Florist Claire Holbrook has always played by the rules her entire life, but breaks them to spend one night with sexy lone wolf Jake Manning, a man she's adored since she was a teenager. Six weeks later things get complicated when she discovers they created a bond that will last a lifetime…
Jake has never played by the rules. Getting Minister Holbrook's daughter pregnant wasn't part of any life plan, but he won't run from his responsibilities. He'll step up and be the best man he can, even if he doesn't have a clue where to begin. The more time he spends with Claire, though, the more he wants her, and the harder it is to get close because that would mean sharing the one thing he hasn't with anyone—the truth and his heart.
Each book in the Red River series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 A Risk Worth Taking
Book #2 The Best Man's Baby
Book #3 The Doctor's Fake Fiancee
Book #4 The Rebel's Return
About the Author
Victoria James is a romance writer living near Toronto. She is a mother to two young children, one very disorderly feline, and wife to her very own hero.
Victoria attended Queen's University and graduated with a degree in English Literature. She then earned a degree in Interior Design. After the birth of her first child she began pursuing her life-long passion of writing.
Her dream of being a published romance author was realized by Entangled in 2012. Victoria is living her dream-staying home with her children and conjuring up happy endings for her characters.
Read an Excerpt
The Best Man's Baby
By Victoria James, Alethea Spiridon Hopson, Wendy Chen
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Victoria James
All rights reserved.
Six weeks later
You don't have to tell him tonight. As long as it's sometime in the next eight months you're fine. Liar.
Claire Holbrook knew there was no way she'd be able to keep her pregnancy a secret in a small town like Red River.
Jake wasn't an idiot. Jerk maybe, idiot not.
She continued to gaze out her best friend's kitchen window at the man she'd fantasized about for thirteen years. And as usual, Jake had no idea she was around. Not once in the years that they'd known each other had Jake looked at her twice — until the night of his brother's and her best friend's wedding. That was the moment cautious Claire had taken the biggest gamble in her perfectly mundane life.
The night of Holly and Quinn's wedding had provided her with an epiphany — thanks to a little help from the open bar. She had been living her life without any courage, like the lion in The Wizard of Oz. Holly was finally getting married to the man of her dreams and Claire hadn't even kissed the man of her dreams. So, after a few too many glasses of champagne and a few whiskeys as well, Claire had made her move. And when his arms tightened around her, his head dipping close to her ear, his powerful chest tightening beneath her fingers ... she and Jake had stumbled into one of the luxurious suites in the historical Inn. He had lit her body on fire with his touch and filled her heart with promises. But then he left. The first and only man she'd ever slept with, the only man she'd ever loved, just left her in the middle of the night, alone in a hotel room. And now, six weeks later he was back in town, without so much as a phone call.
Claire squeezed her eyes shut and tried to block out the memory of their night together along with the smell of grilling beef, which was making her stomach turn faster than a roller coaster. Her hands gripped the sweating plastic bottle of water she was holding, its crackling the only sound in the empty kitchen.
The sound of laughter and deep masculine voices wafted through the open window, and her heart catapulted forward a few traitorous beats at the sound of Jake's low voice. She heard the old iron gate swing open as guests meandered down the cobblestone pathway to the impeccably landscaped backyard, their clacking sandals and brightly colored clothes a reminder that summer was imminent. Her eyes narrowed sharply and she stood up a little straighter as a vaguely familiar blonde in short shorts and a tight halter top appeared and snaked her spaghetti-thin arms around Jake's waist.
Claire crushed the plastic bottle in her fist, the remaining water sputtering out and onto the quartzite countertop with enough force that it could have been from a running fountain. But she didn't care about the water. What she did care about was the woman snuggling into his side like a slimy sardine. How could he have brought someone here tonight? He must have known she would be here, so why would he blatantly flaunt his newest acquisition in front of her? And did she have to be Claire's extreme opposite? She was five feet five inches on a day that included an intense Pilates workout. And short shorts were something she'd never contemplate even in private, let alone in broad daylight where even a mere smidgen of cellulite would be highlighted like a neon sign. Despite the fact that she was wearing a stylish but conservative navy sundress, she was no match for that walking Barbie outside.
"Hey, when did you get here? And why is water dripping down your dress?"
Claire whipped her head around to look in the direction of the teasing voice and then down at the wet spot on her sundress. She hadn't even heard Holly approach.
