Excerpt from THE DOCTOR’S BABY
Giving birth in an emergency room wasn’t on July Greer’s agenda. Neither was having her one and only one-night-stand be the doctor striding through the door.
Though a mask covered his mouth and nose, she’d have recognized those electric-blue eyes anywhere. For a second the pain and pressure gripping her body paled in comparison to her shock.
You’re not supposed to be in Wyoming.
The accusation never made it to her lips. Instead she cried out as another vise-like pain gripped her belly.
“I’m Dr. Wahl.” Without casting a glance her way, he rushed past her to take a seat at the other end of the exam table. He dropped out of sight for a moment then pushed the sterile drape down.
“The nurse is right. We don’t have time to get you to the delivery room.” The tense set to his jaw and the concern in his eyes did nothing to ease her anxiety. Thankfully, if he recognized her it didn’t show. “How far along are you?”
July prided herself on her even temperament, but the pain had taken over her body again and her temper flared. She’d given that information at the admissions desk and to at least two ER nurses. Couldn’t one person have written it down?
“Thirty-six weeks.” Her irritable tone morphed into a pant even as she fought to not bear down. The urge became overwhelming though the nurse standing beside her chanted in her ear that she must.not.push.
July vowed to stay strong, to pant like a dog for as long as it took to protect her baby. If only there was some guarantee her efforts would be enough. She wasn’t due for a month. According to all the books, a baby did a lot of growing those last few weeks.
“He’ll be okay, won’t he?” July asked when she could breathe normally again.
David, er Dr. Wahl, must have heard the fear in her voice because he lifted his head. “If your dates are accurate, lung maturity shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Is that a yes?” July snapped as another sharp pain ripped through her body.
“The baby is crowning. Take a couple breaths, then hold and push,” he instructed.
Though it seemed like an eternity, minutes later her son made his appearance, wailing loudly and weighing in at a respectable five pounds two ounces.
The baby was carefully inspected before Rachel Milligan, the nurse who’d been at her side, brought him close. A check of fingers, toes and body parts confirmed that while he might be small, her son was indeed perfect.
The breath July had been holding came out in a whoosh. All the sacrifices she’d made these past eight months had been worth it. Gazing into his unfocused eyes she vowed that no matter how rough life got, she’d always be there for him.
She was only beginning to get acquainted with her new son when an RN July hadn’t seen before swept into the room. With competent hands, the nurse took him from her arms and whisked him off in an isolette. July’s heart twisted as the baby disappeared from sight.
“You did fantastic.” Rachel squeezed her shoulder. “Don’t worry about your little boy. We’ll take good care of him.”
Her little boy. The tidal wave of emotion continued to build. “I’m going to call him Adam.”
July was sentimental when it came to names. Unlike her own, which was simply the month she was born, she wanted her son’s name to mean something more.
“I like Adam.” Rachel rolled the name around on her tongue. “Is it a family name?”
July nodded. Adam “A.J.” Soto was like a brother to her. Had been ever since they’d done the foster home circuit together. For as long as she could remember A.J. had been her confidante, her sounding board and most of all, a good friend.
“He certainly is a handsome boy with all that dark hair,” Rachel said.
Lots of dark hair had been what July had noticed first about her baby. While she loved her reddish-colored hair, she was glad Adam’s hair was more like his dad’s.
“Does he look like his father?”
“He does,” July said without thinking. She wasn’t sure what David was “finishing up” down there but she felt him pause. Though she couldn’t see his hair under the blue cap, she vividly remembered running her fingers through the dark wavy strands that long ago night.
The words had barely left her lips when he stood. With one gesture he brushed off the cap, lowered the mask and fixed his gaze on her. For the first time since he’d entered the room, he focused, really focused on her. Though it was barely noon, lines of fatigue edged his eyes. Yet a curious glitter shone in the blue depths.
A sense of danger snaked its way up her spine and she started to shake. If David discovered Adam was his son…
For a second the room spun but July refused to give into the fear.
You’ve gotten yourself out of worse.
The realization steadied her. She took a deep breath and forced the fear from her mind. One step at a time. That’s how she’d managed to get through life so far and it was how she’d get through this unexpected calamity.
First, she needed to stay calm and not overreact. David had no reason to think their one night together had resulted in a pregnancy. That’s how she intended to keep it.
“Everything looks good.” His gaze never left hers. “The baby was small so despite the precipitous delivery, you didn’t tear at all.”
Perhaps she should have been embarrassed by the comment, but David was a doctor. And there wasn’t anything of hers he hadn’t seen or touched. At the moment she felt nothing but gratitude. “Thank you for everything.”
He stared for a long moment then inclined his head in a slight nod. “They’ll be taking you to a room soon.”
The professional tone was reassuring. But then his eyes softened and July knew she was in trouble. “When my shift is over, I’ll stop by and see how you’re doing.”
A knot formed in the pit of July’s stomach. He remembered her. And by the look in his eyes, he’d done the math.
Fear wrapped icy fingers around her neck. A.J. was always telling her she was too cynical, a glass half-empty-kind-of person. July preferred to think of herself as a realist. Her childhood had taught her many valuable lessons…including that men couldn’t be trusted. And her encounter last summer with the smooth talking doctor had only reinforced that belief. That’s why David would never know this child was his.
A baby might not have been in her plans. She might not have instantly embraced the idea of motherhood. But now that he was here, she loved her son with her whole heart. Sharing him with man who had no scruples simply wasn’t an option.
