Read The Best Laid Plans Online

Authors: Sarah Mayberry

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The Best Laid Plans

A slow smile spread across Ethan’s mouth
“I’m not saying yes, Ethan,” Alexandra felt compelled to point out.

“But you’re not saying no.” He was trying to temper his smile, but she could see the relief in his eyes. The hope.

He wants this as much as I do.

She’d forgotten that there were men who craved children as much as women did.

“We need to talk more,” she said. “A lot more.”

“Absolutely. How about dinner at my place on Saturday night?”

It would be the first time they’d seen each other outside the office or the racquetball court. And it seemed like a huge leap into the unknown. Still… “Okay. That sounds good.”

“Then it’s a date,” he said.

And even though she knew there were so many things that could go wrong, she felt lighter than she had in weeks. If this worked out…

Dear Reader,

I grew up in a world where I was told girls (women!) could do anything and become anyone as adults. An astronaut, a doctor, a lawyer, a soldier. The notion of having a career was something that was, well, normal for the generation of women I went to school with, and this is definitely the case for my heroine, Alexandra Knight. She’s been determined to make her mark in the world and secure her own future ever since she was a little girl.

But she has another dream—the dream of being a mother. A dream she’s afraid she’s left too late to pursue at the ripe old age of thirty-eight. But Alex has never been the type to roll over without a fight.
The Best Laid Plans
is Alex’s story—and the story of the wonderful, damaged, generous man she stumbles across on her way to the maternity ward.

I hope you enjoy Alex and Ethan’s journey to happiness. I had a wonderful—and emotional—time writing it. I love to hear from readers. If you’d like to drop me a line, you can reach me via my website at www.sarahmayberry.com

Until next time, happy reading,

Sarah Mayberry

The Best Laid Plans
Sarah Mayberry

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After several international moves, Sarah Mayberry now lives in Melbourne, Australia, her hometown, with her partner of nearly twenty years. She is the proud owner of a mini orchard, complete with quince and fig trees and raspberry canes. When she’s not writing or thinking about all the jam she will make one day, she likes to shop for shoes and almost anything else. She also loves cooking, movies and, of course, reading.
Books by Sarah Mayberry
HARLEQUIN SUPERROMANCE
1551—A NATURAL FATHER

1599—HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

1626—HER BEST FRIEND

HARLEQUIN BLAZE
380—BURNING UP

404—BELOW THE BELT

425—AMOROUS LIAISONS

464—SHE’S GOT IT BAD

517—HER SECRET FLING

566—HOT ISLAND NIGHTS

This was a hard one. Big thanks and hugs and commiserations and air kisses to Chris and Wanda, my frontline pit crew who cheered me on from the sidelines and gave me the occasional kick when I needed it and listened to all my whining and gnashing of teeth.
Also thanks to the Libster for very generously sharing her knowledge of artificial insemination with me.
CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE
“D
AMN YOUR EYES, WHERE
did you come from?”
Alexandra Knight plucked at the run climbing the right leg of her panty hose, sending it racing even farther up her leg. When she’d pulled on her hose ten minutes ago, they’d been perfect. And she knew for a fact that there wasn’t another pair anywhere in her apartment since she’d already dragged these ones out of the laundry in desperation.

She checked her watch. She was already in the underground garage of her apartment building. If she went upstairs and changed into a pantsuit, she’d chew up ten minutes, minimum. But if she swung into the convenience store near her downtown Melbourne office, she might make her first meeting. If she hustled.

Decision made, she strode the final few feet to her car and beeped it open. She reversed out of her spot with a rev of the engine, then shot up the ramp and into the street.

The parking gods were smiling on her and she drove straight into a space in front of the minimart on St. Kilda Road. She was out of the car and heading for the door in no seconds flat.

She had three pairs of panty hose in hand when she hurried out the door two minutes later, only to find the sidewalk blocked by a tall blond man attempting to wrangle a complicated-looking stroller that had become entangled with one of the many bags hanging from its handle. She sidestepped, her thoughts on the day ahead. Her corporate client Jamieson was keen to have the contract of sale she was negotiating on their behalf signed off by the end of the week, which meant she had to redraft the contract by this afternoon so they could—

“Alex.”

She turned instinctively.

“Jacob,” she said, one foot on the curb, the other in the gutter, stunned by the unlikely coincidence of seeing her ex. Her gaze dropped to the small body strapped securely in the stroller he was pushing. There was no missing the resemblance between man and child.

He was a father.

Jacob, the man she’d lived with for seven years, the man who had refused to even discuss having a child with her, had had a child with someone else. Some other woman.

For a moment Alex could do nothing but blink.

She had begged him to reconsider his anti-child stance. They’d fought over it so many times she’d lost count. He’d always been so adamant. So certain, even when they were packing their things and going their separate ways.

And now…

She dragged her gaze from his baby to his face. He had the grace to look sheepish.

