Unexpected sparks flew when midwife Cecilia Mendoza met young Geoff Bingham, Merlyn County's most eligible bachelor. But she was even more surprised when their dinner date exploded into a night of passion that neither of them would soon forget.
Practical-minded Cecilia wanted more than just one evening of romance; however, she needed Geoff's help to realize her lifelong dreamto have a baby. With only a few weeks left in town, Geoff plunged into their affairand embraced the idea of having a child with no strings attached. But was it only baby-making that was in the cards, or was this love?
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Countdown To Baby
By Gina Wilkins
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe slippery seven-pound boy squirmed in Cecilia Mendoza's arms. Pink legs flailed with his irritation at being shoved out of his warm, liquid cocoon and into the openness and light of the clinic birthing room. A series of shrill screams issued from his toothless mouth, and his scrunched face was beet red with fury.
Cecilia thought he was absolutely beautiful. With hidden reluctance, she transferred the child into the arms of his exhausted but eager mother. The stocky young father hovered close by, his ruddy face split with an enormous, proud, and just a bit nervous, smile.
Pushing her own emotions to the back of her mind, Cecilia concentrated on her job as a certified nurse midwife, turning her attention to the routine followup procedures of this blessedly complication-free delivery. Her workday was almost over. She couldn't go straight home, unfortunately, because of the reception for Lillith Cunningham, the new public relations director for the Foster Midwifery Clinic and the Bingham Midwifery School, both affiliated with the regional hospital in Merlyn County, Kentucky. The reception was to begin at six. Cecilia wasn't particularly looking forward to the event, but she felt obligated to drop in.
She could contemplate her feelings of wistfulness, envy and frustration later, when she was alone in her house, longing for a child of her own. As her thirtyeighth birthday loomed closer, she couldn't help wondering if she would ever know the joy of holding her own baby.
Geoff Bingham's bedroom smelled of freshly applied orange-oil wood polish and a hint of woodlandsscented air freshener. As he precisely knotted an expensive red silk tie around the neck of his tailored white shirt, he wondered if he was only imagining the slightly musty scent of a long-unoccupied room beneath the more pleasing fragrances.
His efficient housekeeper made sure his condo was always clean and welcoming when he returned from one of his many long business trips, but sometimes the place still felt foreign to him. Like just another of the series of hotel suites and corporate apartments he slept in during his travels - when his demanding job allowed him to sleep, of course.
Picking up the hand-tailored jacket that had been laid out on his bed, he shrugged into it as automatically as a mechanic might don his blue cotton work shirt. As far as Geoff was concerned, this fifteen-hundred-dollar suit was merely a business uniform, no more indicative of his true personality than his immaculately polished wing-tip shoes. The party for which he was dressing was just another business meeting to him, at which he would smile and mingle and shake hands with the smooth skill he had spent the past ten of his thirty-two years developing.
Squeezing the tight muscles at the back of his neck with his left hand, he could only hope the reception for the hospital's new public relations director wouldn't last long. All he wanted to do was get this over with, come back to his citrus-scented condo and crash in the den with a beer, some chips and his treasured Taylor guitar. An evening of quiet solitude sounded very good to him right now. But he would do his duty. He always did.
"So, Geoff." A florid-faced man in a suit that was too tight across the belly clapped him on the back with enough force to make him almost stagger. "How long are you in town for this time?"
With the benefit of a decade of practice, Geoff held on to his pleasant smile, which was, to him, as much a tool of his trade as a hammer was to a carpenter. "Looks like I could be around for a while this time."
"That's good to hear." Bob Howard slapped Geoff's back again. "Maybe we can hit the golf course. Not this weekend, I'm afraid. The wife's sister is coming for a visit, and I'm expected to entertain my moron of a brother-in-law."
That was one thing Geoff could identify with. Family obligations. His entire life revolved around them. "Maybe some other time."
"I'll give you a call."
Geoff could think of a couple dozen things he would rather do than spend an afternoon golfing with Bob Howard - root canals and ditch digging among them - but since Howard's bank was a major financier for Bingham Enterprises, he spoke warmly. "I'll look forward to it."
Howard moved on, and Geoff took advantage of the moment of peace to take another bracing swallow of his lemonade. Around him various members of his family - his father, his grandmother, his sister, his cousins - worked the crowd attending the reception for the new public relations director for Merlyn County Regional Hospital.
The hospital had been founded by Geoff's grandparents and was still family controlled, along with their other local and international business interests. The Binghams took their responsibilities to the corporation and to the community very seriously. And to the rest of the family, of course.
Even Geoff's late, wild, uncle Billy's illegitimate offspring - the ones he had acknowledged, anyway - had certain expectations thrust upon them, whether they wanted them or not. Two of those cousins, Dr. Kyle Bingham and Hannah Bingham-soon-to-be-Mendoza, were in attendance at this affair, doing their part to promote the hospital and its upcoming public relations campaign.
Geoff's gaze lingered on Hannah, who was several months along in her pregnancy. She had very recently announced her engagement to Eric Mendoza, a rising young executive in Bingham Enterprises. The couple looked radiantly happy, and the engagement had been approved by Geoff's father and grandmother.
In their opinions, Hannah needed someone to help her raise the child she had conceived in an ill-advised affair several months ago, and young Eric needed a wife to help him further his career. This marriage was the ideal solution, as far as they were concerned.
It wouldn't be long, Geoff feared, before they turned their attentions back to him. Ever since his thirtieth birthday two years ago, they had been pressuring him to find a suitable bride and start producing more Binghams.
Excerpted from Countdown To Baby by Gina Wilkins Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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