If You Want Me by Mia Epsilon

If You Want Me by Mia Epsilon

If You Want Me

Weddings by C & C, Book 3

by Mia Epsilon

Ebook ISBN: B017O6EVVQ

[ Romantic Suspense, MF ]

When a playboy takes on a playgirl sparks and tempers fly until a stalker begins a deadly game of hide-and-seek.

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Chapter One


What the hell am I going to do? remained the utmost thought in Adam’s cluttered mind while he drove along the interstate. Jumbled within the things to do, bills to pay, orders to fill, and avoid desperate, psycho females tumbled worry for the woman curled in the seat beside him. The cold gray February day seemed to reach icy fingers into the interior of the van. Adam reached over and upped the heat when the woman beside him shivered.

“I really appreciate you coming with me.” Anna rubbed a hand over her stomach and grimaced, her pale face pinched. “I guess I owe you one.”

“No, you don’t. I’m glad to help.” Adam glanced at his sister before focusing back on the road. “Still not feeling well?”

“Not really.” Anna took a sip of ginger ale from the can she held, swallowed, and groaned. “It’s probably some stomach bug from one of the kids. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re the one who insisted on teaching elementary school.” Adam lowered the volume of the radio so she wouldn’t have to try to speak louder. “How can you want to be around kids who are mini incubators for every disease known to mankind?”

“Shut up. I love teaching, and kids are not mini incubators.” Anna shifted on her narrow seat and glanced from the can, to his head, and back to the can as if debating throwing the drink at him. “Not all the time.”

“I could always tell Robin you miss him so much it’s making you sick.” Adam felt the worry build in his mind. Anna had been ill over a week now, ever since her husband left for a ten day conference, and yet she refused to go to a doctor. Stomach bugs didn’t last this long.

They had been driving a bit over three hours and he’d stopped five times for Anna to use a fast food restaurant restroom. His old van definitely wasn’t meant for long distance travel, but she’d never been car sick before. Perhaps this errand Anna so wanted to do wasn’t worth the distance and the trip. Adam considered turning back, yet they had almost reached their destination. A dozen of one and twelve of the other, he sighed.

“You won’t. He already feels guilty for being away. But this conference is mandatory for his master’s degree plus it gets his name and resume out. He’s top of his class.” The proud note in her voice made Adam’s lips curve. “When he graduates in a few weeks, he’ll have his pick of positions.”

“Y’all wouldn’t think of moving, would you?” Adam threw his sister another quick glance as he took the exit for the small college they were visiting. He slowed for the small two lane road. Surprise and the first tingle of fear licked at the back of his brain. “I mean, you’re all settled in Mom’s old house and seem pretty happy there. Especially since the upstairs addition is finished and you have twice the room.”

Anna shrugged, shifted one hip, and punched at the cushion Adam had supplied for her seat. “We’re happy where we are, but if Robin wants to take another position, I won’t hold him back. He’s a brilliant teacher, but he’s then again he’s brilliant period. He needs a challenge, I think.”

“Like being married to you isn’t challenge enough.” He braced the side of his body nearest her. Anna didn’t punch at him, laugh, or actually throw the can which worried Adam more. She didn’t even retort. She must feel sick-enough-to-be-in-the-hospital rotten. He swallowed more fear and tried again. “Come on, you have to admit that was funny.”

“You didn’t have to come if all you want to do is insult me.” Anna threw an arm over her head.

“But insulting you while you’re sick is so easy. I’ve got to get my laughs where I can.” I’m making her call her doctor the minute we start back down these mountains, Adam decided. Or I’ll call Mom, tell her all about Anna’s illness, and let her nag Anna.

“I thought you got enough laughs from Megan spreading the news around town you two were about to get engaged.” Anna lowered her arm and glanced over at him. Her big brown eyes opened wide and lashes blinked fast enough anyone who didn’t know her would believe the question was asked in concern not sarcasm.

“Ouch, damn, you hit back hard, don’t you?” Adam grimaced and allowed the self recrimination to make him the slightest bit disgusted. “For the record, and all those at the coffee shop who will be dying to ask you, we were never getting engaged. Never. We were never even steady, in a relationship, or anything close to it. Period. And it’s not funny.”

