Undercover baby, p.1
Undercover Baby, page 1
Letter to Reader
Welcome to the third of Rebecca Winters’ brand-new trilogy LOVE UNDERCOVER.
An award-winning author, Rebecca Winters writes romances that pack an emotional punch you won’t forget! And her new miniseries is no exception.
Meet Annabelle, Gerard and Diana. Annabelle and Gerard are private investigators, Diana, their hardworking assistant. Each of them is about to face a rather different assignment—faling in love!
Amnesia is a condition that has always fascinated me because it sets up so many possibilities for the person suffering from it, as well as the loved ones who must deal with it.
Recently I heard a story about a woman who lost her memory forever. As a result she divorced her husband. But this man loved her so much, he set out to win her love all over again. Six years later they were married.
I could only imagine the pain he went through, the rejection, the sacrifices he made, the challenges he faced because of his love for this woman. But as I imagined this, my own story, Undercover Baby, came to life. It’s my personal tribute to this hero of a man who lived every word of the vows he made.
“IS THIS the Rawlins’s residence?”
Cal Rawlins looped the bath towel around his neck, ready to put down the receiver in case it was a telemarketer. Seven-thirty in the morning was a little early to start listening to their unsolicited spiel.
If making love to his beautiful wife hadn’t put him in such a good mood before he’d reluctantly let her out of bed on this beautiful June morning, he might have said he wasn’t interested and then hung up.
“Yes, it is.”
“This is the Bonneville Regional Hospital emergency room calling. Please don’t be alarmed. The situation is not life threatening, but we have a Diana Rawlins here. Except for being disoriented from a fall, she appears to be all right. An initial examination reveals that the baby is jaundiced, but unharmed. A staff pediatrician has taken charge of his care. If you could come over—”
The mention of a baby filled Cal with unmitigated relief. “My wife’s at work and we don’t have any children.” Not yet anyway. “I’m afraid you have the wrong Rawlins. Sorry.”
He clicked off the phone and went back to the bathroom to finish shaving. His thoughts turned to their childless marriage, the only cloud threatening their happiness because she wanted to give him a baby so badly.
In the four years since their wedding, Diana had suffered three miscarriages, generally losing them at eight weeks. The last one had been devastating to both of them because she’d lost it after carrying it almost four months. A long enough time for them to decorate a nursery.
It had been a boy. They would have called him Tyler, after her grandfather.
When in future she conceived again, she would have to take it very easy and the doctor would perform a surgical procedure on the uterus to prevent the same problem from recurring. But so far, Diana hadn’t conceived and she was frantic that she might never have a child.
Their obstetrician suggested that she was trying too hard, that she needed to relax and give her body a chance to rest before they tried to get pregnant again. Cal recognized the wisdom of the doctor’s sound advice, but getting Diana to take it was a different story.
Cal had brought up the idea of adoption, but she’d adamantly refused to entertain it as a viable alternative. Still, he’d discussed the problem with Roman Lufka. Cal’s best friend and Diana’s boss at the LFK Associates International.
Both Roman and Cal agreed that if a baby were suddenly to become available, she might reconsider adoption. Oftentimes after obtaining a first child through legal means, a woman unexpectedly conceived. If time proved that Diana couldn’t carry a baby full term, then the adoption idea was worth pursuing. Roman had his sources and said he would look into them.
Naturally Cal would have loved a baby of his own body and hers, but if that wasn’t possible, then he welcomed the idea of adoption. Diana’s happiness meant more to him than anything else. They had an exceptional marriage. He would do whatever it took to preserve the great love they shared. She was his life!
While Cal finished getting dressed for work, he decided to call his friend and suggest that they get together for lunch later in the day. Maybe Roman had new information on the subject.
His hand no sooner reached for the phone to call Roman than it rang again. When he picked up the receiver and said hello, he learned it was the hospital disturbing him for the second time. His brows formed a dark frown line.
“Mr. Rawlins? You do live at 18 Haxton Place here in Salt Lake?”
“Yes? But as I told you before, we don’t have a baby.”
“Nevertheless this woman says she’s the baby’s mother. We checked her driver’s license. The address is listed as 18 Haxton Place, the same as yours.” An odd chill passed through his body. “She’s five feet six inches, long blond hair, green eyes, one hundred and twenty-four pounds.”
Tightening his grip on the receiver he said, “That’s my wife. Would it be possible to speak to her?”
“Not right now. As I told you a few minutes ago, the fall dazed her.”
When did she fall? Where?
“I’ll be right there.”
Feeling like he’d been kicked in the gut, he raced out of the house. Disobeying the speed limit, he drove his Saab to the hospital in record time.
He swallowed hard when he spotted her white Buick parked halfway up the block. Its presence confirmed that she had indeed driven to the hospital earlier that morning. She’d only been gone from the house a little more than an hour.
