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Everything about Lily Cunningham, the newly arrived public relations maven of Merlyn County, put widower Ron Bingham on edge, from his nerves to his heart. But no amount of breath-stealing attraction would change the facts: Ron had married—and lost—the love of his life long ago. He knew that when it came to true love, there was no such thing as a second chance. But now, this city girl's feisty flirtations and blond beauty have gotten under his skin—and into his soul—and he's begun to think maybe he could have ...
Everything about Lily Cunningham, the newly arrived public relations maven of Merlyn County, put widower Ron Bingham on edge, from his nerves to his heart. But no amount of breath-stealing attraction would change the facts: Ron had married—and lost—the love of his life long ago. He knew that when it came to true love, there was no such thing as a second chance. But now, this city girl's feisty flirtations and blond beauty have gotten under his skin—and into his soul—and he's begun to think maybe he could have forever...again.
A woman of forty-five who'd hit the top of her profession, made tons of money and lived in a plush apartment in Manhattan would appear to have everything she'd ever wanted. Right?
Lily crumpled the paper towel, stepped on the pedal of the gleaming stainless steel trash can and dropped the used paper inside. Smiling to herself, she left the birthing room, turning the light out behind her.
Stepping into the hall, she breathed deeply, enjoying the cool, soothing pastel tones on the walls and the scent of fresh flowers drifting through the women's clinic. The sound of the three-inch heels of her scarlet pumps were muffled on the carpeted hallway as she made her way to her office. Smiling and nodding at the people she passed, she heard the indignant cry of a newborn from one room, and from behind the closed door of another, she heard a midwife calmly saying, "You have to remember to breathe, Shelley."
Lily smiled and kept walking.
This is what made her happy, she thought.
At the Foster Midwifery Clinic.
Doing work that meant something. That had impact on people's lives. That required more of her than looking spectacular at a business dinner.
She stopped and swung around to face Mari Bingham, the wonderful doctor who'd brought Lily on as public relations director in the first place. As usual, Mari was walking at a half run. The woman simply never slowed down.
"Where's the fire?" Lily asked, smiling.
"Where isn't a fire?" Mari shook her head and then jammed both hands into the pockets of her white lab coat, rummaging around in their depths. "I swear, it's as if the whole county decided nine months ago that it would be a great time to make a baby."
"I noticed." And Lily liked it. She'd never had children of her own, which was just one of the small sore spots that ached in the corners of her heart. Oh, she'd learned to live with the disappointment years ago, and being here, constantly in the midst of labors and deliveries ... almost made her feel a part of everything.
Working for the midwifery clinic and women's health center was like having a ringside seat for a miracle, every day.
"We've only got the one birthing room empty at the moment." Lily grinned. "If this keeps up, maybe you should think about expanding."
Mari's eyes widened. "Bite your tongue," she said on a half laugh. "We've got plenty to do right now, with the clinic and the ..." Her voice trailed off and a scowl tightened her expression.
Lily could have kicked herself. She hadn't meant to give Mari any reason to think about the ridiculous accusations flying around. But judging by the tired, haunted look in Mari's eyes, the younger woman was doing a lot of thinking lately, with or without Lily's reminders.
Reaching out, she laid one hand on Mari's arm, and the woman stilled. "You're not to worry about any of this, you know," Lily said. "It's bull, all of it. And that sheriff will figure it out sooner or later."
Mari sighed and at last pulled her right hand free of her pocket, a slip of paper clutched in her hand. "I've known Bryce practically my whole life," she said softly. Shaking her head, she shifted her gaze from Lily's as if she couldn't bear to meet the sympathy and understanding she'd find there. "If someone had told me a few months ago that I'd be his prime suspect in an illegal drug investigation, I'd have laughed myself sick."
"As you should," Lily said.
"It doesn't sound so funny anymore." Mari glanced over her shoulder, down the long hallway toward the waiting room. Sitting in chairs were a half-dozen women waiting to be examined. Small children sat at the miniature tables and chairs, reading books or coloring. Everything looked perfectly normal. And it really wasn't. Nothing had been normal in months.
Turning around, Mari lifted her gaze to Lily's. "If Bryce doesn't clear this up soon, we may lose even more funding, and then I don't know what we'll do."
"That's for me to worry about," Lily said firmly, making sure her voice sounded way more confident than she felt at the moment. "You'll see. The fund-raising party will bring in bushel loads of cash. We'll leave our important guests staggered and, hopefully, broke."
Mari smiled and nodded, though doubt flickered in her eyes.
"Nice thought. And on that subject -" Mari held out the slip of paper - this is why I stopped you. It's the name and number of another possible contributor. My grandmother says, and I quote, "They've got more money than sense, honey. They should be good for a sizable donation."
Excerpted from Forever ... Again by Maureen Child Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted April 21, 2012
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Posted April 19, 2012
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