Her lips compressed over the grin which gave Adam a tiny bit of relief. “Neither is saying me being Robin’s wife is enough of a challenge to him.” Anna glanced out the wide windows. “We’re here.”

“Yes we’re here.” Adam gestured to the brick buildings and blew out a breath. “You want to buy Robin a motorcycle he sold a couple of years ago because you aren’t enough of a challenge to him.”

“No, moron, we’re here because it’s our second anniversary and this bike is Robin’s first love. He only sold because I behaved like an idiot and—” Anna punched him in the arm “—it’s sweet and romantic for me to buy it back for him.”

“Being sick affects your brain and makes it all mushy.” Something was wrong. The uneasy feeling gnawing at his stomach refused to go away regardless what Anna said. She needed a doctor.

“Oh please,” Anna gripped the dashboard as he made a turn. “Just because you remain jaded and cynical doesn’t mean you get to scoff at those of us who have found true love.”

“Yep, you need a doctor. You’re mushy, delusional, and out of your mind.” Adam breathed a tiny bit easier when his sister joked back. “Have you been binge watching old romance movies again?”

“I really do worry about you,” Anna whispered. “Not all women are like Paige or Megan. You’re a worse womanizer than Robin used to be.”

“Robin is an amateur. Besides, all he sees now is you, which is a good thing because I’d murder him if he ever did cheat on you.” Adam shoved away the name and memory of the woman who had almost killed him as well as the name of latest in a long line determined to calm the bad boy. “And you should be worried about me. Obviously women are desperate to make up flaming lies about me.”

“That’s what you get for being Abbeville’s most eligible bachelor plus charming your way through every woman under eighty.” Anna held up the directions and pointed. “Turn here. Both Robin and I would like to see you happy.”

Good God, not this again. He didn’t need a steady relationship to be happy. He just needed good sex. “Not all of us are Bogart and Bergman. Some of us are Gable and Leigh.”

Anna pushed her long ponytail over her shoulder. The ends brushed Adam’s shoulder like a reproach. “Casablanca had the wrong ending and so did Gone with the Wind. Since you’re so misguided, you can come over for pizza and a classic movie marathon after we get home so I can prove it to you.”

Now that was more like his sister. Adam grinned with the beginning of a laugh. She couldn’t be too sick if she wanted pizza. “Sounds good. You buying?” He’d have a chance to make sure she called her doctor and rested.

“I’m an elementary school teacher with a husband in graduate classes about to buy a motorcycle with most of my savings. You think I have money?” Anna waved her hand. “You’re the one with his own business.”

“Fledging business.” Adam made the final turn and found a parking spot. “Just as well, you’re sick and didn’t come up here on your own. You’d have gotten lost with all these back roads.” He opened his car and hopped out. The ginger ale can shot past him to clatter on the parking lot. “Geez, temper, temper, sis.”

Anna slammed her own door and stomped around to the front of the delivery van. “Adam Matthew Howell, I mean it. You stop teasing me or the next time the wave comes it’s crashing surf over your head.”

“Peace.” Adam held up a hand, palm forward. The thought of driving home while smelling like a frat room after a wild party night hushed him. “This is my faithful work van. Please don’t vandalize it or its driver in any way including gross, smelly, disgusting ones.”

“Let’s just find this kid and get Robin’s baby back.” Anna shoved at her hair, bright red spots in her cheeks. “Is it hot here?”

“It’s the end of February in the mountains. Nothing is hot outside.” Adam frowned as she sagged against the hood. Worry surged back full force. Her face now shaded the gray of a well used sidewalk. “Okay, that’s it. I’m taking you to a doctor as soon as we get home.”

“Um, hi, Mrs. Bates?”

They both turned at the greeting. Anna straightened while Adam debated growling at the kid for interrupting. “Yes, that’s me. But please call me Anna. You must be Ethan.”

The young man nodded and held out his hand. “Thanks for driving up. I couldn’t get a ride back if I drove the bike down what with everyone busy and all.”

“No problem.” Anna smiled. “This is my brother Adam. He came to help.”

Adam held on to his sister’s arm and walked with the two, listening with half an ear as they discussed gas mileage and when the last oil change had occurred.

