What’s A Dad To Do?

Annette Broadrick

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Chapter One

The persistent sound of the doorbell eventually seeped into Tess’s
sleep-drugged mind. She fought her way to bleary-eyed consciousness,
managing to open her eyes wide enough to focus on the digital clock
beside her bed.

It was barely six o’clock.

In the morning.

A Saturday morning.

A no-work, chance-to-sleep-in kind of morning. Whoever was at her door
must have decided to make a career out of pressing the
button–continuing to lean on it with unremitting, relentless
enthusiasm despite the fact that no one was responding.

Tess wasn’t sure she could respond, even if she really cared to find
out what kind of idiot would be so rude. Her body refused to cooperate
with any of the signals her sluggish mind was attempting to send.

The faithful caller downstairs didn’t appear to feel the slightest bit
of remorse for Tess’s physical or mental condition. The doorbell
continued to echo throughout her Pasadena, California, condominium with
an irritating persistence.

“All right, already,” she finally muttered, pushing herself into a
sitting position with trembling arms.

She’d spent the greater part of the night in the bathroom exhibiting
the rather disgusting symptoms of some kind of stomach virus. She
hadn’t stopped throwing up until sometime after four o’clock, when her
stomach had finally seemed to notice that she had absolutely nothing
more to offer to the process and mercifully eased its cramping pains.

The muscles just below her ribs were still sore. At the moment she
felt weaker than a newborn tiger. And three times as mean.

The door hell continued to ring.

She fumbled around the foot of the bed for her knee-length robe.
Whoever was there was certainly going to receive a piece of her mind!
Of that she was sure. At the moment, however, she wasn’t too certain
she had a piece to spare. Her mind seemed to have taken some sort of
vacation, no doubt under the reasonable impression that her body could
be safely counted on to remain horizontal for a few more hours.

Not a bad assumption, considering the night she’d just spent. Too bad
the idiot at the door didn’t seem to understand that a door hell not
answered should he treated with some respect and left alone after a
proper interval of nonresponse.

These dark thoughts accompanied a barefoot Tess as she made her way
down the stairs, across the hall and to the front door. By the time
she jerked open the door–the safety chain still in place–several
methods of exquisite torture had already popped into her head, all of
which she would take delight in performing on whomever stood on the
other side of the threshold.

“Can’t you have a little mercy at this time of morning, for God’s
sake…”

Her voice trailed off as she stared at her early-morning caller, her
mouth slightly open in stunned disbelief.

The man comfortably leaning against the stair railing, his finger still
pressed firmly against her doorbell, looked as disreputable as any of
the homeless people that seemed to congregate along some of the off
ramps of the Ventura freeway… with the exception of the obviously
expensive cameras and equipment draped around his neck.

His blond hair was overdue for a trim and his lean cheeks were covered
with at least two days worth of beard. His silver-gray eyes looked
tired and a little bloodshot.

And his clothes? The least said, the better. Not only did the faded
jeans, jersey, battered denim jacket and hiking boots show how hard
they’d been used, but they also didn’t look particularly clean.

But his grin was as spectacular as a tropical sunrise.

Tess closed her eyes and swallowed, hoping against hope that she was
hallucinating, or even better, just

having one of those awful nightmares that sometimes accompanied a
virus.

Unfortunately for her peace of mind and uncertain stomach, he was still
standing there when she opened them once more. At least he’d had the
decency to remove his finger from the doorbell before She’d been
tempted to sever the damn thing to gain some blessed silence.

He slowly straightened to his full height, a good five inches over her
own not inconsiderable five-foot-seven-inch frame. He eyed her
warily–as well he should!–keeping that damn grin of his firmly in
place, knowing exactly how lethal a weapon it was against any angry
attack she might make.

“What are you doing here?” she finally asked, disgusted at herself to
once again discover that she could never stay angry at the man in front
of her when he looked at her in that way, no matter how just her cause
might be. “You were going to Tibet for two years,” she managed to say
with the last remnants of her irritation. “Can’t you read a calendar,
Jamison? You’ve barely been gone two months. Come back in another
twenty-two months, all right? But not at six o’clock in the
morning!”

She hated herself for noticing that even his memorably lopsided grin
looked a little beat. That wasn’t her problem, was it? The L.A. area
was full of hotels and motels, a great many out by the international
airport. He certainly hadn’t needed to come all the way to Pasadena to
“Is that any way to greet your best pal in the whole wide world, Tess?”
His eyes took on a sparkle, damn him anyway, as he took a step closer
to the door.

She eyed him morosely. “You might have been my best pal in the third
grade, Craig, but I’ve had reason to revise that opinion more than once
in the twenty-five years since then.”

They both knew she didn’t mean a word of it, that they had always been
there for each other through the years, and he was kind enough to let
her muttered remark pass without comment.

After all, he knew her well enough to know how sacred she considered
her sleep time, and yet here he was on her doorstep at six o’clock on a
Saturday morning–a severe test for the most enduring friendship.

He lifted his arms high above his head, stretching and twisting with a
groan. “I know it’s early for you. I didn’t plan it this way, believe
me. I feel like I’ve been flying for days to get here. We’ve got to
talk, Tess. Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

She gave his suggestion a great deal of thought before murmuring, “Do I
have a choice?”–a rhetorical question if she’d ever heard one, because
she already knew the answer.

Tess closed the door in order to unhook the chain, then threw it open
and turned away, saying, “Come

on in, but don’t expect me to talk to you anytime soon. I’m going
back to bed where I intend to sleep through the next several hours.”
She paused at the top of the stairs and added with a little. more
cordiality, “Make yourself at home. I’ll see you later.”

The closing of her bedroom door echoed through ut the place.

Craig had already scooped up his duffel bag and stepped inside by that
time so that he was able to watch her progress up the stairs. She was
still muttering something to herself when she closed the door–no doubt
something uncomplimentary about him and all of his ancestors. He was
glad he couldn’t make out what she said.

He winced when her bedroom door slammed shut. The numbing sense of
dull fatigue he’d accumulated by crossing a series of time zones
settled around him like a familiar cloak.

He was here now, that was the important thing. She hadn’t slammed the
door in his face, which was a good sign. She’d actually spoken to him.
Another good sign.

Of course he’d known she wouldn’t be thrilled to see him at six o’clock
in the morning. He smiled, thinking about the years he’d known her and
what a grump she was until she finally woke up. She would have faced
the president of the United States with a similar attitude at six
o’clock in the morning, and she had actively campaigned for the man.

She’d come around eventually. When she did, he intended to talk to her
about the revelations he’d had during the past two months. About her.
About him. About the two of them.

He’d never been so nervous concerning the outcome of anything in his
entire life than he was about her reaction to what he intended to tell
her.

He still stood in the foyer, aware of the silence around him. The
refrigerator hummed in the kitchen. There was a clock ticking in the
living room. Otherwise, he could hear nothing but the sound of his own
breathing.

Now that he was here he wasn’t certain what to do next. He ran his
hand through his hair. A hot shower sounded good… that, and a fresh
cup of coffee. He was sick of old, reheated coffee and stale rolls.

Craig wandered into the kitchen and searched through her cupboards
until he found what he needed, then went through the familiar routine
of making coffee. While he was waiting for it to brew, he carried his
battered duffel bag into the den. One wall, almost entirely made of
glass, looked out on her backyard, which was surrounded by a high stone
fence.

He dumped the contents of his bag into a heap on the floor and pawed
his way through the pile, looking for the cleanest of his dirty
clothes, before heading for the shower downstairs.

on in, but don’t expect me to talk to you anytime soon. I’m going
back to bed where I intend to sleep through the next several hours.”
She paused at the top of the stairs and added with a little. more
cordiality, “Make yourself at home. I’ll see you later.”

The closing of her bedroom door echoed through ut the place.

Craig had already scooped up his duffel bag and stepped inside by that
time so that he was able to watch her progress up the stairs. She was
still muttering something to herself when she closed the door–no doubt
something uncomplimentary about him and all of his ancestors. He was
glad he couldn’t make out what she said.

He winced when her bedroom door slammed shut. The numbing sense of
dull fatigue he’d accumulated by crossing a series of time zones
settled around him like a familiar cloak.

He was here now, that was the important thing. She hadn’t slammed the
door in his face, which was a good sign. She’d actually spoken to him.
Another good sign.

Of course he’d known she wouldn’t be thrilled to see him at six o’clock
in the morning. He smiled, thinking about the. years he’d known her
and what a grump she was until she finally woke up. She would have
faced the president of the United States with a similar attitude at six
o’clock in the morning, and she had actively campaigned for the man.

She’d come around eventually. When she did, he intended to talk to her
about the revelations he’d had during the past two months. About her.
About him. About the two of them.

He’d never been so nervous concerning the outcome of anything in his
entire life than he was about her reaction to what he intended to tell
her.

He still stood in the foyer, aware of the silence around him. The
refrigerator hummed in the kitchen. There was a clock ticking in the
living room. Otherwise, he could hear nothing but the sound of his own
breathing.

Now that he was here he wasn’t certain what to do next. He ran his
hand through his hair. A hot shower sounded good… that, and a fresh
cup of coffee. He was sick of old, reheated coffee and stale rolls.

Craig wandered into the kitchen and searched through her cupboards
until he found what he needed, then went through the familiar routine
of making coffee. While he was waiting for it to brew, he carried his
battered duffel bag into the den. One wall, almost entirely made of
glass, looked out on her backyard, which was surrounded by a high stone
fence.

He dumped the contents of his bag into a heap on the floor and pawed
his way through the pile, looking for the cleanest of his dirty
clothes, before heading for the shower downstairs.

While he scrubbed his face and shoulders with some kind of
feminine-smelling soap, Craig worked on emptying his mind of anything
but thoughts of the present ‘moment. He refused to rehearse what he
wanted to say. That sort of thing never worked out for him, anyway. It
was better to just take life moment by moment as it occurred.

After rinsing away the remaining lather from his hips and thighs, Craig
remained under the hot, stinging spray, allowing the water to soothe
his battered body. As much as he enjoyed traveling around the world,
capturing the wild beauty of some of the earth’s most primitive areas
with the lenses of his cameras, there were times when he yearned for
such sybaritic pleasures as hot running water and strong water
pressure, not to mention the precious gift of electricity and all the
attendant appliances that modern civilization had come up with to make
life a little easier. The more he traveled, the more he appreciated
all the comforts of his homeland.

Eventually he turned off the water, found Tess’s extra supply of
disposable razors and shaved.

By the time he’d gotten dressed and thrown his first batch of cloth
into her washing machine off the kitchen, Craig was more than ready for
some coffee. He poured himself a cup, then returned to the den where
he settled back on the comfortable sofa and propped his bare feet up on
the coffee table.

He felt a little strange, being here at Tess’s place. She’d bought it
a couple of years ago while he was on one of his trips. His visit two
months before was the first time he’d been there.

In the past he’d stayed with his folks whenever he happened to be in
town. His family had lived in Pasadena since long before he was born,
but after that last earthquake, his room had announced that she’d had
enough. So they’d ended up moving to Scottsdale, Arizona.

He wasn’t sure if he was going to visit them this trip or not. He
really wasn’t sure what he was going to do about a lot of things, just
yet. So much depended on Tess.

God, he’d been such a fool the last time he’d been here. He still
couldn’t believe it. He’d flown in to L.A. from Arizona the day before
he was to leave for Asia, figuring he’d look up Tess, since he hadn’t
seen her in a few years.

He’d gotten a room at one of the hotels near the airport, then called
her. That’s when he’d heard all that she’d had to face since they’d
last talked on the phone.

Years ago they’d lived next door to each other, but their lives
couldn’t have. been more different. She’d grown up never knowing her
father. He’d left before she was born. She’d lived with her mother
who seemed to be at work all the time, leaving her grandmother to look
after her.

Her mother had died a few years ago, but at least she’d gone quickly.
Not like her grandmother who had slowly succumbed to cancer over a long
period of time.

Tess had taken a leave of absence from work to stay with her
grandmother those last months, acceding to the older woman’s wishes
that she not be placed in a hospital to die.

Craig discovered during their telephone conversation that Tess’s
grandmother had pas’d away a few weeks before. He’d taken Tess to
dinner that night and they had talked, really talked, in a way they’d
never done before. He’d seen a side of Tess he would never have
suspected existed. She’d always seemed so self-sufficient in all the
years he’d known her. Never had she seemed so vulnerable.

It had done something to him, seeing her so uncertain about picking up
the threads of her life once again, having no one left in her small
family to love and look after.

He’d continued with his travel plans, of course. That had been his
first mistake. He should never have left her the way he did. Once
gone, he couldn’t get her out of his mind.

He recalled how amused his mother had been when they were children that
Craig and his other buddies had been willing to let the tomboyish Tess
hang out with them–go on hiking trips, take part in the neighborhood
sports, even become an honorary member of their secret club.

In high school, Tess had still been a part of the same group. She’d
even dated one or two of his friends, as he recalled. He’d never dated
her, of course. It would have been like going out with his sister.

Or so he’d thought back then.

So when had his feelings changed?

He didn’t know. He might not ever know. And did it really matter all
that much, now?

All he knew was that after that last visit with her, nothing would be
the same again for him where Tess was concerned. He just didn’t know
what he was going to do about it.

It was up to Tess.

The seductive scent of frying bacon and freshly brewed coffee
eventually roused Tess a second time that morning. Without opening her
eyes, she inhaled deeply, smiling to herself.

Granny was up, she thought dreamily, and was going to surprise her with
Her eyelids flashed open and she sat up in bed. Granny had died three
months ago, and even before then, she’d been too ill to get out of
bed.

So who–?

Memories of her early-morning caller flooded through her and she
groaned, falling back onto her pillow.

What was Craig Jamison doing back in her life? What impish force of
fate had drawn him to return to Pasadena now when he was supposed to be
gone for years? How could she ever successfully deal with the feelings
he evoked in her if he kept popping up in her life this way?

A slight sound from the doorway drew her attention. Think of the devil
and there he appeared. Craig peered around the door, meeting her
disgruntled gaze with another one of his smiles before continuing
through the doorway.

“Your coffee, Ms. Cassidy. Just the way you like it.”

He looked a little better than he had earlier. He’d obviously
showered, shaved and found jeans and a shirt in slightly better
condition. They were wrinkled, which wasn’t surprising considering the
way he packed, but they looked clean.

