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Mother By Design
By Susan Mallery Christine Rimmer Laurie Paige
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAny woman who'd been left at the altar had the perfect right - maybe even an obligation - to go a little crazy. Who wouldn't understand a wild weekend in the Caribbean or an inappropriate relationship with a much younger man? Lily Tyler chose to handle her public humiliation by getting pregnant and then buying a house.
"What do you think?" she asked eagerly. As she spoke, she tucked her right hand behind her back and crossed her fingers. Jake Stone was many things: best friend, all-around great guy and honest to a fault. The closest he came to lying was not saying anything. If he thought the house was a disaster, he would tell her - even if the news broke her heart.
He glanced around the dining room, taking in the hardwood floors, the crown molding and the bay window that offered a view of the Willamette River.
"Good-sized rooms," he said slowly. "You had the roof inspected?"
She nodded, trying not to bounce with excitement. "Uh-huh. And the wiring and the pipes. I know the place is old, but the owner before the last one did a lot of refurbishing." Unfortunately the previous owner had done squat, except apply some incredibly ugly paint and even worse wallpaper.
"The building inspector gave me a big thumbs-up," she added hopefully.
Jake turned his attention from the window to her. His dark gaze didn't give anything away - not a surprise, and one of his more annoying habits, she thought affectionately.
"Tell me the truth," she said, then winced.
He grinned. "Say it like you mean it."
"I do mean it. I'm just nervous."
"You want the house."
"More than chocolate."
He raised his eyebrows. "I didn't know there was anything you wanted more than chocolate."
"I mean it, Jake," she told him. "Am I crazy?"
He looped an arm around her shoulders and squeezed. "Lil, you've always been crazy. Lately, though, your impulses have gotten a lot more expensive."
She stepped back and socked his arm. "I'm serious."
"So am I. If you love the house that much, buy it."
She grabbed his hand. "Really? But it needs a lot of work."
"All cosmetic. You've had the inspections, you know it's sound. From my experience, you don't have any structural issues. So go for it. You can afford it." His eyes narrowed. "Can't you?"
"Of course." She flung herself at him. "I'm so glad you approve. Not that I need your approval."
He pulled her close and kissed her forehead. "Of course not. That's why you were crossing your fingers behind your back."
She laughed. "You saw that?"
"I see everything."
"Oh, right." Lily stepped back and sighed.
"Okay, I'm going ahead with the deal. Which means I have three months to get the place all fixed up."
Jake shook his head. "That's not gonna happen."
"Of course it is." She touched her stomach. "I'm not going to wait until after the baby's born."
"You're six months pregnant."
"Actually, I'm aware of that."
"You know what I mean, Lily. Have you checked with your doctor? Is it safe for you to be stripping wallpaper and painting?"
"The stripping is fine. I'll be using a steamer. As for painting ..." She let her voice trail off and looked at him from under her lashes. "It could be difficult."
Jake groaned. "Let me guess. You thought I could pitch in and help."
She blinked. "If it's not too much trouble."
"Great. So you expect me to paint the place."
"Just the inside. I'm hiring a crew to do the outside."
"Gee, thanks," he grumbled. "What else?"
"I want to put down tile in the master bath. You've done that before, right? Maybe you could give me a few pointers."
She beamed. "Not right now."
Jake gave the sigh of the long-suffering. "I need to get my tape measure from the truck. I'll be right back."
While he was gone, Lily crossed to the bay window and stared out at the trees at the edge of her property and the way the yard sloped down to the river.
After four years of small apartments and student loan payments, she was finally buying her first-ever house. The fact that it was the old O'Malley place - a house she'd loved since she'd been a teenager - made the moment even more special. The pain of the past had finally faded. She could think about Michael Carson - wormy weasel dog - and not even flinch. She still had a little trouble when she remembered being all dressed up in her white wedding gown with no groom, but even that humiliation had faded a lot. She'd gotten on with her life, which made this a very good day.
She heard footsteps. Before she could turn around, she felt Jake's hand on the small of her back.
"You okay?" he asked, his voice low and concerned.
"Of course. I'm excited about the house."
She reached for his hand and brought it around to rest on the mound of her stomach. "I am not naming the baby Sam."
"Why not?" he asked. "It's the perfect name. Samantha if it's a girl and Samuel if it's a boy."
"I see." She smiled. "And I should listen to you why?"
"Because I'm always right."
Excerpted from Mother By Design by Susan Mallery Christine Rimmer Laurie Paige Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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