Anna had just scared the crap out of him yet now seemed fine. He may not be a doctor, but stomach bugs didn’t just come and go. He’d seen Anna sick as a kid. Never once had she turned gray and looked about to faint.

He cleared his throat, caught her glance, and could tell from her narrowed eyes she’d spend the trip back arguing why she shouldn’t go to the doctor. He’d say one word. Mom. That should be it. Anna would be in the first urgent care clinic once they got back home.

Satisfied he had the upper hand Adam turned his attention to the motorcycle. Robin had sold his baby when Anna insisted it was a death trap. Which is my fault, Adam thought with a twist in his gut. Anna had asked him before Christmas to help find the owner. They’d finally tracked the kid down.

Ethan had taken great care of the bike. Its whole body and seat were spotless. The engine purred like a well contented cat. Adam felt a twinge or two of apprehension as he straddled the bike to take it for a short test spin. He’d not ridden a motorcycle in over ten years. Yet he could still recognize a good machine. Anna would make Robin a happier man than he already was.

There was freedom in riding. Adam remembered it well and felt it again. A bit of the worry left his shoulders when the cold wind whipped around him, the miles and countryside flew by, and the scents of asphlat and engine oil smelled almost as sweet as roses. A part of him urged to ride, ride, ride and not stop. Then his thigh quivered and he sighed. Time to go back.

Once he nodded confirmation, Anna paid Ethan, who grinned from ear to ear. Ethan helped Adam load Robin’s baby into the van with a bit of creative twisting and turning. Anna hugged the still grinning Ethan, climbed in the passenger seat, and they headed back home.

“Robin’s going to be so excited.” As sick as she’d looked a bit ago, Anna glowed.

Adam recalled her gray skin and decided glowy or not, Anna was still going to see a doctor today.

“I can’t wait to see his face.”

“I bet he won’t be home ten seconds before you’re yanking him to the garage to see it.” Adam shifted gears. He frowned at the odd grinding sound as he drove down the two lane road toward the interstate.

“Ha. You’d lose. The first place I’m yanking Robin once he gets home is our bedroom.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, you two have a wonderful sex life, yadda, yadda, yadda.” Adam noticed the steering wheel seemed stiff right and managed to jerk the van off the side of the road before the engine sputtered and died. “Damn.”

“What’s wrong?” Anna clutched the dashboard as the van shuddered to a stop.

“I’m not sure. Stay here.” Adam tried to flip on the emergency flashers but muttered a curse when they failed to come on. He waited for the lone car behind him to pass before he got out and raised the hood. Nothing seemed smack-in-the-face noticeable at first. He poked a bit and almost jumped out of his skin when a quiet voice spoke.

“It’s your serpentine belt.”

Glancing over, Adam met a gaze from the most unique pair of eyes he’d ever seen. Not a true blue, not a true green, the colors swirled together and changed the more he stared into them. He straightened and did a sweep of the woman standing beside him. Strawberry blond hair pulled tightly back, tall, shapely. Hello, beautiful. He smiled and leaned a bit closer.

“Yes, I just discovered it’s broken. I’m Adam. And you are?”

“Just trying to help.” She pushed past him to poke and prod a bit at the belt. “It can’t be fixed. It needs a total replacement. There’s a small garage a few miles down the road. I’ll call them to come and—”

“Wow, you don’t believe in foreplay, do you? Just jump straight in.” Adam let his jean clad thigh brush hers. “Though a bit of…anticipation only adds to the eventual resolution.”

“There.” She shifted away in total disregard of his flirting and lifted her cell phone from her back pocket. The movement outlined her grab-me hips and caused Adam’s mouth to water. “Manning’s Garage has a ready supply of belts and can have this fixed in no time.”

“What are you their spokesperson? Just give me their number, and I’ll call them.” Adam watched her eyes flare a bit. This trip might prove rewarding in more ways than helping his sister. “Then give me your number and name.”

“I’m not interested in exchanging names and phone numbers.” She glared at him. “Take the hint and knock it off. Someone should be here with a tow truck in around fifteen minutes.”

