Expecting his child(2)

By: Leanne Banks

"Yes, I'm keeping my appointments. I'm fine," she said, opening the door. "I'm—" Her eyes met Noah's and her mouth formed an O of surprise. Her jaw worked, but no sound came out. He watched her swallow. "I … I … I've got to go," she said, and pushed a button to disconnect.

Noah drank in the sight of her – her dark, tousled hair, shocked blue eyes, worried mouth, long throat, full breasts and fuller tummy.

Much fuller tummy.

The implication of her change in size triggered a dozen questions inside him. Martina was pregnant.

Whose baby?

Could it be his?

How far along was she?

His mind asked the questions, but his gut knew the important answer.

"I've gained weight," she said, smiling brightly enough to almost blind him. Almost, but Noah noticed the protective way she covered her abdomen with her hand. "You know how that goes. Some people just seem to gain it all in one place." She pushed her other hand through her hair and blinked innocently. "I can't imagine what would bring you here."

Noah struggled with the images that raced through his mind. Images where she had been laid bare beneath him, crying out his name. Images where she had looked into his eyes and he had gotten lost in the depths of her. At the time, he could have sworn she'd been equally lost in him.

"When did you start gaining the weight, Martina?" he asked. "About eight to twelve weeks after the last time you were with me? You must be over six months pregnant."

Her smile slipped slightly. "I don't remember when I started gaining weight," she said.

Another way of pleading the Fifth, Noah thought cynically. "And I'll bet you'll lose a lot of this weight suddenly," he said, his emotions roiling like the Galveston beach before a storm.

"The baby's mine, isn't it," he said, cutting through her ridiculous story. He decided this situation was going to require the best combination of his instincts and brain.

She dropped her hand from her hair and clasped both of her palms in front of her abdomen. Her gaze narrowed and her eyes glinted with a mixture of fear and fight. "My baby," she corrected. "Who told you?"

"No one. I looked at you and knew," he said, his entire body clenching with the knowledge that Martina was carrying his baby. "You need to let me in," he said, surprised at the calm tone of his voice. He felt as if she had set off a bomb inside him.

Martina bristled. "This isn't a good time. I'm busy working right now. My company is allowing me to design web pages from home, but I do have deadlines."

"When is a good time?" Noah asked, baiting her. "Next year?"

Martina's smile vanished and she set her chin. "Next year is too soon."

It occurred to Noah that this woman could have easily inspired the saying Don't mess with Texas. She tried to close the screen door in his face, but he caught it with his boot. "I'm not going away."

Her eyes flashed. "I'm over my quota of pushy, overbearing men in my life. I don't respond well to force."

He nodded. "Good," he said. "I only use force as a last resort when I'm dealing with someone who is being unreasonable."

She looked at him with skepticism, but stepped away from the door.

Martina had dreaded this day. She'd known she would have to tell Noah about the baby someday. She'd decided an e-mail, fax or message sent by carrier pigeon would be much preferable to a face-to-face confrontation. The time had never seemed right. As a rule she didn't procrastinate, but she'd broken several rules by getting involved with Noah in the first place.

As he walked past her, she remembered some of the silly reasons she'd allowed herself to get involved with him. His height. She'd always been tall, and it had felt good to be held by a man several inches taller. She'd liked the way he smelled – of leather and spicy musk. She'd liked the sound of his voice and the way his mind worked.

After living with a father and two brothers determined to protect, defend and dominate her, being with a reasonable man who treated her as an equal had gone to her head like too much tequila.

Martina had the unnerving intuition that she might not be able to count on Noah to be reasonable right now.

He glanced around her den, then walked toward her. Her heart squeezed in her chest at the formidable expression on his face.

"When were you going to tell me?" he asked in a calm voice at odds with the turbulence in his eyes.

Her stomach fluttered with nerves. "I was going to tell you. I just hadn't figured out how."

"When? After the baby was born? After our child took first steps or went to school? Or reached legal age?"

The sense of betrayal in his voice scraped at her. She struggled with shame and frustration. "I should have told you. It would have been the right thing to do, but it was wrong to get involved with you in the first place. When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn't believe it was true. I had to come to terms with it on my own."

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