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Telling an old boyfriend he had a daughter he didn't know about was a crappy way to start the day.
And the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center where he was working was a crappy place to tell him, but Emily Summers knew for sure she could find him there. Dr. Cal Westen was a pediatric emergency specialist and would be on duty shortly. He always stopped in the E.R. break room for a cup of coffee about thirty minutes before the start of his shift. At least he used to. She didn't know squat about his routine since they'd split up more than a year ago.
Emily opened the door and her heart skipped and skidded when she saw him. Some things didn't change, including her profound physical reaction to this charismatic, charming doctor.
"Hi," she said, lifting a hand in greeting.
His grin when he saw her was instantaneous. "Emily Summers, as I live and breathe."
"Guilty." In so many ways, she thought. She moved farther into the room, just beside the rectangular, metal-framed folding table in the center of the room. It was littered with the daily newspaper. The flat-screen TV was tuned to a news channel with the ticker scrolling across the bottom. "How are you, Cal?"
He looked good. But then he always had—tall, tan, muscular. The man even made his shapeless blue scrubs look as sexy as sin. Her past had a history of attraction to tall, dark and handsome guys, but two years ago Cal had made her rethink that. His sandy hair was short and gel-rumpled in a calculated Hollywood-heartthrob way, but had probably cost him about thirty seconds. A deep dimple softened his square jaw.
"It's good to see you." Dark blue eyes twinkled with genuine pleasure, but after she told himwhat she had to say, he'd rethink that. He straightened away from the counter and set his paper cup on the table still separating them. "Can I buy you a cup of coffee?"
"No, thanks." She was already jittery enough. And what with the adrenaline surging through her, caffeine might just implode her heart. Maybe the E.R. was the right place to deliver her news after all.
"How long has it been?" he asked.
Because she'd been four weeks into her first trimester the last time she'd seen him and her life since then had passed in a blur of pregnancy and baby months, she knew exactly how long ago it was since she'd last seen him. "Just shy of two years."
"Seems like yesterday," he said, shaking his head.
For her, it hardly seemed like that, because her life had been altered so profoundly in their time apart. From the first moment the infant had moved inside her, she'd felt a love bigger than anything she'd ever felt before. And when she'd held her baby for the first time, she knew that giving up her life to protect her child wouldn't be too big a sacrifice.
Her little girl was the only reason she'd come here today because seeing Cal again was the last thing she wanted to do. She'd broken things off after he broke her heart.
He looked her over from head to toe and smiled. "Your hair is shorter."
"I cut it. Easier this way," she said, touching a hand to her short, shiny bob. A typical guy, he'd always liked her brown hair long.
"Looks good. Really good." There was approval in his eyes. "Have you lost weight?"
"Always the charmer," she said. During her first trimester, morning sickness had taken a toll and the rest of the pregnancy had been only marginally better. Life since giving birth had kept her busy and she hadn't regained the twelve pounds lost from her five-feet-two-inch height. The denim capris she had on were several sizes smaller than anything he'd seen her in—or out of. "I might have dropped a little weight."
"Seriously, there's something different."
She'd had a baby—his baby—but didn't want to blurt that out. Although why she should be concerned about his feelings when he'd decimated hers was a mystery. "I'm still the same."
Studying her, he folded his arms over his chest, drawing her attention to the broad contour of muscle. It seemed like yesterday that she'd run her hands over the coarse dusting of hair that she remembered being darker than what grew on his head, more reddish brown. The memory made her heart kick up again like it had so many times before when they'd been together.
He moved around the table and stopped in front of her, close enough to feel the heat from his body. "You look great, Em. What's your secret?"
"Oh, you know " She shrugged.
"I never heard where you went when you left Mercy Medical Center."
Did that mean he'd tried to find out? Just when she'd thought her heart was under control, it stuttered again, a completely involuntary reaction because there was no way she'd react like this to him of her own free will. She never wanted to hurt again the way he'd made her hurt.
"I went to Sunrise Medical Center."