“What time is it?” she asked, scooting up in bed and greedily reaching
for the cup without actually making eye contact. She was never her
best in the morning, but particularly not after the night she’d had.
Her hair hung limply around her shoulders and she was wearing her
rattiest nightshirt.

“Sometime after eleven. I’m really sorry about getting you out of bed
this morning. I was actually due to arrive last night, but there were
all kinds of delays with my flights. I suppose I could have gone to a
hotel–“

She waved her hand as she blissfully inhaled the aroma from the cup she
held in her other one. “You don’t owe me an apology, Craig, you just
caught me at an awkward time.” She rubbed her stomach ruefully. “I
spent most of the night battling some kind of stomach bug and had only
been asleep a couple of hours when you got here. Sorry about the
reception you received.”

He dismissed her apology, eyeing her warily. “You’re sick? I wondered
why you were so pale. Did you call a doctor?”

So much for trying to pre fend Craig, bless his heart, could be
brutally honest at times. It was one of his endearing qualities… and
one of the most irritating.

“In the middle of the night? Of course not! Besides, I don’t even
know a doctor to call. I’m generally as healthy as a horse, thank
goodness.”

Craig studied her for a long time, feeling unsure of himself. He
didn’t want to hurt her feelings by commenting on the fact that she
looked wan and tired and much too thin. She’d taken her grandmother’s
death hard, he knew, but shouldn’t she be recovering a little by now?

“If you have any more symptoms like that, maybe you should have a
friend recommend someone. You could be anemic or something.”

“Naw. I probably ate something last night that disagreed with me. A
couple of friends and I went to

a movie after work and ended up having dinner afterward. It was
probably a combination of too much rich food too late at night. As a
matter of fact, I’m much ‘better now.” Feeling that she had
successfully countered any and all of his concerns, she asked, “So,
what are you doing here? Did the powers that he decide to run you out
of the country? I understand that the political situation there isn’t
the–“

“Tess?”

She blinked at the sudden interruption and the serious expression on
his face and tone in his voice. Oh, dear, what could be wrong?

“What is it?” she asked, straightening a little more. He looked
around the room, then perched on the end of her bed. He looked down at
his cup, which he held in both hands.

“Is it possible you could be–” He stopped and cleared his throat,
lifting his gaze to meet hers. “I was just wondering if you’re all
right, otherwise.”

She knew that she must be looking at him as blankly as she felt. “What
are you talking about?”

“Come on, Tess. We can’t just ignore what happened that night as
though it never occurred.”

Of all the subjects she might have thought about discussing with Craig,
their last night together wasn’t one of them. Good heavens. She’d
never discussed it with anyone and never intended to. It had happened.
What was there to say, after all?

“Oh… that,” she muttered, knowing her face must be flashing like a
neon sign. She took another drink of her coffee, not knowing what to
say to him. Blast him, anyway, for bringing it up!

“Is everything okay in that regard?”

He watched her blush with something like astonishment. Tess Cassidy
blush? He would never have dreamed it could happen. When she didn’t
immediately answer him, he had a sudden sinking feeling in his
stomach.

“Well?” He prodded her a little impatiently.

“It’s too soon,” she finally blurted out, looking everywhere in the
room rather than at him.

“C’mon, Tess, don’t be embarrassed, of all things. What did you think,
that I wouldn’t wonder about it, worry a little? Now talk to me. It’s
been two months. Surely you’d know whether or not–“

She interrupted him, rushing her words. “I’ve never been very regular
and since my grandmother died I haven’t paid much attention to things
like that. It happens when it happens, that’s all.”

“All I’m asking is, has it happened since I was here two months ago?”

She shook her head, not looking at him.

Craig could feel himself reacting to this news. This wasn’t why he’d
come back. Well, of course it was, in part. But he really hadn’t
expected that– “Don’t they have those tests you can take at home to
find out?” he finally asked.

She glared at him. “I suppose they do, but that doesn’t mean that I
should– That you should think that I’m– Anyway, it doesn’t really
matter. If I am, I am. I’ll deal with it, okay?”

That sounded more like the Tess he remembered. She tried to be so
tough. Nothing would ever get her down, no sirree. She might be going
down for the count, but she’d go out slugging. Only this time, her
eyes were giving her away. She couldn’t hide the fact that until he’d
brought up the subject, she’d never considered the fact that she might
very well be pregnant. He could see the fear lurking in the back of
her eyes.

He moved closer to her, within touching distance, and removed her cup
from her clenched hands. Placing it on her bedside table, he took both
of her hands in his. They were chilled, much too chilled for the
temperature in the room.

“Tess, honey, listen to me. We need to know, all right? Maybe it was
too rich food. Maybe it was too late to be eating. Or, it could be
your body trying to tell you something.”

Her wide, dark chocolate-colored eyes seemed to grow larger in her
face.

“Why don’t you. let me make us an omelet for breakfast?” be
continued. “Then, if you’re feeling all right we can go to the store
and–“

“No. I don’t want to go to the store. I’m not about

“Then give me your car keys and I’ll go to the drugstore for you. I
don’t mind. The thing is, we really have to know. Okay?”

“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am. I realized after I left that if anything had happened, if
you needed to get in touch with me, you wouldn’t know where to find me.
I wasn’t thinking clearly that night, or I would never have let things
go so far without having some sort of protection. We both know we
didn’t plan any of it to happen. But it did. I couldn’t forget it. I
found myself thinking about you all the time, wondering if I’d ruined
our friendship, wondering if you’d ever forgive me. I wasn’t able to
concentrate on what I was doing. So I decided to come back.”

Her hands were getting a little warmer. He took that to be an
encouraging sign, even though her expression was as wary as ever.

“Wouldn’t a phone call have been sufficient?” she asked with a hint of
belligerence.

“No. I missed you and I wanted to see you again.”

“Huh. You probably didn’t believe I’d tell you the truth.”

“Would you have?”

She was the first to drop her eyes. “Supposing… just supposing mind
you, that I am pregnant. What difference could it make to you?” Her
chin was tilted defiantly.

He put his arms around her, ignoring the stiffness in her body. “If
you are, then I need to be here.”

“No, you don’t. My mother took care of herself just fine. She didn’t
need any help from my father. If I’m pregnant, I’ll deal with it.”

She said all of that while she was pressed against his chest. He
wondered if she knew he could feel her trembling. This whole situation
was going to be much trickier than he’d first guessed.

Damn, he hoped she wasn’t pregnant. Not now. Not yet. He’d wanted to
tell her what he’d discovered about his feelings first. He’d wanted to
find out how she felt about him, if there was a chance for the two of
them. Oh, he wanted her to have several of his babies eventually,
after they’d had time to plan a wedding, invited all their friends,
planned their life together.

Holding her made him more aware of how fragile she was, despite her
tough demeanor. Oh, Tess, don’t push me away. Let me past all your
barriers, as you did that one night two months ago.

“I’m not your father, Tess,” he finally replied. “I’ don’t know why he
wasn’t there for your mother and for you. But I intend to be here for
you. You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried, honey.”

She pulled away from him and looked him squarely in the eye. “I’m not
pregnant,” she stated flatly.

He almost smiled. “You know that for sure, do ‘you?”

“I just told you. I’m not all that regular so–” “So we’ll take a test
and find out, okay?” “We?”

“A figure of speech. I’ll buy it. You take it.”

She gave an exaggerated sigh that didn’t fool him at all. “Oh, all
right. I’ll do it just so you’ll quit nagging. You can be the most
persistent pest in the world when your mind’s made up about
something.”

He got up, feeling that he’d won a very crucial round between them,
even though he was very aware that there were several bouts ahead of
them both.

“I’ll go make our omelet. I’ll see you downstairs.” It was a good
time to retreat and give her a chance to deal with the recent shifts in
their relationship.

Chapter Two

Tess watched Craig walk out of her bedroom and hoped that she would
wake up any minute now, having dreamed all of this. If so, she would
make a promise to herself never to eat rich food after eight o’clock
again.

What was she going to do?

It had never once–not once–occurred to her that she might be
pregnant. How could she have been so naive? She had tried to block
any memory of Craig’s visit because too much had happened that she
wasn’t ready to face yet.

Such as the fact that she’d ignored everything she’d ever been taught
about men because it was Craig, her childhood friend, whom she trusted
with her life. Even now, she cringed at how eagerly she had gone into
his arms, how she’d practically begged him to make love to her. JUst
thinking about it made her squirm with embarrassment.

She definitely wasn’t ready for this.

She could only pray that the test would be negative. Then they could
chalk the whole thing up to experience and put it all behind them.
Craig could get on with his life while she got on with hers. She would
then do her best to forget that for one evening Craig Jamison had shown
her a side of herself she’d never known existed… a side that could
never be encouraged again.

Well, sitting here in bed wasn’t going to get her anywhere. She tossed
back the covers and got out of bed. At least her stomach remained
docile, for which she was devoutly grateful. As a matter of fact, she
was hungry. Wasn’t that a good sign?

She walked into the bathroom off her bedroom and flipped on the light.
Oh, blast. She stared into the bathroom mirror at the purple circles
under her eyes–the only color in her face. She actually looked worse
than she felt.

Oh, happy day.

The cowardly part of her yearned to crawl back into bed and pull the
covers over her head until Craig forgot about her and went back to
wherever he came from … Tibet, Taiwan, Timbuktu, she didn’t care, as
long as he was gone.

She knew Craig too well. There was no getting around him when he had
his mind made up about something. The sooner she took the blasted
test, the sooner he would leave.

She hoped.

With a sigh she turned on the water in the shower and stood under the
spray, consciously blanking out her mind to everything but the feel of
the water sluicing over her body.

By the time she returned to her room to decide on something to wear,
Tess had become a little more reconciled. Not much, but some. Craig
had always been a responsible kind of guy. Why should he he any
different now?

Craig’s stomach was already rumbling at the delicious scent of the food
he was placing on a plate. When Tess walked into the kitchen, he
didn’t bother to glance up as he said, “I poured you some juice.

Hope that’s okay.”

“Thanks.”

By the time he turned around she was seated at the bar across from him.
He smiled when he handed her a plate of toast. She’d pulled her dark
hair into a ponytail that reminded him of the little girl he used to
know. He filled her coffee cup before sitting down beside her.

“Hope you’re hungry,” he said. “I got a little car-fled away. I kept
finding more things to put in it.”

She took a sip of her juice before she answered him. “I suppose I
should be. It all smells good.” She made a show of taking a bite of
the omelet.

She was nervous, something he could definitely understand. “I can’t
remember the last time I ate,” he said after a few minutes. “I think
my stomach’s convinced I gave up food.”

Tess smiled at the way Craig attacked his breakfast with unabashed
enthusiasm. She’d always liked this in him. In fact, he had many
traits that she admire

However, his need to explore the world wasn’t or of them. When she
married–actually it was more like if she ever married–she wanted a
man who would b willing to set He down and make a home with her. She
wasn’t absolutely certain that such a man existed though. She’d
certainly never rub into one in her circle of friends and
acquaintances.

Like Craig, they were all eager to rush out and em brace the world
rather than settle down with a nine to-five occupation.

She’d always known and accepted that Craig was free spirit. Never at
any time in the years she’d know him had she ever looked at Craig as
marriage matt rial. Of course none of that had ever mattered. It w,
enough that he was her best friend in all the world.

And he cared about her. She knew that. Why els was he here?

Who would have believed that the simple ringing o the telephone last
April would have been a signal that her carefully planned o t life
might be reduced t shambles?

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” she muttered, shoving the door between the
garage and the kitchen opel with her elbow. Her arms were filled with
bags groceries. “Whoever you are, don’t you dare hang now!” She slid
one of the bags onto the counter and grabbed for the wall phone. “I’m
here, I’m here. Hello?”

There was no sound on the phone, not even a dial tone. Then a deep
male voice said hesitantly, “Is this Tess Cassidy’s residence?”

“Craig? Is that you? Craig! Where are you! Omi-god. I haven’t
heard from you in ages!”

He began to laugh. “Yep. It’s Tess, all right. How’ve you been?”

“Oh, Craig! It’s so good to hear your voice. I’m fine. Where are
you?”

“I just checked in at the Airport Inn. I’ve been visiting my folks.
You remember they moved to Scottsdale.”

“I remember. I’ve really missed your more since they moved. How are
they? I think I owe her a letter or something. You know me. The
world’s worst correspondent.”

“Both of them are looking great and acting like kids again. I told
More I planned to call you when I got here. She said to be sure to
give you her love… Dad’s, too, of course.”

Tess blinked back unexpected tears. She’d been so weepy lately. But
the Jamisons were the closest people to family she had and she hadn’t
spoken to Craig in so long.

“The last I heard you were exploring the Hebrides Islands. When did
you get back to the States?”

“A couple of weeks ago. I take it you got my postcards.”

She smiled to herself. “Yes. I’m keeping them in a scrapbook and
marking the postmarks on my globe. Receiving your cards is the only
chance I’ll probably ever get to see some of these places.”

“I know this is short notice, but I’m flying out of here early tomorrow
morning. I was wondering if I could take you to dinner?”

She looked around at all the groceries and laughed. “I’d love it,
Craig. I can’t wait to see you. Gosh, it’s been years!”

“Yeah, I know. But we’ll make up for it by talking nonstop for the
next several hours. Look, I’ll get a cab and come on over now, if
that’s okay.”

“More than okay. You don’t know how much I’ve missed you and your
family lately.”

“Mom told me the news about your grandmother. I was really sorry to
hear it.”

The blasted tears welled up again, just at the mention of her
grandmother. “She was ready to go. She was tired of dealing with the
pain. But I still miss her. So much.”

“Of course you do,” he replied gruffly. Craig cleared his throat. In
a much lighter tone, he said, “I’ll be there in about an hour.”

“Good. See you in a little while.”

She hung up, only then realizing she was still clutching one of the
grocery bags. Hastily she placed

it on the countertop, then began putting everything away, mentally
reviewing her clothes hanging in her closet.

She, wished she had something new to wear. Not that it would matter.
Craig hadn’t seen much of anything she owned. Even if he had, he
wouldn’t remember it. She smiled at the thought.

After racing upstairs, she hopped into the shower, making sure to keep
her hair dry, quickly soaped and rinsed herself, then hurriedly dried
off and went in search of something appropriate to wear to dinner.

In the end, she settled for her basic black sheath. She grabbed the
black stole her grandmother had made for her, the one with silver
glitter woven through it, freshened her makeup and was on her way
downstairs when the doorbell rang.

