A lot of times when we write a book, some of the best stuff gets cut. In this case, though the prologue was great and really told a lot of the backstory, it was looooong! And it detracted from the beginning of the novel. So at my editor's suggestion, I cut it.
But Sally and I agreed (Sally is my editor in London) that this prologue was a beautiful example of Nick and Maggie's wonderful love for each other. And we thought you'd enjoy seeing it...So here it is!
Second Chance Baby
Maggie Forsythe Roebuck lay in the tiny bed she shared with her husband, Nick, looking at her round stomach. A lanky eighteen-year-old and only six months pregnant, she wasn’t really big. More like misshapen.
“What do you think my belly will look like after the baby’s born?”
Nick strolled out of the bathroom with a white towel knotted at his waist. Unlike her swollen tummy, Nick’s stomach was flat with washboard abs. A smattering of dark hair dusted his chest. He ran a second white towel across the mass of curly black hair that covered his head. He was, without a doubt, the most handsome man in the world and she couldn’t believe he was hers. Who would have thought a mistake – getting pregnant – could lead to the best gift of her life. Marriage to the man she adored.
“You’ll probably never be able to wear a bikini again.” His dark eyes shone with mischief as he fell to the bed and rolled her toward him for a kiss. “But I’m going to keep you anyway.”
His lips met hers hot and wet. Familiar longings rose inside her. Sweet temptation.
Except now she could indulge anytime she wanted. He was hers. Totally and completely hers. She kissed him back, igniting the fire of passion between them. But just when things would have gotten interesting, a sharp pain squeezed her middle.
She pulled away and sat up. “Ouch.”
He sat up beside her. “What is it?”
Hating the way she behaved like a nervous Nelly because everything about pregnancy was so new to her, she batted a hand in dismissal. “Probably nothing.”
He fell back to the pillow. “Okay. But just to be on the safe side, no messing around tonight.”
Disappointed, but agreeing with his concern, she fell to the pillow beside his. “Okay.”
Nick clicked off the lamp by the bed. The room grew silent except for the muffled roar of the ocean only a hundred yards or so from their open bedroom window. She closed her eyes, but sleep wouldn’t come. They’d gone to bed early for the obvious reason. Now, they lay in silence.
“So what do you think it will be? A boy or a girl?”
Maggie smiled. “I told you. We could have found that out when we had the ultrasound.”
He leaned up on his elbow, his face illuminated by the pale moonlight streaming in from the window behind him. “Yeah, but it’s more fun if we guess.”
“You won’t think it funny if we guess girl and buy all pink clothes and your son has to go around in sundresses with ruffles.”
He scowled, looking sexy and male in a dark, forbidding way that only someone with his coloring could. Nick might not like the Greek tycoon who’d gotten his mother pregnant and abandoned her, but every day Maggie thanked God for the wonderful genes he’d passed on to his son.
“Let’s ask on my next appointment.”
He lay back down. “No. I’m fine. We just won’t shop for clothes until after he’s born.”
“So now you think it’s a boy?”
“I’d like a boy.”
She turned her head on the pillow so she could look into his eyes and saw them shining with hope and anticipation. “Really?”
“Yeah, I’d like to do all the things with him that my dad never did with me.”
Maggie’s breath caught. She’d known all along Nick had married her because he wouldn’t ignore a child the way he’d been ignored by his father, but to hear him talk of his plans for their baby tugged on her heartstrings.
“I finally figured out it was his loss. I mean, I was an okay kid. I was an all star in both football and baseball. He missed his chance to see me from the stands.”
“He did.” Her heart ached with equal parts of pride and sadness. She’d been at every one of those baseball and football games and had watched Nick scan the stands. He’d never even seen a picture of his father, so how he thought he’d recognize him as a face in the crowd, Maggie didn’t know. But he’d still looked. Every game. Still mourned the loss of the father he’d never had.
She nestled into his side. “His loss.”
He squeezed her against him and expelled a relieved sigh. She’d always thought she brought nothing to their relationship. He was the gorgeous one. He was the popular one. He was the guy most likely to succeed. She was the scrawny red head who adored him. But now she knew. Nick didn’t need a pretty face or great legs. He needed a partner who understood what it felt like to be an outcast. To the kids at school he seemed to have it all. She knew he didn’t. She also knew what it was like to be on the outside looking in. Wishing for things you couldn’t have.
Nick’s voice tiptoed into the silence again. “It’s gonna be so sweet when I beat him.”
This was new. “Beat him?”
“Yeah, I’ve decided that the best revenge really is living well. I did great at sports without him. Now I’m going to do great at my career. I think I’m going to get a degree in business and start a company.”
She twisted her head so she could look up into his face. “Really?”
“Yeah, you want to be an accountant, so you do that, and I’ll get a business degree. We’ll start a manufacturing plan. You can be the brains. I’ll be the brawn.”
She laughed. Because they were only daydreaming, she could agree to anything. “Okay.”
“And we’ll show him.”
She pulled in a breath as a fresh pain raced down her belly. This one was stronger than the last. And heavy. Like a hand pressing down on her tummy. She grabbed her stomach and groaned.
