Marrying For A Momñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“I love that kid so much—so damn much—”
Logan said, “that the thought of losing her just…”
A hard, hot lump formed in Whitney’s throat. God knows, she’d do anything for Logan Monroe. All he had to do was ask.
“I’ll find a replacement for the special teddy bear your little foster daughter lost,” she said. “I promise.”
“Can you believe I’m looking high and low for a teddy bear?” Logan asked. “Sometimes I think it would be easier just to find myself a wife. Maybe that would make the adoption caseworker happy.”
Whitney stared into Logan’s blue eyes, and the most unimaginable, awesome thought crossed her mind. She had to bite her lip, and her cheeks ached from trying not to smile as she considered offering herself up as the sacrificial lamb.
But could she bring herself to say it? Could she actually…propose?
September is here again, bringing the end of summer—but not the end of relaxing hours spent with a good book. This month Silhouette brings you six new Romance novels that will fill your leisure hours with pleasure. And don’t forget to see how Silhouette Books makes you a star!
First, Myrna Mackenzie continues the popular MAITLAND MATERNITY series with A Very Special Delivery, when Laura Maitland is swept off her feet on the way to the delivery room! Then we’re off to DESTINY, TEXAS, where, in This Kiss, a former plain Jane returns home to teach the class heartthrob a thing or two about chemistry. Don’t miss this second installment of Teresa Southwick’s exciting series. Next, in Cinderella After Midnight, the first of Lilian Darcy’s charming trilogy THE CINDERELLA CONSPIRACY, we go to a ball with “Lady Catrina”—who hasn’t bargained on a handsome millionaire seeing through her disguise….
Whitney Bloom’s dreams come true in DeAnna Talcott’s Marrying for a Mom, when she marries the man she loves—even if only to keep custody of his daughter. In Wed by a Will, the conclusion of THE WEDDING LEGACY, reader favorite Cara Colter brings together a new family—and reunites us with other members. Then, a prim and proper businesswoman finds she wants a lot more from the carpenter who’s remodeling her house than watertight windows in Gail Martin’s delightful Her Secret Longing.
Be sure to return next month for Stella Bagwell’s conclusion to MAITLAND MATERNITY and the start of a brand-new continuity—HAVING THE BOSS’S BABY! Beloved author Judy Christenberry launches this wonderful series with When the Lights Went Out… Don’t miss any of next month’s wonderful tales.
Marrying for a Mom
Dedicated to the memory of Jeanne Breaugh, and the
LaSenorita bunch she mentored—Lisa, Joyce, Dickee, Lana, Diane and Marjorie.
They labor over words, plots and GMC while taking a few sneaky time-outs to turn down the volume of the mariachi music.
Books by DeAnna Talcott
The Cowboy and the Christmas Tree #1125
The Bachelor and the Bassinet #1189
To Wed Again? #1206
The Triplet’s Wedding Wish #1370
Marrying for a Mom #1543
grew up in rural Nebraska, where her love of reading was fostered in a one-room school. It was there she first dreamed of writing the kinds of books that would touch people’s hearts. Her dream became a reality when not one, but two of her Silhouette Romance novels won Readers’ Choice Awards. Those books also earned her a slot as a Romantic Times Magazine nominee, while The Bachelor and the Bassinet was named as one of Romantic Times Magazine’s Top Picks.
DeAnna claims that a retired husband, three children, two dogs and a matching pair of alley cats make her life in mid-Michigan particularly interesting. When not writing, or talking about writing, she scrounges in flea markets to indulge #1 son’s quest for vintage toys, relaxes at #2 son’s Eastern Michigan football and baseball games, and insists, to her daughter, that two cats simply do not need to multiply!
Whitney Bloom paused, then reached over to readjust Byron’s handcrafted sweater. Byron, Whitney’s favorite teddy bear, occupied the spot next to the cash register in her specialty store, Teddy Bear Heaven. Like a silent partner, he’d spent the last six years listening to all her hopes and dreams, and commiserating with all her disappointments.
“You know what?” she whispered to Byron. “If we work our fingers to the bone this summer, we could be solvent in six months.” Levering her elbows against the counter, she threaded her ankles around the stool rungs and raised slightly off the wooden stool she sat on. She picked up another bolt, convinced she’d have the teddy bear-size park bench assembled in record time. “I predict—” she paused for dramatic effect, and waved the screwdriver “—that there will be a bumper crop of tourists in Melville this summer, and every one will want—no, need—a teddy bear to take home to their kids. In fact, right at this very minute, someone, somewhere, is thinking that what they really need is a teddy bear to cuddle and love.”
