Publisher: Cardinal Press, LLC
Formats: eBook, print
ISBN: Coming Soon!
One couple, a pending divorce, and a baby who needs a family...
One couple, a pending divorce, and a baby who needs a family...
No matter how hard Kate Malone strives to be perfect, everyone she's ever loved leaves. She foolishly believed "I do" meant "forever." Now, her wedding ring is in a jewelry box, and she's alone once again. But when Kate and her soon-to-be ex-husband become the sole guardians of an infant, divorce is not an option with a new baby counting on them.
Jared Reed loves Kate more than anything—even if he did push her too far. Now he's determined to keep his promises to his best friends and especially to his wife. A marriage of convenience sounds rather inconvenient, but Jared will do whatever it takes to get Kate back and provide their new little girl with parents who not only love her, but love each other, too.
Parenting brings them closer, but their undeniable attraction makes Kate want to keep her distance. Jared, however, won't give up on having the family and marriage he wants. Can Jared prove to his wife that he's the husband she's always wanted before it's too late?
Read an Excerpt
Kate Malone didn’t want to be in Idaho. She should be in Portland, Oregon, about to attend a meeting or take a call. But life could change in an instant.
Or be lost in one.
On the sidewalk outside the law office in Boise, she stared at the double glass doors. Every nerve ending twitched with a sense of dread.
Instead, Kate glanced at her cell phone before blowing out a relieved breath. Her appointment didn’t start for a few minutes.
Good. No reason to rush because she wanted to pretend for a little while longer this was all a big mistake. A misunderstanding. Anything so it wouldn’t be real.
If only that were the case…
She raised her face to the cloudless, blue sky. The spring sunshine heated her cheeks. Sun kisses. That was what Susan called them.
The unusually warm April day reminded Kate of their college graduation nine years ago. She’d approached the proceedings as a necessary step, one more item to mark off her to-do list on the way to the top, but not her best friend. Susan had relished each moment of the drawn-out ceremony in the sweltering ninety-degree heat. She’d bounced across the stage, tossed her University of Oregon diploma box in the air, and twirled around.
A smile tugged on Kate’s lips. Susan always lived life to the fullest. Or rather...
Until a driver fell asleep at the wheel and collided head-on with Susan’s car two days ago here in Boise.
As grief slashed through Kate, her breath hitched. Tears stung her eyes.
How could Susan be dead?
Susan, so full of life, so full of love. Susan, with her adoring husband, Brady, and their cute baby, Cassidy...
All three had died in the crash.
Kate swallowed hard.
No. She wasn’t losing control now.
She didn’t have a tissue.
Or the time.
She needed to hold herself together during the meeting with Susan and Brady’s attorney. Once Kate checked into her hotel, she would fall apart but not until then.
Squaring her shoulders, she pushed open a door and stepped inside. As a blast of cold air hit her, goose bumps prickled on her arms. The sight of the empty receptionist desk deflated her resolve. Her composure slipped a notch. Now that she was here, she wanted this over.
The familiar male voice made her stiffen.
Oh, no. She wasn’t ready to face him. Not now. Possibly not ever. And yet she turned toward his voice.
As Jared rose from a leather club chair, her breath caught in her throat. He wore a tailored gray suit and the multicolored silk tie she’d given him for his twenty-ninth birthday.
Four years ago, when Brady and Susan introduced them, Jared Reed had been a twenty-five-year-old single woman’s fantasy. Kate thought he was younger, but her being older than him hadn’t mattered. She’d fallen head over heels instantly.
He still looked younger than he was. He was also more handsome.
Her heart thudded. She wished she still didn’t find him so attractive.
His square jaw, slightly crooked nose—from a snowboarding accident when he was a teenager—and light brown beard gave his face the right amount of rugged character to offset his long lashes and lush lips. His hair had grown longer in the last three months. He usually wore a short, corporate cut, but the wavy, carefree style suited him better.
Not that she cared.
His hazel-green eyes met hers. “How are you?”
“I-I’m—” Her voice cracked. Tears blurred her vision.
No. Kate didn’t want him to see her like this.
She blinked. Once, twice.
