This Heart of Mine (Chicago Stars #5)(16)


by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The telephone rang just as she sat down. "Hello."

"Daphne? It's Kevin Tucker."

Tea splashed into the saucer, and the breath went out of her. Once she'd had a crush on this man. Now just the sound of his voice terrified her.

She forced in air. Since he was still calling her Daphne, he must not have talked to anyone about her. That was good. She didn't want him talking about her, didn't even want him to think of her. "How did you get my number?"

"I made you give it to me."

She'd managed to forget. "I, uh… What can I do for you?"

"With the season over, I'm getting ready to leave town for a while. I wanted to be sure there weren't any… unfortunate consequences from… what happened."

"No! No consequences at all. Of course not."

"That's good."

Beneath his chilly response, she heard relief. At the same time she saw a way to make things easier, and she jumped at it. "I'm coming, darling!" she called out to an imaginary person.

"I take it you're not alone."

"No, I'm not." Again the raised voice. "I'm on the phone, Benny! I'll be there in a moment, sweetheart." She winced. Couldn't she have thought of a better name?

Roo trotted in from the kitchen to see what was up. She clutched the receiver tighter. "I appreciate your call, Kevin, but there was no need."

"As long as everything's—"

"Everything's wonderful, but I have to go. Sorry about the game. And thanks for calling." Her hand was still trembling when she disconnected.

She had just talked with the father of her unborn baby.

Her palm settled over her flat abdomen. She still hadn't completely absorbed the fact that she was pregnant. When her period hadn't arrived on schedule, she'd convinced herself that stress was the cause. But her breasts had grown increasingly tender, she'd begun to feel nauseated, and two days ago, she'd finally bought a home pregnancy test. The result had left her so panic-stricken she'd rushed out and bought another one.

There was no mistake. She was going to have Kevin Tucker's baby.

But her first thoughts hadn't been of him. They'd been of Dan and Phoebe. Family was the center of their existence, and neither of them would be able to imagine raising a child without the other. This was going to devastate them.

When she'd finally considered Kevin, she'd known she had to make certain he never found out. He'd been her unwilling victim, and she would bear the consequences alone.

It wouldn't be all that difficult to keep him in the dark. With the season over, there was little chance she'd run into him, and she'd simply stay away from Stars headquarters when they started practice in the summer. Except for a few of Dan and Phoebe's team parties, she'd never socialized much with the players. Eventually Kevin might hear that she'd had a baby, but this morning's phone call would make him believe there had been another man in her life.

She gazed through the windows of her loft into the winter sky. Although it wasn't even six o'clock, it was already dark. She stretched out on the couch.

Until two days ago she'd never considered single motherhood. She hadn't thought much about motherhood at all. Now she couldn't think of anything else. The restlessness that had always seemed like a backbeat to her life had vanished, leaving her with the unfamiliar feeling that everything was exactly as it should be. She'd finally have a family of her own.

Roo licked the hand she was dangling over the side of the couch. She closed her eyes and wove the daydreams that had taken over her imagination now that her initial shock had worn off. A little boy? A girl? It didn't matter. She'd spent enough time with her nieces and nephew to know that she'd be a good mother regardless, and she'd love this baby enough for two parents.

Her baby. Her family.

Finally.

She stretched, content to the tips of her toes. This was what she'd been searching for all these years, a family of her very own. She couldn't remember ever feeling so peaceful. Even her hair was peaceful, no longer brutally short and back to its natural dark brown color. Just right for her.

Roo nudged her hand with his wet nose.

"Hungry, buddy?" She rose and was on her way to the kitchen to feed him when the phone rang again. Her pulse raced, but it was only Phoebe.

"Dan and I had a meeting in Lake Forest. We're on the Edens now, and he's hungry. Want to go to Yoshi's with us for dinner?"

"I'd love to."

"Great. See you in about half an hour."

As Molly hung up, the knowledge of how much she was going to hurt them hit hard. They wanted her to have exactly what they did—a deep, unconditional love that formed the foundation of both their lives. But most people weren't that lucky.

She slipped into her threadbare Dolce & Gabbana sweater and a skinny, ankle-length charcoal skirt she'd bought last spring for half off at Field's. Kevin's phone call had unsettled her, so she flipped on the television. Lately she'd gotten into the habit of watching reruns of Lace, Inc. The show was nostalgic for her, a link to one of the few pleasant parts of her childhood.

She still wondered about Kevin's connection to Lilly Sherman. Phoebe might know, but Molly was afraid to mention his name, even though Phoebe had no idea Molly had been with him at the Door County house.

"Lace is on the case, oh yeah… Lace can solve the case, oh yeah…"

Commercials followed the credits, and then Lilly Sherman as Ginger Hill bounced across the screen in a pair of tight white shorts, her breasts overflowing a bright green bikini top. Auburn hair billowed around her face, gold hoops brushed her cheekbones, and her seductive smile promised untold sensual delights.

The camera angle widened to show both detectives at the beach. In contrast to Ginger's skimpier apparel, Sable wore a high-cut maillot. Molly remembered there'd been an offscreen friendship between the two actresses.

The buzzer from the lobby sounded. She turned off the television and, a few minutes later, opened the door for her sister and brother-in-law.

Phoebe kissed her cheek. "You look pale. Are you all right?"

"It's January in Chicago. Everybody's pale." Molly squeezed her a moment longer than necessary. Celia the Hen, a motherly resident of Nightingale Woods who clucked over Daphne, had been created just for her sister.