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Two pink lines.
Molly Hunter stared for a good thirty seconds at the long white stick displaying its message like a beacon atop her peach tile bathroom counter. Put it down, picked it up, stared at the double pink message some more.
It couldn't be. Had to be… impossible.
Nausea sent her stomach on a renewed roll and pitch, as if daring her to disagree. For the past couple of weeks she'd been waking up nauseous, tired, but with three of her summer school students out sick over the last month with the flu, she'd attributed her touchy stomach to them. Not to—
Oh, God. To that night in Vegas.
Two months ago. Had it been that long? How could she not have noticed?
Easy. She didn't have a boyfriend, or a husband, and the chances of her getting pregnant were slim to none. Except this time Slim had apparently been an overachiever.
Her mind rocketed back to the bar, to a gorgeous man with blue eyes and dark hair. A man she knew only by his first name.
"No last names."
"Nothing but tonight."
One crazy, insane night when Molly Hunter, who never did anything without a plan, without thinking things through, had thrown caution to the wind, and let a nearly electric attraction rule her every thought.
Ever since that night, she'd done her best to try to forget the intoxicating man she'd met in Vegas, and she'd thought she'd done a pretty good job of it. He'd been a momentary attraction, a crazy aberration in her life, and even though every once in a while her thoughts drifted to where he might be or whether he was thinking about her, she told herself leaving that one-night stand where it was—in the back of her thoughts as a delicious one-night memory— was the best thing all around.
After all, she was a kindergarten teacher, who did nothing more exciting than teach remedial English to high schoolers in the summer. A conservative woman in every sense of the word. She never did anything remotely like that.
Well, never wasn't exactly the right term. Almost never!
She'd gone to Vegas with one purpose—to help her good friend Jayne Cavendish forget about the devastating end of her engagement to Rich Strickland. The four friends— Molly, Jayne, Alex Lowell and Serena Warren—had planned a girls' weekend of manicures, martinis and memories.
They'd done just that the first night, but then the second night they'd been more adventurous, going off in their own directions. For some of them, that time apart had clearly resulted in a bit of trouble.
For Molly—a lot of trouble. She gave the stick a solid shake, then looked at it again. Still two pink lines.
You're pregnant! those lines screamed in their happy, friendly pastel color.
Yeah, and totally unprepared for this life-changing event, her mind shouted back.
Oh, God. What was she going to do? What on earth was she going to do?
Her mother's bright, cheery voice carried through Molly's San Diego bungalow. Molly scooped the pregnancy test, the box and wrapper and hurried to bury them all in the white wicker trash basket, shoving several tissues on top. She emerged from the bathroom, tightening the belt of her white terrycloth robe as she crossed into the kitchen. Rocky, her Jack Russell mix, trotted along at her heels, eying her every few steps and wagging his tail. "Mom. What brings you by so early?" She reached for the dog food, then the small stainless steel bowl beside the canister.
She avoided her mother's inquisitive gaze. Hoping her face didn't betray a worried flush. She could only hope that Jayne wouldn't wake up any time soon. She couldn't deal with her temporary roommate's questions, too, especially since Jayne had been there that weekend.
Molly ran a hand through her hair. Had she really done that? Been so… careless? Was she really… pregnant?
"Early?" Cynthia Hunter gaped at her daughter. "Goodness, Molly. It's ten after eight."
Molly paused in filling Rocky's bowl. "That late? Already?" She hurried to put the bowl on the floor. Rocky scrambled after the kibble, his tail now in overdrive. "I have to get out of here."
"But, Molly, I thought we'd sit down and chat. Your summer school session ended yesterday. Don't you have plenty of time to—?"
"Sorry, no!" Molly had already spun on her heel and headed toward her bedroom. She'd spent too much time in the bathroom, staring at that stupid stick, as if looking at the lines would make the result any different. She tossed her robe on the unmade, sleep-rumpled bed—she'd have to let that housekeeping detail go for today, even though it would bug her—then threw open her closet and grabbed the first outfit she saw. Gray poplin slacks, a short-sleeved lilac sweater set and black kitten heels.
Two quick light raps sounded on Molly's bedroom door. "Do you want breakfast, honey? I can make you some poached eggs."
