Linda Goodnight.

Saved By The Baby






Not just my daughter, Tate. Our daughter.

Our daughter? He blinked, uncomprehending. What are you talking about?

When I left here nearly ten years ago, I was carrying your baby.

A daughter? Tate felt as if hed been sucker-punched. I have a little girl? He dropped back into the chair and sat there, too shocked to speak.

Taking a deep breath, he thrust a hand over the tips of his hair, sliding the fingers to the back of his head where he held on, trying to keep from losing his mind.

He had a little girl.

A dozen questions crowded his mind.

Why? Why hadnt Julee told him?

And why was she telling him now?

Dear Reader,

Here is an acronym that explains why you should not miss the opportunity to enjoy four new love stories from Silhouette Romance so close to Valentines Day:

L is for the last title in Silhouette Romances delightful MARRYING THE BOSSS DAUGHTER six-book continuity. So far, Emily Winters has thwarted her fathers attempts to marry her off. But has Daddys little girl finally met her matrimonial match? Find out in One Bachelor To Go (#1706) by Nicole Burnham.

O is for the ornery cowboy whos in for a life change when he is forced to share his homeand his heart with a gun-toting single mom and her kids, in Patricia Thayers Wyatts Ready-Made Family (#1707). Its the latest title in Thayers continuing THE TEXAS BROTHERHOOD miniseries.

V is for the great vibes youll get from Teresa Southwicks Flirting With the Boss (#1708). This is the second title of Southwicks IF WISHES WEREterrific new miniseries in which three friends wishes magically come true.

E is for the emotion youll feel as you read Saved by the Baby (#1709) by Linda Goodnight. In this heartwarming story, a desperate young mothers quest to save her daughters life leads her back to the childs father, her first and only love.

Read all four of these fabulous stories. I guarantee theyll get you in the mood for l-o-v-e!

Mavis C. Allen

Associate Senior Editor

Saved by the Baby

Linda Goodnight


www.millsandboon.co.uk

This book is dedicated to Samuel Barker.

May you have a long and blessed life. You are my hero.

Books by Linda Goodnight

Silhouette Romance

For Her Child #1569

Married in a Month #1682

Her Pregnant Agenda #1690

Saved by the Baby #1709

LINDA GOODNIGHT

A romantic at heart, Linda Goodnight believes in the traditional values of family and home. Writing books enables her to share her certainty that, with faith and perseverance, love can last forever and happy endings really are possible.

A native of Oklahoma, Linda lives in the country with her husband, Gene, and Mugsy, an adorably obnoxious rat terrier.

She and Gene have a blended family of six grown children. An elementary school teacher, she is also a licensed nurse. When time permits, Linda loves to read, watch football and rodeo and indulge in chocolate. She also enjoys taking long, calorie-burning walks in the nearby woods. Readers can write to her at linda@lindagoodnight.com.

Dear Reader,

If ever I wrote a book of my heart, you are holding it in your hands. Immediately after I conceived the idea of a mothers desperate search for a bone marrow donor for her child, my daughter introduced me via e-mail to a family who was fighting the same battle to save their son.

With amazing generosity and sometimes painful honesty, Samuels family shared hisand theirstruggle. They relayed Sams journey through e-mail updates and heartrending photographs, believing that through the telling, listeners would be moved to give the precious gift of bone marrow so that other children might have a chance at life.

You cant imagine the times Ive wept during the writing of this book, knowing that countless real children, like Samuel, fight a daily battle for survival. Nor can you imagine how humbled I am by the faith and courage of Sam and his amazing family. In fiction, I have the ability to be sure everything turns out all right. In real life, this is not always the case. Samuels recovery has not been easy, but I am thankful to report that at one year post-transplant, he continues to improve.

I hope you are touched and entertained by Saved by the Baby. Should you like more information about bone marrow donations visit www.marrow.org or contact your area blood bank.

With best wishes,


Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Epilogue

Chapter One

I got five bucks and a bottle of Bud that says she wont stick around two days.

Jeet Hammond lounged a fat elbow on the counter of Harpers Doughnut Shop and pointed his coffee cup at the long-legged brunette sashaying past the picture window. Disinterested, Sheriff Tate McIntyre watched the woman flick in and out of view between the signs plastering the plate glass. He hadnt a clue who his deputy was talking about and he didnt care. Tate had neither the time nor the heart to worry about females.

With a good-natured grin he reminded his deputy of what everyone in the county already knew. No betting on beer, Jeet. You know I dont drink. Few people understood the reasons why.

