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Baby At His Convenience
By Kathie DeNosky
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDr. Braden's gently worded warning still echoed in Katie Andrews's ears as she stepped out of the Dixie Ridge Clinic into the bright June sunshine.
"With your family history of early menopause, I'm afraid time might be running out for you, Katie. If you intend to have children, it's time to start looking at your options."
At the age of thirty-four, most women weren't faced with the possibility of going through the change of life for at least ten or fifteen years. Unfortunately, Katie wasn't one of them. Every one of her female relatives had started into menopause by the time they were thirty-six. By the time they turned forty, they'd completed the change and their baby-making years were permanently behind them.
Katie bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling. It might already be too late for her to have a child. Her sister Carol Ann and her husband waited until they were in their mid-thirties and had to resort to fertility drugs in order for Carol Ann to become pregnant. The result had been a set of quadruplets.
Katie took a deep, shuddering breath. Although she wanted to have more than one child, she would much rather have them one at a time, instead of all at once. Poor Carol Ann had been so overwhelmed by the demands of takingcare of four infants that their parents had left Katie to manage the Blue Bird Cafe for them, and moved out to California to help their stressed out oldest daughter.
Glancing at her watch, she stuffed the brochure Dr. Braden had given her into her shoulder bag. She'd have to put her baby-making crisis on hold until she closed the cafe this afternoon.
Right now, she was needed back at the Blue Bird. And if she didn't get there before the lunch rush, Helen McKinney would probably quit on the spot and Katie's parents would never forgive her for losing the best short-order cook in all of eastern Tennessee.
A distant rumble from down the road grew louder and just as she was about to cross the road, a big, shiny red-and-black Harley Davidson roared into a parking space in front of the Blue Bird. The man riding the powerful machine nodded when Katie hurried passed him on the way to the cafe's entrance, but she couldn't say he actually looked her way as he turned off the motorcycle and removed his mirrored sunglasses.
That wasn't unusual. Since riding into town two months ago, Jeremiah Gunn hadn't become friendly with anyone but Harv Jenkins. In fact, all that anyone seemed to know about him was that he'd moved into Granny Applegate's old place up on Piney Knob and came down every day to eat lunch and talk fly-fishing with Harv. Otherwise, the big man kept to himself. And if his body language was any indication, he wanted it to stay that way.
But to her surprise, when she started to open the cafe door, a long muscular arm reached around her to take hold of the handle. Glancing over her shoulder, she swallowed hard. It was the first time she'd stood this close to the mysterious Mr. Gunn and she was shocked to find that she had to look up to meet his chocolate-brown gaze. At a fraction of an inch shorter than six feet tall herself, that didn't happen often.
His chest barely brushing her shoulders as he pulled the door open, caused her skin to tingle. "Th-thank you, Mr. Gunn," she stammered, unsure of why she suddenly felt so rattled.
"The name's Jeremiah." There was no trace of emotion in his deep baritone, but the sound of it made her heart skip a beat.
Hurrying into the cafe, Katie put distance between them. Something about being close to the man made her knees weak and had her wondering if she'd lost her mind.
"It's about time you showed up," Helen McKinney called through the open window behind the lunch counter. "I'm already covered up with orders."
"I'm sorry," Katie apologized. She shoved her purse beneath the counter and reached for an apron hanging on a peg beside the cash register. "Doc was running a little late with his morning appointments."
Helen's irritated expression instantly turned to one of concern. "Are you all right?"
Katie nodded. "It was just my annual physical and other than being about fifty pounds heavier than I should be, I'm as healthy as a horse."
Helen shook her head as she ladled white gravy over a mound of mashed potatoes and country-fried steak. "I don't pay any attention to those height and weight charts. I don't know who makes those things up or where they live, but it for darned sure isn't in the real world. I'd look like an understuffed scarecrow if I weighed what the danged things say is right for my height." She pushed the plate through the window for Katie to serve. "This goes to Harv." She reached for another plate. "Don't worry about the others. I've got everyone's order except for Silent Sam over there, talkin' fly-fishin' with Harv."
Nodding, Katie placed Harv's food on the serving tray, then grabbed an order pad and pencil. "Jeremiah usually asks for the day's special."
"Jeremiah?" Helen cocked an eyebrow and stopped spooning green beans onto a plate to stare at Katie. "Did I miss somethin'? When did you get to be so friendly with him?"
"I'm not," Katie insisted, careful to keep her voice low. "But he's been coming here nearly every day for the past two months. It just doesn't seem right to keep calling him Silent Sam."
"Why Katie Andrews, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were sweet on him," Helen said, her hazel eyes twinkling merrily.
Excerpted from Baby At His Convenience by Kathie DeNosky Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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