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Baby for the Billionaire
Bonus Chapter

Twenty Years Later

I was on a beautiful beach on the Pacific Ocean, the sun setting to my right and splaying indescribably shades of red and orange across the Costa Rican sky.
But I was more miserable than I had ever been in my life.
“Come on, Mel!” came some cheers up ahead in the treeline. “Let’s go Mel!”
I had been running all day. Well, most of the day. We had boarded our bus at five in the morning to drive two hours into the jungle for the start of today’s twenty-eight mile run. The first twenty miles were in the jungle, up and down endless hills. The last five miles were on the beach. I had done a lot of walking. And a lot of cursing.
The path veered left into the trees, where the finish line and all the others were waiting. The cheering rose as I mustered my last bit of energy to jog across the finish, where the race director gave me a hug and draped a medal around my neck.
“You did amazing, baby,” Pierce said, hugging me next.
“I finished,” I said.
“Exactly. That’s an accomplishment in a race like this.”
“The biggest accomplishment was not murdering you after the first day,” I replied.
“You did it, Mom!” Mary Louise said. Unlike me, my daughter was barely sweating and looked fresh. Her blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail, and she had changed into fresh clothes.
“You finished ahead of me?” I asked.
“Yeah! I don’t know how. I thought you would have come across hours ago.”
I held up a foot. “Bad blister on my heel. Did a lot of walking. But enough about me. I’m so proud of you, honey!”
Mary Louise hugged me, and made a face because of all the sweat. She was grinning, though, which put a smile on my face. When we had signed up, I wasn’t sure if she would enjoy this kind of race. It showed that she took after her father.
“Here,” Pierce said, handing me a beer. “Drink this. You’ll feel better.”
I chugged half the beer. It was cold and refreshing and it did make me feel better. Until I saw that Mary Louise was holding one down by her hip.
“When did we decide to allow this?” I asked Pierce.
“It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. She asked, so I said yes.”
“I hate to break it to you, Mom,” she said dryly, “but I’ve had beer before.”
“Can’t you just lie to your poor mother?” I asked.
She responded by taking a sip of her beer. Then, in a flat tone, she said, “Ugh. It’s so gross. I’ll never drink alcohol again.”
“Thank you.”
Pierce put his arm around me and led me into the camp. There were still a few runners out on the course, but everyone else was already in various states of celebration: drinking, relaxing on the ground, laughing about the race. There was an air of relief; everyone, including me, was happy to be finished.
After finishing my beer, I went through the routine that had occupied me every day of the race: showering, laying my clothes out to dry, chugging two bottles of electrolytes, and then hitting up the food tent. They were serving steak tonight, a special treat for the final night.
The sun set, and everyone gathered around a huge bonfire on the beach. Mary Louise rested her head on my shoulder, and Pierce put his arm around both of us as we stared into the fire.
“Glad you did it?” he asked me.
“No. I still hate you a little bit right now,” I replied. “But I’m glad it’s over, and it was one hell of an adventure. Just don’t look at my feet.”
“That bad, huh?”
“They look like a war crime. Blisters on all the toes, and peeling skin from all the water.”
Pierce kissed my hair. “I still think you’re sexy.”
Mary Louise made a gagging noise. “My friends’ parents don’t say stuff like that to each other. Can’t you two just be normal?”
Pierce and I grinned at each other. We were still crazy about each other, and wouldn’t apologize for it.
I slept well that night knowing I wouldn’t have to get up and run the next morning. I woke up and leisurely went about my morning routine while everyone began tearing down their tents and packing away their gear. Then we hopped on buses for the six hour drive back to San Jose.
We could have had a helicopter pick us up right on the beach, but we were trying to blend in. For as many years as Pierce had been doing this race under an alias, nobody had figured out who he really was. Mary Louise didn’t complain about the long ride, even though the bus lacked air conditioning. She pulled out her eBook and quietly enjoyed the ride.
