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Authors: Susan Mallery

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One in a Million

BOOK: One in a Million
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One in a Million

Susan Mallery

Chapter One

G
ood-looking men should not be allowed to show
up on one's doorstep without at least twenty-four
hours' notice, Stephanie Wynne thought wearily as
she leaned against her front door and tried not to
think about the fact that she hadn't slept in nearly
forty-eight hours, couldn't remember her last shower
and knew that her short, blond hair looked as if it
had been cut with a rice thresher.

Three kids down with stomach flu had a way of
taking the sparkle and glamour out of a woman's
day. Not that the man in front of her was going to
care about her personal problems.

Despite the fact that it was nearly two in the
morning, the handsome, well-dressed stranger stand
ing on her porch looked rested, tidy and really tall.
She glanced from his elegant suit to the stained and
torn football jersey she'd pulled out of the rag bag
when she'd run out of clean clothes about two days
ago because...

Her tired brain struggled for the reason.

Oh, yeah. The washer was broken.

Again, not something he was going to sweat
about. Paying guests only wanted excellent service,
quiet rooms and calorie-laden breakfasts.

She did her best to forget her pathetic appearance
and forced her mouth into what she hoped was a
friendly smile.


You must be Nash Harmon. Thanks for calling
earlier and letting me know you'd be arriving late."


My flight out of
Chicago
was delayed." He
drew his dark eyebrows together as he looked her
up and down. "I hope I didn't wake you, Mrs...."


Wynne. Stephanie Wynne." She stepped back
into the foyer of the old Victorian house. "Welcome
to Serenity House."
The awful name for the bed and breakfast had
been her late husband's idea. After three years she
could speak it without wincing, but only just. If not
for the very expensive custom-made stained-glass
sign that had replaced a front window and the fact
that her kids would object, Stephanie would have
changed the name of the B&B in a heartbeat.

Her guest carried a leather duffle and a garment
bag into the house. Her gaze moved between his
expensive leather boots and her own mouse slippers with their tattered ears. When she finally headed up
stairs to her own bed, she must remember
not
to
look at herself in the mirror. Confirming her worst
fears would cause her to shriek and wake the boys.

The man signed the registration card she'd left on
the front desk and she took an imprint of his credit
card. Once she'd received approval, she handed him
an old-fashioned brass key.


Your room is this way," she said, heading up
the stairs.

She'd put him in the front bedroom. Not only was
it large and comfortable, with a view of Glenwood, but it was one of only two guest rooms that weren't
under her third-floor apartment. When she wasn't completely booked, she found it much easier to have
guests stay there than to constantly keep at her kids
to stay quiet. Being loud and being a boy seemed to
go hand-in-hand.

Five minutes later she'd explained the amenities
of the room, said she would be serving breakfast
from seven-thirty to nine and asked him if he would
like her to leave a newspaper outside his door in the morning.

He refused the paper.

She nodded and headed for the hallway.

“Mrs. Wynne?"
She turned back to look at him. "Stephanie,
please."
He nodded. "Do you have a map of the area? I'm
here to visit some people and I don't know my way around."


Sure. Downstairs. I'll put one out for you at
breakfast."


Thank you."
He offered her a slight smile, one that didn't touch
his eyes. It was late and she was so tired that her
eyelashes hurt. But instead of leaving that second,
she hesitated. Oh, not more than a heartbeat, but just
long enough to notice that the overhead light
brought out brownish highlights in his close-cropped
black hair and that the hint of dark stubble on his
square jaw made him look just a little bit dangerous.

Yeah, right, Stephanie thought as she turned
away. Apparently she'd moved into the hallucina
tion stage of sleep deprivation. Dangerous men didn't come to places like Glenwood. No doubt
Nash Harmon was something completely harmless like a shoe salesman or a professor. Besides, what
he did for a living was none of her business. As
long as his credit-card company put the right amount
of money into her bank account, she didn't care if
her guest was a computer programmer or a pirate.

As for him being somewhat good-looking and
possibly single—there hadn't been a wedding ring
on his left hand—she couldn't care less. While her
friends occasionally got on her case for not being willing to jump back into the man-infested dating
pool, Stephanie ignored their well-meant intentions.
She'd already been married once, thank you very much. Nine years as Marty's wife had taught her
that while Marty looked like a grown-up on the out
side, he'd been as irresponsible and self-absorbed as
any ten-year-old on the inside. She would have got
ten more cooperation and teamwork from a dog.

Marty had cured her of ever wanting another man
around. While on occasion she would admit to get
ting lonely, and yes, the sex was tough to live with
out, it beat the alternative. She already had three kids to worry about. Getting involved with a man
would be like adding a fourth child to the mix. She
didn't think her nerves could stand it.