She raced to the door, made sure it was Craig, then flung it open.

It just wasn’t fair. How could one man look so good? He was dressed
in khakis and a blazer, his shirt collar open. “You’ve grown,” he said
with a grin.

She grabbed his hand and pulled him inside. “Nonsense. It’s just the
shoes.”

“Ahh. Maybe that’s it. I’ve never seen you in high heels before.”

“Well, they aren’t exactly what you wear to go hiking or to play
neighborhood ball.”

They stood there in the hall, holding hands and grinning at each
other.

“I’d forgotten how beautiful you are,” he final said, causing her
cheeks to heat up uncomfortably.

“And you’ve finally learned how to compliment person rather than insult
them.”

“Me? Insult you? Never.”

She just shook her head. “Would you like a drink before dinner?”

“I have a cab waiting. ! made reservations here i Pasadena before I
left the hotel so I guess we’d better get going.”

“Oh, Craig, we don’t need a cab. Send him on h way and we can go in my
car.” “You sure?”

“Of course. Don’t be silly.”

“TII be right back.”

She watched him hurry down the steps and pay t driver. She was glad to
be able to catch her breath She couldn’t get over how wonderful he
looked. ] had been almost three years since she’d last seen him Those
years had been good to him. There were a fe more lines around his eyes
and mouth, but that was all. He seemed at peace with himself.

Some of his photography was already being sol for substantial amounts.
It was amusing, really, t ponder the contradiction that made up the per
sot Craig looked like a professional football lineman, bt he had the
soul of a poet.

Not that he’d ever admit to such a thing. But hi photographs gave him
away, revealing his sensitivity

to nature and to all living things. From the grandeur of the
mountains in Alaska to the mysterious Everglades of Florida, from the
Isle of Skye to the Australian Outback, Craig’s artistic eye managed to
capture the beauty of the planet.

Most of his treks were arduous, and only an experienced, athletic, and
very determined person could have kept up with the grueling schedule he
kept. She was proud to be his friend.

He bounded back up the steps, wearing that fabulous smile of his.
“Shall we go?” he asked.

“Sure. This way.” She led him through the kitchen and out into the
garage, handing him her car keys.

On the ride to the restaurant, she asked, “Where are you headed this
timeT”

“Tibet. I met a guy on the plane coming back from Scotland who’d been
there. From his descriptions, I knew I’d have to see it for myself.”

“You didn’t stay here in the States long.”

“I know. My folks have already given me the lecture on that one. But
you know me,” he said, grinning, “I get restless if I stay too long in
one place.”

“Do you miss coming back to Pasadena when you return to the States?”

“Yes, I do. I mean, I’m glad the folks found a place where they can
relax and enjoy Dad’s retirement, but it’s not home to me–you know,
the home where I grew up. The place is small, but they’re pleased with
it. Said the upkeep is not as time-consuming. Gives Dad a chance to
play more golf.”

Dinner seemed to go by like a dream. Later Tess couldn’t remember much
about what they’d talked about. Craig asked about mutual friends of
theirs, and she told him what she knew about their activities.

By the time they returned to the condominium, she was feeling relaxed
and very mellow. “Would you like another glass of wine before you
leave?” she asked, once they’d gone inside.

He stretched and sighed. “Sure. I can always catch up on my sleep
during the flight tomorrow.” While she filled their glasses in the
kitchen he wandered through her place, until he reached the den. “Wow.
When did you do this?

She knew what he had found and couldn’t help blushing, wondering what
he must think She hadn’t intended for him to ever find out that she had
painstakingly gathered copies of the photographs he’d taken through the
years and had them arranged on an entire wall in her den.

She walked in to find him standing with his hands in his back pockets,
staring at the arrangement. She noticed he’d discarded his jacket and
shoes. “Different places. Some of them you’d sent me, some I found in
a gallery and others your mother was kind enough to add to my
collection.”

“This must have taken quite a lot of effort to put together.” He
stepped closer to one of them. “I’d forgotten about this one.” He
tapped it. “This was the first, photo I ever sold.”

“Sunset at Malibu,” she said. “I was with you that day, remember? I
wasn’t surprised that the picture tUrned out so well. That whole day
seemed like magic. One of those perfect days that southern
Californians never get tired of.”

He turned around, taking one of the glasses. “You’re right. I’d
forgotten. Those were some carefree days, weren’t they?” He touched
his glass to hers. “Here’s to the days of our youth. May the future
be filled with as much inspiration as the past.”

They sipped their wine. “It’s a little chilly in here tonight. How
about a fire?” she asked, looking away from his expressive gaze. She
reminded herself that Craig saw her as the sister he’d never had. She
couldn’t allow herself to be caught up in the headiness of his
undivided attention.

“Sounds good.” He went over to the fireplace and began to arrange the
wood while Tess kicked off her shoes and sat down on the sofa.

When thinking about it later, she remembered that he had sat in a
nearby chair at first. She wasn’t sure how the subject returned to her
grandmother, but eventually she found herself telling him what those
last few months had been like for her. She’d tried not to break down
as she described how tough it was to pick up the pieces of her life
once her grandmother was gone. She’d stayed with her grandmother
around the clock those last few weeks, so that her days and nights had
been filled with activity.

Once her grandmother was gone, she’d felt lost, even though she’d had
her job to go back to and her life to resume.

She wasn’t certain when Craig moved to her side, or when he put his
arms around her. She only knew that she needed him at that moment in a
way she’d never needed or wanted another man.

“Ah, Tess,” he whispered, running his finger along her jaw. “I’m so
sorry you had to go through all of that alone. I wish I’d been here
for you.”

“There wasn’t anything you could have done.” “I could have let you
know I cared.” “I knew that.” “You did?” “Mmm-hmm.”

He smiled. “I’m glad.” He brushed his lips against hers and she felt
as though a bolt of electricity ran through her. When his mouth
lingered, hovering over hers, she eased closer to him and kissed him
back.

His kiss was everything she had dreamed it would be. She could feel
his heart racing beneath her palm, and when he pulled her into his lap
she could tell that he Was aroused.

She didn’t care about anything else at that moment except to continue
feeling what he was making

her feel. She gave herself up to all the sensations that Craig’s kiss
was arousing in her, eagerly following his lead, silently encouraging
him to continue what he had so innocently started.

When he finally lifted his head, he looked stunned. She felt the same
way. What was happening between them?

“Tess? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s all right.” She gave a shaky laugh. “Wow. That was pretty
potent.”

They were reclining on the couch, their arms around each other. She
was fascinated by the feel of his body pressed so closely to her. She’d
never allowed herself this freedom with a man before. It was heady
stuff.

She slipped her hand beneath his shirt, and felt his ripple of reaction
to her. A new sense of power and purpose took over. Imagine, being
able to provoke such a strong response in him.

Feeling an unfamiliar sense of daring, she unbuttoned his shirt, then
placed a kiss on his chest. His groan made her smile with a sense of
accomplishment.

“Tess, I–” Whatever he was going to say remained unsaid. Instead he
began to kiss her again–long, drugging kisses that set up a craving
for more.

Her legs became entangled with his, his thigh high between hers,
stirring her. When his hand slid beneath her skirt and moved to the
juncture of her thighs she gave a tiny gasp, which was swallowed by his
mouth on hers.

His touch was the spark that set her on fire. She didn’t understand
what was happening to her, but she wanted more. So much more. She
fumbled with his belt and found his zipper. She ached to touch him as
he was touching her.

Ah. At last he was free for her to touch and explore. This was Craig
after all. He wouldn’t mind her feverish exploration; her lack of
experience was probably obvious. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered
except the floating feeling that consumed her.

They were already so entwined that it took only small adjustments for
him to shift where he was lying between her legs. She lifted her hips
to him, afraid he was going to leave her, afraid that he would stop
touching her so intimately in the exact place she needed him.

She felt the unfamiliar invasion of his body and couldn’t stop herself
from tensing. He paused, his mouth still pressed to hers, his tongue
teasing hers. She brought her knee up, giving him more access,
wordlessly encouraging him.

That first thrust brought tears to her eyes but she continued to clutch
him to her, hanging on to him’ while he kept up a compelling pace that
triggered all kinds of explosions deep within her. When he lifted his
head and looked down at her, his face mirrored the wonder of what she
was feeling. It was then that

he threw his head back and with a cry buried himself deep within
her.

He collapsed against her, rolling to the side so that his full weight
wasn’t on her. Unfortunately the couch was too narrow for that
particular maneuver and they rolled off onto the plush carpeting of the
den.

Tess landed sprawled across him, both of them still winded from the
fiery conclusion of that first innocent kiss.

When she could speak, Tess said, “Why don’t we go upstairs? We’ll have
more room there.” Not wanting to have him argue, she stood and tugged
at his hand until he came to his feet. Then she led the way to her
bedroom.

Their second coming together had been so different from the first. They
lay on the bed, touching and exploring each other, speaking in
whispers. When at long last they came together once again it was as
delicate as a ballet, each move leading to yet another discovery.

Eventually they had fallen asleep in each other’s arms, like innocent
babes who had exhausted themselves at play.

Luckily Craig had roused early enough to call a cab about four o’clock
the next morning so that he didn’t miss his plane. She’d walked him to
the door, sleepily kissing him goodbye before tumbling back into bed to
continue to dream of him …. “Tess?” His voice was so distinctive.
She’d recognize it anywhere.

“Mmm?”

“Is something wrong with the omelet? You’re not eating.”

“The omelet?” she repeated dreamily, then remembered that she and
Craig were having breakfast in her kitchen while she’d been reliving
their night together! “Oh, the omelet. Oh, yes. It’s delicious.
Thank you for making it.”

He looked at her, his expression a little concerned. “You haven’t
tasted it yet. Are you sure you’re okay?”

He’d almost finished eating everything on his plate while she’d been
dawdling over hers. She hastily dug in, not wanting to make
conversation until she gained a little more control over her
thoughts.

When she’d eaten every bite, she said, “That really was good. I must
have been hungrier than I thought .”

He smiled distractedly and gathered up their dishes. She rinsed them
and put them into the dishwasher.

Craig leaned against the counter, watching her. When she was finished,
he said, “Look, you go ahead with whatever your Saturday routine is and
I’ll run to the store.”

She straightened, frowning at him. “Do you really think this is
necessary, Craig? There’s no rush, is there?”

“Maybe there’s no rush, but it’s necessary for our peace of mind. Where
are your keys?”

She nodded to a wall decoration beside the garage door where a set of
keys hung.

He touched her lightly on the cheek. “I’ll be back in a bit.” With a
jaunty whistle that seemed to Tess to be out of place, considering his
present mission, Craig disappeared behind the door that led to the
garage.

There would never be anyone in her life to compare to Craig Jamison.
But what would she do if she were actually pregnant? It was true that
having his child would give her a part of him to love.

Knowing Craig, however, he would insist on their getting married. An
unwanted marriage would be the worst thing she could force on him. It
wasn’t what she wanted, either. When she decided to marry, it would be
with a man who wanted nothing more in life than to settle down with her
and raise a family. Craig Ja-mi son did not come close to that
definition.

While she reluctantly reviewed what was occurring in her life, Tess
stripped her bed, gathered towels from the bathrooms and started doing
her weekly chores–washing and drying clothes, vacuuming and dusting,
and making a list of necessary groceries for an expedition later in the
day. The norma Icy of her routine helped considerably to calm her.

All right. There was a possibility she was pregnant. Not much of one,
really. A doctor once told her that with her erratic cycle it would he
more difficult for her to become pregnant than for most women.

And what if she was? Well, she could handle it. She had a responsible
position with a mortgage company, good health benefits, a great deal of
accrued vacation time. She was certain she could take a leave of
absence without unduly complicating her professional life.

A baby.

Tess dropped into an overstuffed chair in her living room. Could it he
possible? Her heart was racing and her palms were sweating at the mere
thought.

This wasn’t the way she’d planned it. First, she was to meet the
perfect man who would become the perfect husband. Next, she would
become pregnant with the perfect baby and she and her perfect husband
would become perfect parents.

Of course she’d known, realistically, that none of that was possible.
What she had never fantasized about was the possibility of Craig
Jamison being the father of a child of hers.

For one thing, she knew him too well and he was far from perfect. Craig
would always be yearning to follow the sun, to discover what was on the
other side of the mountain, to adventure down the yellow brick road.

He was an excellent photographer. That poetic soul of his was what
endeared him to her. But he was far from being husband or father
material, in her opinion.

Craig was a very dear friend, however the thought of being married to
him shook her to her core.

Craig found her still sitting in the living room, a dust rag in her
hand, the vacuum abandoned in the middle of the floor.

“Hi,” he said, “I’m back.”

She’d been so deep in thought, she hadn’t heard him come in. His voice
startled her. Glancing up, she looked at the rumpled man and shook her
head. “Haven’t you ever heard of an iron, Jamison?”

“Huh?” He walked over to her and touched her forehead with the back of
his hand. “Are you okay?”

She pushed his hand away. “Forget it.” Once again on her feet, she
held out her hand. “All right, give it to me. I’ll put us both out of
suspense. Then maybe you can relax and get some rest. You must be out
on your feet.”

“Actually I’ve gotten my second wind. It’s better to stay awake after
traveling through time zones, at least until dark local time. You get
through jet lag much faster that way.”

“You should know,” she muttered. Only then did she see that his hands
were empty. “Didn’t you buy the home test?”

“Yep. It’s on the kitchen counter.” He eyed her a little uncertainly.
“Are you going to use it now?”

“Why not? It isn’t going to help either one of us to sit around
wondering about it.”

He put his hands into his pockets and rocked from heel to toe. If she
didn’t know better, she’d believe he was nervous about this whole deal.
Jamison nervous about anything? Hah!

Tess hurried into the kitchen. She saw the small bag innocently lying
there on the counter. How could something so small and innocuous hold
the key to her sense of being in control of her life and sanity?

“I don’t think it works unless you take it out of the bag,” Craig
commented from behind her.

“Very funny.”

“I thought you were in a hurry to find out.”

“Not a hurry, exactly. I just think we’re both overreacting, that’s
all.”

He dropped his hands onto her shoulders and gently kneaded them. “Don’t
forget that you aren’t in this alone, honey. I’m here.”

“For the moment, anyway.” Her shoulder muscles were responding to his
gentle massage by easing the tension they’d been holding and she was
tempted to lean against him for continued comfort. Not a good sign at
the moment. She could do this. She could do it without help.

