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A KID FOR A CAMDEN?
Schoolteacher Kyla Gibson spends her days keeping kids in line, but it's not quite the same as having a family of her own. But when Kyla is named guardian to her newly orphaned infant goddaughter, she becomes an insta-mommy! Soon, though, she's in over her head—and she's stunned when her SOS is answered by the last man she ever expected to see...
Former marine Beau Camden is shocked to see Kyla again—and with a baby! It's been fourteen years since their last night together, after which she went AWOL. But the time for old grievances is past, and Kyla desperately needs his magic touch with little Immy. Can the soldier and his former sweetheart heal old hurts to create a future together, Camden-style?
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Victoria Pade is a USA Today bestselling author of multiple romance novels. She has two daughters and is a native of Colorado, where she lives and writes. A devoted chocolate-lover, she's in search of the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. Readers can find information about her latest and upcoming releases by logging on to www.vikkipade.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Kyla Gibson moved gingerly to one of the truck-stop motel room's two beds and eased herself onto it to sit with her sore back against the headboard. She couldn't settle into place without flinching at multiple aches, pains, bruises and cuts. Then she pulled a pillow to her lap to prop the sprained wrist that was also throbbing from the strain of using it more than she was supposed to.
It was only eight o'clock on Tuesday night. Even though she was completely worn out it was too early to go to sleep. But she didn't dare turn on the television for fear that it might wake up the two-month-old infant finally asleep in the crib a few feet away.
Immy. Who had been crying since they'd both been released from the hospital and arrived at the motel a little after five.
Having no real experience with babies, Kyla didn't know why Immy had been so unhappy. She had received a clean bill of health from the hospital, where she'd behaved normally.
But now, at the motel, in Kyla's sole care, Immy hadn't wanted to eat or sleep.
Was it possible for such a tiny baby to understand that something awful had happened? To miss her parents? To realize on some level that she'd lost them?
But if that was the case, wouldn't she have also been inconsolable at the hospital?
It was only since Kyla had taken over tending to the baby that Immy had become so unhappy.
Maybe she knew...
That's what Kyla kept thinking. Maybe Immy sensed that she was now in the hands of someone inept at caring for her, someone who didn't have the foggiest idea what she was doing or how she was going to do what needed to be done from here on.
Or maybe Kyla's own fears and insecurities about this job that was now hers were somehow infecting the baby.
But regardless of the cause, the baby had just gone on crying and crying and crying and Kyla had been useless—too battered, too weak, too afraid she might drop Immy to walk and jiggle her the way her parents had when Immy was upset.
So Kyla had been at a loss. And tired and hurt and frustrated and sad.
And at one point Kyla had just cried right along with Immy.
But she'd finally persuaded Immy to take a few ounces of formula—much less than she was supposed to be eating, but still, something—and then Immy had fallen asleep.
And now here Kyla was, afraid to even breathe.
Terrified, actually, of everything she was facing.
Terrified and terribly, terribly worried that she wasn't going to be able to handle what was now on her plate even once she was well again.
Before this, Kyla had been a childless kindergarten teacher who shared an apartment in the small Montana town of Northbridge with a roommate. She came and went as she pleased. She dated now and then. She and Darla—her roommate and best friend—got along well and had a good time together. She enjoyed the community she'd become a part of. And she lived a simple, uncomplicated life.
A simple, uncomplicated life that she'd left behind a week and a half ago in order to spend the end of her summer vacation in Denver. Rachel—her cousin and only living relative—had invited her, asking her to become the godmother of Rachel's daughter, Immogene.
Kyla had been enjoying her time with the small family that also included Rachel's Australian husband, Eddie Burke. She'd been enjoying watching Rachel with Immy. Enjoying holding Immy herself for a few minutes here and there, awkwardly giving Immy an occasional bottle, then handing her back to one of her parents if Immy fussed.
Kyla had been honored to become Immy's godmother, and had even offered to take Immy to sleep in the guesthouse with her after the christening.
She'd been happy to give Rachel and Eddie a night of romance rekindling and uninterrupted sleep. Immy was down to needing only one feeding during the night, and with the prepared bottle in the fridge and the bottle warmer on the counter, Kyla had been confident she was up to the task. After all, the guesthouse had occupied the top half of the garage just behind the main house and one call over the intercom would have Rachel or Eddie there in minutes if there were any problems.
