If the stick turns pink, p.1

If the Stick Turns Pink..., page 1

 

If the Stick Turns Pink...
 


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If the Stick Turns Pink...


  “Well, we did it.”

  “We did half of it,” Melanie replied, and to her surprise felt the warmth of a blush stealing over her cheeks. “I have now officially saved you from the claws of the crown-crazed single women of Foxrun. Now all you have to do is fulfill your end of our bargain.”

  “You want me to get you pregnant right here? Right now?” Bailey said.

  Although he was teasing her, she saw the slight tension in his eyes, felt it radiating from him. Or was it that she was feeling tense about the wedding night to come?

  It was all a game of pretend, Melanie once again reminded herself. That was all it could ever be.

  Dear Reader,

  In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we have some wonderful stories for you this February from Silhouette Romance to guarantee that every day is filled with love and tenderness.

  DeAnna Talcott puts a fresh spin on the tale of Cupid, who finally meets her match in Cupid Jones Gets Married (#1646), the latest in the popular SOULMATES series. And Carla Cassidy has been working overtime with her incredibly innovative, incredibly fun duo, What if I’m Pregnant…? (#1644) and If the Stick Turns Pink… (#1645), about the promise of love a baby could bring to two special couples!

  Then Elizabeth Harbison takes us on a fairy-tale adventure in Princess Takes a Holiday (#1643). A glamour-weary royal who hides her identity meets the man of her dreams when her car breaks down in a small North Carolina town. In Dude Ranch Bride (#1642), Madeline Baker brings us strong, sexy Lakota Ethan Stormwalker, whose ex-flame shows up at his ranch in a wedding gown—without a groom! And in Donna Clayton’s Thunder in the Night (#1647), the third in THE THUNDER CLAN family saga, a single act of kindness changes Conner Thunder’s life forever….

  Be sure to come back next month for more emotion-filled love stories from Silhouette Romance. Happy reading!

  Mary-Theresa Hussey

  Senior Editor

  If the Stick Turns Pink…

  CARLA CASSIDY

  To Darlene, the daughter of my heart.

  Thank you for the joy you bring to my life.

  Books by Carla Cassidy

  Silhouette Romance

  Patchwork Family #818

  Whatever Alex Wants… #856

  Fire and Spice #884

  Homespun Hearts #905

  Golden Girl #924

  Something New #942

  Pixie Dust #958

  The Littlest Matchmaker #978

  The Marriage Scheme #996

  Anything for Danny #1048

  *Deputy Daddy #1141

  *Mom in the Making #1147

  *An Impromptu Proposal #1152

  *Daddy on the Run #1158

  Pregnant with His Child… #1259

  Will You Give My Mommy a Baby? #1315

  ‡Wife for a Week #1400

  The Princess’s White Knight #1415

  Waiting for the Wedding #1426

  Just One Kiss #1496

  Lost in His Arms #1514

  An Officer and a Princess #1522

  More than Meets the Eye #1602

  ◊What If I’m Pregnant…? #1644

  ◊If the Stick Turns Pink… #1645

  Silhouette Shadows

  Swamp Secrets #4

  Heart of the Beast #11

  Silent Screams #25

  Mystery Child #61

  Silhouette Intimate Moments

  One of the Good Guys #531

  Try To Remember #560

  Fugitive Father #604

  Behind Closed Doors #778

  †Reluctant Wife #850

  †Reluctant Dad #856

  ‡Her Counterfeit Husband #885

  ‡Code Name: Cowboy #902

  ‡Rodeo Dad #934

  In a Heartbeat #1005

  ‡Imminent Danger #1018

  Strangers When We Married #1046

  **Man on a Mission #1077

  Born of Passion #1094

  **Once Forbidden… #1115

  **To Wed and Protect #1126

  **Out of Exile #1149

  Secrets of a Pregnant Princess #1166

  Silhouette Desire

  A Fleeting Moment #784

  Under the Boardwalk #882

  Silhouette Books

  Shadows 1993

  “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

  The Loop

  Getting It Right: Jessica

  Silhouette Yours Truly

  Pop Goes the Question

  The Coltons

  Pregnant in Prosperino

  CARLA CASSIDY

  is an award-winning author who has written over fifty books for Silhouette. In 1995, she won Best Silhouette Romance from Romantic Times for Anything for Danny. In 1998, she also won a Career Achievement Award for Best Innovative Series from Romantic Times.

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Prologue

  Be careful what you wish for…it just might come true. The old adage whirled through Melanie Jenkins’s mind as, with trembling fingers, she removed the pregnancy test from the drugstore sack.

  Six weeks ago she had made a wish and prayed that she’d get pregnant and have a baby. With no romance in her life and no Mr. Right on the horizon, she’d come up with a plan to ensure that she would attain her wish.

  Once she took the home-pregnancy test, she’d know within three minutes if her wish had been granted. The only problem was that she was no longer certain she wanted her wish to come true.

  If she was pregnant, then she lost the man she loved. If she wasn’t pregnant, she got to continue to live with the man she loved but wouldn’t have her dream of a baby.

