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Authors: Dallas Schulze

The Baby Bargain

BOOK: The Baby Bargain
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The Baby Bargain
Dallas Schulze
Harlequin Books (1991)
CHILD OF LOVE
When Kelly Russell slipped away from her cruelly strict father one New Year's Eve, she never expected to give herself to Dan Remington, a man who offered her the warmth and loving she'd never known.
But the new year brought cold regret. Kelly was pregnant, and her father was threatening to hurt her child. Her only choice was to ask Dan for help ....
To Dan, Kelly was his wish for a family come true, so he offered her a deal: if she'd have the baby, he'd care for it. Now Dan wondered if a few months would be enough time to win the love of a woman who'd lived a lifetime without it.

 The Baby Bargain

  ✥

Dallas Schulze

CHILD OF LOVE


When Kelly Russell slipped away from her cruelly strict father one New Year's Eve, she never expected to give herself to Dan Remington, a man who offered her the warmth and loving she'd never known.


But the new year brought cold regret. Kelly was pregnant, and her father was threatening to hurt her child. Her only choice was to ask Dan for help ....


To Dan, Kelly was his wish for a family come true, so he offered her a deal: if she'd have the baby, he'd care for it. Now Dan wondered if a few months would be enough time to win the love of a woman who'd lived a lifetime without it.

Dear Reader,

I was delighted when I found out that The Baby Bargain was being reprinted. This was a book that touched my heart and, judging from the mail I've received over the years, readers apparently felt the same way.

This is a story about two people who meet under less than ideal circumstances. They have nothing in common except loneliness and a shared need to belong somewhere—to have roots, a place in the world. Family.

I know some people believe that a family is born of shared blood and ancestral ties, but I've always thought that family is a matter of the heart. That's the way it is for Dan and Kelly, anyway. Two lonely people with few dreams, who find love and build a life together against all expectations.

I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Chapter 1

Kelly Russell pulled her coat a little tighter, hunching her shoulders together as the worn fabric balked at closing. The coat was nearly four years old and it hadn't aged well. The gray polyester had looked cheap and shiny when new. It still looked cheap, but the shine had worn off years ago, leaving the edges frayed and the pockets threadbare.

Kelly had been a thin, angular fourteen-year-old when the coat was purchased. She was still thin but no longer angular, and it was an unfortunate fact that the coat hadn't grown as her body filled out. Now the mismatched buttons refused to close across her bust, allowing the cold, late-December wind to cut through her.

She shivered, sheltered even as she was by the library's wide porch. The winter weather seemed more bitter than it had in years past. Or maybe she just felt it more. Lately it seemed as if she was always cold, deep inside where no coat could warm.

Funny how she'd thought that this year might be different. Every year, as Christmas approached, her spirits lifted. She began to remember Christmases when she was a little girl, before her brother, Devlin, left home, before her mother died.

They had celebrated the holiday then with a tree and lights and deliciously exciting packages.

There hadn't been anything expensive in the packages— they'd never had the money for expensive gifts. Often as not, the boxes contained some necessity. But just the fact that they were gaily wrapped was enough to elevate the most ordinary pair of socks to new heights.

And once in a while there would be something truly wondrous waiting under the tree. The last Christmas before he left, Devlin had used some of the money he'd earned working on a farm over the summer to buy her the most beautiful doll she'd ever seen. All dark ringlets and bright blue eyes, it seemed the most incredible gift, almost magical. She'd treasured that doll as only an eight-year-old could. She'd thought that she would never own anything half as nice again in her whole life.

The wind skidded around the side of the building, slicing through her, reminding her that this was neither the time nor the place for dawdling along, lost in daydreams. Kelly shivered, clutching her precious stack of books to her chest as she hurried down the library steps.

It was stupid to think about the past. If she'd learned nothing else, she should have figured that out by now. Those Christmases were all a long time ago. Devlin had left the summer after giving her that doll. Her mother had died three years later. And the doll had gone the way of so many things from that time—into the trash where her father had thrown it while she watched. He'd said the doll was made in the image of a painted hussy and was unfit for his household.

