Tracy Madison

An Officer, a Baby and a Bride


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       “No! No way.” Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa went her heart. “I told you earlier that I am not accepting your proposal.”

      “Relax, Rebecca. I’m not proposing.” Seth sighed the sigh of a hurt man. She didn’t buy it for a second. “I do have some pride, you know.”

      Not proposing? “But you’re kneeling.”

      “I am.” He tugged at the laces on her left sneaker. “I’m tying your shoe, before you fall and I have to spend the night pacing in the hospital, worrying if you and our baby are okay.”

      “Oh.” She took that in and shrugged in feigned indifference. “Well, then. Go ahead.”

      “Besides which,” he said in an irritatingly cheerful manner, “you’ll be proposing to me soon enough. And when you do, Rebecca, I promise you that I will say yes.”

      Dear Reader,

      There are many instances throughout our lives that symbolize new beginnings: certain holidays, the start of each year, graduations, new jobs, falling in love, weddings and of course—the birth of a baby.

      Usually these moments are filled with excitement and anticipation for what the future will bring. Sometimes, though, our happiness and hope give way to the crushing weight of fear. Fear can stop us in our tracks. Fear can make us back away from almost anything—even something as wondrous and miraculous as love.

      In this book, An Officer, a Baby and a Bride, you’ll meet Rebecca, a woman who has allowed fear to form her decisions, to disastrous results, and Seth, a military man who has never been afraid of anything… until he’s faced with losing the woman and the child he loves.

      At its heart, this story is about courage. Seth and Rebecca will not only have to fight their individual demons, but they’ll have to find a way to move beyond them in order to claim the future that fate has planned.

      Every book I write holds a special place in my heart, but this story is one of my favorites. I hope it becomes one of yours, as well.

      Enjoy!

       Tracy Madison

       About the Author

      TRACY MADISON lives in northwestern Ohio with her husband, four children, one bear-size dog, one loving-but-paranoid pooch and a couple of snobby cats. Her house is often hectic, noisy and filled to the brim with laugh-out-loud moments. Many of these incidents fire up her imagination to create the interesting, realistic and intrinsically funny characters that live in her stories. Tracy loves to hear from readers. You can reach her at tracy@tracymadison.com.

      An Officer,

       a Baby and a Bride

      Tracy Madison

      

       www.millsandboon.co.uk

      To my father: for bringing me Zero candy bars home

      from work, taking me on motorcycle rides and chasing down an ice cream truck for me. Thank you, Dad, for all the ways you show your love.

       Chapter One

      Children’s voices, bright and happy, punctuated the late afternoon. Several houses down, a lawn mower rumbled its distinctive hum. The breeze carried the light perfume of flowers along with the appetizing scents of charcoal and grilled burgers. Cars drove by, leaves rustled and birds chirped. In all ways, the street was alive with the normal sounds and smells of spring.

      Normalcy, Captain Seth Foster thought, was a type of heaven that most folks never really considered. Well, most civilians. He, on the other hand, had given the idea of normalcy a great deal of thought throughout his deployment in Afghanistan.

      He’d returned to the States less than a week ago, and today, Seth had driven to his parents’ house in Portland, Oregon, for an extended leave. Four weeks of rest lay in front of him. His plan for every day of those four weeks was to engage in completely normal activities.

      Activities such as eating a home-cooked meal with his family, verbally sparring with his two older brothers, reconnecting with his parents and now, sitting on the front porch of the Victorian home he’d grown up in, enjoying a beer with the company of his brothers.

      Seth had anticipated this moment, this exact second in time, when life would—for a little while, at least—become ordinary again.

      Of course, he hadn’t anticipated that his lamebrained brother had been keeping a secret for months. Or that Jace would choose this moment to reveal that secret, and in doing so, dispel all of Seth’s plans for a normal visit home.

      Seth took a long draw from his beer before settling his gaze on Jace, the middle brother in the Foster clan. Their older brother, Grady, seemed as shocked by Jace’s disclosure as Seth was but had wisely kept his mouth shut—though he hadn’t left his brothers alone to battle it out. Nah, he’d stay put and watch over them, ready to jump in if what followed took a nasty turn.

      Keeping his attention on Jace, Seth said, “I’m not going to kill him, Grady. Even if I was so inclined, the Air Force doesn’t take kindly to fratricide.”

      “I figured that much.” Grady stretched out his long legs. “Still, think I’ll sit right here for a while. Enjoy my beer.”

      “I’m not going to hit him, either.”

      “I would.” Grady’s tenor was flat. “If he kept that type of news away from me.”

      Jace cleared his throat. “If either of you want to clock me across the jaw, go for it. But you should know I’d make the same choice today under the same circumstances.”

      The temper that Seth had managed to contain flared into being. “Watch it, bro, or I might take you up on that.” God, he still couldn’t wrap his mind around Jace’s announcement. “You’re one hundred percent in this? There is zero doubt that Rebecca is pregnant?”

      “I’m certain.” Jace raked his fingers through his shaggy black hair. “I wasn’t when I originally met with her. Which is partly why I didn’t tell you then.”

      Seth remembered asking Jace to look in on Rebecca Carmichael, a woman he’d corresponded with for nearly a year before their meeting the prior October. He’d been given a short leave from active duty to recoup from an ill-fated mission. After attending a funeral, he spent his time here, in Portland. It had taken several phone conversations, but Rebecca had finally agreed to meet for coffee.

      Closing his eyes for a millisecond, Seth savored the taste of the icy-cold microbrew. Coffee became dinner, which turned into drinks, which then became a weekend Seth would never forget. When he returned to duty, his goals for the future—which had always been absolute—shifted into something different than he’d ever seen for himself. A future he hoped might include Rebecca. He’d been all set to take it slow, to keep their relationship on the easy and familiar ground on which it had started, when Rebecca stopped writing. Concerned, he tried reaching her by phone, only to find her number disconnected.

      This remained the status quo until sometime in January, when Seth emailed Jace and asked him to ascertain that Rebecca was okay. Jace’s response that Rebecca was fine, that her life had been busy but she would get in touch when she could, eased Seth’s worry. When another month passed without a peep, Seth figured that was Rebecca’s way of saying goodbye.

      He’d written her once more, wished her well and focused on the day to day. Every now and then his thoughts would return to her, to the future he’d barely glimpsed before it dissolved into dust. For the most part, though, Seth had pushed Rebecca out of his mind.

      Until now. Until faced with the possibility that she was pregnant with his