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Get ready for a baby surprise in USA TODAY bestselling author Kathie DeNosky's Texas Cattleman's Club novel.
Josh Gordon has no intention of funding the Texas Cattleman's Club day-care center, even if sexy Kiley Roberts is the one asking. Neither has forgotten the explosive night they spent together three years ago. The temptation to mix business and pleasure is undeniable, but it's Kiley's devotion to her daughter that has Josh dreaming of a family of his own. But when Josh ...
Get ready for a baby surprise in USA TODAY bestselling author Kathie DeNosky's Texas Cattleman's Club novel.
Josh Gordon has no intention of funding the Texas Cattleman's Club day-care center, even if sexy Kiley Roberts is the one asking. Neither has forgotten the explosive night they spent together three years ago. The temptation to mix business and pleasure is undeniable, but it's Kiley's devotion to her daughter that has Josh dreaming of a family of his own. But when Josh questions who the little girl's father really is, will the truth drive them apart or bring them even closer together?
Standing in the hallway outside the meeting rooms at the Texas Cattleman's Club, Kiley Roberts sighed heavily. If she hadn't had enough problems dealing with the vandalism of the club's new day care center a few months ago, now she was about to face the funding committee to ask for an increase in funds to run it. Unfortunately, from everything she had heard, she was facing an uphill battle. Several of the committeemen had been extremely vocal about not seeing the need to provide child care for club members, and among them was the chairman of the funding committee, Josh Gordon.
They had never been formally introduced and she didn't even know if he knew who she was. But she knew him and just the thought of having to deal with the man made her cringe with embarrassment.
Every detail of what happened that night three years ago had played through her mind since discovering that Josh was a member of the club. But when she learned he was chairman of the funding committee—the very committee that controlled the money to run the day care center—she felt as if she'd been kicked in the stomach. Being the center's director, she had to go to the committee for approval on everything outside of the budget they had set for it. That meant she would frequently have to deal with him.
She took a deep fortifying breath. How could fate be so cruel?
If she hadn't been half-asleep and wanting so badly to believe that Mark—her then-boyfriend and now ex-husband—had followed her to her sister's apartment to apologize for the argument they'd had, the incident three years ago would have never taken place. She would have realized right away that Josh wasn't Mark and stopped him before things went too far.
Kiley shook her head at her own foolishness. She should have known when Josh kissed her with such passion that the man in bed with her wasn't Mark. The only thing Mark had ever been passionate about was himself.
Sighing, she straightened her shoulders. There was nothing she could do about it now, and there was no sense in dwelling on something she couldn't change. She just wished anyone other than Josh Gordon was heading up the funding committee. Aside from the humiliating incident, he had broken her sister's heart when he abruptly ended things between them a month or so after that fateful night, and Kiley simply didn't trust him.
When the door to the meeting room opened, interrupting her tumultuous thoughts, a man she assumed to be one of the members motioned toward her. "Ms. Roberts, the committee is ready to hear from you now."
Nodding, Kiley took a deep breath and forced her feet to move forward when what she really wanted to do was turn around and head in the opposite direction. "Thank you."
As she walked toward the long table at the head of the room where Josh sat with three men and a woman, she focused on them instead of Josh. The only two she recognized were Beau Hacket and Paul Windsor. Great. They seemed to be the unofficial leaders of those opposed to the day care center and it was just her luck that they both happened to be on the funding committee. Kiley's only hope was to appeal to the lone female member and the man sitting next to her.
"Good afternoon," she said, forcing herself to give them all a cheerful smile when she was feeling anything but optimistic.
"What can we do for you today.. " Josh glanced at the papers on the table in front of him as if checking for her name ".Ms. Roberts?"
When their gazes finally met, she felt a little better. She had been hired by the club's personnel director and had managed to avoid coming face-to-face with Josh in the short time she had been working at the Texas Cattleman's Club. But now, she realized her nervousness had been unfounded. Apparently Lori had never mentioned her by name and thanks to the blackout curtains her sister preferred, neither of them had been able to see the other that night. Deciding he was either a good enough actor to deserve an Academy Award or he had no idea who she was, her confidence returned.
