Excerpt for The Would-Be Mommy, Safe Harbor Medical Romance Book 1 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords






The Would-Be Mommy


Safe Harbor Medical® Romance, Book 1


by


Jacqueline Diamond




For Myrna, who brings sunshine into my brother’s life—and mine!


This edition published by

K. Loren Wilson

P.O. Box 1315

Brea, California


Copyright 2010, 2017 Jackie Diamond Hyman

First print edition published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited.


Cover design © Jackie Diamond Hyman

Cover photo © Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock

Safe Harbor Medical® is a trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Jackie Diamond Hyman


Licensing statement


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


More information about Jacqueline Diamond and her books is available on her website, jacquelinediamond.com, where you can sign up for her free newsletter. You can also stay in touch with her on Facebook at JacquelineDiamondAuthor, and on Twitter as @Jacquediamond.




The Reviewers Say...



“Love, love, love the Safe Harbor series! I love reading series where the characters are followed through the span of time. This series draws you in and hooks you!”

—Michelle Wallace, online reviewer


“I loved The Would-Be Mommy. ...The perfect book for any romance readers, especially ones that enjoy a good medical romance read.”

—Marissa Dobson, sizzlinghotbooks.com


“Ms. Diamond writes a story that will have you rooting for Jennifer and Ian. I cried a few tears, but I was there every step of the way, hoping that both Ian and Jennifer would find true love.”

— Helen Slifer, writersunlimited


“The safe haven law, which allows parents to leave their children in a safe place instead of abandoning them, is showcased in The Would-Be Mommy. Ms. Diamond takes this premise and weaves a story of love, dedication and life lessons. Thank you Ms. Diamond for this brilliantly moving story.

—Donna Zapf, cataromance.com.




Author’s Note


In 2001 California passed the Safely Surrendered Baby Law, popularly known as the safe haven law, to encourage women to leave their newborns in a safe place, such as at a hospital or fire station, rather than abandoning them in a dangerous location. In 2005, the temporary legislation was extended to become permanent.

As a writer, I found myself imagining what if…

What if a young woman who’d lost her own baby has a chance to take one of these surrendered infants home temporarily and falls in love with it? What if she works at a hospital where, for some reason, young mothers in unusual numbers begin leaving their newborns?

Perhaps the circumstance arises because the press misstates the name of the facility, Safe Harbor Medical Center. I pictured the man behind that: a good-looking international reporter who’s never given much thought to having a family or child of his own. Suddenly drawn into a situation he inadvertently created, he learns some important lessons about life, himself and, above all, love.

Thus the unlikely love affair between Jennifer and Ian was born. As of this writing, the series has grown to 17 romances, each of which can be read alone, plus two mysteries. I hope you’ll enjoy the stories of Jennifer’s coworkers, their babies and their dreams!

—Jacqueline Diamond, Brea, California



Table of Contents


Author’s Note

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

About the Author

Chapter One—His Hired Baby

Chapter One—The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet

Safe Harbor Medical series




The Would-Be Mommy


by Jacqueline Diamond


Chapter One


Everywhere he looked, Ian Martin saw babies. Around the plush hospital lobby, giant photos of babies hung on the walls. Between the designer couches, life-size dolls beamed from their carriages at the throng of local press and small-town dignitaries. Now, if a few Uzi-toting toddlers in camouflage pj’s would burst in, that might be interesting.

As if he weren’t already on infant overload, Ian noticed two women in advanced stages of pregnancy posing for photographs. Presumably they’d both conceived with the high-tech help of the doctors here at Safe Harbor Medical Center, whose six stories of state-of-the-art equipment were detailed on a large wall chart.

Honestly. Didn’t these people have anything better to do? He certainly did.

Although Ian had covered wars from Africa to Afghanistan, his editor seemed to think he had a gift for human-interest stories. So, as he was already in Southern California with a free Friday evening, he’d been dispatched to cover the official reopening of this updated, expanded maternity hospital. He’d much rather be digging into his main investigation of a federal judge accused of taking bribes, or even poking into the Hollywood divorce scandal that was his secondary reason for descending on the area.