What in the hell had happened in that amount of time? The mention of a baby made no sense at all.
“I’m Mr. Rawlins,” he said the second he reached the admission desk outside the emergency room doors. “I’d like to see my wife, Diana.”
“Take a seat over there and someone will be right with you.”
With his adrenaline pumping, Cal preferred to remain standing. He would just as soon not have to look at all the anxious people who filled the reception area.
Thankfully the person who’d called the house had reassured him Diana’s condition wasn’t serious.
“Mr. Rawlins? I’m Dr. Farr, the one who first examined your wife. Come on in here and we’ll talk.”
Relieved to get some answers at last, Cal followed the short, wiry doctor through another set of doors to an empty examination room. He thought of course the other man would take him straight to Diana. The fact that he didn’t, served to deepen the pit in Cal’s stomach.
“Is my wife all right? That’s all I want to know.”
Dr. Farr looked up at Cal. “When she fell, she hit the back of her head hard enough to break the skin and form a small lump. The X ray didn’t reveal anything abnormal, but her concussion has left her disoriented. I’ve asked Dr. Harkness, a neurosurgeon on staff at the hospital, to come down and examine her. He should be here shortly.”
When the significance of his words sank in, Cal’s head reared back. “How bad is her disorientation?”
The other man eyed Cal compassionately. “A couple of ambulance attendants found her outside the emergency room entrance.
“She couldn’t remember her name, where she lived, or what she was doing there. They had to look inside her purse for identification so they could call you.”
Cal’s body broke out in a cold sweat. “Did someone see her fall? How do you know she wasn’t attacked?”
“We assume she slipped on the cement. The path is on an incline, so she probably fell backward. There was blood where her head hit, and the backs of her elbows are skinned. The baby didn’t appear to suffer any injury, but as you were told earlier, his bilirubin count is too high. To treat him for the jaundice, the pediatrician has put him under the lights.”
Cal shook his head in disbelief. “I have no idea whose baby it is.”
“A friend’s perhaps?”
“Possibly, though I can’t think of anyone close to us. Maybe Diana offered to baby-sit someone’s child and forgot to tell me. But I don’t see how that could be when she was on her way to work.”
“Well, it shouldn’t be too long before your wife starts to recall what happened.”
“I hope you’re right. Can I see her now?”
“Of course. Come with me. Please don’t be unduly concerned by her condition, Mr. Rawlins. Memory loss is a fairly common occurrence with some head injury patients.”
Memory loss was another word for amnesia. Just the word made Cal cringe.
“In the majority of cases, it’s temporary. She’ll probably be back to her normal self within twelve hours or so. I just wanted you to be prepared in case you went in to see her and she didn’t recognize you right away.”
Not recognize me?
Cal scoffed at the notion. She might be dazed, but there was no way in this world she wouldn’t know her own husband. They’d been soul mates from the moment they’d met.
Your soul could never forget an integral part of itself, he reasoned inwardly.
“She’s right in there. When you need to talk to me, I’ll be at the front desk.”
Nodding to the doctor Cal headed for the cubicle, his heart revving like a race engine. As he stepped inside the curtain, he couldn’t wait to embrace his wife who’d only been gone from his arms a short while.
He found Diana lying on her right side, facing him. From this angle he couldn’t tell that she’d sustained an injury to the back of her head.
Instead of the leaf-green shirtwaist dress which had molded her gorgeous figure earlier, she was wearing a hospital gown and appeared to be asleep. Her shoulder-length hair fanned out on the pillow, exactly as she’d worn it when she’d gotten ready for work.
Except for the smudges beneath her eyes where the dark lashes rested against her pale cheeks, she looked vulnerable as hell, but perfectly normal to him. Thank God.
Hopefully he’d be able to take her home within the next couple of hours.
One arm lay on top of the sheet covering her body. He leaned over to examine her elbow with his fingertip. The skin around the bandage showed definite signs of having been scraped. At the slight contact, her lips made an unfamiliar moue, then her eyelids fluttered open.
“Diana?” he cried in relief to see she was awake. In an instinctive move, he covered her mouth with his own, needing a repeat demonstration of the physical love they’d shared that morning before she’d left the house.
When she wouldn’t allow him to deepen their kiss, he tried gently to coax her lips apart to provoke the response he craved.
“No—” she begged in alarm. “Please don’t.” She pushed her free hand against his shoulder.
Never once in their lives had she rejected him. Bewildered by her behavior, he raised his head to look down at her. The green eyes staring back at him showed no sign of recognition. Only anxiety.
She really doesn’t know who I arm.
“Diana, it’s me, Cal. Your husband. For the love of God, darling—Say something!”
