The Man Who Would Be Daddyñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Table of Contents
About the Author
“Man,” Robin announced, pointing at Malcolm.
Yes, he certainly is, Christa thought. With a capital M.
“Man,” Robin repeated, this time more insistently.
“I think she wants you to pick her up,” Christa prompted. She wondered how he would react. He seemed obviously torn between gruffly dismissing the little girl and giving in to what Christa guessed was a real desire to hold the child.
Robin stamped a tiny, sneakered foot on the concrete. “Man.”
“Demanding little female, isn’t she?” he commented. Before he could reason himself out of it, he bent down to the girl’s level and picked her up.
Christa held her breath as she watched them together. They belonged, she thought. Two halves of a puzzle. A man without a child and a child without a father.
It was almost as if they were made for each other. All three of them…
From classic love stories to romantic comedies to emotional heart tuggers, Silhouette Romance offers six irresistible novels every month by some of your favorite authors—and some sure to become favorites. Just look at the lineup this month:
In Most Eligible Dad, book 2 of Karen Rose Smith’s wonderful miniseries THE BEST MEN, a confirmed bachelor becomes a FABULOUS FATHER when he discovers he’s a daddy.
A single mother and her precious BUNDLE OF JOY teach an unsmiling man how to love again in The Man Who Would Be Daddy by bestselling author Marie Ferrarella.
I Do? I Don’t? is the very question a bride-to-be asks herself when a sexy rebel from her past arrives just in time to stop her wedding in Christine Scott’s delightful novel.
Marriage? A very happily unmarried police officer finally says “I do” in Gayle Kaye’s touching tale Bachelor Cop.
In Family of Three by Julianna Morris, a man and a woman have to share the same house—with separate bedrooms, of course….
Debut author Leanna Wilson knows no woman can resist a Strong, Silent Cowboy—and you won’t be able to, either!
I’d love to know what you think of the Romance line. Are there any special kinds of stories you’d like to see more of, less of? Your thoughts are very important to me—after all, these books are for you!
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The Man Who Would Be Daddy
Who finally got it right after all these years. I miss you. Love, Marysia.
lives in Southern California. She describes herself as the tired mother of two overenergetic children and the contented wife of one wonderful man. The RITA-Award-winning author is thrilled to be following her dream of writing full-time.
She never saw it coming.
One minute, Christa Winslow, newly divorced, newly transplanted former senior accountant of a prestigious Las Vegas-based firm, was just pulling her van into a parking space in front of a convenience store. The next, she was being brutally pulled out of the vehicle and then shoved aside by a tall, wiry man with wild, frightening :eyes.
Had she seen him, she would have been prepared and just possibly been able to thwart what he did next. Christa’s father and two older brothers, policemen all, had spent long hours seeing to it that she was properly trained to defend herself.
But she hadn’t seen him, not until he was beside her, not until he had propelled her away, making her stumble and fall to the ground next to the tread-worn tire of her dusty van. He had caught her off guard and off balance. Trying to break her fall, she twisted her wrist beneath her body at an awkward angle. Christa felt the skin on the palm of her hand rip at the same time that she hit her forehead against the curb.
She had no time to react, no time to be afraid. Her heart was pounding wildly, but only in response to the violence, not in anticipation of what might lie ahead for her.
But it wasn’t her the thug wanted. It was her vehicle.
Which made it all the worse.
Turning the key, which was still in the ignition, the car-jacker gunned the van’s engine as if he were thumbing his nose at Christa in triumph. The next moment, he was peeling out of the lot even as she was scrambling back to her feet.
Oh, God, no. No! Robin!
The horrified protest drummed madly through her brain. A big lump had formed almost instantly on her forehead beneath the fringe of bangs she wore, and the gash on her palm was bleeding now. She could feel the stickiness against her fingers. But all Christa could think of was the van that was speeding away from her. And the precious cargo that was still in it.
“Stop him!” she screamed. “Stop that man. He’s stealing my van. My daughter’s in it! Somebody, please help me!” The wrenching plea tore out of her throat, rubbing it raw as if every syllable were made out of bits of glass.
The scream shattered the peaceful morning air surrounding the Sylvan Minimall. The handful of people out early in the huge parking lot jerked to attention, looking in Christa’s direction. One man came running over to her. But for the most part, the others were immobilized, frozen in place by icy, stunned disbelief. Car-jackings and kidnappings just didn’t happen in a quiet place like Bedford.
