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A Marriage Made In Texas
Besides the slower, friendlier pace of a small-town practice, the attractions drawing Dr. Jay Kincaid to tiny coastal Redfish, Texas, are his brother and his family—and the intriguing woman he’s never forgotten. Jay hit it off with fascinating single mom Gail Summers at his brother’s wedding five years ago, and she’s just as pretty and even more alluring now than she was when they first met.
Having had to work hard to support herself and her two daughters after her husband walked out on them, Gail is wary—but tempted by the handsome doctor. Still, a no-strings-attached affair with charming, smoking-hot Jay is just the treat she deserves…isn’t it?
It is…until an unexpected pregnancy brings their red-hot liaison to a halt. Determined to be there for Gail and their unborn child, Jay proposes, and reluctantly, Gail accepts. But can he convince her she can depend on this former free-wheeling bachelor to love and cherish her and her children…for always?
Redfish, a tiny Texas town snuggled up to the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, boasted three restaurants. Gail Summers was intimately acquainted with all of them. A bar and grill owned by her brother, Cameron Randolph, a burger joint, and a Mexican food restaurant. Today, she’d chosen Mexican for her weekly lunch with her sister Cat. Who, surprise, surprise, hadn’t arrived.
Working on her second basket of chips, Gail glanced at her surroundings. Though you couldn’t tell it from the decor, the place did a booming business. People overlooked the slightly depressing atmosphere for the food—mouthwatering, spicy hot Tex-Mex. Still, ancient chrome and Formica tables and equally old vinyl-covered chairs, along with a couple of velvet paintings of Elvis and a bullfight didn’t inspire people to linger. Which was fine with the management, who wanted to move as many customers in and out as possible.
A few minutes later, Cat blew in. “Guess who’s moving to Redfish?” she said breathlessly, before she even greeted Gail.
“How can you look so good at nearly eight months pregnant?” Gail demanded as Cat pulled out a chair and sank gratefully into it. “I looked like death warmed over with both my girls.” Her unlamented ex, Barry, had always rubbed that in, too. “You just glow or something. It’s disgusting. You were like that with Max, too,” she added, referring to her three-year-old nephew. “I think I hate you.”
“It’s from living a virtuous lifestyle,” Cat said, dimples dancing in her cheeks, dark brown eyes gleaming with humor.
They both laughed. “Okay, I’ll bite,” Gail said, pushing her hair back out of her face. “Who’s moving to town and why should I care?”
Cat leaned forward and grinned. “I’m about to tell you some delicious gossip. Show a little respect.”
Gail tapped her fingers on the table, lifted an eyebrow and waited.
“Think tall, blond and gorgeous.”
“That could describe a lot of people. Male or female?”
“Male.” Cat’s lips curved upward. “Definitely male.”
The waitress came and took their orders. As soon as she left, Gail said impatiently, “You know I’m no good at guessing games. Talk.”
Cat looked around the room, lowered her voice and said, “Jay.”
Gail stared at her for a minute. “Jay Kincaid? Your brother-in-law?” Six feet two of pure male temptation. And the last time Gail had seen him, six months before, he’d been living with an equally tall, blond and gorgeous lady lawyer.
Cat nodded vigorously. “That’s right.” She grabbed a chip and bit down with satisfaction. “He’s joining Dr. Kramer at the new clinic.”
That got her attention. “What? How? He works in California.”
“How do you think? He’s moving here. He’ll be in tomorrow night.”
Jay Kincaid, moving to Redfish? Living in the same town, instead of fifteen hundred miles away? She’d always imagined him as firmly entrenched in California.
“That’s not all,” Cat continued. “Remember Carla?”
The twinge of pleasure and anticipation she’d felt faded quickly. “Who could forget?” Gail said irritably. “The woman was stuck to him like super-glue at that family picnic you had last summer.”
Carla had spent the occasion making it crystal clear that Jay was off-limits to other women. Especially Gail. Why the woman had felt threatened by her, Gail couldn’t imagine, but she obviously had. Carla was smart, successful and beautiful. Gail was a struggling single mother five years older than Jay. And while she wasn’t dog-ugly, she was no beauty queen, either.
“That’s her,” Cat said. “I was surprised she didn’t leave claw marks on his arm. I never could figure out what he sees in her, but when I said that to Mark, he just laughed at me.”
Gail snorted. “I don’t blame him. Get real, Cat. She looks like a men’s magazine model.”
“Oh, that,” Cat said, waving a hand. “But it’s so obvious.”
