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By Sherryl Woods
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was just past midnight on the longest day of the year for Molly Creighton. Each time this particular anniversary rolled around, it stole another piece of her. Her heart ached, and her soul ... well, there were times like this when she thought she no longer had one.
Over the years she'd come to accept the fact that life was unpredictable and sometimes cruel. She'd lost her parents at a very early age, but she'd survived thanks to the love of her grandfather. Jess had been a hard man, but he'd had a soft spot for her, and he'd raised her to believe in herself and to handle just about anything life tossed her way. There had been only one thing that had been too much for her, one loss that she hadn't been able to push aside so that she could get on with the business of living.
Oh, she went through the motions just fine. She ran Jess's, the waterfront bar in Widow's Cove, Maine, that had been her grandfather's. She had a huge circle of acquaintances and a tighter circle of friends, but she didn't have the one thing that really mattered. She didn't have her baby.
She blamed Daniel Devaney for that. Daniel had been the love of her life, though they were about as opposite in personality as any two people could be. Molly had always been - at least until a few years ago - a free spirit. She'd embraced life, because she knew all too well how short it could be. Daniel was an uptight stickler for the rules. He was logical and methodical. Maybe that was even what had drawn her to him. She'd enjoyed messing with his head, keeping him thoroughly off-kilter, almost as much as she'd thrilled to his slow, deliberate caresses.
They'd known each other practically forever, though his family lived in a small town a half hour away from Widow's Cove. They'd gone to high school together, where Daniel had been the star football player and she'd been the ultimate party girl, dating a dozen different guys before she'd finally gone out with Daniel. One date had put an end to her days of playing the field. One kiss had sealed their fate.
Even though Daniel had gone away to college and Molly hadn't, they'd been a couple, spending every free moment together. She thought she'd known his heart and his secrets, but she hadn't known the big one, the one that would tear them apart.
Finding herself pregnant four years ago, Molly had been ecstatic and had expected Daniel to be accepting, if not equally enthusiastic. Barely out of college and already established in a career he loved, he had been a do-the-right-thing kind of a guy, and he'd told her a thousand times how much he loved her. While they'd never discussed marriage, she'd believed that's where they were heading. If this pushed things along a little faster, what was the big deal?
But instead of reacting as she'd expected, Daniel had been appalled, not because he didn't love her, not even because they were too young, he'd claimed, but because fatherhood had been the very last thing he'd ever contemplated.
That was when he'd told her about the Devaney secret, the one that had ripped him and his twin brother, Patrick, apart, the one that had caused a rift so deep, Patrick hadn't spoken to their parents in years now.
As Daniel told the story, Connor and Kathleen Devaney had recklessly abandoned their three oldest sons in Boston and moved to Maine, bringing only Patrick and Daniel with them. For years they had raised the two boys as if the twins were their only children. Daniel had learned the truth only a few years earlier, when he was eighteen. He was still reeling from it.
With a father capable of abandoning three of his sons as an example, Daniel told her, how could he even consider becoming a parent himself? Any child would be better off without a Devaney in its life.
"I see too many kids whose lives are a mess because of lousy parents," he'd added to bolster his argument. "I won't do that to my own child."
Molly had tried to reassure him, tried to tell him that he would make a wonderful father - wasn't he a child advocate for the state, after all? - but he'd flatly refused to take any role in their child's life beyond financial assistance. He'd insisted that she - and their baby - would thank him someday.
Rather than continue a fight she knew she couldn't win, Molly had let her pride kick in. Convinced she could raise the child on her own and stunned by Daniel's attitude, she had thrown his offer of money back in his face. Her baby would be a Creighton and proud of it.
And maybe it would have turned out that way, if Daniel hadn't broken her heart and her spirit. It was almost as if her body had understood what her heart had tried to deny, that a life without Daniel would be meaningless. The very night they'd tried to hash it all out, she had miscarried and lost her precious baby.
It was Daniel's brother Patrick who'd taken her to the hospital on that terrible spring night four years ago. It was Patrick who'd held her hand and tried awkwardly to comfort her. It was Patrick who dried her tears each year on the anniversary of that devastating loss. He'd been by earlier in the evening to check on her before going home to his wife. If she'd asked tonight, Patrick would have stayed.
As for Daniel, he and Molly hadn't exchanged a civil word since that awful night. She doubted they ever would. She blamed him almost as much as she blamed herself.
Unfortunately, that didn't mean she'd stopped loving him. Not a day went by that she didn't think about him and what they'd lost - not just a child, but an entire future. Seeing Patrick, who looked exactly like his twin, was a constant reminder. Not that she needed one. Daniel was so much a part of her, she could have conjured him up entirely on her own.
She sighed heavily and took one last cursory swipe at the bar with her polishing cloth.
Suddenly a faint noise in one of the booths caught her attention. Widow's Cove wasn't exactly a haven for criminals, but Molly instinctively picked up the nearest bottle as a weapon and slipped through the shadows in the direction of the noise.
She had the bottle over her head and was ready to strike, when a petite, dark-haired girl, no more than thirteen or fourteen, emerged from the booth, alarm in her eyes and her mouth running a mile a minute with a tumble of excuses for being in Jess's past closing.
Molly's heart was still slamming against the wall of her chest as she lowered the bottle and tried to make sense of what the girl was saying. The rush of words was all but incoherent.
"Whoa," Molly said quietly, reaching out, only to have the girl draw back skittishly as if she feared she was still in danger of being hit.
Molly set the bottle on the table, then held out her empty hands. "Look, it's okay. Nobody here is going to hurt you."
The girl stared back at her, silent now that the immediate threat was over.
"I'm Molly. What's your name?"
Excerpted from Daniel's Desire by Sherryl Woods Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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