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Late the next afternoon, Daisy stood in the farmhouse nursery with Noah and Sara and gasped as she looked around. She gently put down Tony’s infant carrier and unbuckled him, carefully cradling him along her arm as she stepped around the room. The nursery sure looked different than it had a day and a half ago. She’d had the basics of the room set up for a couple months now—the crib, the dresser with its changing pad, the glider—all gifts from Noah a few days after she’d told him she was pregnant. But now there were surprises everywhere. In one corner was an adorable plush child’s chair in the shape of a teddy bear for Tony to grow into. And someone had stenciled the wall facing the crib with the moon and stars. Tony’s name was also stenciled on his crib, which was Sara’s handiwork. And there were stacks of gifts in one corner that she knew were baby clothes and blankets and burp cloths. She wouldn’t have to buy anything for Tony for a long time.
“Ford and Rex did the moon and stars,” Noah said. “For novice stencilers who had to read the instructions twice and watch a tutorial, they did a great job.”
“And Zeke and Axel hit up BabyLand and bought that adorable polka-dot rug and the yellow floor lamp,” Sara added. “I didn’t even go with them to make sure they didn’t buy anything weird or clashing, and what they picked out is absolutely perfect.”
The room was so cozy and sweet. “You guys are going to make me cry,” Daisy managed to say around the lump in her throat as she surveyed the nursery. She used her free hand to swipe under her eyes.
She couldn’t say she and her brothers were close—well, except for Noah these days—but they were always there for her. And they’d all been there to meet Tony the day he was born. That was the one lucky thing to come out of her nonwedding—her whole family had already been at the ranch.
This place had always held bad memories for all the siblings, but after inheriting the ranch from their father, they’d all invested in rebuilding and renovating and reopening the Dawson Family Guest Ranch. Noah had done the lion’s share on his own; Daisy had been too pregnant to help much when she’d arrived a few months ago, and the four other Dawsons couldn’t get away from the ranch fast enough.
Ford had once said hell would freeze over be-fore he’d come back here, a sentiment shared by the other three brothers as well, but Ford, Rex, Axel and Zeke had surprised Noah and Daisy at the grand opening this past Memorial Day weekend. And now Axel was staying at the ranch for a bit. That meant three out of six Dawsons at the ranch at the same time. It was a start. And Daisy was going to run with it.
ABOUT MELISSA SENATE
THE INNOCENT'S FORGOTTEN WEDDING BY LYNNE GRAHAM
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Early the following morning, alarm bells rang and lights flashed from the machinery by the bed. The woman came awake and went into panic, eyes focusing on an unfamiliar room and then on the ar-rival of two nurses, their faces both concerned and excited at the same time. She clawed at the breath-ing tube in her throat because she couldn’t speak and the women tried to both restrain and soothe her, telling her over and over again that the doc-tor was coming, everything would be all right and that there was nothing to worry about. She thought they were crazy. Her body wouldn’t move. She could only move one hand and her arm felt as if it didn’t belong to her. How could she possibly have nothing to worry about? Why were they talking nonsense? Did they think she was stupid?
The panic kept on clawing at her, even after the doctor arrived and the breathing tube was re-moved. He kept on asking her questions, questions she couldn’t answer until she couldn’t hide from the truth any longer. She didn’t know who she was. What was her name? She didn’t know why she was lying in a hospital bed. She didn’t have a last memory to offer because her mind was a blank, a complete blank. It was a ridiculous relief to receive an approving nod when she evidently got the name of the Prime Minister right and contrived to name colours correctly.
‘What happened to me?’ she whispered brokenly, her breath rasping. ‘Have I been ill?’
‘You were in an accident.’ The doctor paused there, exchanging a glance with the staff surround-ing the bed.
‘What’s my name?’ she asked shakily.
‘Your name is Brooke… Brooke Tassini.’ The name meant absolutely nothing to her, didn’t even sound slightly familiar.
‘Your husband will be here very soon.’ Brooke’s eyes widened to their fullest extent in shock. ‘I have a husband?’
For some reason, the nurses smiled. ‘Oh, yes, you have a husband.’
‘A very handsome husband,’ one of the women added.
Brooke stared down at her bare wedding fin-ger. She was married. Oh, my goodness, she was married. Did she have children? she asked. No…no children as far as they knew, they said, and a tinge of relief threaded through the panic she was only just holding at bay. Then she felt guilty about that sense of relief. She liked children, didn’t she? But it was scary enough to have a husband she didn’t remember—it would be simply appalling if she had contrived to forget her children as well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SEDUCED BY STEELE BY BRENDA JACKSON
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A feeling of relief swept through Mercury when he located his car. Parking in the space beside it, he quickly got out and glanced around the shops in the mall, wondering where the driver had gone.
He was pissed when he pulled his phone out of his jacket to call the police again to give them his exact location. Putting his phone back, he walked around his car and was glad not to see any dents. Other than need-ing a good wash job, the old girl looked good. Deciding to check the interior, he pulled his car keys out of his pocket to open the door.
“Get away from my car!”
Mercury snatched his head up and was instantly mesmerized by the beauty of the woman’s dark brown eyes, shoulder-length curly hair that cascaded around an oval face, high cheekbones, the smooth and creamy texture of her cocoa-colored skin and one pair of the sexiest lips he’d ever seen on a woman.