Except when they did.
“Are you all right?” the man asked Christa.
“No,” she cried, watching the van pull away. “No!”
All right? How could she be all right? How could she ever be all right again? Someone had just stolen her child!
Fragments of thoughts collided in her head. She wanted to run after the van and rip the man apart with her bare hands; she wanted to crumple to the ground and cry. She did neither. Instead, she ran into the convenience store to call the police.
Malcolm Evans had gotten a late start this morning.
For all intents and purposes, for him time had stopped moving toward any real goal three years ago on a Sunday afternoon in May. That was when his world had ended in flames.
But he went through the motions of putting one foot in front of the other, and somehow one day followed another, until they knitted themselves into a week, and then a month and then a year.
It made no difference. Nothing changed.
There was a sameness to them all, especially in Southern California. Some days were cooler, some not, but there were no seasons to indicate the passage of the days, no way to differentiate one from another. Malcolm found himself merely existing. Marking time.
The only thing that entered into his life, that made any difference at all, was his sense of responsibility. It was the thin, steely thread that still tethered him to life. He had a place of business. People brought him their cars to repair. So he arrived early, remained late and went home to a place that would never be home again. It would never be more than just a building to him, walls to keep the rest of the world outside.
Usually, he managed to keep his thoughts in an iron Pandora’s box, sealed shut. This morning, they had slipped out. The memories. The pain. The guilt.
It had almost swallowed him up, that despair, that loneliness that periodically came out to haunt him ever since Gloria and Sally had been taken from him.
This time, the pain had been almost stronger than he was. But Mr. Mahoney was waiting for him to finish repairs on his pride and joy, a twenty-five-year-old car that defied the odds and continued to run long after it should have become a permanent part of some scrap heap. And God knew if he left Jock on his own all day, the kid would be a basket case before noon.
He had to go in.
So Malcolm had forced himself out of bed, basically proceeding on automatic pilot through his shower and a breakfast a Spartan would have described as meager. He ate for the same reason he did everything else in the past three years: out of an ingrained habit.
Malcolm had just pulled into the northernmost entrance to the minimall, the one closest to his shop, when he heard the woman’s screams. The next moment, the van was barreling out of the lot, practically scraping the paint off his car as it passed. The van almost flipped over as it took a turn far more sharply than it should have. Malcolm was so close he could see the wild look on the driver’s face.
It violated something within Malcolm to think that crime with its long, dirty fingers, was poking around a city he had always thought of as unblemished. This was the city he had initially chosen to settle in, the city where he had hoped to see his daughter grow to young womanhood. Grow and flourish.
She could do neither now, but somehow it offended her memory to have someone commit a crime in Bedford, especially in broad daylight. Malcolm reacted without thinking and spun around a full 180 degrees to give pursuit.
Driving was second nature to him. It had been ever since he was twelve years old and had finally nagged his uncle into teaching him the fundamental elements of mastering a vehicle. Of course, then it had been a large, unwieldy tractor, but he had swiftly graduated to his cousin’s car. And then his mother’s tank of a Thunderbird when she had finally been persuaded to give her permission.
By the time Malcolm was sixteen and legally eligible for a learner’s permit, he could make a car stand up and beg and do just about anything he wanted it to. Like a centaur in Greek mythology, he was able to meld with his vehicle and become one with it.
For a while, when he was still in high school, he had entertained thoughts of becoming a stunt-car driver. But the lure of the track had been far too great, and he had taken that road.
And abandoned it.
For the past year he’d been driving a LeMans GTO. He had rebuilt the car from the hubcaps on up. It had begun a healing process for Malcolm, and while he hadn’t healed, as he worked he had at least found his way out of the darkness. He had pored over every metal scrap, every rod, every cable. Every piece within the car was indelibly marked with his fingerprints.
As he gave chase out of the lot, his car revved to life, performing like a long-sleeping servant eager to please its master.
Keeping an eye out for any passing vehicles, Malcolm commandeered the thoroughfare, wishing for the first time in his life that he owned a car phone. He wanted to call the police and give them his location so that they could cut off the car-jacker before he managed to get away.
Not that he figured the police were really far away. Car chases were uncommon in Bedford. He was certain that by now the squeal of burning rubber had prompted more than one citizen to hurry to his telephone to register a complaint with the police.
