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The Baby Surprise (Silhouette Special Edition #2056) [NOOK Book]

Overview


Paige Wilder was married to her job as a high-powered attorney—until she suddenly became guardian to an orphaned baby girl. Then Zach Crawford appeared on Paige's doorstep and her life really went topsy-turvy. Because the sexy military pilot was determined to win custody of his little girl…if the sparks that flew every time he and Paige were together didn't distract him first!

Paige couldn't bear to lose Emma—or trust her bruised heart—to anyone, especially not Zach. But as he ...

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The Baby Surprise (Silhouette Special Edition #2056)

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Overview


Paige Wilder was married to her job as a high-powered attorney—until she suddenly became guardian to an orphaned baby girl. Then Zach Crawford appeared on Paige's doorstep and her life really went topsy-turvy. Because the sexy military pilot was determined to win custody of his little girl…if the sparks that flew every time he and Paige were together didn't distract him first!

Paige couldn't bear to lose Emma—or trust her bruised heart—to anyone, especially not Zach. But as he proved himself to be the perfect daddy, she soon realized that the family of her dreams might be just a kiss away….

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426860249
  • Publisher: Silhouette
  • Publication date: 7/1/2010
  • Series: Brides & Babies , #2056
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 271,540
  • File size: 587 KB

Meet the Author


Brenda Harlen is a multi-award winning author for Harlequin Special Edition who has written over 25 books for the company.


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Read an Excerpt


As a little girl, Paige had never really felt as if she had a home, as if there was anywhere she truly belonged. Growing up as the only child of a divorced Army colonel, she'd left too many homes and too many friends to count, an experience that had taught her early on not to get too attached to anyplace or anyone.

When she was fifteen, her father had decided that Paige was too much trouble to keep with him and had sent her to live with his sister and her family. Even then, Paige had mostly kept to herself. In fact, for the first six months she'd refused to put her clothes in the dresser of the room she'd been told was her own, certain she would need to pack up and leave again as soon as she felt settled.

But six months had turned into a year and then two, and Paige found herself growing close to Ashley and Megan, the two sisters who were her cousins and now also her best friends.

Still, her aunt's residence had never felt like home so much as a house that she was visiting. Even when Paige moved into her own condo in Syracuse, it was little more than a place to store her belongings and lay her head. But there was a house on Chetwood Street in Pinehurst, New York, that Ashley and Megan had purchased a few years earlier, and Paige felt more at home there than anywhere else she'd ever lived. So maybe it wasn't surprising that it was where she went when her life fell apart.

She had called both of her cousins to let them know that she wanted to come home for a while and to make sure they didn't mind if she stayed at the currently empty house. Megan had been the first to move out, when she'd married Gage Richmond the previous year, followed by Ashley, who had vacated the premises only a month ago, after her wedding to Cameron Turcotte. The sisters had decided to list the house for sale but hadn't yet taken any steps in that direction, so Paige had proposed that she rent the property for the summer.

She really wasn't sure how long she intended to stay. Her career as a family-law attorney usually kept her too busy to allow for anything more than a long weekend, and even then she usually worked extra hours both before and after in order to make up for the time away from her office. As for an actual vacation, she honestly couldn't remember the last time she'd taken one, although she had taken more than the occasional day here and there over the past five months—a fact that had not gone unnoticed by the partners who were now concerned about her apparent lack of commitment to her clients and the firm.

It was the reason for this hiatus, which came with the recommendation that she take the time to think about what she wanted for her future. As if having full-time care of a fourteen-month-old baby allowed one time to think.

At first she'd been so shocked by the suggestion that she hadn't known what to say or do. Her immediate instinct had been to insist that she wanted what she'd always wanted— a partnership at the firm. It was what she'd been working toward for the past half-dozen years. But when she'd picked Emma up from the sitter after work, she'd accepted that a lot had changed in the past five months, that taking care of Emma had changed her.

And if it really came down to a choice between having her name stenciled on the wall behind the reception desk at Wainwright, Witmer & Wynne or providing an orphaned little girl with some semblance of family, well, there really wasn't a choice to be made. Because she loved that little girl with her whole heart.

That realization had been a simple one, but it was followed by some tough questions. Most notably, if she chose at this point in her life to walk away from the career she had only recently started to build, where would she go? What would she do?

It was these concerns that had directed her toward Pine-hurst, New York.

