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Valentine Babies (Holiday Babies Series), page 1

 

Valentine Babies (Holiday Babies Series)
 


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Valentine Babies (Holiday Babies Series)


  Valentine Babies

  Holiday Babies Series

  Contemporary Romance

  by

  Mona Risk

  Praise for the author...

  “Risk’s writing is easy to read and engages the reader right away.” ~Sally Pink Reviews

  “Keeping the reader entertained with the twists and turns in the plot.” ~Got Romance!

  “The writing sweeps you into the story and keeps you turning the pages.” ~The Long & The Short Reviews

  Main Menu

  Copyright Information

  Valentine Babies

  Thank you for Reading

  Other Books by Mona Risk

  About the Author

  Contact Information

  Table of Content

  Kindle Edition

  Valentine Babies,

  Copyright January 2013 - Mona Risk

  Kindle Edition, License Notes

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Special thanks to: Helen Scott-Taylor, Susan R. Hughes, Joan Leacott, and Debbie Andrews for their invaluable input.

  Chapter One

  “Go now. And smile for heaven’s sake,” the wedding coordinator sputtered against Roxanne’s ear. “It’s your sister’s happiest day.”

  The Mendelssohn Wedding March chimed through the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Kentucky.

  Roxanne Ramsay plastered a wide smile on her face and clutched her poinsettia bouquet to stop the trembling of her hands. God only knew how happy she was for Madelyn and Nick.

  But why did she have to receive that horrible email yesterday? Two days before Christmas. Last night, she’d claimed to suffer a twenty-four hour bug to avoid the church rehearsal and dinner. Honestly, she didn’t have to fake stomach cramps. Her guts had twisted the moment she read and re-read the missive announcing Nabil’s death. Alone in her room in the big empty house, she’d cried her heart out.

  A new bout of tears invaded her eyes. She blinked furiously and shuffled forward. Had the aisle lengthened all of a sudden? Gliding on the white carpet, she thought she’d already covered a mile. Behind her, the four bridesmaids progressed at the same snail’s pace.

  Finally Roxanne reached the altar and sidled to the left. The fresh pine scent of the Christmas trees decorating the church mingled with the sweet fragrance of white roses in two vases adorning the altar. A delightful smell. Her stomach heaved.

  Oh God, no. She braced herself and swallowed. The nausea passed.

  Two of her sisters took the one-year-old flower girls Nick was holding in his arms and sat them next to their grandmother, and then the bridesmaids lined up beside Roxanne. They all turned to watch the bride advance toward her groom.

  The ushers and bridesmaids smiled as Nick took Madelyn’s hand. Roxanne’s face hurt from the effort of stretching her lips. In the first row, Mom sniffled and wiped her eyes with a lacy handkerchief. Could the sister of the bride cry as freely without attracting attention?

  Why should she smile? There was no groom and no happy ending in her future.

  When they all faced the altar, she allowed herself a few tears. Nabil’s handsome face popped into her mind. Afraid she’d burst into a torrent of sobs, she bit hard on the inside of her cheek.

  “Since when were you such a mushy one? You’re crying even more than Mom,” her sister Heather mumbled in her ear.

  “Sorry. It’s a... a special moment.” She exhaled and almost hiccupped. Please, God, help me stop crying.

  “Still people are wondering,” Heather muttered in the same hushed tone.

  “What people? We’re facing the altar. Father O’Brien is too busy reading his holy words.”

  “The man standing next to Nick’s dad’s wheelchair hasn’t stopped staring at you.”

  Roxanne’s head spun to the right. That gorgeous groomsman in a black tux and neatly combed brown hair?

  His hazel eyes captured her gaze. She hadn’t attended last night’s rehearsal and hadn’t met Nick’s friends. His frown relaxed and he smiled. She tried to avert her eyes, and then threw another glance in his direction. He winked.

  Her nerves already a shambles, she burst out laughing and caught his silent chuckle.

  The bridesmaids gasped. Even Madelyn cast her a stunned look.

  “What is wrong with you?” Heather chastised.

