~ THE BRIDESMAID'S BABY ~

Book Two in Baby Steps to  MARRIAGE

 

 

The best man to be her baby's father?

 

Getting noticed by the gorgeous best man is every bridesmaid's dream. Especially if he's your crush. Lucy McKenty knows she should be wary of Will Carruthers. All she wants is to finally settle down and have a family - and that's a far cry from this nomadic wanderer's life plan...

 

But Will is irresistibly charming, and Lucy finds herself in his arms. Discovering she's pregnant thrills her - but is Will going to stay to meet his baby?
 

Book one in this duo, Expecting Miracle Twins, was published last month, in September in the UK and North America.
 


 

 

MILLS AND BOON  ROMANCE

- UNITED KINGDOM  October 2009-

 

HARLEQUIN ROMANCE

- NORTH AMERICA October  2008 -

 

MILLS AND BOON SWEET

- AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND November 2009 -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             
   

 

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Chapter One

     

There were days when Lucy McKenty knew she was in the wrong job. A woman in her thirties with a loudly ticking biological clock should not devote huge chunks of her time to delivering gorgeous babies.

Admittedly, the babies Lucy delivered usually had four legs and a tail, but that didn’t stop them from being impossibly cute, and it certainly didn’t stop her from longing for a baby. Just one baby of her own to hold and to love.

The longing swept through her now as she knelt in the straw beside the calf she’d just delivered. The birthing had been difficult, needing ropes and a great deal of Lucy’s perspiration, but now, as she shifted the newborn closer to his exhausted mother’s head, she felt an all too familiar wrench on her heartstrings.

The cow opened her eyes and began to lick her calf, slowly, methodically, and Lucy smiled as the newborn nuzzled closer. She never tired of this miracle.

Within minutes, the little calf was wobbling to his feet, butting at his mother’s side, already urging her to join him in a game.

Nothing could beat the joy of new life

Except… this idyllic scene was an uncomfortable reminder that Lucy had very little chance of becoming a mother. She’d already suffered one miscarriage and now there was a failed IVF treatment behind her. She was sure she was running out of time. The women in her family had a track record of early menopause and she lived with an ever growing sense of her biological clock counting off the months, days, hours, minutes.

          Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Swallowing a sigh, Lucy stood slowly and stretched muscles that had been strained as she hauled the calf into the world. She glanced through the barn doorway and saw that the shadows had lengthened across the golden grass of the home paddock.

‘What’s the time?’ she asked Jock Evans, the farmer who’d called her in a panic several hours earlier.

Instead of checking his wrist, Jock turned slowly and squinted at the mellowing daylight outside. ‘Just gone five, I reckon.’

‘Already?’ Lucy hurried to the corner of the barn where she’d left her things, including her watch. She checked it. Jock was dead right. ‘I’m supposed to be at a wedding rehearsal by half past five.’

Jock’s eyes widened with surprise. ‘Don’t tell me you’re getting married, Lucy?’

‘Me? Heavens no.’ Peeling off sterile gloves, she manufactured a gaiety she didn’t feel. ‘Mattie Carey’s the lucky girl getting married. I’m just a bridesmaid.’

Again, she added silently.

The farmer didn’t try to hide his relief. ‘I’m glad you haven’t been snapped up. The Willow Creek district can’t afford to have you whisked away from us.’

‘Well, there's not much chance.’

‘Most folks around here reckon you’re the best vet we’ve ever had.’

‘Thanks, Jock.’ Lucy sent him a grateful smile, but as she went through to the adjoining room to clean up, her smile wavered and then collapsed.

She really, really loved her job, and she’d worked hard for many years before the local farmers finally placed their trust in a mere “slip of a girl”. Now she’d finally earned their loyalty and admiration and she knew she should be satisfied, but lately this job hadn’t felt like enough.

She certainly didn’t want to be married to it!

 

For Will Carruthers, coming home to Willowbank always felt to like stepping back in time. In ten years the sleepy country town had barely changed. 

The wide main street was still filled with the same old fashioned flowerbeds. The bank, the council chambers, the post office and the barbershop all looked exactly as they had when Will first left home.

Today, as he climbed out of his father’s battered old truck, the familiar landmarks took on a dreamlike quality. But when he pushed open the gate that led to the white wooden church, where tomorrow his best mate would marry one of his oldest friends, he couldn’t help thinking that this sense of time standing still was a mere illusion.

The buildings and the landscape might have stayed the same, but the people who lived here had changed. Oh, yeah. Every person who mattered in Will’s life had changed a great deal.

And here was the funny thing. Will had left sleepy old Willowbank, eager to shake its dust from his heels and to make his mark on the world. He’d traversed the globe more times than he cared to count, but now, in so many ways, he felt like the guy who’d been left behind.

