Expecting his child(7)

By: Leanne Banks

He shook his head. "If this were the Old West, I could haul you off and carry you home. Sadly, in this case, those days are gone," he muttered under his breath. "I know you as a lover. I know what makes you—" his eyes darkened in remembrance "—go," he finished. "But I need to know more than that. I need to know the mother of my child."

His gaze cut through her, and Martina had a terrible premonition that having Noah know her could be more dangerous for her than making love with him had been. His intensity made the prospect feel unbearably intimate. Oh, hell, Martina thought, wanting to kick something. How was she supposed to refuse that request?

He moved closer, leaning on his uplifted arm against the wall beside her. "We might as well start with the hard stuff."

Hard stuff, Martina thought. That would be you. "What's that?" she asked warily.

"What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?" he asked.

A rush of relief raced through her. Martina was so relieved she was almost charmed. Almost, but she was determined to stay on guard.

* * *

"En garde!" Gideon cried, and lunged toward Noah. Gideon, whose temper flared quickly but cooled with equal speed, had gotten past his anger and was more than willing to try to best his older brother in a duel.

The parry, the clash and scrape of metal sword-play had been one of the best ways for Noah to let off steam since Zachary had taught him and his brothers to fence in the old barn.

"Rough afternoon with the Logan princess?" Gideon goaded him with a smile.

Noah plunged past his younger brother's defense to touch his chest. He contributed genetic material. Every time Martina's flip words played through his mind, his head roared with anger.

Gideon nodded wryly at the point and backed away slightly. "I'll take that as a yes."

"It could have been worse," Noah said with a short nod. "Ready?" he asked, and they began again.

"In other words, she didn't sic her brothers on you," Gideon said.

"Compared to Martina, her brothers are cake. We've at least been able to reason with Brock Logan about wandering cattle and the pond we share. Martina knows what's best – she just isn't being reasonable."

"And what's best is…?"

Noah stated the obvious. "For us to marry and raise the baby here."

Gideon touched his rib cage.

"Touché," Noah said. "Ready."

"Can't blame her for hesitating. We've never been the favored family of the county," Gideon said.

"That's in the past," Noah insisted. It was one of his greatest passions to put the bad Coltrane reputation in the past and to build a new one based on respect. "All of us have worked to put that in the past."

"Yeah, but for Pete's sake, did you have to pick that Logan woman? Why not someone a little more easygoing?"

"You mean a woman who doesn't have the ability to slice a man to ribbons with her tongue?" Noah asked, pushing Gideon closer to the back wall.

"Yeah," Gideon said, swinging his sword for all he was worth.

"Someone more submissive," Noah said, thinking Martina would probably stab them both if she heard this discussion.

"Yeah. It sounds like you might as well be trying to seduce a porcupine," Gideon said. "A pregnant porcupine."

Noah lunged and pressed the tip of his sword to the protective material covering Gideon's heart. Martina might be acting like a porcupine, but Noah had experienced the soft, giving woman behind the quills. He was determined to find that woman again.

"Touché," his brother said with a shake of his head. "Hell, you make a great case for contraception. What are you going to do?"

"The same thing I do in a fencing match. Find her weakness and exploit it." Noah knew he sounded ruthless, but he wasn't playing for fun with Martina. He was playing for blood, his family name and his child.

* * *

He found her reclining on a chaise longue in her backyard in the late afternoon. Dressed in shorts and a maternity tank top she'd lifted above her belly while she rested. Her legs were long and lithe, and knowing the baby she carried was his made him want her in an elemental way. Her expression was soft, almost wistful and her gaze was faraway. He remembered how she had once looked at him with passion-drenched eyes, and he wondered what tender thoughts she could be thinking right now.

He walked closer and heard her say, "I look like a beached whale. I can't even reach my toenails to paint them."

Noah saw the bottle of nail polish beside her, and his gaze shot to the next yard. He saw a woman wearing a bikini. He bit back a chuckle. "You still have the best legs in Texas," he said.

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