The return of the fatherWhen Joe Morgan showed up again on Kate Carpenter's doorstep, the E.R. nurse didn't know what to think. After Kate had discovered she was pregnant, she'd waited to hear from the helicopter pilot and on-duty marine. Nothing. So why would the man who had left without a second glance suddenly return to her life? Joe wanted to be a father to J.T., and Kate wouldn't stand in his way. She couldn't know that during Joe's harrowing tour of duty, thinking of his son--and of her--had kept him alive. But would the demons of the past prevent Joe from repairing the damage to Kate's heart--and embracing his family for keeps?
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May 31, 2008
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Excerpt from When a Hero Comes Along by Teresa Southwick
It wasn't every day a man had the chance to come back from the dead.
More to the point, Marine Captain Joe Morgan had come back from hell. He knew what it felt like to face off with a cold-eyed terrorist who hated his guts and was determined to kill him. He knew what he'd done to keep from being killed and that secret would go with him to his grave, where it belonged.
Now he had to face Kate Carpenter, although she probably hated his guts, too. She had good reason, but he still had to see her. And his baby boy. He had to explain.
And here he was on her doorstep.
He lifted a hand to knock, then curved his fingers into a fist. Maybe he should have called first, he thought, running his fingers through his hair. He wasn't one for putting things off. Mostly. Sooner or later they had to see each other. Although he'd been standing here for five minutes without knocking.
Glancing around the apartment complex, he didn't see anyone moving around.
The pathways through the rock-and-shrub landscaping were well-lit. He'd specifically timed this meeting for nineteen-thirty hours, seven-thirty at night, because it was early enough not to be too late, and late enough that he figured she'd be home. And with any luck not so late that she'd shut the door in his face.
But if he stood here much longer, anyone watching would wonder if he was up to no good. He probably was no good, enough to show up here anyway.
He ran a hand through his hair again, then pressed the doorbell, but he heard nothing and wondered if that was due to thick walls or a broken doorbell. Or was he broken? War was a noisy business; it took all kinds of tolls. Maybe his hearing had suffered.
But he'd passed his flight physical and could hardly wait to get back to the business of flying for his half of Southwestern Helicopter Service. The fact that his bastard of a brother owned the other half wasn't something he could think about now.
Inside the apartment a shadow passed the window and he heard light footsteps on the other side of the door. If Kate was as smart as he thought, she'd be peeking through the peephole. Assuming she could reach it. It had been fourteen months, but he hadn't forgotten how small and slender she was. He was six feet tall, yet she'd fitted perfectly against him, and the thought made him ache deep down inside.
Several moments passed and he realized his heart was racing. Between Afghanistan and Kate Carpenter, his ticker was getting a pretty good workout. But any second now the suspense would be over.
He waited, but nothing happened. Was she standing there? Did she see him? What if she didn't open the door? Could he really blame her?
He really should have called first.
"Kate?" He knocked lightly on the door. "It's Joe. Morgan," he added. In case she didn't remember him.
He didn't think that was likely. Not after the letter and what she'd said in it. But he knew from personal experience that women could turn the right memories off when they wanted to do wrong.
Inside, a chain scraped just before the dead bolt clicked and Kate opened the door. She didn't say anything, just stared up at him, eyes wide, full lips parted slightly in shock. That was something he recognized. Shock was protection for mind and body--a time-out until the two were strong enough to handle trauma. He'd never actually thought of himself as a trauma. Not consciously. But now he realized he hadn't called because he was afraid she would hang up on him. Refuse to see or talk to him.
Now that she was close enough for him to feel the warmth of her skin, he knew how badly he'd needed to see and talk to her. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. Her eyes were huge and his memories hadn't done them justice. At first glance he'd call them brown. But a closer look showed flecks of gold, reminding him that when she looked into the sun her eyes turned almost green. She was still small, and with clothes on it was hard to tell, but he would swear she was curvier than the last time he'd held her--made love to her.
Brown hair hung in shiny layers to her shoulders, and was still the same as when he'd run his fingers through it and kissed her until her breath was a sigh of surrender. Then her eyes had turned green and the sun had had nothing to do with it. But she wasn't smiling now and he longed to see the dimples he knew would magically appear when the corners of her mouth turned up.