Authors: Judy Christenberry
“No, I’m just doing my job.”
“Yes, but you always make it sound like it’s a pleasure rather than a job.”
“That’s because it is. You’ve taken my family in and made us feel like we’re a part of your family.”
“Come on. Let’s get food on the table,” Brad said.
“Oh! Oh, yes.” Sarah immediately began putting dinner on the table, with Brad’s help, just as he’d done before.
Soon they were all gathered around the table. When dinner was over, Sarah asked her brother and sister to wait until the others had left the table. Then she told them the news that Mike had brought them.
“Okay,” Davy said, showing no concern.
“Anna, how do you feel?” Sarah probed.
The little girl who seemed so mature beyond her years once again amazed her. “I’m sorry for Daddy, but he did bad things.” She shook her head. “I don’t want to think about him anymore.”
“All right. I wanted both of you to know
that we’re safe from him now. And we’re a family. We’re going to be all right.”
“Okay,” Davy said again. “Now can I go watch TV? My favorite show is coming on.”
Sarah smiled at his innocence. “All right. Anna, do you like that show, too?”
“Yes. If you don’t mind…”
“Of course not, sweetheart. Go with your brother.”
The kids ran to the family room, and Sarah began to clean the table. She was carrying a first load of dishes to the sink when Brad came into the kitchen again.
“Oh! I didn’t hear you come in,” Sarah said, struggling to put the load of dishes down.
He ran to her and grabbed some from the top. His hand accidentally swiped her breast as he took the plates. “I thought you could use some help,” he said, “and I see that you do.”
“No, that’s all right. You’ve been working all day. You deserve some rest.”
“Why do I deserve some rest but you don’t? You’ve been working longer than me, and you still have some work to do.”
“Yes, but I have some time off during the day. I’m fine. You go ahead and watch television.”
Brad, however, was undeterred. “I think I’d rather stay in here with you.”
“That’s fine, but you don’t need to help me.”
“I think I do need to help you, honey.”
She began to protest, but he put an end to her objection by kissing her.
She jerked her head back. “Brad, you must stop doing that!”
“Why?” he asked calmly, innocently.
“You can’t go around kissing me just because I’m the hired help! That’s not right.”
He looked at her quizzically. “Why do you think I’m kissing you?”
“Be-because I’m the hired help,” she repeated, hating the fact that she stammered in his presence.
“Wouldn’t that be pretty bad of me?”
“So, why haven’t you objected?”
“You’ve been very helpful. I didn’t feel you were always taking advantage of me.”
“Did you ever think that maybe I was attracted to you?”
“No.” Her heart pounded harder and she thought he could see it slamming against her blouse.
What was he asking her? Too uncomfortable, she turned away from him. “Because you made it clear you weren’t,” she said over her shoulder.
He took hold of her arms and turned her to face him. “When did I do that?” His voice was like velvet as it settled over her skin, smooth and soft.
“You don’t remember?”
“No.” He shook his head and his scent enveloped her.
Despite the sensuous nature of the man in front of her, Sarah had to face the truth.
She dropped her gaze. “You pointed out to me that I would be alone with my burden.”
Brad’s voice sharpened and turned taut. “And you thought that meant I wasn’t interested in you?”
“Of course that’s what you meant!” she returned.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I just wanted you to know the reality of what you had taken on.”
“That’s what I said!”
“I didn’t mean I didn’t have feelings for you. I had promised Nick and Mike not to show any interest in you until you had the problem with your stepfather all settled.”
“I don’t understand,” Sarah said, frowning. Her head felt as if it were swimming.
Brad let his hands slip down her arms and he gripped her hands in his. “Honey, I received strict instructions that I shouldn’t flirt with you. I tried my best—” he smiled that devilish smile at her “—but sometimes you were just too cute. So, on the way home, I thought I should make sure you realized what you did. I didn’t mean to make you angry.”
“Make me angry? You broke my heart!” She slugged him in the arm. “And you confused me every time you kissed me!”
“Does that mean you liked it?” Brad said as he rubbed his arm.
“No!” she shouted and turned her back on him.
“Not even a little?” he teased with a singsong voice.
“How could you do that to me, Brad Logan?”