With any luck, Malcolm thought, a squad car would shortly be approaching from the other direction to serve as a barricade.
Main Street went from one end of Bedford to the other, serving as a direct link between two freeways. Developments sprouted on both sides of the street, and were lined with carefully crafted stone walls and framed by lush, towering trees that coexisted in landscaping the way they never would have in nature. Right now, a section of the long, winding road was under reconstruction to make it even wider than it was. Detour signs littered the area sporadically, making passage difficult.
The car-jacker was headed straight for the construction area. Obviously not a clear thinker, Malcolm thought. While Freeway 5 was directly on the other side of the reconstruction and closer as an escape route, the smart thing would have been to make a U-turn and head for the 405.
Good thing for the little girl in the van that the guy wasn’t smart, Malcolm thought.
The light ahead was turning red. Malcolm knew that wasn’t going to be a deterrent to the car-jacker. The van raced through the intersection as a car coming from the right came to a screeching halt, fishtailing and leaving a trail of tire tracks along the asphalt.
Malcolm never hesitated. He pressed down on the accelerator, watching the needle on the speedometer climb to seventy as he rushed to catch up. Seventy was nothing compared to what he had once been accustomed to.
But that had been in another lifetime. When he had had a life. When Gloria and Sally had been a part of it.
Malcolm thought of the woman he’d heard scream. He hadn’t even seen her, only heard her voice, heard the anguish in it. It had ripped at his heart, and he knew he had to do something.
Maybe this was why he was still around—to save this woman’s baby. Though by all rights, he should have been dead himself twice over.
It seemed to be the only thing that made sense to him.
He watched the rear of the van as the distance between them became shorter. The driver looked as if he was in danger of losing control of the vehicle.
Up ahead, the road narrowed considerably. Two bulldozers and a crane loomed on both sides of the freshly dug-up road, while orange-jacketed workers littered the area. Main Street’s broad lanes were reduced to a single serpentine path.
If he followed the curving path, he would still be behind the van. And he needed to be in front of it to make the driver brake.
Malcolm made his decision.
Hands tightening on the wheel, he plowed through the wooden horse barricade, then sailed over a mound of dirt and broken concrete that hadn’t been hauled away yet. For one moment, he was airborne. The next moment, the earth was there to greet him. Malcolm could feel his teeth rattling in his mouth as the LeMans came down hard onto the road. Dirt was flying everywhere.
He was going to have some heavy-duty work on his hands with the car later, he thought vaguely.
As he floored the accelerator, the LeMans seemed to fly forward, directly ahead of the van. He passed it, then, twisting his wheel hard, Malcolm spun around a full 180 degrees, bringing the hood of his car physically into the path of the van.
He saw the horrified look on the car-jacker’s face as the distance between the cars dissolved. The next moment, his curses swallowed up by the scream of tires and brakes locking, the man frantically tried to prevent a crash.
On the periphery of his consciousness, Malcolm saw men in the area scrambling to get out of the way of what looked like the inevitable. With the skill of a man who had earned his living and his reputation driving at high speeds for the entertainment of others, Malcolm pulled back, avoiding the impact that had seemed so certain a second ago.
And then came the stern peal of sirens as white cars with blue-and-red dancing lights atop their roofs seemed to materialize from every direction. They converged, surrounding the van and Malcolm’s LeMans.
He didn’t wait for them. Didn’t wait for the inevitable questions to assault his sense of privacy. Jumping out of his car, Malcolm hurried to the van. He didn’t give a damn about the driver, who was slumped forward over the wheel. At the last moment, his head had come in contact with the windshield, and while the wheel had prevented him from going through the glass, he’d hit his head and obviously been knocked out.
He could have been dead for all Malcolm cared. That was for the police to handle. Yanking the passenger door open, Malcolm climbed in, scanning the interior for signs of another occupant. A high-pitched wail that somehow managed to rise above the sound of the sirens guided him to the car seat directly behind the driver. And to the unwilling participant in the short-lived joy ride.
It was a little girl, hardly more than a toddler. He hadn’t expected her to be so young. So much like Sally.
The next second, Malcolm felt someone grab his wrist. The car-jacker had come to. With his other hand, he was reaching for the gun that was shoved far too cavalierly in his waistband.
“Hey, man, what the hell did you think you were doing?” the car-jacker demanded.