  She took the test instrument out of the package, wishing she could go back and change all the rules. But she couldn’t. She was the one who had set the rules, and it wasn’t fair to change them now, after the fact.

  So, what did she wish now? It didn’t seem to matter. No matter what the results of the test revealed, ultimately she’d lose something.

  “Well,” she muttered to herself, “let’s see if the stick turns pink….”

  Chapter One

  Melanie Watters would never have thought about it had she not seen him naked. “Him” was Bailey Jenkins, her very best friend and confidant.

  Every day for the past few weeks she and Bailey had met at his pond after work for a late-afternoon swim. Today she was earlier than usual. There had been no school that day. Instead, the day had been scheduled for parent-teacher appointments. By two o’ clock Melanie had met with all her little students’ parents, and her work was finished until later in the evening.

  She’d changed into her bathing suit in the school rest room, then had driven directly to Bailey’s.

  His familiar maroon pickup truck was parked in front of his attractive white ranch house, but instead of going to the house, she headed for his office in the barn.

  As the only veterinarian in the small town of Foxrun, Bailey could usually be found in the barn either sitting at his computer doing paperwork or caring for an animal who’d been brought in to him.

  He wasn’t there, nor was he in the house, so she headed down the lane toward the pasture and the pond that had for the past several weeks provided cool relief against the unusual heat of early summer.

  As she drew closer to the pond, she heard the sound of splashing, but the thick blackberry bushes directly in front of her obscured her view of the water.

  She
worked her way around the blackberry bushes and froze as Bailey came into view. He stood on the end of a small, wooden pier. His back was to her and it was obvious he’d been skinny-dipping.

  The late-afternoon sun played on his broad, tanned shoulders and slim waist and emphasized the musculature of his buttocks and legs. Melanie gasped and ducked back behind the bushes, her heart pounding a strange rhythm in her chest.

  She’d always known, someplace in the back of her mind, that Bailey had a decent physique, but she’d never realized quite how utterly fine it was.

  “Stop it,” she commanded herself. This was Bailey…Bailey, the best friend who had held her head while she’d thrown up when she was sixteen and learned about sloe gin fizzes the hard way.

  This was Bailey, the confidant who had heard all her fears when her mother had been diagnosed with cancer a year ago, a cancer that thankfully was now in remission.

  Okay, she had just gotten a startling reminder that Bailey was not only her best friend but pure male, as well. She drew several deep breaths to steady her suddenly racing pulse, then cried out, “Hey, Bailey, are you out here?”

  “Mellie…hang on a minute, I’m not decent,” Bailey’s deep voice returned.

  “You’re never decent,” she replied, striving for the teasing tone that had always marked their relationship, trying desperately to forget what she had just seen.

  “Okay,” he replied a second later. “Come on around.”

  She rounded the blackberry bushes to see him standing on the pier, this time clad in a pair of cutoff jeans shorts.

  “You’re early,” he observed as he sat on the edge of the dock with his feet dangling in the water.

  She moved onto the dock and sat down next to him. “We had parent-teacher appointments all day and I finished up early. I’ve got to go back later this evening for several appointments with parents who work during the day.”

  Had his chest always been so broad with just the right amount of dark springy hair sprinkled in the center? Why had she never noticed before?

  “So, did you get a chance to speak with Johnny Anderson’s parents about his behavior problems?”

  Melanie scowled. “According to his mother he has no behavior problems. He’s just spunky and full of life.”

  Bailey laughed, his dark-blue eyes crinkling pleasantly at the corners. “Did you tell Mrs. Anderson that little Johnny has all the makings of a first-rate criminal?”

  Melanie pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, carefully keeping her gaze schooled away from Bailey. “He’s only seven, there’s time to save him. I’ve just decided to commit myself to spending extra time and effort on him even if he won’t be in my class next year.”

  From the corner of her eye she saw Bailey shake his head ruefully. “You have a lot more patience than I do, Mellie. Someday you’ll make a terrific mother.”

  His words sent a swift shaft of pain through her. When? she wanted to shout. When will I ever get a chance to be a mother? She was twenty-nine years old and wasn’t even dating anyone.

  “Come on.” Bailey rose gracefully to his feet and held out his hand to her. “Let’s swim off the frustrations of the day.”

  She allowed him to pull her up from her sitting position, then took off her oversize T-shirt, and together they dove into the cool pond.

  For the next hour they raced around the pond and took turns dunking each other. Where always before Melanie found the afternoon swim relaxing, today was different.

  Everything was different because she’d seen Bailey naked. For the first time she noticed how the overhead sun pulled red glints from his dark-brown hair, how his smile caused a dimple to dance by the corner of his sensual lips.

  They had been best friends since the second grade, and other than for a few weeks in high school she’d never thought of Bailey as a male…he’d simply been Bailey. But now she was faced with the startling realization that Bailey was not only male, but a hunky, highly attractive male at that. And that knowledge was making strange thoughts sweep through her mind.

  “That felt great,” Bailey said as he flopped down on his back on the dock.

  “It did feel good,” Melanie agreed as she pulled her T-shirt back on. “So, how was your day?”

  “Horrible,” he said without hesitation. “My life has become a nightmare ever since they announced at the town meeting two nights ago that I’m the judge for the Miss Dairy Cow Contest.”