“I thought you might have heard through the grapevine,” he said.

But she hadn’t. If she’d known… She had no idea what she would have done.

“How old is he?” she asked. Amazing how calm her voice sounded when the rest of her was reeling.

“Four months.”

She flinched. She and Jacob had broken up eighteen months ago. That meant he’d met someone and gotten her pregnant pretty damn quickly.

“Congratulations,” she said, even though she wasn’t feeling the least bit congratulatory. “What’s his name?”

And
her.
What’s
her
name, this mysterious, magical woman who got you to cough up your DNA when I couldn’t even get you to discuss becoming a parent after seven years together?

“Theodore. Teddy for short.”

“That was your grandfather’s name, wasn’t it?”

“That’s right.”

He was blushing. And she’d run out of things to say—except for the one burning question that her pride would never allow her to ask:
why not me?

Hadn’t he loved her enough? Had she been missing some vital, essential ingredient that had stopped him from fully committing to her?

Her hand curled into a fist. She wanted to hurt him. Punch him in the face. Grab him by the lapels and demand to know why, how, when. Instead, she forced her hand to relax and made a show of checking her watch.

“I really have to go if I’m going to make my first meeting. Good luck with everything, Jacob.”

She stepped blindly into the street.

“Alex. Before you go… Just in case you thought—I mean, it was an accident,” Jacob said.

“What?” Despite herself, she lingered and turned to face him when she should have gotten in her car and driven away.

“Mia didn’t realize she’d missed a pill and then we found out she was pregnant. So, you know, all this was unplanned.” His gesture took in his child, the stroller, the tangled diaper bag.

“Well. I guess that makes it all okay,” she said.

She escaped to the sanctuary of her car. Except it wasn’t really a sanctuary, since Jacob remained where he was, watching her, an expression on his face that was an equal mix of guilt and defensiveness. Alex concentrated on starting the engine so she could get the hell out of here.

She pulled over the moment she was around the corner and out of sight. She stared out the windshield, her hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that her knuckles ached.

Jacob was a father. He had a beautiful baby boy. With someone else. A woman named Mia, who had “forgotten” to take a pill or two and forced Jacob into a position he had adamantly, passionately, avowedly claimed he wanted to avoid for the entire duration of his relationship with Alex.

He’d named his child Theodore, after his paternal grandfather. He was even on child-care duty, pushing one of the contraptions he’d once dubbed a “blight on civilization” because of the way they choked supermarket aisles and cafés.

She could hear her own breathing, fast and harsh as though she’d just run a race. She told herself that the past was the past and that what Jacob had done once they’d split was nothing to do with her. But not for a minute did she believe it.

The thing was—the thing that stung so bloody bitterly—was that he’d always been so
certain
about what he wanted. He’d informed her six months into their relationship that he wasn’t interested in having children. By then she’d loved him so much, wanted to be a part of his life so badly, she’d convinced herself that he would change with time. Lots of men did, after all, and they’d both been only thirty. She’d told herself that once he saw his friends have kids, he’d understand the joy and challenges that children could bring. The love and hope and energy. All she’d have to do was wait him out.

And she had. She’d concentrated on achieving partnership at Wallingsworth & Kent and back-burnered her baby dreams until the issue had become a wedge between them.

And now Jacob was a father, and she was single and thirty-eight and still looking for the man she’d left Jacob to find. A man she loved who loved her and wanted to have the family that had always formed the cornerstone of her hopes and dreams.

For the second time that morning her hands curled into fists and she pounded them once, twice, three times against her steering wheel.

An electronic beep drew her attention back to the moment. She blinked, looking around to identify the source of the sound. Her gaze fell on her bag and her brain clicked into gear. Her phone. That’s what the sound was. She pulled it from her handbag and touched the screen. It was her legal secretary, Franny, letting Alexandra know her first client had arrived and was waiting in reception.

Alex laughed.

A client. Right. She had a meeting scheduled. Hell, she had a whole day scheduled. And here she was, thinking that the world had contracted to only her and the sick, angry feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She took a deep breath, then texted a quick reassurance that she was five minutes away.

Seeing Jacob pushing a stroller had dredged up a lot of the old feelings she thought she’d put to rest. But she didn’t have time to sit in her car and gnash her teeth. People were relying on her.

She continued to talk herself down as she drove to the office.

She might feel justifiably angry and cheated by the way things had turned out, but it wasn’t as though she was out of options. At thirty-eight, she had at least five good childbearing years ahead of her—Madonna had had her second child at forty-two, after all, and Geena Davis had had twins at forty-seven. Alex was fit and healthy and active. There was plenty of time for her to find Mr. Right and have the family she’d always wanted.

Plenty of time.

Ignoring the flutter of panic behind her breastbone, Alex reeled in her feelings and focused on the day ahead.

Plenty of time.

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