He waited for her to cry out the words he needed to hear.
“I’m sorry,” she finally whispered, “but I have no idea who you are. Can I please talk to the doctor?”
Terror seized Cal’s heart so that he was slow to hear her plea.
The tall, broad-shouldered stranger at her bedside had just announced he was her husband, Cal. He’d called her Diana, and he’d kissed her with the ease of longtime familiarity.
Since she’d been brought in to emergency, Dr. Farr had referred to her as Mrs. Rawlins. Apparently she had no family other than her husband who would be arriving at the hospital shortly.
She studied the man whose brown hair matched the color of his pain-filled eyes. He reminded her of those men on horseback she’d seen in magazine ads depicting the West, rugged individualists with hardboned faces and chiseled features. Yet this man was dressed in a light brown business suit and tie, cloaking him in a mantle of urbane sophistication.
He looked successful, confident. Very much a master of his own destiny. She couldn’t imagine being married to someone who appeared so dominant and male.
Perspiration leaked from every pore of her body. She moaned in panic because she was unable to recall anything before they’d brought her and the baby into the emergency room.
The torment coming from the stranger’s eyes made her feel uncomfortable, and guilty, because she couldn’t do anything to alleviate it.
Her gaze slid away to focus on the large, breathtaking diamond of her engagement ring. It, plus a wide gold wedding band on the ring finger of her left hand, attested to the fact that she’d been through the process of an engagement and marriage to him. They’d had a child together.
Right now she needed Tyler desperately.
Why hadn’t someone brought him back to her yet? The emergency room doctor had assured her that her little boy was all right, so what could be taking so long?
Wishing the man who claimed to be her husband would go away, she asked, “Could you do me a favor, please?”
“You know I’d do anything for you, darling,” came his husky response at last. “What is it?”
He’d been hovering over her. Combined with his loving attitude, she felt smothered and wished he would go away. “Would you please find Tyler and bring him to me?”
“My baby!” she blurted, not understanding why his voice had sounded so strange just now. But the strain of trying to get through to him had started up the horrible throbbing at the back of her skull once more. Nausea washed over her in waves.
“I just want Tyler,” she half sobbed. Tears poured down her cheeks. “They said he wasn’t injured in the fall, but maybe the pediatrician has found something wrong after all.”
His lips brushed her moist cheek. “I’ll be right back, my love.”
After he left the room, she breathed more easily. If he touched her again or used more any more endearments, she would ask the nurse to tell him to stay away.
Hurt because she’d winced when he’d kissed her, Cal wheeled out of the cubicle and made a beeline for Dr. Farr who was filling out a chart. At his approach, the doctor looked up.
“How is your wife? Did she recognize you?”
“Not yet.” He expelled the breath he’d been holding. “But she referred to the baby as Tyler, which is a step in the right direction.” Cal then proceeded to explain the significance of the name.
The other man gave him an encouraging smile. “No doubt about it. Her memory is returning. I’m sure Dr. Harkness will agree. Too bad something has held him up. I’ll make another inquiry and send him to you as soon as he comes into emergency.”
“I would appreciate that. However, there’s another problem. Diana’s worried about the baby and wants to see him to make sure he’s all right. After what I’ve told you about her last miscarriage, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“I understand where you’re coming from, Mr. Rawlins. You don’t want he
In his heart of hearts Cal knew that for the time being, the baby was the only thing that would console his wife. The fact that she didn’t need or want him, her own husband, cut deeper than a knife. But he realized he had to put her desires ahead of his own.
“How old is the infant?”
“I estimate three, maybe four days.”
A shudder passed through Cal’s body. His wife would find a virtual newborn irresistible.
Diana, darling—Where did the baby come from? What were you doing with it? Lord, what a nightmare.
“Could you ask someone to bring the baby down to her?”
“It could be under the lights for a while. But I’ll find out what I can and keep you posted. In the meantime, go back to your wife and see if your conversation jars her memory a little more.”
He nodded. But first he needed to get hold of Roman.
Someone’s baby was missing.
If Diana couldn’t shed any light on the situation within the next little while, this could become a police matter. Roman would know exactly how to handle it and be discreet at the same time.
Cal didn’t think for a minute that his wife had gone off the deep end, and had stolen the baby. But whatever the explanation, when she regained her full memory she would be loathe to give it up.
This accident had happened too soon after her last miscarriage. More than ever he felt it vital to go ahead and start adoption proceedings.
Needing privacy, he found the empty examination room and called his friend on his cellular phone.
“Roman? It’s Cal.”
“Hey! I’m glad you called. I was just telling Brittany the four of us need to get together this weekend. By the way, where’s the best assistant I’ve ever had? She told me she was going to come in early to catch up on some paperwork.”
by Rebecca Winters have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes