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Twin Surprise [Secure eReader]
eBook by Jacqueline Diamond

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: The scars from Marta Lawson's near-fatal accident have faded, but she still doubts her ability to attract a man--never mind one as handsome as the Villazon police department's Derek Reed. But when the sergeant comes up for auction at a charity event, her friends have the winning bid--and a dream date with the blond poster boy turns out to be her birthday gift. Finding herself in the arms of the charismatic cop is so intoxicating she throws caution to the wind, and she's not totally surprised a month later when her doctor gives her some (doubly!) electrifying news she dreads sharing with the elusive bachelor. But he's hiding a surprise, too. Will it break them apart--or bring them closer together?

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/American Romance
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2007

18 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter One

If she ever had a chance at a storybook wedding, Marta Lawson thought, she'd choose one just like this: a beautiful Saturday in October, the church filling with friends and family and, waiting at the altar, a man too special for words.

Well, best not to think about that last part.

She refocused on the decorations she'd helped select. Amid the blue-and-white flower arrangements, porcelain-doll faces peered out of frosty lace cascades like princesses from another world. In the foyer, a doll wearing a replica of the bridal gown sat on a tabletop beside the guest book.

The bride—Marta's cousin Connie—had devised additional charming touches: china figurines arranged here and there amid miniature bouquets, and prisms by the windows that split the light into shimmering colors. Connie's owning two boutiques and a hospital gift concession gave her and Marta, the maid of honor, a definite edge when it came to finding such treasures. Marta, in fact, managed the concession, located in the Mesa View Medical Center in Villazon, California. She took pride in ferreting out appealing items from catalogs and Internet sites.

"Connie sure did a number on this place," said bridesmaid Rachel McKenzie, who at five foot eleven towered over the diminutive Marta. The two stood in the otherwise empty vestibule, sneaking peeks into the sanctuary. At any minute, the photo-taking of the bride with her parents would finish and the ceremony could begin.

Mercifully, Connie had allowed her two attendants to wear blue dresses instead of her original choice, shell pink, which hadn't suited Rachel at all. Nevertheless, the taller bridesmaid kept fidgeting as if she couldn't wait to change into her usual attire: police uniform and boots. As for Marta, her shorter stature wasn't all the guests might notice. Despite her best efforts, her tendrils of light brown, shoulder-length hair didn't entirely hide the scars from a near-fatal car crash nearly a dozen years ago, and the walk down the aisle would inevitably expose her limp.

But to be able to walk at all was a blessing. And her scars…well, what did a few blemishes matter in the wake of near tragedy?

Okay, in one respect they did matter. If Marta were pretty and graceful, the best man, Sergeant Derek Reed, might see her as something more than a buddy.

But she wouldn't like that, not really. At the police department, Derek had a reputation as a playboy. And at the hospital, where he conducted weekly crime-prevention seminars, the nurses who dropped into Marta's shop referred to him as Sergeant Hit-and-Run.

Wistfully, she gazed past the rows of guests, who included fellow employees, police colleagues of the groom's and a sprinkling of other friends and relatives. Near the altar, her gaze riveted on the masculine figure poised beside the groom.

Derek in a tuxedo constituted overkill: a well-toned body, thick blond hair and dark eyes that surveyed the scene with deceptive laziness. He drew feminine interest as easily as he breathed.

Not only was he a close friend of Connie's husband-to-be, Detective Hale Crandall, but both men had originally entered Marta's circle of friends several years ago as buddies of Connie's first husband, Sergeant—now Lieutenant—Joel Simmons. During her cousin's troubled early marriage and the years following the divorce, Marta had succeeded in banishing the unattainable Derek to the periphery of her thoughts.

Then, nearly a year ago, the police chief had appointed him to the position of community relations and public information officer. His tasks included finessing the questions of reporters intent on rehashing old police department scandals, a good post for such an articulate man.

His duties also included coordinating a public service program to detect and prevent crimes ranging from child neglect to prescription-drug abuse. In that capacity, he visited the hospital every Thursday morning for staff meetings.

To the best of Marta's knowledge, he'd had two girlfriends during this period, neither of whom had lasted more than a few months. There'd also been several flirtations, most—in her observation—instigated by the women.

When he arrived for the meetings, Derek had formed the habit of stopping in to purchase a candy bar and swap jokes with Marta. She searched the Internet for funny items to inspire his wonderful deep laughter.

How exhausting to feel eager anticipation each time he approached and rueful disappointment when he left! Maybe if he fell in love with someone, she'd finally see what a hopeless case she was and get over him.

Marta sighed. When Rachel quirked an eyebrow, she covered her feelings by gesturing toward the sanctuary. "Doesn't everyone look great all dressed up?"

"I think Skip needs to go to the bathroom," replied the pragmatic Rachel, indicating the seven-year-old ring bearer. The former foster child, whom the bride and groom were adopting, bounced from one foot to the other.

"He's just excited," Marta said.

"Somebody ought to calm him down before he ricochets off the wall," Rachel responded.

Hale must have entertained similar thoughts, because he aimed a couple of mock punches at his son-to-be. The two tussled playfully before settling into their proper positions once more.

Marta saw Derek give a half smile. Once the most outgoing in a highly sociable group of police officers, he'd begun holding himself apart in recent months. At least, he'd seemed that way to Marta; no one else had commented on the change. Perhaps he'd always maintained a certain reserve and she simply hadn't noticed.

The swish of fabric drew the bridesmaids' attention toward the hall. Connie had arrived with her mother and father in tow. Her stepmother had taken a seat earlier.

Marta's beautiful blond cousin had always been a draw for men. Today, in a sleek silk gown, a wreath of flowers and a glow of happiness, she looked magnificent.

Copyright © 2007 by Jackie Hyman.

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