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A Passionate Proposal
By Emilie Rose
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMiddle-of-the-night calls never brought good news.
Cort Lander smacked his cheek in an effort to wake himself and grabbed the phone before the second ring. "Hello?"
He squinted at the digital clock. Just because his last seventy-two-hour shift had only ended three hours ago didn't mean the hospital wouldn't call him to come back if one of his patients took a bad turn. He preferred it that way.
"Is this Cort Lander - former ... companion of Kate Simms?"
A bitter taste filled his mouth. He hadn't heard from Kate in over a year. Who would be calling here for her? "Yes."
"I'm Helen McBride from Du Page County Social Services. I'm sorry to have to inform you that Ms. Simms was killed today."
His heart stuttered. He struggled with the tangled sheets and sat up.
"Kate's dead?" Bold and aggressive Kate. She'd vowed that nothing would stand in the way of her becoming the best criminal attorney to ever hit Chicago. He hadn't realized at the time that she'd considered him an obstacle. "How?"
"A client managed to get a gun into the courthouse. When the verdict didn't go his way, he - but that's not why I called, Mr. Lander."
"Doctor," he corrected automatically.
"I called to ask you to take custody of your son."
"My what?" Certain his sleep-deprived brain had misunderstood, he shoved a hand through his hair, shook his head to clear it and then turned on the bedside lamp.
"Joshua, your son."
"Kate and I didn't have any children."
"Before she passed away, Ms. Simms told us where to find you and asked us to make sure you came for the boy. You are his only living relative."
The hair on the back of his neck stood up. He had a son? Impossible, unless Kate had been pregnant when she left Durham to take the job in Chicago. She'd surprised him with a Dear John letter four months later, but she'd never mentioned a pregnancy. Hell, she hadn't even bothered to mention why she'd dumped him.
"I haven't seen Kate in -" he mentally counted back
"- almost sixteen months. How old is the boy?"
"Nine months. I'm sorry. I know this is quite a shock, but you are named as the father on his birth certificate, and Ms. Simms listed you as Joshua's guardian in her will. You must come and get him."
"What's his blood type?" Blood wasn't conclusive, but he knew Kate's was O negative because she'd donated frequently. His was AB positive.
He heard the crackle of shifting papers over the phone line. "Josh's blood type is AB positive."
His gut clenched and his heart pounded harder. His palms started to sweat. The phone nearly slipped from his fingers. The calm he prided himself on when dealing with patients in the hospital vanished.
"I'm not taking custody until a DNA test proves he's my son."
"I certainly understand how you feel, Dr. Lander, but you are listed as the child's guardian regardless. You can certainly choose to give him up for adoption, but I'd suggest meeting Joshua first."
"Tell me where I can find him." He fumbled for a pen and paper and wrote down the address, and then he hung up the phone and put his head in his hands.
If Kate had had his baby, then why hadn't she told him? They'd parted on good terms - or so he'd thought until he'd received his walking papers. He'd planned to visit her during the holidays, but then she'd dumped him and refused to return his calls or his e-mails. Why? Had she found somebody new? Or had she finally figured out that a Texas cowboy would never meet her high expectations? She'd wanted blue blood, but he was blue collar.
He stood up and paced his bedroom, thankful that his roommates were all working the night shift, and he didn't have to explain the bombshell that had just dropped on his life. He wandered from room to room in the tiny two bedroom apartment he shared with three other medical residents.
What in the hell was he going to do with a baby? He couldn't bring him here.
He'd have to ask to be excused from the residency program early. Thank God summer break was only a few days away.
If the child was his he'd take him home to Crooked Creek. His brothers would know what to do with a baby. He'd call them and tell them ... Oh, hell. He scraped a hand over his face.
He'd tell them the Lander curse had struck again.
Excerpted from A Passionate Proposal by Emilie Rose Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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