“Yeah.” Gail sighed and looked at her own much smaller chest. Cat had inherited most of the curves in the family. Gail was slighter, not voluptuous at all. On the bright side, though, she ate what she wanted and didn’t gain weight. “Let me guess. They’re getting married, right?” A shame, really. Besides being to-die-for good-looking, Jay was a really nice man. Sometimes a little too nice, Gail thought darkly.
“Au contraire.” Cat’s eyes sparkled as she leaned forward. “They’re over. Finito. Kaput. Jay said he moved out three months ago.”
The waitress set their drinks down, promising to return with the food. Playing for a little time, Gail put sugar in her tea and stirred it before she spoke. “And I should care, why?”
Cat smirked. “Come on, Gail. Every time you and Jay are together there are vibes. Very sexy vibes.”
Gail laughed. “Right. Pregnancy has addled your imagination.”
Their food arrived, steaming hot and smelling like heaven. Gail thought she’d deflected Cat’s interest, but no such luck. After a few bites, Cat laid down her fork and said, “You know, you can be as closed-mouthed as you want, but I know for a fact something happened between you two during Mark’s and my wedding.”
“Do you?” Gail shrugged. “That was five years ago, Cat. Even if something had gone on, what would it matter now?”
“So you admit something happened.”
“Nothing happened,” Gail said flatly, pushing her suddenly tasteless enchilada aside. But not from lack of trying on her part. She still winced whenever she thought of the reception that evening, at their mother’s stunning waterfront home. She and Jay had spent most of it together. Dancing. Talking. And late in the evening, in the darkened shadows of the terrace, kissing. She resisted the urge to fan herself as memories bombarded her. Oh, the man could kiss.
So when Gail’s mother had offered to keep the girls at her house, Gail had asked Jay to come home with her. They’d driven to her house and then...nothing. Jay had very nicely and very gently, turned her down.
I’ve got to get a place of my own, Jay Kincaid thought at six-thirty on a Saturday morning.
Peace and quiet did not exist at his brother’s house. Not at any time of day, but particularly not in the morning. Medical residents kept better hours than parents of toddlers—or their houseguests.
Groaning, Jay rolled over. Max, his sticky-faced nephew, had landed knees first in the middle of Jay’s back. It wasn’t broken...quite, but twenty-five pounds of pint-sized terror could do a lot more damage than seemed possible. “Hey, Max, where are your mom and dad?”
“Mommy’s frowing up,” the dark-haired little boy told his uncle, sliding off the bed to face Jay squarely in one sleep-deprived eye. “Daddy’s cooking. Lots of smoke comed out of the pan and then Daddy said a bad word.” Max grinned, looking remarkably like his father. “I’m not ’sposed to say it, or Mommy will tan both our—”
“Hides,” Jay finished for him. He couldn’t help smiling. Mark usually left the cooking to Cat, who loved to cook. But her pregnancy kept her out of the kitchen in the morning these days.
Jay dragged himself from the bed, pulled on his jeans and a white T-shirt and went to the kitchen, his nephew perched on his hip. Sure enough, Mark stood at the stove, a blackened mess in the pan before him and a scowl on his face that would frighten armed convicts. And had.
“Yum,” Jay said. “Max said you were cooking. What do you call that, baked charcoal?” He set the child in his booster seat, pulled out a box of cereal from the pantry and milk from the refrigerator. “Here, kid, if you wait for your old man to feed you, you’ll starve to death.”
“Microwave’s broken,” Mark said, throwing him a grateful glance, a bit of a desperate look in his eyes. “Max wanted bacon. No one can cook bacon on the stove top without burning it.”
“Want bacon, want bacon,” Max chanted, devilment sparkling in his big, brown eyes.
“Sorry, kid, you’re out of luck,” Jay told him. He finished fixing Max’s cereal and gave the little boy a spoon. “Your dad’s hopeless at the stove. Take it from me, I remember.”
“As I recall, you didn’t starve. So I’m no good at breakfast. I make up for it in other areas.” Mark threw out the charred bacon, then left the pan to soak in the sink. “Cat told me this morning she’s off breakfast duty for the duration,” he added glumly.
“Cheer up, bro, it’s only five more weeks. Go buy a new microwave.” He poured himself a cup of coffee—Mark could make that with no problem—and sat at the table. “Which reminds me, I’d better get moving on house-hunting.”
“What’s your hurry? You know you’re welcome to stay with us as long as you need to,” Mark said, dark hair falling over his forehead as he reached down to pick up the newspaper that littered the floor.
