Lauren didn’t intend to sleep with her brother-in-law Cole on the day of her husband’s funeral. But now that she is pregnant, she’s not sorry. Cole’s given her a baby, a long-wished-for miracle. He’s been her friend forever, though she never told him or anyone else how unhappy her marriage to his cheating brother was. And she’s afraid to tell the small town that considered her husband a hero that the baby isn’t his.
Cole’s been in love with Lauren since he was sixteen. It kills him that everyone believes the baby is his dead brother’s. All he wants is to claim the baby, and Lauren, as his own. Though she marries him, will Lauren’s heart ever be his?
Lauren must tell the truth or risk losing Cole. Is her newly-discovered love for him greater than her fear of scandal in her hometown?
Excerpts from Child of Mine:
“You mean everything to me. I love you.”
She shook her head. “You don’t love me, not really. I’m nothing more than a responsibility to you.”
“Don’t tell me how I feel.” Desperation turned to anger in a flash. Cole jumped to his feet and began to pace. “I’ve been in love with you since I was sixteen years old, but you never saw me, not really. You only had eyes for Billy. It nearly killed me when you married him, but I stuffed down my anger and hurt and congratulated both of you, because really, what else could I do?”
“No, that can’t be true.”
“It’s true, all right. I wish to God it wasn’t. I tried to push away my feelings for you, tried to love other women, but none of them were you. None of them compared to you. I thought I’d get over you, but I never did.”
Her eyes were wide with shock. “Cole—”
“Billy guessed the truth. I found out he’d been cheating on you, and I confronted him. We had a huge fight, beat each other till we were both bloody. He told me I was jealous because you’d rejected me. He said you’d never want me, that you’d always be tied to him, no matter what happened. And he was right.” He gave a bark of mirthless laughter. “He’s dead and he still comes between us.”
Cole wrapped her in his arms. He held her securely, whispering reassurances. “It’s all right, Lauren. Don’t cry. It’s going to be okay, sweetheart.”
She clung to him, her face buried against his neck. How wonderful to be held, to be touched. It had been so long—
What was she doing? This was Cole, her friend. She pulled away from him. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have anything to apologize for.”
She turned away and tried to wipe the tears from her face. After she got her tears under control, she made herself smile at him. “Do you remember the homecoming dance? The time I tripped in my new high heels and sprained my ankle?”
“Of course I do. You couldn’t walk, so I carried you from the school gym to Billy’s car, and he drove you home. I remember you were a lot heavier than you looked.”
She swatted his shoulder, hiccupping laughter mixing with her tears. “Very funny. I was trying to make a point.”
He wiped the tears from her cheek with the pad of his thumb, his dark eyes full of tenderness. “So what was your point?”
“You’re a good friend. You’ve always been there every time I’ve needed you, and here you are again. Thank you.” He stared into her eyes, but said nothing. She couldn’t look away. He continued to stroke her cheek with his thumb, the tiny caress acting like a balm to her battered heart. She placed her hand on his cheek.
They reached for each other in mutual need. He pulled her against his chest, his mouth descending on hers in a hungry, urgent kiss. She sighed against his mouth, and he brought her closer. He wants me. It had been so long since someone had wanted her. Only her.
We asked you to come here this evening because we have something we want to tell all of you. Lauren and I are getting married.”
The room went deathly quiet. Lauren tightened her grip on his hand. Her face turned pale as she stared at her family’s stunned expressions. Cole put his arm around her waist, afraid she might faint.
He needn’t have worried. She lifted her chin at a defiant angle and turned to face the others.
“Cole and I have decided this child needs the best possible start in life and that means having a mother and a father. We’ve always been friends, so what better way to start a marriage then with friendship?”
Garrett pushed himself to his feet and came forward. “I think it’s a hell of an idea. You two will make wonderful parents.”
He enfolded Lauren in an embrace. Cole heard her murmur her thanks to her brother. “I think you’ll make a wonderful uncle.”
Charlotte was next in line. She kissed Lauren’s cheek. “I’m so happy for you, sweetie. When’s the big day?”
“In a couple of weeks,” Cole said. “As soon as we can arrange everything.”
Lauren’s parents, Robert and Grace, also extended their congratulations. If they had reservations, they kept them to themselves.
Only his mother remained in her seat, staring at them in disbelief. Cole sat next to her. “What do you want to say, Ma?”
“You can’t replace Billy.” She choked out the words.
“I know that.” He’d known he was second best in her eyes all his life. “I wouldn’t even try.”
“But to marry his wife, to raise his child? It’s wrong. They don’t belong to you. You always wanted what belonged to your brother.”
He wanted to shout at her that the baby was his, that it had nothing to do with Billy. And Lauren was his, too. He’d loved her first. His brother had never appreciated what a gem he’d had in her. He’d squandered his marriage the way he’d squandered the love that had been lavished on him all his life, from his parents, from Lauren, and even from him.
Instead he pressed his lips together and said nothing. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and saw that Lauren stood beside him.
“I know this is difficult for you, Ella. I know you’re grieving. But I have to raise my child in the best way I know how. Aside from my brother and sister, Cole is my best friend in the world. He’s a good man, and I know he’ll be a wonderful father. You should be very proud of him.”
His mother stared at Lauren as if she couldn’t believe what she was saying. Her face twisted. “Don’t you miss Billy at all? Don’t you grieve for him? Nobody understands. Nobody.”
He said the word a little sharper then he’d intended, but at least it got her attention. She looked up at him in surprise.
“I’m sorry if it hurts you, but Lauren and I are getting married. We care about one another and we care about the baby. The three of us are going to be a family. I wish you could be happy for us.”
Ella dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. Finally, with a shuddering breath, she turned to look at him.
“For Billy’s baby’s sake, I’ll try.”
The pain was swift and unexpected. If she’d stabbed him through the heart with a dagger it wouldn’t have hurt as much.
From Inside The Insanity:
Five Things to Know about the Masonville series
1.Masonville is a small (fictional) town of about 5,000 people in North Dakota, not far from Bismarck. It’s large enough to contain plenty of businesses and services like a veterinary clinic and a law office, but small enough to be a hotbed of gossip. Masonville is the kind of place where everybody knows everybody, and everybody knows your business.
2.Despite that, good things happen in small towns. They are tight-knit communities that stick together, especially in times of trouble.
3.There will eventually be four books in the series.
Book one: Child of Mine – Lauren and Cole’s story.
Book Two: To Heal a Heart – Blair and Garrett’s story. Garrett and Lauren are brother and sister.
Book Three: Unexpected (working title) – I’m currently working on Ben and Jamie’s story. Ben is Blair’s brother, and Jamie is a veterinarian who works with Cole and Lauren at the vet clinic.
Book Four: Currently unnamed – I know this is going to be Damon and Charlotte’s story. Damon is a brother to Ben and Blair, while Charlotte is Lauren and Garrett’s sister. See how I did that?
4.Small town romance is all about falling in love with your community, while at the same time falling in love with someone special.
5.The characters in the Masonville series must overcome the hurts and traumas of the past to find a better future. Love helps them find the way.
Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to paranormal suspense and romantic comedy. She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side. She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.
When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an bookkeeper, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found pursuing hobbies like golf (which she does very badly) and reading (which she does much better).
Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren