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Forever, Actually

Forever, Actually

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Published by: Bookworm-93 on May 25, 2010
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06/14/2011

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Forever, Actually byKaren TempletonChapter OneGenerally speaking, Megan Carter did not ogle married men—unless, say, the marriedman was some celebrity hunk she’d in all likelihood never see in the flesh—but her eyeballs latched right on to the glowering, golden-haired hottie following his wife andDr. Armstrong out of the elevator. And wouldn’t let go.“You can make another appointment in ten days or so, Mrs. Farris,” the tall, slender doctor—who was no slouch himself—said, smiling. “For your first sonogram.”“Ohmigosh…thank you!” the brunette said, hugging the startled doctor, her sky-bluesundress glowing against the übermodern, steel-and neutrals décor. “Thank you so much!Oh, come on, Russ—” She grabbed Golden Boy’s hand to tug him toward the receptiondesk. And closer to Meg, who clamped shut her mouth to hold in the drool. “You knowthis is what Tommy wanted. You were there when we made the decision!”“Nova…I’m trying, I really am. But—”“I’ll be fine, Russ.
We’ll 
be fine.” Nova slid Meg a long-suffering look. “You have brothers?”Wait. Meg was hanging on to her saliva for someone’s
brother?
A brother who was not,she noted, sporting a wedding band of his own. Huh.“Three,” Meg said, trying not to notice the siblings had the same bright blue eyes. Andthick, dark lashes. That the male sibling looked better in his golf shirt and Dockers thanmost men looked in a tux. That his expression of brooding protectiveness was making her squirm a little in her seat. She forced her gaze back to Nova. “All older.”“Ouch,” Nova said, smiling, and Meg laughed. Until the other woman palmed her tummyand said softly, “My husband and I had wanted a batch of kids. Then we found out he hadcancer. So he…made a deposit before the chemo. Except…” She looked at Meg again,gave a tiny shrug. “Hence the backup plan.
Some
people, however, are having issues withmy decision.”Honestly. Barely two hours into her temp stint at Boston’s Armstrong Fertility Institute,and already three people had shared what Meg considered way too much personalinformation about their reasons for using the clinic’s services. It was like living out anepisode of one of her grandmother’s soaps. Except something about this one…“Well,
 I 
think you’re one of the bravest people I’ve ever met,” she said, daring to meetRuss’s gaze.
 
Big mistake. Because that glower? Too darn cute for words. Which made Meg’s tummygo flippity-flop. Oops.“So,” she said brightly, her curls sticking to the back of her neck when she turned to thecomputer. Hmm. Air-conditioning must be on the fritz. “How’s…a week from thiscoming Monday?”“Great!”Meg printed out the appointment confirmation and handed it to Nova, giving her a full-out, all-dimples-on-deck smile. “Congratulations, by the way. I can tell you’re gonna be aterrific mom.” Nova beamed. “Thanks,” she said softly, tucking the paper into her purse before turningto her brother with another big smile. Still glowering, Golden Boy led her to the exit, hishand hovering at her back, basically treating her like spun glass.Meg allowed herself a long, dreamy sigh.***“Russ!”Startled out of his musings, Russ Michaels turned to his sister as they walked in the blistering, late-August heat to their cars, parked in front of the Coach House Diner not far from the Institute. “I’m sorry…were you saying something?” Nova lightly smacked his arm, then grinned. “I guess I have been running off at themouth today. And I know you don’t share my enthusiasm—”“Nove, I’m happy for you, I really am. It’s just—”
That I can’t remember the last time a woman’s smile made me feel like I’d been sucker  punched.
“You’re worried about me,” his sister said softly, giving his wrist a quick squeeze. “Iknow. But it’s not as if I haven’t thought this through. Or that I can’t afford help after the baby comes. Tommy made sure of that. And heaven knows he or she is going to have theworld’s greatest uncle.” When Russ felt his jaw tighten, Nova cocked her head. “I’ve gotto move on, Russ. Embrace whatever life has in store for me. It’s what Tommy wouldhave wanted—”“I really need to get back—got a client coming in at one. A big one. Don’t want to belate.”
 
A mixture of annoyance and understanding swimming in her eyes, Nova leaned up to kisshim on the cheek. “Tommy would be thrilled with how well you’re handling the business.And you seem…” Her eyes narrowed as she apparently considered her words. “Contentenough.”“I am. See you later?”“Oh! Sorry, no—I teach night school tonight, remember? Maybe tomorrow?”“Sure thing. Call me.”Russ watched until his sister drove off, giving him a little wave as she pulled into traffic, before he got into the company truck, all tricked out with the Farris Nursery logo on theside. Nova had already told him she was okay if he wanted to change it to his name, but itwas Tommy’s name people knew and trusted, so why mess with what worked?Was he content? One wrist resting atop the steering wheel, Russ sighed. With running his brother-in-law’s garden center and nursery after way too many years of crunchingnumbers for an insurance company? Yeah, he supposed he was. God knows, a year agohe’d never imagined he’d get off on all things horticultural, but when Tommy’d askedRuss if he’d be interested in taking over the business so Nova could keep teaching, Russwas surprised by how much the idea had appealed. Despite plants being far harder tocontrol than numbers.But with the rest of his life? Not so much, to be honest. