The Cowboy and the New Year's Baby

BOOK: The Cowboy and the New Year's Baby
3.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
“You have a daughter,”

Hardy told her, his voice filled with awe.

“Is she okay?” Trish asked, struggling to sit up. “She’s not too little, is she? She’s early, not by much, but still, it would have been better if she’d waited.”

“You’re telling me,” Hardy said dryly.

“Let me see her.”

Hardy stripped off his flannel shirt and wrapped the baby in it. She snuggled in, looking as contented as if this weren’t her first minute in the real world. He glanced at his watch. It was midnight on the dot. This little one had been in quite a rush to greet the new millennium.

Grinning, he placed the little sweetheart gently in her mama’s arms. “Happy New Year, darlin’.”

Dear Reader,

Happy Anniversary! We’re kicking off a yearlong celebration in honor of Silhouette Books’ 20th Anniversary, with unforgettable love stories by your favorite authors, including Nora Roberts, Diana Palmer, Sherryl Woods, Joan Elliott Pickart and many more!

Sherryl Woods delivers the first baby of the new year in
The Cowboy and the New Year’s Baby,
which launches AND BABY MAKES THREE: THE DELACOURTS OF TEXAS. And return to Whitehorn, Montana, as Laurie Paige tells the story of an undercover agent who comes home to protect his family and finds his heart in
A Family Homecoming,

Next is Christine Rimmer’s tale of a lady doc’s determination to resist the charming new hospital administrator. Happily, he proves irresistible in
A Doctor’s Vow,
part of PRESCRIPTION: MARRIAGE. And don’t miss Marie Ferrarella’s sensational family story set in Alaska,
Stand-In Mom.

Also this month, Leigh Greenwood tells the tale of two past lovers who must be
Married by High Noon
in order to save a child. Finally, opposites attract in
Awakened By His Kiss,
a tender love story by newcomer Judith Lyons.

Join the celebration; treat yourself to all six Special Edition romance novels each month!


Karen Taylor Richman
Senior Editor


Books by Sherryl Woods

Silhouette Special Edition

Safe Harbor

Never Let Go

Edge of Forever

In Too Deep

Miss Liz’s Passion

Tea and Destiny

My Dearest Cal

Joshua and the Cowgirl




Kate’s Vow

A Daring Vow

A Vow To Love

The Parson’s Waiting

One Step Away

Riley’s Sleeping Beauty

Finally a Bride

A Christmas Blessing

Natural Born Daddy

The Cowboy and His Baby

The Rancher and His Unexpected Daughter

A Ranch for Sara

Ashley’s Rebel

Danielle’s Daddy Factor

The Littlest Angel

Natural Born Trouble

Unexpected Mommy

The Cowgirl and the Unexpected Wedding

Natural Born Lawman

The Cowboy and His Wayward Bride

Suddenly, Annie’s Father

The Cowboy and the New Year’s Baby

Silhouette Desire

Not at Eight, Darling

Yesterday’s Love

Come Fly with Me

A Gift of Love

Can’t Say No


One Touch of Moondust

Next Time…Forever

Fever Pitch

Dream Mender

Silhouette Books

Silhouette Summer Sizzlers

“A Bridge to Dreams”

The Unclaimed Baby


Whether she’s living in California, Florida or Virginia, Sherryl Woods always makes her home by the sea. A walk on the beach, the sound of waves, the smell of the salt air, all provide inspiration for this writer of more than sixty romance and mystery novels. Sherryl hopes you’re enjoying these latest entries in the AND BABY MAKES THREE series for Silhouette Special Edition. You can write to Sherryl, or—from April through December—stop by and meet her at her bookstore, Potomac Sunrise, 308 Washington Avenue, Colonial Beach, VA 22443.

Harlan Adams welcomes the Delacourts!

and announces that his White Pines family is expanding

Baby Laura,
daughter of Trish Delacourt,
arrived promptly at midnight
New Year’s Eve.
She was assisted
into this world
by bachelor Hardy Jones,
the man destined
to be her new daddy.

