Child's Play (Harlequin Super Romance Series #1549)

Child's Play (Harlequin Super Romance Series #1549)

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by Cindi Myers

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Discovering she is pregnant is one of the happiest moments of Diana Shelton's life. Sure, that discovery leads to a divorce, but that's a small price to have a child of her own. With a thriving business as a playground architect, she thinks life couldn't be better for her.

Or could it?

Because Jason Benton—the principal in charge of her…  See more details below


Discovering she is pregnant is one of the happiest moments of Diana Shelton's life. Sure, that discovery leads to a divorce, but that's a small price to have a child of her own. With a thriving business as a playground architect, she thinks life couldn't be better for her.

Or could it?

Because Jason Benton—the principal in charge of her latest commission—is making her think something might be missing. Such as a good-looking man to come home to. But is this single dad who takes life so seriously ready for a romance with a fun-loving woman like Diana? Or can she teach him that love can be as simple as child's play?

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You, Me & the Kids , #1549
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People who talked about the excitement and glamour of business travel had obviously never done much of it.

Traveling alone was the worst, Diana thought, as she boarded the plane from New York to Denver. She hated slogging through airports by herself, spending endless hours sitting in uncomfortable chairs at the gates and knowing no one would be waiting for her at her destination. Then there were smaller annoyances, such as having to heft her own luggage into the overhead bin.

When she'd decided to buy that ceramic carousel music box at the baby boutique off Broadway, she hadn't considered how much heavier it would make the suitcase—and how impossible it would be for her seven-months-pregnant self to lift it.

"Let me help you with that."

A dark-haired man rose from his aisle seat. For a moment, their eyes locked and Diana caught her breath. He had eyes as blue as a Colorado sky, and she felt the impact of his gaze way down in her stomach—a giddy fluttering not unlike those first movements of the baby inside her.

The stranger easily lifted the suitcase into the bin, his white oxford shirt stretching across his broad shoulders. Diana contemplated those shoulders, mentally measuring their width, imagining she knew exactly how the smooth cloth over taut muscle would feel beneath her hand.

The fantasy startled her. She almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of it. Even before her pregnancy, she had never been in the habit of lusting after strangers in airports or elsewhere. But even if she'd suddenly decided to develop a hitherto unexplored wild side, she couldn't imagine that her present condition would make her an object of desire for most men.

She realized theman was looking at her again, those blue eyes burning straight into hers with a hint of… anticipation? She had to glance away and attempt to regain her composure. "Thank you," she said, a bit breathlessly.

"Don't mention it." He started to sit again, and she glanced at her boarding pass to check her seat number. And had to choke back more surprised laughter. "I have the window seat," she said. "This one. Right by you." Did he think she was an idiot, babbling like this?

"No problem." He stepped back and allowed her to squeeze past.

Airplanes were definitely not made to accommodate bellies. And she wasn't even that big. Good thing this was her last flight until after the baby was born. She smoothed the tunic sweater over her abdomen a little self-consciously as she sat. Showing off a baby bump might be fashionable these days, but she still felt protective of herself. Not everyone reacted kindly to the lack of a ring on her finger.

She managed to shove her carry-on under the seat in front of her and buckle her seat belt, all the while concentrating on not staring at the man in the aisle seat. Amazingly enough, the seat between them stayed empty, a rare luxury these days. At least now she could indulge herself watching him out of the corner of her eye. As her mother always said, just because she wasn't interested in swimming in the ocean didn't mean she couldn't enjoy the view.

Once they were airborne, Diana reclined her seat slightly and eased her feet out of her low-heeled loafers. That was another side effect of pregnancy she hadn't anticipated—flying made her feet swell.

"Rough day?"

She glanced over and found him studying her, concern in his eyes. "Traveling is always tiring, I think," she said. She smoothed the tunic once more. "But especially now. This is my last trip before the baby is born."

"Ah. When are you due? That is… if you don't mind my asking."