“I wasn’t trying to confuse you, honey, but how could I not kiss you when you did such wonderful things like deliver the twins? Or come out to apologize to me in the barn and end up helping deliver the colt?”
She sniffed, lowering her head from his eyes.
He crooked his index finger and put it under her chin, lifting her face to his once again. His eyes were dark and serious when he said, “I had to make sure you didn’t start looking around for another man to help you. If I was going to hold back, I wanted to make sure no one else took advantage.”
“That makes me sound terrible!”
“You don’t realize how wonderful you
are. You’ve done anything Nick and Abby asked
delivered their twins!”
“That was an accident.”
“Yeah, but you came through.”
Brad opened his mouth to continue, but Nick and Abby’s entry into the kitchen interrupted him.
They were discussing something and didn’t look up for a minute. But Sarah figured they heard her indrawn breath.
“Uh, hi, guys,” Nick said, all smiles. “Is there a pot of decaf?”
“No, but—but I’ll put one on,” Sarah said hurriedly and she stepped away from Brad. She didn’t want to see the look on his face.
They sat down at the table, and Abby started telling Sarah about how well the babies had taken their bottles.
Her mind wandered, though, and all she could think about was her conversation with Brad, and his kiss.
“Don’t you think, Sarah?”
She looked up when she heard her name. “Sorry, Abby?”
Abby gave her a strange look. “Are you feeling all right, Sarah? You look a little flushed.”
Her hands flew to her cheeks. “Y-yes, of course.”
“She should tell you that you interrupted a private conversation!” Brad said emphatically, obviously not able to play along anymore.
“Oh! Do you want us to take our coffee to the family room?” Abby asked.
“Of course not,” Sarah said.
Nick looked at his brother. “What do you think, Brad? Want us to go away?”
“He doesn’t want that, I’m sure.” Sarah glared at Brad.
He sighed. “I guess we’ll join you for coffee.”
Abby stared at Brad, obviously wanting to know what they had been discussing. But she didn’t ask.
Brad told his brother and his wife what they wanted to know. “We were talking about our relationship.”
“And how’s it going?” Nick asked, sinking back in his chair with a grin.
“She thinks I don’t care anything about her. And that’s your fault, brother. Yours and Mike’s.”
“Whoa! We didn’t—
Well, maybe we did, but we thought if you put your hands on her, she might not be able to deal with it.”
Abby swatted her husband. “Nick! How could you?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Sarah said flatly, trying to defuse the argument.
“Don’t say that, sweetheart,” Brad said.
“Why? It’s the truth, which is more than you’ve been saying!”
“Sarah, I was trying to ease you into the fact that I want to marry you, but you keep fighting me!”
“I do not fight you. You hadn’t mentioned marriage until now.”
“I felt I had to wait until you either went to Denver for the trial or they told you it was settled. If I had to take you to Denver, I had to remain indifferent to you, and I
hadn’t done a good job on the indifference part so far.”
“I think you were perfectly indifferent!”
Brad protested, but Sarah got up to pour the coffee. Instead of reaching the cabinet, she ended up in Brad’s lap.
“What are you doing, Brad?” she demanded.
“I’ve decided to stop fooling around.” And right there, in front of everyone, he swooped her back in his arms and kissed her.
Sarah knew she wasn’t doing a good job of resisting. It wasn’t something new. Every time he’d kissed her, she’d wanted to throw her arms around his neck. But this kiss was unlike all the others. This kiss felt very real. And she didn’t want it to end.
When Brad finally pulled his lips away, he whispered in her ear, “Will you marry me?”
She could hardly believe she was hearing those words from his lips. Still, as happy as she was, she had Anna and Davy to think about. “I want to, Brad. Very much. But Anna and Davy will always be part of my family.”
“Don’t you know that I’ve taken them in to my family? I think we’ll make a great family. And I think it’s about time we get married. After all, we have a nine-year-old already!”
“Brad, you know that’s not true,” Sarah said, laughing.
Brad grinned at her. “Is Anna nine?”
‘Yes, of course, but—”
“Then I guess we have a nine-year-old daughter.”
“Brad, you are the sweetest man I know,” Sarah said before she kissed him.