The thought nearly made Molly rush to the bathroom again. "No. No, thanks, Mom." She slid the sweater over her head, buttoned her slacks and stepped into the shoes. A quick brush through her hair, a touch of makeup on her face, and she was done—or at least close enough to pass muster.
Molly headed out of her bedroom, running through a mental list as she walked. She really didn't need to bring anything to today's meeting, but she liked to be prepared just in case. She'd grab that binder filled with her ideas for next year's curriculum changes. Oh, and the grant she was working on to expand the reading program. Rumor had it there were going to be cutbacks at Washington Elementary. Molly wanted to be sure not be caught in that if the rumors were true.
She was still running through her day when she rounded the corner—and nearly collided with Jayne. "Oh, sorry!"
Jayne laughed and brushed a few stray tendrils of her short chestnut hair off her forehead. "No problem. You're in a hurry this morning. Are you leaving early for the meeting with administration?"
Jayne assessed her. "Are you nervous? You don't look like yourself." The two of them headed into the living room, with Molly feeling caught between the inquisitive eyes of her mother and Jayne at the same time. How on earth was she going to hide this secret?
Well, she had to. She didn't even know anything for sure. Not yet.
"No." Molly let out a sigh. "Yes."
"You'll do fine," Cynthia said.
"It's not that, Mom." Molly crossed to the small desk in her living room, gathered up the binder holding the curriculum and the folder with the grant materials, then put both into her dark brown leather tote bag. "The budget is what the budget is. If there's funding for a second kindergarten class this year, then I'll have a job. And if there isn't…."
"You won't. But I'm sure it'll be fine," her mother said.
Jayne dittoed her support.
Molly nodded. She couldn't imagine not working at Washington Elementary School and seeing another flock of kindergarteners in the fall. Their inquisitive faces, blossoming like spring flowers when they learned the basics, from their alphabet to simple addition. She loved her job— and couldn't picture herself doing anything else. She'd done the same thing, day in and day out, for years, and that was exactly how she liked her life.
If that was so, then why had she been so eager to let loose that one night? To act as if she were someone else?
A psychologist would probably say it was because she was seeking to fill a void in herself. Molly brushed that thought aside. The night had been an aberration, nothing more. She had no "voids" in her life to fill. She was fine.
She'd been in Vegas merely to support Jayne, who'd been going through a rough patch. That was all.
"You look pale," Cynthia said, taking a step forward and laying a hand on her daughter's forehead. "Not like yourself. Didn't you say a summer flu bug was going around? Maybe you caught it."
She'd caught something all right.
"You do look a little run down, Moll," Jayne put in.
"I'm tired. That's all." No way was she going to tell her mother or her friend about the pregnancy test, not until she'd seen a doctor. Those tests could be wrong, couldn't they?
After two months? the little voice whispered. What, did you fail Health class?
Her mother pursed her lips. "Well, if you ask me, you haven't been taking proper care of yourself since you and Doug had that… pause in your relationship."
Molly opened the back door, let Rocky into the fenced yard, then turned around to face her mother. Jayne busied herself making coffee, staying out of the familiar mother-daughter argument. "Mom, it wasn't a pause. We're divorced."
Cynthia shook her head. "I still think you can—"
"No. We can't."
Her mother's lips pursed even more, but she didn't say anything.
Molly let out a sigh, but didn't pursue the argument. In Cynthia's eyes, Douglas Wyndham could do no wrong. She'd seen him as the perfect son-in-law, the doctor who was "going places."
The only problem? The places he wanted to go, and the places Molly wanted to go were on two polar sides of the life spectrum. And now—
Well, she wasn't going to think about it, she resolved yet again. She didn't know for sure if those pink lines were even right. She'd call the doctor and try to get an appointment for right after her meeting. Then she'd know for sure.
Know what, though? That she had possibly made the biggest mistake of her life that night? She, Molly Hunter, the woman who lived life so straight and narrow she might as well be a ruler?
"Molly, I still think—"
"Can I get you some coffee, Mrs. Hunter?" Jayne asked. Molly flashed her friend a relieved smile for the subject-change.
Rocky scratched at the screen door, so Molly let him in, fished his favorite chew toy out from under the refrigerator, and gave him one last pat. She grabbed her purse from the hall table, and dug inside for her sunglasses. "I'm sorry I don't have time to stay and chat, Mom. I wanted to get to the meeting early."
