A bride for jackson powe.., p.1

A Bride for Jackson Powers (Desire, 1273), page 1

 

A Bride for Jackson Powers (Desire, 1273)
 


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A Bride for Jackson Powers (Desire, 1273)


  Men bound by blood, tied to the sea

  and destined to be heroes.

  Meet the Powers men:

  Jackson Powers. Maritime lawyer. Rich, handsome and stranded with baby in A Bride for Jackson Powers by Dixie Browning, a 2/00 Silhouette Desire title.

  Matthew Powers. Sea captain, forefather. Strong, honorable and married for convenience in The Paper Marriage by Bronwyn Williams, an 8/00 Harlequin Historicals novel.

  Curt Powers. Navy SEAL. Arresting, determined and involved in a dangerous mission of the most private nature in The Virgin and the Vengeful Groom by Dixie Browning, an 11/00 Silhouette Desire title.

  Don’t miss this exciting new series from

  Silhouette Desire and Harlequin Historicals!

  Dear Reader,

  In keeping with the celebration of Silhouette’s 20th anniversary in 2000, what better way to enjoy the new century’s first Valentine’s Day than to read six passionate, powerful, provocative love stories from Silhouette Desire!

  Beloved author Dixie Browning returns to Desire’s MAN OF THE MONTH promotion with A Bride for Jackson Powers, also the launch title for the series THE PASSIONATE POWERS. Enjoy this gem about a single dad who becomes stranded with a beautiful widow who’s his exact opposite.

  Get ready to be seduced when Alexandra Sellers offers you another sheikh hero from her SONS OF THE DESERT miniseries with Sheikh’s Temptation. Maureen Child’s popular series BACHELOR BATTALION continues with The Daddy Salute—a marine turns helpless when he must take care of his baby, and he asks the heroine for help.

  Kate Little brings you a keeper with Husband for Keeps, in which the heroine needs an in-name-only husband in order to hold on to her ranch. A fabulously sexy doctor returns to the woman he could never forget in The Magnificent M.D. by Carol Grace. And exciting newcomer Sheri WhiteFeather offers another irresistible Native American hero in Jesse Hawk: Brave Father.

  We hope you will indulge yourself this Valentine’s Day with all six of these passionate romances, only from Silhouette Desire!

  Enjoy!

  Joan Marlow Golan

  Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire

  A Bride for Jackson Powers

  DIXIE BROWNING

  For Curtiss Ann Matlock, my dearest friend,

  distant cousin and Oklahoma connection.

  We’ve put in a few airport hours together, too.