The car-jacker had no opportunity for any further questions or threats. A service revolver was trained at his head as the young policeman on the other side of the driver’s window loudly ordered him to remove his hand from the butt of his gun.
Losing his nerve, the man instantly raised both hands above his head. A barrage of impotent curses flooded the air as he was unceremoniously yanked from the van by one of Bedford’s finest.
“You watch your mouth around the baby,” the officer warned.
The baby cried louder.
Memories multiplied and changed, like a kaleidoscope rolling down a hill, bursting through Malcolm’s brain. “Hey, it’s okay,” he said in a soft, low voice as he approached the child.
Wide cornflower blue eyes stared at him as the cries faded into the air as quickly as they had come. The little girl had hair as blond as the rays of the morning sun. Captivated, Malcolm smiled at her as he unbuckled the straps restraining her.
Her eyes, huge with wonder, seemed to look right into him.
“Some joyride, huh?” he murmured as he lifted her from her seat. She was wearing rompers, he thought. And looked to be probably around Sally’s age.
Or what Sally’s age had been three years ago, he amended silently.
Holding the little girl against his chest, he cupped his hand protectively over the back of her head and carefully retraced his steps out of the van. He murmured softly to the child to keep her from crying again. Bittersweet sensations filled him. It had been so long since he had held a little girl this way, he thought. Much too long.
Suddenly, Malcolm found himself flanked on three sides by policemen, none of whom looked as if he knew exactly what to make of Malcolm’s part in this unorthodox chase down Main Street.
“Here, let me take her,” one of the policemen said to Malcolm.
He felt the slight nudge of reluctance as he surrendered the child to the younger man. “She looks none the worse for wear,” Malcolm observed.
“No, I guess she doesn’t,” the policeman agreed, his voice thick with emotion.
Only when he held his niece safe in his arms did relief flood Officer Tyler McGuire. News of the car-jacking had crackled over the radio, interrupting a conversation he’d been having with his partner. There’d been instant recognition when the dispatcher recited the van’s license-plate number. Instant recognition and instant fear that Tyler had had to hold in check as he sprang into action.
Satisfied that Robin was all right, Tyler raised his eyes to the stranger’s face. He didn’t know him. “That’s in part thanks to you,” he replied. “I have no idea who you are, but I’m sure glad you came along when you did. Where did you learn how to drive like that?”
A distant smile quirked Malcolm’s lips. “On a farm.”
Now that the baby was safe, the adrenaline was slowly wearing off. He was really going to have to do some catching up today, he thought. He’d promised Mahoney the car by two.
Tyler laughed as Robin gurgled at him. “Must have been one hell of a farm,” he commented. “If it weren’t for you,” Tyler told him, sobering, “she might have become just another statistic.”
Malcolm didn’t want praise or gratitude; he was just happy to set things right. He shrugged away the officer’s words as he began heading back to his car. “Just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, that’s all.”
“Mind following me back?” Tyler called out to him. It was more of an invitation than a question. “My sister is going to want to thank you for this in person.”
Malcolm stopped beside his car. “Sister?” What did the policeman’s sister have to do with anything?
He nodded. “Christa. The woman whose baby you just saved.” Tyler shifted Robin to his other side and thought how good it felt just to hold her. “This is my niece, Robin Winslow.”
Malcolm paused and looked into the face of the child he had rescued. He thought of Sally again and felt his heart squeeze a little. “Nice to meet you, Robin Winslow.”
Tyler thought he detected a hint of a smile on the man’s lips before it faded.
“C’mon back to the minimall,” Tyler urged again as he opened the van’s passenger door. “Christa’s still waiting there.” If he knew his sister, she would remain there indefinitely, praying for a miracle. It looked as if this time she’d gotten one.
They all had, he amended, looking at Robin. “By the way, my name’s Tyler McGuire.”
“Malcolm Evans,” Malcolm said after a moment.
Tyler shook his hand. “I am really glad to meet you. C’mon, Robin, let’s go see Mommy.”
“Mommy,” Robin affirmed.
Tyler laughed as he hugged her. “I’ll drive the van,” he told his partner. “Follow me back.”
His partner, Elliott, nodded and started up the squad car. The other two cars had gone directly to the police station with their prisoner in custody. The man would be spending the night in a holding cell courtesy of the city, and tomorrow, after charges were pressed, he would find himself with another mailing address.
Not waiting for the policeman to go first, Malcolm turned his LeMans around and headed straight toward the minimall.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî