Unexpected (A Silver Creek Romance), page 1
Also by Maisey Yates
Published by the Penguin Group
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have control over and does not have any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
InterMix eBook edition / August 2013
Copyright © 2013 by Maisey Yates.
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Also by Maisey Yates
Special Excerpt from Untouched
About the Author
For my husband. Maker of many meals, washer of many dishes. Hero of my heart. I love you always.
So, when are you getting married?
“So, Kelsey, when are you getting married?”
Kelsey fought the urge to stab her own thigh with one of the fancy forks that her sister had selected so carefully for her special day. She could see the question forming in all of her well-meaning relatives’ eyes before the words made it from their minds to their lips.
Well, Aunt Addy, I’ve set the date for five years from now. With any luck, I’ll have sunk my claws into some unwitting victim in just enough time to pick out china patterns.
“Someday,” she said, pasting a smile on her face. One she hoped looked happy and not like she was contemplating homicide.
It was such an idyllic setting. Her family’s eastern Oregon ranch, the field bright with grass and yellow flowers. And she was as miserable as she could ever remember being.
She looked back up at her aunt, who was contemplating her a bit too carefully.
Don’t say “on the shelf.” Don’t say “on the shelf.”
“You’re nearly on the shelf, dear,” her aunt said with a chuckle.
Kelsey eyed her fork. “I like the view from up here,” she said.
She was thirty. Thirty wasn’t old. Thirty was just starting to come down from the post-college, young professionals club scene. Thirty wasn’t even remotely ready to shackle yourself to someone until divorce did you part. Or so she’d heard. She hadn’t made it to the divorce. She hadn’t made it down the aisle. She’d made it into the bedroom she’d shared with her then-fiancé to find him doing some very inappropriate things with another woman—but no one was giving her any credit for that.
She’d been too young then, anyway. There were a lot of women who married older, and statistics suggested those marriages were likely to be more successful. She knew that. Heck, she clung to that.
But something in the water in her rural Oregon town had compelled most of her friends to get married right out of high school. The other stragglers had been caught up sometime before their mid-twenties had hit, and she felt like the odd one out in a big way.
Even more now that the last of her younger sisters had just done the deed. At twenty. Bitch.
Okay, she didn’t really think her sister was a bitch. But she was feeling a little bit bitter the as the reception wore on. Plus, the bridesmaid dresses were yellow, and she looked horrible in yellow. Kailey knew that and she’d picked it anyway.
“You look . . . I was going to say great, but you actually look really grumpy.”
Kelsey looked over her shoulder and up at the broad frame of her very best, and last single, friend, Alexa Lambert. “Thanks, Alex,” she snarked. “Shouldn’t you be over there trying to catch a bouquet?”
“Hell, no!” Alexa, dressed in black pants and a black top, looking so out of place, sat in the chair beside her.
“Why do you think I moved across the country? To get away from this kind of thing. Honestly, none of my friends in New York are married yet. Shacking up, maybe. But married, no.”
“To Portland. Glamour central,” Alexa said wryly.
“I want to be close enough to visit still. All my sisters started having babies, and . . .”
“Yeah, the baby thing doesn’t get me gooey like it seems to do for most women. I’m avoiding babies.”
Kelsey wasn’t in baby avoidance mode. Babies did make her gooey. She wished they didn’t. She wished that holding her niece and smelling her baby-soft head didn’t make her stomach cramp with the worst kind of futile longing imaginable.
“I’m not anti-marriage. I’m . . . without and fine with it. That’s all. Somehow that makes me ‘on the shelf.’”
She didn’t need to get married. She had bad taste in men anyway. But what she did want, and what made all of this an awful tease, was a family. Children. She wanted crayon pictures all over her fridge and juice stains on her carpet. Okay, she didn’t want juice stains on her carpet, but she was ready to deal with them.
She thought about the brochures buried in her desk back at her house. Brochures she’d stuffed in a drawer six months ago and tried to forget about. Artificial insemination. The chance to have what she wanted without the part she didn’t want.
To have her own child. To feel her baby move inside of her.
Her ob-gyn had reminded her just recently that her fertility wasn’t getting better with age. Yet another person out to make her feel like the world was passing her by while she worked and aged. Except that her doctor had a valid medical point. A scary one.