Across the room, he exchanged wry glances with cameraman Pierre Fabray, a coworker from the L.A. bureau of Flash News/Global. With a shrug, Pierre returned his attention to a mom-to-be who, judging by the size of her, must be pregnant with triplets.

Idly, Ian dropped a couple of entry tickets into the raffle box in front of a display of expensive baby furnishings. He’d parted with twenty bucks for them, since the raffle raised money for needy families, the kind that could never otherwise afford these luxurious surroundings. If he won—and Ian had remarkable luck—he planned to donate the gear to charity.

That task accomplished, he gazed around for power players he might be able to prod into saying something provocative. There had to be a story here somewhere. If Ian couldn’t find it, he’d stir one up by asking questions somebody didn’t want to answer.

First obvious player: hospital administrator Mark Rayburn, a father-knows-best-type obstetrician in his late thirties. Second possibility: a lady from the corporation that owned the hospital. From her spiked heels to her mask of makeup, she looked like she breakfasted on nails and spat them out machine-gun–style at anyone who crossed her.

Neither of them was likely to yield more than an irritable quote or two. Better to locate the inevitable gadfly. There must be a doctor who’d worked at the facility prior to its transformation from a community hospital and who was less than thrilled to see it turned into a haven for the moneyed.

Ian didn’t see anyone fitting that description hanging around, shooting his mouth off. He needed assistance, and from what he’d seen of the public relations director, talking to her wouldn’t be painful at all.

He located Jennifer Serra outside the auditorium. Dark hair tumbled appealingly from a knot atop her head, and the exotic tilt to her dark eyes intrigued him, as did a hint of sadness that made him wonder what secrets she harbored. But although he was known as much for digging into personalities as for rooting out facts, Ms. Serra wasn’t his target tonight. Too bad.

“Mr. Martin!” Her full mouth perked into a smile. “We’re almost ready to start the press conference.”

“Actually, I’d like to talk to someone first.”

“Who?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

Her chin came up. “Anything I can do to help, I’d be glad to.”

She shouldn’t make tempting offers like that, Ian reflected. On the other hand, being helpful was her job. “Who’s the most ticked-off doctor at this hospital?”

“I’m sorry?” Her expression turned wary.

“The one who makes trouble.” Kind of like I do.

She swallowed. He’d scored a direct hit, Ian could tell. “We’re a team here,” she responded gamely.

“And it’s your duty to say so. But we both know better.” He stretched out an arm and leaned against the wall, deliberately fencing her in. She’d either have to retreat or duck beneath his arm to escape. “A giant corporation buys a community hospital and turns it into a money-making machine. That’s got to rub somebody the wrong way.”

His peripheral vision caught Pierre’s approach. Jennifer’s face tightened at the sight of the camera, but with what must have been considerable effort, she relaxed into another smile. “If anyone’s unhappy, you can hardly expect her to show up at an event like this.”

“Her?” So there was someone.

Jennifer adjusted the short, fitted jacket she wore over a figure-skimming dress. Ian assumed that bought her a moment to regain control and find the appropriate glib answer. Sure enough, here it came: “Mr. Martin, this is a wonderful facility that brings hope to couples struggling to start a family.”

“Of course it does.” He filed a mental note to sniff out the disgruntled doctor later, but tonight he needed another angle. “Do you have children?”

“No, not yet.” There it was again, that trace of sadness.

“If you ran into trouble having them, could you afford a place like this? Wait—I’m sure you have great insurance. But what about the ordinary infertile woman in Safe Harbor, California? Where is she supposed to go?” While Ian didn’t relish making such a pretty lady squirm, the corporation presumably paid her well to cross swords with rascals like him.

Annoyance flared in her eyes. “We’re always happy to work out payment plans, and we accept Medi-Cal clients. Plus, we don’t just provide fertility treatments. We offer a multitude of services, from routine preventive care to early-stage cancer treatment.”

Pierre was angling around, capturing all this for the video service Flash News/Global provided to its clients, along with still-photo images and stories. Personally, Ian wasn’t crazy about appearing on video. Digging beneath the surface of the news required an ability to blend into a scene, impossible to do if you became a celebrity. Nevertheless, this was a part of the job, like it or not.

