Authors: Beverly Barton
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General
She knew she was attractive, but she'd never thought of herself as sexy. Feminine, yes. Sexy, no. Big breasts alone didn't make a woman sexy, especially if she avoided displaying that particular asset to full advantage. She was a lady, and ladies weren't supposed to be sexy. Most of the men she'd dated since Edward's death had considered her an ice queen. A few had even told her she was frigid.
"J.B., I—I don't … I've never …"
He lowered his head. She saw his mouth coming toward hers and knew what he was going to do. She could have stopped him. But she didn't.
He kissed her. Hard and hot and hungry. Skyrockets exploded inside her. Everything female about her reacted to all that was so very male about him.
This couldn't be happening. Not to her. Not to Donna Deirdre Fields. She'd never been publicly affectionate with a man. She had always considered public displays of emotion quite vulgar. But here she was, kissing a stranger, in a seedy bar, in a one-horse town, in the wilds of New Mexico. And she was enjoying it. No. More than enjoying. She was loving it.
He ended the kiss abruptly. She gazed up at him, knowing full well he could see the desire in her eyes. "We'd better stop, unless we want to put on a real show for the folks."
She nodded, then when he urged her head down onto his chest, she complied and cuddled against him. While their intimately entwined bodies moved slowly in a sensual dance, Donna listened to the thundering beat of J.B.'s heart.
One song ended and another began. Time stood still. She wasn't sure how long they danced. Had no idea what time it was. Didn't even know exactly when Joanie and Big John had left the dance floor, ordered steaks and eaten dinner. Everything and everyone outside the realm of J.B.'s embrace disappeared.
"I want you, sugar," he whispered. "I want you bad."
"I know." She felt his large, pulsating sex against her body as they danced.
"I'm staying in town for the weekend." He pressed his shaft against her mound. "I've got a room over at the Crescent Motel. Stay with me tonight."
"I—" It had been on the tip of her tongue to say no. To tell him that she wasn't the kind of woman who would spend a night at a motel with a man she barely knew. "It would be just for the night. After that, we'll never see each other again. Do you understand?"
"Just sex, sugar, that's all I want. Isn't that all you want?" He caressed her buttock, then cupped it.
Moisture flooded her body in preparation. She'd never ached so badly to have a man inside her. This hunger was unlike anything she'd ever known. "Yes, sex is all I want."
"Then let's go." He stopped, grabbed her hand and led her off the dance floor. "We need to tell your friend you're leaving with me."
They paused momentarily at Joanie and Big John's table. The couple glanced up and smiled.
"We're heading out," J.B. said.
"Joanie, I, er, I'll see you in the morning."
Joanie's big blue eyes rounded into surprised saucers. "Oh! Uh … Yeah. Sure." Joanie smiled. "Have a good time."
In that one split second, Donna almost backed out. Almost. She knew what she was doing was crazy. The craziest thing she'd ever done in her life. But something inside her urged her on, encouraging her to sample forbidden fruit. To take a wild ride on an untamed stallion.
The baby in her arms whimpered. Donna lifted Susan and Hank's son to her shoulder and crooned comforting, nonsensical words into the infant's ear. Sighing, she stretched her back, which ached unbearably. A symptom of late pregnancy and the fact that she had been on her feet too long today. But this was such a special event. A wedding. Susan Williams, one of her best friends, had married the man of her dreams, the only man she'd ever truly loved. The father of her child. Donna sighed as she watched the happy couple cut their wedding cake.
Just as Susan pushed a piece of cake into Hank Bishop's mouth, his sister Tallie cried out from the hallway, then burst into laughter.
"My God, Jake! I can't believe it's really you! After all these years you've come home," Tallie said. "You're too late for the wedding, but the reception just started."
"You don't mean our big brother actually came home for your wedding," Caleb Bishop said. "Will wonders never cease. He didn't bother making the trip for Tallie's wedding or for mine."
"Well, this does make the day perfect, doesn't it?" Susan said. "All three Bishop brothers together for the first time in … how long?"
"Nearly eighteen years," Hank said, slipping his arm around Susan's waist as he led her over to meet the new arrival.
Donna Fields froze to the spot as she watched the Bishop family greet the tardy guest. They had called him Jake and had welcomed him as their long lost brother. But that couldn't be, Donna thought. It just wasn't possible!
Suddenly she felt light-headed. The room spun around and around. She couldn't faint. Not now. Not while she was holding little Lowell Bishop.
Donna called out to Danny Bishop, Caleb's twelve-year-old son. "Danny, will you take Lowell for a few minutes? I need to check on something in the kitchen."
"Sure thing, Miss Donna." The tall, lanky boy reached out and accepted the tiny bundle.
"Just take him over to your aunt Tallie if he puts up a fuss."
"Will do," Danny said.