  The Miss Dairy Cow Contest was a yearly beauty pageant held on the Fourth of July during a huge town celebration. “A nightmare how?”

  He rolled over on his side and propped an elbow beneath him. “Do you have any idea how many tiara-crazed young women and mothers there are in this town? I already have a fridge full of questionable casseroles that have been delivered since the meeting.”

  Melanie laughed. “That’s not all bad. I’d rather eat a questionable casserole any day than anything you’ve attempted to cook.”

  “Ha-ha, very funny,” he replied dryly, and sat up. “But, I’m serious, I think this situation is going to get way out of control. Cindy Canfield brought in her cat this afternoon, said she thought little Buffy was depressed, then she spent the next thirty minutes telling me all the reasons why she should be Miss Dairy Cow. Blanche Withers actually did a dramatic reading for me in the middle of the grocery store last night.”

  Melanie giggled. “The pageant is a big deal, not only because of the pretty tiara and all the public appearances throughout the year, but doesn’t the winner also get a car?”

  “Yeah, a pink convertible, and there’s a thousand-dollar cash prize, too. High stakes, and already the eligible women in this town are starting to show signs of Miss Dairy Cow madness.”

  “I guess it doesn’t help that last year’s winner went Hollywood.” A friend of a friend had sent a picture of Rachel Warner, last year’s Miss Dairy Cow, to a modeling agency in California. The pretty young woman had recently been spotted in several national ads on television.

  “That’s definitely added to the fever pitch this year,” he replied.

  “And just think, there’s still more than a month left before the pageant.”

  Bailey groaned. “Don’t remind me. For all I know at this very moment there’s an eager contestant in my bed willing to use her feminine wiles to gain the crown. Drat Tanner Rothman’s hide,” he exclaimed.

  Melanie knew Tanner Rothman had initially been chosen to be the judge of the pageant this year. Tanner, a handsome rancher who lived on the spread next to Bailey’s, had dropped out when he’d gotten married two weeks before.

  “I met his new wife the other day,” Melanie said. “Colette. She’s really nice. She’s opening a baby shop in the old feed store over on Main.”

  “I still can’t believe Tanner gave up the brotherhood of bachelorhood,” Bailey said. He shook his head, then continued. “Next year I intend to suggest to the pageant committee that they choose a married man to be the judge.”

  The idea that had been germinating from the moment she’d spied Bailey naked began to blossom in Melanie’s head. “Too bad you aren’t married now. You’re not only one of the most eligible bachelors in town, but now you’re an eligible bachelor with power. A heady combination.”

  “You’re telling me,” he exclaimed. He picked up the wristwatch that was lying on the dock and eyed it. “I’ve got to get back. I’ve got a couple of animals who need to be checked on.”

  She nodded and together they got up and began the long walk down the lane toward the house in the distance. Thoughts flew through Melanie’s head…crazy thoughts.

  She tried desperately to concentrate on the scent of grass and sun-baked pasture mingling with early summer wildflowers that filled the air. She tried unsuccessfully to focus on anything but where her thoughts were taking her.

  “I know how to solve the problem of the single women of Foxrun throwing themselves at you,” she finally said, not giving herself a chance to change her mind
about what she was about to suggest.

  “And what’s that?”

  “Marry me.”

  He snorted. “Yeah, right. Ruin my life because of one stinkin’ beauty pageant.”

  “Thanks a lot,” Melanie said, unable to help the small stab of pain that shot through her at his words.

  He must have heard the hurt in her voice and he stopped walking and grabbed her hands in his. Despite the fact that he had held her hands a thousand times before, this time Melanie’s heart fluttered at his touch.

  “Mellie, you know I didn’t mean that the way it sounded,” he protested, his eyes as blue as the cloudless sky overhead. “And you know how I feel about marriage. Never again.” He dropped her hands and continued walking.

  Melanie hurried to catch up with him. “But this would be different,” she exclaimed. “For one thing, it wouldn’t be forever.”

  Bailey stopped walking once again and faced her, his features radiating confusion. “What are you talking about?”

  “A temporary marriage for mutual benefit.” She wondered if he had any idea how attractive he looked with his dark hair wet and slicked back to expose his firmly chiseled features.

  However, he stared at her as if she’d completely and irrevocably lost her mind. “Not that I’m even considering such insanity, but remind me again, what kind of mutual benefit this marriage would give us?”

  “For you, it would relieve some of the onslaught by overeager contestants. No woman is going to show up in your bed if you’re a married man.”

  “And what do you get out of this arrangement?”

  She hesitated a moment. “We’d stay married until after the Miss Dairy Cow pageant and…until you give me a baby.”

  “Good grief, have you lost your mind?” He turned and stalked off, and once again Melanie hurried to catch up to him.

  “It would only be a temporary marriage,” she continued. “We’d marry as friends and divorce as friends. You get a reprieve from the tiara-hungry single women in town, and I get pregnant.”

  “I don’t want to talk about this. The whole idea is insane.” They had reached her car, parked in front of the barn, and he leaned against the front fender. “Mellie, I’m not the man for the job you have in mind.”

 
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