Kathryn Shay Be My Babies

ISBN 13: 9780373714797

Be My Babies

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9780373714797: Be My Babies
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A small town called Fairview is Lily Wakefield's last stop--there's nowhere left to go. Maybe here she can finally stop running and start a new life. Which just might include Simon McCarthy, the newspaperman and single father who's starting to make her believe in love again.Just as she and Simon start becoming a real family that includes her baby twins and his daughter, Lily's past catches up with her. And that past could rob her of her chance at happiness.

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Standing outside the Sentinel, Lily Wakefield slid the crumpled yellowed article from her purse and held it up in front of the old brick edifice. The newspaper office looked more or less the same as it had when her mother, Cameron, clipped the picture just before she left Fairview, New York, carrying a suitcase containing practical clothes, serviceable shoes and one hundred dollars. Now, Lily stood before the building in her Prada sandals, DKNY slacks and tailored jacket, with about the same amount of cash in her wallet. The Louis Vuitton bag at her side held a few more outfits, but only as many as she could carry.

Someone bumped into her, said, "Excuse me," and kept going.

Lily nodded and stayed where she was.

About five feet away, the man turned back. "Are you all right?"

"What? Oh, yes."

Glancing up at the sky, he frowned. "Looks like we're in for one of those April showers." His comment was underscored by a draft of wind that lifted and swirled her dark chin-length hair around her face. He pointed to the office. "There's a pot of coffee in there and some homemade cookies that Mrs. Billings made. Want to come in?"

"Um, yes, I guess I do. Thanks."

Bending down, he picked up her suitcase before she could take hold of it and walked alongside her toward the front doors.

It's a beautiful place. It used to be an old home, and then it was converted into the newspaper offices. In the front reception and waiting area, there's a fireplace, a comfortable couch and chairs, and a worn desk like the kind you'd see in reruns of the old TV show, Superman. I used to love to go there after school and wait for Daddy to be done with work.

What Lily's mother hadn't told her, and what she only figured out years later, was that Cameron would have done anything to delay going home to her own mother.

Once they were inside, the man motioned to the couch. "Please, sit down." When she'd seated herself, he added, "I'm Simon McCarthy."

"Lily Wakefield."

"Nice to meet you." Again, he smiled. His hazel eyes did, too. "Would you like some coffee?"

"I—I can't have that."

"Oh." When Lily said no more, he asked, "How about tea?"

"Decaffeinated would be okay. Lovely, really, but don't fuss."

"No problem." He went into the back room, and while he was gone Lily studied her surroundings. The windows let in the afternoon breeze, along with the chirping of the birds in the leafy maple trees outside. Engraved plaques hung on the wall before her, citing the Sentinel and its editor for various good works. Pictures were interspersed with the awards describing the accomplishments of the paper and its reporters. A few minutes later, Simon returned with a steaming mug. Lily took the cup and sniffed. Mmm. Cinnamon. "Thank you so much." It had been a long time since a man had waited on her.

When she said nothing more, he sat down on a chair opposite her. "Is there a reason you were out there just staring at the building?" He nodded to the suitcase. "With that?"

Her stomach churned. She prayed she wouldn't get sick all over this total stranger. "Yes." She glanced up at one of the pictures she'd noticed earlier. Its headline read, Gardner Garners The Gold—Best Of Small-town Newspapers. From other photos she'd seen, she recognized the man. "I'm looking for him, Gil Gardner."

Simon tracked her gaze. "I'm not quite sure where he is today."

"Is he out on a story?"

"No, he doesn't cover the news anymore." Sandy eyebrows were raised. They matched his short, dark blond hair, which had a bit of curl. "He's at the office sometimes, but he doesn't do much reporting."

"Doesn't he own the paper?"

"Yeah, he's still the owner. But I run the place. I'm editor in chief." He chuckled self-effacingly. "And a lot of other things. Our staff is small and the tasks are many."

Because she still wasn't ready to explain herself to him, she dodged his question about why she was here and said only, "I'm sure newspaper work is taxing."

His gaze narrowed on her. "Do you know Gil?"

"I've never met him, no." Her hands began to tremble. Steaming tea sloshed over onto her fingers.

"Here." He handed her a handkerchief pulled from his pocket.

"Thanks."

"Why are you shaking?"

"I'm fine. Listen, could you call my...call Gil? I need to see him."

"I guess I could."

She noticed he had Gil's number on speed dial. Who would be in Lily's top five these days? A paltry few. But it was her own fault for letting her life unfold as it had. And now when she needed help, she was going to have to turn to strangers. The thought scared her to death.