I know, I know, and you dont gamble, either. Jeets fleshy face wrinkled in mischief. But I still do.

Tate laughed and pushed back the remains of Clare Harpers almost-famous pecan pie. Then the serendipitous Oklahoma wind teased the womans shapely legs, lifting the edges of a blue-flowered skirt ever so slightly, and he realized who she was. Suddenly, the pecan pie felt as heavy on his stomach as a watermelon. He hadnt known she was back in town.

Jeet, his head tilted in a comical leer, stared at the billowing skirt and chanted prayerfully, Higher, higher. Dang, but she has the prettiest legs I ever seen. No wonder them fancy folks out West pay money to take pictures of em.

If your wife heard you talking about beer and some womans legs at the same time youd be sleeping in my spare room again.

Jeet had the grace to look guilty, though he continued to follow the brunettes progress until she was out of sight.

You got that right. He sighed blissfully. But Tate, old buddy, even a tough case like you has to be affected when Julianna Reynolds shows up in Blackwood after all this time.

Tate shifted uncomfortably and concentrated on his warm, sweet coffee. He was affected all right, but not in the way Jeet had in mind. Ten years ago when Julee had walked away from him on those gorgeous gams shed taken something hed never gotten backhis last twenty dollars and a sizable chunk of his heart. He didnt intend that anyone would ever hurt him that way again.

If she was so successful, how come we never seen no pictures of her? Jeet craned his head toward the window.

Shes a leg model, Jeet. Its hard to recognize a person by her legs.

He didnt add that hed recognized Julee every time hed seen those long perfect legs in a commercial or a magazine. If he thought about it, he could still feel the smooth silk of her skin against his. But he darn sure wasnt going to think about it. Not now. Not ever.

Some folks said it was her in that movie last year about the ballet dancer.

Yeah, I heard that.

Man, that billboard out by the interstate almost made me run off the road the first time I seen it. I bet that was her.

It was Julee, all right. Tate had driven out to that billboard and set up a drivers license check right next to it. Sat up there half the night staring at those legs, writing tickets, and reliving the one memory that haunted him.

A scalding sip of coffee washed down the bitterness that rose every time Tate remembered the woman hed loved enough to die for. He hadnt been good enough for her. Hed known it then and he knew it now. She deserved a better life, and theyd both known an illegitimate mixed-blood troublemaker from the wrong side of the tracks couldnt give it to her. With an annoyed grunt, he clanged the white mug onto the saucer.

Tossing several bills on the table, Tate rose. Come on, Jeet. Lunch is over and weve got plenty of work to do.

His portly deputy scraped back from the table, hitched up droopy pants, and followed. Wonder what shes doing here after all this time.

Thats what Tate was wondering, too.

Julianna Reynolds was on a mission.

With a purposeful swing of her famous legs, she strode down the sunny main street toward the Blackwood Municipal Building. With every step nearer the man who held her whole world in his hands, Julianna fretted. He was married, happy, successful. Shed planned never to interfere in the life hed chosen, but desperate times meant desperate measures. Somehow shed get his cooperation without ever revealing the real reason for her sudden reappearance in Blackwood. She owed him that much.

The huge clock on the grounds of Evans Funeral Home read a little past noon. She blanched at the grim reminder of death, the terrible vulture hovering over her day and night. Death was her enemy, creeping forward with each passing moment. Only the grace of God and modern technology held the monster at bay for now.

The warm spring breeze stirred the scent of tulips in the brick planters on each side of the tall courthouse steps. Without pausing to admire their beauty, Julianna opened the heavy double doors and entered the cool, dim interior.

Megan, her only child, the light of her life, her reason for living, was dying. Only a bone-marrow transplant could save her, and after several weeks of searching and testing, no donor match had been found. So, Julianna had done what shed sworn never to do. Shed packed a bag and come back to Blackwood to find Megans father. Shed come home to find Tate McIntyre.

No one sat at the reception desk outside the wooden door marked Seminole County Sheriff. Julianna paused, gathering courage to open the door. Throat dry as cotton, her confidence waned. What if he refused? What if this plan to save Megan failed? Drawing a deep breath to calm her trembling insides, she turned the knob to Tates office.

The door was locked. Shoulders sagging in disappointment, she leaned her forehead on the cool brass plate bearing Tates name. If she hadnt already cried enough tears to fill a football stadium, shed have broken down.

Looking for someone?

At the deep, gravelly voice, Julianna jerked her shoulders back to flawless posture and whipped around. Tate McIntyre, older, bigger, and far more handsome than she remembered stood a mere three feet away.