“Is this live?” Jennifer asked Pierre.

“It is now.” He turned the camera on Ian. “Go!”

Deep breath. “This is Ian Martin for Flash News/Global, reporting from Safe Harbor, California. We’re at a newly remodeled fertility hospital, talking with public relations director Jennifer Serra. We were discussing how this place positively reeks of luxury.”

She narrowed her eyes at him in annoyance. Then, as Pierre swung toward her, she said brightly, “Safe Harbor Medical Center offers a full spectrum of services for men, women and their babies at all economic levels. We specialize in fertility care and high-risk pregnancies, with an emphasis on cutting-edge technology and techniques.”

Back to Ian. He seized his chance. “This place may be called Safe Harbor, but just imagine a frightened young woman trying to relinquish her baby under the safe harbor law. If she dared to show up here, I’ll bet she’d be whisked out the back door.”

That was the advantage that video had over writing. You could throw out preposterous ideas and see what kind of reaction you got.

Jennifer took the bait. “We don’t whisk anyone out the back door,” she snapped. “And that’s the safe haven law, not safe harbor. It protects desperate mothers from being charged with abandonment. We want them to bring their newborns to a safe place.”

“Safe haven, safe harbor,” Ian tossed off. “Are you saying scared young moms can drop off their babies at Safe Harbor Medical Center? Will they be placed in wealthy homes?”

“They’ll be placed in loving homes.” A muscle tightened in her neck as Dr. Rayburn and the lady in the power suit came into view.

He decided to push a little harder. “Would you take in a surrendered baby?”

“Me personally?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“I love babies.” Jennifer swallowed hard. “Every day I walk past our nursery and wish I could hold them all in my arms. But that doesn’t mean I could…”

Ignoring a twinge of guilt, Ian persisted. “So if a young mother walked in here right now…”

“I’d do anything I could to help her.” Tears sparkled in her eyes. “As would any decent person.”

In her face, he read a yearning so profound it twisted his gut. Damn, what wound had he reopened here? They’d gone beyond the usual game between reporter and publicist. Gone straight into her soul.

Live on the Internet.

Ian found his voice again. “Thank you, Jennifer Serra.” He squared off with the camera. “This is Ian Martin, reporting from Safe Harbor Medical Center.”

Nodding his approval, Pierre killed the feed. Dr. Rayburn and the executive, who’d apparently caught only the last few words, appeared pleased.

“Shall we start the conference?” the administrator asked.

“Absolutely.” Casting a final glare at Ian, Jennifer headed toward the lobby to corral the rest of the crowd. Too bad he’d just burned his bridges, Ian mused. It might have been fun getting to know her during the week or so he expected to stay in the L.A. area.

Anyway, she wanted kids, and at her age, which he guessed to be late twenties, was no doubt seeking a guy to nest with. At thirty-four, Ian was strictly a here-today-and-gone-tomorrow kind of guy, and preferred ladies who felt the same.

Yet something about Jennifer haunted him. Perhaps it was the irony that such a beautiful woman seemed so bereft.

Joining the crowd, he wandered into a wood-paneled auditorium with cushy, upholstered seats, raked flooring and, up front, an impressive display of electronic equipment. Other attendees were still nibbling miniature quiches and bacon-wrapped shrimp hors d’oeuvres, Ian noticed. He wished he’d grabbed a plateful while he’d had the chance.

The auditorium darkened and a slide show began, detailing the facility’s remodeling and its shining mission of mercy. There were scenes of beaming parents and earnest doctors in white coats bending over test tubes.

Hold on. Ian straightened at the sight of one slide, which showed a doctor wearing an out-of-place skeptical expression. “The head of our pediatrics department, Dr. Samantha Forrest, works closely with new parents,” enthused the narrator.

Well, Dr. Forrest, a capable-looking blonde, might care about the couple shown with her, but she clearly didn’t enjoy being on camera. What else did she dislike?