The sudden thought of needing his help to take the test made her face
heat up.

She reached for the bag holding the test and started upstairs.
Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Craig watching her, his expression
unreadable. Neither one of them spoke.

While she was upstairs, Craig wandered into the living room and
absently turned on the vacuum. When he was through he went into the
den and cleaned there as well. After recoiling the cord, he stored the
machine, listening for movement upstairs. There was none.

He didn’t know too much about the tests, even after reading the
instructions on every brand on display, but it seemed to him that she’d
had plenty of time to get some kind of response.

Seeing her dust rag abandoned on the coffee table, he decided to dust
and polish the furniture.

Once that was done, he looked around for something else to do. There
was still no sound from upstairs.

Well, hell. Was he going to have to go up there and– And what? He
felt so helpless in this situation. He’d had the feeling that his life
was spiraling out of control from the time he boarded the plane to
leave Los Angeles weeks ago.

Everything that he thought he knew about him-self–his feelings toward
his life’s work, even the way he viewed his family and friends–all of
that had changed, somehow.

Maybe he was stumbling around in some parallel universe where
everything looked the same but wasn’t. Or maybe he’d been reading too
many science fiction novels lately.

Determined to find out what was going on, Craig took the stairs two at
a time. He found Tess sitting on the side of her bed, staring at the
wall.

“Well?”

Her head turned like a robot. Her eyes were just as blank. “It was
positive,” she said quietly.

Chapter Three

Craig walked in and sat down beside her, pulling her into his arms.
“It’s going to be okay. I promise you,” he said. “We’ll get a license
on Monday. Then we’ll be able to–“

She pushed out of his arms. “Craig, I am not going to marry you. Don’t
you see? It would never Work.”

“What are you talking about? Of course we’re going to get married.”

“There’s no ‘of course’ about it. You’re only making plans to marry me
because I’m pregnant.”

Craig’s jaw tightened and she was reminded of just how stubborn this
man could be when he set his mind to something. “Don’t even think that
you’re going to talk me out of this one, Tess. It’s really very
simple. You’re carrying my baby. Therefore, I’m going to marry
you.”

“That is exactly my point. You would never consider marrying me
otherwise.”

“How do you know? Maybe the very reason I came back so soon was to ask
you to marry me.”

She laughed, but she sounded more hysterical than amused. “You? Ask
me to marry you? C’mon, Craig. Who do you think you’re talking to? I
know you too well to try to fool me. There’s nothing wrong with my
memory. You’ve always said that you never intended to marry.”

“Granted I may have said that many years ago. I was still a kid. All
kids spout off with remarks that don’t mean anything.”

“Craig, we talked about your attitude toward marriage over dinner the
last time you were here. Nothing had changed since we were in high
school. You made it clear that you didn’t want to be tied down to
anyone. You even commented how unfair it would be to expect someone to
tolerate your yearning to travel.”

“I was repeating my old way of looking at things out of habit. I said
all of that before–” he began, then stopped. He ran his hand through
his hair. “This is a ridiculous discussion, Tess. We have to look at
the facts and the fact is that you’re pregnant. We’ve confirmed it, so
we look at our next step, which means that you’re going to marry me.”

“It means nothing of the sort. I have all kinds of choices. I can
choose to raise it as a single parent, if I wish. My mother did it,
and I can, too. Listen to me, Craig. You cannot force me to marry
you. We are not living in the Dark Ages. Women have some rights these
days. Not as many as we deserve, perhaps, but some.”

Craig sighed, his frustration obvious. “Come on, Tess, don’t be that
way. I know this is a shock, but

we’re both adults. We can handle it.” He got up and began to pace,
obviously thinking about how he was going to persuade her.

Tess closed her eyes and leaned her head against the headboard of the
bed. To think that her upset stomach in the early hours had actually
been a high point ‘of her day so far. Things had definitely gone
downhill from the time she’d answered that blasted doorbell and found
Craig standing there.

What had ever possessed him to come back so much earlier than his
plans?

Obviously he’d been thinking along the same lines because he paused in
his efforts to create a worn path in her rug to say, “I’m just glad I
decided to come home when I did. God! It’s scary to think about,
isn’t it? What if I’d stayed away those two years and come home to
find out I was a daddy?” He smiled at the last word, saying it again
as though tasting it, becoming familiar with the new concept.

He laughed, shaking his head. She couldn’t believe it. He actually
laughed. This was one of the most traumatic things that had happened
to her in her life and Craig was already finding something amusing
about it.

There! That was another valid reason why the two of them as a couple
would never work. He took everything in life too lightly. He didn’t
understand the seriousness of existence. Of course he had a wonderful
family who loved him unconditionally, whole heartedly accepted whatever
he did without argument and encouraged him to leap off into the unknown
whenever the mood struck him.

For Craig, the mood struck him often.

As for Tess, she was terrified of the unknown. She’d learned very
early in life that there weren’t many people in the world she could
trust. She’d watched her mother struggle so that the three of them
could survive, and that formed an indelible image in her mind. It was
hard for Tess to believe that life was ever easy.

It was true that his enthusiasm was one of the traits that had always
endeared Craig to her. She’d envied his fearlessness on many
occasions, never so much as now.

He crossed his arms and planted his feet–a habitual stance of his.
“You’re right,” he said tersely. “I can’t force you to marry me.
You’re being pig-headed, but I’ll put it down to the fact that this is
all new to you, so I’m getting your typical knee-jerk,
I-can-do-it-by-myself defensiveness. I don’t know why it should
surprise me. You’ve been that way all your life. But I’m telling you
this and I want you to hear me, Tess. I refuse to let you go through
this pregnancy alone.” Before she could say anything, he was beside
her in a few strides. “You aren’t thinking about not having it, are
you?” he asked, his horror obvious.

Why wouldn’t he just leave her alone? She slid her hands through her
hair, gripping it. “I haven’t gotten that far in my thinking, Craig.
Up until a few hours ago, the very last thing I was thinking of, much
less formed any opinions about, was what I might or might not do in the
event I ever became pregnant.”

“I need to know, Tess. I really need to know whether you’d actually
consider doing away with my baby?”

She raised her head and looked into his eyes. She’d never seen him
quite this upset before. He’d gone pale beneath his tan.

“No, but look, Craig. We’ve only had a few minutes to think about all
the ramifications of this. I don’t want to make any snap judgments
about anything, okay?”

“Does that mean that once you’ve thought things through, may he gotten
used to the idea, that you might consider marrying me?”

She eyed him balefully. “Who knows? I might take up bungee jumping,
too. Just don’t count on seeing it happen in this lifetime. In fact,
marrying you would be quite similar to bungee jumping … all that
free-fall without a guarantee that I won’t hit the ground before I’m
jerked around some more.”

“Hey, thanks for that vote of confidence on my abilities as a husband.
Look, it’s not a role I’ve ever considered before, but I’m willing to
give it a go. This is just as new to me as it is to you.”

She got off the bed. “I’m going to make a cup of tea. Would you like
some?”

“I’d rather have a beer.”

“Sorry, I haven’t gone to the store yet this week.” “Oh. Then you
generally have beer on hand?” “Nope. Just being polite.”

He followed her down the stairs. “Do you need anything else? I could
pick up some groceries for you.” He almost ran into her when she came
to an abrupt stop in the hallway.

She turned and looked at him accusingly. “You finished vacuuming,
didn’t you?”

He threw up his hands. “TII confess, officer. Go ahead. Put me in
handcuffs, lock me away. I dared to help you out a little.”

“Oh, shut up,” she said, continuing on her way to the kitchen.

“Is that any way to speak to the father of your child? Do you want
him..” or her… to follow your example? I would hope we could teach
our child to be polite and–“

“Craig, I’m only a few weeks pregnant. I don’t believe we have to
worry about lessons in manners just yet.”

“Maybe not, but I’ve heard that babies in the womb can hear
things–like music and stuff. Do you want your baby to hear you saying
rude things to its father?”

Tess filled the kettle, smiling to herself.

“See? I saw that. You actually managed a smile. C’mon, Tess, you
don’t have to take everything so blasted seriously all the time.”

Sheset out a cup and dropped a tea bag inside. “Yes, I do, because I
know you won’t.”

“I disagree. Life is much too important to be taken seriously. We’ve
got to enjoy it, embrace it, celebrate it.”

“Mrnm-hmm.” She watched the teakettle as though visually urging it to
heat the water quicker.

“Marry me, Tess.” He immediately went down on one knee. “Please. I’m
begging you. My child is begging you. Don’t torture us this way.”

“Get up, you idiot, before I trip over you.”

“We could have fun married. We could travel together, show the baby
new sights and sounds. Think about all the places we could share with
him… or her.”

“That argument is guaranteed to convince me marriage with you would
never work.” She poured the boiling water into her cup and sat down at
the kitchen bar. “I hate to burst your bubble, but somebody has to
stay home and make a living.”

“Aha! So that’s what this is all about. Well, then, let me ease your
mind, sweet-pea.” He left the room, taking a great deal of life and
energy with him. ‘

Tess rested her head on the heel of her hand. Ever since she’d opened
the door that morning she’d felt as though she’d been swept up in a
tornado. Having

Craig around had always had that effect on her. It had been one of his
most endearing qualities when they were growing up together.

Now, she wasn’t so sure. How could she cope with such a high-energy
person around on a daily basis? What if your child is just like him
?

Where had that thought come from? she wondered.

Craig loped back into the room. He tossed something on the counter in
front of her. A rubber band held a bank passbook and a checkbook
together. “What’s this?” “Open them.”

“I’m not going to go through your personal stuff like that.”

He reached over and slid the band off, opening them both so that she
could see them. “I can’t blame you for being hesitant to marry just
any guy off the street. So I’m showing you that I can take care of
you.”

She glanced down at the passbook, then did a double take. Had she read
it wrong? She glanced at the checking account. “Craig? Where did all
of this–?” She stopped, realizing that he might take her question
wrong.

“From the various sales of my pictures. In addition to what you see in
front of you, I have money invested in some safe securities.”

She thought she had been frugal in her life, saving as much as she
could each month, investing when she felt she could afford to, but she
had nothing like this. “I had no idea your photos were selling so
well.” He shrugged. “I don’t need much to live on, really. Just my
traveling expenses and I do that as economically as I can.”

She suddenly saw another aspect of this man she thought she knew so
well. Looking into his eyes, she spotted the mature male lurking
beneath the ebullient man. It made for an irresistible combination,
there was no doubting that.

“I’ll think about it,” she finally said, hoping to buy herself some
thinking time.

“Great! So, in the meantime, where do I sleep?”

That certainly got her attention. “At your home, perhaps?” she asked
dryly.

“In Scottsdale? No, I don’t think so. The commute would be too
hectic.”

“What commute?”

“Well, even if we don’t get married right away, I need ‘to be on hand
to take care of my baby you’re carrying around.”

“I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself, you know. I’ve been
doing it for most of my life.”

“Of course you have, which is why you need a break. Especially now,
when you have another one to look after.”

She studied him for a long while. He stood across the bar from her,
his stance one of sheer male obstinacy. His legs were braced apart,
his arms folded, and she had a sudden flash of memory of the night
they’d spent together.

She’d touched that broad chest, ran her fingers across those muscled
arms and shoulders. She’d explored every inch of the man’s body,
making discoveries about him–and herself–that opened up a whole new
world to her.

“I’m not going to win this one, am I?” she murmured, almost to
herself.

That killer grin of his appeared and he seemed to relax slightly. Had
he doubted his abilities to persuade her? Surely not.

“I only have the two bedrooms and I’m using the other one for an
office. I suppose you can sleep in the den. The sofa folds out into a
bed.”

“Or… I could sleep with you.”

“The bed’s too narrow. I believe you were the one who pointed that out
during your last visit.” She could feel her cheeks burn at the
memory.

“No problem. We’ll buy a king-size bed. We’ll go to Scottsdale and
get what I’ve got stored with my folks and–“

“No.”

“No, what?”

“I can’t go to Scottsdale.”

“Of course you can. Take some of your vacation time. We need to tell
the folks about–“

“That’s just it. I can’t face your folks. Not yet, anyway. How can
I? This is so new to me as it is. How can I possibly look them in the
eye and admit that… that we…”

“Do you think they’ll condemn us for what happened?”

“I don’t know what theY’ll do.”

“My mother, for one, will be so ecstatic over finally becoming a
grandmother that we will both be embraced and forgiven for being a
little impetuous.”

“Impetuous, is it? I can think of other words to describe what
happened.”

“Not in front of the baby, if you please. We’re going to have to work
on your verbal utterances, I can see that. Aren’t you glad I’m going
to be around to help you monitor your speech?”

“Oh, brother.”

He leaned on the bar so that his face was only inches away from hers.
“All right, then. You win.”

Seen this close, his eyes were absolutely gorgeous-so clear she could
see her reflection in them. “What have I won?”

“Our discussion, debate, whatever you call it. You don’t have to go to
Scottsdale with me. In fact, I’ll catch a flight over this evening,
spend the night, rent a truck to bring my things–“

“A truck! Craig, I don’t have that much root here. Just how much do
you have over there?”

“My darkroom stuff, clothes, etc. I’ll need transportation back
anyway. It’ll just be a small truck.” All the time he spoke, he
watched her mouth. Whe he paused, he leaned slightly closer, brushing
he mouth with his. “Tell me you’re okay with this. I’re ally want you
to be.”

She closed her eyes, unable to face him at the mo merit. The next
thing she knew he was around the ba: and pulling her into his arms. He
held her close t{ him, not saying anything, just holding her.

Pressed against him that way, she acknowledged at least to herself, how
good he felt to her–strong ye gentle, sturdy and dependable.

“The test could be wrong, you know,” she finally whispered in a
last-ditch effort to halt whatever was happening between them.

“I should be back by Monday. We’ll go to a doctor then, have you
checked over and make certain.”

“Don’t you think I should do that before you make definite plans to
move in with me?”

He leaned back, his arms still wrapped around her waist. “You mean
you’re only going to live with me if you’re pregnant?”

There was something odd in his tone, something she couldn’t quite
place. “As I understand it, the only reason you left Tibet was to find
out if there were any

consequences to that night we spent together. If I’m not pregnant
wouldn’t you go back?”

“We can decide all of that later. For now, we’re going to live here
together until you decide to make an honest man out of me by marrying
me.”

“You’ve always been an honest man, Craig. And honorable. Why else
would you be doing this?”

His smile was full of mischief as he said, “Why else, indeed?” This
time his kiss was far from a gentle brushing of her lips. Instead it
was much more reminiscent of a certain kiss he’d given her many weeks
ago that had started all of this!

“Mom? This is Craig. I’m at the Phoenix airport. Could you pick me
up?”

He’d stopped at the first bank of pay phones he found once he’d gotten
off the plane from Los Angeles.

“Dear heaven! Craig! I thought you were halfway around the world! Of
course I’ll pick you up. Your dad’s playing golf. Won’t he be
surprised when he gets home! I’ll be right there,” Susan Jamison said
before hanging up.

Craig hung up more slowly, then leaned over to pick up the small bag he
carried. He’d left most of his things at Tess’s, although she’d
insisted on pressing the clothes he presently wore. He smiled at the
thought. She was already at work on reforming him. Who knows? He
might become domesticated, yet.:

He thought he’d successfully hidden his own shock at finding out that
his worst fears had come true. Why else had he been unable to put that
night be hind him and get on with his planned trek?

He was going to be a father.

Him, a father? The idea had never been anything he’d ever considered,
which was another thing. He’d never had unprotected sex with anyone
and yet with Tess, he’d never given the matter any thought. It was
almost as if he hadn’t cared… as if he’d wanted her to become
pregnant. Who knew where his thoughts were at that particular time?

All he remembered was the shock of discovering that she was a virgin.
How could a woman as attractive as Tess Cassidy remain a virgin into
her thirties? Hadn’t there ever been a man she’d wanted before now?

Perhaps subconsciously he’d thought she was on the pill. He hadn’t
asked. Not once, even though they had spent the night getting to know
so much about each other in other ways.

what if he hadn’t come back? what if she’d had to go through all of
this on her own? The thought chilled him. Tess had had enough
heartache in her life. She didn’t need any more. What if she’d tried
to reach him later, to tell him that she was pregnant? where could she
have found him?

He’d blithely gone on his way the next day as though making love to his
very best friend in all the

world hadn’t changed everything about his life and how he looked at
it.

He’d learned the difference soon enough.

The truth was, he hadn’t been able to get Tess out of his mind.

The truth was, he’d needed to see her again right away, not in a couple
of years. He’d lost his ability to concentrate and to focus on his
targeted areas to photograph. Thank God he’d followed his impulse to
come back when he did.

Craig found himself at the entrance near the baggage claim of the
airport, realizing that he was spacing out again, so caught up in his
thoughts he was like a walking zombie.

Maybe he should have tried to sleep on the plane between L.A. and
Phoenix. The truth was, he was too nervous to sleep. He couldn’t
remember the last time he’d stretched out on a bed for a full night’s
sleep. At least several days.

His mother would be along anytime now. He had to pay attention.

He wasn’t exactly looking forward to telling his folks his news. Forget
the fact that he was thirty-three years old and had been making his way
alone in the world for over twelve years. Waiting by the curb,
watching for his mother’s car, Craig Jamison had to smile when he
realized that he felt like a young boy again having to tell his mother
he’d gotten into trouble at school.

However, the kind of situation he was now in was a sure sign he wasn’t
a little boy anymore!

Craig lay in one of the lounge chairs on his parents’ patio, drowsing.
They’d just come outside when the phone had rung, calling his mother
back into the air-conditioned house.

There was a nice breeze in the shade. He could feel himself relaxing,
and knew that all those time zones he’d gone through were rapidly
catching up with him. If his mother didn’t come back out soon, he’d be
asleep. The problem was that once he fell asleep, he’d probably sleep
for days. Somehow he had to hang on long enough to explain to his
mother why he was there. She’d asked no questions once he’d gotten
into the car, so he’d postponed telling her that he would be leaving in
a couple of days, just as soon as he could rent a truck and load his
belongings.

His parents had offered to have his belongings moved along with theirs
when they’d left California, pointing out that there was no need for
him to put his things in storage where he couldn’t get to them when he
was in the country,

He’d reimbursed them the cost, grateful they had room for his expensive
equipment. They would understand the significance of his moving
everything. He was setting up new headquarters, getting a place of his
own.

It was about time. He just hadn’t expected the decision to be based
on his becoming a father in the near future.

He glanced around at a sound behind him in time to see his mother
carrying a tray with a pitcher and glasses on it. He leaped from the
chair and hurried to her. “Why didn’t you tell me that’s what you were
doing? I could have brought that outside for you. I thought you were
still on the phone.”

“It just occurred to me that you might enjoy some freshly made
lemonade.” She glanced around–taking in the high stucco walls that
enclosed the colorful backyard–with a look of affection. “Isn’t it
nice back here? Your dad has done a wonderful job with it. Which
reminds me. That was your dad callifig. He’d gotten the message I
left him at the golf pro shop. He was surprised and pleased to hear
you were home. However, he still has some errands to run, so it might
be a little while before he gets here.”

Craig set the tray down on the table between their chairs and poured
them each a glass of lemonade. He handed his mother one and said,
“It’s just as well. There’s something I want to discuss with you. Dad
can hear about it later.”

She settled back into her chair and gave him a level look. “I knew
there was something wrong or you wouldn’t be back here so soon. Did
something happen in Tibet? I know the political situation there isn’t
stable. You know how worried I was when you first mentioned wanting to
go there.”

“Actually I was quite fortunate in making some good contacts once I
arrived. Although I. wasn’t ere as long as I’d originally planned,
everything went so smoothly I was able to reach some of the areas I’d
hoped to get to see.” He took a large swallow of liquid from his
frosty glass before searching for an opening. Finally he said, “This
is about Tess.”

Susan straightened in surprise. “Tess Cassidy? Has something
happened? Is she all right?”

Good question. He wasn’t quite ready to answer that one just yet.
“Have you heard from her lately?”

She was silent, as though mentally calculating. “Well, now that you
mention it, I guess it has been a while. You know how time can just
slip away from you. I don’t think I’ve heard from her since you were
here last. You said something about dropping in to see her back then.
Is something wrong? I know she took her grandmother’s death hard, but
I was hoping she was doing better now.”

He cleared his throat, mentally preparing to take the dive into a very
deep subject. “I believe she’s adjusting to the loss of her
grandmother. This is something different. She’s pregnant.”

“Oh, my!” his mother gasped. “That doesn’t sound like Tess at all. I
mean, you’re not saying that she’s suddenly gotten married, are you?
She’s never given the slightest hint that she’s met anyone. This

would be so sudden, coming so soon after her grandmother’s–“

“She isn’t married.” His voice sounded hoarse in his own ears. He
wondered if his mother had noticed. She seemed too shocked at his news
to be aware of his behavior.

“Oh, that poor darling. She’s had such a rough go of life, it seems.
Her mother would be so upset to hear such a thing had happened to her
daughter. That poor woman went through so much, trying to survive with
next to no education. She always said that she wanted Tess to get her
education so she’d be able to take care of herself no matter what. I
suppose that would be some consolation for Tess to fall back on, but
still. ,” “I, uh, don’t remember her mother very well.”

“That’s because she was always working.. At least Tess’s grandmother
was there to look after Tess, but her mother was always working two or
three jobs at a time. It’s no wonder her heart finally gave out on her
like that.”

“Tess seemed happy enough when we were growing up.”

“Oh, yes. She’s always been one to cope with whatever came along. So
dependable, so calm. I suppose that’s why this latest news is such a
shock. It’s so out of character for her.” She was quiet for a while,
shaking her head. After a lengthy silence, Susan said, “Tess must have
loved the man she got involved with a great deal to allow such a thing
to happen.”

Craig felt her remark go through him as if it were a lance, spearing
him through the middle. He couldn’t have spoken if his life depended
on it. In some unfathomable way, he felt as though it did..

“Is there any possibility she will marry the father, do you think?”
Susan went on to ask. “I think that’s always the best way to care for
a child if there’s any hope at all that the relationship can work
out.”

Craig took his time draining his glass and carefully replacing it on
the table between them before attempting to reply. He started to speak
and found his voice was gone. After clearing his throat twice, he
managed to say, “I’m the one you’re talking about, More.”

Susan stared at him blankly, as though he had spoken to her in a
foreign language. “What?” She blinked, her mouth trembling slightly.
When he didn’t say anything more, she said, “What did you say?” There
was nothing more to add, so he just sat there, waiting for the news to
sink in. “Are you saying that you and Tess–?” She placed her fingers
over her mouth as though to stop the flow of words and what they could
mean. “I’m afraid I don’t understand. I mean, how–” The news seemed
to hit her with a sudden force and her voice rose. “You … got …
Tess Cassidy pregnant?” she asked in a horrified voice.

Finally saying it was something of a relief… just getting it out. He
nodded. “I ended up spending the night with her before I flew to Asia.
It wasn’t anything either of us planned. It just happened. I can’t
really explain it, and even if I could, what happened is really between
Tess and me. But once I was gone, I realized so many things about
myself, about Tess, about us growing up together, about our friendship.
It was just as if all of those memories had been waiting for me to look
at them from a different perspective.” Craig rubbed the heels of his
hands into his eyes. They felt like burning coals from so many hours
without sleep. “It felt so strange to think of Tess in such a
different light. I’d always considered her the sister I never had.
She was just there as part of my life. I knew she was important to
me.

I just wasn’t really aware of how important and in what ways.”

His mother quietly said, “I see. You finally realized you were in love
with her, didn’t you?”

He dropped his hands from his eyes. “You don’t sound particularly
surprised.”

Susan’s smile was a little sad. “Well, no. Your dad and I have known
for years how you felt about her. By the time you both were in high
school, we found it amusing to see how you looked after her, made sure
the boys she dated treated her with respect. We could tell that you
didn’t have a clue why you took such an interest in her,” she said with
a sigh, “but then boys tend to mature later than girls and we just
figured that sooner or later you would discover how you really felt.
Hopefully it wouldn’t be too late to do something about it.”

Neither one of them said anything for several moments. Craig was
struck by this new perspective of his past behavior, feeling almost
stupid at not understanding his own feelings sooner.

After the silence stretched out, Susan finally shook her head as though
dazed. “You were so protective of her for so long, and then to hear
that after all these years you were so careless as to–” She stopped,

swallowed and he saw her eyes fill with moisture. “I asked her to
marry me,” he offered quietly. Her tears over flowed but she ignored
them.. Instead she reached for his hand and squeezed it, her smile
tender. “Of course you would, and I’m glad that you didn’t waste any
time.” She narrowed her eyes slightly, thinking back. “She must be…
what? eight or nine weeks along by now.” Her smile was understanding
when she added, “I know this is going to be a difficult transition for
you, adjusting to having a wife and child, but at least you know you’re
doing the right thing. And it isn’t as though you don’t love her and
that she doesn’t–“

“She hasn’t actually agreed to it. At least, not yet.”

Susan blinked. “No?” she said faintly, pressing her fingers against
her throat.

He looked away, focusing on the landscaping in the backyard. “I don’t
believe she considers me proper husband material, much less father
material.” He was amazed at how much that hurt him. Saying it made
her attitude more real. There was a very good chance that his child
might not carry his name. He wasn’t certain how he was going to deal
with that.

“Oh, my.”

His eyes began to water, which wasn’t surprising. He was going to have
to get some sleep. He rubbed them once again. “Of course, I fully
intend to change her mind.” It was an effort to keep his voice light.
“It just may take a while. But we’ve got some time to work things out
before it arrives.”

“She’s sure that she’s pregnant?”

“She intends to see a doctor next week, but from the indications I
think it’s fairly certain.”

“So what do you intend to do now?”

Ah. The next hurdle. “I came over here to get all my gear. I intend
to move in with her.” Before his mother could respond he hurriedly
continued. “I know. I know that isn’t the best or most sensible
solution, but the thing is, I don’t want her to set up a routine that
excludes me. I want to be there, right from the beginning. If she
won’t marry me, then I’ll do it this way. I don’t intend to let her
out of my sight until she gives birth.”

“Poor Tess. She doesn’t really have a chance if you’re serious about
doing this.”

Craig felt a heaviness in his heart. “You mean, you don’t think I’m
any better husband or father material than she does?”

“I didn’t say that, so don’t put words into my mouth. I just know how
determined you can be when you set your mind to it. ! also know Tess.
She isn’t going to be rushed into anything without thinking it through.
Tess is very much her mother’s daughter, you know. Her mother could
have curled up and let life kick her around, but she refused to break
beneath the burdens. They’re survivors, both of them.” She poured
Craig another glass of lemonade.

Craig drank from his glass, then allowed his eyes to drift close.

“Of course she’ll marry you,” Susan said, breaking the silence.
“She’ll do whatever she can to give her child the stable home life she
never had.”

“I believe the problem is that she doesn’t think I’ll provide a stable
home life.”

Susan chuckled. “Well, not if she’s looking at your past record. But
I have a hunch things have changed for you, haven’t they?”

“Well, yeah, once I realized she was pregnant–” “Oh, before then,
darling. The old Craig would still be in Tibet or traveling on to
Afghanistan or into Russia. You wouldn’t have given a thought to
returning home so soon if you hadn’t already been preoccupied with your
feelings for Tess.”

His mother knew him even better than he thought. “So I would say that
one of the ways you could convince her that you’re already in the
process of changing is to point out to her that you realized you loved
her while you were in Tibet and no longer

wanted to spend your time away from her. Isn’t that the real reason
you came back so soon?”

“I told her all of that… or at least, I think I did, something along
those lines, anyway. I can’t remember, exactly. I was rehearsing what
I was going to tell her all the way back, but once I saw her all my
planned speeches left my head.”

“Well, if you want my advice, I say that you need to get some rest
before you do another thing. I wish you’d brought her with you this
trip.”

“I tried, but she was shy about seeing you so soon after finding
out.”

“She’ll come around, eventually, give her a little time to adjust.
After all, she needs you, whether she fully understands that or not.
She’s going to need you even more in the coming months. What you’re
going to have to do is to prove to her that you can be there for her,
that you intend to become a part of her life and the child’s life. No
woman could resist knowing that. Besides, the fact that she loves you
is a plus in your favor.”

“I didn’t get the impression that she’s feeling much love for me these
days. I have a hunch that if she had a miniature doll that looked like
me, she’d be busy sticking pins into it.”