Her heart did a foolish jitterbug that she chalked up to nerves. She was scared silly, not attracted, though any female alive would notice this tall, dark lawman.

Wearing a shuttered expression above a crisply pressed uniform shirt, creased blue jeans and brown boots, he was still Tate, but with tantalizing changes. Lean and tough looking, he brought to mind a marine. The tall, anvilshaped body that had made him a top football recruit filled out the sheriffs shirt to perfection, the olive color emphasizing his mocha skin and green eyes. His brown-black hair was shorter, the almost military cut highlighting the high cheekbones of his Native heritage. Juliannas stomach dipped. The handsome boy had become a stunning man. A man who had chosen another woman over her.

From somewhere in the building came the static of a police radio. Tate cocked his head to listen, not taking his eyes off her for a minute.

Shed wondered about him many times over the years, but nothing had prepared her for this moment. Her ears rang and blood pulsed at her temples. Some deeply buried emotion threatened to rear its head as she took in the man shed once loved with all the teenage passion possible. She fought it back. Tate was the past, and she was here for Megan. Only for Megan.

Suddenly short of breath, Tate stared at the tall, willowy brunette with a death grip on his office doorknob. Julee Reynolds was not only back in town, she was standing outside his office, looking up at him with anxious blue eyes that threatened to undermine his resolve never to get emotionally involved with a woman again.

With steely control, he drew some air into his tortured lungs. Shed always been beautiful to him, even when the other guys had called her Olive Oyl and Toothpick, but years of working in an industry where beauty is carefully cultivated had enhanced her natural assets. He didnt want to notice, didnt want to feel a thing in her presence, but he did.

Hello, Tate.

She extended a handa long, manicured hand with those fancy fake nails women liked. Fool that he was, he wrapped his fingers around hers. The jolt of awareness from her skin to his was as powerful as the stun gun theyd zapped him with in the police academy. She was warm and soft andcriminy, she was Julee, the woman whod taken his heart to L.A. and never sent it back. Thats why he couldnt breathe, couldnt talk. Heck, he couldnt even think.

Like his father, Julee had been relegated to a mental file marked unsolvable case so he could move on with his life. Maybe thats why seeing her affected him so strongly and brought back an avalanche of unwanted feelings. Time and hard work had distanced him from most of the pain in his past, but nothing had ever filled the void Julianna had left when shed stepped on that old Greyhound bus and ridden away.

Hed known she had to give the modeling world a shot, had wanted that for her. She and her mom had already lost their house and were barely holding things together. He just hadnt realized it would hurt so much when she never came back, especially after his career-ending injury. Eventually, pain turned to resentment and resentment to bitterness. Shed proved him right. He wasnt worth her coming back to. Hed fallen into a black hole after she left and nearly destroyed himself. Since then, hed kept his heart locked away, taking care not to risk that kind of rejection ever again.

If he had a lick of sense, hed find out what she wanted and send her back to L.A.ASAP.

How are you? Her voice was that smooth honeyed alto that had once sent his teenage libido into overdrive. Just talking to her on the phone had been a sexual fantasy. Sexiest voice, sexiest legs, sweetest girl on the planet.

He slammed the cover on that file so fast his brain ached.

Doing good. Yourself? He willed himself to release her hand, then reached around her and unlocked his office so they could go in. Lord knew he needed to sit down and get a grip.

Standing aside, he let her enter first, catching the subtle drift of some designer perfume. He couldnt name it. Never was good at that sort of thing, though he could sniff out a meth lab or a drunk driver with his eyes closed.

Its been a long time, she said, her blue gaze drifting around the old, narrow office that hed worked so hard to gain. His desk, always a cluttered mess, looked even more so today. The air-conditioning wheezed and rattled and little dust wads flapped in the vent. To her big-city eyes, accustomed to the best, he supposed this place looked and smelled like a musty hole in the wall.

A very long time, he repeated, glancing at the calendar on his desk. Nine years, seven months and thirteen days, to be exact. The date shed left him was a permanent scar on his heart, like a bad tattoo that no amount of surgery could remove. I heard you did all right for yourself.

You heard?

He shrugged, not willing to let her know how hed scrounged for every drop of information, praying shed make it big then praying she wouldnt. Hed even fantasized about her coming back, broke and lonely. In his dreams, hed been the man she needed, the only one who could help her. Hed been a dumb kid then whod believed in the impossible.

Tate shifted the weight off his bad knee. Weather must be changing for the old injury to act up this much. Or maybe it was the eighteen-hour day hed spent on duty, half of it on his feet, searching the lake woods for a lost child. But Tate had no complaints. Hed felt like a million bucks when hed placed the boy in his tearful parents arms.

He knew his stance had given him away when Julees gaze came back to him, drifting down his body to rest at his aching knee. Though her attention was purely curious, Tates body grew warmer than the April weather dictated.

I never did get a chance to tell you how sorry I was about your knee injury. Does it still bother you?

So she had known. And never even called. Apparently, she hadnt given him another thought once she hit the big city.

Sometimes, he admitted gruffly. Nearly ten years had passed. Why was she bringing it up now?

Julee touched his arm lightly, but enough that the electric shock of her touch still made his insides quiver. Not just physical wanting, though she had that power, too, but emotional need so intense he wanted to collapse at her glamorous feet. After all this time, he was still a fool.

I always hated what happened to you.

If shed cared so much, why hadnt she come home? Why hadnt she been the one to see him through those black days? Why had she left him alone to drown in alcohol and self-pity and to marry the first woman who would tolerate both?

That was a long time ago. He stepped back from the subtle lure of her perfume, placing the desk between the two of them. It all happened a long time ago.

Theyd been so young, thinking they could have it all. Julee would be a famous model. Hed play pro football. Then theyd find their way back to each other. Trouble was, her dream came true about the same time his died on the ten-yard line with three minutes to go in the first half of the season opener.

Hed fallen into the black abyss of anger and alcohol, too proud to call her, but furious when she didnt call him. Then Shelly had come along, sweet and sympathetic, willing to tolerate his drunken rages and self-pity. Shed been his anchor during a time when hed wanted to die. Out of some alcohol-distorted sense of gratitude, and because he needed to believe someone cared, hed married her after less than a month.

Tate squeezed his eyes shut and blotted out the memories. Too much time had passed to go there now. So. What brings you back to Blackwood?

And how soon will you be on the next flight out?

Some emotion stirred behind her beautiful blue eyes. What was it? Nerves? Anxiety?

Squinting in thought, he studied the intense set of her jaw, the shadows above her elegant cheekbones. Thats when he knew. Julianna was afraid.

The loose rollers on his chair clattered against the brown tile as he pulled it away from the desk. One hand on the nubby gray backrest, he waited, cop instinct on alert.

What was she afraid of? And what on Gods green earth could it have to do with the hometown shed abandoned years ago? Better question, what did it have to do with him?

Mind if I sit down? she asked. Tate tried to ignore the tingle in his gut whenever her lips moved. I have some important business to discuss with you.

Fighting the need to protect her from whatever demon chased her, and the greater need to protect himself from her, Tate indicated the green vinyl-covered chair across from his desk, then settled into his own. Immediately, he wished he hadnt. Julee sat, crossing her long beautiful legs directly in his line of vision. His chest tightened. Sitting upright, he steepled his hands beneath his chin to block the view. He had to get her out of this office.

Business? Curiosity got the best of him. What kind of business could bring Julianna Reynolds back to Blackwood?

When she leaned forward, expression earnest, her silky blue blouse gapped slightly, affording him an unwanted glance of creamy skin. Infuriatingly, his body reacted. She was sexy, vulnerable and beautiful, a combination that spelled danger for any man but was deadly for him. She was big city and he was small town. She was rich and he was a working stiff. And she was, as her mother had once said, too good for that McIntyre boy.

Criminy! Why he was thinking this way? He didnt know this woman. Hadnt known her for years. All they had was the past, and that was better left alone.

The phone emitted a soft buzz, and he barely held back a curse. He was too busy to worry over Julianna Reynolds, and the sooner he found out what she wanted, the sooner shed be gone and hed be safe from thinking too much.

Holding up one finger of his left hand in a wait-a-minute gesture, he punched a button with the right. Yeah?

His receptionists voice came out of the speakerphone. Mrs. Barkley needs you to drive by her place. Shes sure the Peeping Tom is back.

Taking out his annoyance on the receptionist, he growled, Where have you been?

Even Rita the Magnificent has a bladder, Tate. Dont get your tail in a twitch.

He glanced at Julee, saw her struggling with a grin, and was relieved when she rose and starting roaming the room. He swiveled sideways to avoid watching the swish of her blue skirt against silken thighs.

Having Julee in his office was bad enough without the hired help humiliating him. Smart-aleck receptionist. But he knew better than to cross Rita the Magnificent. She was a lot more than a receptionist, and he couldnt manage without her. Tell Mrs. Barkley Ill be there as quick as I can.





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