  “The rings, please,” the priest said. He waited for an instant, surveyed the bridal party, and scowled at each of the ten members. None of them responded. “St. Anthony, help us. Who has the rings?”

  The dashing groomsman was still staring at Roxanne and grinning.

  “Greg?” Nick grunted. “Where are the rings?”

  “Oh, sorry. Here.” Greg extracted the rings from his pocket and handed them to the priest. Turning toward the bride and groom, Greg kept her in his line of vision, but assumed a more serious expression.

  “You may kiss the bride.” Father O’Brien exhaled and finished the ceremony

  Roxanne lowered her head. No more kisses for you. Never again. A few tears escaped her.

  Beside her, Heather hissed and handed her a tissue. Roxanne wiped her eyes and caught Greg’s gaze. He wasn’t smiling anymore. Astonishment puckered his forehead. He raised an eyebrow, silently questioning her. She turned to admire the newlyweds. Finally, Nick released his bride after an endless and nerve-racking kiss.

  Time for congratulations. Roxanne inhaled, forced a weak smile, and threw her arms around Madelyn’s neck. “Sweetie, I’m so happy for you.” She sniffled again. “So happy,” she mumbled between tears.

  “Thank you, Roxy. And here I thought you were the cool-headed one among us. The unflappable globe-trotting reporter who runs around the world.” Madelyn patted her cheek. “If you cry that much at a wedding, what will you do at a funeral, you softie?”

  “Fu...funeral? Oh no.” Roxanne swallowed a sob. She wouldn’t even attend his funeral.

  “Mrs. Preston, my darling, let’s go.” Nick grabbed his wife’s arm. Hand in hand, they sauntered down the aisle toward the door of the church and waited to receive the guests’ congratulations.

  Thank God, it was over. The nightmare was over. I mean the wedding.

  “It’s almost over. You can stop crying.” Greg scooted next to her and arched a quizzical eyebrow. He pulled a tissue from his pocket and handed it to her.

  “It was only a couple of tears.” Carefully, she dabbed the wet spots on her face and raised her head for his evaluation. “I hope I don’t look awful. My makeup?”

  “Makeup is stable.” He grinned widely. “You look lovely.” He tucked her hand under his arm and they proceeded down the aisle. Behind them, the cortege of bridesmaids and ushers followed. “By the way, I am Greg Hayes. I work with Nick at St. Lucy’s hospital, in Fort Lauderdale. And you are Roxanne, right? The sister who was sick last night.”

  He was doing his best to cheer her up. Nice guy. And so striking. Green specks twinkled in his hazel eyes. “Stomach bug.” She patted her belly.

  “Are you feeling better today?”

  “Oh yes.”

  “So why were you crying so much?”

  “Emotion. I’m so happy for my sister and Nick. ” She sniffled and eased out of his hold, now that
they’d reached the door.

  A moment later, the coordinator called them for pictures. They regrouped in front of the altar.

  “Bride and groom first.” The photographer shot picture after picture. “Now the families. Bride and groom. His dad on his right.” He checked the camera. “Great. Now the bride’s family.” They moved Roxanne next to her mother, first, then next to the bride. Her eyes focused on the camera, and then behind, on the second row where Greg sat, an ambiguous smile on his lips.

  Darn, couldn’t he stop watching her?

  “Now, the bridal party. Ladies on one side, gentlemen on the other.” More pictures. “Now, each bridesmaid with her usher.”

  Greg immediately obliged and wrapped an arm around Roxanne’s waist. The warmth of his hand seeped though the velvety material of her dress.

  “Hey.” She fidgeted to free herself of his hold. He wouldn’t budge. She grabbed his wrist and moved it away. “Dr. Hayes, put your hand in your pocket if your fingers itch.”

  He laughed. “I was obeying the photographer’s order. Look at the other couples. Each usher is holding a bridesmaid against him.”

  She didn’t need to glance at the other couples. “Of course. Heather and Sandra are with their husbands; Claire and Tiffany are with their fiancés.” Furious, she pinched her lips at his blank look. He probably thought that poor Roxanne had no one.