Ian trusted his hunches, and he decided to call on Dr. Forrest soon. Maybe he’d discovered his disaffected troublemaker.

The slide show ended and the lights came up on the TV-star-handsome Dr. Rayburn. Perfectly at ease in front of a microphone, the administrator detailed the new programs, some already in place, others just opening. The emphasis was on the latest medical developments, which, no doubt, were accompanied by breathtakingly high charges.

“Twenty years ago, the success rate for pregnancies with in vitro fertilization was ten to twelve percent,” he concluded. “Today, in younger women, we can expect to achieve a sixty to seventy percent rate. With older women, the rates are also much higher than they used to be, and this is just the beginning of the adventure. Now I’m happy to take questions.”

Ian didn’t bother to take notes as other reporters threw out inquiries.

“Delivering a baby is the most wonderful feeling in the world.” Dr. Rayburn responded to one question with passionate commitment. Where had the corporation discovered this guy—Hollywood central casting?

Ian flipped through the press kit an assistant had handed him earlier. In Dr. Rayburn’s bio, he saw no mention of a wife or children. If delivering a baby was fabulous, why hadn’t the great doctor produced any of his own?

That seemed too personal to ask in front of a crowd, though. Instead, Ian chose the ever-popular topic of multiple births. “Is there a limit on how many embryos you implant in a woman?” he demanded without waiting to be called on.

“We implant two or three embryos at most,” the administrator responded. “We try to avoid multiple births that can endanger the health of mothers and babies. Now, let’s hear from Medical Center Management vice president Chandra Yashimoto.”

The lady exec stepped forward to contribute a few words about the pride her company, based in Louisville, Kentucky, took in this new facility. The press kit listed neither an M.D. nor an R.N. after her name.

After finishing her remarks, Ms. Yashimoto yielded the microphone to Jennifer.

“I hope you’ll all stick around and enjoy the refreshments,” said the PR director, her voice pleasingly husky. “Also, we’ll be announcing the winner of our baby bonanza raffle shortly. Furniture, clothes, all the gear you need for a great start.”

After a breath, she plunged into an obviously prepared wrap-up. “Although the hospital has remained open during remodeling, our staff endured a lot of disruption over the summer. We were aiming for a September opening, and here we are, right on track. I now officially declare our doors open. Thank you all for joining us.”

A smattering of applause followed. As the audience got to its feet, Ian tried to figure out his next move. Technically, he’d done his job, providing Pierre with video and amassing enough material to write an article. A routine one, but Flash News/Global would move it out, since weekends tended to be slow for news without courts and legislatures in session.

All the same, Ian hated writing forgettable pieces. He craved an angle.

A sudden stir caught his attention. Willa Lightner, the middle-aged PR assistant who’d been distributing press kits earlier, had entered from the hall and was excusing her way up the center aisle toward Jennifer. The two met, conferred and hurried out together.

Something was up. Might be nothing more than a knocked-over punch bowl, but, his curiosity aroused, Ian strode in their wake.

He trailed them around a bend and into an alcove where half a dozen people had gathered. It took a moment to identify the object of their interest.

A young woman stood with her back against the wall, her arms encircling a blanket-wrapped bundle. Loose brown hair cascaded around a face in which determination warred with fear. In contrast to the moms-to-be Ian had seen earlier, she wore a threadbare smock and flip-flops. Definitely not part of the hospital’s show and tell program.

He took out his notebook and glanced around. Pierre was headed his way. Excellent.

In front of him, Jennifer parted the small group. “Hi. I’m the public relations director. Can I help you?”

The young woman thrust the bundle into her arms. “I know who you are, Mrs. Serra. I just saw you on the Internet.” Her voice trembled. “You said you love babies and you’d give them a home. Well, I want you to adopt mine.”

For a thunderstruck moment, nobody moved. Except Ian, who jotted notes on his pad.

He’d found his story at last.




Chapter Two



Landing this job at Safe Harbor six months ago had been an excellent career move for Jennifer and a major salary increase over her last position. So what if the constant presence of pregnant women reminded her of the baby she’d lost, the one she’d never dared mention to anyone?

