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Keeping Baby Secret
By Beverly Barton
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLeenie checked the refrigerator for the third time. The bottles of milk were there, as she knew they would be. Just where she'd put them. But she simply had to check a final time, had to make sure nothing had been left undone. After all, this was a turning point in her life, a make-or-break night. As she hurried by the computer desk in her kitchen, she glanced at the list of phone numbers posted by the telephone. Emergency numbers, her cell number, her private number at work, as well as the switchboard number.
Rushing out of the kitchen and down the hall, her heartbeat rapid and her stomach painfully knotted, she wondered why this had to be so difficult. It wasn't as if she was the first woman in the world to go through this painful separation. Millions of women throughout the world had done what she was doing and most of them could probably sympathize with her feelings of guilt and fear.
As she neared the end of the hall, she slowed her pace, took a deep breath and told herself that she could do this. She was a strong woman. An independent woman. When she reached the nursery, she looked from Debra, who smiled compassionately, to Andrew, who lay sleeping peacefully in his bed, totally unaware of the trauma his mother was experiencing.
"Everything will be all right." Debra draped her arm around Leenie's shoulders. "You'll be gone only a few hours and he'll probably sleep the entire time you're away."
"But if he wakes and I'm not here ..." Leenie pulled away from her son's nanny, walked over to Andrew's bassinet and watched her six-week-old baby as he slept. His little chest rose and fell softly with each tender breath he took. She reached out to touch his rosy cheek.
"If he wakes, I'll be right here," Debra assured her. "And if he's hungry, you left breast milk in the fridge. You aren't deserting him forever, you're just going to work."
"Maybe we should postpone this another week or so." Leenie couldn't bear the thought of being separated from Andrew, even for the four hours it would take her to drive to WJMM, do her two-hour midnight talk-show on the radio, set things up for her morning TV show and then drive home.
"No, we won't postpone it," Debra said firmly.
"We can continue taking Andrew to the station every morning for your daytime show, but he shouldn't be dragged out of his bed every night." Debra crossed her arms over her chest and narrowed her gaze. "Go to work, Leenie. You do your job and let me do mine."
Sighing heavily, Leenie admitted her deepest fears. "But one of my jobs is being Andrew's mother and if you do your job too well, my son will bond with you and not me."
Huffing loudly, but following up with an understanding smile, Debra patted Leenie's arm. "Andrew has already bonded with you. He knows you're his mother. If I do my job well, and I'd like to think I've been doing that since the day we brought Andrew home from the hospital, then he'll think of me as a favorite aunt or as a grandmother."
"I'm being silly, aren't I?"
"No, you're being a good mother."
"Am I a good mother? I'm not sure what makes a good mother. As you well know, I didn't have one of my own. No mother at all raised me, good, bad or otherwise."
"Jerry and I were parents to over fifty foster kids in our thirty years of marriage." Debra sighed dreamily, as she always did whenever she mentioned her late husband, who had died two years ago at the age of sixty-three from a heart attack. "I've seen all kinds of mothers and I know a good one from a bad one."
"Yes, I imagine you do. You were certainly an excellent role model for me when I lived with you and Jerry. I learned by watching the way you were with all of us foster children what a good mother is." She had been fifteen when she'd been sent to live with Debra and Jerry Schmale, a young minister and his wife who'd been told they could never have children of their own and had decided they would give their love and time to unwanted, neglected kids of all ages. The three years she'd spent with the Schmales had been the best years of her childhood.
"You, Dr. Lurleen Patton, are a good mother," Debra said.
"Even though I'm a single parent? Even though I didn't provide Andrew with a father?"
"You told me that Andrew was the result of a very brief affair with a man you barely knew. A man who showed no interest in settling down. A man who was very careful to use protection each time y'all made love."
Leenie nodded. "One of those times, that protection failed. Otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten pregnant. But that wasn't Frank's fault."
"You made the decision not to tell Andrew's father about his existence because you felt it was the best thing for everyone concerned. Right?"
"Have you changed your mind?"
No, she hadn't changed her mind. Although, truth be told, sometimes she wished she had called Frank the day she'd found out she was pregnant, called him and told him he was going to be a daddy. But she'd been so shocked herself that it had taken her weeks to figure out what to do. By the time she decided she wanted to keep her baby and raise it herself, she had also decided that the last thing Frank Latimer would want in his life was a child. Their entire relationship had lasted less than two weeks. Love hadn't been involved. Just a major case of lust.
"No, I haven't changed my mind. If Frank knew he had a child, it would simply complicate his life and mine, not to mention Andrew's."
Debra turned Leenie around, grasped her shoulders and all but shoved her out of the room. "If you don't leave now, you'll be late." Debra walked Leenie into the hallway and all the way to the back door. "Call me every thirty minutes, if that will make you feel better - but go. Now!"
Leenie sighed. "Thanks. I don't know what I'd do without you. Sometimes I think I need you even more than Andrew does."
Excerpted from Keeping Baby Secret by Beverly Barton Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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