Despite his late night, Nash woke shortly after six
the following morning. He glanced at the clock and compared it to his watch, which was still on Central Time. Then he rolled onto his back and stared at the ivory ceiling.

What the hell was he doing here?
Dumb question, he told himself. He already knew
the answer. He was in a town he'd never heard of
until a couple of weeks ago, to meet family he
hadn't known he had. No. That wasn't completely true. He was in town because he'd been forced to
take some vacation and he hadn't had anywhere else
to go. If he'd tried lying low in Chicago, Kevin,
his twin and already camped out at Glenwood,
would have been on the next plane east.

Nash sat up and pushed back the covers. Without
the routine of work, his day stretched endlessly in
front of him. Had he really gotten so lost in the job
that he didn't have anything else in his life? Dumb question number two.

He knew he was going to have to get in touch
with Kevin sometime that morning and set up a
meeting. After thirty-one years of knowing nothing
about their biological father save the fact that he'd
gotten a seventeen-year-old virgin pregnant with
twins and then abandoned her, he and Kevin were
about to meet up with half siblings they'd never
known they had.

Kevin thought finding out about more family was
a good thing. Nash still needed convincing.
By 6:40 he'd showered, shaved and dressed in
jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and boots. While it was
mid-June, a cool fog hung over the part of the town
he could see from his second-story window. Nash
paced restlessly in his comfortable room. Maybe he would tell his hostess to forget about breakfast. He
could go for a drive and eat at a diner somewhere. Or maybe he'd just keep going until he figured out
why, in the past few months, he'd stopped sleeping,
stopped eating, stopped giving a damn about any
thing but his job.

He grabbed the keys for his rental car, then
headed downstairs. At the front desk, he tore off a
sheet of notepaper and a pen, then paused when he
heard noises from the rear of the house. If the owner
was up, he could simply tell her he was skipping
breakfast in person.

He followed the noise down a long hallway and
through a set of closed swinging doors. When he
stepped into the brightly lit kitchen, he was instantly
assaulted by the scents of something baking and
fresh coffee. His mouth watered and his stomach
growled.

He glanced around, but the big, white-on-white
kitchen was empty. A tray sat on a center island. A
coffee carafe stood by an empty cup and saucer.
Plastic wrap covered a plate of fresh fruit. By the stove, an open box of eggs waited beside a frying
pan. Through a door on his left, he heard mumbled conversation.

He started toward the female voice and crossed
the threshold. A woman stood on tiptoe in front of
shelves. As he watched, she reached up for some
thing on the top shelf, but her fingers only grazed
the edge of the shelf.

Nash stepped forward to offer help, but at that
moment the woman reached a little higher. Her
cropped sweater rose above the waistband of her
black slacks, exposing a sliver of bare skin.

Nash felt as if he'd been hit upside the head with
a two-by-four. His vision narrowed, sound faded and
by gosh, he found himself experiencing the first
flicker of life below his waist that he'd felt in damn
near two years.

Over an inch of belly? He was in a whole lot more
trouble than he'd realized. Apparently his boss had
been right about him burning out.

A loud shriek brought him back to the here and now. Nash moved his gaze from the woman's mid
section to her face and saw his hostess staring at
him with wide eyes. She pressed a hand to her chest
and sucked in a breath.


You nearly scared the life out of me, Mr. Har
mon. I didn't realize you were up already.”


Call me Nash," he said as he stepped forward
and reached up for the top shelf. "What do you
need?"


That blue bag. There's a silver bread basket in
side. I'm making scones and I usually put them in
the larger basket but as you're my only guest at
present, I thought something smaller would work."
He grasped the blue bag and felt something hard
inside. After lowering it, he handed it to her. She
took it with a shake of her head.


I always meant to be tall," she told him.
"Somehow I never got around to it."


I wasn't aware it wasn't something you could
get around to. I thought it just happened."


Or not." She unzipped the bag and pulled out
a silver wire basket. "Thanks for the help. Would
you like some coffee?"

“Sure."
He led the way back into the kitchen. While he
leaned against the counter, she ran hot water into
the carafe, then drained it and wiped it dry. After
filling it with coffee, she turned back to him. "Cream and sugar?"


Just black."


The scones should be ready in about five
minutes. I had planned to make you an omelette this morning. Ham? Cheese? Mushrooms?" Last night he'd barely noticed her. What he re
membered had been someone female, tired and
strangely dressed. He had a vague recollection of
spiky blond hair. Now he saw that Stephanie Wynne
was a petite blonde with wide blue eyes and a full
mouth that turned up at the corners. She wore her
short hair in a sleek style that left her ears and neck
bare. Tailored black slacks and a slightly snug
sweater showed him that despite the small package,
everything was where it needed to be. She was
pretty.

BOOK: One in a Million
11.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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