For the first time in her life, adventure reporter Miranda Wilde has a plan that doesn't involve scaling mountains or swimming with sharks. Miranda is about to do something scarier--she's about to become a mother. Determined to deliver the news to her unborn baby's father, Miranda arrives in Swift River to find the rugged resort owner with whom she shared an unexpectedly sexy weekend. Except Carson Swift is out of town--on his honeymoon--leaving his twin brother in charge. It's all Miranda can do not to fall apart in Cody Swift's strong arms....
Miranda is the only woman who ever tempted Cody to settle down, which is exactly why he doesn't reveal that he's the twin who shared those soul-searing nights with her. Cody knows Miranda needs more than a rough-edged river guide to give her the life she deserves. Then he learns Miranda is carrying a baby--his baby--and he's ready to stake his claim. But can he prove his heart is in the right place--and that this is one adventure they're meant to have together, for a lifetime?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)|
Read an Excerpt
In Too Deep
A Swift River Romance
By Kristina Mathews
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Kristina Mathews
All rights reserved.
Standing at the top of the driveway, Miranda Wilde tried to calm her nerves. All she had to do was take a few more steps, knock on the door, and tell a man she barely knew that he was going to be a father.
She'd jumped out of airplanes, climbed mountains, and explored underwater caves. But it was her latest excursion, a scenic rafting trip down the Yampa River, that had turned out to be a life-changing experience.
There were two paths leading from the long driveway. A river-stone-lined walkway meandering toward the front of the house, and a short wooden staircase leading to an expansive deck and glass doors overlooking the river.
Friends probably approached from the deck, not the formal front entry. Yet, she couldn't quite consider herself a friend. They'd spent less than a week together. Hardly more than a one-night stand.
She'd been seduced by the scenery, the solitude, and the sexy stud who guided her and the other passengers through the secluded sandstone canyon. A few sunset swims, moonlit walks, and predawn hanky-panky, and she'd made her own private memories to tuck away like a wildflower pressed between the pages of her journal.
Miranda decided to take the longer path to the front door. As if those few extra steps would help her figure out just what she expected from this reunion. She had the cover of doing an article for the magazine. That would give her a chance to ask questions, get to know a little more about her child's father. And then? Hopefully they could at least form a friendship, a solid base on which they could build a coparenting strategy.
As she walked toward the door, a figure appeared in the window. Tall, blonde, and female. She was singing or humming or perhaps even whistling while she worked at the kitchen sink. She was wearing a blue satin dress and seemed very happy this morning.
Great, Miranda hadn't counted on Cinderella.
The chances of her being Carson's sister were probably pretty slim. Of course, he had a new girlfriend, lover, or whatever. They hadn't made any promises to each other or even plans to see each other again. He'd clearly moved on.
If only Miranda had that luxury.
A part of her wanted to turn around. Head back to her car and the rest of her life. But then she thought of having a conversation with her child years down the road. A daughter, perhaps, asking her why she'd never known her father. And Miranda would have to explain that she'd tried to contact him. Once. But there had been a woman in his kitchen. Then her daughter would ask why that woman had been more important than her.
Most likely Cinderella was just another one of Carson's flings. If she was in a relationship with him, wouldn't she have brought a change of clothes? It was a little early in the day, and late in the year, for prom. Not to mention the fact that he'd been out of high school for at least a decade.
So Miranda wasn't going to worry about who the woman was or where Carson had picked her up.
Miranda looked down at her T-shirt and shorts — she was dressed for a day on the river — and wondered if she should have dressed up for this meeting. Tried to present herself as a sophisticated urban journalist. But who was she kidding? If she even owned business casual outfits, she'd feel like she was heading to court, not on assignment. No. This was an occasion that called for the familiar. She needed to be herself, the woman he would hopefully remember.
With one, last, deep breath, she approached the front door. Her original plan was a good one. Pretend she was here on assignment. Her readers would want to know all about him, the company, his life on the river. She would make sure he was comfortable, at ease, before she would turn his life upside down.
Then she'd let Carson worry about the other woman.
* * *
Was that the dish fairy in his kitchen?
Cody Swift expected to face a huge mess the morning after his brother's wedding. Instead, he found a woman dressed in blue satin and yellow rubber gloves.
She'd stayed over to help. Damn her. Or bless her. He couldn't make up his mind. That was part of the problem. She'd worked for him for three years. Why had things gotten weird between them lately? They'd always been friends. She was one of the guys. She had to be, working at Swift River Adventure Company. And Resort. He couldn't forget the Resort. Especially now that he was temporarily in charge.
He'd always been the relaxed one. The easygoing one. His brother would have called him the irresponsible one. But it was just as much Carson's fault as it was his. Carson took care of everyone and everything. But now he had Lily. She took care of Carson.
Cody was surprised by how much he envied his brother. Not just because Lily had chosen his twin over him. He envied the fact that Carson had someone to come home to each night. Someone soft and warm and ...
Fisher hinted that she could be that kind of someone.
