Read an Excerpt
Fay Coggen was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Eating healthier would help. More tofu-laced salads, less Chinese takeout. Her thirty-five-year-old body would thank her later. The heavy lifting required at her florist shop toned her arms and shoulders, but her backside would be better served if she did more at night than read or work on crossword puzzles, two favorite pastimes that kept her butt planted firmly on the couch.
Getting a decent night's sleep would probably work wonders, too. After eighteen months, she still wasn't used to sleeping alone. Even though she'd been on her own for longer than that, in more ways than she could count.
Still, more rest would help her kick this nagging cold she'd had for the last two months. With the busy Fourth of July holiday and the one-year anniversary of Scott's death just a few weeks away, she needed all the energy she could get.
All reasons why she was sitting in her doctor's office on this sunny June afternoon.
As far as medical facilities went, this one was pretty nice. Pale-yellow-and-white gingham wallpaper covered three walls. The fourth boasted a large bay window that looked out onto a lush lawn, stately rows of green hedges and a wooden bench surrounded by a carpet of red and purple impatiens beneath a shady tree.
And despite the fact she and Liz were friends, Fay could honestly say she'd hated every moment she'd spent here.
"So sorry to have kept you waiting." Liz's lilting voice filled the air as she hustled into the room and closed the door behind her. "I wanted to double-check the test results myself."
Her friend sat in the matching chair across from Fay, instead of taking her seat behind her desk. Fay smiled. "Over a simple case of the flu? Things must be pretty slow around here. So what are the doctor's orders? Lots of rest and orange juice?"
Liz crossed one ankle over the other with a natural grace. "We haven't had a chance to visit in a while. How are you feeling, Fay?"
"Other than wishing for a week where I could do nothing but sleep, I'm fine. Like I told your nurse, the dizziness comes and goes, and it'd be nice to eat something more substantial than soup and crackers. The news predicted a terrible flu season that would carry on into spring. They weren't kidding."
"I'm talking about how you're doing emotionally."
The older woman glanced pointedly at Fay's lap. "I notice you haven't gone back to wearing your wedding rings."
Fay clenched her battle-scarred florist hands, her thumb and forefinger automatically rubbing at the indentation on her left hand that was almost gone. "I told you that I decided to take them off back around Christmas."
"Understandable. Scott had been gone for six months by then."
Understandable after she'd discovered the lies and secrets her late husband had left in the wake of his death last summer. After fifteen years of marriage, she'd thought neither of them had the ability to surprise each other anymore.
She'd been wrong and trying to recover ever since.
"You said you were wearing them on a chain around your neck instead." Liz's gaze moved over the open collar of Fay's blouse. "I see that's gone now, too."
Yes, the chain and her rings were buried in the bottom of her jewelry box, along with her husband's dog tags.
Ever since that night two months ago.
Ever since Adam Murphy.
"Are you involved with anyone?" Liz asked.
"What?" Her friend's question jolted Fay from her thoughts. "No, of course not. Just because I decided That doesn't mean I'm" Fay realized she was babbling and paused, fought for a controlled breath and then continued. "Dating isn't something I'm even thinking about."
"I know things have been difficult, but it's okay to move on. Next month will make it a year since Scott died. Finding someone new to spend time with, maybe even thinking about falling"
"Liz, between trying to hold on to my business and sorting out the colossal mess Scott's creative financing left me, my life's been nothing but chaos for the last year. Believe me, I'm working hard at moving on."
"I meant with a man."
Fay let loose a bark of laughter that wasn't close to being humorous. "I know what you meant, but no."
"Sweetie, then this is going to be a shock." Liz placed the folder she was holding in her lap and reached out, laying a comforting hand on her arm. "You don't have the flu. You're pregnant."
Her friend's words echoed in Fay's ears, each time becoming more muted and garbled.
She hadn't heard her friend correctly.
There was no way she'd heard correctly.
"You must be wrong." Fay shook her head. "I only have one working ovary, remember? An ovary that works at a reduced capacity making it impossible for me to get preg" She bit off the word, unable to say it aloud. "You said so yourself."
"I told you years ago that pregnancy was improbable, especially when Scott refused to have any testing done. As you know, your inability to conceive for all those years could have been just as much him." Liz tightened her fingers in a gentle squeeze. "The test results are positive. You are pregnant."
A baby. After years of wanting, desperately wanting a child and now
"We can discuss your options. Out of the office if that would be better."
Fay's hands automatically flattened low over her belly. "Options?"
"You just said you aren't involved with anyone. Did something happen?"
Liz's gaze filled with concern. "Honey, were you hurt or forced"
"No, no, of course not." Fay's protest came swiftly, just like the eight-week-old memories from those passion-filled, guilt-ridden hours spent in Adam's arms. "I was I mean, it was unplanned and impulsive, but I knew what I was doing."
Yes, she certainly had.
Sleeping with her dead husband's best friend, someone who was once her good friend as well, was the real reason Fay no longer wore her rings.
Not after the way she'd straddled Adam's lap and helped him yank her sweater over her head. Eagerness had her bracing her hands on his wide shoulders, leaning forward to take his mouth again only to have the twin gold bands, one with a marquise-shaped diamond, dangle between them.
They'd brushed against Adam's jaw and he'd fisted them, asking in that deep, guttural tone of his if she was sure about what they were doing.
If she knew who she was with.
You, Adam. I want you.
A heated blush raced up Fay's neck until it reached her cheeks. The memory of that night, and the way she'd run out on him the next morning after learning Adam was heading back overseas, back to his Air Force reserve unit, the same unit her husband had served with until his death, was as fresh and real as if it had happened only last night.
Of course, in her dreams it had.
"This is a shock, I realize that." Liz offered a warm smile, her words forcing Fay to push away the memories. "Take your time to think about your next step."
"I'm having this baby."
The words were soft, but spoken with a sense of purpose Fay hadn't felt in a long time. No hesitation, no question about right or wrong, no reason for her to think about this at all.
She squared her shoulders and righted her posture. "I want thismy baby. I'm keeping my baby."
"And the father?"
A wave of dizziness washed over her. Fay swallowed hard to maintain her equilibrium as her heart pounded in her chest and a rush of heat again stole over her body.
Adam Murphy was due to return to Destiny from his last tour in Afghanistan in a couple of weeks. How was she going to tell the man she blamed for her husband's death he was going to be the father of her child?
"Hey, soldier, don't I know you from somewhere?" Master Sergeant Adam Murphy squared his shoulders and stood a bit taller, but he didn't turn around. He knew that voice.
There were only six possible people it could belong to. People who, according to his mother, all shared the same low masculine growl that could soothe a skittish horse or sweet-talk a girl out of her better judgment.
It had to be one of his five younger brothers or their dad.
Which one had spotted him standing here, in front of the beer cooler at a convenience mart on the outskirts of Cheyenne of all places, he didn't know. He hoped it was Devlin, the brother he was closest to despite there being one other between them in ages. Or maybe it was Ric, the youngest, whom Adam had bossed around like a second father. He'd been fourteen when the kid was born.
Geez, he felt old.
He turned, bracing himself, and found Dev grinning at him.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Adam asked.
"Shouldn't I be asking you that question?"
Dev lunged, pulling him into a bear hug that Adam returned with ease. He blinked hard against the sudden sting in his eyes, giving his brother a few extra hardy thumps to the back before they broke apart.
"Damn, it's good to see you," Dev said. "What are you doing in Cheyenne? You weren't due back from Afghanistan for another ten days or so."
"The entire unit is coming back sooner than scheduled, in less than a week, but I was able to catch an earlier ride home."
Dev arched one eyebrow. "And you didn't bother to let anyone in the family know?"
"It was last-minute, and I could've gotten bumped off the flight anywhere along the way." Adam had hoped to slip back into town without anyone finding out. He didn't want to explain how he'd finagled avoiding the pageantry of his unit's arrival at the air base after being overseas for the past year and a half. "The plane finally landed at Camp Guernsey a few hours ago. I caught a ride with a retired vet who was heading toward Destiny."
His brother peered around Adam's shoulder at the rows of ice-cold beers in the refrigerated unit behind him. "And the two of you decided to stop and pick up a few brews?"
"He decided," Adam said. "I was just admiring the view."
Dev smiled and seconds later had a twelve-pack tucked under his arm. "Come on, I think you've earned this."
"You sure?" Dev had walked away from booze years ago after finally admitting his nightly partying led to nothing but sleepovers at the local jail and finally AA meetings. Adam didn't want to tempt him.
"Hey, this is all for you, bro." Dev offered an easy smile. "Come on, let's find your Good Samaritan and let him know you've got a new taxi service."
Knowing it was useless to argue with a Murphy, Adam only nodded. He thanked the old man as he pulled his duffel from the back of his pickup and tossed it into his brother's Jeep.
The ride home took almost an hour and Adam was grateful when Dev used that time to do what he did best. Talk. He jumped from subject to subject, mostly getting Adam caught up on all he'd missed while serving his last tour.
Yes, he'd been home two months ago, once again as an escort bringing home a deceased member of his command at the request of a grieving family in Cheyenne. He'd managed to add two days in Destiny, long enough to share a couple of meals with the family.
And an amazing night with the one woman he'd always wanted.
And could never have.
But he did have her. And she'd had him. For a few incredible hours on a makeshift bed in his living room in front of a blazing fire. They'd had each other.
Adam turned to the window, closed his eyes and inhaled sharply, certain he could still smell the clean, flowery scent that always surrounded Fay.
He'd answered the pounding on his front door that rainy night, wearing nothing but hastily buttoned jeans and a bemused expression.
Fay had stormed into his living room, hair and clothes damp. Shocked that she'd known he was in town, he'd only stood there and listened as she ranted and raved, releasing all her anger and grief as she blamed him for her husband's death the previous summer.
He'd escorted Scott's body home and stayed for the services, but he and Fay had hardly spoken to each other that hot July day. She'd certainly made up for the lapse that night, but hell, she didn't say anything to him that he hadn't been telling himself.