“What’s your hurry, sweetheart?” Adam indicated her bare left hand and watched in fascination as the tiny freckles across her cheeks seemed to beg for his lips. “I don’t see a ring, or is there a little man waiting somewhere for you?”

Her gaze narrowed as one blunt nailed finger drilled into his chest. “Look, I said I’m not interested. Do you want my help or not?”

“Oh I can imagine you helping me in a number of ways,” Adam murmured as he caught her finger and brought it to his lips. She immediately jerked it away. Why he pushed so hard, he couldn’t fathom. He only knew right this second he wanted this woman like none he’d wanted in a very long time. “Just tell me your name and we’ll go from there.”

She sighed long, deep, and with a depth of impatience. “Listen, Mr. Smooth Talker—”

“Adam. The name’s Adam.”

“Yeah fine, whatever. Listen, Adam.” The emphases on his name slapped against him and caused him to raise an eyebrow at her vehlmance. “You couldn’t handle me if I came with instructions. So back off.”

“Adam?” Anna appeared at the passenger edge of the hood. “What’s the problem?”

Ms. Strawberry Blonde balled her fist and slugged Adam in the stomach. It felt like a Mack truck slammed him. “You jerk. Coming on to me, and you have a little woman of your own not five feet away. What a creep!”

Adam wheezed out a breath and shook his head at the same time Anna spoke.

“But I’m not—” Her face colored split pea soup green, and she leaned over, violently sick.

Ms. Blonde hurried over to her, murmuring, and stroking Anna’s back. She glared at Adam. “Now look what you’ve done. Flirting with me and making this poor woman physically sick. We ought to just leave you here to deal with your truck, van, whatever the hell it is by yourself.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, sweetheart, but the poor woman is my sister and you owe me for the sucker punch.” Adam glared back then turned his attention to Anna. He pushed the other woman aside and led his sister to the back of the van. He gently helped her slide to the ground, rubbing her shoulders as she buried her head against her knees, and shook with dry sobs. “Shh, honey, it’s going to be all right. We’ll get you to a doctor.”

“No. Bike. Robin.” Anna leaned away, sick yet again. Her entire body shook.

Adam stood, ripped open the back of the van, and grabbed the wet wipes he kept for spills. He knelt beside his sister, huddled now in a ball on the rough dirt, and wiped her face. She didn’t seem to have a fever, but he couldn’t tell. Flirting, the van, and even Ms. Blonde were all forgotten in his concern. “I’ll take care of Robin’s bike. Let’s worry about you.”

“I called Manning’s, the garage I mentioned. He’s coming over with his tow truck.” Ms. Blonde knelt on the other side of Anna. “Hello, I know you feel lousy. My name’s Emily, what’s yours?”

“Anna.” She sat up and glanced at Adam, face deathly pale. “I’m so sorry.”

“Sweetheart, you have nothing to be sorry about.” Adam pushed a strand of her hair from her face. He tried to smile and not show her how worried he remained. “Let’s get the van taken in and get you to a doctor.”

Anna shook her head at the same time Ms. Blonde, Emily, spoke. “There’s an urgent care center a few miles away. I’ll be happy to take Anna while you see to the van.”

Adam hesitated, torn. He couldn’t abandon Anna to a stranger, nor could he have her wait however long it took to replace the broken belt. She needed help right away. “Give me identification, Blondie. Anyone can rattle off a name. No way am I just letting you drive off with my sister.”

“Oh for God’s sake.” Ms. Blonde stomped to her car in front of the van, jerked open her door, and retrieved her purse. She took out a wallet, stomped back, and shoved it in Adam’s face. “There. Happy now?”

Adam glanced at the driver’s license, noted the picture matched her name, and the address. “Not yet. Give me your cell number as well.”

“You got my name and number after all, didn’t you?” She muttered something under her breath Adam might have once cared about and now simply didn’t with Anna so obviously in need of medical help.

“Yeah, fine, whatever.” Adam threw the words back at her and took out his own cell, keyed in the numbers she muttered, and nodded. “Expect a call from me as soon as…” A rumble filled the air as a tow truck approached, Manning’s written in large red letters across the driver’s side door. “Ah, related, I get the sales pitch now.”

“It wasn’t a sales pitch.” Her fingers knotted into fists at her sides as she clutched purse in one hand and wallet in the other. “I’m trying to help, damn you.”

