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The Baby Dilemma
By Rebecca Winters
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Chapter OneSeptember 29
To My Darling Philippe -
In honor of that unforgettable moment in the meadow below Mount Rainier when you proposed to me.
These gold cuff links contain the tiniest petals of the wildflowers you gathered for me. They're very precious because they represent your love. No woman ever felt more loved by her husband than I do. Happy one month anniversary, sweetheart.
* * *
Putting her pen aside, Kellie Madsen Didier slid the card inside the envelope and taped it to the present she'd wrapped in black with red, green, and gold foil ribbon. It had required painstaking work to arrange the petals in a design which would fit beneath the oval glass overlays trimmed in gold. But the result had pleased her.
Philippe would be walking through the door of their elegant Neuchâtel penthouse apartment any second. The windows gave out on a magnificent view of Lake Neuchâtel, one of Switzerland's most beautiful scenic sights. Truly he'd brought her home to paradise.
She hurried out of the bedroom to the living room where she'd wheeled in the tea cart for a special dinner.
It was set with their best lace cloth, china, crystal, and silver. In the cut crystal vase she'd placed a bouquet of fall flowers backed by an ornate candelabra. She put his gift next to his goblet, then rushed to the kitchen to finish up last minute preparations.
As soon as he'd left for the office that morning,she'd laid her French studies aside to work on a fabulous gourmet meal. After cooking and cleaning most of the day, she'd stopped long enough to shower and wash her hair.
Now that it was dry, it fell over one shoulder, partially hiding the capped sleeve of her new figure-hugging black crepe dress. Philippe had often remarked that with her green eyes and long caramel hair streaked by natural blond highlights, she looked stunning in black.
Wearing dainty black high heels to add a few inches to her five-foot-six frame, she hoped to dazzle him all over again tonight.
She glanced at her watch. Seven-thirty. He was almost a half hour later than he said he'd be when he'd called her that afternoon. It wasn't like him not to phone again if he'd been detained by a client.
Earlier in the week he'd told her the ambassador from La Côte D'Ivoire had been in to order a fleet of limousines. Maybe there'd been a glitch during shipment from the Didier luxury automanufacturing plant in Paris.
Philippe could still be in the process of ironing out any number of problems. He was meticulous about his work. However until she heard his key in the lock, she didn't want to light the candles.
Kellie went back to the kitchen to check on everything. Ten minutes slipped by, then another ten. Starting to get worried, she rang him on his cell phone, but she reached his voice mail asking the caller to leave a message.
Growing more anxious she phoned his personal secretary, Marcel, at home. The other man told her he'd last seen Philippe at his desk talking long distance to New York when they'd waved good-night to each other.
Marcel suggested her husband might be discussing something with the night security guard or the custodial staff before he left the showroom office. He urged her not to become alarmed. There could be a dozen reasons why he was late. Perhaps he was entertaining a businessman.
She thanked Marcel and hung up, but she was not reassured. Philippe would have asked her to join him if he'd planned to take a buyer out to dinner.
One of his good friends and climbing buddies, Roger, had dropped by night before last. Was it possible he hadn't gone back to Zermatt and was still in Neuch&acicr;tel? When they got talking about their favorite subject, they forgot anyone else was in the room.
She ran to the study to look up Roger's number. Before she could find it on the card Philippe kept at the side of his desk, the phone rang.
Pouncing on the receiver, she put it to her ear. "Hello?"
"Madame Didier?" came a serious sounding voice.
A sense of foreboding set her on the verge of panic. Her mouth went dry. "Yes? This is she."
"I'm calling from the emergency room at Vaudois Hospital. Your husband is going to be fine, but he was in an automobile accident and is asking for you."
Oh Dear God.
"I'll be right there!" she cried. After hanging up, she rang for a taxi. Kellie could have taken the new little sports car Philippe had bought her for a wedding present. It was sitting in the apartment garage. But she didn't know the location of the hospital, and didn't want to worry about finding a place to park. In truth, she was shaking so hard she didn't know if she'd be able to drive.
Another dash through the rooms to get her purse and turn off the oven, then she left the apartment on a run. Too impatient to wait for the lift, she hurried down the four flights of stairs to the main floor in her high heels and rushed outside, oblivious to the nip in the air.
When she saw a taxi turn the corner, she ran out to the street and waved him down. After climbing in she said, "The Vaudois Hospital, please, monsieur."
"Oui, madame." She hugged her arms to her waist anxiously. If he'd sustained serious injuries, the person on the phone wouldn't have said Philippe was all right. Still, she wouldn't be able to breathe normally again until she could hold him and see him with her own eyes.
"Please hurry. My husband has been in an accident. Let me off at the entrance to the emergency room," she said in French to the driver. He nodded, but didn't accelerate that much through the moderate nighttime traffic. Switzerland was a very dignified, civilized country with few drivers who took dangerous risks.
She couldn't say the same for Philippe who was French born. According to his family with whom she'd lived for a month near the Bois de Vincennes in Paris, he'd been a daredevil from birth.
Apparently he'd raced cars in his early twenties and drove at speeds that terrified most people. His sister, Claudine, Kellie's dear friend, had confided that though he may have abandoned that pleasure once he'd discovered his great love for mountain climbing, he could still let it rip once in a while testing out one of the new sports models fresh from the plant. If that's what he'd done tonight, then it was too high a price to pay.
When she thought she couldn't stand it any longer, they reached the hospital where she could see several ambulances outside the doors. The sight of them enlarged the pit in her stomach. "We're here, madame."
"Merci, monsieur." She climbed out of the taxi, handing him several bills of Swiss francs without bothering to count how much she'd given him. Then she raced inside the entrance.
The reception room was packed with friends and family of casualty victims talking quietly. Their anxiety-ridden faces revealed their stress. As she approached the woman at the desk, Kellie happened to see herself in the glass and knew her expression was no different.
"Excuse me. I'm Madame Didier. My husband, Philippe, was brought in tonight. Where can I find him?"
"Through there on the left. He's been put in cubicle four."
"Thank you," Kellie whispered before hurrying through the swinging doors to the E.R. Again she was struck by the amount of activity going on. Medical staff, paramedics, even police came and went from the busy room. It looked as if every cubicle was in use. Behind the curtain of the first one she could hear a woman wailing in pain.
Excerpted from The Baby Dilemma by Rebecca Winters
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.