Setting up Safe Harbor’s official opening, arranging the displays of baby photos and the raffle of baby goods, had darkened her spirits again and again. But she’d grown used to it. Toughened up.

That was what she’d believed until that Flash News/Global reporter threw her a curveball. Do you have children? Not an unusual question—people often asked it innocently enough—but something about his half-teasing expression had taken her unawares.

Well, she’d just been caught off guard again, by a tiny infant swaddled in pink. And by the sight of the young mother with red-rimmed eyes and a cracked lower lip. That might have been me, a dozen years ago. Except that Jennifer’s baby hadn’t survived long enough to be born.

When the mother thrust the bundle at her, Jennifer’s arms closed around it instinctively. The scent of talcum powder burst into her brain, and the subtle snuggling as the tiny girl adjusted to her grasp sent tremors through her nervous system. She could hardly tear her gaze from the angelic blue eyes and bow-shaped mouth.

For a moment, Jennifer couldn’t speak. It didn’t matter, because the young woman was talking again.

“Her name’s Rosalie. I can’t keep her. I want you to be her mother now.” Tearfully, the mother edged away.

“Wait! What’s your name?” Jennifer blurted.

“Sunny.” Another move toward the exit.

“You can’t leave yet.” Anxiously, Jennifer noticed the reporter, Ian, closing in, along with his cameraman and a news team from a local TV station.

“I have to go.” Sunny shielded her face protectively and, to their credit, the camera operators focused on the baby instead.

With relief, Jennifer saw a familiar face emerge from the crowd and approach the young mother. “Hi. I’m the hospital’s staff attorney,” Tony Franco told Sunny gently. “I need you to sign papers to release her. We just have to make sure she really belongs to you and to get a little medical background. Can you come with me?”

“I’ll wait here.” Sunny folded her arms, clearly unwilling to go anywhere with anyone.

Tony appeared to debate with himself, but he had little choice. “Okay, I’ll go grab the forms. Two minutes, I promise.” He headed off at a lope.

Still averting her face from the press, Sunny peered desperately at Jennifer. “You’ll take her yourself, right?”

She had to be sensible. “We’ll find a home for her.”

“Not just any home!” Panic edged the young woman’s voice. “You said on the Internet that you’d raise her.”

Jennifer was sure she hadn’t quite said that. But she’d learned in public relations that people often misinterpreted what they heard according to their own needs. “I doubt county Social Services will allow it. But there are lots of loving parents waiting.”

Sunny touched Jennifer’s sleeve. “Please. I’d feel much better if I knew she was with you.”

As if on cue, Rosalie let out a contented sigh that cut right through Jennifer’s resistance. If only…

Still, there were rules about adoptions, and taking in a newborn would be an incredible responsibility. More than that, Jennifer wasn’t even remotely prepared emotionally. To give her heart, only to risk losing the baby again if the authorities decreed otherwise, was unthinkable. “I’ll make sure she finds the right family. That’s the best I can do.”

Sunny appeared to be wavering, on the point of yielding. Good. She had to see reason.

Then Ian Martin addressed Jennifer. “Poor little kid. She’s already being abandoned once. Don’t tell me you’re going to abandon her again.”

If she hadn’t had her arms full, Jennifer would have been tempted to punch him. What did a shallow reporter—who’d probably been hired mainly for his dark blond good looks—know about raising a child, anyway?

“No one’s abandoning anyone,” she replied fiercely.

“What do you call it when you hand that little cutie over to a social worker?” He quirked an eyebrow, obviously enjoying the situation.

“You’re out of line,” Jennifer told him. “This isn’t a game, Mr. Martin. There are real people’s futures at stake here.”

He blinked as if she’d slapped him. Slapped him awake from his self-absorption for a second, anyway. She had no doubt he’d slip right into it again soon, but with luck, by then he’d be haring after some other hapless target.

Dr. Rayburn joined the group, his forehead lined with concern. Beside him, Chandra Yashimoto stared disapprovingly at the scene.

Painfully aware of the cameras trained on them, Jennifer realized she had to handle the situation before it turned into a media circus. “This is a private matter and we’d appreciate your respecting that,” she told the press.

