His Texas Christmas Bride (Mills & Boon Cherish)

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9780263251821: His Texas Christmas Bride (Mills & Boon Cherish)
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TWINS UNDER HIS TREE 

Join Becca Flannigan and Nick Ciotti as they promise to love, honor and cherish each other in front of their family and friends...and her baby bump! The blushing bride-to-be is carrying double duty—twins—from one passionate night with a mysterious bad boy. When Becca lands in the hospital, who should treat her but Nick? He's the new doc in town, but his bedside manner is all too familiar... 

Becca and Nick begin to bond, but can Dr. Delicious leave his painful past behind him to create a family of his own? Add in Becca's worries about her own future, and you've got one apprehensive engagement! With a little Christmas magic for the bride and groom, this may be the happiest-ever-after in Celebration!

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About the Author:

Award winning author Nancy Robards Thompson holds a degree in journalism. She worked as a newspaper reporter until she realized reporting "just the facts" bored her silly. Much more content to report to her muse, Nancy has found Nirvana writing contemporary and historical women's fiction and romance full-time. Critics have deemed her work, "...funny, smart and observant." She resides in Florida with her husband and daughter. For more details, please visit her website at NancyRobardsThompson.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Becca Flannigan wasn't a gambler. For as far back as she could remember, she usually leaned toward the tried and true. She'd choose dependable, low-risk options over games of chance any day.

That's why it was particularly baffling when she discovered peace and the meaning of unconditional love with the simple flip of a coin.

Figuratively, of course. But she'd heard it said when you're uncertain about something, you should flip a coin. Even before the result turns up, you'll know what you want.

It was true.

The trip to Celebration Memorial Hospital's emergency room had been Becca Flannigan's bright, shiny quarter spinning in the air.

As she lay on the emergency room bed, one hand curled into the sheet and the other splayed protectively over her belly, she knew exactly what she wanted: she wanted—no, she needed—her unborn baby to be safe and healthy and unharmed by the bout of food poisoning that had landed her here in the hospital.

So, this was unconditional love, Becca thought as she tried to make sense of the foreign emotions that had commandeered her heart.

She'd never known a conviction like the one that had rooted itself deep in her soul; a certainty that she would die for the little being growing inside of her. But in this case, she couldn't die, because now there was something so much more important than herself to live for.

A few hours ago, the stabbing pain from the food poisoning had been so bad that death might have seemed preferable. But the terrifying realization that being this sick might cause her to lose the baby transcended the discomfort and became all consuming.

At barely three months pregnant, she hadn't been sure how she felt about her situation. Single and alone, she'd called it a predicament, a dilemma, a mess, a pickle—a gamble she'd taken and lost. She'd called it all those things, but she hadn't called it love until she'd faced the very real possibility of losing her child.

Here, under the harsh lights of the ER, something had cracked open inside her, and her previously muddied feelings had spilled away and everything important had crystallized.

Despite the fact that she didn't know how to find her child's father. She hadn't told her parents. Kate Thayer, her boss and best friend, was the only one who knew. The only reason Kate knew was because she'd been there with her in the ER when Becca had told the doctor.

Now the only thing that mattered was that the child growing inside her was safe and healthy.

This child was her everything.

At twelve weeks, she wasn't showing yet—although her body had started changing, a subtle transformation, adapting itself for the nine-month journey. She was thicker and her clothes fit snugly. People probably thought she'd gained weight. Just last week, her mother had made a snide comment about Becca spending too much time with Ben & Jerry's. Little did she know.

As Becca lay there with IV tubes in her arm and various machines beeping and humming, a restrained orchestration to accompany the chorus of emergency room sounds and voices on the other side of the cubicle curtain, she took back every negative or uncertain thought that had ever crossed her mind about this unplanned pregnancy.

She was single and only twenty-five years old. A baby hadn't been part of her plan at this juncture. They'd used protection that night. She wasn't supposed to take away a living, growing souvenir.

But now, faced with the possibility of losing her child, everything was suddenly different. If she lost this baby, this new capacity to love would surely die right along with it. Becca closed her eyes against the thought.

It wasn't going to happen. She wouldn't let it happen.

"How are you feeling, hon?" Becca opened her eyes to see Kate standing at the opening in the privacy curtain. Kate had driven Becca to the emergency room as soon as the nausea and pain had started.

