A Baby Wasn't In Their Plans
That doesn't stop Logan Daugherty from proposing four months after spending the most wonderful night of his life with Anna Rockwood. And when the mother-to-be says yes, the honor-bound Wyoming rancher is ready to fulfill his part of the bargain. So why is Logan secretly longing to make their temporary arrangement permanent?
The Steamboat Springs baker didn't expect her homecoming to leave her with a precious gift. But Anna has no illusions about romance and happy endings. Saying "I do" is for their baby's sake. All bets are off once their daughter is born. Are Anna and Logan ready to turn a marriage-in-name-only into a lifetime of love?
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Hi, Logan! I'm here to give you some news. Remember that one-night stand we had close to four months ago? Well, I'm pregnant, and you're the father, so
Oh, good grief. Really? There had to be a better way to tell a man they'd created a baby together. On second thought, no, there wasn't. She barely knew Logan Daugherty and therefore couldn't predict how he'd react regardless of what words she used.
Anna Rockwood cringed and drove straight past Logan's house for the third time in a row. She had to do this today. She worried that if she didn't, she'd never find the courage.
Anxiety-induced nausea bounced around in her stomach, much like a runaway rubber ball. She rolled down the car's window and gulped in a blast of fresh, cool October air. It helped to clear her head some, but didn't do much for her churning stomach or jumpy nerves.
Morning sickness wasn't the culprit, she guessed, but the length of time she'd kept her pregnancy a secret from the baby's father. Initially, a tsunami of shock and fear and the oh-my-God-what-have-I-done type of recriminations had swarmed her thoughts and emotions, making it impossible to consider sharing her condition.
It was an awful lot to take in. Anna had never planned on entering motherhood as a single parent. Her mother had died when Anna was young, still in grade school, and the pain of that loss hadn't fully dissipated. How could it? Everything had changed so fast for Anna and her two sistersone younger, one olderwithout Ruby Rockwood's calming presence in their lives.
Seemingly overnight, their father became a harsher, stricter, angrier caricature of himself, leaving little room for so much as a grain of happiness. All that remained was a series of increasingly tough days in which the girls did their best to stay as quiet and invisible as possible.
Thank God for Aunt Lola.
It had taken years for their maternal aunt to learn the truth of their home life, but once she had, she'd fought for and won guardianship. By then, Anna's older sister, Elise, had become an adult and had left Steamboat Springs, Colorado, behind. But Lola had given Anna and her younger sister, Laurel, a home that was once again filled with warmth and joy.
Anna was grateful to her aunt for every last thing she'd provided, but the juxtaposition of her childhoodgoing from the mostly sweet, pure years from before her mother's death to the painful, difficult years with her drastically changed father as the sole caregiverhad cemented Anna's beliefs on parenting, and she wouldn't have purposely chosen to raise a child on her own.
Okay, she wouldn't be completely on her own. Aunt Lola would offer love and support. But even so, Anna couldn't pretend this situation was ideal or what she had wanted for herself or the children she would someday have. It wasn't. Simple as that.
What Anna had wanted, what she'd wished for, was the traditional family unit. Two parents, preferably who loved and respected each other, raising their child as partners.
Naturally, there wasn't a darn thing she could do about that now. One nighther first night back in Steamboat Springs after living in Texas for yearsthat included too many drinks, a handsome cowboy and absolutely no willpower to speak of had altered her life forever.
It had been a terrific night. She couldn't deny that, nor would she want to. She hadn't planned on a baby, but that night with Logan was exactly what she'd needed at that point in her life. She'd moved to Austin shortly after finishing culinary school, following her then-boyfriend and his dreams, and for a long while, they'd made a decent go at being together. But they weren't right for each othera fact that became clearer and clearer as time went on.
They'd gone their separate ways relationship-wise close to two years ago, and suddenly one morning on her way to work, she'd realized that she had no desire to remain in Austin. Coming back here, though, to live with her aunt hadn't been an easy decision. She'd felt out-of-sorts, dislocated, and had stopped in at a local bar before heading to Lola's.
She'd met Logan. They'd clicked. Laughed and had more fun than Anna had experienced in a while. And before she even realized what she was doing, she'd followed him to his hotel, and they'd had well, a lot more fun. Fortunately, she'd had enough wits about her to text her aunt. She'd let her know she was behind schedule, was safe and sound and spending the night at a hotelthat much was the truth, anywayand would see her the next day.