No one stirred. Chandra cleared her throat, no doubt expecting the PR director to take further action.

Oh, for a distraction. The raffle! “Over the past few months we’ve sold enough tickets to collect roughly ten thousand dollars for charity,” Jennifer informed the crowd. “If you’ll follow my assistant, Mrs. Lightner, to the baby furnishings display, she’s going to draw the name of the winner. Afterward, I’ll be happy to take everyone on a tour of our facilities.”

Willa waved one hand eagerly. “This way, everybody! You shouldn’t miss this.” She linked arms with the startled Ian and tugged him forward. “Since you’re clearly devoted to children’s welfare, Mr. Martin, I’m sure you’ll tell the world about the winner and all the money we raised.”

She drew him and the other observers away with a combination of briskness and persuasion. You could tell she was the parent of teenagers, Jennifer mused.

When they were gone, she turned to Dr. Rayburn. “I’m sorry for letting things get out of hand.”

“Not your fault,” he said.

Ms. Yashimoto scowled. “This is awkward.”

“Who’re you?” demanded Sunny, who’d taken refuge behind Dr. Rayburn. “Don’t let her have my baby. I bet she eats them for breakfast.”

Biting down on a smile, Jennifer made introductions. “I have two grandchildren,” Ms. Yashimoto informed the young mother. “For your information, I haven’t eaten either of them yet.”

Sunny looked unconvinced.

Tony returned with the paperwork and some news. He’d called the county child welfare agency and learned that, due to a staffing shortage, no one would be available to pick up the baby until Monday.

“We could accommodate her in the nursery,” Dr. Rayburn suggested.

A tear etched a path down Sunny’s cheek. “I can’t leave her alone. Who’ll hold her when she cries?”

Jennifer couldn’t bear the thought, either. “I suppose I could watch her at home for the weekend,” she said. “If you really want me to.”

The young mom sniffled. “Thank you. You’ll fall in love with her. I know you will.”

Jennifer brushed a kiss across the baby’s soft cheek. “And I’ll stay on top of things until she’s placed. I promise.”

“Okay. I trust you.” Sunny snatched Tony’s pen and filled in the papers. She didn’t do a very thorough job, but apparently it passed muster with the attorney. “Have a beautiful life,” she whispered to her daughter. “Be good so the nice lady loves you.” Tears streaming, she rushed away.

Jennifer longed to call after her and suggest she seek counseling. Too late. The young mom was gone.

From the lobby, a burst of applause indicated the raffle winner had been announced. And Ms. Yashimoto’s scowl brought home the point that Jennifer ought to be tending to her duties, not standing there cuddling a baby.

“I’ll take the little one to the nursery for an exam.” Nurse Lori Ross, who’d hung back during the incident, came to Jennifer’s side. A good friend, she was a welcome sight.

“That would be wonderful. I’ll pick her up in about an hour,” Jennifer said gratefully.

“I’ll arrange for diapers and formula, too,” Lori promised. “If you like, I’ll drop by your place later and show you how to use them.”

Jennifer chuckled. “I used to babysit. But thanks.”

“See you later.” The nurse took the infant. Cool air rushed in where Rosalie had warmed Jennifer’s arms.

“I’ll get you a loaner car seat,” Tony added.

“Thanks.”

“Absolutely,” said Ms. Yashimoto. “Think of the liability if they had an accident!” She cleared her throat. “And of course, we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

As the others departed, Jennifer slowed her breathing, struggling to settle her racing thoughts. Sunny’s pleading expression…that darling baby…How on earth could she have resisted?

By using your common sense, that’s how.

Babies didn’t stay babies. They grew into toddlers, and little girls, and then teenagers who required guidance and stability. They deserved two parents, or at least a mother who’d planned for them. Definitely not a mom who’d had an infant thrust into her arms because of a silly misunderstanding.

But this was only for the weekend. That was all she’d promised, and all she could reasonably provide.

Straightening her shoulders, Jennifer headed for the lobby. Judging by the buzz of voices, she gathered that people were scattering, which meant she’d better hurry and round up those interested in a tour.