The bell over the front door tinkled. Whitney looked up, astonished to think her prediction had come true, and promptly lost her balance. The bolt she had just picked up skittered across the wide plank flooring.
From across the room, and with the sun at his back, a man’s silhouette reached over the hardwood flooring, nearly to the glass case she was sitting behind. As he stepped into her showroom, Whitney recognized the wide shoulders and lean arms, the tapered waist and muscular thighs.
Two heartbeats of dead silence followed, and a million uninvited memories made Whitney’s knees buckle.
Suddenly her heart did a little tap dance, just as it did every time she saw him. The heel-toe combination made her go weak all over. Then, Logan flashed her the famous Monroe smile—the same one the Melville Post routinely printed in the Sunday edition of the want ads. The copy beneath his photo never changed, and she should know because she read it faithfully: Logan Monroe, Realtor, specializing in vacation properties for Melville, Lake Justice and the southeastern Tennessee area.
Whitney’s composure plummeted. Her stomach turned inside out. Her mouth went dry and her heart pounded. Whitney hadn’t seen Logan in twelve years; saying she was tongue-tied would be an understatement.
“Hey, sorry about that,” Logan said easily, without really looking at her. When he doubled over to pick the bolt up off the floor, Whitney stared at the smooth arc of his shoulders, aware his clothes looked loose on him, as if he’d lost a little weight. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” He sidestepped the child-size teddy bear table and chair set that was in the middle of the crowded room, and laid the bolt on the counter.
Whitney gazed at it, half-afraid to pick it up for fear she would drop it all over again. The muscles in her shoulders constricted.
Logan didn’t really look at her, his gaze was fixed on the shelves behind her, where the expensive collector bears and one-of-a-kinds were housed. “I’m looking for a bear.”
With only six feet between them, Whitney realized Logan still looked the same. Only older. Better.
He still carried his six-foot-four frame with the same self-confidence. His hair—one shade darker than tobacco—was now sheared straight, and closely cropped. His angular face and thick jaw complemented brows that were perfectly matched slashes over cobalt eyes. His nose was narrow at the bridge, his nostrils, wide and thick. His mouth was full, and had a tendency to twitch when amused.
“Then you’ve come to the right place,” Whitney managed to say as Logan started moving around the counter.
He stopped, turning on his heel. From behind a rack of teddy bear barrettes and hair clips, Logan shimmied a glance in her direction.
Whitney noted the faint smile lines fanning from the corners of his eyes and shivered. He was despicably good-looking, that’s what he was. Despicably good-looking.
“Whitney…?” he said as a flicker of recognition sparked behind his eyes. His mouth had worked its way around her name, whispering it softly, as if in disbelief. “Oh, my God, Whit…is it you?”
She nodded slowly, her breath shallow. She briefly debated whether she should offer up an apology for what had happened all those years ago or just forget it. She wondered how much he remembered.
“Damn. Why didn’t you say something?”
She guiltily lifted both shoulders. “I don’t know. When you came in the door, I didn’t think you’d ever look at me. Really look, I mean. And then I didn’t know if I should…because…”
“Whitney. C’mon,” he chided. Then he took her in. From the top of her professionally highlighted, chin-length cut, to the gold bracelet on her wrist, and the pearl studs in her ears. His gaze lingered on the understated elegance of her sweater and matching slacks before his jaw slid off center. “I’m looking,” he said. “And I mean really, really looking,” he emphasized.
Whitney’s smile grew more tentative. “It’s been a long time, Logan.”
“It has. Too long, Whit.”
Still, the uncertainty of their past hung between them. Harsh words, threats, and accusations had all been rolled up into their last goodbye. It had been a nasty scene. Logan had been outraged, Whitney defensive. To make matters worse, her ex-husband had offered up a dozen feeble excuses as to why Logan’s books didn’t balance and his petty cash was missing. It had been the only time Whitney had ever heard Logan raise his voice; it had been the only time Whitney had ever let anyone but Gram see her cry.
They both stood there, awkwardly, both unsure of what to say.
“I always wanted to—”
They both laughed self-consciously, both biting back apologies.
“Okay. This is crazy. Look. I feel like I should hug you or something…” He lifted his arms, awkwardly, as if he didn’t know the correct protocol for when old friends, who were no longer friends, let time patch up their differences.
He glanced down at the glass counter standing between them.
For a second, a long-held fantasy went winging through Whitney’s head. Logan, a superhero, would leap over the barriers that separated them, then sweep her into his arms. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive. He could fix anything, he could move mountains, he could mend hearts.
Shaking herself free of the daydream, Whitney took it upon herself to make something happen: she slid from the stool and extended her hand.
