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Ariana Fitzpatrick rushed into the forty-ninth floor ladies' room of Wintersoft, Inc., found the place thankfully empty and slammed into the first stall. She shoved a Kleenex hard against her eyelids. No matter how rotten the day, no matter how guilty she felt, she would not cry. Not again. She was past the crying stage of pregnancy.
She glanced down at the seven-and-a-half-month protrusion around her middle and sniffled. "Way past the crying stage."
She sniffled again and leaned her throbbing head against the cool stall divider. Reaching for another tissue, she found the dispenser empty, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Sobs ripped free like a mob at a soccer game. Once loose there was no stopping them. She, normally so professional and calm, cried until her headache became a concussion, her eyelids turned to puff pastry, and her throat felt like raw hamburger.
"I hate you Benjy Walburn," she blubbered, slamming one fist into the wall.
"Are you all right in there?" A voice called, and Ariana wished she were anywhere but here. She clapped a hand over her mouth and hiccuped.
Someone rapped on the stall. "Would you like to talk?"
"No." And that one word started the bawling over again.
"Open the door," a concerned voice demanded.
"Who is it?" Ariana managed to squeak.
"Emily Winters. Who's in there?"
If she wasn't already squalling her brains out, she'd cry. Emily Winters, the boss's daughter. The jig was up, the party was over. She may as well come clean. Besides, she was desperate for a tissue.
"Ariana Fitzpatrick," she said and stepped out, taking care not to whack her belly on anything in the process. She grabbed for the tissue dispenser.
"Ariana!" Emily's gaze flew to Ariana's midsection. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," she managed to say, which was a silly answer given that she clearly was not all right.
How could she explain to Emily Winters, of all people, the extent of her duplicity? Ariana battled another wave of tears. More than anything she didn't want to lose her job. Couldn't afford to lose it now with the babies coming and Benjy gone like the wind.
"Obviously, something has happened. If not your babies, then what?" In a chic blue sheath topped with a white jacket, Emily looked slim and professional. With the emphasis on slim.
Ariana was desperate to tell someone, was certain she would explode if she didn't. These months of white lies and saving face and fretting over possible damage to Wintersoft, Inc. had taken an enormous toll on her. Who better to hear the truth than the boss's tender-hearted daughter? Before the tears rolled again, she managed to blurt, "I'm a big fat liar."
With the emphasis on fat.
Emily didn't looked shocked, only concerned. "Want to tell me the problem? Maybe I can help."
"Well, uh - yes," Emily's sapphire gaze dropped to Ariana's middle filling up half the distance between the stall and the sink. "I had noticed that."
Ariana finally found her humor and laughed. Emily joined her. Who wouldn't notice a woman who'd swallowed a Volkswagen?
"I think everyone in the company is excited about your twins and the upcoming wedding."
Ariana fought back a new threat of tears. "That's the problem. There's not going to be a wedding. I made that up." The little white lie had seemed like the best solution at the time. "Benjy jilted me two months ago - on the day we were supposed to be married."
"Oh, Ariana, I'm so sorry." Emily ripped more tissue from the dispenser and poked the soft paper into Ariana's hand. "But I don't understand. Why lie about it? You're not the loser, he is."
Ariana sniffed and dabbed at her sodden face. One of the twins elbowed her. Taking the hint, she leaned sideways, giving him more room. "I love my babies and wouldn't undo them if I could. But I was worried about causing a problem for the company. My job in public relations is to make Wintersoft, Inc. look good. Instead I'm a walking poster child for an abstinence program."
At least that was part of the reason. She'd thought everything would eventually work itself out and the lie wouldn't matter, but the problem only grew until she didn't know what to do anymore.
"Nonsense. The company's image is not the important issue here, Ariana. You and your twins are." Emily frowned. "This Benjy jerk is planning to support you financially, isn't he?"
Ariana sighed and pressed the tissue into her burning eyes. "According to Benjy, I'm on my own. He thinks the stork brought these babies."
The bathroom door swished open and Carmella Lopez entered. The older woman took one look at Ariana's tear-stained face and draped a motherly arm over her shoulders. "What's outrageous?"
Executive assistant to Emily's father, Carmella was way too close to the top of the pecking order for Ariana's comfort. She'd much rather Mr. Winters never know about her duplicity. But Emily spoke before Ariana could stop her. "Ariana's fiancé left her and refuses to support their babies."
"The dog." Carmella stepped away, sympathetic brown eyes traveling over Ariana's very pregnant body. "What you need is a good lawyer."
"As if I can afford one," Ariana bemoaned.
Eyes lighting up, Emily held up a finger. "I told you I could help. One of the best attorney's in Boston is our general counsel, and I'll bet we can talk him into taking your case pro bono." She took Ariana's hand and pulled her to the door.
"Oh, no, I couldn't." Ariana pulled back, horrified.
Wasn't being pregnant, unwed and jilted bad enough without becoming a charity case to boot?
"Of course you can. Lawyers do that kind of thing all the time. Ethics or something. And Grant Lawson is the embodiment of ethics." She gave another tug, and Ariana, already overbalanced, had no choice but to follow.
Carmella forestalled them. "Emily, could you come by my office later? We need to discuss an important matter." Some sort of mental message passed between the two women.
"Of course." Emily wiggled two fingers and pushed Ariana into the hall. "See you later."
Ariana had a stitch in her side by the time Emily escorted her up to the fiftieth floor, through the outer office and passed Mr. Lawson's prim and proper assistant, Sunny Robbins. After a soft knock, she poked her head around the door marked General Counsel. "Hi, Grant, do you have a minute? Ariana could use some advice."
Excerpted from Her Pregnant Agenda by Linda Goodnight Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted February 10, 2005
This book was awsome! I loved just about everything about it. There were a few things that I found a tad unrealalistic...but hardly anything. I enjoy books on pregnancy, children, and romances...this book inclueded a few of those topics and was fun to read. It kept me dying to turn the next page and not wanting to put it down to start class.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 21, 2003
This Is A wonderful Book cant wait for the Others And Have Read The First One Too! .LOVE IT!. I Really Like Grant And Ariana Cant Wait for the Other Fellas! . (P.S Cant Wait For Emily And I Think Jack is her fella and what about her Father? Or Camilla? Is there Something Going to happen with Them? Hope So!)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.