What brought him to her door...
...Marcus Reid couldn't say. But then Hayley Bravo opened her door, and he got a good look at her burgeoning stomach! She appeared to be about eight months along. So was this proof that she'd gotten over him fast...or that they were connected, now and forever? Months ago Hayley had walked out on Marcus, even though it was the hardest thing she'd ever done. Because though she knew he'd do the right thing by her, she was holding out for the real thing. Love. Baby. Marriage. And apparently, in that order...
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November 30, 2007
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Excerpt from A Bravo Christmas Reunion by Christine Rimmer
Marcus Reid knew damn well that he should stay away from Hayley Bravo. Far, far away.
Since she dumped him and left Seattle, he'd worked harder than ever, rising before dawn to push his body to the limit in his personal gym, burning the midnight oil at the office, driving himself to exhaustion every day. Evenings when he didn't have to be at his corporate headquarters, he kept himself good and busy. He dated, making it a point to get out more--with gorgeous, attentive, appreciative women. Women more glamorous than Hayley, women more sophisticated than Hayley. Agreeable women. Women who had sense enough not to ask the impossible of him.
Yeah. It had taken him months to get over Hayley. A lot longer, if you wanted the hard truth, than he'd expected. Getting over Hayley had turned out to be one hell of a job.Almost as hard as dealing with his ex-wife Adriana's final desertion.
But he'd managed it.
Or so he kept telling himself. He was over Hayley. Done. Finished.
So why was he standing on the doorstep of her Sacramento apartment on that cold evening in mid-December?
Since Marcus had no intention of answering that particular question, he banished it from his mind with a shake of his head.
The complex she lived in was perfectly ordinary, built around a central courtyard, the boxy units accessed from outside. Low to midrange in price, he would guess. She'd lived a lot better when she worked for him. He'd seen to it. Not only a fat salary, but a big expense account and a luxury car, compliments of his company, Kaffe Central. And then there were the gifts he'd showered on her....
Now she was on her own, she'd be watching her budget. That bothered him, the thought of her pinching pennies to get along. Though their relationship had ended, some part of him still wanted to take care of her.
Light glowed in the window to the left of her door. Through the partly open blinds, he could see she had put up a Christmas tree. And he could hear music, faintly. A Christmas song?
Hayley was into the Christmas crap big-time. Strings of lights twined on the railing of her second floor landing, where she'd made herself a sort of patio with a couple of wicker chairs and a wooden crate for a table. A miniature tree, tiny lights twinkling, topped the crate--and he was stalling, checking out her Christmas decorations instead of getting on with it.
Time to make a move. Ring the bell. Or get the hell out of there.
He sucked in a big breath, lifted his hand and gave her doorbell a punch.
After a few never-ending seconds, the door swung wide. The music from inside swelled louder: "White Christmas."
And there she was, the light from behind her haloing her red hair. Those eyes that managed to be blue and gray and green all at once went wide with surprise. And a bright smile died unborn on that mouth that he'd loved to kiss.
"Marcus!" Her expression was not encouraging. Far from it. She looked...pained. Slightly panicked, even. She brought her hand to her mouth and then lowered it--to her stomach.
He tracked the movement, watched as her palm settled on the round shape of her belly, fingers curving gently. Protectively. He stared at her pale hand and the roundness beneath it, trying to accept what he saw.
It was...enormous, her stomach. It looked as if she had a beach ball tucked in there, beneath the tentlike red sweater she wore.
Too stunned to fake politeness, he shut his gaping mouth--and then opened it again to accuse roughly, "You're pregnant." He lifted his gaze and met her eyes again.
She was frowning, more worried now than panicked. "Marcus. Are you okay? You look--"
"I'm fine." Outright lie. His stomach churned, spurting acid. He needed to hit someone. Preferably whatever bastard had dared to put his hands on her, to do that to her.
God. Hayley with some other guy, having that other guy's baby...
It didn't seem possible. He couldn't believe it. At the same time as he knew this couldn't be happening, some rational part of his mind saw clearly the ridiculousness of his disbelief. Why the hell wouldn't she be with some other guy? Some guy who made her happy. Some guy who loved her and cherished her and wanted to make a family with her....
"White Christmas" ended. Bells jingled as "Winter Wonderland" came next.
"Marcus..." She reached out a hesitant hand.
"Please come in and--"
He cut her off by moving back just slightly, out of the way of her touch.
"Oh, Marcus..." She looked at him with what might have been pity.
He wanted to shout at her then, tell her loud and clear that she never, ever had to feel sorry for him. But he didn't shout. Far from it. Instead, he said what he'd planned to say. He doled out the stock phrases, just to show her that finding her big as a house with some other guy's kid didn't affect him in the least.
"I'm in town on business. Thought I'd stop by, see how you're doing...."