Adam held up both hands. It wasn’t the time or the place to explore whatever had them both sniping at each other and him wanting to shove her on the nearest flat surface and explore her gorgeous body.

“Okay, Emily Manning, let’s declare peace. My sister is the most precious woman in the world to my brother-in-law Robin and she means a hell of a lot to me as well. You damn well better take good care of her until I get there.”

“You need not concern yourself with Anna.” Emily slapped her hands on her hips, her glare enough to incinerate Adam on the spot as the tow truck parked and a man got out. “I’m more than capable of helping your sister.”

“I’m all right,” Anna murmured her voice thin and weak. “Stop fussing over me. It’s just a stomach bug.”

“No, it’s not.” Adam helped her stand, supporting her as they walked to Emily’s car. He got her settled in the passenger seat and then raced back for her purse from the van. “I’ll be there as soon as I make sure Robin’s baby and mine are safe.”

Anna smiled a bit then leaned her head against the back of the seat. Adam glanced at Emily as she started her car.

“See you soon.”

“So, this is your van? Em said the serp belt is dead when she called.” A man in oil stained overalls, tuffs of gray hair sticking out from beneath an equally stained ball cap partially shading twinkling blue eyes held out his hand. “I’m Jamie, owner of Manning’s, and Em’s dad. She’s usually pretty dead on in her assessment but let’s take a look.”

Adam shook his hand, watching the car disappear down the road. “Adam Howell. She’s right. I noticed the broken belt right about the time she walked up.”

“Then we’ll get it fixed up in no time. We’ll haul it to the shop then I’ll drop you by the hospital so you can check your sister.” He patted Adam’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about her. She’ll be okay. If Em thought anything serious might be wrong, she’d have dialed the boys down at the ambulance station.”

“All right.” Adam turned from the now empty road. “I appreciate you coming right out. Slow day?”

“Every day ’round here could be called a slow day, depending on who you ask.” Jamie smiled, his weathered and lined face open and friendly. “Have to admit, I’ve never worked on one of these before, though I’ve had a hankering to see the engine. Much obliged for you breaking down so close to my shop.”

Adam laughed. “Guess it’s not every day you see a mail truck. I replaced the engine last year, but the belts all looked fine, no splits or anything, so I left them alone.”

“Yeah, they’re great until they aren’t.” Jamie poked a bit then nodded. “Belt’s gone all right. Let’s load her.”

As Adam stood back and let the older man work, he felt better about the care his van and Robin’s motorcycle received. But his thoughts were on Anna. He’d promised Robin and their mom to watch out for her, to take care of her, and he’d let some stranger just drive off with her.

But damn, what a stranger. He’d always heard red heads had fiery tempers, and she proved the point, true red or not. But he could watch those eyes all day and not get bored. Not interested she’d claimed, but Adam recognized the lie in the way her breath quickened and gaze darted around him.

“So, what brings you up to these parts? Y’all aren’t local.” Jamie glanced in his rear view mirror after the van was loaded, waved to a passing pickup truck, and then eased onto the road.

“Anna bought the motorcycle in the back of the van as a surprise wedding anniversary gift for her husband from a student at Western, and I came with her to collect it.” Adam shook his head. “I should have realized she wasn’t up to the trip. She hasn’t been feeling well for days.”

“They’ll get her fixed up at Blue Ridge. We may be small, but the doctor is top rate. He once dated Em, still wants to, I think. But she’s got it in her head she’s not ready for anything serious and wants to take a new job down off this mountain.”

The sharp stab of jealousy surprised Adam. What the hell did he care if some doctor wanted Ms. Blonde? Her curvy figure no doubt enticed more than doctors. He bet several of the university boys had many a fantasy about those long legs, full lips, and palm filling breasts.

“Speaking of jobs, what do you use this truck for? It’s sure not mail.” Jamie drew Adam back to the matter at hand.

“I just opened my own business a couple of years ago. The van came cheap from a government surplus sale, needed only the engine replaced, and a repaint. I’m a florist.” Adam took a breath and waited for the side looks, the comments.

