brides for brothers 02 - cowboy daddy (9 page)

BOOK: brides for brothers 02 - cowboy daddy
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Janie smiled her thanks as Pete returned to her side to lead them to chairs by the fireplace. Red entered at that moment with some chips and salsa.

“Red, is there anything I can do to help?” Lavinia asked.

“Well, now, I could use a little help with the rolls, Lavinia, if you’re sure.”

“When I offered, he refused,” an older woman said, sniffing in disdain at the man.

“Now, Miss Bates, this is your first time to dine with us, and I wanted—”

“Red, why don’t Miss Bates and I both help you? I’d like to get to know one of our new neighbors.” Lavinia sent an inviting smile to the lady, who immediately stood and joined Lavinia. The two walked out of the room, talking together, and Red followed behind, mumbling under his breath.

“Janie, that was Mildred, B.J.’s aunt, and here’s B.J. and Toby,” Pete said, gesturing to a tall woman a little older than Megan.

Janie shook hands and felt a lot more comfortable with B.J. than she did with Megan. B.J. was dressed in a denim skirt and blouse. She was one of their kind.

The little boy, adorable with his shyness, reminded Janie of the child she was carrying. Suddenly mistyeyed, she decided to sit down.

“You okay?” Pete whispered, hovering. “You shouldn’t have ridden out with your dad today.”

Janie glared at him. “You’ve always urged me on, telling me I didn’t get any special privileges because I was a girl.”

“That’s when you were growing up. Not now. You’re pregnant, damn it!” He’d stopped whispering somewhere in the middle of his protest, and his words rang out in the utter silence as he finished.

Janie tried to keep hold of her temper. “Thank you, Pete. I guess now I don’t have to send out announcements.” Then she smiled at the rest of those in the room, determined to avoid heavy drama. “You’re in the company of a sinful woman, so let me know if I need to leave.”

B.J. became her friend for life as she chuckled and said, “Honey, if you’re the only woman the Randall clan has tempted to sin, I’ll be surprised.”

Megan joined her. “I’m certainly not going to cast any stones. Something about glass houses.”

Jake had the final word. “We want to celebrate the newest Randall-to-be, Janie, not condemn him or her.”

“Thank you.” She could’ve pointed out that her baby was a Dawson, but that would be like a Southerner firing the first shot of the Civil War smack in the middle of Central Park.

Pete pulled a chair up to the side of hers and sat down, but he didn’t have anything to say. He’d already said too much.

T
HE DINNER WAS
more enjoyable than Janie had thought it would be. She discovered that Megan, in spite of her elegant city appearance, was warm-hearted. Even better, the love she felt for Chad was written all over her.

So when Megan announced that Red shouldn’t have to clean up since he’d done all the cooking, Janie was able to join the dishwashing crew with no qualms.

Or so she thought.

When the rest of the company had returned to the living room, Janie found herself left alone with Megan and B.J. For a few minutes, the three of them divided up the labor and chatted about the evening and the neighborhood.

Then, just as Janie began washing the dishes and B.J. dried while Megan put away the leftovers, the subject matter changed.

“Janie, this is a personal question, but I can tell you care for Pete.” Megan hesitated by her side, a worried look on her face. “So why won’t you marry him?”

B.J., after a sharp look at Megan, added, “And I know he cares for you.”

Janie didn’t want to answer. She didn’t want to defend her position again. Nor did she want to expose her pain to anyone. Finally, however, she couldn’t ignore the caring in their eyes and their words. “Does he?”

“I’d swear he does, especially since he learned about the baby,” B.J. said. “I haven’t known him long, but he seems to really want to take care of the two of you.”

“Yes.” Janie sighed and then turned to face the other two and said abruptly, “I asked him to marry me.”

Megan gasped, but B.J. didn’t show any reaction, so Janie assumed she already knew the story.

“You did? Then what’s the problem?” Megan demanded.

“He turned me down.”

After staring at her as if she could read the secret on Janie’s face, Megan confessed, “I’m confused.”

“He turned me down until I told him about the baby. He’s willing to marry me for the baby’s sake. Not because of me.”

“I
WONDER WHAT
they’re talking about,” Pete whispered to Chad.

Everyone was gathered around the fireplace again, drinking coffee, while the three young women did the cleaning. Pete would’ve preferred being in the kitchen, even if it meant he had to wash the dishes. He didn’t want Janie out of his sight.