  He gave her a wry look. “I was told during the rehearsal dinner that I was your date for tonight.”

  “My...what?”

  He shrugged. “You were not there, so obviously they talked a lot about you.”

  “Gossiped you mean.”

  “Whatever.” He surveyed the guests. “Do you have someone in mind?”

  “No,” she snapped.

  He smiled. “So?”

  “Please, stand up straight, you two there,” the photographer barked. “I’ve wasted five pictures so far.”

  “May I?” Greg arched an eyebrow.

  “Oh what the heck. Go ahead. Put your arm back.” She willed herself not to feel the heat.

  Guilt speared her. How on earth could she feel any kind of attraction to this man when she was mourning another? A simple arm around her waist shouldn’t be a big deal. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t hugged or flirted with colleagues in the past. Her lips twitched into a grimace.

  “For heaven’s sake, Roxy, smile,” Heather admonished. “The photographer is glaring at you. We’re going to be here all night.”

  “Che-ee-se,” she grumbled, showing her teeth as if she was at the dentist.

  “Great,” the photographer declared. “We’re done.”

  Drat, when would this night be over?

  ****

  Greg saw the two women in burgundy exit the restroom of the Marriott Hotel chosen for the wedding reception. He hesitated. The blonde one turned and held the brunette’s shoulders. “Roxy, wait.”

  From the minute he’d seen Roxanne proceed along the aisle of the church, he hadn’t stopped thinking of her, seeking her. Her exquisite face with greenish blue eyes, delicate features, and full lips had left an indelible imprint in his mind. He wanted to know her better. Maybe take her out.

  “I’ve never seen you like that. Bad news? How can I help?” the blonde woman said.

  Afraid to intrude, Greg backed up into a shadowy corner of the corridor.

  “No one can, Tiffany. It’s too late.” The sadness of Roxanne’s statement froze him in his tracks. He needed to know why this lovely young woman was suffering.

  “At least, share with me.”

  “Tomorrow, I promise. We can’t ruin Madelyn’s wedding reception.”

  “No, we can’t. Are you going to be able to say your toast?”

  “Yes. If I cry, they’ll think it’s emotion.”

  The young women hugged each other.

  Greg swore he would distract Roxanne. Maybe she’d forget her pain if she danced and chatted and laughed. He waited until they reached the hall and meandered toward her. “Here’s my gorgeous date.”

  Putting on a show, he wrapped his arm about her waist and twirled her around, hoping to amuse her. She lost her balance and fell toward him. He held her against his chest. The wedding guests laughed. Darn, wrong approach.

  “Are you crazy?” Her eyes opened, big and blue, and fuming with anger. “Release me this instant.”

  He stared into the turquoise pools. “You’re beautiful. Even when you’re mad.” His gaze glided over her pert nose and pinched lips. His head slowly lowered.

  “Don’t you dare kiss me,” she grumbled as her eyes narrowed to a thin slit and her fist connected with his stomach.

  “Ouch.” He sobered and released her. “Is that how you treat the men who pay you a compliment?”

  “Look, I’m in no mood for jokes.” She strode toward the ladies room again and he rushed behind her.

  “Roxanne, I’m sorry. I really am.” He caught up with her. “I was trying to make you laugh. Look, last night, your family told me what a fun adventurous girl you were. Tonight I saw a deeply distressed person. I just met you a moment ago, so I don’t have the right to ask questions. For your sister and your family’s sake, you can’t afford to collapse. No matter what troubles you. Let me help and distract you.”

  She heaved a deep sigh. “I wish I could be distracted. But—”

  “Give yourself a chance to relax. Come let’s have a drink. Soon they’ll call our names and we’ll make our entry into the reception hall.”

  Her gaze moved over his face and questioned. “Why do you want to help me?” Confused and weary, she frowned and blinked.

  “Because I’m a doctor. I’m used to helping patients and people in need.” He smiled. “And because I’m used to treating my dates well.”