Jamie surprised him. “Like with plants and flowers and such? My Mama, God rest her soul, used to have a garden. She grew the prettiest roses this side of the Mississippi. My wife took over after Mama died, but the roses seemed like they missed Mama and never did bloom quite as bright. Me, my thumbs are permanently black and tend to kill anything green I touch so I’ve lots of respect for anyone who takes care of living things.”

“It’s not as easy as people seem to think.” Adam watched Jamie turn the huge tow truck into a parking lot with a long metal building at the end. “I don’t grow them as much as arrange them, though.”

“Oh, believe me, I understand. Your hands have as many scars as mine do.” Jamie twisted the wheel, steered in a circle, and backed slow and easy to an open garage bay door. “There. You come on with me to the hospital in my other truck. I’ll come back and get started on that belt. Hopefully by the time your sister is released I’ll have it fixed and you folks can head on back home. Where are y’all from, anyway?”

“Abbeville.” Adam hopped down and followed the older man to a dented Ford pickup. He rubbed one hand over the other, felt the faded scars, and shook his head. Jamie Manning’s powers of observation belied his slow going manner.

Jamie whistled after they settled in and he drove down the road. “No kidding? Em’s new job is in Abbeville, at the elementary school.”

“She’s a teacher?” None of his teachers had looked like her. He might have paid better attention if any of them had. “Anna and her husband are both teachers there.”

“Naw, she’s one of those fancy emotion people, what do we call them?” Jamie scratched his wrinkled face. “Oh, yes, psychologist. She’s taking over for the one who went on maternity leave, might be permanent, and might not. Good way to get her feet wet, see if it’s the job for her before she really commits to it. Small world, meeting you folks.”

“I agree. It’s a small world.” Adam grinned. So Ms. Strawberry Blonde would work at the same school as Anna. He’d collect on the sucker punch yet. “Anna will befriend and help her settle in.”

“Glad to hear it. I’m not real happy, truth told, Em heading off, but she’s got to follow her own path, make her own way.” Jamie tapped the steering wheel. “Her sister left for college and is now engaged to some man studying to be a doctor down at Duke so she’s not moving back here. My son’s military, Air Force. No tellin’ where he’s going to end up stationed. Seems all our young people want big cities and not a little backwoods town. Em’s no different.”

Adam shrugged as they passed through what must be the town’s main street, shops and stores, smiling people, a park. “It seems like a nice little town.”

“Not much to do here if you’re young and seeking adventure. The college kids go over to Asheville, where’s there’s more to do and loads of trouble.” Jamie laughed, waving to folks out his open window in defiance of the cold weather. “My wife and I always raised our kids to follow their dreams. Em’s following hers, same as her brother and sister. Okay, here’s the hospital. You have Em bring you back after you check your sister. I’ll go get started on your van.”

Adam smiled and held out his hand. “Thank you, sir. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help.”

“Now see, you called me sir and treat me with respect even if I am a grease monkey. Tells me your folks raised you the right way, so no thanks needed. Just doing the right thing.” Jamie shook Adam’s hand. His firm grip belied his age. “Hope she’s okay. See you soon.”

Adam went through the double doors and straight to the desk manned by a gray haired woman. She told him to have a seat in the small waiting area. He perched on the hard plastic chair, too agitated to read the outdated magazines scattered around or watch the news feed on the TV mounted to the wall.

He hated hospitals, always had. The smells of antiseptic, illness, and God only knew what else. The sounds of lowered voices and beeping machines, the sights of people in misery, grief or pain. It made Adam uncomfortable. Whenever he delivered flowers to a hospital, he always selected and used the brightest blooms to dispel the gloom.

After endless minutes, a nurse came to get him. She led him to an exam room the size of a supply closet, big enough for the typical metal medical bed and a plain metal chair. Anna lay curled on her side under a thin white sheet, IV line in her arm. Her eyes were closed and her hand in the grip of Ms. Blonde.

Adam paused at the foot of the bed to swallow and hope the uneasiness he felt was simply his surroundings. “Has she seen the doctor? What did he say?”

“Hello to you, too.” Em put a finger over her lips, gently untangled her hand from Anna’s, and gestured to the door. Adam followed her out, feeling almost as sick as his sister had been.