The onset had hit Becca like an iron fist. One moment she was fine, walking from her desk to Kate's office with the mail, just as she did every single day, and the next thing she knew, she was doubled over in pain. Sensing something, or maybe Kate had heard Becca whimper, Kate had insisted on taking her to the hospital. "I got you some ice chips," Kate said. "I tried for water, but this was the best I could do. The nurse said she wants to make sure you can handle ice before she lets you have the hard stuff. They're pretty busy out there, and they're getting ready for a staff change. She said she'll try to pop in before she clocks out, but if she can't, she said the doctor who's coming on duty will be in to see you."

Becca did her best to smile as she accepted the white foam cup from Kate's outstretched hand. She felt like a wrung-out dishrag, but she was stable and the baby was okay.

Now she just wanted to go home.

"Thank you," Becca said, trying to steady her thin, shaky voice.

"I'd feed them to you, but—" Kate crinkled her nose as she held up her hands, motioning around with one "—it's a hospital and I haven't washed my hands. Plus, you'd probably bite me if I tried."

She smiled her sweet Kate smile. Becca did her best to smile back.

"Feeding me would be going above and beyond. I can handle it, thank you."

As Kate sat down, Becca lifted a piece of ice to her mouth, letting it linger on her parched lips. It melted on contact, leaving behind a cool, clean moisture. As she licked the droplets of water, Becca thought it was possibly the freshest, most delicious thing she'd ever tasted in her life. She placed another chip on her tongue. Surely this was what they meant when they'd said nectar of the gods.

Whoever they were. The ones who imparted such great wisdom about flipping coins and drinks fit for deities.

"How's the ice settling?" Kate asked.

Becca turned her head toward her friend, who had seated herself on a chair in the tiny space.

"I can't recall ever tasting anything so good," Becca said. "I highly recommend it."

She smiled at Kate, but Kate's smile didn't reach her worried eyes. "I'm glad you and the baby are going to be okay."

She knew her friend's words were sincere, but an unspoken question hung between them.

"No one else knows," Becca said. "About the baby, I mean. No one except you. And the doctor and nurses."

"You haven't told your family yet?"

Becca shook her head. She moved the cup of ice chips from her stomach to rest on the side of the bed. She needed to tell them. She probably should've already told them—before anyone else.

She'd wanted to be sure she'd make it through the first trimester...though, if she were being honest with herself, she hadn't really thought about telling them until now. But it made sense. No use in causing a family uproar for naught.

The thought made her shudder. She drew in a deep breath. Not only had her little one survived the first trimester, he or she had made it through this bout of food poisoning. This was a tenacious little being.

The words meant to be skipped through her head.

She would tell her parents.

Sometime soon...

As soon as she figured out how to explain.

They would ask about the father. That was the tricky part. What should she say? That his name was Nick and he was tall, gorgeous, and he'd swept her off her feet?

She'd met him at this very hospital the evening her nephew Victor had landed in this very emergency room that fateful evening three months earlier.

Nick. Nick who? Nick of the sultry brown eyes and the secret tattoos. Nick, who had been kind and generous in body and spirit and comfort. He'd been at the hospital that day interviewing for a job, which he hadn't taken or hadn't been offered. For whatever reason, he didn't work there now. Personnel wouldn't tell her why. They offered no help finding him. Of course, she hadn't told them she was pregnant. Not that it would've done any good. The woman with the horn-rimmed glasses had been so tight-lipped she might as well have been head of security at the Pentagon. She wasn't giving anything away. Oh, sure, she'd taken Becca's number and offered to pass it along. But Nick hadn't called.

Big surprise. They'd spent one night together. A night when her emotions had been raw. It was crazy because, judging by outward appearances—those tattoos, the motorcycle and that dark, penetrating gaze—he wasn't her type at all.

And what exactly was her type? It had been so long since she'd been on a date that she couldn't really remember. Working at the Macintyre Foundation, she'd been so busy that she didn't have time for much of a social life. But that night with Nick, something intense and foreign had flared inside her. It hadn't mattered that he wasn't her type or that she didn't even really know the guy. She'd been inexplicably drawn to him, and in the midst of the rush, type hadn't even factored into the equation.

Of course, explaining this to her family would go over like a turd in the punch bowl. She was the good girl. She didn't do things like that. Especially not after her sister, Rosanna, had gotten pregnant in high school. Nope. Rosanna had been the bad example, the cautionary tale about why you didn't sleep with men who didn't love you.

Becca's hand found her stomach again. If she'd stayed at the hospital the night of Victor's accident, life would be drastically different right now.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Kate asked.

She shrugged. "I do, but not here."

"Of course." Kate sat forward on her chair. "There's no privacy here. And you're probably not up to it right now. But, Becs, I'm here for you. Okay?"