“Nonsense. She’s loved you most of her life. Don’t worry. Once she’s
spent some time with you again, once she’s seen that you’re serious
about staying here at home and caring for her, she’ll come around. You
just wait and see.”

“I hope so because I don’t intend to walk away.” “Why don’t you go on
inside and go to bed? VII explain everything to your dad when he gets
in. The two of you can visit tomorrow. There’s plenty of time for all
of that. This will all work out just fine, wait and see if it
doesn’t.”

She was smiling by the time she finished speaking. Craig got up and
headed for the room they’d designated was his. As he opened the door,
he heard a light, girlish laugh coming from his mother, a sound he
hadn’t heard in years.

“A baby!” she said, following him into the house. “I can’t wait to
tell Phil he’s finally going to become a grandpa!”

Chapter Four .

By the time Tess got home after work on Monday, she was exhausted.
There had been three accidents on the freeway, causing considerable
back up in traffic and long delays. She was hot and irritable.

She was also nervous. Craig was supposed to be back sometime today.
He’d called last night to tell her that he was running a little behind
in loading the truck and probably wouldn’t get in until late this
evening.

She’d welcomed the respite. She’d spent the weekend trying to come to
grips with all that had happened. The pregnancy was a shock, of
course, but having Craig back in her life was an even bigger one.

How could she have agreed to let him move in with her? To sleep with
her? How could she put herself in such a vulnerable position?

The earliest doctor’s appointment she could get was for a week from
Tuesday. What if she’d been wrong? Maybe the test was defective.
What was she going to do if the doctor said she was not pregnant?

Would Craig think she had tricked him? She couldn’t face the thought
that he’d lose faith in her. He was too important to her. On the
other hand, she cared too much for him to tie him down to life in
suburbia. That’s why she couldn’t marry him. 1 would be a lifetime
sentence that he’d soon regret.

She turned down the alleyway to her condominium where the garage was
located, slowing as touched the remote garage door opener. The door wa
not yet fully up when her back gate opened am someone stepped out into
the alley.

Before she had time to wonder how someone hac gotten over the high wall
she recognized Craig standing there, his insouciant grin firmly in
place.

He was back. So much for having a few hours to herself before she had
to see him again.

She pulled into the garage, reached for her purse and unfastened her
seat belt, but before she could open the door he was there, holding it
open for her. “Hi. I didn’t want to scare you by rapping on your back
door after you got into the house, so I’ve been listening for you to
drive up and enjoying your garden at the same time. It’s really
beautiful back there. You’ve put in a lot of work on it.”

“Either you’re earlier than you expected to be or I’m really late. How
did you get in?”

He shrugged. “Climbed over the wall.”

“Craig, that wall is seven-feet high!”

“I’m not surprised. Not a bad idea. Keeps people out.”

“Obviously not everybody,” she said, shaking her head in exasperation.
“I hope we don’t have too many athletic criminals hanging out in the
neighborhood. I’ve always felt fairly safe, until now.” She unlocked
the door to the kitchen and walked inside the house.

Craig followed her. “Don’t worry. I’ll be here to protect you.”

She was ashamed to admit to herself that she liked the sound of that.

“When did you get here?”

He glanced at his watch. “Almost two hours ago. I left as early’ as I
could to miss the evening traffic.”

“Wish I could have done that. It was horrible today, coming home. I
feel badly about not giving you a key before you left. I wasn’t really
thinking that far ahead.”

“That’s okay. I’m going to have to unload the truck this evening. It’s
still sitting on the street, but I didn’t want to miss you when you got
home.”

“If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll get out of these clothes and into
something more comfortable. I can help you unload.”

“Not on your life. Until you’ve talked to a doctor, I don’t want you
to do any lifting.”

“I’m sure that not everything you’ve brought is heavy.”

“Doesn’t matter. Run on upstairs while I look for something to make
for supper.”

“You’re going to cook again? You’re determined to spoil me, I can see
that.” She turned away, and he heard her footsteps on the stairs.

She was nervous with him. Plus she didn’t ask, either during the phone
call last night or just now, what his folks had said about her
pregnancy.

Why hadn’t he ever noticed before how carefully she covered whatever
she might be feeling with that calm, competent demeanor of hers?

He was noticing so much about her, seeing her so differently now. She
had never quite met his gaze just now, her eyes darting away, her hands
busy.

By the time she came back downstairs in a halter top and shorts that
showed off her long legs, he was busy chopping vegetables for a salad.
He didn’t need the reminder, although he would have probably reacted in
the same way toward her if she’d worn a sack. His memory was quite
good. He knew exactly what she looked like without those few items of
clothing.

In a bright tone, she asked, “what did you find for supper?”

“Tm steaming some veggies, making a salad. I wasn’t sure if you’d want
me to grill a couple of these chops so I thought I’d wait to ask.”

“Not for me, but go ahead if you want one.”

She sat down at the bar and he poured her a glass of iced tea.

“I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking since I saw you last,” he
said once she’d had a chance to sip the cool drink.

He watched her tighten her hold on the glass. Without looking at him,
she said, “Oh?” as though

she wasn’t particularly interested in what he’d been thinking.

Too bad. “I’ve got several ideas I want to run past you.”

Now she definitely looked wary. “Such as?” “Oh, about what I can do
to make your life a little easier in the next few months. I imagine
you’re going to want to continue working for a while. That being the
case, I thought I might take over some of the chores around here. I
can run the vacuum and keep things picked up, throw in a load of
laundry whenever it’s necessary, help with the meals and grocery
shopping. You know, that sort of thing.”

Tess couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This was Craig Jamison
talking! “I don’t remember a genie granting me three wishes,” she
finally replied. “Why are you offering to do so much around here? I
may he pregnant, but I’m certainly not an invalid.”

He grinned. “Well, since I can’t carry the baby, the least I can do is
some of the household chores.”

She propped her elbows onto the counter and dropped her forehead into
her hands. “I can’t let you do this, Craig. I really can’t. I
appreciate your offer to help. Actually I’m touched more than I can
say, but I know you. You’ll hate being cooped up here all day. After
a Week or so you’d be planning your escape, booking a flight to
Tahiti.”

“Been there. It’s overrated. Besides, I don’t intend to stay here all
day. I have a friend here in town I intend to look up. He’s got his
own studio and has asked me to work with him before. I have a hunch he
can put me in the way of as much work as I can handle. Plus, I can set
up some of my photo lab equipment here and continue with my own stuff.
I’ve got several weeks of work ahead of me, developing the film I’ve
taken recently.”

“You’ve always hated studio work and you know it–taking pictures of
babies and graduates and brides-to-be, not to mention all the actors’
portfolios.”

“It’s not so bad, really. Besides, I’m going to want to get some
practice taking baby pictures. After all, I’m going to have a new
model coming along.”

Tess made a muffled sound, but didn’t look up. “What?” he asked.

She shook her head. He leaned down, trying to see her face. “You’re
not crying, are you?” He’d been trying so hard to keep it light, but
he knew tears would do him in.

She kept her head down. “My eyes seem to have developed an automatic
watering system lately. Maybe it has something to do with hormonal
changes or something.”

After a long silence, he murmured, ‘”Please don’t cry.”

She raised her head, fixing him with a damp glare. “I’ll cry if I want
to, darn it. You’re going to have to get used to the idea that I can
turn into a watering

bucket at the snap of your fingers. Remember, I’m still adjusting to
all of this. You seem to be taking it in stride better than I am.” She
watched him fill two plates with steamed vegetables, then place the
salad bowl on the bar between them.

They ate in silence, each caught up in his and her own thoughts. After
a while, Tess said, “Since you cooked tonight, I’ll do it tomorrow,
okay?”

“Whatever works for you is fine with me,” he replied as casually as
possible, relieved that she appeared to be accepting his presence
there.

She smiled at him. “Are you always going to be this agreeable? You’re
treating me as though I have some life-threatening disease, Jamison.
Lighten up.”

“Now there’s a switch.” He leaned over and kissed her on the nose. “I
enjoy pampering you, honey. Guess you’ll just have to get used to
it.”

They were companionably cleaning the kitchen when Craig said, “Oh, by
the way, the folks want to know when they can come to visit us. I’ve
never seen them so excited. Who would have guessed how much they’ve
been pining to become grandparents? More said she’d tried to put it
out of her mind and thought she was reconciled to not having any. I
swear she’s close to doing back flips.”

She covered her cheeks with her hands. “I was hoping you hadn’t told
them just yet.”

“I really don’t think we could have kept it a secret for long, do you?
They wanted to know why I’d decided to move in with you, so I told them
I was trying hard to convince you to marry me. My moving in was the
first step.”

She buried her face in her hands. “Oh, Craig, you didn’t. Wasn’t it
enough to tell them you were going to stay in the States for a while
without mentioning me?”

“I could have, I suppose. But the truth was much easier to explain.”

“They think I’m awful, don’t they?” she asked in obvious dread.

“On the contrary, they couldn’t believe I’d take advantage of you in
such a way.”

“Oh, Craig, you didn’t tell them how it came about, did you?”

“Of course I did. It was the truth. I did take advantage of your
vulnerability that night. It was that more than anything that kept
haunting me all the while I was gone. I finally had to come back, to
see if I could make amends.”

“You didn’t take advantage of me, can’t you understand that?” She
tossed down the rag that she’d been using to wipe the counter, folding
her arms and glaring at him. Now this was more like the Tess he knew,
not that bright and friendly fake who had first greeted him.

Here was the person he’d always enjoyed teasing. “Oh, I realized it,
finally. Once I really gave it some thought, I figured out what had
happened. Sometime during the course of that evening, you decided to
lure me into your web of seduction. Being the true innocent I am, I
didn’t understand what was happening. It’s my guess you doped up that
last drink you offered me so that I would be totally under your spell
with no mind of my own… no will of my own. All you had to do was
beckon and I was yours … just your typical, ordinary love-slave there
to do your bidding.” He lifted his eyebrows. “Wasn’t that what
happened?”

She was laughing by the time he finished. “You are crazy, did you know
that? Absolutely crazy.”

He slipped his arms around her and held her. This was exactly where
she needed to be. Why hadn’t he known that years ago? “I don’t have a
problem with that. Do you?”

She shook her head, bemused. He couldn’t resist kissing her. He
immediately felt her resistance. As casually as possible, he stepped
back, silently reassuring her that he was not going to pressure her in
any way.

“What did your folks say when you told them you intended to move in
with me?” She refilled their glasses, handing him one while she led
the way into the den.

She sat down in one of the chairs, so he relaxed on the sofa. “They’re
hoping that eventually you’ll take pity on me as well as give my
innocent babe my name.” He eyed her over the top of his glass before
he said, “I told them not to hold their breath, that you were hoping
for someone better than me in your life.”

“That’s not true and you know it, Craig! I’m trying not to make any
hasty decisions that would have long-range consequences on everyone
concerned. Surely you can understand that, can’t you?”

“Just so that you understand that while you’re weighing all your
options, and analyzing the consequences of each and every decision, I’m
going to be right here. Make no mistake about it, darling’. Until
that little one is here, you aren’t getting rid of me. I intend to dog
your every step, make certain you take care of yourself, as well as
anything else I can do to make your life easier. That’s one decision I
intend to make.”

“Do you really think this is necessary?” Tess asked two days later,
looking around the mammoth display of bedroom furniture and mattresses
in all shapes and sizes.

“Yes, actually, I do. I tried your suggestion, remember? I’ve slept
on that couch. If you hoped that would get rid of me, it didn’t work.
So… we’ll get a king-size bed and both of us will be comfortable.
We’ll each have plenty of room to sprawl if we feel the urge, and if
you get scared in the middle of the night and need a strong arm to hold
and protect you, well, hey, I’ll be right there beside you, an eager
volunteero”

“That’s all well and good, but since you only intend to stay until the
baby arrives, it seems silly to waste money on new furniture that I’m
not going to need, especially with all the other expenses of having a
baby.”

“Would you care to run that by me one more time?” Craig asked, leaning
his shoulder against a bureau and crossing his ankles.

“What part don’t you understand?”

“The part that I intend to stay only until the baby arrives.”

“Isn’t that what you said?”

“No, but it’s obviously what you heard.”

“Now I am confused.”

“Is that part of your hormone thing?” he asked with considerable
interest.

“Of course not, you idiot. I was just–” “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Remember
who’s listening?”

“Oh, good grief! You can be so-o-o irritating at times.”

“I’m reading the most fascinating book about the life of the unborn
child. It’s amazing what they’ve learned about the little tykes.”

She stared at him in astonishment. “You’re reading a book about
prenatal development?”

“Among other things. There’s also one on how the mother’s diet affects
the infant, although you haven’t said whether or not you intend to
nurse him… or her. However, your diet affects him now, so you can’t
be too careful. Then there’s the book on what one can expect from
infants from birth to their first year, then–“

She threw up her hands and walked away, saying, “I give up.”

“Good.” He straightened and strode to where one of the salesmen
hovered. “We’d like this set to be delivered as soon as possible.”
Craig pulled out his checkbook. “You’ll take a check, I presume.”

“On a local bank?”

“Certainly, sir.” The salesman walked over to the counter and began to
figure the tax and total. “Craig!” Tess snapped at his elbow.

He looked at her and smiled. “Yes, dear?” He hoped that sounded
solicitous and husbandly enough. “I don’t think we should do this.”

“What you said was that you didn’t feel we should spend the money. I
understand. You’ve carefully budgeted and this wasn’t part of it.
However, I haven’t been given the opportunity to budget so this is my
contribution to the household. Fair enough?” She shook her head.

With his most forlorn look, he said, “You’re going to consign me to
that couch?” He rubbed his lower back. “There’s no sense in both of
us suffering from back pains, is there? Especially when mine can he
alleviated. And just think. As long as I’m lying there beside you, I
can give you back rubs to help ease

any discomfort you might have. Now if that isn’t working everything
out efficiently, I don’t know what is.”

She turned away before she said something she’d later regret. Besides,
the salesman was approaching them once again.

‘ They were driving back to the condo before Craig said, “You’re being
awfully quiet. Arc you okay?” “Not really.” “What’s wrong.”

“Tm feeling pressured, pushed and manipulated, and I really don’t like
the feeling.”

You had to ask, he thought to himself. “Yeah. I can see where you
could be feeling some of that–maybe the pressured and pushed part. I’m
having a little trouble with the manipulated part, though.”

“You wanted the bed. You got the bed. You even made it sound like it
was the only reasonable thing for us to do.”

