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Authors: LaConnie Taylor-Jones

When a Man Loves a Woman (Indigo)

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When a Man Loves a Woman

LaConnie Taylor-Jones

Genesis Press, Inc.

Indigo

An imprint of Genesis Press, Inc.

Publishing Company

Genesis Press, Inc.

P.O. Box 101

Columbus, MS 39703

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, not known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying, and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission of the publisher, Genesis Press, Inc. For information write Genesis Press, Inc., P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703.

All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author and all incidents are pure invention.

Copyright© 2008 LaConnie Taylor-Jones

ISBN-13: 978-1-58571-572-5

ISBN-10: 1-58571-572-7

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition

Visit us at www.genesis-press.com or call at 1-888-Indigo-1-4-0

Dedication

In memory of

Clara Anna Daniels Taylor

November 1927–June 2007

Mother:

Your wisdom, love, and guidance

will always be remembered.

Acknowledgments

Thank you readers for once again re-visiting the Baptiste Clan with me. I hope you enjoy reading Vic and A.J.’s story as much as I did writing it.

My special thanks goes out to Dr. Catherine M. Waters and Captain William N. Hendricks (ret.) for providing their technical expertise.

Also, my heartfelt appreciation is extended to my author mentor and friend, Marilyn Tyner, for critiquing this story during the early stages.

Only time will tell what fate awaits the youngest Baptiste brother, Ray, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, be sure to visit my website at
www.laconnietaylorjones.com
.

I love to hear from you! Feel free to contact me via e-mail at:
[email protected]
.

Until next time, stay strong, live well, and be blessed!!

Much love,

LaConnie

Chapter 1

“I’m gonna kill him!”

The words shot from Vic’s mouth faster than a torpedo the second she spotted the white BMW belonging to A.J. Baptiste. She’d let the police decide if his death was due to voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.

With a vise grip on the steering wheel, Vic floored the accelerator as she sped up the driveway to the mansion of her close friends, Caitlyn and Marcel Baptiste. She left a trail of scorching rubber when she circled her black two-door Infiniti coupe so close to the X5 sports activity vehicle that she nearly took out the passenger-side door.

Today was supposed to be a joyous occasion, not a matchmaking spectacle. She and the man she’d always referred to as Baptiste were godparents to Etienne and Nicolas, Marcel and Caitlyn’s two-month-old identical twin boys who’d made their arrival four weeks early. In a little over an hour, they would be christened. But her happiness immediately turned to fury after the phone call she’d received. That she was upset at Baptiste was putting it rather mildly.

She was livid.

Around eight that morning, she’d spoken with her realtor and learned the details of Baptiste’s latest stunt in his effort to convince her to fall in love with him. During the entire drive over, the only thing Vic Bennett, who hated to be called Victoria under any circumstances, could think about was the unmitigated gall Baptiste had had to tell her realtor her condominium was no longer up for sale because her plans to relocate to Atlanta had been cancelled. Before she killed the engine, she thought about the telephone conversation some more. To hell with manslaughter.

She’d take Alcee Jules Baptiste out on murder in the first degree.

She got out of the car, not bothering to check her watch. Yes, she was running late even though tardiness was something she unequivocally loathed. With every ounce of strength in her arm, she slammed the door and raced toward the Mediterranean-style estate nestled within the Oakland Hills. She vowed to end Baptiste’s interference in her life, to end it today.

July’s blistering heat scaled up her back and plastered a sleeveless crème-colored top against her spine. Perspiration stains no doubt appeared at the back of her raw silk pantsuit, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was finding a way to convince Baptiste she would never fall in love again, not with him or any other man.

Vic’s fury catapulted up another notch when she scanned the words on a large, yellow post-it stuck to the double doors. What fraction of control she had, snapped. Crumpling the post-it inside her fist, she walked inside and slammed the door behind her.

All hell was about to break loose.

It seemed like the only thing she’d done the past year was fight off one life-altering attack after another. An organizational restructure at the outpatient medical clinic where she worked as nursing administrator had put her at odds with a bunch of fifty-year-old Dolce and Gabbana-wearing suits who only wanted to make money, money, and more money at the expense of her patients. So, she’d quit. And for the past ten months she’d been in outright combat, trying to convince Baptiste, her family, his family, their friends, and any stranger off the streets who’d listen that she wasn’t budging from what she’d told them a zillion times over. She didn’t want Baptiste’s love and commitment.

And she’d never give in.

Silence surrounded Vic as she stood in the center of the marble-tiled foyer until Caitlyn’s snow-white Bichon Frises puppies, Max and Kenji, darted down the dual staircase at breakneck speed and heeled at her feet.

Vic looked down with her hands planted against her hips. “Where is your mother?” Listening to the canines’ rapid succession of barks, she figured they understood exactly to whom she was referring.

Max and Kenji merrily bounced halfway up the stairs before stopping to look back at Vic.

