Hi! I write contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance line. My tenth book is now available in both print and eformat from Harlequin and Mills & Boon websites, as well as in eformat from most major etailers. Links below the image for clicky ease :)
Random Thoughts and Useless Trivia
Excerpt from Latest Release
He followed her gaze to his right front pocket, and the outline of the test there. Maybe it would get her moving again. Ducking his hand in, he withdrew the plastic wand and held it out to her. “I want you to tell me the truth. We made a life, I deserve to know whether or not it gets to come into this world.”
Penny felt her throat close as he produced the test, and offered it to her. But it was his words that brought tears. “You want it? You’re not trying to tell me you…?”
“I want it. God, of course I want it.”
The rasp in his voice echoed the truth she saw in his deep brown eyes. There was even a reverence in the way he held the test out to her she hadn’t noticed before. It didn’t simply lie on his palm, his fingers curled loosely around it, he cradled it—this nothing piece of plastic.
Whatever else happened, she could count on that. He already loved this child, or at least the idea of it.
She laid her hand over the test and curled her fingers over his hand, then kept right on going until she’d folded her arm back and dragged his around her waist. Her other arm up over his shoulders, she pulled back into the hug she’d escaped when his words had curdled her insides.
“I thought I’d bungled it all up. That you were going to shout about it, or just…not, you know, because…we weren’t…”
Words refused to come into any kind of order, but the feel of his other arm around her waist helped. Made it better. Even after all the torturous hours she’d spent this afternoon practicing the words to use for the Get Out of Jail Free speech she’d been planning to offer. And which she should still give him, even if she was in no way ready to jump into that conversation with both feet when just the merest whiff of discord had almost made her lose her lunch on him moments ago.
“You know, this is all your fault,” she half teased instead, but kept her voice light so he’d know she was mostly teasing. “If you hadn’t had that rule about not mentioning anything, I could’ve given you some warning. Like, Hey, things are amiss in Uterus Land. That’s part of what I felt so guilty about. I had a little time to work up to taking the test, but you’ve only had, like…eight hours to get used to this.”
“I’m not used to it yet.”
“But you want it.” He needed to hear it again, and that was okay. That was something easy she could give him.
“I want the baby.” She confirmed that part easily enough, but a little rueful chuckle followed. “I don’t want to be pregnant. At all. I’m trying not to freak out about that part, but I want this child. Really.”
The hug started to go past the point where it was probably getting weird for him so, no matter how good he felt, she still felt compelled to try and be sensible. A quick kiss to his cheek, and she stepped back again, snagging the test as she retreated to the sofa to sit.
“Because of work?” he asked, following the conversation, as well as her, to the sofa.
Because it seems too much like sickness.
“Because it seems very restrictive,” she said instead, and found herself again looking at the test she’d had so much difficulty looking at earlier. “And uncomfortable. I guess. Plus, there’s…you know, figuring things out. I don’t even know how to start that conversation, like—”
“We should get married.”
He said the words so quickly she had to mentally replay his words to even understand what he’d said. Then came a giggle, which promptly turned to real laughter at the absurdity of the idea. He was playing with her! Joking around! Everything was going to be all right.
“Right? Like that! Because, you know, people are going to ask. I don’t know why, but they will. Things at work, I guess that could be weird for you with all the Davenports underfoot. But we should try to be sensible, right? Like—”
“We should get married.”
The second time he said it, her laughter was more a confused burst of air. When she looked at him, it stopped cold.
No matter how serious he tended to be, his expression was usually relaxed. At least as long as people were listening to him, and obeying, that was the other one. He was great at his job because the man had a massive brain and cared about people, but also because he projected an aura of confidence and subtle dominance, so people usually did what he said. Except her when she disagreed with him. And sometimes just because she liked to mess with him. Briefly. Playfully.
Which she definitely didn’t want to do right now. His narrowed eyes and tilted head gave off a light warning, and killed the relaxed, joking conversation she’d thought they’d been having.
“You’re being serious? I thought you were just trying to make like…a tension breaker.”
“How many proposals have you ever heard of that were made as a joke?”
“I don’t know. I never—” Was she supposed to come up with instances where people fake-proposed as a joke? She didn’t have any, but she could identify other jokes that were outlandish and had never happened in real life. “Some days you barely even like me, are you saying you love me now?”