For a moment, everything seemed disjointed. Like pieces that were trying to fit back together again. Her gold bracelet glittered beneath the overhead fluorescent lighting, and her French manicured nails made her fingers appear long and slender and cultured.
They both knew she wasn’t. Cultured, that is. In Melville, she’d been raised on the “other” side of the tracks.
His hand reached for hers. The bones in his wrist were thick, his knuckles dimpled. The smattering of dark hair over the back of his hand was sexy, evoking powerful images of strength and wealth and confidence.
They had no business joining hands—and she had no business feeling the way she did about him. Especially after everything that had happened.
“Whitney.” Logan clasped her fingers, then covered the back of her hand with his palm as she came around the counter. A liquid warmth spread through her, convincing her the past was forgotten, that he was genuinely pleased to see her. “You look—” his gaze slipped down her front, all the way to her skimmers “—great.” When he lifted his eyes, their gaze caught and held. “Wonderful,” he amended. “Absolutely, positively stunning.”
Whitney’s smile softened, and she felt a rush of heat, from the inside out.
“You know,” he reminded, “we’ve got a lot of history together.”
“And not all of it good.” She couldn’t help herself, the truth had to come out.
Logan grimaced, then gave her fingers a light squeeze before reluctantly loosening them. “Hey. Remember the time we connected on that pitching mound at the company picnic, and my watch did a number on your chin?” he asked, intentionally changing the subject.
Her forefinger automatically flicked over the spot. “How could I forget three stitches and a tetanus?”
He critically eyed the tiny white scar, and his hands moved as if they had a will of their own, to capture her jaw between thumb and forefinger, and angle the spot closer for his inspection. “I practically mowed you down, going after that fly ball.” Logan distinctly remembered how she’d crumpled beneath him, all soft, in a flurry of fighting limbs. The scent of leather gloves and dirt and diamond dust, and the thwunk as her chin connected with his wrist. But the worst was, after they’d collided, her husband yanked her up off the ground, dusted her off and told Logan not to worry, no damage. He’d had to remind himself to forget it, to tell himself it was none of his business, that she was married and that she belonged to someone else. Then he’d had to beat back the regrets. “The insurance cover three stitches and a tetanus?”
Whitney started to shake her head, but stopped, not wanting to break from his touch. “It doesn’t matter. It was a long time ago.”
The intensity of his blue gaze held her, as if he were trying to absorb her and look into her soul. A tremulous anxiety clutched Whitney, making her falter, making her breathing erratic.
“Logan?” she finally whispered.
“It…um…it left a mark,” he murmured, refocusing on her chin, as his thumb gently flicked over the tiny cleft.
“It barely shows.”
His fingers fell away. “Still…the physical evidence remains. We’ve had more brushes with fate than any two people should have to endure.”
The moment—and the references—were awkward.
Whitney’s smile thinned. Logan deftly changed the subject. Again.
“Damn, I’ve driven by this place a hundred times. I can’t believe you own it.”
“Lease it,” Whitney qualified.
“So…” he said softly, considering. “You’re the teddy bear lady.”
Whitney tipped her head. “Please. Don’t you dare say it’s cute. I love it, but it’s a business and it pays the bills. I have every kind and type of teddy bear you could ever imagine.”
“I guess you do.” Logan swept the room with an all-inclusive look. It was jam-packed with teddy bears. Teddy bear toothbrushes swung on a revolving display, and teddy bear books were wedged on teddy bear bookshelves. There were teddy bear clocks, jewelry, stationery and stickers. Teddy bear erasers, pencils, pens and rulers. Framed prints, and bath accessories. Even shower curtains, regular curtains, blankets and rugs. He chuckled, his smile riding a tad bit higher on the left. “But I never intended to say ‘cute.’ I’m impressed. It’s a great concept. When I look around, I’m inclined to buy the store out.”
“What? And reduce my inventory?” she asked dryly.
“Whitney, this place is great. And it’s just like you to think of something this clever.”
The praise startled Whitney, putting a pink flush in her cheeks.
“What?” he asked, mimicking her. “Am I embarrassing you?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I mean it. You were the one who always came up with the most creative ideas in high school. You were the one with the interesting slant on life.”
“Out of necessity.”
“Right. Like the time you suggested that instead of having a formal banquet for the National Honor Society, we have a picnic? That was the best day ever, and you were responsible for it. A whole day at the beach, playing Frisbee, and volleyball, and splashing around.”
A shred of guilt crept into Whitney’s conscience; she’d suggested the idea because she didn’t have the twenty-five dollars for the banquet ticket.
