Tracy Madison

An Officer, a Baby and a Bride

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      Seth knew the truth now; there was no getting away from that. She had to believe that as long as she didn’t attempt to put up any additional roadblocks, he’d be content to be a distant part of their child’s life. He had a career that demanded a great deal of his attention and time. A career he loved. Based on their correspondence, a career he had no intention of ever giving up.

      All of the same reasons that fueled her fear might also work to her advantage. Yes, she’d worried when faced with Seth’s anger that he might try to take her daughter away. In reality, Seth’s life made it doubtful that he’d go for full custody. He didn’t live in Portland. In all likelihood, his visits would be sporadic and, except for longer leaves here and there, short. Her chances of dealing with him more than four or five times per year seemed extraordinarily low.

      Rebecca took another sip of her water, feeling calmer than she had in days. Once she and Seth spoke again, she’d be able to set the remainder of her worries aside. She’d apologize and assure him that she wouldn’t stand in his way of being a father. Then, all she’d have to do was let Seth’s commitment to his job take him back to the Air Force and away from her.

      A low knock sounded on her door. Knowing that a client would’ve been announced before being sent to her office, she called out, “Come on in.”

      Alan Sloop, the managing partner at Anders, Weinstein and Sloop, PC, stepped inside and immediately yanked his vision upward. Rebecca smothered a laugh. Poor Alan’s discomfort around her had grown at the same rate as her expanding waistline.

      She didn’t understand his nervousness, but Alan was a good boss. Scooting herself as close to her desk as she could—to minimize how much belly showed—she nodded toward a chair. “Perfect timing. I was just thinking I could use a break.”

      Alan settled his spare, bony frame in a chair. “I wanted to talk with you about what your plans are in the coming weeks. Your due date is approaching and the partners thought you might like to make the switch to working half days soon.”

      “I appreciate the offer.” She would love a reduced work schedule—afternoon naps would be pure heaven—but the longer she held on to her entire salary, the better. “However, as we discussed last month, I’ve decided to maintain my full-time schedule until the baby is born.”

      “You’re an important part of this firm, Rebecca.” Alan ran his hand over his receding hairline. “We very much want you to return to us when you’re ready.”

      “I’m planning on returning,” Rebecca assured him.

      “That’s good to hear. I’m sure you know that Mr. Anders is set on retiring next year,” Alan said, blinking rapidly behind his round glasses. “After your… er… maternity leave, we’d like to discuss your future with us, including the possibility of partnership.”

      “Oh.” She hadn’t expected that. Not yet, anyway. “I would love to discuss the possibility. Becoming partner has always been a goal of mine.”

      “I thought as much. We’d like to support you as much as we can, since you aren’t… don’t have—” Bright red splotches appeared on Alan’s cheeks. “If you were to drop to half days for the last month of your pregnancy, we, of course, will continue paying your salary as normal.”

      Stunned, she gave herself a minute to let her boss’s words sink in. She thought about arguing. Being pregnant did not mean she was an invalid, after all. Plenty of women worked full, busy schedules throughout their entire pregnancies. She was capable of doing the same. But the carrot that Alan dangled beckoned to her.

      It would be nice to have her afternoons free. She could catch up on lost sleep, finish reading the half-dozen baby books she’d started and complete her preparations for her daughter’s arrival. Heck, she hadn’t even begun childproofing yet!

      “Yes,” she said, grabbing for the carrot. “I really appreciate the generosity.”

      “Good. That’s settled.” Alan rose to his feet. “Let’s get together next week to go over your current workload, so we can decide how to best manage your clients’ needs. But what’s most important,” he said with a little cough, “is that you know your place here is secure.”

      Her wonky hormones kicked in, so she dipped her head to hide her watery eyes. “I’m sure you know that means a lot to me. Thank you, Alan.”

      “You’re welcome.” Alan offered her a brief smile. “I have an appointment to prepare for. You’ll let me know if you need anything?”

      She nodded in response. Wow. She’d hoped to be considered for partnership someday, but hadn’t thought that a possibility for years. A sigh slipped out, followed by a yawn. Rebecca closed her eyes and leaned her head against her chair. Mercy, she was tired.

      She might have done the unthinkable and drifted off given a few more minutes when her telephone beeped. “Rebecca?” the receptionist said through the line. “There’s a Jace Foster here. He says he doesn’t have an appointment but hopes you’ll see him.”

      That woke Rebecca up in a hurry. “Is he alone?” she asked. “Or is there another… ah… gentleman with him?”

      “He’s alone,” the receptionist confirmed. “Shall I bring him back or would you prefer if I set up an appointment?”

      Why would Jace be here without Seth? “I’ll see him.”

      Struggling to quell her sudden queasiness, Rebecca swallowed another mouthful of water. She’d only met Jace that one time, back in January. While she hadn’t out-and-out lied to him then, she also hadn’t been honest. He was probably here to confront her.

      The receptionist knocked on, and then opened, her office door. Jace entered the room, his six-foot-plus frame dwarfing the already small space. Again, Rebecca was taken aback by the man’s resemblance to Seth.

      He was, maybe, a fraction shorter than Seth, but shared the same eye color, bone structure and broad-shouldered physique as his younger brother. While Seth’s black hair was cropped close to his head, Jace wore his in a longer, shaggier style that spoke of a more relaxed, kicked-back way of life. If she didn’t know better, she’d think Jace was the younger brother.

      “Hey, Rebecca,” Jace said without meeting her eyes. He shoved his thumbs into his jean pockets. “I’m guessing you remember me.”

      “Of course.” Gratified that she sounded cool and calm, she gestured toward the chairs flanking her desk. “Please, sit down. I’m curious what brings you here.”

      He stepped toward the chairs, stopped, glanced between them and the door as if speculating how fast he’d be able to make an escape. “Maybe I should stand. What I have to say won’t take long, and… um… you might feel the urge to do bodily harm when I’m finished.”

      “I already know you told Seth I’m pregnant,” she said in the same cool voice as before. “I can’t really be angry with you for protecting your brother. Please sit. You’ll make me nervous if you continue to lurk.”

      For a nanosecond, she thought he was going to argue. In the end, he gave a loose-limbed shrug and dropped into one of the chairs. “I should probably get right to the point, but first, I need you to promise that you’ll hear me out.”

      Confused and somewhat alarmed, Rebecca pushed a wayward strand of hair off her cheek. “Go on. I’m listening.”

      “Well, it’s like this.” Jace squirmed. “When I guessed you were likely pregnant, and that there was a chance Seth was the father, I made a decision. I wanted to… be kept aware of how you were doing and if you needed anything. I wanted to be there for you in Seth’s absence.”

      “That’s nice,” she admitted cautiously. “Especially given the circumstances.”

      “Exactly! I didn’t think you’d willingly approach me with a problem, but I had to do something,” Jace said with a small cough. “Being a journalist, I have… contacts who help me when I require information. A fee is usually involved.”

      “A fee?” She added two plus two. “Are you saying what I think you are?”

      Jace gripped the arms of his chair. “You have a client by the name of Victor Tosh.”