Donna wanted to run. As fast and as far as her shaky legs would carry her. Unfortunately, she couldn't maneuver very fast in her present condition. She was as big as a barrel. Dr. Farr had told her that if she hadn't gone into labor by tomorrow, he intended to induce labor. She'd be so glad to get the birth over with and hold her precious little daughter in her arms.
Donna eased past several people gathered at the back of the dining room, smiling and nodding as she made her way toward the kitchen. She swung open the door, then closed it behind her and took a deep, calming breath. She had to get out of this house—away from the eldest Bishop brother! Dear God in heaven, why had he shown up today? Hank and Caleb's mysterious big brother had stayed away for more than seventeen years. No one thought he'd attend the wedding. But here he was—big as life and twice as dangerous.
Donna's heart raced so hard and fast that the drumming roared in her ears. Of all the men on earth, why him? Maybe she'd been hallucinating. Maybe she had imagined that Jake Bishop looked like J.B. After all, for the past nine months, ever since she'd said goodbye to J.B. at the airport, she had been unable to erase his memory from her mind. And when she had discovered that, despite the precautions they'd taken, she was pregnant with his child, the big, sexy cowboy had been on her mind constantly.
Take another look at Jake Bishop and make sure he really is your J.B. from the Blue Bonnet Grill.
She eased the kitchen door ajar slightly and peered through the crack. The large, broad-shouldered man had his back to her. She quickly scanned his body from the top of his silky black hair to the heels of his snakeskin boots. He was the same height and size as J.B. Had the same coal black hair. The same dark complexion.
His deep, hearty laughter rumbled loudly. Donna's heart caught in her throat. Oh, God, she knew the sound of that laughter. The big man turned just enough to give her a glimpse of his face. The bottom dropped out of her stomach. This was no hallucination. No wild imaginings. Jake Bishop and J.B.—her weekend cowboy, the father of her child—were one and the same.
She couldn't let him see her. She had to leave before the two of them came face-to-face. But her purse and car keys were upstairs on Susan's bed. How could she slip upstairs without being seen? The house was filled with wedding guests. She'd just have to chance it. There was no other way. Besides, maybe, if she kept her head down and her face diverted, J.B. wouldn't recognize her. After all, the last time he'd seen her, she'd been thirty-five pounds lighter and actually had a waistline.
Another of those annoying back pains hit her the moment she walked through the kitchen door. She stopped abruptly, waiting for the pain to subside. As the last ripples of discomfort eased away, Donna took a deep breath, glanced quickly in J.B.'s direction, then jerked her head downward when she realized he was looking directly at her. As she made her way around the room, doing her best to avoid being noticed, a strange sensation came over her.
"Oh, God, no!" she pleaded under her breath just as her body betrayed her. Her water broke, sending what felt like a tidal wave down her legs and onto the floor. She stood there helpless and mortified.
"Oh, hell's toenails," Tallie shouted. "Donna's water just broke. Call Dr. Farr."
Within seconds, Tallie Bishop Rand, Susan Bishop and Sheila Bishop hovered around Donna. She prayed that their bodies protected her from J.B.'s curious stare. But within seconds, she realized that her prayer hadn't been answered.
"Donna?" J.B.'s voice boomed like thunder. "Donna, is that you?"
Jake moved across the room with deadly force, his eyes narrowed, his jaw tight. He parted the trio of Bishop ladies surrounding Donna and took a good look at the woman who stared back at him with amber cat eyes. It was her!
Donna from the Blue Bonnet Grill. The woman who had come to pieces in his arms time and again during that long weekend nine months ago. Nine months! He stared into Donna's pale face, then his gaze traveled downward to her large, protruding belly. She was pregnant. Very pregnant.
"What's the matter with you, Jake?" His sister Tallie tried to shove him out of the way. "Donna's water just broke. We need to get her to the hospital."
Jake didn't budge. "You're pregnant," he said to Donna.
She didn't speak, only nodded agreement.
"Nine months' pregnant?" he asked, though the answer was more than obvious.
She nodded again.
"Will you get out of the way," Tallie scolded. "This has nothing to do with you. Just let us handle things."
"It's mine," Jake said, his deep, quiet voice silencing the chatter around the room.
Donna cringed as another pain sliced through her back. She gulped in air, then looked Jake square in the eye. "Yes" seemed to be the only word she could manage.
"What?" Tallie stared back and forth from her eldest brother to her pregnant friend.
Jake shoved the women aside and lifted Donna, whose damp dress clung to the backs of her legs. She slipped her arm around his neck and laid her weary head on his shoulder.
"I took a cab from the airport," Jake said. "Somebody else will have to drive us to the hospital." He carried Donna through the midst of curious onlookers, straight to the front door and out onto the porch.
His brothers and their wives followed, whispering among themselves as they tried to make sense of what was happening.
"We can take my minivan," Susan said, turning to her husband. "Get the keys and bring Lowell with you. He'll be hungry soon."
When Hank returned to the house to retrieve the keys and his infant son, Caleb laid his hand on Jake's shoulder, halting Jake's progress toward the driveway.
"Mind telling us just what's going on here?" Caleb asked. "We're all a bit confused."
Jake paused, turned his dark gaze on his youngest brother and grunted. "You think you're confused! How the hell do you think I feel, showing up for Hank's wedding and running into a woman I spent a—"
Donna cried out in pain. "Please, hurry up and get me to the hospital. I'm sure I'm in labor and this baby isn't going to wait around while we discuss who's confused and why."
Caleb's wife Sheila slid open the minivan door. Jake stepped up inside the vehicle and settled Donna on his lap. She squirmed against him in an effort to remove herself from his arms. He tightened his hold on her just enough to restrict her movements.
Lowering his head so that his words were a whispered question in her ear, he said, "How about explaining a few things to me?"
"What's there to explain?" Tilting her chin defiantly, she glared at him as she shrugged her shoulders.
Jake stared meaningfully down at her stomach. "That baby's definitely mine, right?"
She tried again to wiggle free of his hold, but to no avail. "The baby is mine!" she told him. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again. I had no idea you were Jake Bishop. If I'd known, I never would have—" She lowered her voice. "You do realize, of course, that your showing up here like this has complicated my life. I told people that I had married and gotten a quick divorce and the father of my child was out of my life."
"Why didn't you get in touch with me to let me know I was going to be a father?"
"How was I suppose to do that? I didn't even know your last name."
"You could have—"
"Excuse us," Caleb said as he helped Sheila and Susan, who was carrying little Lowell, up into the van. "We're ready to go now."
Tallie raced toward the van with her husband Peyton at her side just as Hank opened the driver's door. She stuck her head inside, peered into the back and said, "Peyt and I will follow y'all to the hospital. And before Donna has her baby, this family expects a full explanation from you." She pointed her finger directly into Jake's face.
Donna groaned as another pain hit her. This had to be some horrible nightmare, she thought. It wasn't possible that she was on the verge of giving birth to Jake Bishop's baby. The child she had carried for nine months was hers and hers alone. Not once had she ever considered the possibility that her child's father would show up unexpectedly in her life. And it certainly hadn't crossed her mind that the man she'd spent the weekend with in New Mexico was the brother and brother-in-law of her three closest friends.
She had heard them mention Jake Bishop, the eldest of the Bishop clan, the brother who had left town nearly eighteen years ago and hadn't been heard from until about six years ago. In all that time, nothing had lured him home. Not his grandfather's death, not his other siblings' marriages, not even Caleb's nearly fatal accident. So, why now, after all this time, had he decided to show up for Hank and Susan's wedding?
Donna felt decidedly uncomfortable cradled in Jake's lap, but he'd made it abundantly clear that he wasn't letting go of her. She stole a glance at his face, hoping to gage his mood. But that stony, expressionless face gave away nothing.
"J.B.—ah, I mean Jake—" She cleared her throat. "—Why did you come back to Crooked Oak?"
"Yeah, why did you come back?" Caleb asked as he turned halfway around in the front seat.
"I came back for Hank's wedding," Jake said.
"Why for Hank's and not for mine or Tallie's?" Caleb draped his arm across the seat as he focused his gaze on his eldest brother.
"Well, to be honest, I was planning on coming back to Tennessee anyway," Jake admitted. "You see, I've made an offer for Old Man Henry's quarter horse ranch and if the deal goes through, then I'm moving home to stay."
"Well, I'll be damned." Hank slammed his hand down on the steering wheel. "Looks like, one by one, all three Bishop brothers have come home to roost."
Donna moaned. Oh, great! Jake Bishop was moving back to Tennessee. He'd be around all the time. She didn't think she could bear having him in the same state, let alone the same county. What if he wanted to play a role in little Louisa Christine's life? She barely knew him but somehow she was sure this cowboy wasn't suitable father material.
You should have thought of that before you slept with him,
an inner voice chastised her.
"So, while we're on our way to the hospital, how about one of you explaining the situation to us," Sheila said. "It's obvious that you two know each other and that … well, are we wrong to assume that Jake is the father of your baby?"
"I thought you told us you didn't know the guy you spent the weekend with," Susan said as she rocked a restless little Lowell in her arms.
"I didn't know him!" Donna said. "All I knew was that his friends called him J.B. I had no idea he was Jake Bishop."
Caleb chuckled, then rubbed his chin in mock seriousness. "Let me get this straight. Donna and Jake met … somewhere … nine months ago, got married, got divorced and never knew who the other one was? Sorry, folks, but that doesn't make any sense."
"We didn't get married." Donna looked pleadingly at Jake.
"Oh, so you just had sex and then went your separate ways and Donna made up the story about a marriage and a divorce," Hank said.
"He wasn't suppose to show up in my life," Donna explained. "Not ever. J.B. was just a weekend fling. I had no idea I'd accidently get pregnant."
"So you did use condoms?" Caleb barely suppressed a grin as he looked his eldest brother square in the eye.