After a disastrous relationship left Hannah Bingham pregnant and alone, she knew returning to Merlyn County was the right thing to do, even if it meant facing her family and owning up to her mistakes. What she hadn't counted on was the attention of her very grown-up teenage crush, Eric Mendoza.
Tall, dark, devastating…and devoted to his career. Eric said his idea of success was a corner office, but his considerate actions spoke louder. Hannah knew he wanted home and hearth, and she had the perfect job lined up for her sexy executive…as dad!
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By Susan Mallery
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
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Chapter One"Do I get a bonus if the buyer is young and pretty?" Jeanne asked.
Eric Mendoza tried to keep a stern expression, but it was nearly impossible when his fifty-something assistant arched her eyebrows and gave him an exaggerated wink.
"I think beautiful legs should play into the bonus equation, as well," she continued from her seat on the other side of his desk.
He held up a hand before she could detail what great breasts would be worth. "You'll get a bonus if the buyer is qualified. Looks and gender don't enter into it."
"Oh, sure, you say that now, but that's because you haven't seen the buyer."
Eric leaned back in his chair and sighed. "If I suggested your bonus would be based on anything else, you'd call me a sexist pig."
"Or worse," Jeanne agreed cheerfully. "I just love the double standard. I'm older and female, so I can say what I want. You're a young, good-looking executive on the rise, so you have to be careful."
"Right now I have to be busy." He pointed to the papers on his desk.
"Not a very subtle hint." Jeanne rose. "How long?"
He glanced at his computer screen. The schedule detailed there didn't leave much time for an unexpected meeting with a prospective purchaser of property twelve, but he wanted to get the house taken care of as quickly as possible.
"Ten minutes should be enough," he said.
"All right. I'll show her in and plan to interrupt in ten minutes." She grinned. "Should I knock before I enter, so I don't startle the two of you making out on the sofa?"
"I'm going to ignore that."
"Figures, but it wouldn't kill you to think about your social life from time to time. Once a quarter, at least. Eric, you need a woman."
"Jeanne, you need to stop trying to be my mother."
"Someone has to be. Besides, I'm good at it."
With that, she turned and headed out of the room. Eric watched her go.
His assistant was back talking, opinionated and invaluable. Through a quirk of fate, she'd been assigned to him after his first promotion three years before. Her smart mouth hid both superior intelligence and fierce loyalty. During his rapid rise to middle management at Merlyn County Regional Hospital, Jeanne had been a sounding board and a source of information. He was more than ten years younger than any of his peers, which created both resentment and opportunity. Jeanne kept a lot of the former at bay.
He scratched out a few more notes on his upcoming meeting, then glanced up when the door to his office opened.
"Hannah Wisham Bingham to see you," Jeanne said in her courteous "you're the boss" voice. Savvy as always, Jeanne only tortured him in private.
Eric set down his pen and rose. He was halfway across the room before both the name and the woman's appearance registered.
He studied the tall, slender blonde in his doorway, comparing her with the slightly gawky teenager he remembered from long-ago summers spent by the lake. Her eyes were still bright-green cat's eyes and her smile was familiar, but everything else had grown up ... in the best way possible.
Her smile widened and a dimple appeared. "Eric. It's great to see you." She stepped into the room and glanced around. "Big office, a view. I'm impressed."
Behind Hannah's back, Jeanne gave him a thumb's-up of approval. He chuckled, then motioned to the sofa in the corner. "Hannah, please, have a seat."
When they were both settled and alone, he angled toward her. "This is a surprise. I didn't know you were back in town."
"I just got in a couple of days ago. I'm interested in buying a house. I went through the various listings and was surprised to find one for sale by the hospital. Or is selling real estate something you do on the side?"
"I'm a man of many talents."
"That's hardly news. So what's the scoop?"
She twisted her hand palm up as she spoke. Her long fingers moved gracefully. The tailored blazer and slim skirt she wore made her look like what she was now - a wealthy daughter of a socially prominent family. She'd come a long way from where she'd started.
"The hospital provides housing for visiting doctors and their families," he said. "It's one way we attract the best and the brightest. The house up for sale is one of our properties. It's a great place, with views of the mountains and the lake, but it's a little too far out of town for doctors on call. I suggested we sell it and buy something closer to town. The board agreed with me."
"I see. So you're in charge of getting rid of the old and buying the new, right?"
"I've already bought the new."
"Why am I not surprised?" She laughed. "Off the beaten track with great views sounds like exactly what I'm looking for. When can I see it?"
"How about later this afternoon?"
"My calendar is blissfully free. Name the time."
She tilted her head. Soft blond hair brushed across her shoulders. "Will you be there, or do you delegate that sort of thing?"
"I'll be there," he told her, even as he knew it would mean juggling an assortment of meetings and projects.
"Then we have a plan." She rose. "I'm looking forward to seeing the house and to talking with you more. We can catch up. It's been a long time."
He stood and smiled. "I agree. At least five years."
"Six." She shrugged. "Law school. It's teaching me to be precise."
She gave a little wave with her fingers, then headed for the door. Eric watched her go. Hannah had always been a pretty girl. Now she was a beautiful woman. No wonder Jeanne had wanted to know if there was a bonus for a buyer with great legs. Hannah had those in spades.
He returned to his desk. Less than ten seconds later, Jeanne burst in.
"Can I pick 'em or what?" she said, sounding pleased. "There's no husband - I asked."
He winced. "Typical."
Jeanne didn't bother looking chagrined. "I wanted to know. I knew you wouldn't ask ..." Her gaze turned speculative. "Or would you already have this information at your fingertips? You two seemed to know each other."
"She's a couple of years younger than me. We met when we were teenagers. I worked at the lake, and she spent summers there. Her father is Billy Bingham."
Excerpted from Expecting! by Susan Mallery Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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