Expecting his child(4)

By: Leanne Banks

To persuade her, he was going to have to see this from her point of view. Noah knew he was more open-minded than his brothers, but he wasn't sure he could think like a woman, God help him. Especially when every drop of primitive protectiveness and possessiveness raged to the surface when he remembered that Martina was carrying his child.

Taking a deep breath, he pulled into the dusty drive to the main ranch house. On a normal day, he felt a sense of well-being every time he came home. Zachary Tremont, former ranch foreman, had always told Noah that if he grew still and quiet, he would hear the voice of welcome when he was in the right place. Zachary was probably the reason none of the Coltrane boys had ended up in prison. Their father, Joe, had been a drunk, a mean one at that, and their mother, a strict churchgoer, had died of cancer. The union       hadn't exactly produced a pleasant home environment.

One good thing Joe had done just before he passed away, though, was to hire Zachary. During his time at the Coltrane ranch, Zachary had taught Noah and his brothers the discipline of fencing. More importantly, he had taught each of the boys about honor and the importance of finding and honoring his individual purpose.

Noah missed Zachary and would have traded his most valuable antique sword for a chance to talk to the man now. But Zachary had left when Noah's brother Adam grew old enough to manage the ranch, insisting it was time for him to move on.

Noah glanced at the recently remodeled and expanded ranch house and waited for the feeling of welcome. On a normal day, he felt the warmth of it curl in his stomach and flow through his blood.

This, however, was not a normal day. His brothers were not going to have a party over his news. A riot was more likely.

He waited until everyone had eaten dinner. Adam was downing a third beer, Jonathan was leaning back with his eyes closed, and Gideon was lighting a cigar.

"We need to make plans for an addition," Noah said.

Adam glanced at him quizzically. "Another one? We've already built bunkhouses for the fencing camps and roundup weekends you want to run."

"We can wait. I don't want anyone touching the house," Gideon said. "I'm sick of falling over contractors. I want to smoke cigars in peace."

"Then take them outside," Jonathan muttered, his eyes still closed. He wasn't fond of Gideon's trendy habit.

"It's not a building," Noah said. "It's a baby." Complete silence reigned. Jonathan's eyes popped open. Adam and Gideon stared at Noah.

"Whose, baby?" Adam asked in a low voice.

"Mine," Noah said, and called to the cook. "Patch, you mind bringing in that good bottle of whiskey and three shot glasses?"

Jonathan, the brother to whom Noah felt closest, had the most even temperament and was by far the most intuitive. "You're not drinking?"

"Not yet," Noah said, and poured the whiskey.

"Congratulations," Gideon said with a sly grin and swallowed his shot. "Does this baby come with a woman?"

"Yeah," Noah said. "Martina Logan."

Jonathan dropped his shot glass. Adam and Gideon stared at Noah in disbelief.

"You better be joking," Adam said.

"I'm not. She's carrying my baby. We met in Chicago. She's not like her brothers," Noah said, then remembered her scorching refusal to his proposal this morning. "In some ways, she's worse," he said with a wry laugh. "But I'm going to marry her, bring her here to live, and we're going to raise the baby here."

Adam and Gideon stood. "You've gone way too far this time," Adam said. "The Coltranes have nothing to do with the Logans. We don't date 'em. We don't marry 'em. We don't get 'em pregnant. Hell, we don't speak to 'em."

"Too late," Noah said.

Swearing, Gideon grabbed Noah by the shirt collar. "It's not too late. Tell her to get rid—"

Instinct raged through him, and Noah pushed his brother away. "I don't want to ever hear that from you or any of you again."

Adam shook his head. "You've gone too far," he said. "I'm cutting you out of the ranch. Just leave and don't come back."

Noah glanced at Jonathan and read the distress and disappointment on his face. His gut wrenched at the thought of leaving. "Okay. I guess that means you don't need the money I make for the ranch by trading cattle futures and leasing the hunting rights."

Adam cursed under his breath. "You know that money has bailed us out during a bad year." He shook his head again. "Now how could you make such a huge mistake?"

"I dislike the Logans as much as you do, but I've been dealt a new hand of cards, and I have to do what's right. We've all spent most of our lives living down the bad decisions our father, or his father, or his father made. I'm not gonna keep making bad decisions. This baby's no mistake."

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