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By Marion Lennox
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMarried! The first of her babies was now a married woman.
LeeAnn stared at the pages of the Maitland Maternity Clinic newsletter, and the laughing face of her firstborn daughter glowed at her. It was Lana, LeeAnn's precious child.
Lana was one of her four children, but she was standing now not as a sister, but as part of a couple. What did the caption say? With This Ring, I Thee Wed. The insert photo was of a truly breathtaking diamond.
Lana Lord, married to Dylan Van Zandt.
Who was this Dylan? LeeAnn ached to know. His face was proud yet gentle - tender yet firm. He looked as if he'd be a loving husband to her daughter, but how could she tell from a picture?
She stirred in bed, wincing from the pain. Why didn't she have the courage to face them? she asked herself bleakly. Why couldn't she take this last step and meet her children in person?
There was another shot next to the wedding picture - one of the guests. Almost every person there had some connection to the clinic. And right in front of her on the page was the rest of her brood.
The caption stated they were Megan Maitland's god-children and identified Megan as the founder of Maitland Maternity, but LeeAnn knew that already. She'd found out so much in these past few weeks. She'd managed to get herself onto the mailing list for the clinic's newsletter, and she'd hoarded every piece of information she could find from the last twenty-five years.
So now she almost knew them. Here was her lovely Garrett, looking strong and stern and proud. Garrett was her firstborn. He'd been the one to take charge even from infancy. Shelby was next to him, her auburn hair just what her mother's had been so many years ago, and that lovely smile ... And Michael, standing slightly apart.
LeeAnn's heart stilled. There was trouble with Michael.
She looked at the picture for a long, long time, searching these faces she really didn't know at all and yet knew so well. They were part of her. Michael was her son. Even though she'd abandoned her children as babies, she knew his face like she knew her own.
There was trouble in Michael's face, she thought. His expression was shuttered, and with a pang of distress she saw a suffering there that she recognized as her own all those years ago when she'd left her four small children to be cared for by strangers.
"Michael," she whispered. "My little one. What's wrong?"
There was no answer. How could there be? LeeAnn was in a hospice in the final stages of incurable cancer, and her children didn't even know her name. They were no longer her little ones. They were adults, and unaware of her existence.
Or maybe not. Had Megan Maitland given them her gifts? Given them her message? She'd sent the three little sweaters she'd made herself all those years ago, each embroidered with a triplet's name, and she'd tucked in Garrett's teddy, the one she'd used as her only comfort over the years.
It didn't matter, she told herself bleakly. She'd sent them. That was enough. They were tokens to tell them that they were loved - nothing more. These lovely young adults, smiling at her from the newsprint, were no longer part of her life. She'd forfeited her right to know them when she'd abandoned them as babies all those years ago.
But she couldn't stop gazing at the pictures, question after question forming in her heart. Did they know she'd had no choice? Did they realize that once Gary had died, there'd been so many debts, so little money - no support at all - that to keep them would have been cruel? Did they judge her harshly?
Or could they sense that the cruelest cut had been to her - to walk away from their lives and leave the loving to strangers?
She loved them still. How could she not? But she was their mother by birth only. They had no need of her.
But ... Dear Lord, she needed them.
And Michael. What was wrong with Michael?
Gray suits were Gray Suits, no matter which side of the world they were on. Jenny saw them coming from a mile off and panicked in style.
As secretary to Michael Lord, head of security at Austin's Maitland Maternity Clinic, she was used to people arriving at her desk. Staff, patients, cops and media - she knew them all and welcomed them with cheerful efficiency.
But not Gray Suits. Not when they were coming for her.
They hadn't seen her yet. They'd stopped at reception and were asking directions. Peggy was smiling and pointing toward her door, and they were turning to look. The security offices had one-way windows, however, so staff could see the reception area without patients and visitors knowing they were being observed.
Which gave Jenny time. She had a whole ten seconds to consider her choices. Fainting? Falling to the floor in hysterics? On second thought - six seconds of second thought - maybe those choices weren't all that useful.
There was only one option left, she figured. Escape through her boss's office.
Michael would hate it! Bolting through his office was hardly something a professional secretary was supposed to do.
But she had no choice. She stood up, staggering a little with the weight of advanced pregnancy, and took a leap like a scared and very pregnant rabbit right through Michael's door.
"Garrett, this is a waste of time." Michael Lord swiveled in his leather chair and sighed into the phone. What Garrett was arguing was water under the bridge - twenty-five years of water, in fact, since they'd been abandoned on the hospital steps as babies.
Those years hadn't been bad, Michael decided. He, his triplet siblings and their big brother, Garrett, had been granted great adoptive parents. They had good lives in their chosen professions, with friends and family all around. The woman who'd deserted her babies so long ago obviously hadn't wanted anything more to do with them, so why wouldn't Garrett leave it alone?
She didn't want them, and they didn't want her. Simple as that.
Excerpted from Adopt-A-Dad by Marion Lennox Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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