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Authors: Joan Johnston

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Freddy came up beside Rand and laced her arm through his. “What do we need to do first?”

“First,” Verity said, eyeing the front door hanging cattywampus, “somebody needs to fix all the holes in this house, or we’re going to end up with drifts to the ceiling the next time it snows.”

“Yes, dear,” Miles said with a grin. “Anything else?”

“Well, now that you mention it, I think there’s something else you should tell Rand.”

Miles looked at her quizzically. She saw the moment he realized she was talking about the baby. He walked up the steps onto the porch, held out his arms, and closed them around her as she stepped into his embrace. They turned together to face Rand and Freddy.

“Mother?” Rand asked, his expression worried.

Miles cleared his throat again. “Your mother and I have an announcement to make.”

“What is it?” Freddy asked, now as anxious as Rand.

“I … we …” Miles looked at her helplessly.

She realized suddenly what held him mute. He had just made peace with Rand. Would this news cause a rift between them again? But it had to be said. It wasn’t something she could hide for very long. And better now than later, when Rand might think another secret had purposely been kept from him.

Verity turned to her son and said, “You’re going to have a brother or sister, Rand. I’m expecting a child in the spring.”

Rand stood thunderstruck for an instant. He thrust a hand through his hair in a way that reminded her of Miles. Then his glance slid to Miles and a smile teased his lips. “Are you sure you can handle two of us at one time, Father?”

Verity felt the tension ease in Miles’s body.

He chuckled and said, “Believe me, son, I’m sure willing to give it a try.”

“Well,” Freddy said, “wait until Mother and Father hear about this!”

“I don’t know, Freddy,” Rand said with a grin. “I don’t think this holds a candle to the story about the bear.”

“Personally, if you’re looking to provide exciting dinner conversation in London, I think my rescue of your mother in the buffalo stampede deserves some consideration,” Miles said.

Rand and Freddy laughed.

Verity looked around her and found she had everything a woman could want. A home—full of holes though it might be—a family—growing larger every day—and a husband who loved her—though he had never said the words.

She knew she would hear them someday. All she had to do was keep loving him until that day came.

Epilogue
W
YOMING
T
ERRITORY
1876

She could hear him pacing in the other room, his booted feet echoing on the hollow floorboards. When he reached the log wall, he pivoted and marched back the other direction.

She gripped the bedsheets as another pain racked her belly.

Verity, Lady Broderick, Viscountess Linden, writhed as she labored to expel the child, biting back the scream that sought voice because she didn’t want to worry the child’s father.

“Please let me call him, Verity,” Freddy said. “Miles should be here at your side.”

She wanted him there, desperately. But Miles had tried to sit with her earlier and had turned so completely white when he saw the pain she was in that she had thought he was going to faint. But it had been wonderful grasping his hand as the pains
clawed periodically at her belly, feeling his strong fingers massaging the continuous ache in her lower back.

Before she could call him, the pain passed, as many others had since she had woken that morning. They were not so bad yet that she could not last a little longer without him.

Sunlight streamed through the bedroom windows, lighting the corners, chasing the shadows away. Freddy turned down the kerosene lamp before heading into the kitchen for more hot water.

Then Miles was there, standing in the doorway.

“Are you all right?” he asked. “Freddy said you were between pains.”

Which was why he had felt it safe to come in, she thought with an inward smile. She patted the bed beside her. “Come sit here, Miles.”

He came and sat. “How much longer is this going to take?”

She did smile then. “Babies have their own schedules to keep.”

“I didn’t know it would hurt you this much,” he admitted with a guilty look. “I had no idea.”

“The pain is a small price to pay for the joy to come.” Verity gripped his hand and groaned. She tried to keep her face bland, not to let the pain show. If the agony on his face was any indication, she wasn’t doing very well.

“Freddy!” Miles shouted. “Freddy, get in here!”

Rand appeared in the doorway. “Freddy went outside—to the necessary. Is there anything I can do?”

Verity watched the two men eye each other helplessly and felt the urge to laugh. She gasped instead when she felt the urge to push. She was shocked, because it had been so little time since the pains had started. This labor wasn’t at all like the one before. There should be more pains. It should take longer.

“The baby’s coming!” she said, surprised and a little frightened by the speed of events.

“Oh, my God!” Miles said. “Go get Freddy!” he ordered Rand.

Verity met Miles’s panicked glance and said, “Please don’t worry. Everything will be all right.” She wasn’t really sure of that anymore. Maybe she should have gone to the fort two weeks ago, as Miles had asked her to do.

“Damn you, Verity! You need a woman at a time like this who knows what to do. I don’t know how I let you talk me into waiting for the labor to start before sending for Mrs. Peters. I should have known she wouldn’t get back here in time.”

At least they were assured Mrs. Peters’s journey wouldn’t be held up by the threat of an Indian attack. The Sioux were no longer a danger this far south. They had all headed north to join with others of their kind who were intent on resisting the white man’s encroachment on their land. An army led by General Custer was searching for them even now.