The hesitancy behind his question charmed her. "Not at all," she said. "She's due in about eight weeks."

"A girl." He smiled. "I have a daughter."

"How old is she?"

"Kinsey is six." His smile vanished, replaced by a sadness so intense it made Diana's throat tighten. "She lives with her mother in Paris. I've just come from there. My first visit since they moved."

"That must be difficult for you, having her so far away."

He nodded, the muscles of his jaw working as if he was struggling to suppress strong emotion. "When I left her, she was crying. It was all I could do not to break down, too."

Diana wasn't used to men who were so open about their emotions. Her ex-husband Richard's idea of expressing his feelings was to thump his sons on the back or to swear more colorfully than usual. "I'm sure it means a lot to her, knowing you went all the way to Paris to see her," she said.

He nodded, though she suspected it was more out of politeness than out of any belief in the truth of her words. His obvious sorrow touched her, but after a moment, he visibly pulled himself together. "I'm Jason Benton," he said, offering his hand.

"Diana Shelton." His handshake was firm and warm. A thrill raced through her at the contact. Was her reaction only because she had been alone for the past few months or was there more going on here?

"Were you in New York on business or pleasure?" he asked.

"Business," she said. "Though I did manage to do some shopping, hence the extra-heavy suitcase."

"Do you live in Denver?"

She nodded. "And you?"

"In Evergreen. I'm superintendent of a Montessori school."

"I know exactly where that is." The town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains was less than an hour's drive from her home in a Denver suburb. "I visited the school briefly several years ago, when I was first starting my business." She searched in her purse for a business card. "I design playscapes." Her designs had been built in schools, shopping centers, rec centers and parks in half a dozen states. Richard used to joke about his wife's job "playing with children." Of course, he hadn't objected to the money she brought in.

"Your children must love your job," Jason said. "Do they get to test all your designs?"

"Actually, this is my first child." She rested her hand on her bump.

He hid his surprise well. At forty, she knew she was older than most first-time mothers. "I have three stepchildren," she said. "Though they're all grown now."

"You and your husband must be excited about the new arrival," he said.

"Actually, we're divorced. It's a long story."

"I'm sorry."

She waited for him to add something about how brave she was—as if it took particular courage to do something when there was no other choice. Richard, who was fifteen years her senior and viewed the three children from his first marriage as burdens to be endured, had no desire to raise a fourth child at a time when he was contemplating retirement. He'd ordered her to choose between him and the baby she carried, and what little feeling she'd had left for him had died then and there.

"Divorce is never easy," she said. "But sometimes it's for the best." Every week, it seemed, she discovered new truths in that old cliché.

"Our divorce was my wife's idea, not mine," Jason said grimly. "But as you say, it was probably for the best. Except for our daughter."

"That is difficult," she said. "But I believe children are resilient." She hoped that was true, since her own child would grow up with a father who was distant, at best.

"Often more resilient than their parents," he said.

"What is your ex-wife doing in Paris?" she asked.

"Her new husband is from there. Candace is an artist. He's an actor." He shook his head. "Not the most settled environment for my daughter, but that's a whole other story."

A story Diana would have liked hearing, but she didn't want to press. She was enjoying their conversation too much to risk pushing him away. Whether it was fatigue or hormones or something mysterious in the cabin air, she felt a connection to this man she hadn't felt with anyone in, well, years.

"I won't bore you with all the details," he said. "I don't want to be one of those bitter ex-husbands who goes on and on to anyone who will listen about how he got the raw end of the deal. Tell me about your trip to New York. I haven't had the chance to spend much time in the city lately."

For the next hour, they talked—about New York, shopping, theater, books and movies. The conversation flowed easily from one subject to the next with the ease and intensity of old acquaintances catching up—or new friends eager to know everything about each other. Diana's fatigue vanished, replaced by the heady euphoria of attraction.