He shot up in bed. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t like to be a crybaby, but this really hurts.”
He rolled out of bed. “I’m getting mom.”
By the time he returned with his mother, blood was running down her leg and she was sobbing. Nick got the car. His mom helped her into a robe and slid her feet into flip flops.
The mood in the car was frantic. By the time they returned home the following morning, it had evolved to despondent and desolate. She’d lost the baby. Their baby. Their little girl. It didn’t help that there was a strange car parked in front of Becky Roebuck’s house when they pulled into the driveway.
“This isn’t a good time,” Becky said, pushing past the man who blocked their path to the front porch. Wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, he had to be a lawyer or someone equally important. But Maggie was so wrapped up in her depression that she really didn’t care.
The man ignored her and looked at Nick. “Are you Nick Andreas?”
Nick scowled. “I’m Nick Roebuck. What the hell do you want?”
His mother turned and said, “He uses my name but his father is Stephone Andreas.”
The man nodded. “Right. I get it. Can we go inside and talk?”
Nick’s already black scowl darkened even more. “My wife is sick. Come back another time.”
The man smiled. “Don’t be so hasty. I’m your dad’s attorney. You turn eighteen today. We need to talk.”
“I don’t have anything to say to my dad and I don’t want to hear anything he has to say—“
Nick’s mom stepped in between Nick and the lawyer, looking first at the lawyer. “First, before anybody talks, we need to get Maggie inside.” She shifted her gaze to Nick. “Second, you shouldn’t make an ass of yourself before you hear what this guy has to say.” Her gaze jumped back to the lawyer. “And, third, you have very bad timing. Take a seat on the swing. We’ll call you into the house when we’re ready.”
Maggie was hustled into the bedroom, where she sat in a chair as Nick held her hand while Becky changed the sheets. In what seemed like seconds, she was out of the scrubs they’d given her at the hospital to wear home and in a nightshirt, lying on her familiar plump pillow.
Still woozy, she let her eyes drift shut and Nick and Becky headed out of the room.
They closed the door, but not completely. The breeze alternately knocked it against the frame then sucked it open. For several seconds it sounded like a noisy tug of war. Then the door slammed against the back wall and stayed there. Had she not been utterly despondent, she would have climbed out of bed and closed both the window and the door. Instead, she lay on her side of the single bed, tears streaming down her cheeks.
She’d lost her baby.
“Your dad has been watching you and is proud of you.”
The words of the lawyer drifted into her quiet bedroom. Maggie blinked. Her tears stilled. She’d thought nothing could take her mind off her monumental loss, but a few words from a stranger had her bolting up in bed.
Nick’s dad was proud of him.
“Your grades are good. You’ve chosen a good college.”
Unexpected happiness burst in Maggie’s chest. For as long as she’d known Nick he’d suffered the torment of the damned over having a father who wanted no part of him. Hearing from his dad, especially hearing that his dad hadn’t ignored his life as Nick had always believed, was like getting a gift to offset the tragedy he’d suffered the night before when they’d lost their child.
Maybe Stephone Andreas was opening the door to be in Nick’s life? Maybe he would become the father Nick had always longed for?
Even as tired as she felt, Maggie rolled out of bed and tiptoed to the door. She stayed to the side, hiding herself as much as she could so no one would realize she was eavesdropping. From her vantage point she could see Nick directly and the side of the lawyer’s face.
“The only thing you’ve done wrong so far is getting a girl pregnant. Actually, you sort of negated the reason for this—“
He handed a big yellow envelope across the coffee table.
Nick said, “What is it?”
“It’s a trust fund.”
“A trust fund?”
“Your father is very wealthy. One of the wealthiest men in the world. So he worried about how you’d grow up.”
Nick snorted again. “Yeah. Take a look around. You can see how much he worried about how I’d grow up.”
Maggie pressed her lips together. The furniture in the little beach bungalow his mom owned was threadbare. They barely had enough money for food and utilities. Nick had worked summers at souvenir shops since he was old enough to get a job and his paycheck usually went for groceries.
“Actually, he was more concerned with you having a normal upbringing.” The lawyer looked around. “And I’d say you did.”
Nick waved the envelope. “And this trust fund is supposed to make up for it?”
“No. The trust fund was designed to help you through the second phase of your life.”
“Women.” The lawyer sighed. “Your father has three sons. You are the second son. He was married to your half-brother Darius’s mom. But after about ten years of marriage, his business exploded and suddenly he was a very wealthy man.”
“So he slept with my mom and some other poor unsuspecting woman because he thought his money gave him that right?”
“No. He slept around because he didn’t know how to handle having money. He says fame and fortune made him crazy. He blames his infidelity on the effect of sudden riches.”
Nick made a sound of disbelief.
“So he gave your older brother Darius, and now wanted to give you, five million dollars. The point was to offer you a chance to experience riches before you settled down, to become the person you are destined to be before you start looking for a life partner.”