"Still a social worker?" he asked.
"Yes. And a few other things."
He nodded. "Whatever you're doing certainly agrees with you."
Being a mom? It was something she'd wanted since her very first pregnancy, and having the baby she'd been too young to have. Giving that child to another mother to care for had left an empty place inside her that had been impossible to fill.
"How've you been, Cal?" she asked, still procrastinating.
Was there a little too much enthusiasm in his tone? Or was it wishful thinking that he was working at convincing her he'd been fine since they split?
"How've you been, Em?"
It was a segue, and she might as well go with it. She couldn't put this off any longer. "Funny you should ask "
"What?" he asked, frowning.
When he reached out and touched her, his big hand felt too good, too warm, too safe. Static filled her head as electricity arced through her body. She stepped back and blew out a long breath.
"I have a lump in my breast," she said.
Concern turned to worry in his expression. All at once he wasn't her ex, but a doctor. "There's no reason to assume the worst. Have you seen someone?"
"I have an appointment, but—"
"Lindquist is a breast specialist. I know him pretty well. I'll give him a call and get you in right away—"
"Em, you can't put it off."
"You said there's no reason to assume the worst." Even though that's exactly what she'd done and why she was here in the first place.
"And I stand by that. But why worry any longer than necessary?"
"I'm taking care of that. And it's not really what I wanted to talk to you about."
"There's more?" Now he looked confused and concerned and she couldn't blame him.
"Finding the lump made me think long and hard about my own mortality," she said.
"You're young. There's no reason to borrow trouble."
She didn't have to borrow it. Trouble had a way of finding her. "I'm not concerned about myself." She took a deep breath and forced herself not to look away. "It's my baby."
"Baby? I didn't know—" He stopped as the dots started to connect.
"Our baby. She's eleven months old."
"She? A girl?"
Em nodded. "Her name is Ann Marie. Annie."
"Ann is my mother's middle name," he said, as if he couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Marie is my mother's middle name. It seemed fair." Even if it would never feel right after the choice her mother had forced on her.
He ran his fingers through his hair. "What the hell are you saying?"
The calm before the storm was over. "I'm telling you that you have a little girl."
"If I believed you—"
"If?" Now it was her turn to be shocked. The thought that he would question the facts had never occurred to her. At least not consciously. But somewhere deep inside she'd probably suspected. Otherwise she'd have called him instead of meeting face-to-face so that he could see she was telling the truth. Annie's future depended on it.
"Why should I believe you, Em? You were the one who walked away. And before you did, you never said a word about being pregnant."
"You never gave me a chance."
"It's my fault?" He held up his fingers. "Two words. I'm pregnant. That's all you had to say."
"It wasn't that easy." Not after that horrible time when she was little more than a child herself.
"For the sake of argument, I have to ask—why are you telling me now?"
"Because of the lump," she said, twisting her fingers together. "If something happened to me Annie would have no one. I couldn't stand that."
"So this is about you?"
"No, it's about our daughter."
His gaze narrowed as suspicion swirled in his eyes. "Why should I believe you after all this time? What are you after, Em? What do you want from me?"
Emily hadn't believed it was possible to hurt more than she had the night she'd tried to tell Cal Westen about his baby, but she was wrong. His second rejection was twice as painful because of Annie. How could he reject that sweet baby girl?
The innocent child who was depending on Em to take care of her. That's all she was trying to do in spite of what Cal thought.
"I was wrong not to tell you right away," she admitted.
"You think?" Sarcasm rippled between them.
"I'm hoping you won't punish your daughter for my mistake."
"There's no reason I should believe she's my daughter. I always used protection when we were together. It's not something I take for granted."
"Me, either," she said. That long-ago mistake made her pretty cautious. "I don't know what to tell you except I guess the condom broke."
At that moment Rhonda Levin walked in. Emily had seen the E.R. nurse manager from time to time when she worked here at Mercy Medical. The plump, brown-eyed, bleached blonde looked at each of them, narrowed her eyes, then settled her gaze on Cal.