But yes, when she discovered she was pregnant, she'd given herself some space to come to terms with her new reality, the future that awaited her and her child. Once the shock had abated from a raging boil to a roiling simmer, she decided to keep her secret a little longer. Smarter, really, to get through her first trimester safely before breaking the news.
She'd crossed the three-month threshold several weeks ago, and just the other day, she had finally told her aunt. It hadn't taken much sleuthing to discover where Logan was living. As it turned out, his brother, Gavin, was married to Haley Foster, and Anna's aunt was close friends with the Foster matriarch, Margaret. Her aunt had got Logan's address, and now here Anna was. And despite her nerves or her fears, she had to take the next step.
She had to tell Logan.
Sighing, feeling every ounce of what she was about to do, Anna braked at a stop sign and flipped on her right-hand turn signal. This time, she'd pull into Logan's driveway and get out of the car. She'd gather the frayed strands of her courage and walk to his front door and knock.
And somehow, though she hadn't quite figured out how, she'd find the words to tell him that their one-night stand had resulted in a baby. He deserved to know. That was his right, and whatever his reaction, she'd at least be able to start making plans.
Whether those plans would include an involved and loving father for her child well, she supposed that was up to Logan. Oh, she'd give him the space and time he'd likely require to wrap his head around his new reality, because that was only fair. But she wouldn't wait forever.
Before this babytheir babywas born, Anna needed to know if Logan Daugherty was in or out.
Something in his world was going to have to bend real soon, because dividing his time between the Bur Oak Ranchhis family's four-thousand-acre cattle ranch on the outskirts of Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he'd grown upand hereSteamboat Springs, Colorado, where his half brother, Gavin, livedwas starting to take a definite toll.
Yawning, Logan towel-dried his fresh-from-the-shower wet hair before pulling on a pair ofjeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt. He was tired, true enough, but the three-hour-plus commute from here to Wyoming one week and back again the next wasn't the issue.
He had responsibilities at the ranch, people who counted on him and a slew of expectations to fulfill. As the only child of the eldest child, he had been groomed from almost day one to take over the family's ranching business when his granddad retired. Zeke Cordero might disagree, because he was a stubborn old coot, but after a near heart attack and his mule-headed refusal to slow down, that day wasn't all that far in the distance.
What he should do was pack up and permanently return to his family and his duty. He hadn't meant to stick around Steamboat Springs for months on end. But learning of his half brother's existence, and then actually meeting Gavin, had changed just about every last thing.
Logan's recollections of his father were less than sketchy. Made sense, as he hadn't yet celebrated his third birthday when Denny Daugherty had driven his motorcycle over a cliff. To this day, no one knew if the man had taken his own life or if he'd tragically miscalculated his abilities and a combination of speed and rain-slick roads had caused him to lose control.
Maybe it shouldn't matter which was the truthafter all, dead was deadbut to Logan, it mattered a helluva lot.
If it weren't for the few photographs his mother had saved, Logan wouldn't know what his father looked like. And he couldn't even claim any true, solid memories of the man, just wisps of images and sounds and the oddball scent that would hit him out of nowhere.
Peppermint, of all possible scents, seemed to be his strongest memory link to the man who'd sired him. The reason for that, along with many other answers, remained unknown.
For most of his life, his mother hadn't offered many details about Denny, in an effort to protect Logan. But just over a year ago, on the tail of Logan deciding to conduct his own search for information, she'd finally given in and opened up.
That was when he'd learned the details of his father's accident, along with the fact that Denny was a married man and already had a son when Logan was born. Surprisingly, it hadn't taken longsix months, perhapsbefore Logan discovered his half brother's whereabouts and had decided to pay a personal visit.
A strange visit, too. Until that evening, Gavin had no idea that their father had a mistress or another son. But he hadn't called Logan a liar, and he'd listened with interest and curiosity and an open mind, and somehow, a faint connection between the two men had sprung into being.
