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By Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneElaine Winthrop Hall hooked her Donna Karan-clad arm through her daughter's, and accompanied her into the living room. Jenny knew her mother was trying hard to keep from commenting on Jenny's shapeless sweatshirt and her small apartment.
Jenny called the room cozy; her mom called it tiny, pointing out that she had bigger walk-in closets. But square-footage meant nothing to Jenny.
Neither, her mother was always quick to interject, did prestige, breeding and other people's opinions. People who counted.
Elaine's perfectly made-up eyes slanted a glance at the small four-year-old boy who sat on the carpet in the middle of the room, silently playing with an imaginary friend. Jenny knew Cole was the reason she'd come to these crammed quarters, to once more try to talk some sense into her "obstinate" daughter's head.
The woman didn't have to speak for Jenny to know what was on her mind. It was all fine and good to let your heart rule once in a while, she'd say, but that should involve the matter of men over the height of three feet, not small "anchors" that would only get in the way of the family's best-laid plans for the future of their only daughter.
Elaine finally spoke, modulating her voice to something that could pass as a stage whisper. "He's not your problem, Jennifer," she insisted not for the first time. "He's not your responsibility."
It had been a very long, very stressful day, following on the heels of other equally long, equally stressful days. Jenny surprised herself by finding an untapped vein of patience. She always tried to keep an ample supply under the heading of "Mother," but she'd been pretty certain that she'd exhausted the allotment on their last visit.
Nice to know some of the patience had managed to regenerate itself.
"He is not a problem," Jenny told her mother softly but firmly. "And he is my responsibility. I gave my word to a dying woman."
This was not news to her mother. Jenny had already said as much several times over when she'd explained to both of her parents why she was adopting the once sunny child. Jenny studied her mother's perfectly made-up face, searching for a hint that the milk of human kindness was not a myth, but existed within the breast of the woman she, despite so many shortcomings, really did love.
She tried again. For the umpteenth time. "What would you have me do, Mother, go back on that? Go back on my word? You were the one who taught me to honor my commitments, remember?"
The woman sighed. "To honor them, yes, but you keep this up and you'll be the one being committed. To an institution." She glanced again at the little boy and shook her head. "There are places for children like Cole. Lots of people would love to adopt him. He's still viable."
"Viable?" Jenny stared at her mother in disbelief.
"He's not a plant, Mother, he's a little boy. A little boy who's been through a great deal, who saw his mother die." What did it take for her mother to finally get it? She was Cole's last chance. If she couldn't get through that protective wall he'd constructed around himself, no one could. "You want me to run out on him, too?"
Elaine pressed her lips together. Jenny knew her mother didn't like coming off as a villainness, but the woman had been shaped by decades of adhering to rules and regulations about what was permissible and proper, all of which prevented her from even leaning toward her daughter's side.
Casting the boy a glance, the older woman said, "I'm not saying run out on him exactly, just give him to a family. A traditional family." Jenny knew that her mother had never approved of one-parent families. In Elaine Hall's world, you began with a husband and wife, then you introduced children into the setting. Anything else was unpardonable. Her mother had nearly had apoplexy when she'd told her about adopting Cole.
"You know, Jenny," the woman continued, "You're not SuperWoman."
Jenny hated having limits applied to her, hated all the rules her mother lived by. They were like something from another century. "Just because you don't want me to be doesn't mean it's not so."
Elaine paused, looked at her oddly, then shook her head. "You always could confuse me with your rhetoric."
Jenny grinned. "Call it a self-defense mechanism." Her stomach rumbled, reminding her that she'd skipped lunch and the dinner hour had already arrived and was in jeopardy of leaving. "If you wanted to browbeat me, Mother, you could have e-mailed."
Her mother frowned, transforming her attractive face into a weary one. "What I want is for my daughter to find her rightful place in the world."
Translation, Jenny thought, what her mother deemed to be a rightful place. They were worlds apart when it came to that. Her mother didn't approve of Jenny's career, her apartment, her almost monastic lifestyle. Not that the latter had much appeal for her, either, but until they found a way to create more hours in the day, dating and men were just going to have to stay on the back burner.
Jenny tried to keep her voice cheerful. "News flash, I have."
Excerpted from The Bachelor by Marie Ferrarella Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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