Unfortunately, almost a week later, she still wasn't any closer to figuring out if she could balance her professional obligations and personal responsibilities, or even if she wanted to.

It was difficult enough to accept that Emma would never know her mother or father, but the demands of Paige's career required that she leave the child with a babysitter for ten hours a day. Of course, Annabelle was a wonderful caregiver who had been chosen by Olivia to take care of her daughter, but that knowledge did little to alleviate Paige's feelings of guilt.

These thoughts were weighing on her mind Thursday night when she was startled by a brisk knock on the door. A quick glance at the glowing numbers on the front of the DVD player revealed that it was 8:12 p.m., but because Emma had been fussing for so long and had only just fallen asleep, it felt much later.

She pushed herself up from the chair, careful not to jostle the baby, and hurried toward the door. She'd spoken to both Ashley and Megan earlier in the day and neither had made mention of any plan to stop by, and because both of them had keys to the house, it was safe to assume that someone else was knocking.

Shifting Emma to her other shoulder, she hastily tugged open the door before the uninvited guest could knock again.

She noticed his eyes first. Dark blue, intensely focused and strangely familiar. And when those eyes locked on her, she felt an unexpected surge of heat through her veins, an unwelcome sizzle in her blood.

Then she noticed the uniform, and everything inside of her went cold.

"Are you Paige Wilder?"

His voice was deep and sexy, and she felt that sizzle again. But ignored it.

"I am," she admitted. "Though I don't know why my identity would be of any interest to a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force."

His brows lifted, as if he was surprised by her accurate reading of his uniform insignia, and she was struck again not just by the intensity of his gaze, but also the rugged handsomeness of the whole face. His skin was tanned and taut over his sharp cheekbones and strong jaw. His hair was dark and glossy and short. He was well over six feet—probably six-three, she guessed—and his shoulders were broad, his torso long and lean, his legs even longer.

The overall effect was one that any woman could appreciate, and Paige was no exception. Apparently fifteen years as an army brat hadn't inoculated her against the effect of a handsome man in uniform, but five years as an attorney had taught her the wisdom of looking beneath the surface.

"I'm not here in an official capacity," he assured her.

"Then why are you here?"

"I'm Zach Crawford—" his gaze shifted to the baby curled up against her chest, then back to her "—Emma's father."

Emma's father.

The words echoed in Paige's mind, the implications sweeping through her with the chilling intensity of a bitter winter wind, numbing everything inside of her despite the warmth of the late-May evening. She instinctively tightened her hold on the baby in her arms and took a step back, away from this stranger's outrageous claim.

The man standing on the porch interpreted her action as an invitation and moved forward. She shook her head and stood rooted in his path.

"Emma doesn't have a father," she told him.

Amusement glinted in those all-too-familiar eyes.

Emma's eyes.

She desperately pushed that thought aside, trying to convince herself that his eyes were simply blue and any perceived resemblance was nothing more than that.

"Are you really that unfamiliar with basic biology, Ms. Wilder?" he asked.

She felt her cheeks heat in response to the unexpected teasing note in his deep voice. "Olivia told me that Emma's father wasn't interested in being a father," she clarified.

"Then she lied," he said bluntly.

Paige shook her head again. "She named me as Emma's guardian because she had no other family. Because Emma had no other family."

"Except that's not exactly true, either."

She couldn't believe it—didn't want to believe it. Why would Olivia have lied about something like that? And, more importantly, what did this man's presence here now mean for the little girl sleeping in her arms?

"Look, I can see that this has caught you off guard," he said. "And I'm sure we both have a lot of questions that, if you let me come in, we could discuss without the neighbors watching."

A quick glance across the street confirmed that Melanie Quinlan, an attractive young divorcée who made no secret of the fact that she was on the hunt for husband number two, was in her front yard, garden hose in hand to water the flowers she'd just finished planting. Except that her attention was on the uniformed stranger, so she was actually watering her porch rather than the colorful blossoms in the bed in front of it.

Paige lifted her free hand to wave, and the other woman smiled and waved back enthusiastically, not even trying to hide the fact that her attention was riveted to the scene playing out in front of her—or at least on the man who was part of that scene.

"If I said no, would you go away?" Paige asked Zach.

"No."

She sighed and stepped away from the door. "Just let me put Emma down."