Gavin was a newlywed, and he and his pretty wife, Haley, ran a camp for foster kids, which meant that his life was equally as hectic as Logan's. Between the weight of their individual responsibilities, they just hadn't been able to spend a whole lot of time together. Therefore, with the goals of creating a lasting relationship with his half brother and learning more about their father, Logan had chosen to separate his life temporarily into two distinct chunks.
Three months ago, after tiring of hotel stays, he signed a six-month lease on this house, which came fully furnished. He'd already decided to return home when the lease ended, but after this past week, he had to consider if even that held any logic. His family needed him in Wyoming more often than every other week, and he could afford to eat the remaining rent.
There wasn't much more to learn from Gavin as far as their father went, as he was only a few years older than Logan and therefore his memories were few. But their relationship with each other was still taking root. Still growing. He'd have to hope they'd be able to continue what they'd started via emails, phone calls and the sporadic visit. And if so, there wasn't a valid reason to continue living parttime in Steamboat Springs.
Especially not when his mother was against his being here in the first place and his thick-skulled, ailing grandfather was pushing himself harder than he should.
Logan's cousinsa whopping eight of themwere beyond capable of banding together to step into his shoes. And the next eldest cousin, Blaze, could fully take over in the blink of an eye. As could any one of his three uncles, but they'd separated their duties long ago and weren't all that fond of the idea of stepping into the lead role. Besides which, Logan seemed the only member of the family able to withstand Zeke's blustering. All it took, really, was the ability to hold your ground and wait for the old man to see reason.
Long ago, when Logan was just a kid, his grandmother Rosalie said that he and Granddad were cut from the same cloth and that they shared the same steel-minded stubbornness.
And yeah, that seemed to be the case.
Regardless of why, Logan was both wanted and needed at the ranch. And he wanted to be there, so the choice shouldn't require an excess of brainpower. But his gut insisted he wasn't done in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and that leaving would prove a mistake.
Maybe there was a compromise in the mix. Rather than returning home on a permanent basis now, he'd continue his weekly commute for another month. That would have him back at the ranch full-time just before Thanksgiving, which would serve the dual purpose of pleasing his mother and allowing him another few weeks to wrap up loose ends here.
It wasn't the perfect plan, but it worked well enough to set Logan's mind at ease. So, with the decision set, he paid heed to his grumbling stomach and headed for the kitchen. He'd grab a biteassuming he had anything edible left in the houseand then check in with Gavin and Haley, to let them know he'd be leaving before the holidays.
Later, he'd come back here and deal with some of the responsibilities he could tackle remotely. There was an order issue from a supplier that had his granddad fuming and a potential red flag in a crop share lease Logan was trying to put together with an old friend.
A loud rap on his front door halted his thought process. Other than Gavin and Haley, and a few members of Haley's family, Logan really didn't know anyone in Steamboat Springs. And at this time of day, school should be in session, so his surprise visitor was unlikely to be a kid trying to sell wrapping paper or magazine subscriptions or cookies or whatever.
Probably a home-improvement solicitor of some sort, or a group of them, as they seemed to travel in packs. Well, they'd be on their way the second he explained he wasn't the homeowner and therefore couldn't approve any type of repairs on the property.
Readying the words, he swung open the door and without hesitation said, "No reason to waste your time, as I'm not the person you're looking for."
"Actually," the woman on his stoop of a front porch said, her voice quiet but firm, "you're exactly the person I'm looking for." She blinked large brown eyes, cleared her throat and blinked again. "I'm not sure if you remember me, but we ah met at Mick's Place, played some pool, and we Well, that was back in June, so "
Of course he remembered Anna. He'd thought about her far too often since that nighta rather enjoyable night, at thatand he'd seen her once or twice after. At the Beanerya local coffeehousewhere she seemed to work, but she'd studiously avoided his gaze, so he assumed her preference was to be left alone. He'd stopped dropping in at the Beanery for just that reason.
"I haven't forgotten, Anna," he said, his tone more abrupt than intended. From curiosity and the sense of foreboding that was now heating his blood. "What can I do for you?"
Dipping her head, so her butterscotch-hued hair fell into her face, she said, "I Well, that is, there's something " She wrapped her hands around her slender arms and squeezed, as if the action would instill strength. Or courage. She must have found both, because she lifted her chin and looked him dead in the eye. "I'm not sure if this is a conversation we should have in the doorway. May I come inside for a few minutes?"