Now another Christmas had come and gone. The new year lay just on the other side of sunset Remembrance, Indiana, bustled with a final burst of holiday spirit The Christmas lights lent a sparkle to the town, one that was reflected in people's eyes as they rushed home to get ready to go out and celebrate the coming of a new year.

Despite the cold that seemed to bite into her bones, Kelly was in no hurry to get home. No parties, no laughing friends, awaited her. Her father had declared that the only proper way to greet the new year was on your knees praying for the world's salvation, just as it was the only way to celebrate the Lord's birth.

Kelly had knelt until her knees ached. She didn't know if the world was any closer to salvation because of it, but she knew her youth was slipping away without her having even tasted it. As she watched the old year fade, she felt as if she was watching her life fade along with it.

She dodged a group of boys who were running down die sidewalk, laughing and shouting. It seemed as if even the children had someplace to go, something to look forward to.

Glancing in the direction the boys had come from, she felt her face flush and then pale. Diane Randall and Chad Levitt. Up until she had quit school a year and a half ago, Kelly had gone to school with the couple now walking toward her. The captain of the football team and the head cheerleader. A fairytale couple, right out of one of the many novels Kelly devoured in secret

She'd read in the paper that Chad had been recruited by one of the "big ten" universities. She didn't know what Diane's plans were, but Kelly didn't doubt that she'd go on to do something wonderful and exciting. Some people were just born to live wonderful and exciting lives.

Kelly ducked her head over the books she carried as they drew near. She didn't want them to see her. Didn't want to see their pity or contempt. She knew what she looked like. She saw her reflection every morning in the tiny mirror in her bedroom. With her hair scraped back, no makeup and her plain, worn clothes, she looked old and unattractive.

With her head lowered, Kelly misjudged her path. Her forward progress was abruptly halted when she bumped into someone.

"Careful." The hands that steadied her were large and strong, the voice one she had once dreamed of. She raised her head, meeting Chad Levitt's dark brown eyes, remembering how she'd fantasized about him the year she turned fifteen.

"You okay?" he asked with impersonal courtesy.

Mute, she glanced from him to Diane, who was looking at her with a faint frown—but no recognition. The realization knocked the breath from Kelly. That Chad didn't recognize her was no surprise. After all, their paths had never really crossed. But she and Diane had stood next to each other in lines, had lockers that sat side by side. By virtue of their last names starting with the same letter, they'd been thrown together frequently, developing, if not a friendship, a friendly acquaintance.

When Kelly had quit school soon after her sixteenth birthday, Diane had helped her clean out her locker, her pretty features concerned. Kelly hadn't told anyone why she was quitting. She'd just gotten so tired. Tired of fighting her father, of dealing with his anger every morning. As far as he was concerned, an education was a waste of time, especially for a woman.

And she'd grown tired of never fitting in at school. She was always on the outside looking in. That wasn't going to change.

But she couldn't explain that to Diane—pretty, popular Diane. Diane had been kind. She'd even told Kelly to keep in touch. Not that Kelly had done any such thing. She'd taken the invitation exactly as it was meant, a kind gesture, certainly nothing to be acted upon. But she'd treasured the knowledge that she'd had an almost-friend.

Now Diane was looking at her without the slightest trace of recognition.

"Hey, are you okay?" Chad was starting to frown.

"Maybe she's deaf, Chad," Diane suggested, looking sympathetic. "Speak slowly so that she can read your lips."

"Are...you..."

"I'm fine," Kelly got out, her voice husky. "I wasn't watching where I was going. Sorry."

She dodged around them without waiting for a reply and hurried down the sidewalk, wanting to put as much distance between herself and the humiliating scene as possible. Tears burned in her eyes, cooling as they fell onto her icy cheeks.

She was nearly a block away before she slowed, angrily wiping her fingers over her face. It was stupid to be so upset. Why should they remember her? She'd been a nothing, a nonentity, a shadow. That's all she'd ever managed to be in school.

BOOK: The Baby Bargain
10.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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