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The Pregnancy Bond
By Lucy Gordon
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOn Kelly's eighth wedding anniversary she gave a party to celebrate her divorce.
Strictly speaking it was "their" divorce, but of course Jake was missing, as he had been for most of the big events in their marriage. He probably wasn't even in the country, so it was natural that he didn't show up.
That, plus the fact that she hadn't invited him.
She had a lot to celebrate and she was going to do it in style. She'd just embarked on the college course she'd rejected eight years ago in favour of marriage, and this time she was going to stay. She was going to graduate with honours. And she was going to forget Jake Lindley had ever existed.
Not that that would be easy when his face seemed to crop up every time she turned the television on. "Jake Lindley, reporting in the thick of the riots.... Jake Lindley digs deep and finds the truth you weren't supposed to know...."
Jake Lindley was a hero, a handsome, hard-bodied, daredevil, sexy icon of the media age, with keen eyes and a wicked smile that said "come hither" to every red-blooded woman within radius. But he'd broken Kelly's heart and she was well rid of him.
This was her world now, this cosy apartment filled with the friends she'd made since joining college a few weeks ago. Attwenty-six she was older than most of the students, and there was also a sprinkling of the younger professors, especially the handsome Carl, her teacher on the archaeology course. He was in the middle of the floor, dancing madly, apparently with two partners at once. He waved for her to join them, and she waved back, but indicated that she had some drinks to serve first. He winked and mouthed a wolf-whistle.
"He fancies you," said a voice at Kelly's elbow. She turned and saw Marianne, Carl's sister, sipping champagne.
"He winks at everything in skirts," Kelly said, with perfect truth.
"You're not wearing a skirt," Marianne said, frankly envious. "You're wearing a skin-tight black satin trouser suit that makes me want to kill you just for being able to get into it."
Kelly chuckled, pleased. Four months ago, when she'd thrown Jake out, she couldn't have squeezed into this revealing creation. But the misery of their breakup had destroyed her appetite, and by the time she'd pulled herself together she'd lost twenty pounds without even trying.
Her reward was a face that had developed seductive hollows beneath the cheekbones, a crystal-clear jaw-line and a figure that slid into that tight black satin as though it had been crafted onto her. And she looked fantastic. She knew it. And if she hadn't known it, the yearning stares of every man there would have told her.
Marianne, a beautician by trade, had completed the transformation, cutting off the mane of hair that Kelly had kept shoulder-length ever since that long-ago day when Jake had run his fingers through it and said he liked a woman with luxurious hair. Now it was barely an inch long, nestling against her head in wispy feathers that gave her a gamine look.
In addition Marianne had ruthlessly banished the sandy colour in favour of a glamorous red, and replaced Kelly's sedate scent with a musky perfume that was "the new you!"
"It can't be me," Kelly had protested, slightly shocked.
"It can be if you believe in yourself," Marianne had insisted. "Go for it!"
So she had, and knew almost at once that the perfume, the flaming hair and the outrageous satin suit were made for each other. Whether they were made for her she still wasn't quite sure, but it was fun finding out.
Tonight was the start of her new life as a bright single young woman, sailing once more under her maiden name, making her own way in the world instead of trailing behind a man because she loved him more than he loved her, until at last he hadn't loved her at all. As well as her looks she had rediscovered her brains, and it was like being a new person. The final pleasure was the revelation that she could be the pursued and not the pursuer.
Carl managed to pounce on her and sweep her into the dance.
"Mmm," he murmured, inhaling her scent. "You smell too good to be true. You look too good to be true, and you feel - mmm!"
"And who did you last say that to?" she asked, amused.
He was shocked. "I lay my passion at your feet and you doubt me. Talking of your feet, I love those golden sandals."
"Marianne made me buy them, plus the perfume. I'm really her handiwork."
"It's not Marianne who makes you go in and out in all the right places," he mused, allowing his hands to move around hopefully.
"Down, Fido," she said, wagging one gilt-taloned finger at him in mock rebuke. She liked Carl, but she hadn't quite made up her mind about him.
"All right - for the moment. You know why Marianne has got involved, don't you? She's set her heart on seeing me get married."
"Well, she's wasting her time with me," Kelly said with spirit. "No more husbands, ever."
"Was he really that bad?"
"Couldn't tell you. He no longer exists."
"Quite right. A lover is far more exciting," he murmured in her ear.
"Maybe, but it can't be you."
"Why?" he demanded in comic outrage.
"You're my tutor. It wouldn't be proper."
"I'll throw you out of the class tomorrow."
They laughed together. He drew her close and nibbled her ear, which made her laugh even more, giving him the chance to plant a kiss on her mouth. She kissed him back. Carl was nice.
He wasn't allowed to enjoy his triumph for long. Frank, another mature student about Kelly's age, whisked her away.
"Great little place you've found here," he yelled above the din.
"Lovely, isn't it?" she yelled back. "Thanks for your house-warming present." He'd given her a pair of black and white avant garde prints that added the finishing touch to her walls.
"How are you enjoying your freedom?" he asked.
"If I'd known it felt this good I'd have gone for it long ago."
"Harmon is your maiden name, right?"
"Who was your husband?"
"It doesn't matter," Kelly said, repeating the mantra that had sustained her through the miserable weeks. "He's in the past."
"Good for you. That's the only way to do it."
When the dance ended they were by the bar. Frank danced off with somebody else while Kelly downed an orange juice.
Marianne sidled up to her. "You really are a dark horse, aren't you?"
"How do you mean?"
"I mean that fantastic man who's just walked in; the one with come-to-bed eyes and that 'I'll have any woman I like' look."
"I don't know any man like that," Kelly said regretfully. "Where?"
"Over there. He looks a bit familiar. Now, where have I seen his face before?"
"On television," Kelly said, stunned. "And he wasn't invited."
"Well, I'll be only too pleased to take him off your hands. Honestly, he shouldn't be allowed out alone. It's not safe - for any of us. I want everything you know. Starting with 'Is he married?'"
Kelly pulled herself together. "Not since ten-thirty this morning."
"You mean he's -? He isn't -?"
"All that was yours, and you let it go?"
Excerpted from The Pregnancy Bond by Lucy Gordon Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.