“I figure since I’m staying in what’s going to be the baby’s room, the sooner I get out of the way the better.” And the sooner he left the bedlam of his brother’s house behind, the better for his sanity. Not that he’d tell Mark that, of course. He loved his brother and his family. But he didn’t want to live with them.
Judging from Mark’s smile, though, he had a pretty good idea of Jay’s true motives. Mark’s attention went back to his son, absorbed in flinging soggy corn pops to all corners of the kitchen, and he sighed. “Eat the food, don’t launch it, Max.” Obediently, Max spooned cereal into his mouth. Mark ruffled the child’s hair. “Good boy.”
After pouring himself a cup of coffee, Mark took another chair, flicked cereal off the back and dragged it up to the table. “Look, I know you say that helping Tim Kramer start this clinic is what you want, but you’ve been living in California the past what, twelve years? This is the Texas coast. It’s a hell of a long way from California.”
“You can say that again, brother.” He smiled at Mark. “Relax. The decision isn’t as sudden as it seems. I’ve been unhappy with practicing emergency room medicine for a long time now. I’m looking for a different lifestyle.” One that didn’t include ulcers, insomnia and life in the fast lane. Family practice in this sleepy little town was going to suit him fine.
Mark started to say something, then closed his mouth. After a moment, he shook his head and asked, “Are you sure the move doesn’t have more to do with Carla than your job?”
Carla. The woman he’d been living with until a few months ago. Jay shrugged. “That was over before I found out about Tim Kramer needing a partner.”
Mark merely lifted an eyebrow and waited.
Jay sighed, and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “Okay, I’ll admit, getting away from Carla seemed like a good idea.” Carla hadn’t taken their breakup well. In fact, she seemed certain it was only a matter of time before they’d be back together. Jay, on the other hand, had never felt as relieved as he had on the day he moved out. “But I didn’t have to come to Texas to accomplish that. I want to live here, Mark. I want a practice where I know my patients, and they know me. I want time to do something besides work. For the first time in twelve years, I’ll have weekends free. Hell, I may take up fishing. And windsurfing.”
Mark still looked skeptical. “Fishing and windsurfing aside, you’ve visited us enough to know it’s not the most exciting place on the planet.”
“I like Redfish.” Jay sipped coffee, savoring it. “I always have.”
“Yeah, you like to visit, but living here’s a different story.”
Knowing his brother meant well, Jay curbed his exasperation. “I know what I’m doing. I’m thirty years old, not Max’s age.” Which Mark sometimes forgot. Not surprising, since he’d raised Jay and their youngest brother Brian from the time they were twelve and thirteen.
Mark looked chagrined. “Sorry, I know you’re not, but I worry about you. It’s a hard habit to break, that’s all.”
Max chose that moment to dump his bowl of milk and cereal on the floor. “Oopsy.”
“Oh, man, Max, did it have to be the whole bowl?” Mark said, hastily grabbing a towel.
“I’d say you have plenty to worry about without adding me to your list,” Jay said, laughing.
“Everybody’s a smartass.” Mark knelt on the floor and began mopping up the mess.
“Smartass,” Max repeated, clear as a bell.
“Now you’ve done it,” Jay said, pushing back his chair and rising. “I’m out of here before Cat comes in and lets all of us have it.”
“Before you go, I need a favor.” Mark scooped the mess back into the bowl and blotted the floor with the damp towel.
Jay grinned at the image of his big, bad brother, scourge of animal smugglers everywhere, on his hands and knees cleaning up after his son. Domesticity suited Mark. But then, Mark had always been the responsible one. No shock that the marriage and family thing worked for him. Too bad Jay wasn’t cut out for it.
“Depends on the favor. Am I going to regret it if I say yes?”
Mark laughed and got to his feet, dumping the cereal in the sink. “Nope. I need you to take Mel’s birthday cake over to Gail’s house. The party’s today and Cat wants to make sure it gets there in plenty of time.” He glanced at his son with a wry smile. “And safely. She’s afraid she’ll run late since she’s bringing Max, and I have to go into work this morning. So, how about it?”
Gail Summers. Pretty. Blond. Smart. Sassy mouth. He hadn’t seen her since the last time he’d visited Mark, several months ago. Carla had been with him then, he remembered, and she hadn’t liked Gail at all. Possibly because she’d sensed his attraction to her. But Carla was no longer in the picture. The thought of seeing Gail again brought a smile to his lips. “Not a problem.”
“I didn’t think you’d consider it a hardship,” Mark said dryly, as he poured more cereal into a bowl and set it in front of his son.
Jay laughed, heading for the back door. “Thanks, I owe you one,” he told his brother.
“More than one,” he heard Mark say, as the door shut behind him.