“Don’t worry. I told Megan to work on her. She’ll probably talk her into marrying you before the table’s cleared off.”

“What makes you so confident Megan can succeed where I can’t?” Pete demanded a little huffily.
He
should be the one to persuade Janie, not Megan.

“She convinced a stubborn bachelor to marry, didn’t she?” Chad boasted, looking irritatingly content.

“Yeah, but those techniques won’t work on Janie,” Pete muttered.

“What are you two whispering about?” Hank demanded.

“Hank, that’s none of your business,” Lavinia warned.

“Hank’s right,” Jake intervened. “They shouldn’t be whispering in company.”

“It’s no big secret,” Chad said, ignoring Pete’s whispered protest. “I asked Megan to help convince Janie she should marry this old buzzard.” He slapped Pete on the back and chuckled.

“Good,” Hank replied. “I’d like a wedding real soon.”

“I won’t have Janie pressured,” Lavinia insisted.

“Pressured, hell!” Hank roared. “It’s her duty. She owes my grandchild, if nothing else.”

“The most important thing is Janie and the baby’s health,” Lavinia said.

Pete’s heart contracted in fear. “Is anything wrong? The doctor didn’t see a problem, did he?”

“No, Pete. But I had some difficulties, as you know. I want to be sure Janie’s healthy.”

Somehow, in spite of knowing Lavinia’s history, Pete hadn’t connected it to Janie. Now anxiety was added to his frustration. “When does she go back to the doc?”

“I believe he’s scheduled her for a sonogram next week.”

“A sonogram? That early? Are you sure he doesn’t suspect something is wrong?”

Mildred spoke up. “I believe they’re using those right away now. Even when B.J. was pregnant with Toby, she had one early.”

“What’s a sonogram?” Toby asked, stumbling over the unfamiliar word.

Jake, who was sitting next to Mildred and Toby, reached over to rub the child’s head. “It’s a picture of you while you were in your mommy’s tummy.”

“Oh. Can I see it?”

Jake looked at Mildred, his eyebrow raised in question.

“We’ll have to ask your mommy,” Mildred replied.

“I want to go with Janie to Doc Jacoby’s,” Pete said. He didn’t want secondhand information about his own child.

“If you do that, everyone will know the baby is yours,” Lavinia warned.

“Damn it!” Pete yelled, standing. “Why does everyone think I don’t want my identity known? This kid is mine! Janie is mine! And I’ll fight the first person who dares say otherwise!”

Brett chuckled. “Janie was right. With Pete around, she won’t need to send out birth announcements.” He was unperturbed when Pete glared at him. “Don’t waste your energy on me, big brother. I’m all for Janie marrying you.”

“We all are,” Lavinia assured him, “if it’s Janie’s choice. But if she doesn’t marry you, Pete, I promise you we’ll take good care of her and the baby.”

Pete sank back into his chair, misery filling him. “I appreciate that, Lavinia, and I’m sorry I lost my temper. But I want to take care of my own. My family.” Those two words filled him, making his heart swell with feelings he didn’t want to admit to. He was only doing his duty, he promised himself.

“Don’t worry. Megan will persuade Janie, I’m sure,” Chad assured him with a grin.

At that moment, the door opened and the three young women entered the room.

“We’ve finished the dishes. Does anyone need a fresh cup of coffee?” Megan asked, smiling at everyone.

“No,” Hank replied, rising. “What we need is a yes from Janie. Did you talk her into it?” His frankness rendered his audience silent.

Pete watched, holding his breath, his gaze glued to Janie, but she didn’t look at him.

Megan, after drawing a deep breath, replied, “No. I didn’t. In fact, I agree with Janie. She shouldn’t marry Pete.”

Chapter Seven

Pete paced the floor the length of the telephone cord while he waited for someone to answer the Dawsons’ phone. When Hank finally growled into the receiver, Pete breathed a sigh of relief. If Janie or her mother had answered, either of them might have hung up the phone rather than talk to him after the brouhaha two nights ago.

“Hank, I need to know when Janie’s going to the doctor.” “I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you.” “Come on, Hank. I need to go with her.” “Look, boy, I’m already sleeping on the sofa because of you. I don’t think—” He stopped, and Pete waited for him to continue. “Aw, hell, okay. She has an appointment at three this afternoon. She and her mother left the house about five minutes ago.”