Abby whispered to her husband, “I think they’re managing all right, even with an audience.”
“Yeah, but I still haven’t gotten my coffee.”
Sarah jumped off Brad’s lap to pour the coffee.
“Hey, tell my brother to go away and you come back to my lap, young lady!”
Sarah smiled at Brad. “I can’t serve coffee and sit in your lap at the same time.”
She poured and Brad carried the cups to the table. He tempted her into his lap once
again with his outstretched arms, but she sidestepped him this time, taking her own chair, though it was right next to his.
“I suddenly feel like we’re interrupting something,” Nick said to his wife, acting dense.
“Does that mean you’re going to leave?” Brad asked him.
“No, not after the hard time you gave me when I was courting Abby.”
“You weren’t courting Abby. You were courting Patricia, though I couldn’t understand why. At least I’ve made the right choice.”
“That’s because I’ve been a better example for you.”
Brad glared at his brother. “Have you finished your coffee yet?”
“Nope. I like to savor my coffee.”
“Fine! Then Sarah and I will go to my bedroom so we can have some privacy!”
As he got up to grab Sarah, Abby shouted, “No! I can’t let you take Sarah to your bedroom.”
Brad looked at Sarah with pleading in
his eyes. “Come on, Sarah. Tell Abby you’ll be good.”
“And what do you tell Anna if she sees me going to your bedroom?”
“Tell her I’m going to be her daddy. That’s all she needs to know.”
“So when she grows up and wants to go to a single man’s bedroom, you’ll say…”
Brad shook his head. “Damn it, we’d better get married in a hurry.”
Sarah grinned at him. “I don’t think I’ve said yes, just yet.”
He leaned over and kissed her again. In no time, she was wrapped up in his arms. When he released her that time, after several minutes, he said, “I don’t know how long I can kiss you in public and behave myself.”
“And that’s why you can’t take her to your bedroom!” Abby announced.
“Maybe I’d better say yes.”
“I’m all for it,” he said and pulled her from her chair into his lap, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her deeply.
“And maybe we’d better finish our coffee,
so these two lovebirds can enjoy themselves,” Nick said finally. “Welcome to the family, Sarah.”
“Thank you, Nick,” Sarah said, smiling broadly. Those words sounded so good to her ears.
“Me, too, Sarah. This is what I was hoping for all along.”
“Me, too, Abby. I finally found a friend who’ll last my lifetime.”
“All right, enough of this sentimental stuff,” Brad said, interrupting. “Goodbye, Nick and Abby.”
Nick smiled at his brother. “We’re going. You have half an hour before the kids go to bed. And you have to put them in bed. That’s your payment for having some privacy.”
“You’ve got a deal,” Brad said, holding on to Sarah.
When the door closed behind his brother and sister-in-law, he kissed Sarah several times. Suddenly he released her.
“What’s wrong?” Sarah asked.
“I’ve made a mistake.”
“You—you don’t think—”
One look at her face and he knew she misunderstood. “No, Sarah, don’t pull away. I mean—
Well, I think I overestimated my control. I can’t keep kissing you and not—
“You haven’t changed your mind?”
“No, sweetheart, I haven’t, but I’m not sure what to do now. Because I can’t keep kissing you without things getting out of hand.”
“Brad, shouldn’t we talk?”
“Our getting married. I mean, we haven’t talked about it.”
“We’ve been talking about it ever since we got back from Denver. I’m the one who held you after you shot that man. I’m the one who held you in my arms after you delivered the babies. I’ve been loving you every step of the way. I just couldn’t tell you until tonight.”
“Oh, Brad, I love you so much.”
“And I love you, too. We’re going to have a great family—you, me, Anna and Davy.”
“Can we tell them?”
“Sure, why not? Of course I think Davy and Robbie might get too excited about it, but we’ll be stern.”
She grinned at him. “Okay, you be the stern one and I’ll be the excited one.”
“I like that, sweetheart. Let’s go tell our family.”
All the 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 the incidents are pure invention.
All Rights Reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises II BV/S.à.r.l. The text of this publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.
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First published in Great Britain 2008
Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited,
Eton House, 18-24 Paradise Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1SR
© Judy Russell Christenberry 2008