Even when they had to break off their conversation to accept the meager bags of pretzels and lukewarm cola that passed for refreshments, she was too aware of the man in the aisle seat. He'd spoken with such concern for his daughter—concern her child's father was apparently incapable of feeling.

Diana glanced at him again. Upon close inspection, she noted a hint of silver at his temples, and fine lines around his eyes that deepened when he smiled. At this hour of the afternoon his jaw showed the beginnings of a five-o'clock shadow, though he was otherwise impeccably groomed, from his neatly pressed shirt and pants to his fashionably cut hair and manicured nails.

He was definitely the kind of man who would catch any woman's eye—even one newly divorced and seven months pregnant. Add liking children enough to manage a school full of them, and being obviously devoted to his daughter to his list of qualities, and Jason Benton was definitely the kind of man she'd choose to star in her best fantasies.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jason studied the woman in the window seat. Her light brown hair was drawn back from her face in a smooth chignon. Her skin was pale beneath a light dusting of makeup—he thought he could make out a few freckles. Her maternity top was made out of some expensive, silky material and her jewelry was chunky and ethnic looking.

The kind of thing Candace would have liked.

This reminder of his ex-wife darkened his mood. She'd received him coolly when he arrived at her Paris flat to pick up Kinsey. She'd greeted him at the door, barefoot and dressed in a Grecian-style gown, her auburn hair in wild disarray. She'd had a paintbrush stuck behind one ear and a streak of cadmium yellow across one cheek. "I'm in the middle of a commission and don't have time to talk," she'd said before he could utter one word.

He would have told her he had nothing to say to her, but Kinsey was standing there, her pink suitcase in her hand, her perfect heart-shaped face alight with anticipation. So he'd turned his attention to her, ignoring both Candace and her new husband, Victor.

"Do you know what Candace's new husband said when I arrived to pick up my daughter?" he asked Diana when the flight attendant had moved on.

"What?" she asked. Her expression was attentive— interested. He welcomed the opportunity to sort out his muddled feelings by talking to her.

"He spoke French, and I'm not very fluent, but I'm sure he said something about the fact that I wore a suit to pick up Kinsey."

Her brow furrowed. "What's wrong with that?"

"Exactly what I was wondering. When Kinsey and I were alone in the taxi, I asked her if she thought my wearing a suit was odd. ‘No,' she said. ‘You always wear suits.' Then she said, ‘Victor never wears a suit.'"

"Victor is your ex-wife's new husband?"

"Right. I couldn't decide if Kinsey thought the difference in the way we dressed was a good thing or a bad thing." What if she liked Victor's style better—thought he was friendlier, cooler? While her dad was just a stuffed shirt?

"I would think a child would see it as a good thing that the two of you are different," Diana said. "Victor has one role in her life, while you have another. Clearly different, with little ambiguity." She nodded. "Children like that, I think."

"Maybe so. Her mother and I are certainly different enough." His relationship with Candace had always been of the oil-and-water variety. She was artistic, impulsive, messy and irresponsible. He was neat, ordered and methodical. He'd seen them as a case of opposites attracting, each of them filling in the blank spaces of the other.

"I used to think the difference between us would make our marriage stronger," he said. "I told myself our problems were just the ordinary rough spots any marriage had to weather. Now I see how naive I was."

"I know exactly what you mean," Diana said. "I thought Richard and I were happy, too. Only after we'd separated did I realize I'd mistaken complacency for contentment."

Was that what he'd been—complacent? "Most of the time Candace and I were happy," he said. "Or at least I was. And Kinsey was, too." He smiled, remembering the first time he'd held his daughter. "She was the most beautiful baby. I fell in love with her the first moment her blue eyes looked into mine."

"She's a very lucky little girl," Diana said, her voice wistful. "Richard was never close to his children. I told myself it was because he's very reserved. Now I think it's more that he's too selfish to want to put forth the effort to build relationships with others."