Chapter One

ountry-western singer Laurie Jensen kept her gaze fastened on her husband as she sang her latest megahit at the End of the Road Saloon in Garden City, Texas. It was New Year’s Eve and she and Harlan Patrick had taken over the bar and were hosting a private bash for the ranch hands from White Pines. The bar was packed with members of the Adams family, hands and their guests, but based on the adoring look on Laurie’s face and the rapt expression on his, she and Harlan Patrick might as well have been all alone. Married for over a year now, they were still besotted with each other.

Hardy Jones watched with a disgusted shake of his head. It pretty much seemed to Hardy as if every male he knew was succumbing to love. First his boss
and Laurie, then his buddy, Slade Sutton, and Laurie’s assistant, Val. Watching the two couples tonight was giving him a first-class case of hives.

Not that he had anything against romance. Far from it. He loved women. He loved the delicate, feminine scent of them. After a long day with a herd of cows, just the soft, floral aroma of perfume was enough to kick his hormones into overdrive. The shimmering silk of long hair glistening in the sun was enough to conjure up thoughts of a fragrant curtain of curls teasing his flesh while making love. Beyond that, he appreciated the way a woman felt in his arms, the sheer wonder of all those lush curves.

Tonight, in a roomful of available, sensuous women, it seemed to him that irresistible temptation lurked everywhere. In fact it was a little worse than usual tonight because he was all alone and determined to stay that way.

Not five minutes ago a gorgeous redhead he’d been out with a few times had sidled up to him and whispered an indecent suggestion in his ear. He’d swallowed hard, fought off a surge of testosterone and turned her down.

“Not tonight, darlin’.” It had taken an act of will to get the words out.

Looking disappointed, she’d run a vivid red fingernail along his cheek. His temperature had skyrocketed, but his willpower had remained firm.

“Another time, then?” she’d suggested.

“Count on it.”

There had been others. From the moment he’d
walked into the bar, it had been like seeing his past flash before his eyes. Los Piños, where White Pines ranch was located, and Garden City were hardly major metropolises. He was pretty sure he’d met—if not dated—most of the single women in both cities at one time or another.

The truth was he’d made it a point to be thorough. At least half of the women here tonight were listed in his little black book, a virtual
Who’s Who
of his bachelorhood. It seemed as if his buddies had invited every available female from a hundred-mile radius just to torment him.

As for his little black book, it was dog-eared and invaluable. He touched his pocket just to be sure it was safely tucked there. There were phone numbers in those pages for hot, sultry women who could make a man’s vision blur with a kiss. There were numbers for all-American women who liked hiking and sports, for some who could cook a mouthwatering gourmet meal, and for some who could simply make him laugh. He’d slept with fewer of them than most people thought, but probably more than was wise.

Some he’d only been out with once or twice. A handful had lasted longer, until he’d started to notice the way their gazes lingered on the diamonds every time they strolled past a jewelry store. He’d crossed out any who were inclined toward jealous rages.

Yes, indeed, that little book was worth its weight in gold. The men in the bunkhouse at White Pines had offered him all sorts of incentives just to get a peek, but he kept it private. His social life was no
body’s business but his own, even though an awful lot of people thought otherwise.

Of course, seeing so many of the entries gathered in one place tonight was a little disconcerting. He’d been walking a tightrope for the past couple of hours, exchanging friendly hellos and not much in the way of encouragement, trying to dodge some of the more persistent, clever females who weren’t inclined to take no for an answer.

Ever since his arrival he’d been asked to dance to every song. Drinks had been sent over. A blonde named Suzy with long and very shapely legs displayed to mid-thigh had brought over an entire bottle of champagne. If he’d been in the market for a date, all of the attention would have been very flattering. As it was, it was making him jittery. His willpower was only so strong, and some of these women were doing their best to destroy it. Alcohol, cleavage, caresses—it was enough to test a saint.

But over the years Hardy had discovered that there were two days of the year on which a dedicated bachelor had to be on his guard: New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. For 363 days a man could pretty much date whomever he pleased without worrying too much about the consequences. Pay a woman a little too much attention on either of those occasions, however, and a man could all but kiss his freedom goodbye. New Year’s and Valentine’s Day were meant for lovers and commitment, at least that’s how the women he knew saw them.