“Go on,” she ordered, shooing them forward. “That’s right. Take me to Caitlyn.” Vic stomped up each step, grinding her teeth in frustration. “Doggone her little bitty soul. Nobody told her to play Cupid.”

Once she made it to the top of the staircase, she spotted Max and Kenji with their tails wagging in front of a closed door two rooms away.

“Umm-hmm,” Vic mumbled, slowly bobbing her head up and down. “She’s in there, right?”

Max and Kenji barked again.

Squaring her shoulders, she tucked her clutch purse under her arm. In about two seconds, it was going to be show time with her best friend and Baptiste’s sister-in-law, Caitlyn.

Afterward, she planned to introduce Baptiste to an early Armageddon.

* * *

“T-One…”

A.J. paced in a full circle, but stopped the second he heard the thunderous boom from downstairs. Hurricane Vic had just made landfall. From the loud thud of the door slamming shut, this Category Five storm would leave a path of total devastation before subsiding. All morning he’d prepared for her fury, but he hadn’t counted on handling a dress crisis at the same time. At wit’s end, he squatted again in front of one of his identical twin daughters. “Sweetheart, for the last time will you put your dress back on for Daddy?”

“Why?” Taylor, the older, questioned for the umpteenth time.

A.J. sighed softly. “Why not, baby?”

Taylor choked out her words between sobs. “It’s ugly.”

A.J. glanced over at her sister, Tyler. “What about you, T-Two?”

“Uh-uh,” Tyler whimpered, shaking her head with adamant finality.

A.J. wrapped his muscular arms around his four-year-old adopted daughters and hoped the famous backdoor approach he’d practiced as a pediatrician for the past ten years would do the trick. “Don’t you think the dresses are pretty?”

The ebony-skinned look-alikes silently conferred with each other via a teary-eyed glance before Tyler loudly voiced her opinion first. “No.”

A.J. hung his head and sighed again. “Why not, pumpkin?”

Sniffing, Tyler wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “’Cause you not do the bows right.”

“Yes, I did, princess.” A.J. stood, walked to the bed, and lifted one of the dresses in front of him. “See, Daddy tied it right.”

Taylor moved up closer to carefully examine the lopsided ribbons and more tears welled in her eyes. “No, you didn’t.”

A.J. placed the dress back on the bed and focused on the wall straight ahead, contemplating his next move with the dynamic duo who were as fierce, prickly, and beautiful as Vic, the love of his life. The corners of his lips formed a smile once he decided a round-about approach was the only way to convince these pint-size divas to wear their outfits.

“Hmm.” A.J. sat sideways on the edge of the bed, rubbing at his chin, as he glanced at the girls out the corner of his eye. “Well, I guess Daddy will just have to find some other little girls to give these dresses to. What a shame,” he mockingly mumbled, then held two fingers up in front of his face. “Let’s see now, how many little girls will I need to find to wear them?”

The twins were stymied for a moment. They had just learned to count, and two sets of doe-brown eyes focused intently on his hand. A.J. hid a grin behind a quiet cough at their quizzical expressions. Between Taylor’s inquisitiveness and Tyler’s vociferousness, he knew they’d figure out the answer before long.

Tyler cupped her hand next to Taylor’s ear. “How many is that?”

Taylor shrugged and placed a chubby finger at her temple, pondering.

A.J.’s eyes twinkled with delight at how they always worked together to solve a dilemma. “Okay, let’s figure it out.” He scooted around to face them with his fingers still up and folded them down as he counted. “One…two.”

Tyler lifted her right hand and replicated her father’s movements. Suddenly her eyes widened. “My fingers are gone.”

A.J.’s brow lifted with confidence. “That’s right. Now what number is that called?” He clarified his question when they stared at him, baffled. “Remember when we practiced counting our numbers the other day?” He curved his thumb and index finger into the shape of an “O”. “What did Daddy tell you this is called?”

Taylor shrugged. “Nothing.”

The only thing A.J. could do was chuckle. He wanted to hear them say
zero
. However, mission accomplished. They got the concept.

A worrisome look crept over Taylor’s face and she waggled her finger between herself and Tyler. “No, no, Daddy. Those our dresses.”

A.J.’s eyes sparkled with victory. “Oh, they are?”

Their little heads bobbed up and down emphatically.

He reached behind him and picked up the white satin dresses accented with pastel petals at the hem. “Are you ready to put them back on and keep them on?”

“Umm-hmm,” Taylor and Tyler agreed in unison.

A.J. smiled. “Okay. First, let’s wash our hands,” he insisted, remembering that Tyler had used the back of her hand instead of a tissue. He grimaced when he noticed their tousled mass of thick, black curls. “When we finish, Daddy will brush your hair again and we can get dressed.”

He stood and followed the girls toward the bathroom, a full grin emerging. If he could slip a shot into a fearful three year-old, he could certainly find a way to get Vic to fall in love with him. And he knew exactly how to do it. Although he’d be swamped the next few days with the opening of the health clinic he’d founded in East Oakland, absolutely nothing was going to stand in the way of winning Vic’s heart.

