Return to the captivating storytelling of New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks, and her stirring saga of three brothers and one indomitable woman—of wounded hearts, family, and forgiveness…
When it came to overcoming the odds of a tragic past, Lily was determined to move on. The three Colter brothers helped her do it. They taught her new ways to love, new dreams to share, and offered her a new life that she never thought possible. Now is a time for celebration, and what better way than with a long-awaited family reunion, a homecoming that will bring together the entire Colter family and a few surprises no one anticipated. But first, there’s something from Lily’s past she still needs to reconcile—even when all the while she is holding close to her heart a newfound secret that will change her future, forever enrich the Colter legacy, and make every promise come true.
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Lily Colter sat in the small waiting room of the doctor’s office, glancing nervously out the window that overlooked Main Street in Clyde, Colorado. Across the street was her husband’s—one of them—office. Seth was sheriff of the small town.
She’d parked around back because sooner or later, Dillon, another of her husbands, would drive through on his way to his pub, and he’d most certainly see her SUV in front of the doctor’s office, which would cause him to barge in, demanding to know if everything was all right.
Michael, the middle Colter brother and the third man she called husband, was safely ensconced in his own veterinary office outside of town, so she wouldn’t need to worry about running into him. Hopefully.
Her stomach simply wouldn’t settle and she didn’t know if it was because of nerves or because—
She couldn’t think of that yet. She closed her eyes and squeezed her fingers into tight balls in her lap. It did no good to borrow trouble. Her mother-in-law, Holly Colter, would be the first to tell her that.
It could be some weird stomach bug. Hadn’t there been something going around Clyde in the last week? But her issues had presented themselves long before last week and she knew it.
She was unbelievably tired, she was sick over the most ordinary smells, and her breasts were so tender that the slightest pressure made her wince.
The night before when her husbands had made love to her, it had been all she could do not to cry out—in pain—when they lavished gentle attention on her breasts, and she knew then that she had to confront her denial and see the doctor.
Lily looked up to see the nurse standing in the doorway smiling at her. Slowly, Lily pushed herself from the chair and trudged across the room.
The nurse was bright and bubbly, but then Tina always was. If she noticed that Lily wasn’t quite herself, she refrained from prying too much.
When, however, she began to take Lily’s vitals and ask routine care questions about the reason for her visit, Lily murmured, “I’ll discuss it with Dr. Burton.”
Tina didn’t pursue the matter. She quietly finished taking Lily’s blood pressure and temperature, patted Lily reassuringly on the hand, and then promised that Dr. Burton would be along shortly.
Lily slumped against the chair and eyed the exam table nervously. She was scared, uncertain, and worried over what Dr. Burton would say—what she was certain he would say.
A moment later, a light knock sounded and the door pushed open. Dr. Burton stuck his head inside, smiled, and then ambled in.
He took a seat across from Lily at the small table and opened the laptop he used for patient notes and records. He met her gaze over the top of the computer and studied her. “So, what brings you in today, Lily?”
If he noted the oddity of her not having at least one of her husbands or another family member present, he didn’t say anything. But then there were some things, as she’d learned, that she had to do alone.
This was one of them.
“I think . . .” She closed her eyes. “I suspect . . . I could be pregnant.”
When she reopened her eyes, Dr. Burton’s were soft with understanding. But instead of saying anything, offering sympathy or reassurance, he merely nodded and then said, “Well, it seems to me the first thing we ought to do before we go any further is do a pregnancy test. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Have you performed an over the counter test? Those things are pretty accurate.”
She shook her head. “I came here first.”
“Well, it won’t take but a moment. I’ll get Tina back in here. She’ll have you give her a urine specimen. If it turns out you’re pregnant, then we’ll go from there. No sense getting all het up for nothing, right?”
She took in a shaky breath. “No, you’re right.”
He patted her on the hand and then rose. He leaned out the door and bellowed down the hall for Tina. A moment later, Tina returned, rolling her eyes at the elderly doctor.
She showed Lily into the bathroom and gave her the instructions, which Lily didn’t really need, but she stared blankly and nodded as if she had no clue what was expected of her.