"Sorry, Holly," she mumbled, avoiding eye contact as she grabbed a floral tea towel beside the sink to wipe the counter.
She hadn't told Holly about her one night with Jake, mostly because Holly and Quinn had been away on their honeymoon. She wanted to confide in her, but Holly's life was so blissfully happy right now, and hers was horribly messed up. Combined with the fact that Jake was now Holly's brother-in-law, it was all very complicated.
Claire turned her attention back to the blonde and Jake. Sly, ugly jealousy snaked its way through her already wound-up body as she watched the blonde squeeze his perfectly formed, denim-clad butt. What kind of person does that in public, anyway?
She jumped as Holly pried the tea towel out of her hand and blotted the water on her dress. She took a deep breath and finally looked into her friend's concerned eyes.
"What's going on with you, Claire? Is it your dad? I know this year has been so hard on you and I feel like I haven't been there for you —"
Claire waved her hand, silencing her friend. She didn't want Holly to feel guilty about anything. And she couldn't think about her father tonight. It was hard having him so far away, in Africa of all places. She shook her head and forced a smile on her face, gently taking the tea towel out of Holly's hand. "Oh, please. You are the best friend I could ever ask for. I'm fine, really. I'm just tired."
Holly's eyes narrowed on her as she tilted her head to the side. Claire knew her best friend wasn't buying her explanation. Holly had a sixth sense about lies. She avoided eye contact with her and pretended to be overly fixated on drying her dress.
"You? You're never tired," Holly said.
Yeah, until she became pregnant. Now she had to fight a losing battle with keeping her eyes open all day, while Jake just carried on with his normal life.
"Enough about me. I haven't heard a thing about your month-long honeymoon. How was the cruise? How did Ella like it?"
"That's a nice attempt at changing the subject. The trip was great, Ella loved it. We loved it. Now back to you and why you look so spacey."
So much for trying to divert the attention off herself. "Who's Jake's date?"
Holly eyes widened comically. "You mean you don't know?"
"I didn't see her face," she said, panicking now.
"I almost kicked her out, but Quinn stopped me. It's Amanda," Holly said wincing. Claire felt whatever bit of hope there was for her and Jake die faster than a rose in a blizzard. Amanda.
"Oh, wow. I haven't thought about her in a long time," Claire said, doing her best to fake a casual smile, doing her best to pretend she hadn't thought of Amanda since high school.
"Good, because she's still as irritating as before. Jake has the worst taste in women. You know, I wish you'd just tell him how you feel and put us all out of our misery."
Claire gritted her teeth. "I don't feel anything for him anymore." Her words came out sounding like she was choking on a dry steak.
Holly scoffed. "Hey, this is me you're talking to, remember? The one who spent her entire adolescence hearing about how you were going to marry Jake Manning?"
Claire stared at her friend's pretty face, and memories of the two of them laughing and sharing dreams of what their lives would be like when they were older filled her with sadness, because none of it had happened for Claire. Her life was nothing like she'd envisioned. She was hiding in the kitchen, for goodness' sake. Claire was not an overweight, shy teenager with acne and braces anymore. She didn't live with her vain, size-four-or-die mother anymore. She'd spent years trying to get her mother's shrill, disapproving voice out of her head when she looked at her reflection in the mirror.
Claire was a successful florist who owned her own business and home. She was not going to cower in her best friend's kitchen while Octopus Barbie groped the father of her child. And there was no way in hell she was going to let Jake be so happy while she was miserable.
"Earth to Claire?" Holly's waving hands in front of her face snapped her back to reality.
Claire didn't answer as she marched over to her purse sitting on the kitchen table. She was not going to be a bystander to her own life any longer. Was there ever a better time to assert one's independence than when one was about to become a parent? And what if she had a daughter? Would she criticize her and plague her with trivial ideas about weight and beauty? Or would she love her unconditionally and encourage her to be strong and independent?
Holly's voice softened, but the worry in it was unmistakable as she came to stand beside her at the table. "Hey, let's get together tomorrow, okay? I've missed you, and now that the wedding is over we can catch up and talk."
She ignored her best friend and dumped the contents of her purse on the kitchen table in between Holly's neatly stacked plates and assortment of drinks.