Kate reached out and squeezed Becca's hand.

"Whatever you need," she added.

Becca forced a smile. She recalled how her mother used to tell her it took more muscles to frown than it did to smile. At the moment, nothing could have felt further from the truth.

"Thank you, Kate. You've already done so much for me today."

And she had. Kate had spent the afternoon in the emergency room with her. By now, Kate's family would be home. Her husband, Liam Thayer, was head of Celebration Memorial pediatrics. He was one of the bigwigs at the hospital. Becca had thought about asking him to do a little sleuthing on her behalf to help her locate Nick.

Now that Kate knew, maybe she would. She'd be asking Liam to break the rules. And of course, she'd have to offer a pretty darned good explanation as to why she wanted personal info about a doctor who had interviewed at the hospital three months ago. That would mean she'd have to admit to Liam she'd slept with a man without even knowing his last name.

Other than pride, she couldn't think of a good reason not to ask Liam to help her get an address or phone number, something more to go on than simply Nick, the hot doctor from San Antonio.

He was the father of her baby. He deserved to know.

But she and Kate would have that conversation another time. She couldn't chance someone who worked in the ER overhearing them plotting to infiltrate hospital human resources.

Right now, her throat and lips were too dry to talk, and she was utterly exhausted. It took all the energy she possessed to place another ice chip in her mouth and close her eyes.

She wasn't sure how long she'd been lying there drifting in and out of light sleep, dreams merging with the sounds in the ER; dreams of the night of Victor's accident when her sister had been crazed with worry and had taken it out on Becca. She dreamed of Rosanna screaming at her, telling her to get out.

Blaming her for what happened. And then the dream morphed into meeting Nick, making love to Nick.

That's why she wasn't sure if she was dreaming or if she really had sensed him standing there. But when she opened her eyes at the sound of someone pulling open the curtain surrounding her bed, Nick was standing there.

"Hi, Ms. Flannigan. I'm Dr. Ciotti." He was looking down at the tablet in his hands, not at her.

It was him. All tall six-foot-something of him. Slightly longish brown hair. The lab coat and green scrubs didn't hide the mile-wide shoulders, but they covered up the tattoos on his biceps.

God, those tattoos. One of them, a single word— Latin, she thought, but she wasn't sure. The other was an ornate Celtic cross, which she found fascinating—especially now, because based on his last name, Ciotti, Nick Ciotti—his background might be Italian.

She'd memorized those tattoos. Just as she'd memorized the feel of the long, lean muscled planes of that body. Despite her weakened state, recalling these details had her feeling the same brand of hot and bothered she'd felt that night, the night they'd first met.

And now he was standing in front of her. As if she'd conjured him.

Becca blinked. What was he doing here? When she'd tried to find him, the people in the human resources department had sworn there was not a doctor with the first name of Nick employed at Celebration Memorial.

Maybe he was some dark angel who'd been sentenced to serve purgatory in emergency rooms... Okay, she wasn't so out of it that she didn't realize how delusional that sounded. Or that she probably had never looked worse. Maybe he wouldn't recognize her.

And that would be preferable?

Maybe.

"I've just come on duty after a shift change, and I wanted to look in on you before signing your release papers."

Had she conjured him? Or maybe she was hallucinating?

"How are you feeling?" he asked as he keyed something into the tablet, still not looking up. "I understand you're pregnant. Are you feeling strong enough to go home?"

She didn't quite know what to say. Especially since her entire body had gone numb at the sight of him.

When he finally looked up, their gazes met. His upright professionalism gave way to recognition. Recognition morphed into something that resembled utter shock. But it took only a couple of beats for him to compose himself. Becca could see the virtual wall go up around him.

"Hello," he said. "It's, uh—it's nice to see you again."

His words were clipped and matter-of-fact. There was no trace of the sex god who had zapped her of all common sense and discretion that night.

"It's been a while, hasn't it?" She tried to keep her voice light. It wasn't an easy task, lying there on a gurney in a hospital gown, with parched lips and a dry mouth. How many times had she imagined running into him at a park or in a restaurant—in her imagination he was always dining solo, of course, waiting for her and overjoyed by the reunion. But the one scenario she'd never imagined was running into him as a patient in the emergency room, looking as she felt right now.

God, just kill me now.

She instantly regretted the figurative words. Her hand automatically moved to her belly in a protective stance.

She took a deep breath and reframed. This wasn't the time for vanity. So what if her hair was a mess and her makeup had washed away hours ago? No matter what she looked...

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