From inside the church the wailing cries of a baby sounded, a clear signal of the changes that had taken place. Will’s sister Gina appeared at the church door, jiggling a howling, ginger-headed infant on her hip.

When she saw her brother, her face broke into a huge smile.

‘Will, I’m so glad you made it. Gosh, it’s lovely to see you.’ Reaching out, she beckoned him closer, gave him a one armed hug. ‘Heavens, big brother, have I shrunk or have you grown even taller?’

‘Maybe the weight of motherhood is wearing you down.’ Will stooped to kiss her, then smiled as he studied her face. ‘I take that back, Gina. I don’t think you’ve ever looked happier.’

‘I know,’ she beamed. ‘It’s amazing, isn’t it? I seem to have discovered my inner Earth Mother.’

He grinned and patted her baby’s chubby arm. ‘This must be Jasper. He’s certainly a chip off the old block.’ The baby was a dead ringer for his father, Tom, right down to his red hair. ‘G’day, little guy.’

Jasper stopped crying and stared at Will with big blue eyes, shiny with tears.

 ‘Gosh, that shut him up.’ Gina grinned and winked. ‘You must have the knack, Will. I knew you’d be perfect uncle material.’

Will chuckled to cover an abrupt slug of emotion that had caught him by surprise. Gina’s baby was incredibly cute. His skin was soft and perfectly smooth, his eyes bright and clear. There were dimples on his chubby hands and, crikey, dimples on his knees. And even though he was only four months old, he was unmistakably sturdy and masculine.

‘What a great little guy,’ he said, his voice rough around the edges.

Gina was watching him shrewdly. ‘Ever thought of having a little boy of your own, Will?’

He covered his sigh with a lopsided grin. ‘We both know I’ve been too much of a gypsy.’

Reluctant to meet his sister’s searching gaze, Will studied a stained glass window, found himself remembering a church in Canada, where, only days ago, he’d attended the funeral of a work colleague. He could still see the earnest face of his friend’s ten year old son, could see the pride in the boy’s eyes as he bravely faced the congregation and told them how much he’d loved his dad.

Hell, if he let himself think about that father and son relationship now, he’d be a mess in no time.

Hunting for a distraction, Will slid a curious glance towards the chattering group at the front of the church. ‘I hope I’m not late. The rehearsal hasn’t started, has it?’

‘No, don’t fret.  Hey, everyone!’ Gina raised her voice. ‘Will’s here.’

The chatter stopped. Heads turned and faces broke into smiles. A distinct lump formed in Will’s throat. 

How good it was to see them all again. Tom, Gina’s stolid, farmer husband, was grinning like a Cheshire cat as he held baby Mia, Jasper’s twin sister.

Mattie, the bride to be, looked incredibly happy as she stood with her bridegroom’s arm about her shoulders.

Mattie was marrying Jake Devlin and Will still couldn’t get over the changes in Jake. The two men had worked together on a mine site in Mongolia and they’d quickly become great mates, but Will could have sworn that Jake was not the marrying kind.

No one had been more stunned when Jake, chief breaker of feminine hearts, had fallen like a ton of bricks for Mattie Carey.

One look at Jake’s face now, however, and Will couldn’t doubt the truth of it. Crikey, his mate had never looked so relaxed and happy – at peace with himself and eager to take on the world.

As for Mattie… Will had known her all his life… but now she looked… well, there was only one word…

Mattie looked transformed.

Radiant and beautiful only went part way to describing her.

He couldn’t detect any sign that she’d recently given birth to twins – to Gina and Tom’s babies, in fact, in a wonderful surrogacy arrangement that had brought untold blessings to everyone involved. Mattie was not only slim once again, but she’d acquired a new confidence that blazed in her eyes, in her glowing smile, in the way she moved.

All this, Will noticed as everyone gathered around him, offering kisses, handshakes and backslaps.

‘So glad you could make it,’ Jake said, pumping his hand.

‘Try to keep me away, mate. I’d pay good money to see you take the plunge tomorrow.’

‘We’re just waiting for the minister and his wife,’ Mattie said. ‘And for Lucy.’

Lucy.

It was ages since he’d seen Lucy, and he’d never been happy about the way they’d drifted apart, although it had seemed necessary at the time. ‘Is Lucy coming to the wedding rehearsal?’

‘Of course,’ Mattie said. ‘Didn’t you know? Lucy’s a bridesmaid.’

 

From 'The Bridesmaid's Baby"
By: Barbara Hannay
Mills and Boon Romance
October 2009
ISBN: 978 0 263 20830-6
Copyright: © Barbara Hannay
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance information surf to: http://www.eHarlequin.com

 

 

             
 

 

 

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