“What is it?” Without thinking he grabbed Em’s forearms and held tight. Some corner of his mind registered the toned muscles beneath the long sleeved shirt she wore and a desire to experience what her bare skin felt like. “Why did we have to leave the room? What’s wrong with Anna?”

Em stared at him a few seconds before she shrugged and struggled to free herself from his grasp. “The staff ran some tests and they’ll have more results soon. She’s resting. I didn’t want your big mouth to wake her.”

“Big mouth?” Adam repeated. Really? She’d slap at him now with Anna a few feet away looking like she might be—He shook Emily Manning hard enough to make her very nicely rounded breasts jiggle. Not that he noticed. Much. “She’s my sister, damn it. Is she all right?”

“This will change her life, and her husband’s. I have no doubt yours as well.” Em brought up her hands and patted his. “Go in to her now. The doctor should be back any moment. She probably prefers family with her right now.”

Adam swallowed, dropped his hands, and bent his head. A life changer usually meant very bad news. Why the hell hadn’t he insisted Anna go a doctor sooner? His heart felt like a lump of lead in his chest. “Thanks for staying with her.”

“She’s a wonderful lady.”

Adam gripped the door handle. “Yeah, she is. There’s only one lady finer.”

He went inside and sank into the chair beside his sister’s bed. Her skin appeared ashen, made more so by the white sheet. He’d promised to protect her and here she lay in the hospital. Some brother he was. He slid his hand under hers and reached for his cell phone. He better call Robin and let him know Anna needed him.

The door swung open before he could dial. A tall black haired man strode into the space and halted at the foot of the bed. “Mrs. Bates?” he called in a loud tone.

Anna opened her eyes and began to stir as Adam leapt to his feet and muttered at the man’s abrupt manner. “I’m her brother, and you are?”

“Doctor Goldmin, the physician on call.” His dark eyes traveled over Adam and seemed to dismiss him. Adam gritted his teeth not to say more. “I have your test results and it’s as we thought.”

“Okay.” Anna pushed her hair away from her face. “My husband’s been away. I had some issues at work and everything’s been so crazy busy I figured stress or maybe a stomach bug from one of my students. I guess I should have known.”

“What? Known what?” Adam almost grabbed the palm pilot from the doctor’s hands to see for himself as his heart now raced. “What’s wrong? What are you going to do to help her?”

“There’s nothing we can do.” The doctor shrugged and continued to tap the tablet. “I suggest telling your husband as soon as possible though to discuss your options.”

Adam would have preferred the other man take out a needle the size of California and stick it in him. Options? True fear made nausea churn in his stomach and turn his blood to ice. Oh God, not Anna, who’d never hurt anyone in her life and only wanted to teach and make children happy. Not his sister the person he remained closest to besides their mother.

Resolve flooded through him as he straightened his shoulders. They wouldn’t blindly accept what some small town doctor said. Adam gathered her to him and just held tight. Her heart raced against his chest. Strong. He had to be strong for Anna, and for Robin. “We’ll find another doctor, a specialist who will help you.”

“You do need to consult your own doctor. From your tests and the information you provided, I’d say mid October.” Doctor Goldmin keyed in something on his tablet. “Give or take a couple of weeks either side.”

Just over seven months? Adam wanted to rip something apart, scream until he went hoarse, anything to vent the fury and injustice of it all. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”

Anna went stiff in his arms and pulled back, face stricken and eyes filled with tears. “You’re sorry? You think Robin is going to be furious with me?”

“Huh? Why would he be furious? He loves you beyond measure. This is going to hit him so hard he’ll never recover. He’s not going to be mad at you. He’s going to be mad at Fate.” Adam shook his head, unable to believe she’d even ask such a stupid question. The shock of hearing bad news, maybe? “He won’t be able to bear the thought of losing you.”

“Losing me?” Anna’s expression changed from fearful to confused. “Why would he lose me?”

Adam glanced from the doctor to his sister and back again. Confusion also filled him. What had he missed? “The doc just said there’s nothing he can do for you and you need to tell Robin right away. That’s not good, right?”

The loveliest smile broke across his sister’s face as her features cleared. “He can’t do anything for me. I’m pregnant.”

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