And last night could have been ... It could have been a huge mistake.
What was it about weddings that got women all crazy? Fisher was a bridesmaid. Between the champagne and the flowers and the dress, she'd been transformed into a very feminine — and he had to admit — very sexy woman.
"Good morning, sunshine." She turned and smiled at him. That's right, she was one of those morning people. "I made you coffee, since I know you haven't quite gotten used to Carson not being here."
"Thanks." He offered up a half-smile. He didn't want to encourage her. Thank God he hadn't encouraged her last night. It was bad enough waking up to her in his kitchen. If she'd been in his bed ...
"So, I hope you don't mind I started cleaning up." Fisher was still wearing her bridesmaid dress but she'd ditched the heels. Not that she needed them.
"You don't have to do that." Cody felt like he was taking advantage of her. "I can manage."
"Yeah, right." Fisher laughed. She was a great gal. They had a lot in common. Too much, maybe. But unfortunately she wasn't ... she wasn't her.
A knock on the door startled him out of the fog his quick, and cold, shower hadn't quite cleared up. Who could be here this early on a Sunday?
"I'll get it." Fisher beat him to the door. "Hi, can I help you?"
A stranger. Maybe a guest who'd left something behind after the wedding.
"Hi, I'm Miranda Wilde from Adventure Chix magazine." He knew that voice. Had been haunted by that voice for almost two months. "I'm looking for Carson Swift."
"Oh, you're a day late," Fisher said. "He's on his honeymoon."
"Hi, Miranda." Cody stepped forward, his heart hammering in his chest. "I'm Cody, Carson's brother. Is there something I can do for you?"
She looked flustered. Confused. A little surprised by his appearance. Of course, she didn't recognize him. Or rather, she didn't realize that they had met. They'd more than just met. They'd had the time of their lives.
And boy, did he now regret pretending to be Carson at the time.
"Oh, you must be twins." Something else he hadn't mentioned. Miranda recovered herself a little. But she wasn't the woman he remembered. The woman he couldn't forget. It wasn't just her long, lean legs, her toned and tan skin, or her glossy, dark hair. There was something about her he just couldn't shake. "I hadn't realized ..."
"?" Cody led her to the kitchen. He still couldn't believe she'd tracked him down. Tracked Carson down. Oh boy. This could be interesting.
"No, thank you." Miranda looked at him and then looked at Fisher. "Am I interrupting?"
"No." Fisher pulled her gloves off. "We were just cleaning up after the wedding last night. I'll be going."
Miranda must think that Fisher had spent the night with him. She had, but in the spare room. Carson's old room. Damn. He missed his brother already. He'd know what to do. He'd be able to figure a way out of this mess. Except he was too busy being in love and getting ready to have a kid.
"Are you sure I can't get you anything?" Cody wanted to make Miranda feel at home. Hell, he wanted to feel her.
"Maybe a glass of water." She looked up at him, confusion and disappointment in those deep green eyes of hers. Those eyes he'd spent five days and four nights getting lost in.
He turned to the sink and poured her a glass of water. They'd met on the Yampa River, in eastern Utah. At the time, he was filling in for his brother, working the river as Carson. He'd been angry about Carson planning to leave him, so he'd gone in Carson's place. It had seemed like a good idea at the time.
Then he'd met Miranda. Watching her walk away from him had been the hardest thing he'd ever done. But they'd agreed. Keep it casual, keep it fun, keep it within the time frame of the five-day trip. She never knew where she'd be sent on her next assignment, and Cody would go back to being himself once he got off the river for the last time.
Only he hadn't quite been himself since he'd met her.
* * *
"Thank you." Miranda took the glass from Carson's brother. His twin. Hopefully he hadn't noticed her hands shaking. It was hard enough coming to face a man she barely knew and telling him he was going to be a father. But to find out that he was now somebody else's husband?
"My pleasure." Cody smiled at her. He was cute. Of course he was. He looked just like his brother. Only his beard was a little longer. Not shaggy, but more than a few days' stubble. The crooked smile, the dazzling blue eyes, the tall, muscular frame — exactly the same. "So, I'm sure I can help you. With your story. You are here to do a story on Swift River Adventures Company, right?"
"Yes. That's why I'm here." Miranda swallowed. It had to be the only reason now. "I'm a writer."
"I remember." Cody's eyes softened into a warm smile. "I mean, I figured that, since you said you were from the magazine."
"Yes, Adventure Chix magazine." Oh, she must sound like she was from Adventure Ditz magazine instead. She did not get flustered. Not like this. But the combination of finding out she was carrying a married man's child, and having that man's twin stare at her like he wanted to have her for breakfast was enough to rattle anyone's nerves.
"I apologize for not making a reservation." She hadn't been able to even bring herself to open up the website. She'd had to just get in her car and drive. "I had a last minute cancellation, and got the idea of doing a piece on adventures you could do on the spur-of-the-moment. Within a few hours' drive of San Francisco. I've traveled halfway around the world, with months of planning. But sometimes you don't want to make reservations six to twelve months in advance. You don't want to spend twelve hundred dollars on one night's stay in a famous lodge. Sometimes you just need to get away for the weekend, find a nice spot, and lose yourself in your surroundings."