“It wasn’t?”

“We’re not playing house, Craig. We’re not back in elementary school.
This isn’t about where to build the clubhouse and how big it needs to
be, and what kind of restrictions for new members we’ll make up.” “I
know that.”

“Then why are you treating this like a game?” “In what way am I
treating it like a game?”

“Maybe game’s the wrong word, okay? You’re treating it like one of
your adventures. None of this is real to you. We find out I’m
pregnant, so you decide to become the hero and rescue me. Craig, I
don’t need rescuing, can you understand that?”

“Because you’re tough, right? You don’t need anybody… you’ve never
needed anybody. Who do I think I am, anyway?” he replied, pulling
into the garage. He got out of the car and walked around to her door.
She was already pushing it open. He held out his hand and she looked
at it for a long moment before slowly reaching out and grasping it.

With a steady pressure he eased her from the car until she was standing
a few inches away from him. “Was that so difficult to do?”

She could feel the trembling that had started-deep within her in the
store increase. He hadn’t let go of her hand. Instead he continued to
hold it while he draped his other arm around her shoulders and pulled
her closer so that her nose was pressed into the curve between his
shoulder and neck.

“You really don’t have to convince me you can do this on your own. I
know you can, but thank God you don’t have to. Please let me be a part
of this, okay? I’m not trying to rush you into some kind of
relationship with me you don’t want. So maybe the bed wasn’t the
greatest idea, but I’m not trying to take advantage of you, or Planning
to make any moves on you.” He leaned back to see her face, saying,
“Not unless I’m encouraged to do so, of course.”

She wouldn’t look at him, nor did she answer.

He dropped his arms from around her and walked over to the door into
the house. After holding it for her, he followed her inside.

“Look, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but once you start
putting on weight you might have a little more difficulty getting
around. What if you slipped and fell some night getting to the
bathroom and I wasn’t upstairs to know that you’d fallen?”

“Believe me, you’d hear it. You’d probably think the ceiling was
falling through–probably mistake it for another earthquake,” she
replied in a shaky voice.

He smiled, following her into the den and watching her needlessly
straighten the magazines on the coffee table. “See there? You didn’t
lose your sense of humor… just misplaced it for a little while. It’s
going to be all right. All of this.” He took her hand and coaxed her
to sit down on the sofa beside him. He stroked her cheek. “Remember
me? I’m your best friend, not some stranger trying to muscle in on
your nice, orderly life. What I think you may be missing here is that
I need to be a part of this.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, as though gathering inner strength.
“We’re not a hundred percent certain I’m even pregnant, Craig. I just
feel we’re rushing things a little, don’t you?”

“You know the truth, though, don’t you? Just as I do. That’s what
called me back home. That’s why you reluctantly agreed to let me move
in with you. We both know what the doctor is going to say next
week.”

She leaned back against the sofa and sighed. “It all a little
overwhelming at the moment, I guess.”

“I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we watch some o] movies tonight. You
have a great collection. We sha: a lot of favorites, you know. As for
feeling manipulated, if you don’t want me sleeping upstairs with yo I
won’t.” He patted the sofa. “It will take some ge ting used to, but I
can deal with this. You’ll need tl larger bed in a few months,
anyway.”

“It isn’t about the bed, Craig. It’s about being part of the
decision-making process. You’re used t being on your own, so you’ve
never felt the need t consult anyone else. You weigh your options an
make a decision. I understand that because I’ve live the same way, You
would not like it if I was makin decisions that you had to live with
without my cot suiting you, would you?”

“No. You’re right. I wouldn’t be comfortable i that sort of
situation. I suppose, in my own de fens I’m carrying on this way
because I’m afraid that if leave it up to you, you won’t allow me any
part your life, or the baby’s. You don’t want to man me… you are
merely tolerating my living with you. feel as though I have to fight
to maintain any cont ac with my own child. I guess I’m not handling it
ver well .” ‘

“Obviously neither am I or you wouldn’t be feeling so threatened by
all of this. At least we’re admitting we both have fears going into
this. I think that’s a good sign.”

“I never thought of it in those terms.”

“Of course not. No self-respecting male is ever going to admit to
being afraid of anything!” She patted his cheek consolingly and they
both laughed. When she sobered, Tess added, “You and I both know that
we can’t share the same bed without adding tension to our relationship.
I’m not certain I’m ready to add anything more in my life to deal with
at the moment.”

He held his hand in the oath-making position. “I do solemnly swear to
keep my distance when we are in bed together. I will not venture past
my half of the mattress unless I’m specifically invited. If I break
any of these promises, you can send me back to this sofa for the
duration.” He tilted his head inquiringly. “Fair enough?”

She studied him carefully before holding out her hand. “It’s a deal.”
They solemnly shook on their new agreement.

Chapter Five

It was during her fourth month cheCkup that they found out the rest of
the story.

“Twins?” she repeated, staring at the doctor.

“That’s right. There’s two of them. No doubt about it.”

Tess left the doctor’s office dazed by his news. She was more shocked
than when he’d confirmed her pregnancy two months ago. After all,
she’d had a little time to get used to the idea before she’d seen him.
But twins? This was news she’d never expected to receive. What in the
world was she going to do?

Craig was out on a shoot today. She hurried home hoping to have some
time to herself before she had to face him. She already knew that he
would want to know everything she’d found out from the doctor, just as
he had after each visit. He threatened to go with her if she didn’t
make a full report.

It was amazing how her life had changed in two short months. In some
ways it seemed as though she’d been pregnant forever, and in others,
that Craig had moved in only a week or so ago.

True to his promise, he hadn’t badgered her about marrying him. He’d
also made certain that he didn’t

take advantage of the fact that they were now sharing a bed.

She seemed to be more affected than he was. Sharing the bedroom had
increased the intimacy between them, even though Craig was considerate
about allowing her privacy. He, on the other hand, didn’t appear the
least self-conscious about her seeing him in all stages of undress. He
slept in a pair of jogging shorts, he explained, since he didn’t own a
pair of pajamas and didn’t intend to buy any. That was his only
concession to her modesty.

She supposed she was getting more used to sharing her space with him,
if that was what he’d hoped to accomplish. There were times when she
couldn’t figure Craig out. Lately she made less effort to try.

She let herself into the house. The doctor had warned her that her
need for sleep would increase. He’d been right. She tired much easier
now. She could just imagine what she would be doing in another month
or so, carrying twins!

She went upstairs and changed out of her clothes and into her
comfortable robe. She’d take a quick nap and then start dinner so that
it would be ready when Craig got home. That was the last thought she
had before waking up some time later with the most delicious smells
wafting Up from the kitchen.

Craig was home.

She sat up on the side of the bed, knowing better than to get up too
quickly. Her body had certainly let it be known that she could no
longer spring out of bed without falling on her nose.

She also knew to take it slow and easy down the stairs. When she
walked into the kitchen Craig stood at the stove with his back to her.
He must have heard her because he glanced over his shoulder and smiled
at her. “Hi, sleepyhead. How’s it going?”

She promptly yawned, then sat down at the bar. “Fine.”

“That’s all the doctor said? You’re fine?”

She grinned. “Actually he did add another word.”

Craig walked around the bar and gave her a hug,

another thing she was getting used to. “What word?” “Twins.”

She watched his face as the word and its meaning registered. He sat on
the stool beside her, just staring at her. The silence stretched
between them. “Twins?”

he finally said slowly. “Uh-huh.” “Oh my God.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

They sat there staring at each other in silence. Then he grinned.
“He’s sure?”

“Positive.”

“Wow,” he whispered after another long pause. “You know what this
means, don’t you?”

“We double everything we have on the list for a newborn?”

take advantage of the fact that they were now sharing a bed.

She seemed to be more affected than he was. Sharing the bedroom had
increased the intimacy between them, even though Craig was considerate
about allowing her privacy. He, on the other hand, didn’t appear the
least self-conscious about her seeing him in all stages of undress. He
slept in a pair of jogging shorts, he explained, since he didn’t own a
pair of pajamas and didn’t intend to buy any. That was his only
concession to her modesty.

She supposed she was getting more used to sharing her space with him,
if that was what he’d hoped to accomplish. There were times when she
couldn’t figure Craig out. Lately she made less effort to try.

She let herself into the house. The doctor had warned her that her
need for sleep would increase. He’d been right. She tired much easier
now. She could just imagine what she would be doing in another month
or So, carrying twins!

She went upstairs and changed out of her clothes and into her
comfortable robe. She’d take a quick nap and then start dinner so that
it would be ready when Craig got home. That was the last thought she
had before waking up some time later with the most delicious smells
wafting Up from the kitchen.

Craig was home.

She sat up on the side of the bed, knowing better than to get up too
quickly. Her body had certainly let it be known that she could no
longer spring out of bed without falling on her nose.

She also knew to take it slow and easy down the stairs. When she
walked into the kitchen Craig stood at the stove with his back to her.
He must have heard her because he glanced over his shoulder and smiled
at her. “Hi, sleepyhead. How’s it going?”

She promptly yawned, then sat down at the bar. “Fine.”

“That’s all the doctor said? You’re fine?”

She grinned. “Actually he did add another word.”

Craig walked around the bar and gave her a hug,

another thing she was getting used to. “What word?” “Twins.”

She watched his face as the word and its meaning registered. He sat on
the stool beside her, just staring at her. The silence stretched
between them. “Twins?”

he finally said slowly. “Uh-huh.” “Oh my God.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

They sat there staring at each other in silence. Then he grinned.
“He’s sure?”

“Positive.”

“Wow,” he whispered after another long pause. “You know what this
means, don’t you?”

“We double everything we have on the list for a newborn?”

“That, too. But I’m talking about the future. We’re going to have to
find a larger place to live. We. can’t have our children jammed into
that little bedroom for long. We’ve got some time, but it wouldn’t
hurt to start looking.”

“Craig… don’t. This place is as much as I can afford. I’ll be all
right here.”

He looked at her. “C’mon, Tess, don’t start that all over again. Will
you please get it through your head that I am not about to go off and
leave you to cope alone? I am fully prepared to play responsible
parent here. I’m also going to bring up the dreaded M-word again.
Haven’t I convinced you that we’re going to make this work? I’m happy
doing what I do here. I’m not making any demands on you. I–“

“I know that. It’s just–” She didn’t know anymore. She was so tired
of trying to deal with everything she was feeling.

“What is it, honey? What are you so afraid of?” “I don’t know!
Everything, I guess. But you’re right. You’ve been wonderful to me
these past few months, shamelessly pampering me. All I do is eat and
sleep and get fatter and be grouchy and–“

“But you’re supposed to eat and sleep and get fatter and you’re not
grouchy … unless you’re tired … or hungry… or–“

“See what I mean? Face it. I’m a grouch.”

“But you’re a lovable grouch. You know, I’ve been thinking that it’s
probably past time for me to confess to something.”

“What?” She was immediately suspicious.

“Has it ever occurred to you that the reason I came back from Tibet,
before I knew you were pregnant,

mind you, was to ask you to marry me?”

She chuckled. “No.”

“Has it ever occurred to you that I might have discovered the last time
I was here that I love you?”

“Now that I might believe since I love you, too. Why do you think I’m
having such a struggle dealing with all of this? I can’t forget how
adamant you sounded that night about not being the marrying kind. You
were very convincing.”

“That’s because I had convinced myself. But then we spent that night
together. It was a magical time, Tess. Like no other I’ve ever
experienced before. Now, to add to the magic, we find out that our
night together produced twins. Even if you hadn’t gotten pregnant,
being with you that night opened my eyes to a lot of things. I think
I’ve loved you for a long time and didn’t recognize it. But I
definitely recognized it after that night. I’ve been trying hard not
to rush you into anything, not to push you,” but Tess, I’ve gotta tell
you, lying beside you every night has been a real test of my
self-control. I made an oath to you and I won’t go back on it, but
what I want more

than anything is to be married to you, to be able to make love to you,
to plan for the future with you.”

“It’s been bothering you to sleep beside me every night and not make
love to me?”

“Hell, yes. I’m human, and you’re about the sexiest female I’ve ever
known. It just took me a few years to grow up enough to appreciate
that fact. I have to keep reminding myself that you are pregnant, that
you–“

“The doctor said it was all right for us to have relations for the next
few months, until the last several weeks.”

“You mean you asked him?”

“Maybe I hinted or something. I don’t remember, but he volunteered
that information. He said that a woman sometimes feels her strongest
urges now, when she knows she doesn’t have to worry about pregnancy.”

“And are you feeling some strong urges?”

“How should I know? I haven’t much experience in that department.”

He put his arms around her and nuzzled her neck. “We could certainly
experiment and find out, if you’d like… in the interest of science,
of course.”

His whispered words caused a shiver to run down her back.

“After we’re married, naturally,” he said, straightening. “What would
the children think if we became that intimate prior to the wedding
ceremony?”

“Craig, don’t be–“

“Why don’t I call the folks and have them fly over here? We can have a
private ceremony at the church. They’ll love it. I think they were
married there as well.” Before she could say anything he said, “Don’t
worry, I’ll take care of the details, you won’t have to do a thing but
show up.”

“Craig, you’re doing it again, making a decision for both of us without
listening to me.”

“Oops. You’re right. Absolutely right. It was the talk about sex
that scrambled my already rattled brain. Sorry.”

“However, in this case,.I happen to agree with you.”

“You do?”

“I’ve had to face the fact that the only reason I’ve resisted marrying
you was that I was afraid I’d become too attached to you. Then when
you left, I’d–“

“I am not leaving you. Will you please get that through your stubborn
head? You are going to get so sick and tired of my hanging around you
that you’ll plead and bribe me to go away and give you some space.”

“I can’t believe you think I’m sexy,” she muttered, and he laughed,
hugging her.

“Then you’ll marry me?” he asked softly.

She nodded. “With the understanding that if you decide you can’t take
it any longer, that you’ll tell me and we’ll work out some kind of
arrangement.”

“You’re already building in an escape hatch for me before we’re even
officially engaged?”

“I’m serious, Craig.”

“I don’t doubt that in the least, darling’. It’s just one of the many
reasons why I love you.”

“It’s not completely unheard of that you might want to travel again,
you know.”

“Then we’ll do it as a family. I’m not your father, Tess. I won’t
walk out on you, or die on you like your mother and grandmother did.
Let me prove that to you .” ‘

Mention of her father brought tears to her eyes and a great deal of
pain to her heart. Was that why she felt safer on her own, so that she
wouldn’t have to trust anyone else?