Maybe she should have just done one of those stick pregnancy things. At least then she would be home, alone, and not in front of someone else when she received the shock of her life.
A few moments later, she exited the bathroom and returned to her tiny exam room to wait. And wait. Each minute that ticked by seemed like an eternity. She kept eyeing her phone nervously, knowing that eventually someone would figure out she wasn’t at home and would want to know what she was up to. And she hated lying. But what was she supposed to say? If she said she was at the doctor’s, she’d have no less than three people in the waiting room for her when she got out. If she lied and then someone saw her and casually mentioned her whereabouts, it would be even messier.
She sighed, leaned her head down onto the table, and closed her eyes.
Breathe. Just breathe, Lily. They promised it would be different. They swore what happened with Rose wouldn’t happen again.
Tears gathered, stinging her eyes and drawing up her nose. She’d gained so much strength during the last two years. Strength she hadn’t imagined she possessed. A newfound happiness and independence she would have thought beyond her reach.
But this . . . This had the power to destroy her all over again.
The door opened.
She yanked her head up to meet Dr. Burton’s gaze. She stared hard, trying to see something. Some sign.
He came in and sat across from her, his expression still unreadable. Some of the tension started to unknot in her stomach until he reached over to slide his wrinkled hand over hers. He squeezed and her world titled sideways.
“Lily, my dear, you are indeed pregnant.”
Even though she’d known, she’d suspected, the news still came like ice-cold water thrown over her head. Her mouth opened in automatic denial, but she clamped her lips shut and dug her teeth into the bottom one to prevent the sound of dismay from escaping.
Dr. Burton’s eyes softened in sympathy. “I know the news isn’t ideal and probably not what you wanted to hear. But is it so bad?”
Lily’s eyes watered. “I don’t understand. I was so careful. I took all my pills.” Her cheeks colored at the next admission, but he was her doctor and they’d certainly been down this road before. “We don’t use condoms anymore. Maybe I should have insisted we continue. I know they would have done anything for me. But I’d hoped after I started on birth control that we wouldn’t need to.”
The doctor squeezed her hand again. “Birth control isn’t one hundred percent effective. It’s close, but you’d be surprised at how many ‘oops’ babies I’ve delivered over the years. Sometimes these things just happen, and I’m always convinced that if God intends it, then he finds a way for it to happen. Maybe this baby was just meant to be.”
And Rose wasn’t?
She wanted to scream it. Why was this baby more deserving of a chance than her sweet, darling daughter had been?
She pushed her knuckles to her mouth and rocked back and forth, desperately trying to maintain control and hold back her grief before it exploded out of her.
Dr. Burton sighed. “I’m going to write a script for some vitamins, and I want you to start taking them. You’ll also need to make another appointment on your way out. I want to draw some blood before you leave just so we can take a look at things. My suggestion is to take a few days and think this over. Don’t react in the moment. Give it some time to settle in and then you might see that it’s not such a bad thing after all. You know those boys will be all over you, and their parents won’t be any different. You’ll have help, Lily. You won’t face this alone.”
“Thank you,” she murmured. She even tried to return his reassuring smile, but she failed miserably.
The rest of the visit was a blur. Tina came in and drew several vials of blood before handing her a prescription along with some samples of prenatal vitamins that she wanted Lily to start on right away.
“And if you’re still taking your birth control pills, you need to discontinue those immediately,” Tina said.
Lily nodded numbly, only wanting to get out so she could breathe again.
A few moments later she stumbled out of the doorway into the brisk, cold morning. Her breath escaped in a visible puff and she stood there a long moment, gulping in the chilly air.
Then, realizing she was standing on the sidewalk for anyone to see, she hurried around the corner of the building to the small parking lot in the back where she’d parked her SUV.
After she climbed in, she started the engine but didn’t turn on the heat. Her fingers curled around the steering wheel, and for the longest time she simply stared forward out of the windshield. Then she lowered her forehead to the steering wheel as hot tears rolled down her cheeks.