The baby made at christm.., p.1

  THE BABY MADE AT CHRISTMAS, p.1

   part  #2 of  THE CHERRY SISTERS Series

THE BABY MADE AT CHRISTMAS
 

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THE BABY MADE AT CHRISTMAS


  Good things do come in small packages in the latest book in Lilian Darcy’s new miniseries, The Cherry Sisters!

  Independent Lee knew she had a cushy life in Aspen. A great job as a ski instructor, a luxury home (well, the caretaker’s apartment, but it was right on the slopes). And a new fling with new coworker Mac Wheeler. He was handsome, athletic, sexy—the après-ski had just gotten a whole lot better!

  Only it was never meant to get serious. She’s pregnant. Mac’s baby, conceived at Christmas. Overnight, her plans change: she’s moving back East to work at the family hotel with her sisters. But the real shock is…Mac has followed her. Yes, 1,700 miles, determined to be…what? Angry? Sure. Daddy? Guess so. Husband…? Who knew…

  He hadn’t been in touch.

  He might be packing up to move back to Idaho. He would surely have heard about the job at Barrier Mountain by now. What had they ever had together that could make her believe in this kind of a future? Flowers and a veil and the promise of undying love… No. They hadn’t been heading in that direction at all. They’d said nothing to each other about anything like that.

  “But we never actually ended it,” he repeated now.

  “No, we didn’t.”

  “And if you hadn’t gotten pregnant, what would have happened? Were you planning to end it, before that happened?”

  “Not at that point, I—”

  “Not at that point?”

  “We met at a bar in a resort town, Mac. In that situation, you’re not looking for something long-term, and you kind of assume the other person isn’t, either.”

  “Right.” After a moment, he added quietly, “Are you really that cynical and hard-edged? You were that ready to dump the whole thing the moment it threatened to go deeper?”

  “No! I was…really enjoying it, if you want the truth. Every bit of it.”

  Scaring myself a little bit, wondering once or twice if I was being played.

  * * *

  THE CHERRY SISTERS:

  Three sisters return to their childhood home

  in the mountains—and find the love of a lifetime!

  Dear Reader,

  Would you describe yourself as the outdoorsy type? Or are you someone who much prefers to tuck yourself cosily away indoors during the cold of winter?

  Like my heroine in this story, I’m a mix of both. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing like fresh air and beautiful views and a good hike or swim or ski. There’s also nothing like that delicious feeling of coming back to a warm house and something good to eat after a bracing few hours in the open.

  Lee has her life set up exactly the way she wants in this area. She’s a ski instructor in Colorado by day, with a very nice arrangement as live-in caretaker for an eleven-million-dollar mansion that occupies much of her free time but gives her access to an open fire, a Jacuzzi and seven bathrooms.

  Yet when the story opens, she’s not in Colorado—she’s back home in upstate New York, staring down a very angry Mac Wheeler, who has followed her halfway across the country to say his piece. What has happened to throw both of these characters so far beyond their comfort zone?

  Well, you’ve probably guessed the answer to this from the book’s title. More important, however, how did it happen, and what are they going to do about it?

  I hope you enjoy Lee and Mac’s tumultuous relationship, and their equally tumultuous journey.

  Lilian Darcy

  THE BABY MADE AT CHRISTMAS

  Lilian Darcy

  Books by Lilian Darcy

  Harlequin Special Edition

  The Mommy Miracle #2134

  ⌘Daddy on Her Doorstep #2176

  ⌘A Doctor in His House #2186

  ⌘A Marriage Worth Fighting For #2200

  ΩThe One Who Changed

  Everything #2282

  ΩThe Baby Made at Christmas #2297

  Silhouette Special Edition

  Balancing Act #1552

  Their Baby Miracle #1672

  ¤The Runaway and the Cattleman #1762

  ¤Princess in Disguise #1766

  ¤Outback Baby #1774

  The Couple Most Likely To #1801

  A Mother in the Making #1880

  The Millionaire’s Makeover #1899

  The Heiress’s Baby #2063

  Silhouette Romance

  The Baby Bond #1390

  Her Sister’s Child #1449

  Raising Baby Jane #1478

  *Cinderella After Midnight #1542

  *Saving Cinderella #1555

  *Finding Her Prince #1567

  Pregnant and Protected #1603

  For the Taking #1620

  The Boss’s Baby Surprise #1729

  The Millionaire’s

  Cinderella Wife #1772

  Sister Swap #1816

  Family Secrets

  Racing Hearts

  ¤Wanted: Outback Wives

  *The Cinderella Conspiracy

  ⌘McKinley Medics

  ΩThe Cherry Sisters

  Other titles by Lilian Darcy available in ebook format.