"That's one of the things we pride ourselves in." Cody was smooth, a real operator. Just like his brother. "We offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you can do every day."
"Yes, that's what I'm looking for." Miranda took a sip of water. Thank goodness the morning sickness wasn't too bad today. She'd left extra early to allow for having to pull over on the way here, but she'd been fine. Just fine. Physically. "I'm looking for a way to satisfy our readers' craving for excitement, without having to leave the country or break the bank."
"Well, I can satisfy your cravings." Oh God, he was definitely hitting on her. "All of them."
Would he be interested if he knew her cravings for the next several months would run toward ice cream and pickles? She shuddered at the thought.
"Look, I'm sure you're a nice man." Miranda needed to nip this flirtation in the bud. She was starting to fall for it. Damn hormones. "But I am only here in a professional capacity. I don't get involved with men on assignment."
"Really?" He eyed her with suspicion. As if he knew she'd made an exception only once. And that was the real reason she was here. "That's too bad."
"So, should we get started on the interview or should I come back when your brother returns?" She hoped she sounded professional. It had never been a problem before. She'd climbed Kilimanjaro, rafted down the Zambezi. She'd even swum with sharks. So why did this man make her so nervous?
"Carson and Lily will be gone for two weeks. Maybe longer." Cody stared at her, as if he had all kinds of ways to keep her entertained until their return. Most of them naked. "I can take care of everything while they're gone. I can take care of you."
Hoo boy. Her traitorous hormones had her thinking she should take her chances while she could. Before she got too big, before she was up all night with a new baby. Alone. She'd have to do this parenting thing on her own. She wasn't a home wrecker. Even if she had a good reason for it.
She felt so stupid. Of course he'd been more than happy to keep it casual. When she'd told him she wasn't looking for a relationship, he'd agreed. Sure, he wasn't looking for a relationship. He had one. While his bride-to-be had been off interviewing photographers and sampling wedding cakes, he'd been interviewed by Miranda and had been sampling her.
Maybe he wasn't the kind of guy she'd want her child calling "Daddy." Obviously, he wasn't exactly the reliable type, not if he could sleep around a mere six weeks before his wedding.
She wanted to get out of there. Get back in her car and just drive. Anywhere. But she had a job to do. And running away wouldn't solve anything.
"Tell you what, I think we'll both be more comfortable on the river." Cody leaned against the counter, a picture of ease. He smiled as if he knew a secret. "I could tell you about what we do here at Swift River Adventures, or I could show you."
"Sure." Miranda relaxed a little, now that he'd dialed down the charm a notch. Besides, she needed information. To find out more about the man she'd met, about his business, and his family. "Do you have room for me on one of your trips?"
"Actually we didn't schedule any trips today, because of the wedding," He pushed off the counter. "But I wouldn't mind taking a ride down the river with a pretty reporter."
Just when she thought he was giving up on the flirting. And the staring. Yet this man seemed to look at her in a way that made her think he knew everything about her. And he wanted to know more.
He was definitely going to be a challenge. But she'd stood up to bigger challenges before. Soon, she'd be facing the biggest challenge of her life. Parenthood.
"So tell me something, Miranda." He said her name like a caress. "How did you learn of Swift River Adventures? Why did you decide to come here for your last minute escapade?"
"Word of mouth." She felt her skin flush. "I took a trip with Epic Adventures on the Yampa, and they spoke highly of your company."
A slow, knowing smile spread over his handsome face.
She gulped down her water. "Could I use your restroom?" If she was going to spend a few hours with this man, she needed a minute to compose herself.
He directed her to the powder room. She closed the door, took care of business, and then splashed cool water on her face. Reaching for the towel, she was surprised by how soft the terry cloth felt. And when she held it against her face, she noticed a hint of lavender. She wondered about the woman who'd answered the door. What was her relationship with Cody? And why did she care?
With an exhale, Miranda carefully folded the towel and looked into the mirror. She didn't belong here. But then again, she'd never felt she'd belonged anywhere. She'd traveled the world looking to find a place where she fit in, but so far she'd never felt at home. Not even in this small, yet homey powder room. The little details of the room stood out, especially in a man's house. The granite vanity was expected, but the color was more gray than brown, almost as if it had been quarried from the nearby Sierras. The floor was slate, instead of tile, and the backsplash was made of small river rock, not glass mosaic. The gray of all the stone was offset by a warm, mossy green color on the walls, and the repurposed fishing reel made a clever and unexpected holder for the necessary toilet paper.
A nice place to visit, but who was she kidding? She wouldn't stay. She couldn't. Not when the man she'd come to see was married. The room started to close in on her, and she flung the door open. She needed air.
Excerpted from In Too Deep by Kristina Mathews. Copyright © 2016 Kristina Mathews. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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