Hawk had not raided the Muleshoe for more than a month. Verity and Miles had speculated that
he had retreated north with the other bands of Sioux.

“Didn’t want to … be away from you so … long at the fort,” she said between panting gasps. “Besides … I’ve been through this … before.”

In anticipation of just such an emergency as this, she had explained to Freddy everything that needed to be done. Freddy had been more than willing to help with the birthing. Miles had joked that he would probably be more help than Freddy, because he had delivered his fair share of calves and colts over the years.

Now, Verity realized, his boast was going to be put to the test. “Miles,” she said. She didn’t have to say the rest. He knew he was going to have to deliver their child.

He looked at her with something close to resignation, his face serious, his eyes anxious, his mouth pressed flat with fear. He glanced one last time at the doorway for help. No one was there. He moved aside the sheet that covered her.

“I can see the baby’s head!”

Verity grunted with effort as her abdominal muscles clamped down, forcing the child out. There was no breath for speech, no time to tell Miles what to do.

She felt the child slip from her body along with the last of the pain and heard Miles make an exclamation of surprise and delight.

She lifted herself on her elbows and looked between
her upraised knees at the grinning man supporting a tiny, slippery baby in his large hands.

“We have a daughter, Verity.”

Verity felt her nose sting, felt her chin quiver, felt tears of joy well in her eyes.

Rand and Freddy appeared breathless at the door and stood frozen in a tableau of disbelief at the sight of Miles with a baby in his hands.

Tears glistened in Miles’s eyes as he said, “You have a sister, Rand.”

Several things happened quickly after that.

Rand and Freddy ran to get more hot water and cloths to clean the baby and Verity.

Miles laid the baby down on the bed near Verity’s hips to wait for the expulsion of the afterbirth and to cut the cord. When that was done, he wrapped the placenta in the newspaper that had been laid under her and put it aside on the floor. He swaddled the babe in a cloth that had been laid nearby for that purpose and carried the child to the head of the bed to lay her in Verity’s arms.

She unwrapped the cloth and looked at her daughter.

She had black hair. Like her father.

Miles sat beside her. “She’s so unbelievably small,” he said, touching the tips of the baby’s fingers and noting the tiny fingernails. Five tiny fingers closed immediately around his forefinger. He tried to pull away, but his daughter hung on tight. “And so strong,” he marveled.

“What shall we name her?” Verity asked. The
first time Miles had been given no say. She wanted him to have it now.

“She’s your daughter, too,” Miles said. “What name would you like?”

“Whatever name you choose,” she told him with a smile.

He smiled back. “Then I’d like to name her after my mother, Margaret Caroline Broderick. We can call her Maggie, or Meg, if you like.”

“Hello, Meg,” Verity crooned to her daughter.

“I love you, Verity.”

Verity looked up slowly from her daughter’s face into the face of her child’s father. It was the first time Miles had said the words aloud. She hardly believed she had heard them. “Would you mind repeating that?”

His lips curved. “I love you. I have for quite some time, you know.”

“I know,” she answered with a cheeky grin. “I’ve just been waiting an awful long time to hear you say it.”

He chuckled and leaned forward to press a gentle kiss on her mouth. “I appreciate your patience. I won’t make you wait so long to hear it again.”

“Right now would be nice.”

“I love you, Verity.”

“I love you, too, Miles.”

Rand and Freddy reappeared at the bedroom door. Rand had his arm around Freddy’s shoulder.

“We have something we’d like to tell you,” Rand said.

Miles and Verity looked at him in expectation.

Rand and Freddy exchanged a loving glance before Rand turned back to them and said, “You’re going to be grandparents. Freddy’s expecting a baby!”

“Oh, Rand! Oh, Freddy, that’s wonderful!” Verity said.

“Isn’t it wonderful, Miles?”

She laughed when she saw the expression on his face.

“I can hardly wait,” he said. “We get to go through all of this again in a few months!”

Incredibly, unbelievably—and to his utter delight—he was right. Pamela Juliet Talbot made her appearance three weeks early. Grandfather Broderick delivered the baby.

LETTER TO READERS

Dear Readers,

Hi! Some of you have written to me asking about books for which the working titles have changed. If you’re hunting for
Daisy and the Duke
, that book was retitled
The Inheritance
and is available from your local bookstore. If you’re looking for
Lord of the Plains
, you have it in your hands.

For those of you who have enjoyed my bestselling Hawk’s Way series, I’ve written a compelling, full-length contemporary novel titled
I Promise
that is scheduled for publication by Avon Books in August 1996. Ask your bookseller for the exact date it will be available.

As always, I appreciate hearing your opinions and find inspiration from your questions, comments, and suggestions.

Please write to me at P.O. Box 8531, Pembroke Pines, FL 33084 and enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope so I can reply. I personally read and answer my mail, though as some of you know, a reply might be delayed if I have a writing deadline.

   Happy Trails

   

   Joan Johnston

December 1995

BOOK: Maverick Heart
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