"At least Rocky here is glad to see me." Her mother bent down and patted Rocky on the head. His tail beat a steady pattern against her leg.
Molly headed for the front door, opened it, and waited for her mother to follow. "I'll call you after the meeting. Promise."
"Aren't you forgetting something?"
Molly glanced down at the tote bag, then back at Rocky, who was happily gnawing on his rubber bone. "Uh, I don't think so."
"Your keys?" Cynthia pointed at the hall table. "Goodness, Molly, you are forgetful today." She reached out, put a palm on Molly's forehead. "Are you sure you're feeling all right?"
"I'm fine." Except for this little baby thing. Possibly.
"You look a little peaked."
"Mom, no one says peaked anymore," Molly said, dashing over to grab her keys before returning to the door. "And I'm just fine. Really."
"Jayne," Cynthia said, turning to the other woman as she entered the foyer. "Don't you think Molly looks peaked?"
Jayne sent Molly a smile that said she understood meddlesome mothers. "If she's pale, Mrs. Hunter, I'm sure it's just because she's been too busy to get outside and putter around in her garden."
Molly mouthed a silent thank you Jayne's way.
A twinge of guilt ran through Molly. She hadn't told Jayne—or any of her friends who had been with her that weekend in Vegas—about what had happened that night. It had been so out of character, such an insane decision, and Molly just couldn't seem to find the words to explain her irrational choice. At twenty-eight, she should know better, for Pete's sake, than to let her hormones do the thinking for her. But that night…
That night she hadn't done much thinking at all.
She thought of the two pink lines and realized if they were right, she was going to have to find some words pretty soon.
Cynthia gave a dubious shrug. "If you say so."
Jayne pressed a shiny silver travel mug into Molly's hands. "Here. This'll get you through the morning."
Molly grinned. "Thanks." She accepted the coffee, not telling Jayne she wasn't sure she should be having all that caffeine.
"Hey, making coffee is the least I can do for you putting up with me all this time."
"You didn't have to do that." Molly smiled. "You're a great roommate, Jayne. I love having you here." And she had. Ever since Jayne Cavendish had moved in two months ago, every day had been fun. She hadn't minded one bit having one of her best friends to fill the empty spaces in the tiny bungalow, and she suspected Jayne, who was still nursing a broken heart, was happy for the company, too.
Molly's heart went out to Jayne. She understood what it was like to see your dreams for happily-ever-after dashed. It was partly why Molly had thought going to Vegas that weekend with Jayne, Alex and Serena would be just the right medicine to help Jayne forget her fiancé's betrayal. The four of them had intended to have one crazy, fun, girls-only weekend filled with lots of laughs and incredible memories.
They'd gotten more than they bargained for, that was for sure. Alex had ended up staying in Vegas to run Wyatt McKendrick's hotel—and ended up falling in love with the handsome hotelier. Serena, who had impetuously married Jonas Benjamin on that wild weekend, had also stayed in Vegas and so far had stayed married, though she hadn't said much about life with her politician husband. Molly missed her friends desperately, and except for one weekend when Wyatt had brought all the friends together for a quick lunch and shopping visit, they'd had to keep in virtual touch via texts, online chats and phone calls.
Jayne gave Molly a quick hug, wished her luck at her meeting, then told her she was heading inside. "I have to get ready for work. Maybe we'll get pizza tonight and rent a couple movies."
"Sounds great." Except for the pizza part, which had Molly's stomach rebelling yet again. After Jayne left, Molly opened the front door and gestured for her mother to leave first. But Cynthia held her ground. "Mom, I have to get to that meeting."
Her mother smiled, the kind of smile that told Molly a conversation was coming she didn't want to hear. "If you want, I could call Douglas…?"
"You don't have to call Doug."
"Molly, really, I think you're being awfully hard on him. Can't you two work it out?"
Work out what? She and Doug had been divorced for over two years now, and still her mother thought resurrecting her failed marriage was as simple as picking up the phone and arranging a dinner date. She didn't seem to understand the arguments that had driven a wedge between Doug and her, the differences in everything from the way they viewed the world to the future they envisioned together.