Teresa Southwick.

Wedding Rings and Baby Things






Table of Contents

Cover Page

Excerpt

Dear Reader

Title Page

Dedication

About the Author

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Preview

Copyright

Kelly, theres no such thing as true love

She turned away so that he wouldnt see her hurt. I think it exists. I dont want to settle for less. Now, if youll excuse me, Ive got a lot to do. Good night, Mike. She held the door open.

The sight of him walking away, then the sound of the front door closing, were just about the loneliest things Kelly could imagine. Mike Cameron had just asked her to marry him, and he was serious. Not only that, he was angry that shed refused his proposal.

She was pregnant She was unemployed. She was moving. She was probably crazy. What woman in her right mind would say no to a handsome hunk like Mike? She reminded herself that she was doing this to protect him.

But if she was doing the right thing, why did it feel so wrong and awful?

Dear Reader,

Happy Valentines Dayl Silhouette Romances Valentine to you is our special lineup this month, starting with Daddy by Decision by bestselling, award-winning author Lindsay Longford. When rugged cowboy Buck Riley sees his estranged ex with a child who looks just like him, he believes the little boy is his son. True or not, that belief in his heartand his love for mother and childis all he needs to be a FABULOUS FATHER.

And were celebrating love and marriage with IM YOUR GROOM, a five-book promotion about five irresistible heroes who say I do for a lifetime of love. In Carolyn Zanes Its Raining Grooms, a preachers daughter prays for a husband and suddenly finds herself engaged to her gorgeous childhood nemesis.

To Wed Again? by DeAnna Talcott tells the story of a divorced couple who are blessed with a second chance at marriage when they become instant parents. Next, in Judith Janeways An Accidental Marriage, the maid of honor and the best man are forced to act like the eloped newly weds when the brides parents arrive!

Plus, two authors sure to become favorites make their Romance debuts this month. In Husband Next Door by Anne Ha, a very confirmed bachelor is reformed into marriage material, and in Wedding Rings and Baby Things by Teresa Southwick, an anyminute mom-to-be says I do to a marriage of convenience that leads to a lifetime of love.

I hope you enjoy all six of these wonderful books.

Warm wishes,

Melissa Senate,

Senior Editor Silhouette Books

Please address questions and book requests to: Silhouette Reader Service

U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269

Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3

Wedding Rings and Baby Things
Teresa Southwick


www.millsandboon.co.uk

To Jim, my big brother and very own legal eagle. Thanks for giving me the words to make Mike a here. For always being there and understanding, you have my everlasting gratitude.

TERESA SOUTHWICK

is a native Californian with ties to each coast, since she was conceived in the East and born in the West. Living with her husband of twenty-five years and two handsome sons, she is surrounded by heroes. Reading has been her passion since she was a girl. She couldnt be more delighted that her dream of writing full-time has come true. Her favorite things include: holding a baby, the fragrance of jasmine, walks on the beach, the patter of rain on the roof, and above allhappy endings.

Teresa also writes historical romance novels under the same name.

Chapter One

Shed picked a bad time to swear off men.

Not that it was a permanent situation, Kelly Walker amended. Besides, her condition wasnt exactly conducive to getting involved with men, and that was the way she wanted to keep it

On the other hand, her condition was probably the reason she had been summoned to the administration office in the high school where she taught. She stared at the wavy, light-and-dark wood grain in the door marked Principal. As much as she tried to tell herself differently, it wasnt likely that Mr. Bloomhurst had summoned her here to discuss her interpretation of Hamlet. He probably wanted to talk about the fact that she was six months pregnant, not marriedand not getting married.

Stevenson High School was located in Newhall, the small California town where shed grown up. No one knew better than she how people talked, how quickly gossip circulated. She had expected when this news got out it would spread like soft butter on a hot muffin.

Since she hadnt begun to really show until the last week or so, she had been able to keep her condition quiet. Only two people were supposed to know that she was going to have a baby. Susan Wishart, who taught in the classroom next to Kellys, and Mike Cameron, head of the math department, head football coach and her very best friend in the world. She had made them promise not to say anything until she could break the news to Mr. Bloomhurst herself. As many times as shed rehearsed everything in her mind, she still wasnt prepared for this chat with her boss.

She had figured on telling him at the end of the school year when the next term assignments were given out. It was now the beginning of May. In the Arizona school where shed taught before, teachers didnt find out until the last week before summer, vacation what they would be teaching in the fall. She was just finishing up her second year at Stevenson and was still getting used to how things were done here.

