Four backs straightened, four jaws tensed. Linc picked up the share certificates, examined them and carefully placed them facedown on the table. “Would you care to explain,” he asked in a dangerous-as-hell voice, “why you own fifteen percent of our company?”

Sure, that was why he was here, after all. “Technically, I don’t own the shares. I just paid for them.”

Linc gripped the table, his hands and knuckles white. “Then who does own the shares and why the hell did you pay for them?”

“My sister owns those shares because I thought it was right that she owned a percentage of the company her father left to you.” Tyce hesitated and thought that he might as well get it all out there so that they could move forward from a basis of truth. “I thought that, since your sister is carrying my baby, it was time to lay my cards on the table.”

And that, Tyce thought, his eyes moving from one shocked Ballantyne to another, was how you dropped a bombshell.

Shock, horror, surprise, anger...all the emotions he expected were in their faces, coating their questions, their shouted demands for more information. Tyce ignored them and kept his gaze focused on Sage, who stared at him with hellfire in her eyes.

She half stood, slapped her palms on the table and leaned toward him. “How dare you tell them without my permission?”

Tyce held her gaze and lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Because if I left it up to you, then you’d be ready to go into labor and you’d still be hemming and hawing about how to tell them, what to tell and whether you should.”

“You had no right—”

Tyce pointed at her stomach. “That’s my child in there too and, might I remind you, if you’d agreed to meet with me instead of ignoring me, then we could’ve resolved this and more.”

“More? What are you talking about?” Sage demanded, her voice vibrating with fear and concern.

Linc placed a hand on Sage’s shoulder and urged her back into the chair. “He’s talking about the shares and alluding to Connor having a daughter.”

“What? Connor never had any children,” Sage emphatically stated. “That’s crazy!”

“You’re pregnant?” Jaeger yelled.

“Everyone shut up!” Linc ordered and looked at Sage. “Let’s finish with Latimore first. Then he can get out of our hair and we can talk about your baby,” Linc added in his CEO-everyone-must-listen-to-me voice. Yeah, well, Tyce didn’t have to.

“Your optimism is amusing, Linc,” Tyce drawled. “It’s my baby too and, sorry to disappoint you, but I’m going to be around for a hell of a long time.”

“No, you’re not,” Sage stated.

“Oh, honey, I so am. But we’ll discuss that later,” Tyce said, his voice quiet but holding no trace of doubt.

“Why would you think that your sister is Connor’s daughter?” Linc asked, his jaw rock tight with annoyance.

“I don’t think she is Connor’s daughter, I know she is,” Tyce replied. Tyce saw that they were going to argue and lifted his hand. “Look, let me start at the beginning and I’ll talk you through it.”

Where to start? As he said, at the beginning. Well, at Lachlyn’s beginning, not his. They didn’t need to know about his childhood, about those dark and dismal years before, and after, Lachlyn came along. As quickly and concisely as he could, Tyce recounted the facts. His mom had worked as a night cleaner at Ballantyne International, in this very building—something he had no reason to feel ashamed of; it was honest work and if the Ballantynes were too snobby to understand that, to hell with them—and, because Connor worked long hours, they struck up a friendship. His mom and stepdad separated, she and Connor started an affair and she became pregnant.

“My mom knew that she had no future with Connor so she went back to my stepfather hoping that he’d raise Lachlyn as his.”

His stepdad, originally from Jamaica, took one look at Lachlyn, a blond-haired, blue-eyed baby, and lost his temper. Tyce took his disappearance that same day as a firm no on the raising-and-supporting-Lachlyn question. Those months following his stepfather’s disappearance had been, by far, the worst of his life. His mom sunk into what he now knew to be postpartum depression, made a hundred times worse by her normal, run-of-the-mill depression. Looking after the baby had been a struggle for her. She hadn’t had any energy left over for a confused eight-year-old boy.

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