Berkley Sensation
August 20, 2013
ISBN 9781101616529



(The Mitchell Family)

After spending another family wedding fielding questions about her non-existent love life, Kelsey Noble decides she’s tired of waiting around for things she could go out and get herself. What Kelsey wants is a baby, and she doesn’t see any point waiting for a husband she’s not even sure she wants. But a mix-up at the fertility clinic lands her with a hassle she didn’t count on. A big, muscular hassle in a Stetson and cowboy boots.

Cole Mitchell is shocked to discover that a grand gesture from years past has come back to haunt him. Now, thanks to a clerical error, a woman he’s never met is having his baby—and there’s no way he’s going to walk away and forget he has a child.

Trying to make nice with the unexpected father of her baby lands Kelsey in Silver Creek, Oregon, dealing with the kind of small town life she left behind years ago. Even worse is dealing with the burning attraction she feels for Cole. She knows adding sex to the mix is a very bad idea, but she’s not sure how long she can resist falling for the last man she ever expected…

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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 mind to their lips.

Well, Aunt Addy, I’ve set the date for 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 new 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 the 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 professional 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 anyway. 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 longer 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 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.

“Avoidance, huh?”

“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.”

“I moved.”

“To Portland. Glamor 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 it.

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 her doctor had a valid medical point. A scary one.

She looked at all her nieces and nephews, running around in the grass, barefoot, filthy, and adorable. Her sister Jacie was hugely pregnant and trying to chase her three-year-old son, who was holding a dirt clod and most likely had evil intentions.

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.”



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