Simon was frowning as he spoke into the phone. "Yeah, Gil, it's me, Simon. I need you to come to the office as soon as you get this message. I'll explain why then." He clicked off.

"Thank you, Mr. McCarthy."

"A lot of cloak-and-dagger," he said easily.

"I suppose. But I have my reasons."

"What are they?"

"I'd rather not say." Lily was a private person by nature, and she was particularly embarrassed by her present circumstances. And though he seemed nice enough, who knew what this man's relationship was with Gil?

The bell over the door sounded and Simon and Lily looked toward it. A teenager stepped inside. "Dad?"

Even if the girl hadn't uttered the word, Lily would have known immediately that she was Simon's daughter. Same tawny hair, although hers hung almost to her waist. Same hazel eyes. Nose, a feminine version of his. She had an aura about her, too, making Lily want to sketch her.

"Hi, honey." He introduced her to Lily.

"Grandpa Gil's coming in behind me. Katie and I were walking home and he picked us up. It's starting to drizzle."

The cup jerked and tea sloshed again. "Grandpa?" Lily asked.

Jenna smiled. "Not my real grandpa, but he's like one." Lily got the drift. In other words, Gil had found a replacement. Well, why not? So had Derek.

Again, the door opened, and in walked a tall, lanky man with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair and blue eyes just like Lily's mother's. And her own. Lily felt her heart thump in her chest at finally seeing Gil in person.

"Hi, everyone." He focused on Lily. "Who's our gu—" Before he could finish his statement, Gil's complexion paled and he grabbed on to the high table just inside the door.

Jumping up from his chair, Simon rushed over to him. "Gil, is it your heart again?"

"Grandpa?" Jenna sounded afraid, too.

Gil's mouth was slack-jawed as he stared at Lily. Finally, he said, "Not like you mean."

"What, Gil?"

"It's my heart, but not like you mean." Letting go of Simon, he crossed the room. "Who are you? You look just like my daughter, Cameron."

"I know I do. I'm her daughter, Lily."

SIMON WATCHED IN AWE—and with a little bit of horror— as tears filled Gil's eyes. In the almost thirty years he'd known the man, he'd never once seen him cry. "Gil, are you all right?"

"Grandpa?" Jenna's tone was even more worried.

"You're Cami's girl?"

Lily stood. She couldn't tear her gaze from him, either.

"Yes, I am. I'm sorry to spring myself on you unannounced."

His face was still ashen. "I know... I know Cami died. We found out through a lawyer. But...she had a daughter? The only thing she ever wrote to us was that she hadn't gone through with her pregnancy."

Now, Lily Wakefield's face paled and she reseated herself. "That's new information to me." She bit her lip. "I realize this is a shock, Mr. Gardner."

After a moment, Gil, also, took a chair. Simon followed suit, while Jenna sat on the opposite end of the couch from Lily. "I—I didn't know," Gil repeated.

Lily glanced nervously at Simon. "Is there somewhere we can go to talk privately?"

"What? Oh, no need for that. Simon and Jenna are like family. I want them to hear what you have to say."

Frown lines around the woman's mouth told Simon that she wasn't pleased by Gil's answer. Who cared? No way was he leaving Gil alone with this stranger who claimed to be his granddaughter. She could be anybody.

Sighing, she drew a sheaf of papers from her purse. "I have documentation to verify who I am."

When Gil didn't take what she offered, but just stared at her, Simon snatched the papers from her hand. Birth certificate for Liliana Clarkson. Mother, Cameron Gardner Clarkson. Father unknown. There were also pictures. Photocopied drivers'licenses, social security cards for Lily and her mother, a passport. And a picture of a young girl with Gil in his youth. "They seem in order." Simon would have his sister, Sara, a lawyer in town, check them out, though. Documents could be forged and stories made up. He'd arrange a background check on this woman, at least.

"Do you have any idea what a gift you've brought me?" Gil finally asked her.

"Have I?" Lily's gaze hardened almost imperceptively.

"You didn't stay in touch with your own daughter."

Jenna gasped, and Gil's face reddened. "It sounds horrible. It is horrible."

Simon sat forward. "Gil, you know what happened with Cameron wasn't all your fault."

"It was all my fault. No one will ever convince me otherwise."

Simon was not only wary now, but anger bubbled inside him. If what this woman said was true, she'd surely resent what had happened to her mother, and rightfully so. But given that, her motive for coming to Fairview couldn't be good. Who could possibly forgive that kind of abandonment? "Is this why you came here—to make accusations at Gil? To hurt him with them?"

Lily focused on her grandfather. "I don't want to hurt you. That's not why I'm here."

"Why, then?" Simon knew his tone was too harsh, but he worried about Gil—especially after his heart attack a few years ago. He'd protect Gil from Lily Wakefield, even if Gil wouldn't protect himself.