  Books by Dixie Browning

  Silhouette Desire

  Shadow of Yesterday #68

  Image of Love #91

  The Hawk and the Honey #111

  Late Rising Moon #121

  Stormwatch #169

  The Tender Barbarian #188

  Matchmaker’s Moon #212

  A Bird in the Hand #234

  In the Palm of Her Hand #264

  A Winter Woman #324

  There Once Was a Lover #337

  Fate Takes a Holiday #403

  Along Came Jones #427

  Thin Ice #474

  Beginner’s Luck #517

  Ships in the Night #541

  Twice in a Blue Moon #588

  Just Say Yes #637

  Not a Marrying Man #678

  Gus and the Nice Lady #691

  Best Man for the Job #720

  Hazards of the Heart #780

  Kane’s Way #801

  *Keegan’s Hunt #820

  *Lucy and the Stone #853

  *Two Hearts, Slightly Used #890

  †Alex and the Angel #949

  †The Beauty, the Beast and the Baby #985

  The Baby Notion #1011

  †Stryker’s Wife #1033

  Look What the Stork Brought #1111

  ‡The Passionate G-Man #1141

  ‡A Knight in Rusty Armor #1195

  Texas Millionaire #1232

  The Bride-in-Law #1251

  §A Bride for Jackson Powers #1273

  Silhouette Special Edition

  Finders Keepers #50

  Reach Out To Cherish #110

  Just Deserts #181

  Time and Tide #205

  By Any Other Name #228

  The Security Man #314

  Belonging #414

  Silhouette Romance

  Unreasonable Summer #12

  Tumbled Wall #38

  Chance Tomorrow #53

  Wren of Paradise #73

  East of Today #93

  Winter Blossom #113

  Renegade Player #142

  Island on the Hill #164

  Logic of the Heart #172

  Loving Rescue #191

  A Secret Valentine #203

  Practical Dreamer #221

  Visible Heart #275

  Journey to Quiet Waters #292

  The Love Thing #305

  First Things Last #323

  Something for Herself #381

  Reluctant Dreamer #460

  A Matter of Timing #527

  The Homing Instinct #747

  Silhouette Yours Truly

  Single Female (Reluctantly) Seeks…

  Silhouette Books

  Silhouette Christmas Stories 1987

  “Henry the Ninth”

  Spring Fancy 1994

  “Grace and the Law”

  World’s Most Eligible Bachelors

  ‡His Business, Her Baby

  DIXIE BROWNING

  celebrated her sixty-fifth book for Silhouette with the publication of Texas Millionaire in 1999. She has also written a number of historical romances with her sister under the name Bronwyn Williams. A charter member of Romance Writers of America, and a member of Novelists, Inc., Dixie has won numerous awards for her work. She lives on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  One

  Obviously, Jackson was doing it all wrong. He didn’t even know how to hold her. You’d think a man his age would’ve learned that much by now. She’d started to squeal and kick him in the belly.

  A few people glared at him. Most were too busy comparing hard-luck stories.

  “…catch a shuttle. If I’m not in D.C. by nine tomorrow—”

  “Fat chance. I’ve been standing here for the past three hours and the damned line hasn’t moved an inch, I swear.”

  “This place stinks. I mean literally! Last time I’m ever going to plan a trip this time of year, so help me. Hey, quit shoving, will you?”

  Two small boys broke through the line, whooping like wild animals. A middle-aged woman wearing sweats and a fur coat dropped a heap of carry-on luggage, flopped down on the pile and began to swear.

  Jax wanted to say, Yeah, well what if you were stuck here with a daughter you’d met only hours earlier, who doesn’t even speak the damned language? He sniffed. He had a pretty good idea what was stinking, and it wasn’t just the weather. He jiggled the damp, squirming baby in his arms, mumbling words that were supposed to be comforting, but didn’t appear to have that effect. Too bad babies didn’t come with an operations manual.

  Someone bumped him from behind and murmured a soft apology. The natives were getting restless. He’d heard of road rage. It was nothing compared to airport rage, given a holiday crowd and the ice storm of the century.

  “Whaddya mean, flight delayed? I gotta get outta here, dammit!” the man in front of him shouted. “Don’t nobody in this place know how to deice a plane? Buncha idiots, if you ask me!”

  Lines for the two flights serviced
from this particular desk had already merged into one unruly mob. He was being jostled from all sides.

  The sigh that came from behind him was almost lost in the clamor. Jax’s shoulders sagged as Sunny shifted from fret mode to shriek mode. Pink-shod feet, size zilch, kicked him in the belly. Poor kid must be miserable. He wondered how long it would take the dampness to soak through her padded pink snowsuit and all the layers it enclosed.

  Another sigh whispered behind him. He was tempted to turn around and snap out something really helpful, like, “You think you’ve got troubles? How’d you like to try mine on for size?”

  He shifted his burden, struggling to hold on to baby, briefcase, carrier and pink plastic diaper bag. Sunny was bored with the carrier, which was why he was carrying her in his arms. The thing was a damned nuisance, but Carolyn had said she needed it.

  “Shh, yeah, I know, babe, it’s a rough deal. I’ll get us out of here, don’t worry.” At this point he’d gladly take the first flight out, regardless of where it was bound.

  “Excuse me,” said a voice so soft he nearly missed it.

  “You talking to me?” He turned to the woman behind him in what had once been an orderly line.