Jason felt a stab of sympathy for the man. Keeping a little distance between oneself and others would probably prevent a lot of pain. All the happiness he'd known had crumbled like a sugar castle the afternoon Candace told him she was leaving, and taking Kinsey with her. He'd struggled through the divorce and the contentious custody arrangements, too shell-shocked to protest when their lawyers and the judge decided that seeing his daughter every other weekend was enough.

It clearly wasn't enough, but Candace had been good about allowing him ample access to Kinsey. All he'd ever wanted was to care for and protect his family. The failure haunted him, but he did his best to adjust. Then Candace had announced she was not only remarrying, but her new husband was a Frenchman, a native of Paris. They would be relocating to a flat on the Left Bank, and taking Kinsey with them.

He'd tried to fight her decision, but couldn't even get a court date before she was gone.

He glanced at Diana once more, at the gentle swelling of her abdomen beneath her tunic. How could a man divorce a woman who carried his unborn child?

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Meet the Author

Cindy Myers became one of the most popular people in eighth grade when she and her best friend wrote a torrid historical romance and passed the manuscript around among friends. Fame was short-lived, alas; the English teacher confiscated the manuscript. Since then, Cindy has written more than 50 published novels. Her historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction have garnered praise from reviewers and readers alike. 

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Child's Play (Harlequin Super Romance Series #1549) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
inspiremichelle More than 1 year ago
Child’s Play by Bill Myers ISBN 978-0-578-13219-8 Comedy, Futuristic, Christian Fiction Child’s Play is the first book in The Last Fools series. The characters are quirky and at times far out. It is set in Sisci Heights Mental Health Facility fifty years into the future. The Department of Religious Affairs has not banned religion but is not tolerating it. One of the patients Max as had an encounter with God and leads the other patients on a quest seeking God. I found Max to be very insightful and thought provoking at times. Bernard, talks to tattoos and other objects. One character thought he was a super hero and another a prophet, seeing 20 seconds into the future. The janitor collected their sin, kind of like confession. At times I was just as confused as they are. The funniest part in the book was when they escaped from the hospital. The author Bill Myers must have a quirky sense of humor like the characters. I give Child’s Play 3 stars. I want to thank the author Bill Myers, publisher Amaris, and The Book Club Network Inc. for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest review and I am so grateful for their, the authors and publishers generosity.
ShareeS More than 1 year ago
Child’s Play is the first in The Last Fool series and it is quite the ride! It is set in the future with the premise that religion is no longer tolerated. “The primary purpose of the Department of Religious Affairs – not to outlaw religion. Other countries have tried that and have only succeeded in increasing religious fervor. No, our purpose is to remove the differences, any aspect that leads to separation, or the feelings of inferiority and superiority. (pg. 14)” Thinking that by removing any religion, the government has solved the issues of wars, murders, etc. they have made it not only illegal but have created institutions to handle those with religious tendencies. Treating faith like a mental illness, they commit anyone who is going against the grain. Calling those who tried to obey but couldn’t, a disorder, mental facilities have special pods for treatment. As Dr. Aadil states, “Yes, I know all about the dangers of religion. And I’ve supported every law that has freed us from its tyranny – the fines and penalties for hate speech, the deportation of militants, the incarceration and re-education of hardliners – until gradually, over the last several decades; the monster had finally been defanged. (pg. 14)” Maxwell, a famous fashion designer, is committed after a fortune cookie sends him a message from God. The fortune cookie’s message simply states, “You are my favorite child. God” Maxwell tries to explain how God really feels about each of the patients in the pod. When Dr. Aadil asks how is it possible that God could find Maxwell as his favorite as well as everyone else, Maxwell replies, “When you’re infinite, everybody can be your favorite.” The doctor explains that not everyone likes the idea that God considers him/her their favorite. He says “You see Maxwell, Chloe’s faith system doesn’t believe in a personal deity. Max smiled. “It doesn’t stop Him from loving her” (pg. 31) Maxwell meets a cast of characters in the Sisco Heights Mental Health