“I’m not saying that. I don’t love you, but love isn’t a requirement for a successful marriage.”
“Yes, it is. Have you ever seen my parents together?”
He skipped her question, and doubled down on his argument, “It’s not a requirement. Marriage requires mutual goals, mutual respect, values, and when you add to it a not inconsequential sexual compatibility, it’s got all the ingredients. That’s before we even consider the child, who deserves the best start we can give it.”
“Gabe, the only part of that I agree with is the part about the child.” Okay, that was a lie, she agreed with the sex part, but if he was ignoring whatever he wanted to, she could as well. “This baby deserves the very best life we can give it. But the pressure of a home with two people who don’t want to be married to one another is not that. This isn’t 1960, you don’t have to marry me because I’m pregnant.”
“If this were 1960, that’s not the way this would go between you and me, and you know that.”
He’d gone and stiffened up again, and not only did she feel badly for having laughed, she felt badly about her own reaction. Her nerves, usually made of steel, weren’t up to another fight today. She tried again. “We don’t have to marry to be family to this baby. You’re already the father, and I’m already the mother. Rings and empty vows aren't needed to validate biology.”
He stood and paced around her coffee table, arms folding in such a way as to draw attention to his shoulders, and the way his long, elegant fingers flexed over his forearms.
Not what she should be paying attention to. She was supposed to be convincing him that it wasn’t a good idea rather than just rejecting him, though how this conversation had circled around to marriage, she had no clue.
“I don’t want to be married. You don’t want it either. You don’t want a relationship, you made that very, very clear two months ago. People who don’t want to be married have the worst marriages. That’s a lot to put on kids.” Which brought up his point that she didn’t want to discuss, but which she now felt compelled to because her mouth had gotten ahead of her to plural it to more than one child. “You know that there would be more than one, because you’re right… We have…not inconsequential sexual compatibility. So, you know, this is a bad idea.”
For once in her life she didn’t want to stand up—she was still tired from her nap—but the way he prowled around made her stand. She put the test on the table, then followed around to his side and promptly wrapped her arms around his shoulders again, over the arms still crossed over his chest.
His already stiff posture turned into granite. She was hugging living rock. What had happened to the relaxed, affectionate man who’d arrived not even half an hour ago?
She squeezed tighter, pulling him down just enough that she could rest her chin on his shoulder and her cheek against the side of his neck.
His arms twitched, and then uncrossed. He placed his hands at her waist, but did not hug back.
“This is the worst hug in history. You did much better earlier. Remember those hugs? Before and after we got a little panicky? You’re supposed to use your arms, not just your big ole man hands.”
“Not feeling a lot like hugging.”
“You feel like playing some crazy game of hopscotch where you have to hop in every square to get to the next,” she said, stepping back again but taking his hands. It felt like tread-lightly territory. “But that square marked marriage is a fake-out. You didn’t need to marry me to make me pregnant, that’s already been established. Just like I can carry a child to term and push it out of my body without a wedding ring on my finger. You don’t have to marry me to be a dad. To share custody of our child with me. We are modern, civilized people. We can make our own family, have like…a parental partnership where we can be friends—which, by the way, it would be good for you to deny you barely like me like you didn’t do a minute ago when I gave you the opening to—because we’re adults. You don’t want an unhappy marriage hanging over this kid’s head before she even gets a functioning brainstem.”
“You want me to have shared custody?” He cut to that exact part of her speech, once again ignoring the rest.
“Of course I do. I want my baby to know his or her father, to have a real father in her life. You’ll be a great dad.”
“With paperwork to make it official.”
He really thought she was going to screw him over here. He may have skipped the opportunity to reassure her that he liked her, but he did like her. Genuinely, not just as his work partner. But he didn’t trust her.
She let go and stepped back, her attempts at comfort having served no purpose whatsoever. “With papers to make it official.”
They hadn’t become friends over sharing their life stories, and they hadn’t become friends over this child—it was far too soon for that kind of friendship to manifest. They’d become friends over work, over mutual respect and trust on the job.
They had to figure out how to transform that work partnership to something arguably more important. If he needed paperwork to do that, she could give it to him. And hope trust followed because this suspicion of his made her chest hurt.