  “Ah, do you often date?” She arched a curious eyebrow.

  “I won’t tell. But I can show you how you’ll have a good time with me.”

  “Presumptuous man.” She chuckled. Finally.

  “Come on. The coordinator is lining up the bridal party. Let’s not make her wait.” He captured Roxanne’s hand.

  Amazing. She didn’t withdraw. “The woman is already upset at me.” Roxanne shrugged. “So are Heather and the photographer.”

  “Who cares?” They both burst out laughing. Greg loved the sound of her laughter. He wished he could restore her serenity and discover the young woman who wasn’t afraid to travel to dangerous areas on difficult missions.

  “Miss Roxanne Ramsay, the maid of honor and sister of the bride. And Dr. Greg Hayes, the groom’s best friend.” They strolled hand in hand to the dance floor and waited for the rest of the cortege to be called in.

  “And now, the newly wedded, Dr. Nicolas Preston and Dr. Madelyn Preston.”

  The guests cheered. The bride and groom entered and the musicians played their favorite piece. They danced alone first, then couples joined them. “Shall we?” Greg asked.

  She turned to face him. He smiled, pleased to have her in his arms. If everything went well, he hoped he’d keep her there a good part of the evening.

  The song was a slow. Exactly what he needed. His chin against her head, he held her tight and inhaled her floral perfume. A thorny and delicate rose.

  When the music ended he walked her to their places at the bridal table. “Can I get you a drink?”

  “Thanks, I’m good with my glass of water. We’ll give the toasts soon.”

  Someone brought the microphone to Nick’s father who delivered the first congratulatory speech, then it was Greg’s turn. He stood and raised his champagne flute. “Nick, my friend, you sure are a lucky fellow. You’ve managed to get yourself a fantastic wife. You’re my boss, so I think I should learn from you.” The crowd laughed and applauded. “To the bride and groom, long life and happiness.” Greg emptied his drink and glanced at Roxanne. She’d raised her flute but didn’t bring it to her lips.

  “My turn.” She grabbed the microphone. “Maddy, you and I have shared a lot while growing up.
You don’t need my wise advice anymore.” She chuckled. “I’m glad to let you go to a man who adores you and will make you happy. Nick, welcome to our family. You’ll have to contend now with several attentive sisters-in-law and a mother-in-law who’ll shower you with delicious cookies and good advice. To the bride and groom, long life and happiness.”

  Exuberant applause greeted Roxanne’s toast. Everyone sipped their champagne. Roxanne abstained and sat her glass on the table.

  Madelyn came to hug her maid of honor. “Thank you, Roxy. You’ve helped me in the past. I’ll help you from now on. You need a loving husband too.”

  “What? No, please. I don’t have time for that now.”

  Madelyn chuckled and patted her cheek. “Eventually, we all do.”

  Greg smiles and opened his napkin on his lap. But why wasn’t Roxanne drinking champagne at her own sister’s wedding? Even a sip? Instead, she nibbled on a French roll.

  The waiters brought the salad, and later, the entrees. He and Roxanne chatted while eating.

  “I heard you’re well-traveled.” Greg studied her curiously.

  “I’m a reporter at KNR Television Network. So I’m always on the road or flying somewhere.” Her whole face perked up at the mention of her work.

  Pleased he got a positive reaction, he continued with the same line of questions. “Have you ever interviewed a famous athlete?

  “Quite a few,” she said as if it were nothing extraordinary.

  “Any presidents?”

  “Not personally, but I was on the teams that met with French Pesident Sarkozy, South African Nelson Mandela, and the Prime Minister of India.”

  “Boy, you’re an interesting person.”

  Her eyes sparkled at his compliment.

  Finally he’d been granted a glimpse of the girl her whole family bragged about. “Any Royalty?”

  “I had the incredible chance to talk to King Juan-Carlos of Spain when he was attending a special bullfight sponsored by the European Press.”

  “No kidding?”

  “And the King of Sweden when he was a guest on the yacht of one of our famous billionaires. We exchanged a few words.”

 
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