* * *

Vic burst through the door of Etienne and Nicolas’s nursery to find her best friend, Caitlyn, along with two of their other friends, Tara Spencer and Chandler Perkins, calmly waiting.

“Caitlyn Renee Thompson Baptiste.” Vic smoothed out the wrinkles from the balled-up post-it and waved it in front of her. “What’s the meaning of this?” She read the note aloud. “We need to discuss you and A.J.”

Caitlyn, who was nursing Etienne, giggled softly. “Oh, I see you got my little note.”

Chandler glanced at her watch. “Vic, you’re running late. Girl, that’s a first.” She tossed a sly wink at Caitlyn and Tara. “Let’s put this one down in the record book, y’all.”

“Hush, Chandler,” Vic snapped. “Just as soon as I finish with missy here, I’m on you next.” She looked at Caitlyn, again through narrowed eyes. “I would’ve been on time, if I hadn’t had to try and undo what that crazy brother-in-law of yours did.”

Caitlyn smiled. “Did you have a talk with your realtor this morning?”

Vic flashed a fake smile and mimicked, “Yes, I had a talk with my realtor this morning.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Chandler gestured at the empty rocker next to Caitlyn. “We’ll discuss all of that later. Time’s a wasting, so sit. We need to talk to you.”

“Talk to me about what?” Vic glanced at the clock on the nightstand. “Is it just me or have you three forgotten we have a christening around here in an hour?”

“We know what time it is.” Chandler pointed to the rocker again. “Sit.”

Vic refused to comply. “Listen, ladies, Baptiste is not up for discussion, but the three of y’all playing matchmaker is. This—”

“But you and A.J. belong together,” Tara softly interrupted.

“Wrong,” Vic quickly corrected. “That’s your opinion, not mine.” She stared a moment at the smiles on their faces. “And which one of ya spilled the beans and told Baptiste I was moving to Atlanta anyway?”

Chandler crisscrossed her arms above her head in defense. “Hold it there now. We’re innocent. Louise and George Vincent committed
that
crime.”

“My parents?” Vic shrieked so loudly that a sleeping Nicolas whimpered in his crib. “Hush now, sweet pea.” Leaning over the crib, she gently rubbed the infant’s back until he drifted back to sleep, then turned back around and whispered, “When?”

“Well,” Chandler drawled, “Louise probably told A.J. over lunch. They have a standing date at least once a week. Wednesdays, you know.”

“What?” The full impact of Chandler’s statement hit her like a bolt of electricity, taking her breath away. Now she understood why for the last three months whenever she called her mother on Wednesdays to go shopping or have lunch she’d say she already had plans with a friend.

Tara chimed in. “And I’m pretty sure your dad told A.J. at one of the baseball games they’ve been going to.”

Vic flung her head back and sighed in annoyance because another one of her suspicions had been confirmed. She knew Baptiste and her father, George Vincent, were diehard fans of the Oakland A’s and had started going to the day games together. Instead of enjoying their little excursions, they were plotting against her. It was bad enough her friends had sided with Baptiste. Now her mother and father had committed treason and defected to the enemy’s camp, too. She was putting a stop to everyone’s matchmaking. Today.

“Where is he?” Vic hissed. Her words zoomed out so fast, she gasped for air.

Tara stifled a giggle with the back of her hand. “You mean A.J.?”

“Don’t get cute with me, Tara.” Vic narrowed her eyes. “Where is he?”

“Oh, I’m sure he’s around somewhere,” Chandler quipped with a mischievous chuckle, “waiting for you.”

“Just wait until I find him. I’m gonna kill him!” Vic dashed out the nursery, mumbling something under her breath and ignoring the soft laughter of Caitlyn, Tara, and Chandler.

She reached the bottom of the staircase at the same time Baptiste came around the corner from the kitchen, and she headed straight toward him. The day she’d walked out on her ex-husband, Ron Evans, eight years ago, she’d vowed not to give another man the chance to stir her emotions, let alone get close to her heart.

Somehow, this man had managed to do both.

Getting too close to Baptiste was always a mistake. Her heart did a somersault, her legs buckled, and her palms broke out in a cold sweat. And Lord, she didn’t even want to think about the activities erupting south of the border.

Sucking in a deep breath, she glared at the gorgeous hunk, who when she first met him had honestly believed a married woman couldn’t manage a family and career at the same time. That warped mentality alone should have made her run, but it didn’t. Baptiste was more handsome than any man had a right to be. Smooth café-au-lait skin, black wavy hair, and long, curly lashes a woman could spend hours on and never duplicate graced the most stubborn man she’d ever met in her life. It had been a couple of weeks since she’d last seen him, and she noticed that he’d cut the top of his hair. It layered nicely into his usual bound ponytail.

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