"As the director, I'm here to ask the committee to consider appropriating additional funds for the day care center," she stated, surprised her voice sounded strong and steady in spite of her earlier case of jangled nerves.
"What for?" Beau Hacket demanded. "We've already budgeted more than is necessary to babysit a bunch of little kids."
"I can't believe you just said that," the middle-aged woman seated to Josh's right said, glaring at Beau.
Kiley watched Josh give the man a disapproving glare before he turned his attention back to her. "What do you think you need the additional funds for, Ms.
"The club members' response to the day care center has been so positive, we have more children than we first anticipated," she answered, already knowing from the negative expression on his face how Beau Hacket would be voting on the matter.
"All you're doing is watching a handful of little kids for a couple of hours," Beau spoke up. "I don't see where you need more money for that. Sit them down with a crayon and a piece of paper and they'll be happy."
There was a warning in Josh's tone, but Kiley knew it was more a rule of order than any kind of support for her. Josh Gordon had been almost as vocal in his objections to the day care center as Beau Hacket and Paul Windsor had. Since the club started admitting female members a few years ago, the TCC had experienced quite a few growing pains as it made changes to accommodate the needs of women in its ranks, the most recent change being the addition of the day care center.
Focusing her attention on the others seated at the conference table and off the committee chairman, she decided it was time to set them straight. "I think some of you have a few misconceptions about the day care center. Yes, we do provide a safe environment for the members to leave their children while they attend meetings or events at the clubhouse, but we're more than just a babysitting service. Some of the members depend on us for early childhood education, as well."
"My granddaughter is one of your students and in the short time she's been attending, we've all been amazed at how much she's learned," the woman seated beside Josh said, smiling.
"Why can't they teach their own kids how to finger-paint at home?" Beau demanded, his disapproval evident in the tone of his voice as he glared at her.
"I'm trained in early childhood education," Kiley explained, hoping to convince the man of the importance of day care, but knowing she probably wouldn't. "The center's programs are age appropriate and structured so that the children are engaged in learning activities for their level of development." When the committee members frowned in obvious confusion, she rushed on to keep one of them from cutting her off. "For example, the toddlers learn how to interact and share with other children, as well as begin to develop friendships and basic social skills. The preschool class learns to recognize and print the letters of the alphabet, as well as their names. And in addition to teaching them how to count, my assistant and I play learning games with both groups designed to pique their interest in things like science and nature." She shook her head. "The list is endless and I could stay here all day outlining the importance of early childhood education and the benefits to a child."
When Kiley stopped to take a breath, the woman on the committee nodded. "My granddaughter has not only learned a lot, she's conquered some of her shyness and has become more outgoing, as well."
Appreciative of the woman's support, Kiley smiled. At least she had one advocate on the committee.
Josh glanced down at the papers on the table in front of him. "You're not asking for more space, just additional money for the center?"
"No, the size of the room isn't a problem. We have enough room for the children we have now, as well as many more." She could tell he wasn't paying much attention to what she had to say and would probably like to deny her outright. But protocol called for the committee to hear her out, discuss her request, then take a vote on the issue. "All I'm asking for is additional money for the day-to-day operation of the center."
"Since you don't have utilities or rent to worry about, what specifically would the funds be used for?" Paul Windsor asked, giving her a charming smile. A ladies' man if there ever was one, the older gentleman's flirtatious smile didn't fool Kiley one bit. He was just as opposed to the day care center as Beau Hacket.
"Some of the children are with us for the entire day, instead of a half day or just a few hours, Mr. Windsor," she answered, relieved she wasn't having to focus on Josh, even though she didn't like Paul Windsor. "We need the extra money for the materials for their activities, as well as the additional lunches and snacks. We also need to hire an extra worker for the infants we occasionally have when their mothers have a tennis match or engage in some of the other activities here at the clubhouse."
"We wouldn't have this problem if we hadn't let women into the club," Beau muttered as he sat back in his chair to glare at her.