But instead of Kyla having problems with Immy, the problem had been the fire that started at the very large, luxurious main house.
That horrible night had cost Rachel and Eddie their lives. Kyla barely escaped with Immy from flames that jumped to burn the guesthouse and garage to the ground, too.
Kyla still couldn't believe it had happened...
A tiny whimper from the crib sent a fresh wave of panic through her right then.
Please stay asleep...
Please, please, please...
Kyla sat frozen and closed her eyes as though, if she pretended she was asleep herself, the tiny baby girl might opt not to disturb her.
She knew that was really dumb. But she was desperate.
When there were no more sounds from the crib after a few minutes, Kyla opened her eyes to mere slits to spy on the infant from a distance and found Immy still asleep.
Kyla breathed again. And felt guilty.
It wasn't that she didn't love the adorable baby with her head of wispy copper-colored hair, her enormous blue eyes, her button nose and beautiful Cupid's-bow mouth. Because she did love her. She loved Immy and had envied Rachel. Especially when holding the baby in her arms had stirred old feelings of Kyla's own loss that she'd thought were resolved a decade ago.
But the truth was that she wasn't much more prepared to have a baby now than she had been when she was sixteen.
Only there Immy was, in the crib. All hers now.
Along with the responsibility of managing what Immy had inherited.
A baby. A huge business. What exactly was she supposed to do with either of those things?
Even if she was in tip-top shape, even if she wasn't banged up and grieving the loss of her cousin, it would still be overwhelming. And she honestly didn't know if she could do it. Any of it. All of it.
She closed her eyes again, this time in the futile hope that when she opened them she'd be back home in Northbridge, hearing Rachel's voice on the other end of the phone saying she'd just given birth to Immy.
If she pictured it vividly enough maybe she could turn back time.
The knock on the door startled her and when her eyes shot open again she was, of course, still in the motel room.
Her first thought was that the knock could have disturbed Immy.
Thankfully it hadn't. Yet.
Her second thought was that they were in a truck-stop motel. Yes, the business had belonged to Immy's parents and Eddie had talked about striving for high standards in everything about his travel centers, but it still didn't seem to Kyla like an ideal place for a woman alone with a baby.
And she certainly wasn't expecting anyone. How could she be, when the only people she knew in Denver now were the few strangers who had offered help since the fire?
She considered ignoring whoever was there and keeping the door safely closed. But she couldn't risk a second round of those heavy knocks, so she got off the bed as fast as she could and made her way to the window beside the door.
She was careful to only open the drape a crack, just enough for her to peek at whoever was out there before revealing herself.
There were lights in the overhang outside each room's door, so she could see that there was a man just outside.
A really big man. Tall, broad-shouldered, standing ramrod straight, muscles barely contained by a white polo shirt that stretched tightly over his shoulders and biceps.
He didn't look like the truckers she'd seen when she'd arrived. This guy was meticulously groomed and there didn't seem to be a relaxed bone in his impressive body. In fact, between the way he was standing there—almost at attention—and the short cut of his espresso-colored hair, there was something about him that said military.
Military and strikingly handsome.
He had a square brow, deep-set eyes that stared straight ahead at the door, a nose that was a little flat across the bridge and somehow ruggedly distinguished, full, sensuous lips and a jawline that a sculptor's knife couldn't have shaped any better.
Good looks—a serial killer's best asset, Kyla thought.
But as he raised his massive fist to knock a second time she decided she was less afraid of a serial killer than of waking Immy, so she poked her entire head past the curtain, opened the window just a crack and said a hushed, "Can I help you?"
His head alone turned in her direction, giving her a fuller view of his face.
Oh yeah, he was fantastic looking...
Now that he was peering directly at her, she could see that those deep-set eyes were an incredible, intense cobalt blue. A remarkable, unusual blue.
And it was those blue eyes that suddenly sparked familiarity.
"Kyla?" he said.
It couldn't be...
"Can I help you?" she repeated as she convinced herself that she was imagining things.
"You don't recognize me?" the man outside said.
"Who are you?" she asked even as she began to think that she knew.
"Beau. Beau Camden," he said.
Despite confirmation, Kyla stared at him in disbelief.
She couldn't help wondering if she was hallucinating. She'd refused pain medication because she hadn't wanted to be impaired in any way when she had to take care of Immy. But she still wondered if something they'd given her in the hospital had come back to haunt her.