“Have I ever gone back on my word to you?” he asked.

“No.”

“I’m not going to start now.” He returned to the stove and began to
place food on their plates. “We’re going to do just fine together.
Wait and see.”

Phil and Susan Jamison were the only witnesses to their wedding ten
days later. The pastor married them in his study, pleased that they
had made this decision.

Susan was bubbling over with suggestions. She wanted to rush out and
purchase all the baby furniture they could possibly use. She wanted
them to immediately look for a home to buy. She wanted to plan a time
for her to come over and help to care for the newborns.

Phil finally had to calm her down, gently pointing out that Craig and
Tess appeared to have everything under control.

They flew back to Phoenix that afternoon, Susan still offering helpful
hints to the mother-to-be as they were boarding. Tess could only
laugh.

“I’m glad you find her amusing,” Craig said, escorting her back to the
car park. “Can you imagine what she would be like if they were still
living next door? She’d probably be knocking on the door each morning
to make sure you’d taken your vitamins and milk.”

“I’ve known your mother as long as I’ve known you and I have never seen
her this excited.”

“I know. It was the thought of twins that put her into orbit. You
would think they were the first pair ever to be born.”

“She also seemed to be relieved that we decided to get married.”

“I know.”

He put her into the car, then walked around to the driver’s side.
“We!!” Mrs. Jamison,” he said, once

they were away from the airport, “What would you like to do next on
your wedding day?”

“It’s been a rather full day. Would it be all right to go home and
have an early night?”

“Are you uncomfortable? Do you think you over-did it today? Are you
having any pain?”

“No. Now you’re beginning to sound like your mother, Craig.”

“Heaven forbid.”

“Let’s just have a quiet evening at home.”

She was already half-asleep when he walked out of the bathroom and
crawled into bed without saying anything.

“Craig?”

“Mmm?”

“We’re married now.”

“Did you think it might slip my mind?”

“You don’t have to hug that side of the bed anymore.”

“I thought you were tired.”

“I’m not that tired.”

He reached out and pulled her into his arms. As soon as she touched
him she realized how aware of her he was. His heart was racing and his
body radiated heat. “What a faker you are,” she whispered, amused.
“Pretending to be so nonchalant about tonight. “Obviously your body is
anticipating something.” She touched his rigid length and giggled.

“I’ve grown used to the condition. It set in permanently a couple of
months ago.” “You never said anything.” “No.” “I’m glad.”

“That I didn’t say anything?”

“That you want me. I thought that I was no longer appealing to you.”

“If you were any more appealing, I’d explode, which is still a very
real possibility.”

She turned to him, pressing herself against him. “Let’s see if I can
remember any of those things you taught me last spring.”

From his reaction, she seemed to have remembered quite well.

The sound of a door quietly closing pulled Craig from a deep,
satisfying sleep. He opened his eyes and peered at his watch. It was
a little after five. Daylight was on the horizon but it was much too
early to think about getting up.

He’d gotten used to Tess leaving their shared bed around this time each
morning. Mother Nature deft-nitely had her way when a woman was
pregnant.

He doubled his pillow, propping himself up, waiting for Tess to return
to bed. When she opened the bathroom door a few minutes later, he
smiled at her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

He held out his arm to her. “Doesn’t matter. Come here, you, and let
me hold you. It’s much too early to get up.”

She eyed him warily. “You’re certainly in a good mood this morning.”
She carefully lowered herself back into bed, then relaxed against his
shoulder with a contented sigh.

“It’s amazing how a good night’s sleep can put a fella into a terrific
mood. I haven’t slept so well in months.” He placed his hand
possessively over her protruding stomach, still smiling.

“Oh? You always looked like you were sleeping all right to me. What
was wrong?”

“Oh, I was probably asleep but my erotic dreams definitely disturbed my
rest. Now I can admit it. Being in bed with you and not touching you
was sheer hell.”

“You’re the one who set those rules, you know.”

“Would you have let me stay here with you without them?”

“I don’t know, to be honest. Things were happening a little too fast
for me about that time. You may not have noticed but I was feeling a
tremendous amount of pressure.”

“Oh, I noticed,” he replied with a grin.

He rubbed her shoulders, turning her into him even more so that he
could stroke her back, kneading the muscles in the lower back area. He
was rewarded with a soft crooning sound from Tess.

“I’ve been afraid to offer to rub your back for fear you’d think I was
using that as an excuse to get my hands on you.”

She looked at him, her eyes wide. “Me? Suspect your sterling motives?
How could I possibly do that?”

Her teasing was greeted with a kiss that grew rather lengthy and
provoked him into forgetting about the back rub.

Their lovemaking was lazy, full of exploration and discovery without
being rushed. He loved bringing Tess to peaks of pleasure, basking in
his power to provide her with these passionate gifts. He’d never known
that the act could be so enthralling when he was with someone he loved
as much as he loved Tess.

He would never tire of expressing his love to her and for her.

Later that morning, after a leisurely breakfast, they went out to work
on her garden. While he was diligently pulling weeds away from her
blooms, Craig asked, “Did you ever think about us being together like
this when we were growing up?”

Tess sat back on her heels and adjusted her wide-brimmed sun hat. “If
I ever did, I must have forgotten it by the time I was grown. You were
always my favorite person when we were growing up, though. I suppose
that should have been some kind of clue.”

He helped her to her feet and they sat down on the lounge chairs
arranged on the small, covered patio.

He poured them each a glass of iced lemonade. “I was sitting here
thinking about the communication system we had at one time. Do you
remember it?”

She laughed. “Of course. You strung twine from your bedroom window to
mine with a bell attached to either end. Whenever we wanted the
other’s attention-“

“We’d pull on the twine. Yeah. I hadn’t thought about that in
years.”

“i wonder why it never occurred to us that the pone would have worked
just as well. Remember all the elaborate hand signals we had to
use?”

“I remember I used to be teased by my buddies for teaching you some of
our codes.”

“You were always taking up for me.”

“I thought I was supposed to. After all, you were just a girl. You
couldn’t help it, of course. You needed a rugged male to protect
you.”

She leaned over and poked him in the ribs and he laughed. “Too bad no
one was protecting me from you!”

He took her hand and held it. “I want you to know that I’m not sorry
about the way things have worked out. Maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to
settle down years ago, but we’re both older now. We’ve each made a
life for ourselves. I think we bring a great deal to this
relationship. Just think of the stories we’ll be able to tell our
children.”

“You’ve almost got me convinced, Craig. Maybe things do have a way of
working out for people, after all.”

Chapter Six

Craig?”

“Mmm.”

“Something’s happening.”

“What? What is it?”

“I think my water broke.”

“Oh, no. It’s too soon. You can’t be going into labor. It’s–“

“Maybe you’d better call the doctor. His number is by the kitchen
telephone.”

Craig raced downstairs and made the phone call. By the time he
returned she was sitting up in bed. “He said he’d meet us at the
hospital.”

They stared at each other in dismay.

“I’ve got to change my gown. And I’m going to need something to stop
this–“

“Hang on. I’ll get it.” He disappeared into the bathroom and was soon
back. Then he found her another gown. “Do you have a bag packed?”

“No. I didn’t think I’d need one just yet.” “Don’t worry. I can
always bring you something.” He lifted her gown over her head,
‘dropped the dry one over it, found her robe and wrapped her in it,
then for good measure, placed the comforter around her as well.

“I’ll carry you to’ the car.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. You aren’t going to be able to get your
arms around all of this.”

“Sure I will. Just watch.” He scooped her up as though she weighed
nothing, tucking the comforter around her before going down the
stairs.

Craig fought to stay call as they drove to the hospital. Luckily at
that time of night, or early morning, there was little traffic. He
pulled up at the emergency entrance and said, “Stay right there. I’ll
be right back.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.”

The medics soon appeared with a rolling stretcher. They eased her out
of the car and onto the stretcher. Once inside Craig gave admitting
information at the desk while they wheeled Tess into one of the
examining rooms.

When Craig went to look for her, one of the nurses stopped him.

“They’ve taken your wife upstairs to the OB ward, Mr. Jamison. The
doctor is already there.” She gave him directions to that floor.

When he stepped off the elevator, he looked around for the nurses’ desk
and explained why he was there. They pointed him to the waiting
room.

“You don’t understand. I’m supposed to be with her. I’m her coach. If
she’s actually going into labor I’ve got to be there.”

“The doctor will be with you in a moment, Mr. Jamison. Please wait
in there until he can speak with you.”

Craig looked around the stark waiting room with its blank television,
stacks of magazines and well-worn furniture. It was almost four
o’clock in the morning. Much too early to call his parents. Besides,
he had nothing to tell them at the moment.

He sank into one of the chairs. What seemed to be hours later, but in
fact was less than fifteen minutes, her doctor appeared in the doorway
wearing surgical scrubs. Craig recognized him from the last few visits
when he’d driven Tess.

“It’s too soon for the babies, isn’t it?” he asked, immediately moving
toward the door.

“We’ll see, but we don’t have much of a choice but to go ahead now.
We’re going to have to do a caesarean

“Is she going to be all right?”

“She’s hanging in there. Of course she’s upset, but that’s to be
expected.”

“What caused her water to break? Was it something we could have
prevented?”

“No, not at all. These things just happen, sometimes.”

“I thought I’d be with her through this part of it.”

“Unfortunately that isn’t possible. I’ll be back to discuss everything
with you as soon as I know more.”

He nodded, then headed back through the swinging doors that led to the
delivery rooms.

Craig had never felt more helpless in his life. Or more scared. He
wanted to be with Tess. He wanted to reassure her that everything was
going to be okay, even when he wasn’t certain he believed that,
himself.

He’d had six months with her. Only six months. That wasn’t enough
time. Look at all those years that he could have been with her and
hadn’t been.

He kept seeing her as that little girl with her hair in a ponytail, her
front teeth missing. If anyone could pull through this, Tess could.
She was a fighter. She’d show everybody.

And the twins? Could they survive such an early birth? He wanted them
so much, but not at the expense of losing Tess. He couldn’t imagine
his life without her. She was just now beginning to trust that he
loved her and would always be there for her.

It had taken him a long time to convince her of his total love and
acceptance of her. As she steadily grew in size, she’d been adamant
that nobody could possibly find her attractive, And yet she was
absolutely beautiful, like a rose at full bloom, ripe and voluptuous.

They’d found a house they wanted in an older part of Pasadena. It had
been built in a time of gracefulness and spaciousness. They had
discussed terms with

the owners, a couple who were retiring and who wanted to move closer
to their children.

Craig eXplained about the twins and that it was too near Tess’s time to
consider a move immediately. Because there wasn’t a compelling reason
for the older couple to leave right away, they agreed to postpone the
closing until after the twins were born.

What would he and Tess do if something happened to the twins? Their
lives had revolved around that notion for six months. He thought he
had Tess convinced of his sincerity about staying there with her. But
if she lost the babies, would she remember that? Or would she think
that he would want his freedom?

Freedom was what he’d always prized. It still was. Freedom meant
different things to different people. In his case, it was his choice
to curtail his photo-taking assignments and to remain with Tess.

He could no more imagine a life without Tess in it on a daily basis
than he could imagine life on another planet.

Craig could not sit still. He walked down the hallway and found a
coffee machine. He tried not to think about all the possibilities.
Instead he concentrated on a successful conclusion to this harrowing
night.

Almost two hours passed before the doctor reappeared. He looked as
though he’d been through a marathon race, but he was smiling.

“Is she all right?” were Craig’s first words.

The doctor nodded. “All of them are doing as well as can be expected.
I think we’re going to be able to pull the girls through. They’re
small, but all their signs are good.”

“Girls?”

The doctor held out his hand. “You’ve got a household of girls. You’d
better get used to lace and ribbons.”

Craig laughed, elated. “Are you kidding? If they’re anything like
their mother, they’ll be demanding footballs and track shoes!” He felt
almost giddy with relief. “Can I see Tess now?”

“I’m afraid not for several hours. She’s in recovery. We won’t place
her into her room until she’s fully conscious.”

“Does she know about the girls?”

“Not yet. We’ll tell her as soon as she comes around.” The doctor
glanced at his watch. “You’ve got time to get a few hours of sleep
before she’ll be able to have company. Why don’t you go on home?”

Craig took his advice, since it was less than fifteen minutes away, As
soon as he got home, he called his parents, alerting them to the news.
Then he fell across the bed and crashed, needing to deal with the idea
that their wait was over. He was asleep in minutes.

“Have you seen them?” Tess asked as soon as he stepped into her
room.

“You bet. Boy, does that one have your temper. She’s letting
everybody know that she isn’t at all happy about the way things are run
in there.” He leaned’ over and kissed her. She looked pale, but her
eyes were bright and her smile made him think of a child on Christmas
morning.

“Oh, Craig. Where did you get the flowers?”

He glanced down at the delicate arrangement. “At the florist’s
downstairs. You had to have something to remind you that you’re now a
mommy.” He placed the flowers beside the bed.

“Have you decided on names, yet?”

“Not really. We’ve talked about so many,” “How about Tiffany and
Crystal?”

She arched a brow. “Sounds like a couple of burlesque queens.”

“Come to think of it, that’s probably where I first heard them,” he
replied, grinning.

She shook her head. “You’re hopeless, you do know that, don’t you?”

He took her hand. “All I know is that I’ve never been so scared in all
my life than I was over this deal.” “Me, too. They’re so small,
Craig.”

“But healthy. The doctor’s reassured us on that one.” After a moment,
he said, “Is there anyone you want me to notify at your office?”

“That’s okay. I can call from here. It will be fun surprising
everybody with the news.”

“The doctor said you’re going to have to take it easy since you had
surgery. You’re not going to bounce back quite as quickly as you
planned.”

“It doesn’t really matter. After all, I’ve got a husband who’s going
to pamper us. You’ve done a good job of convincing me that you can
take care of us.”

“Will wonders never cease? Does this mean that the self-reliant Tess
Cassidy has officially tossed away all her reservations about hanging
on to her independence? Gee, I must have done something fight.”

“You have. You’ve taught me about the kind of dad I never had. My
girls are very lucky to have you in their life.”

“Then you won’t care if I teach them how to take photographs and wander
the world with me looking for the next great shot?”

“Not as long as I’m along for the trip.”

“Never fear, my love. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Annette Broadrick Books

Whimzy View All →

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