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By Judy Duarte
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMilla Johnson pressed the cell phone closer to her ear and glanced around the hospital cafeteria, glad no one could hear her conversation with her mother.
"The Binghams will turn on you," her mom said,
"now that you've been named in that malpractice suit."
Milla rolled her eyes. She had enough stress in her life without her mother creating an enemy force out of the town's most prominent family.
"I worry about you," her mom added.
"I'm worried, too." Milla, a midwife for only a year, had been unfairly charged with malpractice, following the home birth of a baby girl. "That lawsuit could potentially end my career before it gets off the ground. And it could shut down the Foster Clinic's unique home-birth program."
"That's what I mean about the Binghams turning on you." When Milla didn't respond, her mother asked, "Did you hear what I said?"
Actually, the words rang loud and clear, but listening to unwelcome advice was another story. Especially when the Bingham family wasn't responsible for the lawsuit. "I'm sorry, Mom. It's a bit noisy in here."
Milla stared at the plate of meat loaf in front of her, then shoved it aside. She'd thought the mashed potatoes might sit well. Now she wasn't so sure. Her stomach had been a mess ever since learning of the malpractice suit, more so now that she'd talked to her mom.
"You watch your back, honey."
"I'll be careful." Milla felt badly enough about being blamed for something that hadn't been her fault and for the problems the lawsuit would cause the Bingham Foundation. She didn't need a dose of maternal paranoia to complicate things.
Her mother had never made a secret of her distrust of the Binghams, but Milla was grateful to them. The family had done a lot for Merlyn County, and the Bingham Foundation had provided the grant that had paid for her midwifery education. True, she agreed to work for the clinic for the next five years to pay back the funds, but she loved her job and the professionals with whom she worked. She couldn't imagine working at another clinic. Or worse, if the plaintiffs had their way, not working as a midwife ever again.
"Those people have brought nothing but heartache to our family."
"By 'those people,' you mean Billy Bingham in particular. And the man has been dead for eight years, Mom."
"Your aunt Connie died giving birth to one of Billy's illegitimate babies."
It was an age-old complaint and one Milla had grown tired of hearing. Her mother had never forgiven the man she blamed for her sister's death, a man who died in a plane crash months before his youngest son's birth.
Milla and her mother had raised the boy in their cramped, two-bedroom home since the day he was born. They both loved Dylan, in spite of his penchant for mischief. But oftentimes the money had been scarce, and even Milla had to admit life would have been easier on the Johnson household had Billy Bingham provided for Dylan the way he had for the other children he'd fathered without benefit of marriage.
Desperate to change the subject and to fast-forward the conversation she said, "I'm going to stop by the market on the way home. Do you need anything?"
"We're out of milk."
"Anything else?" While her mother recited a list, Milla glanced up and saw Dr. Kyle Bingham enter the busy cafeteria, and her heart skipped a beat.
The good-looking resident spotted her, too, and grinned, sending a jolt of awareness to jump-start her pulse. Kyle had turned her head on more than one occasion, and the attraction seemed to be mutual.
He headed toward her table.
"Listen, Mom, I've got to go. I'll buy the groceries after I pick up Dylan from day camp. I'll talk to you later."
"Just remember what I said about the Binghams. Watch out."
"I will," Milla said, although the only thing she felt like watching was the blond Adonis coming her way. For some reason she didn't even want to ponder, his smile had the power to make her heart rate go absolutely bonkers.
Tall, broad-shouldered and more handsome than a man had a right to be, Kyle Bingham had a flashy wardrobe, a promising medical career and no financial worries, even after attending Harvard Medical School. The guy could have more than his share of women - and probably had. So the fact that he found Milla even remotely attractive was flattering. Thrilling.
As he approached her table, she tried to come up with a reason why she didn't need to get involved with him - anything other than her mother's warning.
"This chair taken?" Dr. Adonis asked.
"No." Milla shoved her phone back into her purse, setting it aside just as she had her mother's warning. Even if she'd wanted to be mindful of the well-intentioned maternal advice by avoiding the Bingham family - which Milla didn't - avoiding Kyle wasn't the same thing.
Kyle was one of Billy's illegitimate children. And from what Milla had heard, he didn't have much to do with the other Binghams who'd been blessed with legitimacy.
Of course, watching herself around the man for other reasons might be wise. The young pediatrician was a bit cocky and on the arrogant side, although Milla could understand why. Kyle Bingham was a brilliant young doctor, and he knew it. She couldn't fault him for having self-confidence.
Kyle took a seat across from her and cut right to the chase. "I want to testify on your behalf in that lawsuit."
Excerpted from Bluegrass Baby by Judy Duarte Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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