That seemed more likely than that Beau Camden could have materialized from the past. At just that moment. And here, of all places.
Yet, as she studied the man outside, she began to see in him small images of the boy she'd once known.
Most definitely in the eyes. Although while the color was the same, the innocence she remembered was lost.
There were also hints of the boy in the features that time had fine-tuned and chiseled, accentuating cheekbones and giving a leaner line to the face that had had more roundness to it fourteen years ago.
At seventeen, Beau Camden had been tall. Maybe not quite as tall as this guy, but close. And his hair had been the same color—though there had been more of it as a teenager that summer.
More hair and far, far smaller muscles.
Still, the longer she looked at him, the easier it was to believe that this was, indeed, Beau Camden.
And with that belief, resentment came back to life.
"Beau." she said. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm not sure where to start," he said. "Could I come in?"
Had the hospital given her anything that could cause weird flashbacks and hallucinations? Because she just didn't know how this could possibly be happening.
"Are you for real?" she heard herself ask.
He took a wallet from his back pocket, opened it and held his driver's license close enough to the window for her to see it.
It looked new and the picture was exactly of the man standing there. Beaumont Anthony Camden.
She'd teased him about that that summer.
A good memory all twisted up with bad ones, causing a pain that had nothing to do with the escape from the fire.
"Or it's nice out here—you could come out," he suggested as he put his wallet away.
Since she didn't think hallucinations had driver's licenses, and it began to sink in that he really was who he said he was, she didn't have reason to fear him. He wouldn't hurt her—not physically, anyway. And resentment or no resentment, she was curious about what he was doing there, not to mention how and why.
But she couldn't let him into her room and take the chance that Immy would wake up.
So she said, "Give me a minute and I'll come out."
"Take all the time you need."
Kyla ducked behind the curtains and held them tightly closed in front of her.
Then she opened them just a slit and peeked out again to see if Beau Camden really was out there.
He was. She hadn't imagined this. She wasn't hallucinating.
And he was waiting for her, now standing near a big black SUV parked outside her room. Still posture-perfect, with his long, thick, jeansencased legs spread shoulder width apart and hands behind his back.
Military for sure.
But now that she knew who he was there was no surprise in that.
She closed the drapes tightly again, suddenly realizing that she didn't know how presentable she was.
She went to the mirror over the small bureau near the bathroom.
Once she got there and took a look at herself she thought maybe she shouldn't have.
She'd showered at the hospital that morning, but everything she'd brought with her from Northbridge had been lost in the fire. That meant no makeup, let alone anything to camouflage the dark bruise on her temple or any blush to put color into the pallor that the trauma had left her with.
Luckily there was only one bruise on her face—the rest of her injuries were under her clothes.
Her dark amber eyes weren't blackened or swollen—she counted that as a good thing. Her thin, straight nose was unmarred. And while she wished she had lip gloss, her lips were a natural pink color that hadn't paled along with the rest of her face.
Basically she looked like what she was—someone who had just finished a hospital stay. But there wasn't much she could do about that, so she focused on her hair.
It was about an inch longer than chin length, cut to turn under at the ends, with long bangs that she wore swept to one side. She'd had highlights added to its reddish-brown hue just before leaving home, and neither her hair nor her eyebrows had been singed.
But without her own shampoo and styling products or a curling iron, her hair was lackluster and just hung there limply. The best she could do was brush it with the cheap hairbrush she'd been given and sweep it behind her ears.
Oh, she really was pale, she realized. So pale that it made the bruise on her otherwise-unmarred forehead look even worse.
She reached for her bangs automatically with her right hand, forgetting that her wrist was badly sprained until the jolt of pain reminded her.
Then she tried to fluff her bangs with her left hand to cover the bruise. Mostly she just managed to pull them into her face. She wasn't sure that was an improvement, but she left them anyway.
Eddie's secretary had been good enough to get her a few basic necessities that included pajama pants and a top to sleep in, and two pairs of loose-fitting sweatpants to go with two baggy T-shirts for daytime. But that was the extent of her wardrobe. So there was no sense changing out of one pair of sweatpants and T-shirt into the other.
She stepped farther back from the mirror and took a look at the whole picture.
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Book Description Harlequin Special Edition, 2015. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373658664
Book Description Harlequin Books, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: Brand New. 224 pages. 6.70x4.30x0.60 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # __0373658664
Book Description Harlequin, 2015. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373658664
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