“And what about that idea you had for prom? Fifties night at the Peppermint Lounge? We got by decorating with peppermint sticks, borrowed a jukebox and used the rest of the money in the treasury for catering the senior banquet so it didn’t cost any of us a cent.” A second guilty flush prickled over the back of Whitney’s neck. She’d intended to go, and wear an old fifties formal Gram had tucked away in the attic. “And to top it off,” he went on, “after you came up with the idea, you never even went to the prom. I specifically went looking for you, to con you out of one dance.”
Whitney shrugged, her smile tight as she minimized the details. “Gram’s health was kind of up and down just then.”
Logan sobered. “You always did have a lot of responsibility looking after her.”
“Logan. She was looking after me.”
“I think,” he said slowly, “you looked after each other.” He chuckled, as another memory hit him. “Your gram was something else, though. I’ll never forget how she rode all over Melville on that three-wheel bike of hers.”
Whitney shifted uncomfortably; Gram had ridden a bicycle because they couldn’t afford a car. The truth was, Whitney and Logan had hung out with different crowds, and had literally been from opposite sides of the have/have-not world.
Logan had lived in a big house on the hill, and spent his summers tanning at the country club. His parents owned several car dealerships, and made sure their only son never lacked for a thing. He’d loved playing the part of the big, brash jock, and had run around Melville in a brand-new sports car, making sure he was noticed on every intersection by revving his engine and waving at all the girls.
Whitney, raised by her grandmother, had lived in a rented bungalow just off of Main. It was a dilapidated little house, with a barren scrap of a front yard, and a painted tractor tire that held a few scraggly petunias. Whitney never invited friends in because they stared at the black spots on the linoleum, the water rings on the drop ceiling, and the peeling wallpaper in the front room. Still, she loved Gram dearly, and it would have cut her to the quick to have anyone say Gram hadn’t provided for her.
Without warning, Logan reached across her, to skim the tiny teddy bear charm from around her neck and balance it on the pad of his forefinger. The fine gold chain swayed beneath her chin, pulling slightly.
“Just like this shop…” he said, catching Whitney’s eye. This close, the sloe-dark color on her eyelids was fascinating. He leaned closer, thinking she smelled like a crazy mixture of vanilla and fabric softener. The links in the necklace, draped over the hollow of her throat, rolled up and down with every breath she took. “Details. Perfect details, Whit. Only you could pull this off.”
“Maybe. But teddy bears aren’t as fancy as real estate, or owning car dealerships or a marina, so—”
“No,” he said quickly, letting the teddy bear charm fall from the tip of his finger. “It fits. Only you could do something this memorable. Something that would touch people and put a soft spot in their heart.”
Whitney shuddered. Matters of the heart were the last thing she wanted to discuss. Especially with Logan Monroe. “Okay, Logan,” she said unsteadily, “I know you didn’t come in here to give me warm fuzzies, and admire my shop. What’s up?”
Logan’s mouth quirked, but the light in his eyes slowly faded. “I came in here to replace a teddy bear,” he said, his tone subtly changing. “I should have done it months ago, but…hey, look,” he went on, his voice suddenly lifting, “I want to show you something. In fact, I’m proud to show you this little something….” Logan reached in his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, flipping through the plastic windows. On the opposite side, a sliver of plastic showed: American Express Platinum.
Whitney blanched, thinking how some things—even a piece of plastic—can put you in your place. In her wallet, she carried only one low-limit credit card to the local discount store. It had been all she could do to get this store off the ground, and every cent she’d had she put back into the business. For a year, she’d slept on a rollaway in the back room and cooked on a hot plate.
“Here,” he announced, pausing at the photo of a little girl perched on a wicker rocker. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, and in her hands, and propped over her shoulder, an exquisite lace parasol framed the tangle of flaxen curls cascading over her shoulders. “I had this taken for my wife two years ago. For Mother’s Day.”
Whitney couldn’t breathe. “Your daughter?” she said numbly. She knew Logan had married a girl from Memphis, but she hadn’t known they’d had a child.
“My foster daughter.”
“The bear’s for her,” Whitney guessed, vaguely hearing his clarification.
He nodded. “See?” he said. “That’s the bear she always used to carry around. The photographer propped it against the chair because Amanda insisted it had to be in the picture. She never went anywhere without it.”
Amanda. Her name was Amanda.
“She’s darling, Logan.”
His smile was full and proud. “Thanks. And I want a teddy bear just like that.”
Whitney started, and swiveled toward Logan. “That may not be possible,” she warned before squinting back at the photo. She wasn’t able to make out any real details, but there were thousands of styles of teddy bears, and hundreds of manufacturers with their own distinctive signature.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî