Authors: Lorhainne Eckhart
Tags: #fiction, romance
NOT QUITE MARRIED
A Wilde Brothers Short
o when do you want to set the date for the wedding?” Logan asked, clipping his holstered gun to his belt and swallowing the last of his coffee.
As he took in the girlie kitchen done in pinks and white—neat and tidy, with matching canisters, dishes, and cups—Logan couldn’t help but be amused. Like most guys, he didn’t really care about color-coordinating, but he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut. He stared at the sterling silver serving spoon in the dish drain, remembering how Julia had shrieked when he tried to use it to stir a pot of soup, insisting he use a wooden spoon and explaining that the silver one was for the spaghetti they would be having for dinner. He had said nothing and done his best to hide his amusement. The only thing Logan cared about was having something to eat!
But Julia...liked nice things. She took pride in what she had, and this small three-bedroom house was nice and homey, with framed drawings, fresh flowers, and ceramic coasters on the matching side tables. Logan had moved in the day after they found Trinity, who had been abducted by her math teacher, Brent Maloney. The man had set his sights on Julia, and for some reason, unbeknownst to Logan, the guy had figured in his sick mind that kidnapping Trinity was the way to get Julia’s attention. Then again, Brent had lied about who he truly was—a man with a history of stalking women.
It took Logan a moment to realize that Julia hadn’t answered him after he closed up the dishwasher and poured the milk out of Dawn’s half-eaten bowl of cornflakes. Ten-year-old Dawn, like her twin sister, Trinity, was a handful for her mother.
“Julia?” Logan wiped his hands, put the rag in the sink, and stepped over to his dark-haired fiancée as she leaned against the counter, working her lower lip between her teeth. She peered up at him with those green eyes of hers, which could make him do anything. He put his hand against her rounded cheek, and she leaned into it.
She sighed and said, “I’m late.”
Logan glanced at the clock. “It’s only eight thirty,” he said. “You don’t open until ten. You have lots of time—or is there something you have to do at the café?” Sometimes suppliers showed up with deliveries, but that was usually on Tuesday. Today was Wednesday, and Julia always told him who was coming and when. After what had happened with Brent, she understood his need to know when strangers would be showing up.
What stared back at him now was an expression of annoyance. “No, I’m
late,” she said, waving her hand as if he should understand what she was getting at. She worked her lip nervously again.
What was she talking about? He rested his hand on her shoulder, rubbing her arm and the soft cotton of her green t-shirt. She took a deep breath, her breasts rising, and of course his gaze went right there, to those generous handfuls, remembering how he’d awoken her that morning. He loved her breasts, her ass, her slender legs, the curves of her hips, how she fit so nicely against him…and the way she responded to him when he slipped inside her. She was his everything.
Julia looked up at him now as she squeezed her fist and then pressed her hand flat against his chest, letting out a breath. She smoothed her palm over his chest, not meeting his gaze, as if she was having trouble finding the words for what she needed to say. When she flicked her gaze to him again, he felt something tighten in his gut.
“I’m never late, Logan. I think I’m pregnant.” She glanced away, worrying her lower lip between her teeth, and it took him all of two seconds to realize the implications of what she was saying. Maybe she didn’t want any more kids. He’d never considered that.
“You don’t want kids?” he asked, wondering where she was coming from. There were so many what-ifs they hadn’t even discussed.
She widened her eyes. “How am I going to manage the café with a baby, Logan? I mean, you never told me whether you wanted kids. We just ended up together and in bed, and…”
“Oh, I see. Well, let me ease your mind,” he said. “I want kids, Julia. I’m not about to dump caring for a baby on you. We’ll work it out. You can hire help, and I’m here, too. It’ll be fine—unless there’s another reason?” He paused. “Honey, in case you didn’t notice, we haven’t been careful. You’re not on birth control. I just thought you knew I wanted kids.” He watched the array of emotions on her face: panic, joy, and then maybe relief. He wasn’t sure, though. Maybe she didn’t know what she wanted. “What’s going on in that head of yours?”
“I didn’t know if you’d be happy, and what about the girls?” she said. “I mean, can I do it all?”
“Hey, you’re amazing at everything you do. Don’t start selling yourself short. You operate a business of your own, which is no small feat, baby, and those girls, cute as they are, they double everything: love, time, trouble… You handle it all, and you’re there for them—always. This baby, if you’re pregnant, will fit right in. What’s one more?” He leaned down, sliding both hands over her cheeks and giving her a kiss on the lips before pulling away. She held his wrist and worked her lower lip again. Was she worried about something else?
“Logan, would you be okay if we didn’t have a long engagement?” she said.
He tucked a strand of her short, dark hair behind her ears. “No, the sooner the better for me,” he said.
“Good! I was worried. I don’t want to be showing in my wedding dress.”
ulia was flooded by a surge of what she could only describe as happiness, joy, excitement—along with other overwhelming feelings that slammed against her from every direction. Her life had changed dramatically within a few short weeks. Meeting Logan, allowing herself to love him, and letting him into her life and her girls’ lives was no small feat for Julia. After all, her trust had been burned by her first lying, cheating husband. It was a challenge to allow herself to feel again and to take a chance on love.
Logan leaned in the open window of her small compact and kissed her. “Be good. I’ll stop by for lunch,” he said, tapping her door and the open window before slipping a pair of shades on over his steel-blue eyes.
Lord, there was something about the way Logan looked at her. He made her feel as if she was all that existed in that moment. It was crushing, at times, in a wonderful sort of way, and she hoped she’d never let him down. She loved this man deeply, especially because she had thought she would never meet a man who put his woman, and his family, first. This was something she was still trying to get used to after being married to Kevin Cooper, the twins’ handsome, two-timing father, who had carried on an affair with his dental assistant the entire time he and Julia had been married.
She had read enough self-help books to understand how that relationship had scarred her, and she still fought the illogical doubts stemming from those fears even though, deep down and in her heart, she truly believed Logan wasn’t like that.
A car horn honked, pulling her from her thoughts, and Julia blinked. She saw it in her peripheral vision; a flash in slow motion, then a car coming right for her. It happened so fast. She heard squealing tires and felt a jolt of pressure as the airbag slammed into her. She was sliding her arm over it, listening to a hiss—and she was sure she could hear footsteps, yelling. She didn’t know what had happened or why she felt as if her entire body had been rocked. One by one, her senses returned. Her shoulder burned where the seatbelt had left a welt across her skin, and her face was numb.
It was Logan. A hand reached in and touched her before she heard a tearing sound and a rush of air as the airbag receded.
“Julia, baby, talk to me. Are you okay?” Logan yanked on her door, but he couldn’t get it open. He hurried around the vehicle and slipped in the passenger side, leaning over her.
“Yeah, I’m… What happened?” She felt something warm and sticky dripping down her face. Logan was watching her, touching her shoulders, running both hands over her.
“Are you hurt, Julia? You were in a car crash. You ran a stop sign. I was right behind you.”
“Logan, I called an ambulance,” someone said. “It’s going to be about forty minutes.”
Julia blinked. When she looked over her shoulder to Clinton; Logan’s young, tall, lanky deputy, who was leaning in through her open window, she felt the muscles in her neck tighten. She hissed.
“Don’t move, Julia,” Logan said, sliding his hand behind her head. There were others on the street, also watching. A dark green sedan was angled sideways at her door, its hood bent, steam coming from its engine.
“I’m okay, just help me out. I don’t need an ambulance,” she said. When she went to release her seatbelt, she noticed the blood on her hand, and she reached up to touch her brow, but Logan stopped her.
“You’ve got a cut above your eye,” he said. “Clinton, grab that first-aid kit in the car. Hand me some gauze.”
Something soft was pressed to her brow, and it stung. She hissed again. Logan watched her, and as he took in her face and her eyes, his expression became all business. She sensed his worry before he ran his hands down her arms again.
“Tell me if something hurts,” he said. “I’m not moving you just yet. What day is it, Julia?”
“It’s Wednesday. I’m fine, Logan.” Julia started when he touched her shoulder. “Ouch, that hurts.”
“Yeah, probably from the seatbelt. You’re going to need an x-ray.”
“No x-ray, Logan,” she pleaded. “I’m okay, just get me out of here.”
“Clinton, can you get her door open?” Logan said. His deputy was yanking on her door, but it wouldn’t budge.
“It’s not going to open. Can you get her out the other side?” Clinton called before leaning in. “Julia, are you doing okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine, Clinton. Just help me out,” she said.
The men exchanged a look before Logan slid his hand behind her back and lower. “Slide your legs over here, but if anything hurts, Julia, you stop.”
She took in the mangled car as Logan sat her on the curb, taping the gauze above her brow. She now recognized the woman who had been driving the other car. It was Dorothy Harris, a middle-aged, dark-haired lady who worked at the grocery store. She was a nice woman, and she looked pissed. She was leaning against her car, holding her arm, with people gathered around her.
“Is Dorothy okay?” Julia asked.
Logan glanced over his shoulder and looked at the woman. “Yeah. Sprained wrist, I think. She’s a little shaken up.”
An ambulance pulled in, sirens blaring. There were a lot of people mingling on the street, hanging around.
“Logan, I can’t believe I did that,” Julia said. “I’m so sorry. I’m completely at fault.”
“Let’s not worry about that right now. Let’s just get you checked out at the hospital and make sure everyone’s okay. That’s all that matters,” he said.
She was no longer paying attention. As she glanced around at the accident scene she was responsible for, she realized she’d totaled her car.
f all the places to have a pregnancy test done, a hospital emergency room wasn’t the one Julia had imagined. It only confirmed what she already knew—she was pregnant, although only a few weeks along. Everyone agreed there should be no x-ray for her shoulder. She hadn’t been hurt that badly: a cut above her brow that took five stitches, along with strained muscles, bumps, and bruises. She was lucky, and the doctor confirmed she shouldn’t be affected by the accident at all.
This was a relief, of course, but sitting in the passenger seat of Logan’s black Jeep, having been buckled in by him as if she was badly injured, didn’t relieve the guilt, at all, about what she’d done. The fact was that she’d run a stop sign. It was careless, reckless, and someone could have been killed. Clinton had argued against giving her a ticket, but Logan had ordered him to write it up before taking the ticket and stuffing it in his pocket. After all, how would it look to have the sheriff handing out favors to his fiancée—his pregnant one, at that?