We had done everything in our power to keep our daughter grounded. Somehow, despite growing up with indescribable wealth, she had turned out pretty darn amazing. She loved to learn, and made friends with everyone she met. She rarely complained, unless it was something that really annoyed her. Most importantly, she had completed the week of The Coastal Challenge with an acceptable amount of griping. She’d certainly complained less than I did while sleeping in a hot, humid tent every night for a week straight.
Somehow, we had raised her to be an amazing young woman. I credited the character of her three fathers.
When we arrived in San Jose, we said goodbye to all the other racers and then took an Uber to the airport, where our helicopter was waiting. That wasn’t a surprise—but what did surprise us was who was waiting there.
Mary Louise jumped out of the car and sprinted toward the helicopter. “Tristan! Andrew!” She threw herself into their arms. “I thought I would see you on the Bellerophon.”
“We wanted to meet you here, kiddo,” Andrew replied. “Show us that medal!”
Mary Louise proudly held out the medal that was hanging around her neck. “I beat Mom!”
Tristan feigned shocked. “Certainly not.”
“I did! I beat her by three hours on the last day.”
Tristan turned to me. “Darling, is this true?”
“Unfortunately so.” I hugged and kissed both of them. “Let me remind you that I didn’t want to do this race. I only signed up for it due to peer pressure. So it’s no surprise that she beat me.”
“You’re fit!” Mary Louise said. “You run all the time! And you played soccer at Brown!”
“That was almost thirty years ago. These knees can’t handle as much running as they used to.”
“You did great,” Pierce said as he joined us. “Completing The Coastal Challenge is a huge accomplishment. Over half the participants dropped out.”
“Let’s talk about it on the way home,” Mary Louise insisted. “I can’t wait to be back in the air conditioning. And in my own bed.”
“And perhaps a nice Pinot Grigio with supper,” Tristan told her. “I managed to secure three bottles of your favorite from Far Niente.”
She cleared her throat. “Be cool, Tristan. Damn.”
I gave a start. “You knew she’s had alcohol?”
“She left for college two years ago,” Andrew told me gently. “Surely this isn’t a surprise, Mel.”
“The fact that Tristan’s been giving her wine is a surprise, yes!”
“What did you expect me to do? Allow her delicate palette to be molded by keg beer and box wine?” Tristan shivered.
We continued the half-hearted argument in the helicopter while flying east. Soon, the familiar sight of Pierce’s former private island appeared on the coast, with the Bellerophon resting in dock. The mansion was abuzz with activity; five students were relaxing by the pool, while another dozen were preparing for a hike down at the edge of the jungle. They were all wearing backpacks and had various equipment in their hands.
“Home sweet home,” I said with a happy sigh.
“Is it really true you used to live in that place?” Mary Louise asked while we circled around.
“It’s true,” Pierce replied.
“But it’s so big. I read that it houses two dozen graduate students. I can’t believe you had all that space just for you.”
“I lived pretty lavishly back then,” Pierce admitted.
“I can’t imagine living more lavish than we already do,” she muttered. “I’m the only girl in my class who lives on a yacht during the summer.”
“We’re pretty lucky,” I told her, smiling at my three husbands. “Want to visit the research lab? The professor who runs it loves to give tours.”
“Yeah!” Mary Louise said with genuine excitement. After a pause, she added, “But maybe after dinner. Right now, all I want to do is sit down and not move for a while.”
“We’ll go tomorrow,” Pierce promised her. “I’ll show you the room that used to house my art collection. It’s the data lab now.”
“Art collection? You used to collect art?”
“I was pretty cool back then,” Pierce replied. “Back before I was just a cool dad.”
“You’re just a dad,” Mary Louise said. “I wouldn’t give you the cool moniker yet. Although The Coastal Challenge is way cooler than what all my friends’ dads do. Most of them just sit around drinking beer and watching football.”
“That sounds pretty great right about now,” Pierce said. “Much better than Pinot Grigio.”
“Well, nobody ever accused you of having good taste,” Tristan muttered.
The five of us laughed as the helicopter began its landing.

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