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Expecting his child

By:Leanne Banks

Expecting his child
Leanne Banks

       Prologue

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He thundered across the dusty Texas soil on the back of a black stallion  like an avenging angel. Panic flooded her bloodstream. Martina Logan  quickly backed away from the crowd of wedding guests and hid behind a  tree. The guests at her brother's outdoor wedding gasped and murmured.  Not many would be able to identify him from this distance, but Martina  could. Her eyes didn't need to tell her; her heart did the trick,  pounding erratically against her rib cage.

Noah Coltrane.

Noah slowed the stallion and guided the impressive animal to the vacated  dance area. He scanned the crowd and Martina tried to make herself  shrink.

Her brother Tyler spoke up. "What do you want, Noah?"

"I'm here to see Martina."

Her stomach dipped to her knees and she prayed he wouldn't see her. She wasn't ready to face him. Not yet.

"She doesn't want to see you," Tyler said. "Get off the property. Can't you see we're having a wedding?"

"That means she's here," Noah said, surveying the crowd once again.

"Buy a vowel," Tyler said. "She doesn't want to see you."

Martina closed her eyes during the long pause that followed.

"I will see her," Noah finally said, the hard resolve in his voice giving her a chill. "Give her that message."

Trembling, Martina stole a private moment and covered her face with her  hands. A dozen images raced through her mind. Months ago, hearing Noah's  Texas drawl on the stalled El in Chicago had reminded her how far from  home she was. Hearing his voice had rubbed at an empty spot, and she had  turned around to see the most fascinating man she'd ever met.

Noah was not the usual cowboy. Not only did he rope and ride, he also  fenced and traded cattle options on the Chicago exchange. When they'd  met, Martina had been temporarily assigned to a computer company in the  Windy City while Noah was taking a course in commodities. He'd charmed  her and made her feel comfortable before revealing his name.

Martina still remembered the regret she'd felt and seen echoed on his  face when they'd realized their families hated each other. There was  enough bad blood between the two ranching families to fill the Red Sea.  It was bad enough that his family and hers had quarreled for generations  over the stream their ranches shared. What sealed the grudge was the  fact that Noah's great-grandfather had tried to steal the wife of  Martina's great-grandfather, and during the course of it all, the Logan  bride had died.

Still, Noah had suggested with a wry chuckle that since they weren't in  Texas, they could pretend their last names were different.

He was the biggest no-no she'd ever said yes to. It had been all too  easy to fall for him, and the memory of the passion and laughter they'd  shared still made her weak. But reality and family loyalty had  eventually crept in. Their affair had ended as quickly as it began.  Martina, however, had been left with the consequences of her temporary  insanity called Noah Coltrane.

Martina bit her lip and opened her eyes. She touched her abdomen swollen  with Noah's child. She dreaded the day she would have to face him. She  knew it was coming. Noah Coltrane would always be her biggest no-no. Her  favorite mistake.





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Chapter 1

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He'd finally found her. Six weeks after he'd crashed her brother's  wedding, Noah eyed Martina Logan's condo with a feeling of satisfaction  and cynicism. The woman had made love to him like a firestorm for three  of the most insane, yet oddly fulfilling weeks of his life, then  abruptly disappeared.

Her leaving had stung his ego and he hadn't gone after her. He would  forget her, he'd told himself. After all, with so much bad blood between  their families, they'd both known the relationship was doomed from the  start. But he'd seen a fire of independence in Martina's eyes that  echoed in his gut, and he hadn't wanted to resist.

As the days passed after she'd left, Noah was haunted by her memory.  Thoughts of her interrupted his sleep. It stuck in his craw when he made  a few small attempts to locate her and couldn't.

Then it became his mission to find her and to exorcise her from his  mind. His peace would come from looking into her eyes and letting her  see that she couldn't hide from him. His relief would come from seeing  that she wasn't nearly the woman he'd thought her to be. Then he would  be on his way.

Walking toward her front door, he idly noticed the scrape of his boots  against the hot pavement and the deceptively peaceful sound of birds  chirping in the late-spring morning. He paused on her doorstep and,  pushing aside the feeling that all hell was about to break loose, he  pressed the doorbell twice.

"Just a minute," her voice called, and his gut twisted at the sound. He  heard her footsteps and voice grow louder as she came closer.                       
       
           



       

"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.

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