Authors: Gail McFarland
Genesis Press, Inc.
Indigo Love Stories
An imprint of Genesis Press, Inc.
Genesis Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 101
Columbus, MS 39703
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, not known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying, and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission of the publisher, Genesis Press, Inc. For information write Genesis Press, Inc., P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author and all incidents are pure invention.
Copyright© 2009 Gail McFarland
Manufactured in the United States of America
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In order for all good things to come to an end,
They must have a great beginning.
To that end,
I am eternally grateful for prayer, and endlessly thank those who love me.
I appreciate your helping me to find the good things in my life.
No man is truly married
until he understands
every word his wife is NOT saying.
~ Anonymous ~
Once in a while,
Right in the middle of an ordinary life,
Love gives us a fairy tale.
~ Anonymous ~
“There she is!”
Walking fast, Marissa Yarborough Traylor swung into lobby of the Hanover Building. Her dark glasses and long, sleekly tailored black wool coat fooled none of the waiting reporters. They knew her the second she pushed through the cold glass doors. Balancing her briefcase and purse, she plucked black leather gloves from her hands. Her pace never faltered as she held her head high and her smile in place. She had no words for the gentlemen of the media.
“Is it true? Is it true? Is Kadeem Gregg staying in Atlanta? Did you really broker the deal for Gregg and Sawyer?” someone yelled as she passed.
“Word is, Traylor is moving back here as a defense coach. Is the ink dry on the contract?” Ben Thomas was sweating as he jockeyed for position, trying to keep pace with her. “You shopping runners for your old man these days? Is that why you latched onto those boys out of Tech?” Rissa spared him a sidelong glance and a half-smile as she stepped a little faster.
“Yeah, we know they both play strong ‘d’, and that’s gonna be Traylor’s place on the team, right? Right? Coachin’ ‘d’, right?”
She brought a slim, honey-colored finger to her lips, raised her brows, and held her smile.
“Come on, Rissa, give us
! It’s three days before Christmas and you’re acting like Scrooge! We know you know sports and we know you know the players. Hell, you did a great job of agenting for AJ. But you know we know you’re married to the new defense coach, too. Is this going to shape up as a conflict of interest for you? For him? You pullin’ a team together for Atlanta to keep your husband on the job?”
“And don’t forget, you got James Clarence, too,” José Christopher called. “Middleweight contender going pro, gonna be champ. You’re either living right, or you’re a witch!” He grinned when Rissa tossed her head and her hand went to her hip. But not a word passed her lips.
“She’s too damned good lookin’ to be so smart,” another man whispered.
“You didn’t give us an answer, Rissa.” Thomas got louder. ”How you gonna leave us hangin’?”
She pivoted, looked him in the eye, and winked. “Wait and see, boys. You’ll get a press release when the deals are done, and then you’ll know what I know.” Rissa laughed, cutting across the marble-floored lobby and heading for the security stairs. Just steps ahead of dark, panther-like Adrian Kessler and his network cameraman, she managed to slip her card key free and into the reader. The door clicked and she eased inside, pulling the door closed behind her. Kessler would have caught the door edge and pulled if the beefy security guard trailing Rissa had been looking the other way, but he wasn’t.
“Don’t tell me she’s taking the stairs,” Christopher groaned. “She’s a woman in heels, for Pete’s sake.”
“A woman in heels, with legs like a racehorse,” Ben Thomas commiserated, watching the security guard. “Elevator’s over there.”
“Might be better to wait for the statement. She’s got my number.” Kessler watched two other reporters leave.
“Mine, too,” Thomas said, nodding to his cameraman. “Come on, I’ll treat you to Starbucks.” Assuming inclusion, Kessler followed.
“I got Christmas shopping to finish, anyway.” Christopher jammed his hands into his coat pockets and slunk off with a final glance at the still-guarded stairwell door.
Listening for trailing footsteps, Rissa stopped climbing stairs on the fourth floor. Stepping out of the stairwell, she looked left and right, scanning the modern polished steel and glass-walled corridor. Seeing no one, she headed for the ladies’ room. Once inside, her back to the door, she listened again—nothing. Good. She tucked her briefcase under her arm and dipped her other hand deep into her red leather tote bag. Her fingers searched the contents and stopped when they found the small white CVS bag. Content that she was alone, she pulled the bag free as she hurried past the mirrored walls and polished marble vanity.
A woman was entitled to privacy, but it was hard to come by these days. Darned reporters were already suspicious of a woman handling the lives and careers of big million-dollar men. That she had just scored fantastic deals for two young players who might have otherwise managed second-round NFL draft status was front-page news, as far as they were concerned, so they were following her. But right now, for Rissa, the placement, the money, those kids’ careers, all took a backseat to the small package she’d picked up at the drugstore.
Taking a deep breath, she brushed back her long coat and walked the line of stalls. “Okay, now this is just damned creepy,” she admitted, pushing doors to make sure they were empty—they were. Mentally apologizing, she hip-checked the door to the handicapped stall and pushed it closed behind her. She needed space for what she was about to do.
Her heartbeat was hard and fast when she jerked her purse, briefcase, and coat to the hook on the back of the door, and she was almost panting when she dumped the contents of the CVS bag into her hand. Opening the small box, Rissa read the instructions on the back. “Good, it’s exactly like the other one,” she muttered, taking a deep breath and hiking up her skirt.
The box was open and the little wand was in her hand when she realized something was missing—Dench. “He needs to be a part of this,” she whispered, reaching for her purse and knowing that she was not about to call him on her cellphone. If what she suspected was true, he didn’t need to hear it over the phone. And if it wasn’t true, he didn’t deserve the hurt and disappointment. But if she was right…
She dug for her wallet, realized that she was holding her breath, and inhaled, gulping lavender and Lysol-scented air when she found their picture. Just looking at him in the photo and remembering almost stopped her heart—it had been taken on their honeymoon. Standing in front of a low and impossibly full moon on the sugar-white sand of Seven Mile Beach in Negril, he’d kissed her and promised that there was nothing in this life that he wouldn’t give her.
“And I believed you, baby, then and now.” Rissa Yarborough Traylor couldn’t have cared less who heard her as she stood with her skirt bunched up around her hips in a public bathroom holding her honeymoon photo and a home pregnancy kit, whispering to her husband’s image. “Baby, you’ve been nothing but luck for me, and I want to give that back to you. Maybe this time,” she sighed. “It’s Christmastime, a season for miracles, for children, and maybe good luck for…us.” She kissed the photo and set it on top of her purse where she could see it. Opening the box, she looked at her smiling husband again. “Bring me luck now, baby. Please.”
After that, everything went quickly. When she opened her eyes, she saw the tiny plus sign and nearly fainted. Her breathing was shallow as she stood staring at the little wand. “Pregnant.”
Four years of trying, and now this. “Pregnant.”
And right here at Christmas. Now she had something to really celebrate. She’d only agreed to put up the big tree at the last minute, trying to get over the disappointment of having it just for herself and Dench—again. Even when her brother’s children worried about the tree, she’d almost refused, but now there was something to celebrate, a reason to anticipate.
The single word felt good as it crossed her lips and she couldn’t stop herself—she said it again and loved each syllable. “Pregnant.”
Righting her clothes, collecting her things, flushing the toilet, washing her hands, leaving the restroom—all mechanical things she would never remember doing. There was no room in her head or her heart for more than the one thought she nursed all the way back to the elevator:
She pressed the button and when the elevator arrived, she stepped on board, the very image of a dignified business woman. The doors whispered shut and she couldn’t help herself. “Baby,” she shouted to the empty car. The word was out and she felt better for it, but she needed just a little bit more. Digging into her personal boogie groove, she broke down and did her funky little dance until she felt the car slow. When it stopped, so did she.
Stepping off the elevator in front of MYT, Unlimited, Marissa Yarborough Traylor took a deep breath and promised herself that she would not skip through the doors and do a repeat of her happy dance in the lobby—that just wouldn’t be dignified. She and her partner had earned their elegant seventeenth floor offices in the prestigious Hanover Building in Buckhead’s Tower Place complex. Being women, relatively young women at that, they’d worked hard to establish themselves as more than pretty faces with law degrees and knowledge of sports. Rissa had no intention of sullying that reputation.
It was hard, though, especially when she was carrying the kind of news that she had. Rissa had to stop herself from biting her lip as it occurred to her why her brother, her husband, her sister-in-law, and even her mother always said the same thing about her: “That girl’s mouth won’t hold water!” And it was pretty much true, she had to admit. Keeping secrets had never been her forté, but this one was for Dench.
“Of course, after I tell him…” The list of people she would tell was a long one. Rolling her shoulders back, she stood taller, lengthening her long frame as she made a mental list of the first people she would tell after Dench. Mom first, then there was Marlea, her sister-in-law, and Marlea would tell AJ if Dench didn’t beat her to it.