  “I was wondering—do you know—I mean, I think your baby might need changing.”

  “So?” He wasn’t normally given to surliness, but these were not normal circumstances. “Sorry. Yeah, I kind of suspected as much.”

  The woman glanced around, probably searching for someone who looked like a wife and mother. There were plenty of likely looking candidates as far as age was concerned, only none of them belonged to him and Sunny.

  “Um…maybe I could hold your place in line while you…uh…”

  “Change her drawers? You mean right here?” Jax dodged as a utility cart beeped its way through the throng.

  “I’m pretty sure I saw a changing table in the ladies’ room.”

  “The ladies’ room. Now, why didn’t I think of that?” Jax’s conscience was broadsided by a pair of silver-gray eyes the size of half dollars. Sarcasm wasn’t going to help matters. Besides, she didn’t deserve it, she was only trying to help.

  It was the first thing he noticed about her, after the voice. Those eyes. Because it beat staring at the foulmouthed fathead in front of him, he took a moment to size up the rest. Either she was an elegant idiot or a model fresh off a tropical assignment. At first glance, her face struck him as too thin to be called pretty. Her skinny skirt, splashed with big, colorful blossoms, came down to her ankles and was topped off with a few baggy layers that wouldn’t stand a chance against this weather. He hoped to hell she had something warmer stashed away in a locker. That yellow thing draped around her shoulders wasn’t going to do the job.

  “Look, I’m really sorry, miss. I know you’re only trying to—” Suddenly Sunny lunged. The woman flung up her hands in an instinctive gesture to catch her.

  “I guess she’s hungry, too,” Jax said, a note of desperation edging into his voice. “I offered her a bottle, but she wasn’t interested.” He bounced the baby some more, the only noticeable effect of which was to make her pitiful cries waver.

  Where was his secretary when he needed her?

  Where was Sunny’s mother when he needed her?

  Hell, for that matter, where was any woman when a man really needed them? One thing he’d learned over the course of nearly four decades was that women were about as dependable as the weather. Nothing had ever happened to change his mind to any great degree.

  “This damned ice gets any thicker,” the guy in front grumbled, “we won’t get out of here till the Fourth of July. Where the hell is all this global warming when you need it, somebody wanna tell me that?”

  Jackson Powers, who answered to Jax, J.M. and Mr. Powers, came close to regretting the impulse that had made him race directly from his office to Norfolk International, where he’d taken a seat on the first plane headed west. Thank God he kept a razor and a toothbrush at his office. He’d stuffed those and the report he’d been working on into his briefcase.

  When he’d gotten the call from Carolyn Tribble, a woman with whom he’d had a short, pleasant fling out in San Diego about a year and a half ago, he’d been in the middle of negotiating the case of the single-hulled tanker, Panamanian registry, that had sunk off the Jersey coast back in October and was threatening the entire area with a massive oil spill. It had taken him a couple of minutes to place her.

  “Jackson, this is probably going to come as a surprise,” she’d said, “but you have a six-month-old daughter.”

  Surprise? Try stunned disbelief. Try instinctive denial. He never took chances when it came to sex. “What makes you think it’s mine?” he asked cautiously.

  “Well, hon, the timing, for one thing. You were the only man I slept with after I filed for divorce. I was real careful about that because Stu was having me followed. Anyway, right after you flew back east I came down with this flu thing that dragged on for weeks, and sex was the last thing I was interested in, so you see, she has to be yours. That’s why I put your name on her birth certificate. Besides, she’s got your forehead and all that thick black hair, and I’m a natural blonde, remember? We talked about it that night I—”

  “Look, are you sure about this? I always take precautions.”

  “Remember that night in the bathtub, when you got that big bruise on your—”

  “Okay, so maybe we slipped up once, but—”

  “Slipped down, actually. It’s a wonder we didn’t break our necks. And it was twice, in case you’ve forgotten the next morning. That’s when we saw your bruise, remember?”

  There was a long silence, during which Jax tried to recall the details of the encounter in question.