David leaned back against the grey metal locker in the Jackson Hole Memorial Hospital’s physician lounge. All afternoon he’d stitched lacerations, stabilized broken bones and told himself that the baby boy he’d delivered at 11:28 this morning, couldn’t be his son. After all, when he and July had spent the night in that hotel room in Chicago, he’d made sure they used protection--each and every time.
However as a physician, he knew condoms weren’t one hundred percent effective. Mistakes happened. The instant the thought crossed his mind, he rejected it. That baby boy--any baby for that matter--was a miracle, not a mistake. And if the child was his, he’d take responsibility.
“Why so serious? Bad day?”
“Not at all.” David turned and smiled at the lanky physician with the mop of sandy-colored hair. Dr. Travis Fisher had been a good friend since high-school days. He’d been the best man at David’s wedding and a pall bearer at his wife’s funeral two years ago.
If there was anyone he could talk to about this awkward situation, it would be Travis. But David had never said anything about his one-night-stand with July and he didn’t have time to explain it all now.
“I was just thinking that Mary Karen will have my hide if I miss one minute of Logan’s birthday party,” David added.
David’s sister had been blessed with three little hellions, er sons. She was a great mom, but the boys were a handful and in definite need of a male influence. Unfortunately, Mary Karen’s ex-husband wasn’t around. He’d left Jackson last year and was now in Boston enjoying the single life he’d missed so much. David tried to fill in, attempted to spend as much time with the boys as possible, but what the three pre-schoolers really needed was a dad.
Unfortunately David didn’t see that happening, at least not any time soon. When Mary Karen wasn’t caring for the boys or working PRN at the hospital, any free time was devoted to cleaning and cooking. Neither of which were particular strengths of hers.
“What’s on the menu tonight?” Travis lifted a brow. “Tofu?”
David laughed. His friend was obviously thinking of the time in high school when Mary Karen had made dinner for them. “Thank God, no. Logan is on a spaghetti kick, so that’s what we’re having.”
“It’d be hard to ruin that.” Travis pointed a finger at David. “But if anyone could, my money’d be on your sister.”
The fondness in his tone didn’t surprise David. Mary Karen and Trav were old friends. They’d even dated for a short time back in high school.
“Why don’t you join us?” David urged. “I’m sure she’d love to see you.”
“I appreciate the offer, but duty calls.” Travis gestured with one hand toward the door. “They’re prepping a c-section for me now and I have another on her way in.”
“Looks like it’s going to be a busy day in the nursery,” David murmured, remembering how empty the beds had been over the weekend.
“Speaking of deliveries…” A speculative gleam filled Travis’s hazel eyes. “I heard about your unexpected one this morning.”
Travis was an OB and one of the best in town. It figured he’d heard about the delivery.
“Baby couldn’t wait for you to show up.” David kept his tone offhand. “The boy sure had a good set of lungs on him. Cute little fella.”
“The mother’s pretty easy on the eyes, too.” Travis wiggled his brows. It was a skill David hadn’t seen in years. “And according to her admission form, she’s single. I stopped and saw her before I came down here. You don’t see eyes that shade of green all that often.”
“I didn’t notice her eyes,” David said pointedly. “I didn’t have time because I was too busy doing your work.”
“Ouch.” Travis brought a hand to his chest and stumbled back against the locker in a melodramatic gesture. “Felt that one.”
David just chuckled.
But when Travis straightened, his gaze grew sharp and assessing. “A man would have to be blind not to notice those eyes.”
An intern who’d been helping out in the emergency room earlier, exited the lavatory and cast a curious glance their way.
“She had good prenatal care.” Travis acknowledged the other doctor with a nod while effortlessly changing the direction of the conversation.
“I’m sure the Sun Times has good insurance,” David responded then cursed himself when Travis paused, head cocked.
“She told me she’s a freelance photographer.” Travis spoke slowly and David could almost see the mental wheels spinning. “She didn’t say anything about working for a newspaper.”
“I must have misunderstood.” David grabbed his jacket. “Gotta go. I want to check on her and the baby before I head over to Mary Karen’s house.”
“No need,” Travis said. “I already looked in on her. And John Watson is following the baby.”
“It’s not a bother.” David kept his tone casual. “I don’t get to deliver many babies. I want to make sure everything is okay.”
Travis arched a brow. “Sure that’s all it is?”
The guy was like a dog with a bone. David exhaled harshly and raked a hand through his hair. Maybe he should just tell Travis the whole story. But before he could yield to the impulse, the alarm on his watch buzzed. No time for confessions today. He slammed his locker shut and strode to the front door. “I really have to go.”
“What am I going to tell the nurses?” Travis hurried to catch up. “You didn’t give me squat.”
“What are you talking about?” David didn’t break stride.
“I’m not naming names, but the day shift told me you couldn’t keep your eyes off the new mommy. They got the impression you knew her and asked me to get the inside scoop.”
David skidded to a stop on the shiny linoleum, keeping a firm grip on his temper. Hospital gossip drove him crazy but he’d long ago learned the best way to handle it. “Tell them the new mommy and I have been having a torrid affair and I’m madly in love with her. Oh, and you can tell them that the baby is mine, too.”
As he’d expected, Travis chuckled. “I’ll let ‘em know it’s a false alarm.” He clapped David on the back. “Enjoy the party and give that pretty sister of yours a kiss for me.”
“If you want to kiss her,” David shot back, “you’re going to have to do that yourself.”
But as David left the lounge, he found his mind not on his sister or his nephew’s party. It was on the woman upstairs in room 202. And on the baby in the nursery. The boy with the dark wavy hair…just like his own.