She looked at all he
Kelsey envied her in that moment. So much she nearly choked on it.
Alexa leaned forward and hooted, effectively breaking her out of her moment of self-pity. “‘On the shelf’? Sounds like something a maiden aunt would say.”
“It was my maiden aunt.”
“Doesn’t it?” She looked down at her hands. Even her French manicure was yellow-tipped. She looked like a freaking daisy. “It’s worse because of the whole Michael thing.” If she’d never been engaged, maybe they would all just assume she didn’t want to get married.
No, that wouldn’t really help. But it would have helped her. It would have made her feel less . . . like a failure.
“That was, like . . . five years ago.”
“Six,” Kelsey said. “Six years ago.”
“I’m sort of glad it didn’t work out,” Alexa said.
“Why is that, exactly? Don’t make me take back that other half of our best friends heart necklace.”
“Because he was a jackass who was screwing another girl behind your back.”
“Kinda in front of me at the end.”
Alexa nodded. “But also, I think if you would have gotten married that long ago you would have put me in a bridesmaid dress that was even worse than the one you’re wearing now. That’s one point for marrying older. Better fashion sense, minus the Cinderella princess complex.”
“True that,” Kelsey said, leaning forward, resting her arms on the table. “I’m happy.” But she didn’t even convince herself.
“Well, I’m happy when I’m not sitting at the family table by myself, fielding questions from well-meaning relatives. I have a career. I get to work from home. In my pj’s. I win the game of Life.”
“This is probably why you haven’t met a guy.”
Kelsey smacked the table with her palm, sitting up straighter. “That, and I don’t need one. I’ve been there, done that. Didn’t make me happy, did it?”
“No. Because he was a jackass.”
“Yes, he was. But my point is, I’m living my life. I’m not buying into this whole ‘your life doesn’t start until your trip down the aisle’ thing. I’m living in the here and now, baby.” Except you aren’t. You’re living in the someday, wishing for things you don’t have because you’re too afraid of what your family might think.
“Have you been drinking?” Alexa asked, one eyebrow raised. “When you start calling me baby I assume you’ve been drinking.”
Kelsey frowned. “There’s no alcohol here.”
“Your sister really does hate you.”
“She doesn’t. I’m happy for Kailey. I am. I just . . .”
“Wish you were happier for you?”
Wasn’t that too keen an observation? “Darn skippy.”
“Ah, look . . . bouquet toss!” Alexa said, false enthusiasm all the way.
“I’m staying over here. It would be adding insult to injury to get up there and try to mow over a bunch of teenagers to catch that thing. It would completely negate the cool facade of disinterest I have going on.”
“Is that what you have going on?”
“Yes. That’s exactly what I have going on.”
“Ah. Yeah, I don’t believe you,” Alexa said, her lips curved into a smirk.
Kelsey watched her sister—her baby sister—stand in the middle of the lawn, her white dress making her look like an angel. All blonde hair, blue eyes and big grin. She just hoped Kailey knew what she was doing; that David was going to treat her right.
Even though she’d spent the last hour of the reception engaged in a pity party, she still just wanted Kailey to be happy. Blissfully so. The kind of happiness that would make her feel jealous forever and ever was fine with her. As long as her sister never knew what it was like to be betrayed by someone she loved.
Those scars didn’t heal as easily as Kelsey wished they would. Trust was sort of hard for her to find these days.
A gaggle of women dressed in pastel spring colors crowded behind Kailey. Oh, yes, there was pushing and shoving. Desperation to grab that bouquet and secure a spot on the “next to wed” list.
Were any of these girls even out of high school?
Kailey turned and slung the bouquet over her back, the yellow daisies sailing through the air and over the teeming mass of estrogen. And onto the table right in front of Kelsey.
Alexa scooted back, her evil grin barely suppressed. “It’s a sign,” she whispered.
“I hope not.” Kelsey picked the bouquet up and stood, waving to the remaining guests, who were clapping for her. Some of them clapping a bit too enthusiastically for her liking. Like the bouquet was going to fix something they all thought was broken about her.
Kelsey forced a smile and held the flowers up over her head, pretending triumph. Inside, she focused on trying not to die from what had to be the most humiliating thing that had ever happened to her.