She wasn't sure why she thought he might protest, why she thought he might want to hold the child he claimed was his own—or at least take a closer look at her—but she was undeniably relieved when he let her go without a word. She felt his gaze on her, though, the weight of that intense stare heavier than the child in her arms, and wondered why it made her feel all hot and tingly inside.

She worried over that as she carefully laid Emma on her back in the crib and bent to touch her lips to the baby's soft cheek. She inhaled the scent of baby shampoo and felt tears sting her eyes. She'd started to take this nightly ritual for granted, and now the appearance of a stranger at her door threatened not just this special time she shared with the little girl, but also the whole future she'd envisioned for them together.

She'd never thought about having a child of her own. Even when it was all her friends and family had been talking about, she'd been too busy with her career to spare a single thought to motherhood. But then Emma had come into her life, and suddenly stepping into the role wasn't a choice but a necessity.

She'd had to make a lot of adjustments when she learned that Olivia had named her as Emma's guardian, and not with out resistance, at least in the beginning. But it hadn't taken Paige long to realize that Emma hadn't just changed her life, she'd enriched it. The little girl's presence made her think about things she hadn't thought about before. Playing the part of her guardian made her appreciate what it meant to be a mother when that wasn't something Paige had ever considered.

But through all of the transitions and adjustments, Paige had never imagined that someday someone might turn up in her life and lay claim to the child, as Zach Crawford had just done.

Olivia had always been stubbornly closemouthed about the man who had fathered her child. It was the only topic about which Paige had ever really argued with her friend. She didn't care about the identity of the man except insofar as she believed he should bear some responsibility for the child he'd helped create.

She'd been frustrated by Olivia's stoic determination, but her friend had always maintained that she could do it alone— and she wanted to. She knew that there were people who whispered about her situation—not because she was an unwed mother-to-be but because they knew that having to shoulder the responsibility on her own would limit the professional opportunities available to her. She would no longer be able to schedule late-night meetings or quick out-of-town trips for the convenience of a client, and at Wainwright, Witmer & Wynne, imposing such limitations was akin to career suicide.

The few female partners at the firm had done everything but handstands to prove they deserved to be there. And any woman who happened to be a mother and a lawyer was even more suspect because—God forbid—she might put her family responsibilities ahead of her obligations to the firm. Karen Rosario had waited until she'd made partner to start a family and gave birth to her first baby at age forty-two. And then she hired a live-in nanny to raise the child she'd supposedly wanted so much.

When Paige decided to go into law, she hadn't considered how difficult it might be to someday balance her career with a family. But she'd thought about it a lot after Olivia told her she was pregnant, and the more she'd thought about it, the angrier she'd become thinking that Olivia was making all of the sacrifices while the man who'd gotten her pregnant— whoever he might be—had simply walked away from his responsibilities.

Maybe it was the lawyer in her, but Paige had wanted to track him down and slap him with a paternity suit to ensure that he at least shared financial responsibility for the baby he'd helped make.

"It's a lot of responsibility to handle on your own," Paige said to her friend, cautiously broaching the topic she'd avoided for the past several months because she'd been certain Olivia would tell her about the baby's father when she was ready. But so far, she'd volunteered nothing.

"I know."

"Are you sure you have to do it alone? Maybe the father—"

"No," Olivia interrupted quickly. "This has nothing to do with him."

"You're an attorney—you know better than that. Whether you like it or not, it's his baby, too, and that means he has both legal rights and responsibilities."

"He has enough responsibilities without adding a child— especially one that neither of us planned—into the mix."

The comment gave her pause, but Paige finally asked, "Is he married?"

She was relieved when Olivia laughed at the question.

"Married? No, he's not married. And he's not the kind of guy who would cheat on his wife if he was."

"But he's the kind of guy who would abandon the woman who's pregnant with his child?" she challenged.

Her friend looked away. "Drop it, Paige. Please."

Because she could tell that Olivia was still hurting, and because she knew better than anyone that a man couldn't be forced to feel something for a child he didn't want, she'd dropped it.

And Olivia had never told her anything else about her baby's father, not even his name, which meant that Paige had a lot of questions for Lieutenant Colonel Zach Crawford.

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  • Posted April 4, 2011

    Amazing story of one woman's love for a child!

    A great book about one's struggle between her past and future. How successful family attorney had to make a decision between her little girl to whom she just became a guardian or the father of the baby whom she wanted, but can she have them both? Amazing story of one woman's love for a child!

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