Maggie flattened herself against the wall. Her heart hammered in her chest. He’d already ruined his father’s purpose for giving him the five million dollars when he married her. Would the lawyer tell him to divorce her? Now that she wasn’t pregnant there was no reason for him to stay with her—
Realizing she couldn’t miss a word of this conversation, she twisted until she could see the living room again.
“I already have my life partner.”
The lawyer smiled wanly. “Yes. You got married two weeks ago and I didn’t find out until I got coffee at the diner this morning.”
Nick’s chin rose. “So this means I don’t get the five mill?”
The lawyer shifted on the sofa. “Since you’ve negated the purpose of the trust I’m forced to go back to your father and see what he wants to do.”
“Then why the hell come here at all!”
The lawyer cleared his throat. “Nicholas, this is a small town. I heard about more than your marriage at the diner this morning. I also heard your wife lost her baby.”
He cleared his throat again. “If this was a marriage for the sake of a baby you lost, and now you’re considering dissolving the marriage—“
Nick bounded off the sofa. “You stop right there! Don’t say another damned word.”
Unfazed, the lawyer rose too. “Suit yourself.” He tossed a business card on the scarred coffee table in front of the sofa. “I’ll be in touch again about your father’s decision within a few weeks. If ‘something’ happens before then, that’s the number where I can be reached.”
He turned to go but Nick stopped him. Waving the business card, he said, “Tell him to let the trust stand as it is. I’m already married so I can’t have it. I don’t want his money. Never did.”
The lawyer snickered. “Right.” He nodded once. “Good day, Mr. Andreas. You’ll be hearing from me.”
Maggie scrambled back to the bed, but her thoughts were reeling. She hadn’t been raised in poverty. Her dad and step-mom weren’t well off by any stretch of the imagination, but she’d never done without. Nick had done without. So had his mom. Now, because of her, they were losing the money Stephone Andreas should have been paying them all along.
After watching his father’s lawyer drive off, Nick ambled into the bedroom, sat on the side of the bed and took Maggie’s hand. He didn’t tell her about the trust fund. He made up a story about his dad simply wanting him to know he had been paying attention to his life. She watched his face with sad green eyes and his heart squeezed. He knew how much she’d already loved their baby. He knew she was despondent. There wasn’t anything he could say or do about that. So he chatted about the weather. About college. About the plans his mom had to move her daycare out of the basement of the local church.
It wasn’t long before Maggie drifted off to sleep. He left the bedroom, closing the door firmly behind him. He found his mom, told her the story of the trust fund and she shook her head at Stephone’s audacity.
Maggie slept the morning away. Nick and his mom ate salads for lunch, then he flopped on the sofa in front of the TV. He didn’t want to stray from the house. He could have gone into work, but he wanted to be there when Maggie awoke so he could comfort her, or entertain her, or cry with her. Whatever she wanted.
An hour later the bedroom door opened and Nick came to attention on the sofa. He turned and said, “Hey, sleepyhead,” but as the words mindlessly tumbled from his mouth, he noticed she was dressed and carrying a suitcase.
“Where are you going?”
“Home.” Her voice squeaked, so she quietly cleared her throat. “Um, you know…well…we only got married for the sake of the baby.”
Nick bounced off the sofa. “Come on. You know that’s not true.”
She shook her head. “Yes. It is. My parents were angry with me for getting pregnant. Especially since we hadn’t even been dating. My step-mom guessed we had a one-night-stand and she flipped out every day. I didn’t want to live through nine months of her yelling, so when you asked me to marry you, it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
He took the few steps over to her and caught her free hand. “Okay. Take a breath. I know losing the baby was tough, but we’re gonna get through this.” He kissed her forehead. “Together. Because we love each other.”
She shook her head fiercely. “That’s just it, Nick. I don’t think we do. We’ve been friends forever but we never considered each other as anything more until that one night.”
He dropped back as if she’d slapped him. “I thought we agreed that that one night changed everything…that we fell in love.” He combed his fingers through his hair. “I sure as hell fell in love with you!”
She didn’t say anything.
His heart thundered in his chest. A rushing sound filled his ears. “This is the part where you’re supposed to say you love me too.”
She still said nothing.
He stepped back, ran his hand along the back of his neck. His hand shook. The breaths he took felt heavy, like wet cement. His heart began to splinter until all that was left were a million shards of broken glass. Memories of the years they’d known each other rippled through his mind like the circles made by a stone in a pond. They’d grown up together, been friends, become lovers like a natural progression. Now, suddenly, she was telling him it hadn’t meant the same thing to her?
“I just want to get on with my life.”
Nick numbly took another two steps back. His lungs had expanded so much they ached. His stomach felt like it had taken a hard punch. The world felt small and still and totally off its axis.
Suitcase in hand, she stepped around him and walked to the front door. She didn’t look back. Not once. She didn’t even say goodbye. Just left him standing in the living room, the roar of the ocean at his back, the hot August sun slanting in between the slats of the blinds to his right.
She was, he was sure, the love of his life, but she didn’t love him. And he’d been so stupid, so smitten, he hadn’t realized it.
copyright 2010 susan meier