Authors: Lynne Marshall
“You know what my favorite part of the birthing class was?”
His relationship with RenÃ© had taken a new direction over the past three weeks. He hadn't set out to let this intimate shift happen, but it had, and he didn't have a clue how to deal with it.
Even now he couldn't shut off the quiet roar of desire building, and for the first time he dropped his shield and didn't bother to stop himself.
He moved toward her and, from behind, placed his hands lightly on her arms.
“Getting to put my hands on you.” His voice, heavy with the last threads of restraint, almost cracked when he whispered into her ear. He slid his hands over her baby mound and wondered at the warmth and roundness.
He was about to spin her around when she moved voluntarily toward his body. Her arms wrapped around his back and she nuzzled her cheek against his chest, the feel of her arms drawing him in.
They were this odd couple, a family-to-beâa choice they'd made based on her wish.
And their future?
He stroked the thick layers of her hair. She lifted her chin and he claimed her mouth with a breath of a kiss. Tender. Gentle. Warm.
Have you ever thought up a great idea, the most fantastic idea in the world, but somehow when you try to pull it off it doesn't turn out the way you'd planned? Um, or was that just me?
The desire to be a mother is a powerful thing, and when RenÃ© Munroe devises her plan to become one, there's only one thing standing in her way. With her busy schedule at MidCoast Medical clinic as the ob/gyn doctor, she doesn't have a husband or boyfriend, or even a prospect to be the father. Forced to move on to plan B, which involves Jon Becker, the unsuspecting genius cardiologist of the medical group, she has no idea she's about to wake a sleeping giant. Jon is a good man with his own plans for the rest of his life, but on a crazy whim he decides to help his medical group partner outâ¦as long as he doesn't have to get involved.
Those with a few years of life under their belts can see the disaster that is about to unfold. Too bad RenÃ© and Jon don't have a clue what's about to hit them.
I had a ball writing the second installment in the Santa Barbara series. In this book I focus on two doctors who have worked together for four years but have never realized their feelings for each other until now!
So, dear reader, hold on to your hat. We're in for a bit of a rocky ride, mixed with a strong dose of reality, before RenÃ© and Jon can have their happy ending!
P.S. Watch for book three this Christmas!
For my mother, Lura, for teaching me unconditional and abiding love.
hadn't been this nervous since her first date at fifteen. Today, twenty years later, she worked like a madwoman to prepare a meal for her coworker, Jon Becker.
She used whole tomatoes and garlic cloves, fresh basil and, because she liked tangy instead of sweet, she added her signature dash of balsamic vinegar to the marinara sauce. Then she went the extra mile to make the pasta from scratch.
Tonight, if she handled things perfectly, could turn out to be an “extra mile” kind of night. The linguini looked delicious as she pulled the noodles through the gizmo, hoping all would turn out as planned. Add a salad of baby greens and fresh Italian bread from her favorite bakery, and she had a meal. A darn fine meal. A meal that might lead to a dream come true.
She brushed off her hands, grabbed the dishes and tableware and hipped her way through the swinging kitchen door to the dining room while trying to push nervous thoughts out of her mind. Could she pull this off? She distracted herself by setting the table.
Three years ago she'd found a classic Craftsman home
in disrepair in the foothills of Santa Barbara. Since it was close enough to the medical clinic, she bought it for a good price and little by little began restoring it. The dining and living rooms were her favorite parts of the house. She'd knocked out one wall to bring an open, flowing feel to the area, but had maintained and refinished all of the built-in shelves and extra woodwork. This was a home she intended to live in for the rest of her life. A home she hoped to have a family in.
She believed in keeping design uncluttered, like her life, and the simple dining table and chairs with a matching buffet were the only furniture in this room. Sage-green walls brought peace to her roiling jitters, and were a perfect contrast to the abundant rich golden wood.
After tonight, if all went well, the last thing her life would be was simple.
She put bright red place mats on the table to contrast the subtle earthenware vase heavily laden with colorful dried flowers. She needed things to be just so tonight, and did a quick walk-through of the living room to make sure nothing was out of place.
A natural-rock fireplace served as the focal point, and even though she'd cheated with a gas log, the fire gave the living room that extra bit of coziness she wanted. Anything to help make easier the topic she was about to bring up with Jon.
One mad dash to the bathroom to touch up her makeup and run the comb through her hair, and she was readyâ¦just as the doorbell rang. Perfect timing.
Jon stood on her porch with his typical serious expression and a bottle of wine in each hand. Along with his usual salt-and-pepper-brown closely cropped hair, he sported a new beard tracing a thin red-tinged line along
his jaw, and wore a black fleece vest, long-sleeved gray shirt and jeans. When she let him in, he smelled good, like sandalwood and some exotic spice, and it struck her that she'd never noticed his cologne before.
“Wow,” he said. “You've really done a lot with the house. It looks great.”
He'd helped her do a walk-through when she'd first considered buying it, and had given his nod of approval. After his divorce two years ago, she wasn't sure how to handle their mostly business relationship and, not wanting to send the wrong message, hadn't invited him back again. He'd struck her as a recluse since then, avoiding anything that smacked of social interaction. In fact, she'd been pleasantly surprised when he'd accepted without protest her invitation for dinner.
Had it really been that long since he'd been here? She thanked him and gestured for him to sit while she opened the wine, but instead he followed her into the kitchen.
“I thought I was the high-tech guy,” he said, “but look at you, going all stainless steel.”
“Yeah, I upgraded,” she said with a laugh as she popped the cork out of the bottle, splashed some wine into the glasses and walked him back to the living room. Small talk had never been a problem with Jon, but they'd never ventured deeper than that, and definitely had never come close to what she needed to discuss with him tonight.
“We should probably let the wine breathe,” she said, wishing she could catch her breath, too. The moment she'd seen Jon her heart started tapping out odd beats, and right this minute it felt as if someone was juggling in her stomach. What she was about to ask him was the craziest idea she'd ever had in her entire life.
“Dinner smells fantastic,” he said.
“I hope you're hungry.” She did her best to appear nonchalant, as if her future didn't depend on the outcome of tonight's meal. “Let's sit for a bit, andâ¦uh, talk. I've got some cheese and crackers to go with the wine.”
Long and lean, Jon settled into the hardy wood-and-earth-tone upholstered chair that went so well with the style of the house. Come to think of it, he looked as if he belonged there. She sat in its mate so they could both share the small table where she'd already laid out the appetizers. He tossed a couple of crackers topped with the nutty cheese-ball spread into his mouth before he sampled the wine.
When was the appropriate time to bring up the subject? Surely there wasn't any etiquette for when to broach the topic of artificial insemination amongst friends. She took a long swig of the wine and felt her mouth dry up. “I need some waterâcan I get you any?”
By now, with her uneasy behavior, he'd gotten that suspicious glint in his eyes, the one she'd often seen him give a patient fudging about their diet or medicine. She'd been way too skittish, and Jon could tell something was up.
“You seem really anxious.” His eyes brightened. “Is it me?” He snapped his fingers. “It's the beard, isn't it?”
She swiped the air. “Gosh, no. Jon! The beard?” If she'd given it any thought at all, she'd admit the beard complemented his carved features, but beards were the last thing on her mind tonight. She took another sip of wine, then headed straight to the kitchen to gather her thoughts, soon emerging with ice water for both of them.
He waited with a thoughtful expression, brows faintly furrowed. “The beard was my daughters' idea.” He scratched the triangular swatch beneath his lower lip, and straightened in his chair as if uncomfortable with the added masculinity.
“It's a nice addition. Really.” Why did she need to say “really” if she'd meant it in the first place? Oh, if only her jitters would go away she might act like the normal person he knew from the clinic, instead of a nervous, stammering mental job.
He grew serious and shifted on the cushion, as if his curiosity had reached its apex. “There's a reason besides eating dinner that made you invite me tonight, isn't there?” His narrowed, probing stare made her spine straighten. “And I'm fairly sure it isn't to talk about my facial hair.”
She needed another glass of wine and quick. “There
something I'd like to talk about, Jon.” Oh, God, how was she going to do this? “But let's do it over dinner, okay?”
“Oh-kay.” If he had an inquisitive look before, now he bore the expression of a sleuth about to solve the crime of the century.
She stood and he followed her to the table. She couldn't stand still and made a dash for the kitchen.
“Can I help with anything?” he asked through the door.
“Just sit. I'll be right back.”
Thankful for the distraction, she swept through the kitchen, put the pasta on to boil, flung open the refrigerator for the salads and, gathering up the basket of bread before hitting the door, delivered the icy cold plates, dressing and bread all in one swoop.
The two of them became miserably bad at small talk as they ate, especially since she'd hinted at a much bigger topic. He glanced at her and her gaze flitted away, suddenly finding the bread of interest. She snuck another look at him; he chased a grape tomato around his plate. The mounting awkwardness made her grateful when the pasta timer went off and she rushed back into the kitchen to serve up the main course.
Jon tore the bread apart and dipped it into the sauce. “This is great, just great,” he said after his first taste.
“I'm glad you like it.” Normally she loved to watch a man enjoy his meal, but this time around all she could do was nod and smile, and try not to break out into welts over what she was about to bring up.
Deep breath. Swallow.