At 29, Hardy still valued his freedom. Even surrounded by some of the most enthusiastic propo
nents of marriage in the universe at White Pines, he remained a staunchly determined holdout. He had his reasons. Good reasons. Reasons rooted deeply in the past, a past he never talked about and tried not to remember. He lived in the moment, not the past, and never the future.

He fended off another admirer, took a long swallow of the sole beer he’d been nursing, and tried to relax and get into the spirit of the party. It was hard to do when the only other bachelor not on the dance floor was the grizzled cook, who only had half a dozen of his own teeth left and forgot his plate with the fake ones more often than not. Sweeney was a whiz with a skillet, on the trail or off, but he wasn’t much of a talker. He didn’t seem to care much about women one way or the other.

“Hey, Hardy, what’s your New Year’s resolution?” Slade Sutton shouted across the bar, his arm wrapped tightly around the waist of the petite woman with him. “Aren’t you creeping up on thirty? Is this the year you’re finally going to let some lady catch you?”

Hardy scowled at the teasing. “Not a chance, Sutton. Just because you’ve got the prettiest woman in Texas by your side these days doesn’t mean the rest of us intend to fall into that trap.”

The very recently wed Val Sutton regarded Hardy with feigned indignation. “And just what is wrong with marriage?”

Hardy pretended to think really hard. “Let me see if I can count that high.”

“One of these days,” Slade taunted, “you are going to fall so hard you’ll knock yourself out.”

“Never happen,” Hardy insisted.

“If you had a woman, you wouldn’t be sitting all alone at the bar looking pathetic on New Year’s Eve,” Slade persisted. For a man who’d taken his own sweet time acknowledging how he felt about his new wife, Slade seemed awfully eager to see Hardy follow in his footsteps. He had all the fervor of a recent convert.

“I guess you’ve missed all the women who’ve been over here tonight. Val must have put blinders on you,” Hardy retorted.

“Watch it,” Val warned. “I may be little, but I pack a mean punch.”

Hardy grinned at her. She was a spirited little thing. All woman, too. He fondly recalled all the times she’d sashayed around the ranch on outrageously spiked heels just to catch Slade’s attention. The other hands had appreciated it, even if Slade hadn’t.

“Oh, if only I’d seen you first,” he said with an exaggerated sigh that was only partly in jest. Val was a keeper, all right. Even he could admit that. If he’d been a marrying man—and if it hadn’t been so plain that Val fit with Slade and his daughter, Annie—Hardy might have made a pass at her when she’d first turned up at White Pines.

“One date with me and you’d never have settled for a broken-down cowboy like Slade,” he told her.

She gave him a thorough once-over, then turned to her husband and did the same. When her survey
ended, she regarded him with exaggerated sorrow. “Sorry, Hardy. Slade’s the man for me, has been ever since I first laid eyes on him.”

“Yeah, we all noticed that,” Hardy conceded. “Took him a long time to catch on, though. He must be real slow.”

“Since it’s New Year’s Eve, I’m not going to take offense at that,” Slade retorted. “But I may make it my personal mission this year to see to it that you’re the next White Pines bachelor to fall. If the word just happens to get out to Harlan Adams that you’re looking to settle down, he’ll take a personal interest in seeing you married. The man’s got quite a success rate. Now that his son Cody and grandson Harlan Patrick are running the ranch, the old man’s got a lot of time on his hands to dedicate to matchmaking. He’s made it a full-time hobby.”

Hardy shuddered, a reaction he didn’t have to feign. “I take it all back,” he said quickly. “Just stay the heck away from my love life—you and Harlan.”

He’d already resolved to start the millennium by sampling as many women as he possibly could. Playing the field suited him just fine. He figured his life couldn’t get much sweeter. A new woman every night pretty much kept boredom at bay. He played fair with every one of them. Treated them like queens. Respected them. Laid his cards on the table right up front, too, so they wouldn’t go getting ideas that would result in hurt down the road.

Yet it never ceased to amaze him how many of those same women—smart as whips, most of
them—could ignore what a man said when it didn’t suit them. They seemed especially deaf on a night like tonight.