“I’m so sorry, Katie.” He was at her side in an instant and brushed his lips across her forehead. “So very sorry.”
At the best of times, she struggled to remain indifferent to him, but his tender gesture and simple, yet sincere, words shattered her defenses. She sunk against him, breathing in his familiar soap and water scent, drawing in the welcome comfort of his hard chest.
Stop...now, logic shouted.
Move away...now, common sense cried.
Kate didn’t want to listen. She didn’t care if her actions contradicted rational thought. Jared understood what she was going through. He was experiencing the same grief.
“I’m sorry, too,” she choked out. “It’s so...”
He wrapped his arms around her. “Horrible.”
She hugged him, not wanting to let go. “I keep hoping it’s a mistake, or I’ll wake up to find out it’s been a bad dream.”
“Me, too,” he admitted. “As soon as I heard, I called your office. They said you were out of town.”
“I didn’t want to leave a message.”
“I wouldn’t have gotten it.” She closed her eyes. Not being alone felt so good. “After my assistant called me with the news, I turned off my phone.”
“I hope I never have to do it again.”
He gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “So do I.”
She stared at him. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you.”
“You wouldn’t have been able to reach me. I was in San Francisco. My boss had me pulled out of a meeting and relayed the message.” A corner of Jared’s mouth lifted. “Besides, I didn’t expect you to call, Kate.”
She flinched. “Why not? Brady was your best friend.”
“Susan was like a sister to you. How old were you when you met?”
“Seven.” In a foster home. Kate’s first. Susan’s third. That had been so long ago. They had come so far.
“Seven,” he repeated. “You must be devastated.”
Devastated didn’t begin to describe the anguish ripping Kate apart. It was as if a part of her had died, too. She inhaled slowly.
Jared’s arms tightened around her, and she rested her head against his chest, a foreign yet familiar position. “It’s okay to cry, Katie.”
The urge to pull away was strong. She fought it because she didn’t want to step back. Not when she relished the steady beat of his heart beneath her cheek. It was what she needed.
“I’ve cried.” Kate tried not to sound defensive, but she had cried. More than she cared to admit. She just didn’t like crying in front of others.
“I spoke to Brady last week,” Jared said. “Susan e-mailed me a picture of Cassidy on Thursday. She promised to send more.”
But those pictures would never arrive. The baby girl would grow no bigger.
Kate smothered a sob. “I can’t believe they’re gone. Why them? Why now?”
“I wish I knew.”
But thinking about what she’d lost hurt so much. Too much. She would rather focus on something else. Someone else.
Kate curled the ends of his hair with her finger. It had never been long enough to do this before, and she liked the extra length.
He brushed his hand through her hair, his fingers sifting through the blond strands, the way he always had.
She nearly sighed.
It was as if nothing had changed between them. That was far from the truth, but Kate wasn’t ready to back out of his arms.
For now, she would pretend the past didn’t matter and ignore the future. She could do that because she needed Jared—his warmth, his strength, him. A part of her hoped he needed her, too.
At least for a little while.
He cupped her face with his left hand—a thick gold band on his ring finger.
Hers felt conspicuously bare. She curled her left hand into a fist.
“Mr. and Mrs. Reed?” a female voice asked.
Jared turned his head. “Yes?”
A cute brunette with short, curly hair, and dangling gold earrings stood next to the receptionist’s desk.
Kate backed out of his embrace. “Actually, I’m—”
“My wife. Kate Malone,” he interrupted, a slight edge to his voice. “I’m Jared Reed.”
Kate recalled the long discussions about her not taking his name when they’d gotten engaged. He’d claimed to understand, to accept her decision. But he hadn’t. Not really.
She shifted uncomfortably.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Malone. Mr. Reed.” The woman picked up a thick manila file from the receptionist’s desk. “Don Phillips is running a few minutes late. I’ll show you to his office once I drop off this folder.”
“Thank you,” Jared said.
As the woman walked away, Kate bit her lip. “Why didn’t you tell her the truth?”
“Because with or without your wedding ring, you’re still my wife.” His gaze hardened. “At least until the divorce is finalized.”