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The Bachelor's Baby

By:Dani Collins

Chapter One


Meg Canon often reminded herself she was lucky, especially when she didn’t feel it. Today was one of those times. She was lucky to have been adopted into a good family. She was lucky to still have her brother. She was lucky to have caught a few breaks with her career. She—

“Oh, why me?” she railed aloud as the truck fishtailed, refused to catch as she tried to recover, then spun before the back end hit the berm of snow at the side of the road, jerking her to a stop.

Part of her believed in karma. Therefore, she knew exactly what she’d done to deserve her misfortune. Self-disgust roiled in her like a washing machine full of dirty laundry these days. Once she’d realized her mistake, she couldn’t stop thinking about it: the one thing that had burned in her psyche her whole life, the obsession that had driven her to Chicago and into television—the search for her birth parents—had set her up for exactly what she was suffering. She was reaping what she’d sown. She had no one to blame but herself.

And because her mind was so deep in her own self-reproach, she had let the damned truck hit a patch of ice and slide its back tires into what would have been the ditch if it wasn’t overflowing with a winter’s worth of plowed snow.

“Curses!” She’d only gone six miles from the end of the ranch’s driveway, but it was a mile to the next neighbor’s, then another down their drive.

And it was winter in Montana. Butt freezing cold out there.

“Lucky,” she muttered facetiously, mentally listing the ways this could have been worse: There were places the road edged a twenty foot drop into the river. Another car could have been involved. She could have hit a deer.

This was an inconvenience. Just like the way she’d had to change her routines in Chicago was an inconvenience. If she would just quit thinking of herself as a victim and accept her situation, she’d be fine.

But every little change made her feel like she was hiding from herself and that made her squirm.

She stared into the blinding afternoon of sparkling hills. The storm two days ago had flash frozen layers of snow onto the trees and fence rails. The February days were slowly getting longer, but the sun was still low, bouncing along the tips of the mountains in the distance. The peaks looked like whipped cream against the intense blue of the sky. Deceptively soft and pretty.

It was a gorgeous day. A perfect day to get out of a crowded house to pick up a few groceries.

Heck, she was the inconvenience, not really having absorbed at Christmas that if her brother was engaged, it meant his fiancée and her daughter were moving into the ranch house.

It shouldn’t break her heart to pack up all her things to make room for them. Blake deserved this and Liz was amazing. Meg loved that Blake was finally happy, that he was getting married and, if her suspicions proved true, expecting a baby. Meg even adored Liz’s teenaged daughter. She wanted this for Blake and his son, Ethan.

But the timing sucked. She’d always been comforted by the knowledge she could bolt back to Marietta at any time, especially lately when things were so awkward in the city.

Now she was battling the painfully familiar gloom of rejection and isolation, all too aware that this was the feeling that had propelled her to Chicago in the first place. She’d been determined to find her birth mother, had basically advertised herself on national television, hoping for a miracle reunion  . What she’d got was a persistent fan that made her uncomfortable.

Her deepest heartache—being abandoned—was now something she was begging for. Leave me alone.

Gripping the steering wheel, she told herself to get it together. It was time to let go of her obsession and enjoy her job for what it was: a successful and lucrative career.

She also had to buck up, get out of the truck, see how deeply the wheels were buried, and dig them out. Blake kept a pile of gravel and a sack of salt in the bed of the truck for exactly this situation.

At the very least, getting out to curse at the ditched wheels would be cathartic.

With an angry groan at herself, she threw herself out of the truck and slammed the door.

The dry, subzero temperature stole the air from her lungs, making her nostrils pinch and her earlobes sting where they poked out from beneath the edge of her chic city hat. She hugged herself against the cold and watched her breath cloud, forcing herself to absorb the barren desolation around her. To accept it.

It was time to accept that she was alone. She wasn’t going to find the magical connection that would ease the ache inside her. She couldn’t rely on Blake and Ethan to caulk all the holes in her soul. She was the solution. She had to fix herself.

Her breath released in a big cloud of resignation, loud in a world that was utterly silent. No animals, no birds, not even a predatory cat. She’d been stalked by a young cougar once, when she’d been a teenager riding her horse. It had been a scary half hour, more because she’d feared she would have to shoot it and hadn’t been sure she’d have the nerve. She liked cats. In the end, a spooked pheasant had sacrificed its life for hers.

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