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Wanted: Adored (Kindle Worlds Novella), Page 1

Georgia Cates




  Text copyright ©2017 by the Author.

  This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Kelly Elliott. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Wanted remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Kelly Elliott, or their affiliates or licensors.

  For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

  Adored

  by Georgia Cates

  Also by Georgia Cates

  STANDALONES

  Dear Agony

  Indulge

  Sweet Torment

  THE SIN TRILOGY

  A Necessary Sin

  The Next Sin

  One Last Sin

  The Sin Trilogy Bundle

  SIN SERIES STANDALONE NOVELS

  Endurance

  Unintended

  Redemption (TBA)

  THE BEAUTY SERIES

  Beauty from Pain

  Beauty from Surrender

  Beauty from Love

  The Beauty Series Bundle

  MEN OF LOVIBOND

  Tap

  Stout

  Porter

  Men of Lovibond Collection

  GOING UNDER SERIES

  Going Under

  Shallow

  Going Under Complete Duo

  THE VAMPIRE AGAPE SERIES

  Blood of Anteros

  Blood Jewel

  Blood Doll

  The Complete Vampire Agape Series

  Contents

  ADORED

  Also by Georgia Cates

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Books in the Wanted World

  Chapter One

  Judd Mathews

  MY NAME. THAT PART OF the information is blank.

  I stare at that empty line on the pink It’s a girl crib card taped to the clear box containing the smallest baby I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Thin red skin . . . almost translucent. Bald head. Numerous tubes poking into her tiny body—two entering her mouth, one in her umbilical cord. Each doing a job to keep her alive in one way or another.

  This is what a baby born three months early looks like. A growing preemie. That’s what the doctors and nurses call her.

  My daughter. Another thing they call her. I haven’t been able to bring myself to call her that yet. Not even in my head where no one can hear my thoughts.

  I found out about this baby two weeks ago—the result of a one-night stand that I had with a woman after a show in Austin, Texas. I couldn’t even recall her name. My manager is the one who informed me her name was Josie Burns. I’m sure she told me at the time, but so many come and go. There’s no way to remember them all.

  Josie was a ready and willing groupie that security allowed onto my tour bus. Definitely one of the hottest women I’d ever seen. Cowgirl hat. Short cutoff denim shorts. Boots. I’ve always been a sucker for a girl in denim shorts and boots. I wasn’t strong enough to say no to what she was offering. And there was no reason to; I’m a single man who needs a good time with a woman every once in a while.

  And she was a damn good time. That much I remember.

  I still can’t believe she got pregnant. I was so very careful, used a condom as always, but the paternity test doesn’t lie. And now I get to break the news to my family: there’s a new addition to the Mathews family.

  I’ve heard little of what the nurse has said since she began talking about the baby, her prognosis, and nursery policies for visitation. None of it seems real to me. And it isn’t going away.

  The nurse opens one of the doors on the incubator. “Would you like to touch her?”

  I look at this tiny being, unable to make myself reach through the hole to make any kind of physical contact with her. I don’t feel a connection to her. Not even a little.

  I shove my hands into the pockets of my jeans and shake my head, taking a step away. “No.”

  “You are her father, Mr. Mathews. Don’t be afraid; she needs to feel your touch. To hear your voice.”

  Is this nurse shitting me? This kid doesn’t need a damn thing from me. I have no business pretending to be anyone’s father. I drink way too much whiskey and live on a tour bus, hitting a different city every night. I’d be doing this baby a kindness by walking away from her; I’d make the worst father ever.

  “You’re the only person this little girl has, Mr. Mathews. She needs you.”

  Her mother was admitted to the hospital for complications with the pregnancy, forcing her to be born twelve weeks early. After her birth, something went terribly wrong with Josie. The doctor called it an amniotic fluid embolism, the condition rare and deadly. She died shortly after the baby was born. But not before she named me the father of her baby.

  None of Josie’s relatives want the baby. I’m it for her.

  Unluckiest kid in the world.

  The nurse peels the pink crib card off the incubator. “I’m tired of calling her Miss prissy pants. It’s time for her to have a real name.”

  I don’t sit around thinking about names for a baby. That’s a girl thing. “I don’t have a clue.”

  “You’re the only person who can give her a name.”

  This nurse works around babies all the time. I bet she knows all kinds of names. “I’m open to suggestions.”

  “Sawyer . . . Scarlett . . . Madeline . . . Abigail. Those are some of my favorites.”

  “Scarlett Mathews. What do you think of that?”

  She smiles. “I think that Scarlett is a beautiful name. And I think that she looks like a Scarlett. What about a middle name?”

  I look at the hospital ID hanging around the nurse’s neck. “Scarlett Leighton Mathews.”

  She looks at me, head tilted, and laughs. “You can’t name your daughter after me.”

  “Why not? I like Leighton, and I think it sounds good with Scarlett.”

  “Scarlett Leighton Mathews? That’s what you’re choosing?”

  “Yes.”

