What Price Paradise
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by Katherine Allred
Description: All his life Tate McCullom has been taught to be responsible, and he is the very model of what a respectable man should be. Until the night he gets drunk and sleeps with a woman he barely knows. Now, six weeks later, she's pregnant, alone, and broke. Once again, Tate must take responsibility for his actions, and makes plans to marry his child's mother. There's only one problem ... he has to tell his fiancee. Abby Grayson hasn't had an easy life. As the daughter of the town whore, people either avoid her or think she's like her mother. For Abby, it's a struggle just to fill her belly and keep a roof over her head. Loneliness and a secret yearning for this man she thought she'd never have led her to spend the night with Tate. But the last thing she needs is a baby when she can barely take care of herself. Desperate, but too proud to ask for help, she finally agrees to accept a job from Tate--the job of being his wife. Now she has almost everything she's ever dreamed of. Unfortunately, only one thing will gain her Tate's love--his realization that the night he spent with her was no drunken accident. It was a last-ditch attempt to win the woman he really wanted.
eBook Publisher: Ellora's Cave, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: August 2005
139 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [345 KB]
Reading time: 233-326 min.
Pregnant. The word rang in her head as sweat popped out on her face. Impossible, but true. One time. She'd had sex one time in her life and this was what happened.
Abby dodged yet another groping hand and made her way to table four, a tray loaded with drinks balanced on her hip. The three men at the table barely looked up as she served them, which was fine with her. Having them pretend she didn't exist was preferable to fighting them off. For her there was no middle ground.
She handed the bottles of beer around, putting one in front of the only empty chair at the table. Friday and Saturday nights at Delly's were always loud and crowded since it was the only tavern within a hundred-mile radius that sported a dance floor with live music.
Picking up the ashtray from the table, she emptied it into another one on her tray, the odor of stale cigarettes assailing her nose. A wave of nausea rolled over her and she closed her eyes, willing her stomach to settle. It had been happening all day and each time seemed to get worse. If this was what she had to look forward to for the next seven and a half months, she didn't think she'd make it. Didn't even want to.
Her gaze moved to the dance floor. He wasn't hard to find. Tate McCullom was the tallest man in the room. He wasn't the best looking, not if you liked the slick, polished look of a model, but his craggy, rough features were certainly enough to attract lots of female attention.
Even from across the room she could feel the force of those crystal blue eyes as he looked up and studied her intently over the head of the blonde he was holding in his arms. Diane. His fiancée.
Abby lowered her gaze and turned back toward the bar just as a wave of heat swept through her. The edges of her vision went black and the nausea hit again. This time, she knew, it wasn't going away.
With an urgency born of desperation, she tossed the serving tray onto the bar and dashed down the long hall. Only a screen door blocked her path outside and she went through it at a run, barely making it outside before she started to heave. Not that it did much good. She hadn't eaten since yesterday, but her traitorous stomach seemed bent on emptying itself anyway.
Hands braced on her knees, she leaned against the side of the building and sucked in deep breaths of the cool night air. Suddenly, the hair stood up on the back of her neck and, even though she hadn't heard the door open, she knew Tate was there.
Well, at least he knew her name. Hysterical laughter threatened to bubble from her throat, but she forced it down as her stomach roiled again. "Go away. Please, just leave me alone." She couldn't look at him. Not now.
"Virus." She wanted to say more, to come up with a good explanation, but her tongue seemed to be choking her. Even that one word brought on another heave.
She felt more than saw him take a step closer, then those broad, strong hands were supporting her, holding her up. She flinched from his touch, wanting nothing more than to just lie down and die. But of course, nothing was that easy.
"Why don't you ask Pete to give you the rest of the night off? You're in no shape to work."
Her nausea eased, replaced by a surge of anger, and Abby pulled away from him. "This is the only job I've got. I can't afford to take off. Now please leave me alone. What I do or don't do is no concern of yours. Go back to your fiancée. I'm sure she's wondering where you are."
There was a second of hesitation, then he turned and walked away. As soon as she heard the door close behind him, Abby slid down the wall and buried her face against her knees. She wouldn't cry, couldn't let herself go like that. In the ten years she'd lived in Cooper Creek, Texas, this was only the second time Tate had ever said more than two words to her. Considering what had happened the first time, it was probably a good thing. And she doubted he even remembered it.
She allowed herself one sniffle, then stood and wiped the sweat from her forehead. If she didn't get back to work, Pete, her boss, was going to come looking for her. Only one more hour until closing. She could hang on until then.