Yes, indeed, New Year’s Eve was a marital minefield, and Hardy had no intention of having his firm resolution to remain a bachelor blown to bits.

He checked his watch, saw that he had an hour to spare before the clock struck midnight, then slid off the barstool. “Think I’ll be heading home,” he announced.

“Hey, it’s not even midnight,” Slade said. “You turn into a pumpkin if you stay out too late?”

“Maybe I’ve got a hot date waiting,” he retorted, wishing it were true. As it was, he intended to get the best night’s sleep he’d get until February fourteenth.

Famous last words.


Trish Delacourt was on the lam.

She had planned to be tucked away in a cozy little bed-and-breakfast with a fireplace in her room on New Year’s Eve. She had it all picked out. She’d made the reservation the minute she’d seen the brochure. Her father, who had standing accounts in every luxury hotel in the world, would never think to look for her in some stranger’s home.

And Bryce Delacourt was looking for her. She didn’t doubt it for a minute. He was too controlling, too convinced he knew what was best for everyone around him not to be. He’d probably put half a dozen of his best private investigators on her trail the instant he’d realized she was gone.

Fortunately for her she was resourceful and her father was a workaholic. She had managed to sneak out of Houston while he was away on a business trip he’d sandwiched between Christmas and New Year’s. The head start had been critical. Even a couple of days might keep her out of his reach as long as she kept moving and steered away from all the big cities where her father would be likely to concentrate his search. He was probably combing Dallas at this very minute, dead certain that she’d go somewhere where she could be pampered.

But at 25, Trish was tired of being the pampered, only daughter of an oil tycoon with four headstrong sons, who also treated her as if she were made of spun glass. She was tired of her father’s condescending attitude toward her work. He acted as if the business she loved was no more than an indulgence, a cute little hobby to keep her occupied until she married someone suitable.

Of course he knew precisely whom she should marry. He’d handpicked the man for her, then all but coached him into proposing. For a time she’d been caught up in the whirlwind courtship, blinded by Jack’s good looks, dimpled smile and easy charm. She had almost fallen in with her father’s plan.

Then, with all the force of a bolt of lightning, her vision had cleared and she’d seen Jack for what he truly was—a weak-willed opportunist and a ladies’ man. Heaven protect her from the type. If she ever dated another man, he would be ugly as sin, acerbic and completely unfamiliar with the legendary Bryce
Delacourt. For now, it was enough just to be out of Jack’s clutches.

She’d plotted her escape like a prisoner scheming a breakout. Everything had been going swimmingly up until now. She’d felt the tension of the past few months sliding away. She’d felt in control of her own destiny, at least until a few minutes ago.

Unfortunately a couple of wrong turns and the weather had conspired against her. Just when she’d been counting her blessings, her car had skidded into a snowdrift and sputtered to a stop on a stretch of deserted highway in the middle of nowhere in West Texas. By her calculations, she was miles away from her destination. Images of that cozy little B&B were fading fast, and the new year was rapidly approaching. Snow was falling outside in a blinding swirl. Inside the car the temperature was dropping at a terrifying clip. Her hands and feet were already freezing.

And, unless she was very much mistaken, she was in labor. Apparently her baby was going to follow in her footsteps and not do anything right.

After another unmistakable contraction, she rubbed her stomach. “You know, kiddo, you could just settle down and go back to sleep. You don’t want to come into the world in the middle of a blizzard. Besides, you’re not due for two more weeks.”

That news didn’t seem to impress the baby. Trish’s body seized with another contraction, hard on the heels of the last one. This one left her gasping for breath and near tears.

Angry now, she declared, “I am not having this
baby on the side of the road all by myself.” She stared hard at her stomach. “Understand?”

She was rewarded with another contraction. Obviously the kid had another of her traits: he or she wouldn’t listen to reason, either.

Convinced by now that nothing she could say was going to change the course of events, she yanked her cell phone out of her purse and punched in the number for the State Highway Patrol. A blinking red light on the phone reminded her that in her haste to leave Houston and stay one step ahead of her father’s detectives, she hadn’t taken the time to charge the battery. The phone was dead.

BOOK: The Cowboy and the New Year's Baby
3.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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