“So the thing isâ¦Jonâ¦ I was, uh, wonderingâ¦” She nibbled on bread and twirled her fork around in the noodles, over and over again, no appetite whatsoever.
Jon leaned against the slated straight-back chair. She saw the wheels turning and the cogs meshing in his genius-level mind and knew she couldn't stall another second.
“You know you're driving me nuts, right?” he said, planting his fork into his pasta.
She closed her eyes and blurted. “What's your take on artificial insemination?”
His fork stopped midbite. He shut his mouth and dropped a look on her that said she'd potentially lost her mind, every last bit of it. “In general? Or for some specific reason?”
She swallowed what felt like a paper towel, a large and grainy paper towel. “Let's start withâ¦in general.”
“For someone who has fertility issues or no partnerâ¦” He began in his typical professorial manner, then narrowed one eye. “Is this pertaining to you?” he asked, an incredulous gaze on his face.
It was indeed pertaining to her and now was the time to get serious. No more skirting the issue. This tack was making her come off foolish and flaky, and on the topic of artificial insemination, she was anything but.
She'd done her homework, had read with interest about the local donor bank, no doubt supplied by mul
tiple university students in need of extra cash. Wondered if she could go through with choosing an anonymous donor based on her list of specific requirements and qualities. Though it would serve her purpose, twenty-first century or not, how cold was that? Images of immature, beer-goggled university boys flashed through her mind, and a firm twist in her gut had kept her from logging into the Web site. Then she'd thought about her list of requirements and one particular face had popped into her mind.
She finished off the last few sips of wine and carefully placed the glass on the table. “I'm seriously considering it, Jon. I'm not getting any younger, and I don't see Mr. Right walking in my front door anytime in the near future.” She grabbed his hand, didn't realize she'd done it until she felt his hard knuckles and lean fingers. She'd never touched him in this needful way before. “I want a baby, more than you can imagine.”
“And you want my opinion about this becauseâ¦?” It was his turn to guzzle the wine.
Her eyes couldn't stretch any wider. Since she'd finally opened up the topic, she decided to go all the way. “Traditionally, my wanting a baby would entail finding the right guy, getting married and settling down.” She blurted her thoughts as her eyes roamed around and around the room. “Unless some miracle occurs in the near future, marriage and pregnancy isn't going to happen. But this is the twenty-first century, who says I have to be traditional?”
His suspicious look, along with the expression of terror, almost made her laugh as she went for the grand finale. How
one go about asking a man for his DNA? She grimaced. Very carefully.
“And I brought the topic up with you, because in my opinionâ¦you'd be the perfect donor.”
He choked, bobbled his glass, which toppled over and spilled. They both jumped up to mop up the liquid.
“I'm sorry,” he said.
“Oh, no, it was my fault for dropping a bomb on you.”
He strode into the kitchen and reappeared with a towel, then when he'd absorbed the last of the wine with it, he produced a damp sponge to clean the wood. “I hope this doesn't stain.”
“It's the least of my worries.” She fought with several strands of hair that had fallen in her face during the fuss over the table.
He went still as the topic noticeably sunk in. “Wow. You're really serious about this.”
She met his gaze and gave an assertive nod.
He scraped his jaw, and paced the dining room. “Wow.”
“Will you at least think about it?”
“Wow.” The bona fide genius, Jon Becker, had melted down to uttering a single-syllable echo.
She'd finally gathered her wits and was ready to talk business. “I've jotted down some thoughts about everything, and maybe you can give me your inputâ” oh, what an unfortunate choice of words “âabout anything I may have overlooked?”
His dark eyes took on the wariness of a wild animal. He seemed to need to hold his jaw shut with his hand. After a few seconds considering her proposition, he dropped another look on her that made her take a breath. “You want me to be a father again at forty-two?”
She thought carefully how to best respond. “No, Jon. I want you to donate your sperm so I can be a mother at thirty-six.”
He went perfectly still, stared at her as if he'd never seen her before. “You want a designer baby?”
Sudden calm enveloped her, and clarity of thought finally followed. “Let's sit down.” She gestured toward the living room to the small sofa in front of the fireplace. He followed.
“I've already got my daughters, I don't want any more kids,” he said. “And I'm planning a sabbatical once Lacy graduates and goes off to college. I've waited a long time to be free again.”
“You won't have to be a part of the baby's life. I'm just asking you to be the sperm donor.”
“Why not ask Phil? He's single. Young.”
“He's also a playboy and irresponsible.” She left out the part that she preferred Jon's nose to Phil's. “Jon, I've thought about everyone I know, and you are the top of the list. You're intelligent, healthyâ¦you have an endearing personalityâ” How was she supposed to tell him the next part? She took a deep breath and spit it out. “And I think your DNA would work really well with mine.”