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She'll do anything for her baby
Alone, pregnant and broke, Jennifer Burns doesn't have a lot of options. Whatever it takes, though, she's determined that her child will grow up safe, secure?and with a father. So she goes back to her hometown of Portland to persuade her baby's father to help her out. But first she has to find him.
He'll do anything for her
Emergency-room doctor Ross Griffin is used to caring ...
She'll do anything for her baby
Alone, pregnant and broke, Jennifer Burns doesn't have a lot of options. Whatever it takes, though, she's determined that her child will grow up safe, secure—and with a father. So she goes back to her hometown of Portland to persuade her baby's father to help her out. But first she has to find him.
He'll do anything for her
Emergency-room doctor Ross Griffin is used to caring for and protecting others. So when Jennifer shows up on his doorstep—pregnant by his married brother—there's no way he won't help her out. Especially since nine years ago he and Jennifer shared a secret attraction and a single, forbidden kiss—and, as he gets to know Jennifer again, he begins to care deeply for her and for his brother's baby!
Jennifer Burns repeated the words as she slowed her dusty old station wagon in front of Ross Griffin's house in Portland, Oregon. She parked at the curb, cut the engine and sat. Cupping her rounded stomach, she fortified herself with thoughts of the new life inside her.
She was doing this for the baby's sake. That made everything worth it.
Jennifer studied the large Victorian where Ross lived. It sat on a hill above the city, with a sloped front lawn and a low hedge lining the walk. The house was pale yellow, the trim painted in darker shades of peach, giving it a warm glow in the predusk June evening. A blue Camry sat in the driveway. A flower pot hung from the roof of the porch.
Ross's home appealed to her. She wondered what his life there was like.
And wished the reason for this reunion could be anything other than what it was.
The car door gave its usual creaky groan as she opened it. Stepping out onto the smoothly paved road, she eased her body to a standing position. Her limbs felt stiff from the two-day drive and her lower back ached dully. As she crossed the front yard she was strongly conscious of her pregnancy, of her unmistakable waddle and the ripeness of her curves - so different from the last time she'd seen Ross. She'dbeen seventeen, a kid, still scrawny.
This was going to be quite a surprise. Jennifer hadn't been able to bring herself to call him. She'd tried three times and had always hung up before dialing the last digit. It was silly and illogical and she knew it. But after what had happened with his brother, she didn't know what to expect from Ross. Their past - the friendship she and Ross had once shared - might not mean a thing to him. And they hadn't parted under the best circumstances. He could try to brush her off. He could hang up on her.
No, she'd told herself, better to show up in person. Better to have this conversation face-to-face. It was too important.
Reaching the porch, she used the handrail for stability as she climbed the steps. A woven jute welcome mat sat in front of the door, and as she walked up to it she felt her heart rate quicken. Staving off another attack of nerves, she raised a hand and knocked.
* * *
Ross was standing in the living room, staring at the shredded foilage and potting soil scattered across the middle of his new rug, when someone knocked on the front door. Frank, the three-legged female Chihuahua who'd attacked and killed his last fern, yipped twice, turned in a circle and scampered under the sofa.
Ross shook his head as he walked to the front hall. Dog-sitting. And he'd agreed to a week of this. She was cute enough, but her passion for his houseplants - not to mention her sensitive stomach - made her a difficult guest. Next time Kyle and Melissa and little Emily left town, they could stick Frank in a kennel.
He opened the door and saw a pregnant woman standing on his porch.
No, not just a pregnant woman. Someone he'd known in another lifetime.
"Jennifer Burns? Is that you?"
Nine years slid away to the summer she'd dated his younger brother. To one of the few times he'd ever been jealous of Drew.
Ross remembered the long walks he and Jennifer had taken. The animated conversations. Lounging on the deck behind his parents' house on warm evenings. Being a twenty-one-year-old kid who thought he knew anything about anything.
He stared at this new version of Jennifer Burns. The shorter, chin-length cut of her dark-blond hair suited her features, which had matured very well. Her face was fuller, with a healthy pregnant-woman's glow. A splash of bleach marked the sleeve of her pink maternity shirt. She wore cropped jeans with deep creases across the upper thighs, as if she'd been sitting a long time. He could see her ankles, slightly swollen, above a pair of inexpensive white sneakers.
Pregnant. On his doorstep. Looking anxious but determined, as if she had a very important purpose for being there.
He knew what it meant. The knowledge came swiftly and effortlessly. Like a needle stick. Not so much painful in itself, but a single, simple moment containing a world of consequences.
The wave of anger surprised him. Anger at her. At his brother. At himself, for caring even the slightest, when he hadn't seen her in almost a decade.
She fidgeted under his gaze. "I need to talk with you. May I come in?"
Ross didn't trust himself to speak. He stood back, let her enter, then motioned through the archway between the front hall and the living room.
Frank's mess on his floor and a pregnant Jennifer Burns in his house. Not what he'd planned for the evening.
"Excuse me," he managed to say. He left her in the living room and went to the hall closet for a whisk broom and a hand-held vacuum, then to the kitchen for the trash can. Frank's mess, at least, could be fixed.
Rejoining her, he set to work on the fern's remains without offering an explanation. The brown glazed planter had broken into several pieces and he swept it up along with the fern and potting soil.
He felt torn between wanting Jennifer to walk back out the front door and never return - walk away as she had nine years ago - and wanting her to stay. Wanting to be around her again.
She'd slept with his brother. She carried his brother's child. What would make her become involved with Drew again? What the hell did she see in him? And why did he, Ross, feel even the least bit of interest in someone capable of such bad judgment?
"It's been a long time," she ventured. She stood awkwardly in a corner, watching him at his task. "How are you?"
He shrugged. "Not bad. You?"
"Okay," she said. "Fine."
"And pregnant." He didn't look up as he said it.
After a brief silence, Ross switched on the vac to suck up the last of the dirt. When he was finished, Frank slipped out from under the sofa and trotted across the room to sniff at the visitor's toe. Jennifer knelt to let the dog smell her hand. Frank darted her tongue out, licked once and scooted backward as fast as her three feet could take her. She disappeared down the hall.
"Congratulations," he said, as Jennifer rose. Meaning her pregnancy.
"Thank you." The conversation stopped again. Ross gathered his cleaning supplies and stood up.
They both knew where this was headed. He didn't want to ask the question but forced himself.
"Do I know the father?"
Jennifer faced him squarely. She opened her mouth but couldn't seem to find the words. Finally she nodded.
Excerpted from Her Baby's Father by Anne Haven Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted May 29, 2012
Posted May 13, 2012
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