HAVING THE BEST MAN’S BABY Harlequin Desire by Shawna Delacorte reissued by Harlequin in ebook
Jean Summerfield froze in her tracks. Her breath caught in her throat. She spotted him as soon as she entered the private banquet room of the hotel. Her gaze remained riveted on the one face among those in the crowd that sent a shockwave of anxiety crashing through her reality. Painful memories from the past immediately shoved to the forefront. Her heart leaped into her throat and her mouth went dry. It couldn’t be…not Ryland Collier…not after all these years. Ry Collier…the boy who had humiliated her and broken her heart fifteen years ago.
‘‘Are you all right, Jean? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’’
Jean turned at the sound of her best friend Susan Brundage’s voice. ‘‘I…uh…yes, I’m fine. I thought I saw someone I knew from a long time ago, but I’m sure I was mistaken.’’
She glanced toward Ry again. Her stomach knotted into an uncomfortable ball. Her throat tightened. She thought she had put the past behind her, but in a fraction of a second all the insecurities suffered by that plain, overweight and shy sixteen-year-old girl came rushing back at her.
Susan grabbed Jean’s arm, pulling her out of her thoughts. ‘‘There’s someone you need to meet. He arrived from Chicago just this afternoon.’’ Susan let out a soft chuckle. ‘‘He’s what every woman’s mother always warned her about…a bad boy with looks, charm and lots of money. A dangerous combination for sure. And guess what…he’s single.’’
The knot in Jean’s stomach tightened as Susan dragged her across the room toward the man she thought she would never see again. She took a calming breath, but it didn’t help. She steeled her nerves against the inevitable, not sure what to expect.
‘‘Ry, I’d like to introduce my maid of honor, Jean Summerfield. Jean, this is Bill’s best man, Ry Collier. The two of you need to get acquainted. You’ll be seeing a lot of each other during the upcoming week between now and the wedding.’’
A sexy smile lit Ry’s handsomely chiseled features and a devilish gleam sparkled in his silver eyes as he made an obvious visual inventory of Jean’s physical assets. He extended his hand toward her. ‘‘Jean, it’s a pleasure to meet you.’’ His smooth masculine voice tickled her senses as he clasped her hand in his, sending an immediate rush of sensual warmth through her body.
She reluctantly worked her hand out of his grasp, breaking the all-too-tempting sizzle of energy created by his touch. He was even more handsome up close than he had been from across the room. A sense of relief settled over her when he showed no outward signs of recognizing her. Perhaps the pain and emotional trauma of the past would remain safely tucked away.
‘‘I know the bride is always supposed to be the center of attention, but you’re certainly the most beautiful woman in the room.’’
The crimson flush of embarrassment quickly spread across Jean’s cheeks as she glanced self-consciously around the room. ‘‘That’s nonsense.’’ A slight quaver surrounded her words, as if she wasn’t sure exactly how to respond to what he had said. ‘‘Susan is a very beautiful woman. That marvelous mane of honey-blond hair and her big blue eyes…she’ll be a stunning bride.’’
‘‘I’m more impressed with the maid of honor.’’
Her embarrassment seemed genuine to him, not a pretense. Was it possible that she didn’t realize just how beautiful she was? That she was not accustomed to compliments? Or even pickup lines? What a welcome change from some of the vain women he had known whose primary concern was how they looked on the outside without a thought to whether they were beautiful on the inside.
As they moved to the music, his mind drifted back fifteen years. He had known a girl in high school whom he liked very much. She was a beautiful soul on the inside and the one person he truly felt comfortable around…someone he could really talk with. He hadn’t meant to, but he had destroyed that friendship as surely as if he had told her he never wanted to see her again. And for fifteen years the guilt and anguish had lived inside him.
Ry shook away the unpleasant memories and returned his attention to his very desirable dance partner.
Fifteen years had passed since Ry Collier broke her teenage heart. Fifteen years during which the golden boy had amassed a fortune, making a name for the man. Fifteen years during which she’d blossomed into a woman bearing little resemblance to an awkward schoolgirl, if Ry’s searing, searching appraisal in meeting her again was any indication. But quickly, best man Ry knew why the maid of honor looked familiar. And despite the past, they shared a bed.
And Jean Summerfield became pregnant. Now she had to tell Ry that one reckless, remarkable night of passion had made a baby. And risk history repeating itself…