She had thought shed been able to camouflage her swelling body with loose clothes, but she had been getting some long, curious looks. First the eyebrows went up when someones eyes dropped to her midsection. Then the gaze lifted to see if her face had gotten rounder. Then the examination dropped below her belly to her legs to determine if she had put on weight everywhere. After all of this, which took about a second and a half, the person pretended she hadnt noticed a thing. So far everyone who was perceptive enough to give her the ritual once-over hadnt said anything.

Everyone, that is, except Elizabeth McCutcheon. Earlier today, she had asked Kelly point-blank if she was going to have a baby. Kelly had said yes. Mrs. McCutcheon hadnt let it drop there. She said she hadnt heard that Kelly had gotten married. Kelly told her she hadnt. Even in this small town, the majority of people wouldnt have pushed the issue, but Mrs. McCutcheon happened to be the president of the districts Parent Advisory Committee.

Hence Kellys summons to Mr. Bloomhurst after school.

She took a deep breath and knocked.

Come in, a voice called out.

She opened the door and walked inside.

Cliff Bloomhurst glanced up from the paperwork on his desk. Hi, Kelly.

Mr. Bloomhurst.

He smiled, looking at her over the half glasses he needed only for reading and now had balanced on the tip of his nose. The sleeves of his white shirt were rolled up to the elbow, and his red-and-blue-striped tie was loosened just enough to release the button at his neck. His thinning brown hair was peppered with gray and there was genuine warmth in his light blue eyes. She liked him a lot. He was a nice man.

Come on in. And shut the door, please. His voice was a sort of down-home drawl that normally put her completely at ease. But not today.

Kelly did as he asked, then perched on the edge of one of the green plastic chairs in front of his desk. Nervously she rested her elbows on the metal armrests and laced her fingers together.

I know what this is about, she said. Lets cut to the chase. Im going to have a baby.

So I heard.

I planned to tell you soon. The baby is due at the end of July or the beginning of August. I will be here on the first day of school in September.

I wish I didnt have to ask, butare you planning to marry the babys father?

No.

Even if Doug Hammond had proposed instead of telling her not to expect any support, she wouldnt tie herself to a man who was so underhanded and untrust-worthy. She was sorry she hadnt seen sooner what a jerk Doug was. After that conversation, she hadnt expected to hear from him again. But in the last couple weeks, he had left messages on her answering machine. She hadnt returned them and hoped he would get the hint that she wanted him out of her life forever. She couldnt stand the sight of the man, but she would never be sorry about the baby she now carried.

Mr. Bloomhurst looked genuinely sympathetic. Then my hands are tied, Kelly. Liz McCutcheon went to the school board after she spoke to you today. They called me with a decision. You wont be back in September.

Kellys heart sank. I dont understand.

Youre a fine teacher. No one knows that or appreciates the job you do more than me. But the school board wont permit a pregnant, unmarried teacher in the classroom. Theyre concerned about the example it sets for the students.

But this is the nineties, Mr. Bloomhurst.

He nodded grimly. I know. But this is Newhall, California, Small Town, U.S.A. Its a nice place to live. But that can be a double-edged sword.

I wont be pregnant in September.

Are you planning to keep the child?

Of course! Kelly was shocked that he would even ask. It would never occur to her to give away her child.

You wont be married, either, and youll still have a child out of wedlock. I did my best to change their minds, but they were adamant.

Kelly was numb. She knew that was a good thing. She didnt want to go hysterical in front of this man. I suppose theres nothing I can do?

He shook his head. If you had tenure, you could probably fight the ruling.

She stood up and gripped the back of the chair so tightly her knuckles turned white. Do you want me. to finish out the last four weeks?

Id appreciate it

But Im still pregnant. What about Mrs. McCutcheon?

Ill handle Liz. He looked down for a moment, then back up at her. I know this is hypocritical, but Id like to keep the news quiet and have you finish up. with your classes until the end of the year. It would be disruptive to the students to bring in a substitute now.

She nodded. I wouldnt do anything to hurt the kids. Some of them need these grades for college.

I appreciate that, Kelly. He folded his hands and looked at her a little uncomfortably. May I ask you a personal question? You dont have to answer if you dont want to.

I have nothing to hide.

Theres a rumor He cleared his throat. Is Mike the babys father?

