Only, suddenly stranded during a fierce storm with her soon-to-be ex, she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep her not-so-little secret. But the long daysand nightsspent with each other brought back the deep, passionate emotions that still coursed between them. Now that fate had intervened, was this her last chance to convince Nick that he was the perfect husband andsurprise!daddy?
|File size:||1 MB|
Read an Excerpt
Daddy On The Doorstep
By Judy Christenberry
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAndrea Bainbridge peered through the sheets of rain deluging her windshield and prayed she'd make it to Aunt Bess's house before her car was swept off the road. She could barely see the pavement. Only the center white line kept her on track.
Afraid to go above a snail's pace, Andrea thought she'd never reach the long drive that led to Aunt Bess's farmhouse. When she finally saw the outline of the familiar mailbox through the pouring rain, she turned her car into the drive with relief and then panicked as the wheels skidded beneath her.
Mud wasn't the right description for what was under her car now. Maybe quicksand would be better. Or shifting sands. Or -
Stop it, Andy! You're getting hysterical!
With good reason, she argued with herself. Aunt Bess had called her three hours ago, complaining of chest pains. Andrea hadn't been able to convince the stubborn old lady to go to the hospital without her. Bess had assured her she could wait until Andrea arrived.
Normally she could make the drive in a little less than two hours. But these conditions weren't normal. It had been raining day and night for almost a month. Andrea knew how Noah had felt. All the rivers and streams had flooded days ago. There was only one road to Bess's farm which was still above water.
And she wasn't sure how much longer it would be open. She'd been petrified when she'd crossed that one-lane wooden bridge.
The car slid out of control and she fought the steering wheel. When she finally came to a halt, she was almost sideways in the small lane.
"Hold on, Bess. I'm coming," she muttered, more for herself than Bess. But the old lady was the one person in this world Andrea loved without reservation. She'd do anything for Aunt Bess.
Carefully backing up, she braked and then put the car in Drive. The tires spun and she swallowed her fear. Easing off the gas pedal, she allowed the forward motion of the gear to move the car. Once the tires had gripped whatever solid ground there was, she pressed slightly on the pedal and breathed a sigh of relief as the car moved forward.
When the dim form of the old farmhouse became visible, Andrea killed the motor and leaped from the car. She wasn't worried about the rain or the mud, only about Bess. She had to get her to a hospital.
"Bess? Bess?" she called as she swung open the front door.
Silence greeted her. Fearing what she might find, Andrea raced to the kitchen, the true center of Aunt Bess's home, but it was empty.
From there, she ran to the bedroom. More silence.
"Bess? Where are you?" Panic rising, she raced back through to the living room and the front door. That's when she saw the message taped to the panel of glass.
I persuaded Bess to let me take her to the hospital before you got here. I didn't think she should wait. Hope I did the right thing.
Andrea slumped against the door, relieved beyond words that Bess was in good hands. Roy Evans was a nearby neighbor who checked on Bess almost every day. Then, concern about Roy's statement about not waiting filled Andrea and she ran back to the kitchen and the phone on the wall.
Bess kept her telephone directory on a shelf below the phone and Andrea thumbed through it impatiently, searching for the number to the small hospital in the closest town. As she was dialing the number, concentrating on Bess's safety with all her heart, she vaguely heard more noise, though it was hard to detect a difference over the roar of the storm.
"Hubbard Hospital," a clipped voice answered and then spoke to someone else before Andrea could ask about Bess. "No, sir, you can't go back there. You're getting in the doctor's way!"
"Please," Andrea interrupted, "I need to find out about -"
"Hello? Hello? Is anyone here?"
Andrea stared at the phone receiver briefly before she realized this new voice wasn't coming over the wire. It was coming from the front door.
And she recogized the voice. It belonged to her soon-to-be ex-husband, Nicholas Avery.
She hung up the phone and hurried to the front of the house, unable to believe her ears. Nick, the last she'd heard, had been missing after he'd gone to Africa on a business trip.
"Aunt Bess?" he called.
"Nick?" she questioned even as her eyes confirmed her earlier guess. "What are you doing here?"
Okay, she hadn't sounded welcoming, but what did he expect? There was no need for him to frown at her like that.
"I think that's my line, isn't it, Andy? After all, Bess is my aunt."
"But you were missing -"
"And now I'm found. Where's Aunt Bess?" he snapped.
"At ... at the hospital, I think." His question had made her remember the important person in their little drama. "She left a note. Her neighbor took her to the hospital."
"She's hurt?" he asked, urgency in his voice.
"She called me earlier. Told me she was having chest pains and wouldn't go to the doctor until I came."
"A heart attack?" Nick asked with even more urgency. She'd never seen her husband lose his cool. Ex-husband, she corrected herself. Or soon to be. But he seemed close to the edge now. That was one thing they'd always had in common. They both loved Bess.
"I was calling the hospital when I heard you. I'll call again." This time she asked her question as soon as the operator answered.
"I'll ring her room, but make your call brief. We've got a lot of emergencies and we need to keep the lines open."
"Aunt Bess," Andrea said in relief when a quavery voice answered.
"Is that you, Andy? Thank God. I was so worried. Where are you?"
Andrea didn't get a chance to answer. Nick took the phone from her hand.
"Aunt Bess? It's Nick. I'm home. Are you okay?"
Bess was his aunt, his mother's sister, so she guessed Nick technically had the right to be the one to talk to her. And she knew Bess would be relieved. She'd called Andrea almost a week ago to tell her Nick had flown to Africa on business and then disappeared. The State Department had been unable to offer any information about his safety.
She'd talked to Bess each evening, the two of them sharing their fears. That's why Nick's appearance had been even more of a surprise than normal.
Excerpted from Daddy On The Doorstep by Judy Christenberry Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.