Entering, she was pleased to see that Willa had cornered Ian. Keep that man busy. Just the sight of him frayed Jennifer’s temper.

Usually, she didn’t let reporters bother her, but he was uncommonly pesky and smug. And too much like the daredevils she used to find irresistible, before she grew up the hard way.

“Over here for the tour!” Jennifer called. “I promise, if anyone gets bored, I won’t be offended if you hop on the nearest elevator. But you won’t want to miss seeing our nurseries.”

“More than one?” inquired a city councilwoman.

“We have nurseries providing several levels of care, depending on babies’ needs,” Jennifer explained. “Also, did I mention there’s a helicopter pad on our roof?”

“I’m hooked,” said a man she recognized as the police chief. “Count me in.”

A cheerful group assembled. Jennifer was leading them to the main elevators when she spotted Ian’s cameraman, a trendy urban type with a shaved head and a tattoo peeking above his T-shirt, cutting across the lobby in their direction. Well, she could hardly object, since he was a member of the press.

Here came Ian, his long legs making short work of the distance. What a striking contrast to his associate: stylishly cut hair, careless but expensive black jacket, and a tie loosened just enough to tempt a woman to give it a tug.

Some other woman.

In the elevator, Jennifer wished she weren’t keenly aware of Ian’s sophisticated aftershave lotion. She must have noticed it before, subliminally, because she identified it with him instantly.

“Congratulations,” the councilwoman told him.

On what? Jennifer was about to ask when the doors opened on the third floor. She had to step out and shepherd everyone to the labor and delivery areas. From there, they proceeded to the nurseries.

Although the hospital wasn’t full, thanks to the low profile it had maintained during renovations, there were still a few babies visible through the nursery windows. As Jennifer detailed the state-of-the art equipment, a sense of calm replaced her earlier agitation.

She knew her job. And she knew this hospital. Whatever curveballs Ian Martin decided to throw, she could field them.

She didn’t have long to wait. A few minutes later, when she pointed out the on-call sleeping rooms for staff, Ian asked whether Safe Harbor doctors indulged in sexual shenanigans like the characters on TV doctor shows.

“Absolutely not. That would be unprofessional,” Jennifer responded coolly.

He grinned. Enjoyed provoking her, obviously. Well, his wire service didn’t often cover events in such a small town. With luck, she’d never see him again.

Continuing the tour, she showed off an operating room, a WiFi-equipped patient lounge and some of the overnight facilities for families. Several visitors commented on the convenience of pharmacies on every floor and a cafeteria with an on-site chef from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

“Do they serve vegetarian food?” the councilwoman inquired.

“Vegetarian and vegan,” Jennifer replied. “We offer diabetic and glucose-free menus, as well.”

After touring the rooftop helipad, they returned to the lobby. Her small group disbanded, except for Ian.

Just her luck.

“Is there anything else you need?” For heaven’s sake, how much attention did this man expect when she was eager to get upstairs to Rosalie?

“I was wondering where the baby will sleep tonight.” Penetrating blue eyes caught hers.

Without the camera aimed at him, surely he didn’t plan any more lectures about abandonment. “At my place,” she said tightly.

“In your bed?”

Of all the nerve! “You’ve just overstepped your bounds. I’ll say good-night.”

“Wait!” He caught her elbow, sending an unwelcome flare of heat through Jennifer’s arm. “That came out wrong.”

“Exactly what would have been the right way for it to come out?” She pulled her arm free.

He cocked his well-shaped head—the man was attractive, and knew it—and indicated the baby furniture on the far side of the lobby. “Guess you missed the excitement. I’m the big winner.”

Him? That explained the councilwoman’s congratulations, as well as his long conversation with Willa, Jennifer supposed. “If you’ll tell us where to deliver it, we’ll be happy to.”

He watched her as if waiting for a punch line. “We can deliver it ourselves in Pierre’s van.”

“Wonderful. If you’re donating it to charity, I’ll credit you in our press release.” Now go away.

“Guess I’m not being clear.”

“There’s more?” She steeled herself to keep from backing away.


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