He immediately flashed her one of his wolfish smiles and was about to go into man-whore mode until what she’d said stopped him. Then he became blinded to all that gorgeous beauty. “Your car?”
“Yes, my car. Now get away from it before I call the police.”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “This is my car. It was stolen from me three nights ago.”
“You’re lying,” the woman snapped.
Calling him a liar was a big mistake. The one thing he despised more than anything was for someone to question his integrity. “If you think that, then by all means call the police. However, you don’t have to call them since I already have. You’re the thief, not me.”
“I am not a thief,” she said, feeling brave enough to step closer and glare at him.
“Nor am I a liar,” he said, glaring back. Suddenly a police cruiser with flashing blue lights pulled up and two officers quickly got out. One was Sherman Aikens, one of Jonas’s old high school friends. “I see you’ve found your car, Mercury.”
Mercury frowned over at him. “No thanks to you guys who should have been looking for it. And my car was never lost, it was stolen, and she’s the person who has it.”
“It’s my car!”
Both officers glanced over at the woman and Mercury glowered. Instead of saying anything, they just stared at her, male appreciation obvious in their gazes. “For crying out loud, aren’t you going to ask to see her papers on the vehicle since she claims to be the owner?” he snapped out at the officers.
Sherman broke eye contact with the woman to frown at Mercury. “I was going to get to that.” In a voice Mercury felt was way too accommodating, considering the circumstances, Sherman said, “Ma’am, I need to see papers on this vehicle, because it resembles one reported stolen three nights ago.”
“It is the one that was stolen three nights ago,” Mercury snapped while ignoring Sherman’s frown. As far as Mercury was concerned, Sherman could become smitten with the woman on someone else’s time.
“Stolen! That’s not possible, Officer,” the woman said, looking alarmed. “Why would anyone want to steal that car? Look at it. It’s old.”
Mercury glared at her while Sherman and the other officer unsuccessfully tried hiding their grins. “It’s a classic, and if it’s so old for your taste, why did you buy it like you claim you did?” Mercury asked her.
“Because I needed transportation and it was in my budget,” she said, pulling papers from her purse. “I just bought it yesterday.” She handed the papers to Sherman.
Mercury thought it took Sherman longer than necesary to switch his gaze from the woman to the papers. He then said in a too-apologetic voice, “Sorry, ma’am, but these papers are fake.”
Shock flew to her face. “Fake? But that’s not possible. A nice gentleman sold the car to me.”
“That ‘nice’ man conned you into buying a stolen car,” Mercury said, ignoring Sherman’s narrowed gaze as well as the woman’s thunderstruck expression.
Switching her gaze from Mercury to Sherman, she said, “Please tell me that’s not true, Officer. I gave him three hundred dollars.”
“Three hundred dollars?” Mercury asked, not believing what she’d said.
Lifting her chin, she added, “Yes, I knew the car wasn’t worth that much, but the man looked a little down on his luck and needed the money.”
Mercury shook his head. “You got that car for a steal, no pun intended. Do you not know the value of that car? It’s worth over two hundred thousand dollars easily.”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous.” Ridiculous? She had bought a stolen car from some-one who she thought was a nice man, and she thought he was being ridiculous? He was about to give her a scathing reply, but Sherman’s look warned him not to do so.
“Yes, ma’am, unfortunately that man did run a scam on you,” Sherman said. “I hate you lost all that money. I need you to come down to police headquarters and give us a statement, including a description of the man who sold you the car. We will be on the lookout for him.”
“Like you guys were on the lookout for my car?” Mercury said under his breath, but when Sherman shot him a disapproving glare, he knew he’d been heard regardless.
Sherman turned to him. “We’re going to have to impound the car. You and Miss Donahue need to come down to police headquarters to give statements.”
“But I’m on my way to a job interview,” the woman said, suddenly looking distressed.
Mercury refused to feel an ounce of sympathy for her since he too would be late for an interview with a potential new client. Now he would have to reschedule. Every sports agent alive would want to sign on Nor-ris Eastwood, but the parents of the high school senior with plans to go straight into the NBA had sought out Mercury. He hoped being a no-show this morning wouldn’t be a negative against him. If it was, then he had this woman to blame.
“Are you okay with that, Mercury?”
When he heard his name, he glanced up. “Am I okay with what?” He saw the other officer had pulled the woman off to the side to take down some information. “Giving Miss Donahue a ride to the police station,” Sherman said.
“Don’t you have room in the police car? That’s the normal way you transport criminals, isn’t it? For all we know, she could be in cahoots with the person who stole my car.”
Sherman rolled his eyes. “You don’t believe that any more than I do, Mercury. It’s obvious she’s an innocent victim who doesn’t belong in the back of a patrol car. She’s no more a thief than we are. Look at her.”
Mercury didn’t want to look at her, but he did any-way. He immediately thought the same thing he had when he’d first seen her. She was a very beautiful woman. Her features were just that striking. And then there was that delectable-looking figure in a navy blue pencil skirt and white blouse. Sexy as hell. But still…
ABOUT BRENDA JACKON
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