Old doubts and insecurities had settled in, mocking

“Old doubts and insecurities had settled in, mocking him with the possibility that he’d never be good enough for Grace Holbrook. He’d retreated when Grace had confronted him, a self-preservation tactic he’d learned as an impoverished kid, to protect himself from all the criticism he’d had to endure. It seemed his instincts were just as sharp.

She’d been angry that morning; he’d been defensive after listening to Ellis malign his character. Leaving seemed the best thing to do to let their tempers cool, to allow Grace time to absorb the fact that he’d be living in Whitaker Falls. Permanently. He had a reputation to establish, and his pride to win back.

In time, he would earn both.

But for now, it was time to find out if Grace’s reception would be any warmer than the few locals he’d encountered who’d eyed him with cool reserve.

She was pregnant. Without a doubt. The bright blue strip on the home pregnancy test Grace had bought at the drug store, along with the twenty other inconsequential items she’d purchased in an attempt to camouflage the glaring evidence, confirmed the lab results had been accurate. With a deep, internal shudder, Grace lowered herself to the closed lid of the commode and squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to suppress the tears burning the back of her throat.

She lost the battle, the rush of moisture seeping past her lashes. One blink, and a tear rolled down her cheek, then another. Oh, what a fine mess she’d gotten herself into!

She pressed a hand to her still flat tummy, guessing in another month or two her secret would be revealed to anyone who glanced her way. While she was ecstatic that she was able to have babies, she dreaded the emotional battle that lay ahead for her and her child, not to mention the possible scandal. Not only would she remain unwed in her pregnant condition, but not naming a father would surely add to the ensuing speculation. There was no way she was going to compound her mistake by announcing to everyone that Ford was the daddy.

She’d tell Ford her intentions upfront—that she planned to have this baby on her own, and wanted absolutely nothing from him except his silence. Since he obviously didn’t love her, and had his own personal agenda for returning to Whitaker Falls, she was certain she’d be able to gain his cooperation.

As for her father . . . well, she wondered if he’d believe Dr. Chase’s suggestion of Immaculate Conception.

Releasing a shuddering sigh, she managed a wobbly smile for the unexpected gift she’d been blessed with. She wasn’t one to wallow in misery and mistakes, and she refused to do so with this situation. This child would know love . . . her love, and that’s all that mattered.

A knock on her front door startled Grace, and kicked her heart rate into triple-time. Her mind spun as she took in the contents of the pregnancy test spread out on the bathroom counter. Guessing the uninvited guest was her father, who’d made dropping by an impulse lately, Grace frantically cleaned up the incriminating evidence. She shoved the small plastic cup and the instruction booklet into the box they came in and tossed it into the cupboard beneath the sink.

Another knock.

Swiping at her damp eyes with the heel of her hand, and trying to calm the jumble of nerves fluttering in her belly, she made her way through the living room. She opened the front door with a smile she’d dredged up from her cheerful reserve, which promptly fell into a frown when she found Ford standing on her porch.

Gone was the executive who’d seduced her, traded in for more casual attire that suited him just as well as the expensive wardrobe from his first visit. A pale blue striped shirt covered his wide, athletic chest, the threads of color making his violet eyes more dazzling, and intense. Crisp, new, form fitting blue jeans hugged a lean waist and hips, and outlined nice firm thighs. Leather cowboy boots completed the ensemble. He still looked successful, and incredibly gorgeous. And he still had the ability to set her pulse to racing—damn him.

“Hi.” Though his voice was rich, intimate, and just as sexy as she remembered, his eyes were dark and reserved. “I stopped by your flower shop, but Darcy said you’d gone home sick. You do look pale, and your eyes are puffy. Are you okay?””