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A Family Of Her Own
By Brenda Novak
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBOOKER ROBINSON SAT IN his truck at ten o'clock on a warm Thursday night, staring at the small rental house where Katie Rogers lived and telling himself he was crazy to even be here. He wasn't the type to ask for anything. He'd made it a habit never to need anyone. He'd learned as a child that showing vulnerability was never rewarded.
But he'd heard that Katie and Andy Bray were almost engaged, that she was going to leave town with Andy soon. And he knew if she did, she'd be making a big mistake. Andy wouldn't take care of her the way he would. Andy wouldn't love her as he did. Andy loved only himself.
Taking a deep breath, Booker cut the engine, got out and walked up the driveway. He'd hoped Katie would come back to him on her own. For a few short weeks, they'd shared something that was heady, powerful and very mutual. He was sure she felt everything he did. But her family and most of her friends had convinced her she'd be ruining her life by taking a risk on someone like him, a man with a criminal past and not much of a future. And now she was running scared and on the verge of marrying someone else.
She might end up marrying Andy, Booker told himself, but she wasn't going to do it without at least knowing how he felt about her. He lived with enough regrets already....
It took several minutes for someone to answer his knock. When the door finally opened, Katie's best friend, Wanda, peered out at him.
"Oh ... uh ... hi, Booker."
He could tell she was nervous about seeing him, so he didn't bother with small talk. Wanda was one of the people telling Katie that he'd never amount to anything. "Is she home?" he asked, not bothering to specify Katie by name because they both knew who "she" was.
"Um ... I don't think -"
He broke in before she could finish. "I saw her pull into the garage from the end of the street."
"Right." She chuckled self-consciously. "I wasn't sure if she actually came in or not, but she must have if you saw her. Just a minute."
While he waited, Booker's pulse raced. He'd never laid his heart open to a woman before, and he wasn't sure where to start now. He hadn't let himself love many people.
You're a fool for even trying, you know that, don't you? Who are you to say you're any better than Andy? At least Andy comes from a good family and has a college degree. What do you have to offer?
He almost turned to leave, but then Katie appeared at the door.
"Booker?" She sounded surprised to see him. He'd known she would be. He hadn't contacted her since they'd had that big argument several weeks ago - when she'd told him it was over between them, that she wanted to start seeing Andy, and he'd thought he could let her go.
He took a deep breath. "Can we talk?"
"I don't think so," she replied. "There's really nothing to say."
"You're making a mistake, Katie."
"You don't know that."
Maybe he didn't know it. But he felt it. Letting her marry anyone else was a mistake. It had taken him nearly thirty years to fall in love, but the hell of living without Katie for the past few weeks had left little doubt in his mind that he was there now. "What we had was good."
"I - I can't argue with that, but ..." She tucked her long blond hair behind her ears in a nervous gesture and glanced over her shoulder. "I'm sorry. I've already made up my mind."
The expression in her large blue eyes was tortured. He could tell that she was torn between what she thought and felt and what others were telling her. He knew she was afraid of what he'd once been. He wouldn't want a daughter of his to marry an ex-con, either. But he couldn't change his past. He could only change his future....
"Katie ..." Reaching out, he ran a finger along her jaw. The contact made him yearn to hold her, and she seemed to feel something similar. She closed her eyes and pressed her cheek into the palm of his hand as though she was dying for his touch. "You still care about me," he murmured. "I can tell. Come back to me."
Tears glittered in her eyelashes, reflecting the porch light. "No," she said, suddenly pushing his hand away. "Don't confuse me. Andy tells me I'll feel differently after a few months away from here. We're going to get married, have a family -"
"But you don't love Andy," Booker said. "I can't even imagine you with that self-serving yuppie."
"He's a nice guy, Booker."
"Why? Because he helped you raise the money to replace that old floor at the Elks Club?"
"That was no small thing. Without him, I probably wouldn't have been able to start my singles club for seniors."
"He only did it to impress you. Can't you see that?"
"Booker, I don't want to argue about Andy. I'm trying to make a good decision for my future, and yours, too. I've got to go -"
"Marry me, Katie," he said suddenly, passionately. "I know I can make you happy."
Her eyes widened, and two tears slipped down her cheeks. "Booker, I can't. You're not ready to be tied down by a wife and family. You love your freedom too much. I knew that when we first started seeing each other."
"Katie, maybe it wouldn't have come to this quite so soon if -"
"I'm sorry, Booker. I've got to go." The door closed in his face. When she drove the bolt home, he knew he'd lost her.
Excerpted from A Family Of Her Own by Brenda Novak Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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