“Damn! Okay, okay, I’ll drive into town and meet them there.” As an afterthought, he added, “If it makes you feel any better, you’re not the only one suffering from the other night. Chad is having problems, too.”

“Good. That boy needs to learn a few things about women.”

Pete thought that was pretty much a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but he didn’t say so. “I guess we all need help understanding females, Hank.”

Hank grunted his agreement before saying, “You’d better get moving if you’re going to be there in time.”

“Yeah. Thanks, Hank.”

“You bet. We men gotta stick together. Besides, I’m already on the couch. How much worse can it get?”

Pete didn’t attempt to answer that question. He only hoped Hank didn’t find out.

Grabbing his coat as he told Red he was going into town, Pete rushed out the back door to his truck. He was grateful he’d called Hank when he had. He’d been tempted to wait a few more days, so that everyone’s temper might have cooled a bit more. The dinner two nights ago had ended in a male-versus-female battle.

He wasn’t sure Janie would even speak to him. How she would react when he showed up at Doc Jacoby’s office he didn’t know.

Squaring his jaw, Pete vowed nothing would stop him from taking care of his baby and his…Janie.

When he entered Doc Jacoby’s waiting room and all eyes of the waiting patients focused on him, he had to remember his resolve. After pausing, he strode over to the window to announce his arrival.

“Well, hi Pete. What are you doing here? You got a touch of the flu that’s going around?” asked Mandy Andrews, the doctor’s receptionist who’d gone to school with all the Randall brothers and Janie.

“Uh, no.”

She waited, looking at him expectantly, for more information.

“I need to see the doc.”

Grinning, she said, “Well, I figured that. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.”

She continued to stare at him, and Pete realized he was going to have to explain his presence. Feeling his cheeks heat up, he sought for the least embarrassing way.

Mandy’s eyebrows suddenly shot up, and she leaned forward. “Don’t tell me you’ve got one of those diseases?”

“No!” The eagerness in her voice told him she was ready to broadcast the news to the entire town. So what? He’d said he wanted to claim his baby. Squaring his shoulders, he said, “Is Janie here? I want to be with Janie during the examination.”

“Now, Pete, I know the Randalls and Dawsons have been friends a long time, but her mother is with her. Why, the only way I’d let you in is if you were the—”

“I am.”

Mandy’s eyes widened, but she said nothing except to excuse herself.

Only seconds later, as Pete stood at the window, not knowing what to do with himself, Mrs. Priddy, Doc’s starchy nurse, appeared.

“Young man, are you claiming to be the father of Janie Dawson’s baby?” she asked in a whisper that could’ve reached the back rows of any theater. There was a sudden hush around him.

Again he straightened and said, “Yes, I am, and I want to be with her during the examination.”

“She didn’t say you would be coming.”

“I’m here.” He certainly wasn’t going to start explaining all the complications of his and Janie’s relationship.

After glaring at him, Mrs. Priddy muttered, “Wait here.”

Like I have a choice,
Pete groused to himself. The door into the examining rooms was kept locked. He remained by the window, ignoring Mandy’s surreptitious stares as she resumed her place in front of the computer.

Finally, when he thought he could stand the waiting no longer, the magic door opened.

“Mr. Randall,” Mrs. Priddy called out, and he hurried to the door.

“This way, please.”

Without saying another word, she led him down the hallway to a closed door. The smells of medicine and antiseptic surrounded him, reminding him of visits to the doc as a child. Mrs. Priddy seemed just as forbidding today as she had back then.

And he wouldn’t get a lollipop today.

She swung open a door, and he stiffened his shoulders, prepared to face Janie’s wrath.

Instead, he found himself in the doctor’s office. Doc Jacoby was sitting behind a massive desk, a frown on his face.

“Come on in, Pete, and have a seat.”

“I want to see Janie,” Pete blurted out, not moving from the doorway.

“Yes, so Priddy told me. She also said you’re the father of Janie’s baby.”

“Yes.”

“Janie didn’t mention to Priddy that you’d be coming.” Bright blue eyes stared at him from beneath bushy white eyebrows.

To give himself time to think, Pete moved to the chair in front of Doc’s desk and sat down. “I, uh, we’ve had some differences of opinion. She refuses to marry me, seems to think I’m ashamed of the baby,” Pete announced, his voice rising with frustration.

BOOK: brides for brothers 02 - cowboy daddy
12.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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