No! Mike Cameron? The idea shocked her. Then she almost laughed out loud. Shed known Mike since she was a kid. Once shed had a crush on him, but shed gotten over that years ago. Were good friends, nothing more. I rent his guest house Aha, that was probably why someone, probably Mrs. Busybody McCutcheon, had jumped to some wild conclusions.

Im sorry. I had to ask. It was a stupid question. If he was the father we wouldnt be having this discussion. Mr. Bloomhurst took off his glasses. He stood up and held out his hand. If theres anything I can ever do, just let me know.

I will, Kelly said, putting her fingers in his palm. She knew he truly meant what he said, but she couldnt help being angry and upset As nice as he was, he was still a man. As much as she needed one right now, a. he was already married, and b. she had sworn off menmaybe forever.

Kelly drove into Mikes driveway, past his large Spanish-style home, then braked in front of the smaller guest house. She leaned to the left and pulled the lever to pop the trunk on her four-door car before getting out to remove the empty cardboard boxes. As she moved purposefully up the curved, brick walkway to her front porch, she tried to shake the fear she was feeling about finding a new job and a place to live.

After unlocking the heavy oak door, she clicked on the front porch light and tossed the boxes inside, then retrieved the rest from the car. When she was finished, she slung her purse on the parsons bench just beside the door of her two-bedroom apartment. With the flick of a switch on the wall, brass lamps illuminated the interior of her comfortable living room with the floral sofa and matching love seat. Oak tables sat on either end of the sofa with a coffee table in front. Her lowheeled shoes sank in the thick hunter green carpet. All the emotions she had been fending off all day gathered into a lump in her throat. How she was going to miss this place.

She recalled when Mike had insisted that her mother pick out the color of the rug, just before theyd moved in. Ill as she was, Margaret Walker had perked up visibly at the excitement of redecorating. Kelly would always be grateful for Mikes kindness to her mother.

Thats why she had to protect him now.

It was evening, after seven. She hadnt eaten, but she wasnt hungry. She had spent the time since leaving Mr. Bloomhurst making decisions about what to do. The first one was to move.

After kicking off her shoes, she took a box into the kitchen and started removing things that she hardly ever used from the topmost shelves of her cupboards.

The clatter she made nearly drowned out the doorbell, and she wasnt sure shed actually heard it. But a second later an insistent ringing told her loud and clear that pregnancy had not affected her ears.

In her bare feet she padded to the front door and opened it.

Where the hell have you been? Mike Cameron glared at her and barged through the doorway.

Hi, Mike. Im fine, thanks. How are you? Come on in, she said, closing the door. Turning her back on him, she headed through the dining room back to the kitchen. She squatted down and started putting dish towels and odds and ends into a box.

Mike was hot on her heels. She heard his athletic shoes squeak on the tile floor as he stopped short behind her. I was worried. When you didnt show up to tutor Jake, I was about to call the cops.

Kelly groaned and stood up. Im sorry, Mike. I completely forgot.

Whats wrong? he asked. His dark, almost black, eyes bored into her as if he could see every single secret she had.

What makes you think theres something wrong?

Because youre the most responsible, organized, punctual person I know.

Watch it. Youll turn my head with flattery like that.

Cut it out, Kelly. Whats going on? Where were you? Its not like you to forget about one of your students.

I had a bad day. Ill call Jake right now and see if hes available.

She started for the phone, which was right next to where Mike stood in the doorway. When she caught a glimpse of his face, she stopped. Every once in a while she was taken aback by his athletic good looks. His dark hair was cut short, and more often than not he wore a baseball cap that said Stevenson Football on it He was thirty-five years old, but still boyish looking in spite of the shadow of beard that darkened his jaw. She studied him critically and realized he appeared boyish only when he was smiling, which he was definitely not doing now. At the moment he glowered at her, and his eyes smoldered with anger.

That surprised her. She felt badly that she had missed her appointment, but she had a sneaking suspicion Jake Saterfield was relieved that she hadnt shown up. Mikes star running back put English composition in the same category that the average person put a root canal.

Mike seemed to fill the doorway of her kitchen. Dont bother calling him. He went to his girlfriends house to study.

Jessica is an honors student. If they actually get some work done, hell do fine on his test in Susans class tomorrow.

The hell with his test tomorrow.

I thought you were concerned about his grade and his eligibility to play in September.

I am. But right now Im more concerned about you. I asked you where you were. Hey, what are you doing with these boxes?

Im packing.