  She smiles and writes the name on the empty line at the top of the pink crib card. “Well, Miss prissy pants, you finally have a name after being nameless for two weeks. I hope you like it.”

  Scarlett Leighton Mathews. Only been in this world for two weeks and she’s spent every one of those fourteen days fighting for survival. And it’s not over yet. The road ahead of her is going to be a long one. And it’s my job to be here by her side.

  I’m her father.

  She’s my daughter.

  Nothing in my life is ever going to be as it was.

  Chapter Two

  Leighton Mitchell ~ Eight Weeks Later

  MY TWELVE-HOUR SHIFT IS ALMOST over, and I can’t resist taking Scarlett out of her crib, sitting with her in my favorite rocker, and cuddling her in my arms. I hold her close and caress the top of her head with my palm. “Hey, little Miss prissy pants. Dr. Wilson says that you are going home soon.”

  I can’t believe how attached I am to this baby. I adore her. I’m aware that bonding with Scarlett this way is a mistake, but I find it impossible not to when she doesn’t have a mother coming to hold and embrace her.

  Every baby deserves to feel loved and comforted and protected. And Scarlett wasn’t
getting that in the beginning of her life. I really had no choice: Judd Mathews was so cold and distant with the poor little thing during the first weeks of her life.

  It didn’t happen overnight, but Scarlett managed to melt the icy walls around her father’s heart. It’s been a beautiful thing . . . watching this baby girl wrap her daddy around her tiny little finger.

  I’m holding Scarlett against my chest, humming a lullaby, when Judd Mathews arrives for his daily visit. “Look who’s here to see you, Miss prissy pants. It’s Daddy.”

  Judd comes up to us and leans down to speak to Scarlett while untucking his shirt and unbuttoning it. “How is Daddy’s little princess today?”

  Damn, I don’t hate this part of my job—watching this gorgeous country music star open his shirt so he can place his growing preemie skin-to-skin against his chest. That fit, muscular chest, complete with the most perfect V at his waist . . . it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. I bet he has a woman waiting for him in every city he tours.

  “Miss Scarlett has been a little angel today. Like always.” Such a sweet temperament.

  “She’s always an angel when her favorite nurse is on duty.”

  The other nurses take good care of Miss prissy pants, but none of them spoil her with hugs and kisses the way I do. And Judd knows that. I’ve never hidden my partiality for Scarlett from him.

  I get up from the rocker and hand her to her father. But not before I steal a look at his broad, muscular chest and narrow waist with a trail of dark curls that disappears into the waistband of his jeans. I shouldn’t imagine what that trail leads to, but I can’t help myself; it’s been a year since my divorce. Longer than that since I’ve been touched by a man.

  “I have great news. Scarlett’s doing so well that Dr. Wilson says he’ll probably discharge her home next week.”

  A wrinkle forms across Judd’s brow. “Is she ready to leave the hospital?”

  “She’s consistently maintaining her body temp and oxygen levels. Those are the only things that have been keeping her here.”

  The smile I expected to see on Judd’s face is absent. “I’m not ready.”

  Most parents have an initial oh shit moment when they realize that they’re about to take full responsibility for a child who once required twenty-four-hour care. And Judd Mathews is no exception.

  This is a new situation for me. I’ve discharged plenty of babies to a home with a mother and no father, but never a father without a mother. And this is a particularly sensitive situation; he’s only had eight weeks to adjust to the idea of having a child. Scarlett had already arrived by the time he found out about her.

  “Don’t worry. Dr. Wilson isn’t sending her home today. You have time to get everything prepared for her.”

  “No, I mean I’m not ready.” It’s pure, unadulterated fear that I see in his eyes. “I . . . I can’t take care of her on my own.”

  Scarlett is going to have special needs, but Judd’s parents and sister seem eager to offer their help. I’m not at all worried about his having family support. “I’m certain that your family will lend a hand until you’re settled in and comfortable with caring for her. They aren’t going to abandon you.”

  “But they can’t stay forever, and I don’t have a clue what I’ll do when it’s just the two of us.”

  “You are her daddy. You’ll figure it out.”

  “She deserves more than . . . my figuring it out.” He looks at her for a moment before his eyes return to mine. “I canceled shows so I could be here with her, but I’ll have to go back on the road soon. What then? Am I to take her with me?”

  A baby, particularly one born three months prematurely, can’t ride around the country on a tour bus. “Her immune system is too compromised for that kind of travel. She should be around as few people as possible, especially since flu and RSVP season is still upon us.”

  “Then you see my dilemma?”

  I understand that Judd’s job includes traveling. He wouldn’t be the first father to leave a child at home so he could go out to make a living. “You’re definitely going to need help, but I’m confident that you’ll find a way to make it work. That’s what parents do.”

  “My mom and sister will help with Scarlett. I don’t doubt that, but I can’t count on them to raise her in my absence. And I don’t want to. She’s my daughter. My responsibility.”

  Judd cradles his hand behind Scarlett’s head and adjusts her body so they’re chest-to-chest. “I’m terrified that she’s going to need more than I’m able to give her.”

  Judd still second-guesses his ability to care for Scarlett. I would have fully agreed with any doubt he might have had if you’d asked me eight weeks ago, but he has progressed so much these last two months. I’m amazed by the growth I’ve seen in this man. And it’s my job to encourage him to keep up the good work.

  “You’ve come an incredibly long way in a short amount of time. Don’t doubt yourself or your abilities to take care of Scarlett. You’re doing a wonderful job with her.”

  Judd looks over at me and chuckles. “Man, I wish we could take you home with us. I’d never have to worry about Scarlett having the best of care. And I’m certain that she wouldn’t mind having her favorite nurse around all of the time.”

  “I adore her. I wouldn’t mind taking care of her all of the time.” I’m going to miss her terribly when she’s gone.

  Judd stops rocking and looks at me, a crease growing over his brow. “Are you married?”

  Are you married? What a sudden and odd change in conversation.

  “No.” Not anymore. Not after my husband decided that it was okay for him to date other women while I was working twelve-hour shifts.

  “Children?”

  “No.” I smile, but it’s a mask to disguise the loss and pain that never leaves my heart.

  I desperately wanted to have a baby. I was so happy when I peed on that stick and saw two pink lines, but that baby wasn’t destined to be.

  “You love your job and patients. I see it in everything you do for these little babies, but would you ever consider leaving your position here at the hospital?”

  I’ve been in neonatal intensive care since I finished nursing school. All I’ve ever wanted to do is take care of sick and preemie babies and make them well. I wouldn’t know how to be anything but what I am. I love my job.

  “Leave my position and do what?”

  Judd tilts his head and looks at his daughter’s face for a moment before his eyes return to mine. “Be Scarlett’s full-time nanny.”

  Holy shit. I think Judd Mathews, one of country music’s biggest stars, just offered me a job.

  “I’m a nurse. That’s very different from a nanny.”

  “You could be Scarlett’s highly overqualified nanny. And overpaid. I’d triple your salary and provide you with full benefits. Dental and vision included.”

  “Mr. Mathews . . .”

  He puts his hand up. “You could live with us at my ranch in Mason. You’d have your own bedroom and bathroom next to Scarlett’s nursery. I would give you a car in addition to your salary. The safest vehicle on the road so I’d know that you and Scarlett were safe. All of your living expenses would also be covered. I would take care of everything.”

  Triple salary. Full medical, vision, and dental. No rent or car payment. Full living expenses covered.

  Judd would take care of everything.

  Enticing. As. Hell.

  I’ve been struggling financially since the divorce. I’m still paying for the shit Brad charged on my credit cards—gifts for the women he was screwing. I’m not sure how I can say no to Judd’s offer when it would enable me to pay off the debt on my credit cards three times quicker.

  “It’s a very tempting offer.”

  “I want it to be more than tempting. What’s it going to take to make it irresistible?”

  “It’s not that your offer isn’t generous. It absolutely is, but leaving this stable job is a big deal. What would I do if it doesn
’t work out?”

  “It’ll work out.”

  I’ve always been a worrier. I go for the sure thing. “I need time to think about it. And I think you need time to think about it as well. Maybe discuss it with your family and make sure that this arrangement is a good fit for you and Scarlett and not a knee-jerk reaction to finding out that she is coming home.”

  “You can take all the time you need, but I already know that you’re the only one I want. And to prove it, I’ll give you a $25,000 sign-on bonus.”

  I could pay off all of my credit-card debt in the snap of my fingers and move on. I’d never have to work extra shifts again to pay for the good times Brad had with those other women behind my back.

  I don’t need time to think this over. I know what I have to do.

  “Okay. I’ll do it.”

  Chapter Three

  Judd Mathews

  SCARLETT HAS BEEN PART OF my life for ten weeks. I’m getting there, but I’m still not completely used to the idea of being a father. It’s been impossible to get to that place because she’s been living somewhere else with other people taking care of her. But not for much longer. My little girl is coming home in two days.

  Leighton worked her final shift at the hospital yesterday. Today, we’re moving her to my house in Mason. I hope that being at the ranch for a little while before Scarlett’s arrival will help make the move into her new home a little easier. And maybe help with my transition as well.

  Having a woman and a baby around my house is going to be a huge change for me. I’ve enjoyed my life as a bachelor for a long time—alone and doing whatever the hell I like without any consideration for others. Watching sports. Drinking whiskey. Leaving a mess until Maria comes by to clean. I’ve never had anyone else to consider, but that ends today.

  I push the button that lifts the garage door closest to the entry, but I also open the one next to it. “That’s your new car.”

  She looks at the shiny new SUV and then turns to me, her mouth agape. “You got an Audi for me?”

  “I was going to buy you a Volvo, but I was more satisfied with the Q7’s safety ratings after doing some research. Do you like it?”