Baby, I'm Yours [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Catherine Mann
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: From Weekend Affair To Nine-Month Commitment. Three months after a whirlwind affair, Claire McDermott discovered she was carrying Vic Jansen's child. She knew if she told him, he'd offer marriage. But she wanted more than just an honorable response from the man who once--who still--ignited her passion. After he discovered the truth, nothing was keeping Vic from his child--or the woman who continued to haunt his dreams. But Claire's demand for an emotional union wasn't something he could allow. His heart was closed and not even Claire, and her undeniable beauty, would change his mind.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Desire
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2006
38 Reader Ratings:
Charleston, S.C.: Three-and-a-half months later
"Claire, if you handle a man with as much finesse as you're using on that swizzle stick, it's no wonder you sleep alone."
Tucked in a corner of her bustling restaurant kitchen, Claire surrendered the pitcher of mint juleps to her sister before she sloshed ice onto the counter. "Swizzle stick? Either you're more innocent than you let on or you've just insulted some poor guy in a big—or would that be little?—way."
"Guilty as charged," Starr answered ambiguously as she assumed control of the fragrant mixed drink, sprinkling fresh mint leaves on top before passing it over to a waitress.
Claire picked through her herb garden in the open window while stifling the urge to blurt how she'd handled one man a little too well three-and-a-half months ago. Now, she had a permanent reminder of that weekend-long sensual feast last January.
Her hands shook as she snagged the empty bowl for parsley sprigs. "I'm too busy for a love life."
Today in particular, she had enough on her plate feeding the Beachcombers Bar and Grill Saturday lunch crowd while prepping for the packed week of catering events. Even with the help of her two foster sisters, co-owners in the business, soon she would be busier still with a baby on her hip. Not that she intended to let that information leak to the kitchen full of staff clanging pots and filling orders.
She had to tell the baby's daddy first.
And she would—after this week passed and she could compose herself with a long bubble bath. She'd only been delaying telling Vic out of practicality. Right? Ever reasonable, she always made the practical decision.
Except for once, and that whopper had landed her in the same shoes as her pregnant unwed mama. However, unlike her mama, Claire was blessed with resources and choices. No one would force her to hand over her child.
Starr rolled silverware inside napkins with lightning speed, pouring more of that frenetic energy into swaying along with beach music thrumming through the sound system. "Who said anything about love? I'm only talking about you getting out more, dating. Pencil in some fun time on that perfectly ordered daily agenda of yours."
Even Starr's dark hair snapped with energy, curls straining to pop free from the constraining long braid while Claire felt more like one of the wrung-out rags in the industrial sink.
"I am enjoying life since I love my work." Huffing a lank wisp off her forehead, she scooched closer to the counter to make way for a waiter balancing a cornbread-stuffed catfish special.
Her hand drifted downward. She stopped shy of her stomach, shooting a quick glance at her younger foster sister. Starr's eagle eye missed nothing, a skill gained from her time on the streets before she landed in the same foster home as Claire and their other foster sister, Ashley.
Claire eyed the swinging door with longing. If only she could dash out of the humid kitchen, away from too-discerning questions. But she couldn't risk leaving for at least an hour since Vic Jansen had parked his fine butt in her dining room for lunch.
"Work," Starr snorted. "Work won't sizzle you with a look or have you ready to climb out of your skin after a kiss."
Do not think of Vic. Vic's kiss. Vic's hard-muscled body under her hands, his tall strength covering her with such seductive gentleness and utter confidence in every deep stroke.
Uh-oh. Hormone alert.
Claire clipped a fistful of chives, ran them under the faucet and fanned them along the butcher block. "Cooking is relaxing." Order in the middle of chaos. "I had a blast decorating that baby shower cake last night, listening to the spring rain patter."
Until she'd fallen asleep in her frosting. Claire whacked the chives.
Work might not launch her hormones into overdrive, but it also didn't confuse her like the man eating in the next room. She needed reliability in her life, especially now. Even with its shoestring budget, her business provided more stability than any man with broad shoulders that screamed to her fingers explore me…
A crash echoed from the narrow hall.
Claire winced at the clatter of shattering china. Superstitious Starr snatched a saltshaker from the counter and pitched a pinch over her shoulder.
Another reason to keep quiet about the baby. Claire refused to let anyone label this pregnancy the latest in a gosh-awful string of bad luck alongside a leaky roof. A broken water pipe. A rotten board giving way on a porch she could have sworn was in pristine condition. All expensive repairs she could ill-afford if she wanted to keep the business.
Jeez, some days she almost wondered if somebody was out to ruin her—or her house.
Not a chance would she let that happen. This historic old wreck was the only real home she'd ever had. Her biological mother had skipped from apartment to apartment, shelters sometimes too, depending on her finances. Tina McDermott had tried her best to provide for her daughter, but as a seventeen-year-old single mother booted out by her parents before graduation…well, options sucked.
The Department of Social Services had removed Claire at age eight, after discovering Tina was leaving her child alone to work the midnight shift at a truck stop. The Department of Social Services had placed Claire in the care of a kooky, wonderful old woman with a dilapidated antebellum mansion, no money, and a half dozen foster daughters. Many more came and went, placed with permanent families. All but Starr, Ashley and her. When "Aunt" Libby died just over a year ago, she'd left the house to the three of them. Starting a restaurant together was a near-impossible dream, but one they held tenaciously.
Starr passed a basketful of rolled napkins to a busboy before turning back to Claire. "Maybe I'm being a little pushy today because I'm worried about you pulling off all these parties. No offense, but you look like hell."
"Not a problem. You're talking to me. Remember?" She picked up her knife and resumed chopping. "The Queen of Anal Retentive. Who wouldn't look like hell during a busy lunch hour?"
Copyright © 2006 by Catherine Mann