"Dad?"

"Simon..." Gil admonished.

But Lily held up her hand. "I'll answer his question."

She looked around. "But privately. I don't feel comfortable baring my soul in front of strangers."

Gil stood. "Then come with me. My house isn't far." To Simon he said, "I'll call you later."

Simon watched them go out the door. He had a feeling this wasn't going to be good, and he hated it when he couldn't keep the people he loved safe.

"Dad, is Grandpa Gil gonna be okay?"

"I hope so, honey. I hope so."

TAKING IN A DEEP BREATH, Gil faced his granddaughter over the kitchen table in the home where her mother had grown up. No, that was wrong. Cami hadn't finished growing up here. Alice hadn't given her the chance to, and part of the whole ugly chain of events involved the fact that Gil himself had allowed his wife to have her way regarding their daughter. As he'd told Simon, his role in what happened was something for which he'd never forgive himself.

"Are you comfortable, Lily? In that straight chair?"

"Yes. My back feels better in one of these." She sipped the tea he'd fixed her, while he made strong coffee for himself.

"Then talk to me. Tell me why you've come here." Shaking back her hair, Lily held his gaze. "I'm here because I'm pregnant and I have nowhere else to go."

Gil froze. Oh, my God, just like Cameron. For a few moments, he couldn't speak. Finally, he recovered his equilibrium. "What about the baby's father?"

"Babies."

"Excuse me?"

Her smile was as broad and generous as his daughter's had been before things went bad. "I'm having twins."

"Twins? That's great." What to say? "Are you feeling well?"

"I am." She placed her hand on her abdomen. "The first trimester was hard, but it's been better this past month."

He felt awkward talking about this but he forged ahead. "How far into the pregnancy are you?"

"Four months."

She didn't look it. She was thin, and her complexion was pale. Her makeup was perfect, however, and her dark hair was stylishly cut. Yet, despite the sophisticated exterior, there was a vulnerability about her that tugged at his heart.

"Twins don't always go full-term, but I'm going to make sure mine do."

"You didn't answer my question about the father."

"He's in no condition to help us now." She drew in a deep breath. "So I came to you."

Why she'd even ask him after what he did—or didn't do—for her mother was beyond Gil. But maybe, in some convoluted way, Lily Wakefield showing up here was a chance for Gil to make up for having let his daughter down when she was having a child. "I can and I will," he said instinctively. "I'll do whatever you want. Is it money?"

"No! I didn't come for a handout."

He recoiled. "I didn't mean it that way."

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't snap at you."

He drank his coffee and measured his words. She should be doing more than snapping at him. "Then what do you need from me, Lily? What can I do for you?"

"For now, a place to live, until I can find a job. I'd like to look for one in Fairview, if you wouldn't mind my staying in town."

"I'd love to have you in Fairview—and in my home, for as long as you want. But should you be working?"

"Pregnant women have been working for centuries." Stalling for time, he got up and poured himself more coffee, let its strong scent waft up to him. "I don't want to rush you. I'm in foreign waters here. You'll have to tell me what's best for you."

"That's a switch."

He pivoted to face her. "What?" what I wanted."

"Do you want to tell me about that first?"

Her slate-blue eyes grew shadowed. "No, not yet."

"All right. Will you tell me about Cami and your life together? I never knew how she fared."

"Nobody called her Cami."

"No? I guess it was only my pet name for her."

Lily shook her head. "You talk about her so...warmly, but I know she was kicked out of her home when she got pregnant."

"That's not exactly what happened."

"It's what she told me."

"We sent her away to have the baby at a place for unmarried girls who were pregnant."

"She saw that as the same thing. In any case, she didn't blame you—just her mother. She talked about you in a kind way, too, which is why I felt I could come here."

"Where did she go when she left Fairview?"

Lily fidgeted. Shifted in her seat. "Downstate. I grew up in New York City. She worked there as a waitress. She died in a bus accident."

With his newsman's instinct, Gil read Lily easily. Either what she said wasn't true or it wasn't the whole story. "I have no information at all on her life after she left us."

"She wanted it that way." Lily yawned. "I'm sorry—it's been a long day. Would you mind if I rested a bit?"

"The house has several bedrooms. You can take your pick."

Now those eyes, so much like his daughter's that it made his heart ache, clouded over. "Would the one where my mother stayed be okay?"

"More than okay." He smiled, but he felt as if somebody had kicked him in the gut. "It's been redone." Alice had said it was better that way. "But I saved Cami's things."

"I—I didn't expect that." She yawned again. "Oh, excuse me."

Standing, he set his e...

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