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The Tough Ladies Book 1 OUT 4/30/2018

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You wanted to know the father of January’s baby … here you go.


Chapter 1


“The father of my baby is Dr. Giles Nixon.” January Jenkowski didn’t believe in beating around the bush. She was more of a bush-burner-downer. Not in a God-laying-down-the-law-to-Moses kinda way—more like douse it in gasoline and watch that sucker burn.

Dr. Laney Nixon, January’s best friend, stared unblinking at her. “I beg your pardon.”

“Your daddy is my baby daddy.” January pointed to her slightly rounded stomach. She knew that Laney appreciated straightforwardness as much as she did. “Sperm meets egg and bam, I have a bun in the oven.”

Giles and January were both unattached consenting adults and she was prepared to use that argument if she had to, but she was hoping it wouldn’t come to that.

Laney’s jaw worked. It was like she was chewing on the words before she could get them out. “I know how pregnancy happens, I’m just having a very hard time with the fact that you slept with my father.” She gagged. “Did you have sex with him on purpose or was it some sort of gruesome accident?”

January shook her head. “How do you accidentally have sex? It’s not like I tripped and landed on his penis.”

Laney put her hands over her ears. “Stop talking about my father’s penis.”

“I’m sorry, would you like for me to use a less clinical word for your father’s—”

“Stop.” Laney gagged as she dropped her hands. “I mean it. Stop.”

“We’ve been seeing each other … for a while.” For once January wished she could beat around the bush. “I’ve been trying to find a way to tell you.”

Laney’s eyes scrunched up in concentration. This was her doctor-trying-to-solve-the-problem face. “You’ve been seeing my father. How does your new boyfriend feel about that?”

“Your father is my new boyfriend, or, well … was.” Perhaps she wasn’t explaining this in the best way. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Tears pooled in January’s eyes and she closed them, trying to keep the tears at bay. She’d wanted to tell Laney, but Giles hadn’t thought it was a good idea. He’d preferred to keep January a secret. Every time he’d talked her out of an evening out, she’d told herself it was because he wanted her all to himself. Deep down, she’d known that the famous orthopedic surgeon didn’t want to be seen with a bar owner who’d barely made it out of high school. Appearance was everything to Giles. She certainly wasn’t what his snooty academic friends would expect or accept. “I mean, I don’t want to hurt you. It just happened. Looking back, I’m not quite sure how. One minute I was taking Susie to see your father and the next I was having dinner with him.”

January and Laney, along with their friends Susie, Nina, and Charisma, made up the triathlon team called the Tough Ladies. Several months ago, at the Cozumel Ironman, Susie had fallen and broken her foot. January had helped her get to her orthopedic surgeon appointments with Laney’s father.

“I’m not hurt. I’m stunned and more than a little grossed out.” Laney was the most levelheaded person January had ever met. As a pediatric oncologist, she evaluated every problem based on the facts. She kept emotion out of it, which was good because this situation called for lots of emotion.

Laney grabbed the tissue box off of her desk and handed it to January.

“Thanks.” January grabbed several tissues and wiped her nose. “Stupid hormones. Pregnancy should come with the warning label: ‘Hormonal tears may be closer than they appear.’”

Laney took a couple of beats to absorb the situation.

“I’ve always wanted a sibling.” She shrugged. “Better late than never.” Realization dawned in her blue eyes—her father’s eyes. “Wait a minute. A couple of weeks ago, when you told me about the baby, you said the baby’s father hung up on you when you told him about the baby.”

“Yep. I told him I was pregnant and then there was dead air.” Stupidly, she’d thought that Giles loved her, but now she wasn’t sure he was capable of love. She’d thought she could change him. She’d thought she would be the one to melt his cold heart.

Inward eye roll.

When had she become so delusional?

“Oh no, I see what you’re doing.” Laney waggled her right index finger at January. “This is some kind of April Fools’ joke.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe I almost fell for it.”

“It’s November.” January had known it would be difficult to tell her friend, but the April Fools’ angle had never come up. “You’re finally going to be a big sister.”

Laney looked like she still couldn’t wrap her mind around it. “You were dating my father on purpose? Was he blackmailing you or something?”

“No, believe it or not, I chose to go out with him.” Something she would regret for a very long time.

“Was someone paying you?” Laney thought about it. “Not in a hooker way, but maybe one of his business partners wanted to punk him.”

“Both ways are offensive, and no, I went out with him of my own free will and not for any monetary gain.” It was odd. She’d counted on anger or hurt, but not disbelief.

“Huh.” Laney sat back in her chair. “Why?”

“Believe me, I’ve been asking myself that same question.” January just wanted Laney to tell her that everything was okay between them. “Will you still be my pregnancy partner?”

“Of course.” Laney shrugged like it was no big deal. “The fact that my father’s an ass won’t come between us. In fact, I feel like I should have impressed upon you his truly asshole-y nature. Maybe I whitewashed it too much. He’s a huge asshole and you should stay away from him.” She pointed to January’s baby bump. “And Baby Jenkowski should be prepared to receive a birthday check—no card, just a check. But he or she is lucky to have you as a mother.”

“Baby Jenkowski will have zero contact with his or her father. I blocked his number, told the bouncers at my bar that I never want to see his face again, and my doorman knows to not let him through the front doors.” It really didn’t matter since he hadn’t tried to see or talk to her. She had really misjudged Giles. Laney was right, he was an asshole. She felt the tears start up again. “I feel like an idiot. I’ve never seen myself as an idiot, but here I am being all idiotic.”