She was looking for the little item she'd kept in her purse for the last five days. She'd carried it around with her because she couldn't believe it was true, kept looking at it to see if both pink lines were still on the indicator.
"What are you doing?"
She still didn't answer.
"You're starting to worry me. Your face is blotchy and you look upset." Claire thought Holly sounded as though she were speaking to a mentally unbalanced person.
She swung her arm wide, clearing some of the mess, her lipstick clinking against the china. Where was that box? Her eyes scanned the mess and finally fell on the thin box sandwiched between the San Pellegrinos and Heinekens. Bingo. She snatched the prize in her hand, clutching it as tightly as a newly won Oscar. She quickly jammed her belongings back in her purse and swung it over her shoulder as she tried to sidestep her best friend before she could see the box in her hand.
Holly crossed her arms and blocked her path. She could be formidable, but she was no match for Claire right now.
"What are you doing? What is that?" She tried to unfold Claire's arms. Claire squeezed her arms together tightly.
"I'm giving Jake a welcome-home present." She tore past Holly, nearly knocking her worried friend over. It was now or never. Jake Manning could not sleep with her, take off for six weeks, and then reappear with another woman groping him. Especially that woman.
"Claire!" She ignored Holly's plea and stormed down the steps to the outdoor patio. She didn't even falter as she approached the door and saw Amanda casually caress Jake's back. His broad, muscular back, the one she remembered clutching, digging her nails into as ...
She flung the Victorian screen door open with a force that sent all the boisterous partygoers looking in her direction, the sound of conversation slowly fading to a frightening silence. Quinn was just placing a hamburger on Jake's plate and stopped, the plate frozen in midair between them, each brother left holding one side.
Claire saw Amanda's eyes zero in on her and watched with satisfaction as the woman's sinewy body tensed, like a cat sensing someone encroaching on her territory. Oh no, honey, not only am I encroaching, I'm claiming my throne. Claire's eyes locked with Jake's blue ones and the panic she read in them made all of this oh so worth it. She forced herself to turn her lip upward, hopefully pulling off a Mona Lisa-type smile. She strode over to Jake, her strappy sandals clacking confidently on the flagstone patio.
Claire clutched her precious piece of evidence in her right hand, holding it like a knight would hold a sword, ready to pierce his opponent through the heart.
Jake opened his perfectly chiseled mouth. "Claire."
"Welcome home, daddy." She stabbed the positive pregnancy indicator stick through his hamburger with enough force that it could have killed the cow had it still been alive.
She didn't wait, didn't stop for a reaction. She just kept on walking.
As she burst through the iron gate leading to the street, her legs trembled while adrenaline propelled her forward. Her shins ached, her head throbbed, and her throat burned with unshed tears. She heard her name echo, painfully loud in the quiet street, but there was no way in hell she was going back there. She heard loud male voices. She heard Holly yelling out after her. She heard Octopus Barbie screaming something about the fact that the indicator must have pee on it. She cringed at Holly's voice, yelling at Jake. She heard Quinn's loud cursing.
But she didn't hear anything from Jake.
And then a loud crash ripped through the air.
Jake's beer. That almost brought a smile to her lips. Almost. But the tears finally won out over the smile as she furiously pounded the lock release button on her car key. She whipped the door open, threw her purse inside, and scrambled to get in before she lost all control.
Just a few more seconds, just hold it in for a few more seconds.
Blindly, she turned the ignition and pulled away from the curb, letting the sobs loose, and they pummeled through the open gates, taking with them no prisoners. Claire tried to stay focused on the road as tears washed over her face.
She wept at her own stupidity in thinking Jake had feelings for her, and she wept for the bitter finale to her fantasies of Jake Manning.CHAPTER 2
The deep rumble of a motorcycle approaching and stopping made Claire freeze for a moment, her pruning shears about to snap the head off a plump pink peony. She looked down at her watch. It had taken Jake exactly one hour to make the ten-minute drive from Quinn and Holly's house to hers. So what had he been doing for those last fifty minutes? Trying to explain to Amanda that he and the boring florist had a one-night stand? And that Claire was a complete idiot?