  LILIAN DARCY

  has written nearly eighty books for Silhouette Romance, Harlequin Special Edition and Harlequin Medical Romance. Happily married with four active children and a very patient cat, she enjoys keeping busy and could probably fill several more lifetimes with the things she likes to do—including cooking, gardening, quilting, drawing and traveling. She currently lives in Australia but travels to the United States as often as possible to visit family. Lilian loves to hear from readers. You can write to her at P.O. Box 532, Jamison P.O., Macquarie ACT 2614, Australia, or email her at [email protected]

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Excerpt

  Chapter One

  Upstate New York, March

  “I am so angry with you, Lee.” Mac stood there at the bottom of the porch steps, against a backdrop of blooming crocuses in bright yellow and purple, while the still-bare trees gleamed with a coating of ice against a perfect late-March blue sky.

  His hair was getting a little long, and he must have combed it back with his fingers because it lay in untidy, slightly wavy strands along the top of his head and down the back of his neck. A glint of sunlight caught his cheekbones, and the shadow above them made his dark eyes seem even darker. His shoulders looked strong and square under his shirt, and he stood with his feet planted on the ground as if ready for a fight with a grizzly bear. He was so gorgeous it almost hurt to look at him.

  He hadn’t told Lee he was coming, and he’d driven here, he hadn’t flown. His familiar dark blue pickup was parked right there, still muddy and speckled with splashes of Colorado mountain road salt even after a journey of two thousand miles.

  It spooked Lee that he’d driven all this way without a word of warning. Rattled the cage of her catlike independence, and made her very wary about his reasons. There was a statement in what he’d done. He’d ambushed her deliberately, and she didn’t know whether to
be angry right back, or fall into his arms, or some third alternative that for the moment she couldn’t bring to mind.

  It was never meant to get serious....

  It was ten in the morning and Lee was still wearing her thick, fluffy, blue robe, wrapped in it for comfort as much as for warmth, because she’d felt disgustingly sick to her stomach since first rolling over in the glorious coziness of her bed at seven.

  Her hair hung down around her face in a mess, and she could see it in the corner of her vision, like ropes of caramel taffy. Her mouth still tasted too strongly of mint toothpaste, and of the sweet grapes she’d eaten to mask the mint. When she’d come down to answer the knocking at the office door, she’d expected a delivery of clean linen or liquor supplies or bulk groceries, all of which were due sometime over the next couple of weeks.

  Spruce Bay Resort was currently closed, in preparation for the coming spring and summer seasons. It was Monday, but the landscaping crew wasn’t here today, thank goodness. Mom and Dad were on the way back to their new home in South Carolina, her sister Daisy and new husband, Tucker, had left for their honeymoon after Saturday’s small wedding, and her other sister, Mary Jane, the eldest, had gone away yesterday afternoon for three days of indulgence at a spa in Vermont.

  “You’d better come inside,” Lee said. Mac was wearing jeans and a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled, comfortable for driving, but not warm enough in the open air chill.

  “So angry!” he repeated. “Do you not understand that?”

  She forced herself to speak calmly, trying to hose down the mood as best she could. “Well, yes, I do, but we did talk about it. It’s not as if I hid anything, or lied to you.”

  “You talked. I was too stunned to react. I had things to think about, too, remember? And by the time I reacted, you’d just...gone.”

  Because we never once said it was serious, so why should that change now?

  “Want some coffee?” she asked.

  “That’s what you have to offer?”

  “It’s a start, isn’t it?” It had been a start for them, before. “We obviously need to talk. About why you’re here. And how long you’re staying. And it’s cold. So you should come inside, and we should have coffee. We both like coffee.”

  “You drive me crazy.”

  “I know.”

  “You are nothing like my sister.”

  “I know that, too.”

  “Or my mother.”

  “So you tell me.”

  “Or any woman I’ve ever known.” She was like a cat, he’d told her the day after they’d met, and since then she’d embraced the idea. She was good with being a cat. The independence, the pleasing herself, the appreciation for comfort and warmth, but quite a taste for curiosity and adventure, as well.

  “Isn’t that what you like about me?” She ventured a grin, but he wasn’t to be softened so easily.

  Because it is serious.

  “I don’t know if I like anything about you right now, Lee Cherry,” Mac said. He stepped onto the porch, crossed it in two strides, pushed past her as she pressed her back against the open door. Then he turned around. “What is this? The office? Why are we in here?”

  “Yes, it’s the office. But there are stairs in back, up to the apartment.”

  “You’re living above the resort office? On your own?” He was looming over her, seeming like too much big, strong, healthy beautiful man for the rather dark and confined space.

  He was glaring at her with those dark eyes of his, but then they flicked down. To her lips. Which were suddenly hot and dry. The impenetrable gaze flicked back up before she could even swallow. It almost felt as if he’d kissed her, even though his mouth hadn’t come anywhere near hers. She loved the way he kissed.

  “With my sister, Mary Jane, at the moment,” she answered him, incredibly annoyed to discover that her voice wasn’t quite steady. “Except that she’s away.”

  They had talked. She hadn’t just run out on him. She’d presented him with the whole situation, her decisions and her plan, assuming he’d feel the same way she did, and he had.

  He had! He hadn’t given her any kind of argument, hadn’t said a word about wanting to stay together.