“Love makes us do stupid things.” Confusion muddled Laney’s face. “I’m still having a hard time with you purposely dating my father. Somehow, I can’t see anyone choosing to love him, which, now that I think about it, is kind of sad.”

“I wanted to love him. I thought I loved him, but you’re right. He’s cold and unfeeling.” Only, there were times when he hadn’t been. Giles could be kind and loving, but she wasn’t entirely sure now that she hadn’t imagined it. God, she was an idiot to ever believe that he would love her. Now her baby would be fatherless. She would be a single mother. And one day, she’d have to explain to her child that the person they called Aunt Laney was really his or her half sister.

She’d made such a mess of things.

Was it fair to bring a child into the world with so much stacked against it?

She put a hand on her baby bump. She would make sure to love her baby enough for both parents. If she couldn’t give her child the perfect family, she’d give it the perfect life. Children needed room to roam. They needed to explore the backyard, to roughhouse with a goofy dog, and to make mud pies. All of the things she’d done.

“I’m going to sell my condo and buy a house.” She’d never really given it much thought.

“How long have you been thinking about that?” Laney looked skeptical.

“About two seconds.” January was known for her rash decisions. Some of the time, they even worked out.

“That’s a big decision. How about you give it some time. Don’t do anything now, just let the idea simmer for a while.” Laney was allergic to all rash decisions. Although, she was getting better since she’d gotten engaged to a professional football player. Now she wore trashy lace underwear, drove a Mustang convertible, and used prepositions at the end of sentences. For Laney, those things were like skydiving was for the average person.

“Maybe.” Nope, January was putting her condo up for sale today and looking for a house. Something downtown and not too far from her bar, The Republic of Texas, on Sixth Street. Maybe one of those cute craftsman-style cottages scattered around downtown. She would find something with a little backyard. Once she had a house, she’d drop by Austin Pets Alive and see what they had in the way of a sweet, goofy dog that loved a long morning run and was smart enough to know there were consequences for drinking out of the toilet.

“Have you told your brothers about the baby?” Laney glanced at her laptop for a few seconds, probably checking her email. January had always suspected she was a speed reader.

“No.” Bru and March tended to be a little overprotective of their baby sister. “I’m not sure they’d understand that killing Giles isn’t a good idea.”

Laney shut her laptop and grinned. “I know it’s terrible since he’s my father and everything, but come on, I’d pay money to see your brothers knock the crap out of my father.” Laney didn’t think of her father as Dad or Daddy. He was always just “my father.”

January couldn’t help the smile. “I’m not going to lie, it would be funny for the president and the sergeant at arms of the Devil’s Bastard motorcycle club to roll up on Giles.”

What her baby lacked in a father, her brothers would happily make up. After her father died in a motorcycle accident, her brothers had raised her and she’d turned out okay. February, who went by Bru, and March might be a little rough around the edges, but they always put family first.

“I can’t believe he hung up on you.” Laney rolled her eyes. “What am I saying? Of course, I can believe he hung up on you. I’m so sorry.”

“My fault for trusting him.” January glanced at her smartphone. “Speaking of my brothers, I have to go. I’m meeting them for dinner and telling them about the baby. I’m going to tell them that I don’t know who the father is.” She stood. “If you don’t hear from me by tomorrow, call the police and tell them that my brothers have kidnapped me and are forcing me to be on bed rest.”

Laney’s mouth formed a perfect O. “Is this a high-risk pregnancy?”

“No, my brothers think kid gloves are too rough when it comes to me. In their eyes I’m not only made of glass, but I’m also prone to spontaneous shattering. They’ll probably station two of the club’s prospects at my condo to carry me around so I don’t have to walk.” Why had she chosen today to come clean to everyone? It was just an average Tuesday. “Also, when you see them again, don’t forget. I’m not on a triathlon team, our book club is called the Tough Ladies because we only read biographies about powerful women.”

“Right. Because competing in triathlons is super high risk.” Laney shook her head. “You should tell them the truth.”

“One truth at a time. Finding out that I’m pregnant is enough truth for the next decade, if not millennium.” Her brothers weren’t going to be happy when they found out that there would be no one for them to knock around for knocking up their sister.

“Who am I to give family relationship advice? I was raised by Cruella de Vil’s less nice older brother.” Laney frowned. “Oops, sorry. Didn’t mean to dis your baby daddy.”

“If anyone has a right, it’s you.” January couldn’t believe Laney was being so nice about the whole thing. If the shoe were on the other foot, she couldn’t say she’d react the same way. Then again, it would be a miracle for her dad to father a child from the grave.

“Is everything going well with the pregnancy? Any vaginal bleeding, discharge, or itching? Any fever or excessive nausea and vomiting? Burning during urination?” Laney was back in doctor mode.

“You know, those are very personal questions. Most people don’t ask other people those things.” Being a doctor, Laney sometimes forgot there were boundaries.

“You’re lucky I didn’t ask for a urine sample when you walked in today. I’m a doctor. There are no personal questions.” Laney rubbed her hands together in anticipation. “Want me to borrow the sonogram machine from the OB across the hall? I totally will and we can do a vaginal sono and see our baby.”

January checked the clock on her phone. “I wish. I’d love to see Baby Jenkowski, but I don’t have time now. Next time.”

She needed to leave now or she’d be late. Bru and March wouldn’t care, but she cared. She was never late.