She wasn’t getting married next. Not even close. She’d barely had a date since the whole Michael fiasco. Sad? Yes. But it was just . . . too hard. She had trusted him, wholly and completely. More than anyone else in her life. She’d slept with him, lived with him, been prepared to make vows to him that she would be with him forever and ever. And he’d been lying.
If he could lie to her, trick her, anyone could. She was always conscious of that. She kind of wished she weren’t.
“Want me to give it to one of the sad little girls?” Alexa motioned in the direction of the women who had been vying for the bouquet. “One of them could wear it as a corsage to prom.”
“You are evil.”
“It’s been said.”
“Kelsey?” Kelsey’s second sister, Jacie, approached, baby in her arms. “Can you hold Delia? Aiden is up in the loft in the barn, and I need both hands to climb up and get him down.” Her sister sounded more angry than wildly frightened, but having five kids had given her a high shenanigan threshold.
“Sure.” Kelsey took her tiniest niece in her arms and found herself fighting the urge to smell the soft baby head. The sweet smell of shampoo and that other fresh smell that was impossible to recreate. It was its own thing; unique, and probably existing for the sole purpose of tying her ovaries in knots.
Alexa grimaced as Jacie ran up toward the barn. “Really, those are the sorts of problems I don’t want. I doubt you want them. Anyway, isn’t your job really intense right now?”
Kelsey’s health and wellness column was syndicated in newspapers across the country, and she’d been doing more and more special features for magazines and blogs as she became more well-known. There had been a couple of major talk shows too.
“Yeah, it is. And it’s great. But . . . I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m not happy, Alex. I’m just . . . not.”
It was the truth. Unvarnished. One she hadn’t even admitted to herself before that moment.
“You need to come back to New York and visit me again.”
“I was just there a couple of months ago for Good Morning America.”
“Yeah, but not for long. We didn’t get to do very much.”
“We stayed in. We drank martinis. I felt fancy.”
“Your fancy standard is dangerously low,” Alexa said.
“Well, neither of us like the club scene,” Kelsey said. Alexa grimaced and shook her head. “And say what you will about me, but you don’t date much either. We’re both more involved with our jobs than we are with real people and . . . it’s not what I want. It’s not how I saw my life. I want . . . more.” She looked down at Delia. “I want this.”
“Kind of moot since you don’t want a guy though.”
Kelsey nodded absently. She thought about asking Alexa what she thought about artificial insemination. About choosing to be a single
You don’t want her to tell you you’re crazy.
She didn’t want to hear how crazy she was, that was true. Even if she was slightly unhinged for contemplating it. Maybe she was.
But she’d set out to be successful in her career and she’d done that. She had her house—a house with a gorgeous backyard that no one ever used. She had financial stability, a job that let her work at home. So many things that people would give their right eyeball for, she had.
But she felt alone. And the only reason she’d stuck the clinic brochures in a drawer and tried to forget about them was fear of what her family and friends might think. She was still trapped in this little bubble of other people’s expectations, sacrificing her own happiness for it.
No more. It was her life. She was the one who had to live it.
She rested her cheek on Delia’s head and just let herself feel all of the longing. For a baby of her own; for all the mess and chaos and love that went with it.
“Maybe I don’t need the guy,” Kelsey said.
“What the hell do you mean you don’t have it anymore?”
“That’s just what I’m saying, Mr. Mitchell. We don’t have the sample. I’ve . . . I’ve looked, and I can’t find it.”
“Check your computer again.” Cole leaned over the counter and gave his hardest glare to the man sitting behind it.
“I . . . did.” His brow furrowed, and his lips tugged down into a frown. “This can’t be right.”
“What can’t be right?” Cole hated this place and everything it stood for. A shining city on a hill of his youthful stupidity. A grand reminder of what a jackass he’d been for love. And today, he’d come to face it, end it, stop being such a damned coward about it and ignoring it like it didn’t exist.
“It looks like your sample was . . . purchased.”
“It’s what I have in here when I enter the code that was linked to your name. It shows the sample was used for several conception attempts by the same patient. I don’t know why your sample was placed in the general bank; only that it must have been.”
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