Facility where he shares this idea that God is loving and cares deeply for each one of them. It is Dr. Aadil’s job to rehabilitate Maxwell and cure his “illness” in therapy. He tries to explain how detrimental religion has been in the past and how many innocent people have been killed in the name of religion. Maxwell states, “Religion has nothing to do with a father and a child. A father and child are family, not religion.” (pg. 34) I think one of my favorite characters is Bernard because he is constantly conversing with inanimate objects. He believes everything from the tattoos on a woman’s arm to the cleaning supplies in the janitor’s closet, speak to him. He and Maxwell are roommates and they have many deep conversations about God. Maxwell does his best to share the message of God and through many wonderful thought provoking references, causes even the reader to feel the profound intensity of a God who truly loves his creation. My favorite of these conversations is where the other patients ask how a loving God could create them with all of their mental deficiencies. Maxwell’s explanation is fantastic and brought tears to my eyes. I would love to include it here but I feel it’s a powerful part of the story and would hate to spoil it for the reader. Overall, Child’s Play is a commanding story with a fun and exciting plot and lovable characters. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I give it five stars all the way around. I received this book from the Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
amybooksy More than 1 year ago
Child's Play is yet another crazy book written by Bill Myers. He definitely knows how to make the reader laugh. I enjoyed how he uses laughter to spread the word of God.  Fun book! 4 stars.
KMarkovich More than 1 year ago
This book was very different. It takes place 50 years in the future in a psychiatric hospital - the characters are all a little loony but...can they know God and have a relationship with Him? Religion has been outlawed but one of the patients has talked to God and is now encouraging the others to understand God and love and the relationship between mind and heart. It was a funny book, once I got used to it, as one character keeps having conversations with tattoos and other inanimate objects – like cleaning fluids and egg yolks! And there is even a food fight. The viewpoint changes from chapter to chapter but is clearly marked and only from a few people so it is not confusing. Ultimately, will God speak to his children even when He can’t be spoken about? This book is easy to read and does make you think.
homeschoolmom24 More than 1 year ago
About the Book: An Insightful Comedy... Deceptively Fun, Profoundly Deep Time: Fifty years in the future. Religion has been banned. Location: Sisco Heights Mental Health Facility Characters: A seer who has delightful conversations with tattoos, electric shavers, and janitorial supplies. A wannabe superhero, complete with shower cap, goggles, and bath towel cape. A prophet who sees 20 seconds into the future. An amnesiac who opens a fortune cookie and reads: "You are My favorite child. God." Careful to avoid state scrutiny, these quirky characters begin to explore the amazing possibilities if such a statement is true. The thinking soon infects other patients and the government must tighten its noose until it is met with some startling surprises. A quick and fun read, this first novella of The Last Fool series will make you chuckle while pausing to think. About the Author: Bill is a writer/producer whose work has won over 70 national and international awards including a C.S. Lewis Honor Award. His books and videos have sold over 8 million copies and include, McGee and Me, My Life As..., Blood of Heaven, The Face of God, The God Hater, and Eli. When he’s not overseeing his production company, Amaris Media International, he loves speaking at schools and chatting with reader groups live by phone or the internet. My Review: In the quiet halls of Sisco Heights Mental Health Facility, Bernard is in deep conversation with Darcy's tattoo. Who knew that they could be so mean? And who knew that they could get him in so much trouble with, Jamal---the party pooper? Later on during group time, the group learns why the newcomer, Max is in attendance. Between Dr. Aadil's coaxing and Max's wisdom from God along with Chloe's 20 second prophetic outbreaks, it looks like a perfect time for Ralphy the bath towel superhero to run in and save the day. Before he is allowed to do so Nelson says something to lighten the mood---but instead it starts to agitate everyone. The book Child's play is utterly chaos on paper, but oh so brilliant. The author's writing plays out like a comedy on the big screen. An amazing story that will leave you speechless! It was a really entertaining book and I look forward to the next one! **Disclosure** This book was sent to me free of charge for my honest review from Book Fun.
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