I can see that. Why are you packing? You shouldnt be doing that kind of stuff. Youre pregnant, for Gods sake. He crossed his arms over his chest and she couldnt help noticing how his red T-shirt pulled tight around his powerful bicep. He was in tiptop physical shape, and reminded Kelly just how ungainly she looked right now. His black shorts showed off his athletic build, right down to his narrow waist and muscular, well-formed thighs. Mike was enough to make a womans heart beat double-time. If that woman hadnt sworn off men, of course.

Kelly had always thought Mike was a hunk in stretch cotton, since the very first time shed seen him when her older brother Jim had brought him home after football practice. But there had never been anything of a romantic nature in her relationship with Mike. He had always treated her like a younger sister, and that had killed her crush pretty quickly. But that didnt mean she was deaf, dumb and blind. He was a good-looking man, too sexy for his own good, a fact proven by a string of broken female hearts over the years.

Since when has pregnancy been a debilitating disease? she asked snappishly.

Mikes eyebrows lifted at her tone, even though she hadnt meant to be sharp. Without a word, he walked over to her and gently held her upper arms, squeezing them reassuringly. As he scanned her face, concern replaced irritation.

Kelly, somethings happened. Tell me whats wrong.

She fixed her gaze on the tab collar of his shirt, dismayed that she felt very close to tears. That hadnt happened to her since getting the news. Why now, in front of Mike?

Ive been fired.

He frowned. Fired?

Yes, as in canned, sacked and let go. As of the end of the school year.

But youre one of the best teachers Cliff has. I dont understand.

Dont blame Mr. Bloomhurst. He didnt want to do it. The school board made the decision. Its because of the baby, she said, placing one hand protectively on her abdomen. Actually, thats not entirely true. Its because Im not married to the babys father.

Any woman who marries that jerk should have her head examined.

Dont start, Mike, or Ill be forced to bring up Bambi.

Her name was not Bambi. It was Jennifer.

Same thing, Kelly said. Suddenly she was exhausted. Im going to sit down. If you can be supportive and appropriately sympathetic, youre welcome to join me in the living room. If not, go away.

Come on, he said, taking her hand and leading her to the sofa in front of the red brick fireplace.

Mike sat down beside her. He had been relieved when he heard Kellys car come up the drive and saw the lights go on in the guest house. As far as he knew, she hadnt missed an appointment for anything since he and her brother, Jim, had kidnapped her for breakfast on her eighteenth birthday and she hadnt shown up to get her hair cut

Mike half turned so he could see Kellys face, just as she tucked a dark strand of hair behind her ear. Over the years, hed seen her with long and short styles, but he decided he liked this sophisticated, page boy look best. Her thick mahogany hair hit her just about chin length and drew his attention to her face. Purple smudges darkened her skin, just below her green eyes. She looked delicate and fragile. He hated that she was losing her job, because she was a fine teacher, and she had a lot to offer her students. Mostly he hated it because of what it was doing to her.

He knew Kelly, and he would bet there was more to the story. She still hadnt explained to him about the boxes.

Why are you packing? he asked.

Thats usually what you do before you move.

His gut tightened. Move? Why? Especially now. Just a damn minute. Bloomhurst might be able to can you, which is an issue Ill get to in a minute, but he cant run you out of town.

Who said anything about leaving town? Im taking an apartment on Walnut Street, she said, looking down. She folded her hands in her lap.

The movement pulled her oversized navy blue top across her gently curved abdomen. She had no business moving in her condition.

I want the whole story, Kelly. This isnt like you. Youre not exactly a spontaneous person.

There you go with the flattery again

Dont change the subject. Spit it out.

You wont like it, she said, glancing at him.

I already dont. How much worse can it get?

Theres a rumor that youre the babys father.

What? He sat forward. Thats the dumbest thing I ever heard. Were just friends.

She nodded. I said you wouldnt like it. Im pretty sure Liz McCutcheon mentioned it to Mr. Bloomhurst, but I cant say I wouldnt jump to the same conclusion myself. After all, I live a stones throw from your front door.

But were just friends.

You said that already. She sighed. I know it and you know it, but think how the arrangement must look to everyone else. Thats why I have to move.

No, you dont. Mike was surprised at how angry he was; he didnt want Kelly to move. Not because she was pregnant and it would be hard on her and the baby, and not because he hated knuckling under to gossipmongers, but because he liked having her across the driveway from him.





: 1 2 3