"You're on, Doc. Paramedics are bringing in car accident victims. One of them is an eleven-month-old with head trauma. Whatever is going on here will have to wait. ETA, three minutes." Rhonda gave them a pointed look before walking out.
The baby coming in couldn't be in better hands, Emily thought. If it were her daughter there's no one she'd trust more than Cal. But he was looking at her now as if he didn't trust her as far as he could throw her.
"The condom broke? Come on, you can do better than that." Apparently he planned to use his three minutes to grill her.
"Did you read the directions? It's not guaranteed one hundred percent," she said.
"The percentage of security is in the high nineties," he shot back. "Again I have to ask why I should believe you're not trying to pass her off as mine."
Emily had pictured this scene in her mind and not once had it included the part where he doubted Annie was his child. Now she knew how naive that was, because he was within his rights to question it. But tell that to the anger building up inside her.
She glared at him. "If you can ask me that, it's clear you never knew me at all. I'd never lie to you, Cal. Especially about something like this."
It felt like déjà vu all over again when she turned and walked out on him, but this time her heart was breaking for Annie, too.
Two days after Emily Summers had turned his life upside down, Cal sat in a booth at Coco's coffee shop on Eastern Avenue near the 215 Beltway and wondered whether she'd show up. If she'd changed her cell phone number he wouldn't have been able to contact her at all. She no longer lived at the address where—too many times to count—he'd picked her up for dinner and brought her back to make love to her. When she walked out on him, he'd missed her.
When she walked out on him again yesterday, he'd gone to work on that eleven-month-old. Fortunately the head trauma was superficial and the few stitches would eventually be covered by her hair and she'd probably have no memory of the ordeal. But he wasn't lucky enough to forget Emily's words: Our baby. She's eleven months old. He'd never known her to lie, and she'd looked sincerely surprised and angry that he hadn't believed her.
He took a sip of coffee and glanced at his watch for the umpteenth time. Eight-fifteen and almost dark outside. She'd picked the place—neutral territory—because she'd refused to give out her address. That implied a lack of trust, which was pretty ironic when you thought about it. She was passing her kid off as his and he couldn't be trusted?
Still, if there weren't doubts in his mind, he wouldn't have set up this meeting.
He looked up and saw Emily walking toward him. After all these months and this stunt she was trying to pull off, how could one look at that face tie him in knots? Her mouth was made to be kissed. Those full lips had turned him on more times than he could count and thoughts of running his hands through her dark, shiny hair had fueled more dreams than he wanted to admit.
She stopped by the table. "Cal."
"Have a seat." He indicated the booth bench across from him.
She was wearing a thin-strapped yellow tank and white capris. Her flip-flops matched her shirt and gave him an unobstructed view of her coral-painted toes. Sexiest feet in Vegas, he thought, again feeling stupid for the gut-level turn-on that he couldn't control. Apparently he hadn't outgrown his fatal flaw. Attraction to a deceitful woman had cost him big time and here he was again.
"So what did you want to talk about?" she asked. "You made your feelings pretty clear. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing left to say."
"Maybe you don't think so, but I wasn't finished when you walked out the other day." He forced himself to relax his grip on the coffee mug in front of him. "Would you like something?"
"Just to get this over with." Her big brown eyes were defensive and still as beautiful as ever.
"Okay, then." He met her gaze and asked the question that had been gnawing at him since she'd left the E.R. "If she's my child—"
"Your daughter's name is Annie."
Without acknowledging that, he continued, "Why didn't you tell me I was going to be a father?"
She let out a breath and her gaze wandered out the window, to the congestion of cars on Eastern, waiting to turn left onto the Beltway. It was cool inside, but he knew on the street it was still more than a hundred degrees. This was Vegas and it was July. Hot was a way of life. But hot didn't do justice to how he felt.
"Do you remember the last time we were together?" she asked, sliding into the place across from him.
"Yeah." Of course he did. "One minute everything was fine, the next you said we were done. A guy doesn't tend to forget something like that."