Expecting his child

By: Leanne Banks


He thundered across the dusty Texas soil on the back of a black stallion like an avenging angel. Panic flooded her bloodstream. Martina Logan quickly backed away from the crowd of wedding guests and hid behind a tree. The guests at her brother's outdoor wedding gasped and murmured. Not many would be able to identify him from this distance, but Martina could. Her eyes didn't need to tell her; her heart did the trick, pounding erratically against her rib cage.

Noah Coltrane.

Noah slowed the stallion and guided the impressive animal to the vacated dance area. He scanned the crowd and Martina tried to make herself shrink.

Her brother Tyler spoke up. "What do you want, Noah?"

"I'm here to see Martina."

Her stomach dipped to her knees and she prayed he wouldn't see her. She wasn't ready to face him. Not yet.

"She doesn't want to see you," Tyler said. "Get off the property. Can't you see we're having a wedding?"

"That means she's here," Noah said, surveying the crowd once again.

"Buy a vowel," Tyler said. "She doesn't want to see you."

Martina closed her eyes during the long pause that followed.

"I will see her," Noah finally said, the hard resolve in his voice giving her a chill. "Give her that message."

Trembling, Martina stole a private moment and covered her face with her hands. A dozen images raced through her mind. Months ago, hearing Noah's Texas drawl on the stalled El in Chicago had reminded her how far from home she was. Hearing his voice had rubbed at an empty spot, and she had turned around to see the most fascinating man she'd ever met.

Noah was not the usual cowboy. Not only did he rope and ride, he also fenced and traded cattle options on the Chicago exchange. When they'd met, Martina had been temporarily assigned to a computer company in the Windy City while Noah was taking a course in commodities. He'd charmed her and made her feel comfortable before revealing his name.

Martina still remembered the regret she'd felt and seen echoed on his face when they'd realized their families hated each other. There was enough bad blood between the two ranching families to fill the Red Sea. It was bad enough that his family and hers had quarreled for generations over the stream their ranches shared. What sealed the grudge was the fact that Noah's great-grandfather had tried to steal the wife of Martina's great-grandfather, and during the course of it all, the Logan bride had died.

Still, Noah had suggested with a wry chuckle that since they weren't in Texas, they could pretend their last names were different.

He was the biggest no-no she'd ever said yes to. It had been all too easy to fall for him, and the memory of the passion and laughter they'd shared still made her weak. But reality and family loyalty had eventually crept in. Their affair had ended as quickly as it began. Martina, however, had been left with the consequences of her temporary insanity called Noah Coltrane.

Martina bit her lip and opened her eyes. She touched her abdomen swollen with Noah's child. She dreaded the day she would have to face him. She knew it was coming. Noah Coltrane would always be her biggest no-no. Her favorite mistake.

* * *

Chapter 1


He'd finally found her. Six weeks after he'd crashed her brother's wedding, Noah eyed Martina Logan's condo with a feeling of satisfaction and cynicism. The woman had made love to him like a firestorm for three of the most insane, yet oddly fulfilling weeks of his life, then abruptly disappeared.

Her leaving had stung his ego and he hadn't gone after her. He would forget her, he'd told himself. After all, with so much bad blood between their families, they'd both known the relationship was doomed from the start. But he'd seen a fire of independence in Martina's eyes that echoed in his gut, and he hadn't wanted to resist.

As the days passed after she'd left, Noah was haunted by her memory. Thoughts of her interrupted his sleep. It stuck in his craw when he made a few small attempts to locate her and couldn't.

Then it became his mission to find her and to exorcise her from his mind. His peace would come from looking into her eyes and letting her see that she couldn't hide from him. His relief would come from seeing that she wasn't nearly the woman he'd thought her to be. Then he would be on his way.

Walking toward her front door, he idly noticed the scrape of his boots against the hot pavement and the deceptively peaceful sound of birds chirping in the late-spring morning. He paused on her doorstep and, pushing aside the feeling that all hell was about to break loose, he pressed the doorbell twice.

"Just a minute," her voice called, and his gut twisted at the sound. He heard her footsteps and voice grow louder as she came closer.