After she'd gotten home and changed into jeans and a T-shirt, she had wandered out to the gardens in her backyard. The plan that had seemed genius in Holly's kitchen now felt rather drama-queen-ish for her. And now, thanks to her impulsive little performance at the barbecue, there was the added complication of her mother. Because now the news was out. It was just a matter of time before the small-town gossip circle would make its way to Mrs. Holbrook. Her insides churned at the idea of telling her mother. And her heart broke a little more at the thought of having to tell her father over the phone, because she knew her mother would tell him if she didn't. He didn't need to be distracted from his missionary work in Africa with news like this. She'd hoped she could wait until her father returned and then break the news, but her impulsiveness destroyed that idea.
She didn't bother standing up when she heard the wooden gate swing open. Her chest constricted painfully, as though her mind hadn't made it clear to her heart that they were done idol-worshiping Jake Manning.
She paused, still crouched over her peonies, as a shiver ran up her spine when his deep voice called her, instantly evoking the memory of him whispering her name against her cheek that night in the hotel. But tonight it wasn't that same voice. Claire took a deep breath before slowly rising to face the father of her baby.
Jake Manning filled up her yard like a giant in a meadow. His masculinity was a blasphemous slap in the face to the utter femininity of the budding pink peonies and fragrant lilacs.
She forced herself to look him in the eye as he approached, tried to ignore how good he looked in his dark jeans, faded along the thighs, highlighting how fit he was. If she didn't know better she'd think the man had jeans custom-tailored to fit his body.
She folded her arms across her chest. "Hi." She was glad she had changed out of her sundress. This was who she really was. She wasn't the high-maintenance, look-at-me type of girl. And she wasn't going to pretend to be. She was done trying to impress him.
Jake ran a hand through his hair roughly. Claire fought the jolt that snuck through her as she remembered running her fingers through his thick hair. She looked away and crossed her arms. He should not look that good with five o'clock shadow, either.
"That's one hell of a way to tell a guy he's going to be a father. Couldn't you have just called me? Or pulled me aside?"
He had a point. He sounded logical. It was a fair question. But right now she didn't feel like being fair. Blame it on the hormones or blame it on the blonde, but she wasn't going to apologize for her delivery.
She shrugged. "So sorry I couldn't have made it more of a joyous moment for you. Do you want to know how I found out?"
Excerpted from The Best Man's Baby by Victoria James, Alethea Spiridon Hopson, Wendy Chen. Copyright © 2013 Victoria James. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I normally do not finish books in one day. What can I say? This was an exception. I received this as an ARC and had not read the first in the series. I was concerned that perhaps I shouldn't dive into a book that is a sequel, but this is a stand alone story. Each book plays on the other, but each one is a different brother's story and are chronological in nature. I devoured the story of Jake and Claire. From the prologue I was sucked in. I had to make myself not jump to the end of each page because I was anxious to see what happened next. Buy this story! You will not regret it! Claire has a one night stand with the man of her dreams and wakes up to find him gone. Ok, so her heart was broken, but she can recover right? Wrong! She discovers she is pregnant and must tell her crush from high school that he is going to be a father. Claire owns her own business and her own home. Pregnancy was not in the cards for her at this time. She is a planner and this is unfamiliar territory. Jake, to the casual observer, is a bad boy. He isn't one to settle down and runs from confrontations. Take the one night stand with Claire, for example. He had wanted her for quite some time, but she was too good for him. A one night stand should not have happened. She deserved better and her father certainly wouldn't approve. Jake tries to shake his desires for Claire by leaving town on business and not contacting her. Little did he know that the night they shared would change his life. Jake must prove to Claire that his feelings for her are not because of the baby. But before they can move forward, they both must confront their own problems. Their story is one of past trials, self discovery, and love.
I absolutely loved this this book, maybe because I loved Jake Manning so much! He's a wonderful hero: tall, dark and handsome – check. Add thoughtful, endearing and sweet; and as a bonus he even rides a motorcycle. What more could a girl ask for in a hero? Claire has been in love with Jake for so long she has lost track of the time herself. Things could have stayed simple and predictable: nice, innocent virgin, bad boy biker, accidental pregnancy, blah, blah, blah. The only problem here is Victoria James who opted to make her heroine a little feisty and unpredictable, rather than the typical shy virgin one finds in most “accidental” pregnancy books. The next twist in this story comes when Jake has an epiphany, deciding that just maybe marriage and a family are part of his future, his immediate future. He goes after Claire like she's the last available single woman left in town, too bad she's not having anything to do with his plans. There were many adorable moments between these two: their arguments were just as fierce and amusing, as their love-scenes were frequent and spicy. The story was entertaining, very well-written with in-depth character development and a fantastic plot. I liked this family so much I immediately purchased the first book in the series to visit them again!