And Yvette, her friend and partner, who would have a happy dance of her own. Yvette had been listening to Rissa’s baby blues almost from the first time they’d met back in law school. Over the years, she’d listened to Rissa coo over babies every time they went out for lunch, shopping, a movie, or…pretty much always, and she wanted nothing more for Rissa than motherhood.
Rissa felt the nervous flutter in her belly. It mirrored the flutter of happiness in her heart and she pressed her lips together, reaching for composure.
I need to calm my happy self down. This little test could be wrong; it happens sometimes. I need a confirmation, so I can’t say anything until I talk to my doctor.
A big breath and the narrow shot of logic did a little to calm her nerves. But the damned smile on her lips just wouldn’t die.
Doing the best she could, determined to hold onto her secret, Rissa shifted her coat to the other arm and raked fingers through the short, razored thickness of her hair. She pushed through the door of her office suite, where the countdown to Christmas was in full swing.
“Looks like Santa Claus exploded up in this camp,” Rissa said, looking around.
Eggnog seemed to be the drink of choice and was available from a crystal punchbowl perched on a corner of the receptionist’s light- and tinsel-edged desk. Lifting her cup in salute, Karee, the receptionist, licked her lips and seemed to be enjoying it. Somewhere along the hall to the left, Rissa heard the Temptations singing about Rudolph, and one of the paralegals was handing out something wrapped in red and green paper. A ten-foot-tall, brightly sparkling pine tree held a place of honor near the door, and the mound of wrapped gifts for the Toys for Tots campaign had doubled in the time she’d been gone.
“Yvette, you and Helen have driven these people Christmas crazy in less than three hours. That’s got to be some kind of record—even for you two.”
Helen, passing by with a clutch of color-coded folders and wearing twinkling reindeer antlers, raised a hand and kept walking. Even in the spirit of the season, she had an office to manage.
Yvette Trask was another story. “Pump up the spirit, girl, ’tis the season. Cookie?” Wearing a fetching red and white Santa’s cap, she strolled up and held out a festive, fully-laden tray. “Eat up, girl, eat up,” Yvette urged, taking a cookie for herself. “I was up all night baking these, my grandmother’s recipe. They’re totally delicious and if I could, I would eat them by the dozen.”
“You do anyway,” Rissa grinned, taking a cookie. She pressed her cheek to her partner’s, then bit into her cookie. “Oh, my God, this is delicious,” she said, chewing behind her hand. “I can taste the butter and eggs. I feel my arteries clogging. I swear, if these things weren’t so good, I would just slap them on my hips and lick my fingers, like you do.”
“Don’t hate, I didn’t get all this just from cookies.” Yvette accepted the air kiss, took another cookie and handed the tray off to one of the interns. Chewing, she said, “If you worked at it, you too could be the bearer of similarly luxurious amplitude. But no, you’re just too lazy to eat wrong and ignore exercise.”
, ’cause I know you know what you’re talking about.”
At a shade over five feet in height, and looking up at her taller friend, Yvette slid a hand over her full hip and shook her head. “I would say something, but we have guests. Your four o’clock is here, and he brought his mama with him.”
“Four? It’s only a little after three.” Rissa’s eyes followed her partner’s pointing finger to James and Brenda Clarence.
“Well, they’re here now, and they’re waiting for you, so don’t shoot the messenger. Now, where did those cookies go?” Yvette turned, gave her red sweater a tug in the right place, and marched off, following her nose.
Seated in a soft, taupe-colored, corner-angled suede chair beneath a giant wreath, Rissa’s newest client looked scared. At average height and weighing in at about one-fifty, James was all muscle and wound tight as a spring. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she would be his first professional agent, or maybe because he was about to sign a major representation contract. But Rissa figured the truth was that his mother, Mrs. Brenda Clarence, was seated next to him, and Mrs. Brenda Clarence was a formidable woman—
I’d be scared of her, too.
Pasting on a professional smile, Rissa started toward James Clarence and his mama. Mrs. Clarence sighed, lifting her full bosom and the plump hands she held folded across her stomach. On his own, James was a handsome, charismatic, talented boxer. In the company of his short, heavyset, low-voiced mother, he was little more than a kid. Brenda Clarence had raised her boy alone, and she had taken the job seriously. She had raised him to be strong and honest, and her own integrity radiated from his bright brown eyes—when he raised them from the floor to meet Rissa’s.