  “It’s bigger than it looks,” she went on, knowing she was giving unnecessary detail about the Cherry family apartment. “It’s a real home, Mac, not just ‘living above the office.’” She wanted to fill the space with talk, instead of this hyperawareness of his body...of his whole presence. His anger. His attitude. The creeping possibility that she might be in the wrong. “Four bedrooms, kitchen, living room, two bathrooms, above this lower level, which has the office and three storerooms and the double garage. We all lived here, growing up.”

  “That’s your parents and your two sisters, running the resort. And you’re the eldest?”

  “Middle.”

  See? How could it have been serious, if you don’t even know where I fit in my family?

  He ignored her correction. “So coffee is upstairs?”

  “Yes.” She turned and led the way, relieved that he was the one focusing on mundane detail now.

  He followed her. If he’d brought any bags, he’d left them in the pickup. He had his hands free as he came up the stairs behind her, and she remembered all the times he’d followed her up flights of stairs in Colorado and cupped a hand on her butt or wrapped his arms around her and stopped them both in their tracks.

  Turned her around.

  Kissed her.

  More.

  It was good to see him. It made her feel like crying, and she didn’t want that, not at all. She’d steeled herself to never see him again, to cut off clean from the very nice fling thing they’d had, because wasn’t it better that way? She didn’t want something that turned messy or ugly or complicated. She didn’t want something that dragged itself out for all the wrong reasons.

  Better the clean break.

  But now he was here, and her body said she was happy about it, despite everything.

  They weren’t talking. Upstairs, he followed her into the kitchen and she did a wobbly job of getting out coffee and milk and operating the state-of-the-art espresso machine she’d brought with her from Colorado, all of it in a silence he didn’t attempt to break. She was aware of his presence with every fiber of her being. The machine began to bubble and hiss, the only thing in the room making any noise.

  She turned away from it and there he was, and if the office had seemed too small for his powerful form, the kitchen was even worse. He leaned his hard, jeans-clad butt against the edge of the sink and folded his muscled arms like a nightclub bouncer, and in Colorado she would have gone right up to him and hung off him until he kissed her.

  Which would have taken about half a second, and would have been great.

  And then one thing would have led to another, because that was what their entire relationship had been about.

  Don’t you remember that, Mac?

  If he didn’t, she could remind him.

  She should remind him.

  Because the fact that their relationship had mainly been based on sex was important.

  She’d closed the space between them before the plan was even a plan. It really wasn’t conscious or deliberate, it just happened, habit more than anything—the habit of wanting him, and of glorying in the delicious confidence that he wanted her and that they fit together in all the best ways. She slid her fingers past those folded arms, slid and sneaked and burrowed until the arms loosened and dropped, letting her reach all the way around his back.

  She didn’t go for his mouth, just stood there with her hips pressed against his hardening groin, and looked up at him, looked into the gorgeous, familiar pools of dark that were his eyes. It was quite simple, the way it had always been. They wanted each other and enjoyed each other, and t
here was nothing wrong with that. There was this electric thing...feeling, need, recognition...between their two bodies.

  They just connected.

  They just liked it.

  He swore, or groaned, or something. He was still angry, despite the stirring she could feel in his body. She could see it in his eyes and the set of his mouth. He pulled her closer, so that her breasts grazed against him, then pressed hard. She was wearing only the robe, and it was working loose, the tie at the waist slipping its granny knot and the gap between the fluffy blue lapels widening more and more.

  He looked down and saw her cleavage, apparently as if it was something new. The sight seemed to make him pause, and she looked down, too. Yes, okay, they were bigger, and they’d been a pretty decent size to begin with. He liked them. He’d lavished them with endless attention in the past.

  She looked up into his face and reached to cup his jaw lightly with her hand. This was one of the things she liked, knowing how much he wanted her, and playing to it, making him wait or jumping right in, varying their mood together, teasing him terribly, sometimes, and loving it when he teased her back just as much.

  She stretched up and planted a soft, questing kiss on that angry mouth. It didn’t soften. She kept going, pressing against his stubborn lips, darting out her tongue, deliberately softening and opening, tilting her head, touching his jaw with feathery fingertips.

  Still that mouth didn’t soften, but at least it kissed back. Oh, boy, did it kiss back! A rough, angry sort of kiss that came with hard arms around her and muscles tense with frustration and need. She guessed a kiss like this was trying to tell her something, but she didn’t buy it...even though she liked it, a lot.

  You want a kiss, Lee, you’ll get a kiss, he seemed to be saying. You’ll get my hands on your butt and my tongue in your mouth and the taste and smell of me, and, yes, it’s damned good and we both know it.

  He hadn’t shaved since he left Colorado, it felt like. The three-day growth of beard rasped at her skin as his mouth moved against hers, and of course it felt good. It felt fantastic. He smelled good, too—a mix of car freshener and salted nuts and snow. She put her whole heart into kissing him, threading her fingers through his hair, tilted her face to one side, letting her tongue sweep his mouth deeper and deeper, tangling with his. Any minute now, she’d start undressing him, and he’d get rid of her robe in about four seconds—it was already wide-open, and the belt was on the floor—and this would end the way it always did.

 
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