"What was that, Beau?" the woman demanded, looking as if she was ready to do battle.
Beau shook his head as he belligerently folded his arms across his barrel chest. "I didn't say a damned thing, Nadine."
Kiley wasn't the least bit surprised at the man's comment or the woman's reaction. Beau Hacket was one of the men still resentful of women being permitted membership into the prestigious club, and the female members had quickly learned to stand up to the "good old boy network" and demand the respect they deserved.
"Is there anything else you'd like to add?" Josh asked, clearly ready to dismiss her and move on to the discussion phase.
"No, I believe I've adequately outlined the purpose of the day care center and the reasons we need the extra funds," she said, knowing in her heart that her plea had fallen on deaf ears—at least where the male members of the committee were concerned.
He nodded. "I think we have more than enough information to consider your request. Thank you for your time and detailed explanation, Ms. Roberts."
Looking up at her, he smiled and Kiley felt as if the floor moved beneath her feet. His bright blue eyes and engaging smile sent a shiver of awareness coursing from the top of her head to the soles of her feet and, as much as she would have liked to forget, she couldn't stop thinking about what happened that night three years ago.
"I'll drop by the center later this afternoon to let you know the outcome of our vote," Josh finished, oblivious to her reaction.
Feeling as if having to listen to her had been an inconvenience for them, Kiley nodded and walked from the meeting room. There was nothing left for her to do now but await the committee's decision. She wished she felt more positive about the results of their vote. Unfortunately, with three of the center's biggest opponents on the committee, a favorable outcome was highly unlikely.
But as much as she feared hearing their decision, Kiley dreaded having to see Josh again even more. Why couldn't he send one of the other members to let her know what had been decided? Didn't she already have enough on her plate without having to worry about seeing him again?
She had a two-year-old daughter to care for and a house that seemed to be in constant need of one repair or another, and, if the additional money for the day care didn't come through, the center might have to close due to a clause in the club's amended bylaws assuring that no member's child would be turned away, and she would be out of a job. And even if he didn't know who she was, she certainly didn't need the added stress of being reminded of the most embarrassing incident of her entire life.
* * *
As Josh walked down the hall toward the day care center, he couldn't for the life of him figure out why he felt as though he knew Kiley Roberts. He didn't think they had met before she walked into the meeting room earlier in the afternoon. If they had, he knew for certain he would have remembered her. A woman that attractive would be damned near impossible to forget.
Normally he preferred his women tall, willowy and with an air of mystery about them. But Kiley made petite and curvy look good—real good. With her chin-length, dark blond hair and the prettiest brown eyes he had ever seen, she looked soft, sexy and very approachable.
He frowned as he tried to remember if he'd even seen her before this afternoon. She might have been at Beau Hacket's barbecue a few months back. It seemed that Hacket had invited the entire membership of the Texas Cattleman's Club, as well as most of the residents of Royal. Or more likely he'd seen her somewhere around the clubhouse, maybe in the restaurant or the bar. But he couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it than that.
When he reached the door to the old billiard room—now renovated to house the day care center—he shrugged. It really didn't matter. Once he gave her the news that she wouldn't be getting any more money from the club, he would go straight to the top of her Grinch list and that would be the end of that.
Looking through the window in the door, he noticed that the room looked much nicer now than it had a couple of months ago when vandals broke in and tore up the place. They still hadn't caught who was behind the destruction or their motive for doing it, but Josh felt sure the culprits would eventually be caught and dealt with accordingly. Royal, Texas, wasn't that big of a town, and many of its residents were members of the TCC. It was just a matter of time before someone remembered seeing or hearing something that would lead the authorities to make an arrest.
He would hate to be in the vandals' shoes when that happened, he thought as he opened the day care center's door. Whether the place was wanted by all of the members or not, nobody came in and destroyed any part of their clubhouse without the entire membership taking great exception to it.
"I'll be right with you, Mr. Gordon," Kiley said from across the room.
"Take your time," he said, looking around. Several children sat in pint-size chairs at tables that were just as small. He couldn't imagine ever being little enough to fit into furniture that size.
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