Dear Reader:

I’m delighted to present to you my latest Harlequin Romance, Secret Baby, Surprise Parents.

When Grace McAllister’s sister finally accepts that she will never be able to have a baby of her own, Grace – hopelessly in love with a man who will never settle down and give her the security she craves -- offers herself as a surrogate mother. The baby is a special joy for everyone, except Josh who is burdened with a desperate secret. He knows he’s the last man on earth that Grace needs, but to see her carrying a baby for his brother and his wife is driving him to despair.

When tragedy strikes and he rushes to be there for Grace, for baby Posie, desperate secrets are revealed and terrible realities have to be faced. There is an answer but will it bring even more heartbreak?

The tragedies of infertility, of broken homes, touches nearly everyone. This is a story of healing, forgiveness, sacrifice and courage – with the occasional giggle thrown in for good measure! I hope that it will touch you and bring you joy.

With warmest wishes,

Liz


Secret Baby, Surprise Parents
© Liz Fielding

Josh took a step towards the crib and then, very gently, he lay his hand, as she had done, on the baby’s tummy.

Posie immediately stopped crying and, eyes wide, stared up at the tall figure standing over her. Then, as if demanding more from her uncle, she reached out a tiny fist and Grace caught her breath as Josh crouched beside the crib and touched her hand with the tip of one finger. Seemed to catch his breath as Posie caught tight hold.

He’d been beyond angry when she told him that he was too late to stop the surrogacy, that she was already pregnant with her sister’s baby. News that she hadn’t even shared with Phoebe, determined not to raise false hopes until the doctor had confirmed it.

She hadn’t known how he would react to Posie. As a youth, a young man, he’d been adamant that he would never have children of his own. His marriage to a girl he’d never even mentioned had been so swift, so unexpected that it seemed at the time as if everyone was holding their breath, sure that only the imminent arrival of a baby could have prompted it. But there had been no baby and within a year the marriage had been over. Now, as he gazed down at this small miracle, she waited, heart in her mouth for his reaction. For the inevitable question.

How could she do it?

How could she have felt the first tiny movements, watched that first scan, listened to the squishy beat of her heartbeat, cherished the baby growing inside her for nine long months only to surrender her to her sister, his brother.

Other people had asked.

Not friends, true friends. They had understood. But a reporter from the local paper who’d somehow picked up the story had called her wanting to know the whys, the hows, the financial deal she’d signed up to. If the woman had done her research she’d have known that anything but expenses was against the law and she hadn’t needed or wanted even that. It was the people who didn’t know them who seemed most indignant that she could do such a thing. People who clearly had no concept of unselfish love.

None of those people had mattered, but she so wanted Josh to understand. Even though he disapproved of what she’d done, she needed him to understand, without asking, why she’d done it.

Don’t, she silently begged him. Please don’t ask...

‘Michael rang me minutes after Posie was born,’ he said, after what felt like an eternity. ‘He was almost incoherent with joy.’ For a moment he too seemed to find difficulty in speaking. ‘I was in the back of beyond somewhere, the line was terrible but even through the static it came through loud and clear. His world was complete.’ He looked up, looked at her. ‘You gave him that, Grace.’

She let out a breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding. He understood.

Then, catching up, ‘Michael phoned you?’

‘He didn’t mention it?’

She shook her head. Why wouldn’t he have told her? Had Phoebe known?

‘What did you say to him, Josh?’ she demanded.

‘I asked him if you were all right and when he assured me that you had sailed through the whole thing, I asked him if he was sure you had no doubts about giving up the baby. Urged him not to rush you...’

She waited, sure there was something else but he shook his head.

‘I didn’t,’ she said. ‘He didn’t.’

Why had it mattered so much to him? And why wouldn’t they have told her that he’d cared enough to ask about her? That he’d been concerned that she was all right. Hadn’t Phoebe known how much it would have meant to her?

Or was that it?

Did her sister suspect what had happened between them all those years ago? Was she afraid that, in the hormonal rush after Posie’s birth, a word from Josh might have been enough to change her mind?

Not wanting to think about that, she crossed to the crib, picked Posie up, cradled her briefly, cherishing the weight of her in her arms, the baby scent of clean hair, warm skin. Then she turned and offered her to Josh.

‘Here,’ she said. ‘Take her. Hold her.’ When he didn’t move, she looked up to find him staring not at the baby but at her. ‘What?’ He shook his head. ‘I thought you’d be married to your Toby by now, Grace. With a home, children of your own. Wasn’t that what you always wanted?’

‘You know it was.’

She’d wanted what her sister had wanted. A settled home, a good man, children. She also wanted Josh Kingsley and the two were incompatible. No one could have everything they wanted.

Her sister had never had the children she yearned for.

And she had never found anyone who could erase her yearning for a man for whom risk was the breath of life, the horizon the only place he wanted to be.

‘Unfortunately,’ she said, ‘life isn’t that simple.’

‘Maybe men just have it too easy these days. All of the comforts with none of the responsibility.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Well, it wasn’t for lack of choice, was it? You appeared to be dating someone different every time I came home.’

‘Not every time surely?’ Her well schooled careless tone was, she knew, ruined by a blush.

‘You don’t remember?’

She remembered.

Given a few day’s warning of his arrival it hadn’t been difficult to drum up some hungry man from the craft centre who was glad of a home cooked meal. Camouflage so that it wouldn’t look as if she was living in limbo, just waiting for Josh to come home and sweep her up into his arms, tell her that he’d been a fool. Pick up where they’d left off.

These days only Toby was left. He’d been brighter than most, quickly cottoning on to what she was doing and apparently happy to play the possessive suitor whenever Josh came home.

Why she’d still been going through the motions after so long she couldn’t say. Unless it was because she still wanted it so badly. That it was herself she was fooling rather than him...


Competition:

To celebrate publication of Secret Baby, Surprise Parents, Liz is offering a $50 Amazon voucher to one lucky reader who can tell her how long Josh has lived with the memory of Grace in his arms. You’ll find the answer on the excerpt on her website.  Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answer. Please note, emails sent to any other email address will be disregarded. Send your entries to staff@authorsoundrelations.com only.

Contest deadline is April 12th, 2009.

Secret Baby, Surprise Parents is available for retail purchase in paper and eBook editions from:

Harlequin.ca, (during the month of April)
Mills and Boon.co.uk
eHarlequin.com.au – Australia/New Zealand (during the month of May)
Amazon

And as an extra, you can download a free copy of Liz’s book The Bride's Baby, from Harlequincelebrates.com and at Amazon for the Kindle edition.

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