  “Um…a daughter, you say.” His mind had raced frantically, weaving the shocking news into a totally unrelated memory from the distant past. “Carolyn? You still there? Look, how about if we got married? I know it’s a little late, but—”

  “Oh, Jackson, you are so sweet! Thanks, but no thanks. That’s just what I’d have expected from you, though. You’re a genuine throwback, a real gentleman. What I was sort of hoping was that you’d already have a wife by now, and maybe you and she could…you know, like maybe adopt her? I mean, Sunny’s my baby, too, after all, and I do want the best for her.”

  “A daughter. I have a daughter,” he remembered repeating numbly, unable to absorb the impact.

  She had gone on to tell him all her reasons for not having an abortion, and how she’d honestly intended to be a wonderful mother, but that was before she’d become seriously involved with this guy from the State Department. “So you see, I’ll be traveling all over Europe the next few years, doing a lot of entertaining, and a baby’s not going to fit into that kind of life-style. What Sunny needs is two loving parents and a real home. Jax, that’s absolutely the only reason I’m putting her up for adoption, because she’s a perfect doll. You’ll adore her. Everyone does.”

  He started to speak, but she wasn’t finished. “So I thought I’d give you first choice, but if you can’t take her, I won’t have any trouble finding someone to adopt her. In that case, though, I’ll still need your signature.”

  That was Carolyn. Strikingly attractive, highly intelligent, totally self-centered. He wasn’t sure he could tolerate being married to her, but for the sake of their child he’d been willing to give it a shot.

  So now here he was, stuck in a socked-in airport in Chicago on his way back to Norfolk with a baby that had his forehead and his thick black hair.

  Jax’s hair was straight and laced with gray, while Sunny’s was soft as down and curly, but one look at that small pink face and he’d known. Known it in the marrow of his bones, or wherever such knowledge was centered. She was his, all right—toothless grin, fat pink cheeks, navy-blue eyes and all. His daughter.

  “I could take her for you.”

  “Huh?” His attention swerved to the tall, thin woman with the clear gray eyes and the quiet voice.
/>
  “Into the ladies’ room, I mean. To change her diaper. You could stand guard outside the door if you’re worried. Not that I’d blame you, because you read about things every day—kidnappings and all, I mean. And I’m a stranger, so it pays to be cautious.”

  Caution fought with desperation. Desperation won. “Shh, Sunny, it’s going to be all right.” After only a moment’s hesitation, Jax handed his daughter over to the woman in the long, flowered skirt, the thick-heeled sandals and the layers of baggy sweaters on top. He was no expert on women’s fashions. Most of the women he associated with in the course of his work wore tailored suits. As for the others—the ones he took to dinner, a show, and occasionally to bed—they always looked pretty, but he’d never spent much time analyzing what they wore.

  “Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind, I guess she’d be more comfortable. There’s powder and diapers and stuff in here—” He handed over the large pink bag and the carrier, then braced himself to wait. “Her name’s Sunny,” he called as an afterthought.

  He could only hope he was doing the right thing. What he knew about babies could be scratched on the head of a thumbtack.

  His daughter. That red-faced, smelly, noisy little miracle was his own flesh and blood. God, he didn’t know the first thing about relating to family. Other than the great-uncle a social worker had tracked down some thirty-five years ago who’d installed him in a series of boarding schools and grudgingly paid the freight, he’d never had to deal with a family. At least not since he was six years old.

  As she turned away from the darkly handsome creature with the stern face, the guarded eyes and the beard-shadowed jaw, Hetty’s arms curved around the soggy little bundle. Brushing her lips against a soft, dark curl, she whispered, “Don’t fuss, sugar-britches, he’ll be right there waiting for you when I get you all cleaned up.”

  He didn’t quite trust her, that much was obvious, but what choice had he had? If it hadn’t been for the hint of vulnerability he’d let slip through his guard, Hetty would never in a million years have dared speak to him. Mercy, he was intimidating. But at least he seemed to care about the baby, which said a lot in his favor.

 
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