships.
He had been surprised when his bachelor brothers suddenly found their dream women, settled down, and embraced fatherhood even at their ages. Despite his wild boy ways though, Jack loved his nephews dearly. The time he spent with them and the unconditional love they gave him had him craving to have his own child even if that meant being a single father. And Jack felt much more ready for fatherhood than being a husband. But then he’d always done everything his way on his own timeline. Be damned what others thought.
“So, Mr. Van Buren, may I ask why?” Bianca said, peering at him over her tea cup.
She’d turned the tables on him just that fast. After interviewing prospective surrogates who appeared to be doing double time to impress him, this woman was putting him in the hot seat.
Ms. O’Dailey shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
Jack found Bianca’s boldness refreshing though.
“Why what, Ms. Forrester?” he asked.
“Please call me, Bianca,” she said, pushing a few stray strands of hair behind her ear. “I’m curious to know why you’d like to be a father and especially a single father via a surrogate. Are you gay?”
Jack chuckled and said, “I can assure you I’m not gay, Ms. Forrest…Bianca.”
He noticed that she wore minimal, if any, make-up. And the truth was she didn’t need it. She had a naturally radiant complexion that he found refreshing in a city where many women were carefully put together before leaving the house.
“I hope you don’t mind my being so forward,” Bianca continued. “It’s just if I were to carry a child for someone I’d want to make sure they were having that child for the right reasons.” Her voice trailed off a bit before she added, “So many people have children when they’re not ready for them.”
Jack saw all the blood leave Ms. O’Dailey’s face and a look of concern sweep across it. The poor woman obviously thought the meeting had already turned into a bust. Little did she know that this was the first true prospect she had introduced to him. All of the other women went on and on about why they should be chosen. What a great change of pace for someone to demand that he sell himself!
“I think what Bianca means…”Ms. O’Dailey began.
Jack held up a hand, smiled, and said, “No, it’s okay, Ms. Dailey. I want to answer her question.”
Ms. O’Dailey, her eyes wide, still looked unsure of the situation as she nervously poured herself another cup of Earl Grey.
“To answer your question, Bianca, this is something I’ve thought long and hard about. I’ve always wanted to be a dad, to give a child not just the financial advantages that would come from being part of my family, but to give them encouragement, love, and guidance. Once I started to spend quality time with my nephews it made me realize how badly I wanted to be a father.”
“No wife? Girlfriend?” Bianca asked.
Ms. O’Dailey’s hand trembled and her cup came down just a little too hard onto its saucer.
“No. No wife. No girlfriend,” Jack said. “As much as I want a child of my own, I also don’t feel like I’m ready to settle down romantically. I pride myself on being honest about where I am in my life.”
“Hmmm, interesting,” Bianca said after a few seconds of silence. “You don’t hear of many men wanting to be single fathers.”
“If I were a woman who wanted to be a single mother, would you be questioning me like this?” he asked, giving her a genuine grin so she’d know that her question had not upset him.
“You’re right. Probably not.”
“I believe quite simply that everyone is ready for different stages of life at different times.”
“I just happened to see on TMZ that you had a wild trip to Cabo. Will trips such as that still be a part of your life once you’re a father?” Bianca asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“I’m not sure that question is appropriate, Ms. Forrester,” Ms. O’Dailey said pointedly. “Mr. Van Buren is planning to generously compensate the woman who carries his child.”
Jack set up a little straighter and locked eyes with Bianca. For the first time since she arrived, he started to feel a little perturbed at her line of questioning.
“I plan on being a very hands-on father, Bianca. I will not be the type of father who just hires a nanny to raise his children. Do I like to have fun? Of course. Have I gotten a little crazy in the past? Hell, yes. And I loved every minute of it. But my child will be my world and nothing and no one will come before them.”
Bianca smiled and visibly relaxed for a moment.
“Thank you for answering that. I hope you didn’t take any offense. It’s just as I mentioned before that if I’m going to be part of bringing a child in this world I want it to be for all of the right reasons.”
“And what about you, Bianca? What brings you here today? Why are you considering being a surrogate?”
“Bianca has a long list of impressive qualifications, Mr. Van Buren,” Ms. O’Dailey jumped in and said.
“Then I shall like to hear them from her,” Jack said, taking back control of the meeting.
“Well, of course,” Ms. O’Dailey mumbled.
“I just finished the last exam of my pre-med program this morning,” she said.
“Congratulations then,” Jack said, feeling impressed.
“Thank you. I plan on attending medical school in the next year, and to be honest, I wish to do so without incurring a lot of debt as I would like to practice where I’m needed versus where will pay me the most money. That’s why I got into medicine in the first place…to help people. And if I can help someone reach their dream of parenthood as part of that….well, I think that would be a beautiful thing.”
“And what does your husband or boyfriend think of this?” he asked with a sly smile.
“No husband,” she answered. “No boyfriend. I’ve been much too busy finishing Pre-Med at Stanford.”
Jack sat in silence staring straight ahead at her. But instead of shyly looking away she met his gaze, displaying her strength. He liked that about her..
“I’m not sure if Ms. Dailey mentioned, but I wish for the woman who is to be my surrogate to live at my home starting at the second trimester. I want to make sure she’s taken care of in the best ways at all times for both her and the child.”
“That would be…” Bianca started to say, but then she paused, looking like she was searching for the right words. “That would be doable. As long as I was still afforded a degree of privacy.”
“Of course. Then if you’re interested we have a deal, Bianca,” Jack said, outstretching his hand.
“We do?” a shocked Ms. Dailey let slip. “I mean, how wonderful!”
Ms. Dailey gave Bianca a pleading look waiting for her reply.
Bianca looked at Jack, sighed, crossed and then uncrossed her legs. She appeared to be mulling it over carefully and not jumping at the chance. This made Jack want her to be the one to carry his child even more. He liked that she had a plan for her life, her intelligence, and the fact that he had the feeling she truly meant what she said. For her to carry his child was not just a financial decision. Sure that played a part, but she also really wanted to make sure the person she gave this incredible gift to was the right one.
“Deal,” Bianca said finally, reaching out and shaking Jack’s hand once more.