His chair hit the wall with a heavy thud. He raced to the lobby. Karen Ramsey, his best friend’s wife, was hunched over her desk, her face twisted in pain. She wasn’t due for two weeks. Apparently the baby was calling an audible.he sound of a woman screaming in agony was not what Trevor MacLaughlin expected to hear on a quiet Tuesday morning at the office.
What the hell am I supposed to do now?
He ran to Karen’s side. She grabbed his hand, squeezing it hard enough to cut off his circulation and pop a few joints.
She sucked in a few more breaths and wheezed, gradually releasing her death-grip on his hand. He flexed it, popping his knuckles back into alignment. Damn, she was strong.
“I thought they were just Braxton Hicks last night, bu—”
He winced. Her fingers clamped down hard and another wail filled the small office.
The growling scream tapered off and she glanced up, meeting his gaze. “I guess I was wrong,” she finished, so matter-of-factly, like she hadn’t just been screaming bloody murder.
“Braxton what?” he asked without thinking.
“Oh don’t worry, just get my bag out of the coat closet. I need a ride to the hospital.”
He stared. His brain hadn’t quite caught up with the situation. He’d known Karen for years and she never complained about anything. All the MacLaughlin brothers had watched over her during the pregnancy. Logan, her husband, had been deployed when she was twelve weeks along.
They’d brought her food everyday. Drove her to and from work and coddled her in every way they could devise. They discovered early, if they kept her fed and pampered she purred like a kitten 24/7. Even their mom and sister teased them about doting on her too much. But in their eyes, Karen was just an extension of the family and she’d kept MacLaughlin Corp. running smoothly for the past six years.
Her snarl snapped him out of his daze.
“Unless you’d rather deliver this baby yourself?”
“No, ma’am.” He moved swiftly to the closet, retrieved her overnight bag, and was back at her side in seconds.
He walked her slowly out to his big dually pick-up, parked in the front lot, lifted her up, and placed her gently into the passenger seat. After clipping her seatbelt into place, he hurried around the truck and climbed in next to her.
They weren’t far from the hospital. Ten minutes and three contractions later, he whisked her through the sliding emergency room door.
“Call my mother before you come into the delivery room,” she hollered as the nurses wheeled her down the hallway.
“Into the…Karen,” he gulped. “I don’t know if—”
“You call my mom, Trevor MacLaughlin and get your ass in here with me until she arrives. I’m not doing this alone!”
Another contraction hit and he cringed at her howl of pain. He turned and headed toward the waiting area to call her mom.
“Son of a philandering toad bastard’s mo—” The hallway doors swung shut, cutting off her rant.
He shook his head and smiled. Her curses were legendary in the office. They usually ended up being funnier than they ever were mean.
He swiped the screen on his phone and looked up her mother’s number. No way was he going in that delivery room. Logan would kill him.
The phone rang on the other end of the line and a soft voice spoke.
“Mrs. DeGault, your daughter is in labor and asking me to go in with her to the delivery. Which I’m not ve—”
“You just park it in the lobby, young man. I’ll be there in five, I was already halfway to the office.”
Thank the Lord!
Lorelei Ward curled into the armchair of her daddy’s office and smiled. He was busy scrawling notes on a pad of paper, paying no heed to her sitting with her tablet watching him. She pulled the colorful afghan wrapped around her shoulders tighter. Winter had come to Texas early this year and everyone had already dug out their sweatshirts and blankets. Though she’d laughed to see several pair of flip-flops still inhabiting space on the floor next to the back door of her parent’s house. Her daddy hated shoes as much as she did.
“What are your plans, hon? I heard you talking to your mother. You know we are leaving for our cruise tomorrow.” He paused from his work, and looked up to meet her gaze. Soft brown eyes twinkled with curiosity. One of his silver eyebrows arched questioningly.
“I didn’t really have any, and yes, I know you are leaving. But, Lizzy MacLaughlin called this morning and her brothers need some help in the office last minute. Karen Ramsey went into labor two weeks early and had a little baby girl yesterday.”
“So you’re going to help in an office?” The other eyebrow rose.
Lorelei giggled. “I’m capable of a lot of things. I’ll have you know, my desk is completely clutter-free at the moment.”
“I don’t doubt you are capable, sweetheart. I just worry Karen will hunt you down after-the-fact for destroying any semblance of order.”
A chuckle shook through her body. “It will be fine. Lizzy said she’d help too. When she has time between assignments.” She had no intention of telling her father the whole thing was a set up. Lizzy was trying to help her get Trevor to notice her.
He hadn’t when she was younger, but maybe now that she was grown things would be different. He and his brothers had always been nice to her, like the brothers she never had.
Lorelei had always wished for siblings, but her parents were never blessed with more children. Complications with her birth left both her parents wary to even try for another child. She craved what Lizzy had with her brothers, and spent as much time at the MacLaughlin house as humanly possible growing up. Soaking in the sibling adventures.
The boys hadn’t disappointed.
All three had accepted her into the house like their own sister and doted over her just like they did Lizzy. But that was how the MacLaughlin’s were. If you were friends with them you were part of the family.
The only problem was, she’d fallen in love with one of the boys and never said a word. Only Lizzy knew how she felt about Trevor and she’d sworn her to secrecy years ago.
Well, all bets are off now.
His sister was trying to torture him. That was the only explanation. Why else on earth would she have called Lorelei Ward to fill in at the office for Karen? He’d told Lizzy he could manage the office himself until they found a temporary replacement. It was the week before Christmas. They weren’t busy.
She didn’t listen. Even his mother had added her two cents, saying it would be nice to have Lorelei around again. She’d just graduated and moved back to town last week.
That was the problem. It would be nice.
He’d been in love with her in high school, but tried to stay as far away as possible. She was his little sister’s best friend. He’d have never forgiven himself if something happened between them and ruined the girl’s relationship.
He leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the corner of his desk. Images of a young Lorelei flashed through his mind. Her sweet smile and infectious laughter had always brightened his day. Even though she and her sister made it their mission to try and annoy him constantly. Secretly, he’d enjoyed the attention.
He wondered how she’d changed. She hadn’t been to a MacLaughlin get-together since she and Lizzy both left for college. At least not one he’d been present at.
Would she still have the same glistening brunette curls that hung halfway down her back like a silken waterfall? Would her cute little smattering of freckles still show? Or would she cover them with makeup?
Then there were those luscious curves she’d developed in high school. Damn! He still had it bad. She’d been beautiful then. He couldn’t imagine what a gorgeous woman she’d turned into.
Trevor shook his head. There was no way she was still single. No need to get worked up over a woman he couldn’t have anyway. She was still his little sister’s best friend.
Lorelei Ward was off limits.