I loved this book!! The emotional baggage and drama is balanced by the humor. There were moments I was actually cringing. But there were moments I laughed. The characters are complex yet easy to love. The families are close/loyal in spite of their differing opinions/feelings. They show how people can see the same situation from differing perspectives. I loved that through the process of finding himself and his future, Jake found a better relationship with his brothers. Several relationships were affected by Claire standing up for herself and figuring out what she wanted. Claire and her mother, Claire and Jake, her parents. Claire's mother even figures out some things about herself. This book is very well written. The crossing over of relationships (Jake and Claire's dad, her friend & his brother, etc.) add another layer to the story. There are back stories (Claire's and Jake's) and side stories (Jake's job), but it all works together to create a multi-layered book that is not overwhelming. It doesn't drag you down, it just pulls you in! A definite must read!
The one time that Claire Holbrook takes a chance on love and look what happens. Now she is pregnant with Jake Manning's baby. She has loved him for years. Now what happens. Their story is a wonderful blend of romance and heartbreak. What an emotional ride. I loved it. Victoria James has written a wonderful tender romance. I loved all the characters especially Claire. She is such a strong yet vulnerable woman. Jake has his inner demons but he will not run away even though love is new to him. This is such a heartwarming and emotional story. I have not read this author before but I plan to make up for lost time. 'The Best Man's Baby' is a must read. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
I enjoyed Jake and Claire's story ... good love story.
The Best’s Man’s Baby is full of surprises. When Claire takes one night to break the rules and has a one night stand with bad boy Jake, she did not expect to find herself pregnant six weeks later. Jake is floored when he finds out, but he is not going to abandon Claire to raise their child alone. The more time this two spend together, with their sarcasm, snark, laugh out loud humor, and intense stares, the more passion and love grow. I loved how they rose to the occasion. Instead of wallowing and getting depresses, they made a plan, sure they may not both agree on the plan, but they are working together. There were a lot of funny moments in this story. Claire with her wit and Jake with his sexy comments. Bad meets Good in this funny, romantic, and heart touching story. You will fall in love with this hard headed pair! The second installment in the Red River Series does not disappoint! Take the leap and you might find a love that will last forever! I was given a copy of this book by Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
The best man's baby
The hero was a pretty great guy. Heroine had some moments I wanted to smack sense into her.
Starts to crym
She was sitting in the snow.
Book two of the series is Jake and Claire's story... Jake is the middle "bad boy" brother in the Manning family and Claire (the minister's daughter) has been in love with him her entire life... When older brother Quinn gets married Jake and Claire close down the reception site and end up together for one night... Of course she turns up pregnant and then fireworks begin to happen... Jake is hiding lots of secrets from his family and Claire has a hangup or two of her own... As they resolve things during the course of the pregnancy it is both sad and happy,... Enjoyed the series and the characters, excellent storyline but needs better editing, otherwise a five star for me...
****love this series****
On to book two
Love this story better than the first book in the series. Can't wait to read Evan's story!!!
A nice weekend read.
After reading the first book in the series, I immediately purchased the second. Both books were awesome reads with in depth characters willing to defend themselves but not destroying options in the mean time.
## OK, so I absolutely hated the first book in this series (Holly and Quinn's story). So imagine my surprise when I actually liked this book. Was it perfect? Yeah, no. But it was still enjoyable and I will definitely read again. What I didn't like: the couple needed more face to face time. Jake was so NOT in love at the beginning but was in the end. But not enough interaction with the heroine for him to fall in my opinion. How was he suddenly in love after a week? Anyway, i was looking for Evan's story but can't find it. ?
Okay, so this is not a full-length novel (179 pgs), though it's longer than a novella. It's a simple story, with a familiar trope: a crazy one night stand results in pregnancy, guy is a player, girl's been in love with him forever, but she has her pride... I didn't have high expectations, but the story did not disappoint. It's fun, even while it's fairly predictable. The author did throw in a few more unusual background details for both the hero and the heroine. Neither of the issues are dealt with in depth (179 pgs, remember?), but overall the story is a good, light summer read!