Kevin Vaccaro just found out he was a father...of a five-month-old! He'd put up a hell of a fight to overcome his troubled past. That was nothing compared to the battle he was about to wage for his child's future.
Julianne McCabe had no intention of giving up her sister's child--the child she loved as her own--without a fight. Yet that was before Kevin started bonding with his daughter. Before he awoke feelings that made the grieving widow long to share more than late-night feedings. But was she ready to risk her heart again to be the wife Kevin needed? To become the family they both wanted?
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March 31, 2008
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Excerpt from Baby, I'm Yours by Karen Templeton
Kevin Vaccaro slouched behind the wheel of the rented compact, his left arm sizzling in the early-June sun. His stomach felt like that poor kid's must've on the last leg of his flight, right before the twerp hurled into the barf bag.
It's not too late to turn back.
He shifted out of the searing sun, watching the house. Ignoring the voice. On the surface, he was ready. He'd ditched the ragged jeans and baggy, wrinkled T-shirt he'd traveled in for a striped polo and khakis he'd borrowed from one of his brothers. He was combed and shaved and generally as presentable as he was gonna get without help from those gay dudes on that make-over show.
Inside, however, was something else again.
The house sat there, inscrutable. Aloof. Two stories. Yellow stucco. Recently painted white trim. A Spanish Territorial jewel, sparkling against a sky so bright it hurt to look at it, one gem among many in Albuquerque's casually upscale Country Club area near the river. Kevin had only seen it once before, when Robyn had taken him by to see where she'd grown up. It had been Halloween; they'd sat across the street for more than an hour, watching her father open the door over and over to dozens of trick-or-treaters--mostly kids minivanned in from other, poorer neighborhoods, she'd said--handing out full-size Butter-fingers and Snickers and Twix instead of those wussy bite-size things.
He remembered the almost wistful envy in her voice. Weird, he'd thought at the time, through the haze of assorted controlled substances. Still weird, he thought, now stone-cold sober.
Whether Victor Booth was there now, he had no idea. The man wasn't exactly listed in the phone book. In fact, despite his regular appearances on one of the morning talk shows a few years back, even though you could hardly go into Costco and not see his face plastered on a stack of hardbacks, it was next to impossible to find out anything about "Dr. Vic." Apparently the paparazzi had bigger, blonder, boozier fish to fry.
A breeze nudged aside the heat clinging to Kevin's skin, rustled the cottonwood leaves, shimmering coins in the clear midmorning light. He sucked in a breath. Then another. Two thousand miles was a long way to come to possibly run into a dead end. But he had to find Robyn, to apologize for running, even if at the time he'd felt he had no choice. Then maybe he could finally get on with something resembling a real life. How he was supposed to go about that...not a clue. But for sure his Peter Pan days were over.
A grinning golden retriever edged into his peripheral vision, a toned matron in a sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts marching smartly behind. The woman glanced at the parked car, curiosity buzzing from behind bumble-bee-eye sunglasses. A second later, she flipped open her cell phone, tossing another furtive glance over her shoulder as she soldiered on. On a weary sigh, Kevin unfolded himself from the car, giving the woman--clearly keeping an eye on him--a little wave and smile.
She jumped, nearly tripping over the dog as she scurried away.
Feeling moderately cheered, Kevin hauled in another steadying breath and started across the street, thinking it was a shame Hertz didn't provide barf bags as part of the rental fee.
"What on earth are you watching so hard, Julie-bird?"
Ignoring her father's much-loathed pet name for her, Julianne McCabe shifted slightly at the living room window. All the better to see the tall, lanky male--the last vestiges of boyhood clinging to his loose-limbed gait--heading toward the house.
"See for yourself," she said, removing her glasses to clean the lenses on the hem of her sleeveless blouse. Pointlessly, as it happened, since her father, in his usual summer uniform of loose linen shirt and Dockers, had already hobbled across the room to peer over her shoulder. Smelling of aftershave and peppermints, like all good daddies should, Victor Booth was supposed to be in his office, working or resting the pulled muscle in his back or something. Not here, hovering. Being "there" for her.
Julianne pushed her glasses back on, wincing slightly when the corners of the steel frames caught in her too-long bangs. When had she last worn her contacts? Or makeup? Had the energy, or inclination, to fix herself up?
"Who the hell is that?" her father muttered a moment before the young man vanished behind the massive, obscenely blossomed Spanish broom blocking their view of the front entry. A second later, the doorbell rang.
And wasn't it a sad commentary on what she'd let her life become, that a stranger at the door should produce something almost like a thrill? Over the ripple of self-disgust, she said, "Guess we're about to find out."
"Don't bother. It's probably just somebody trying to either sell us something or save our souls."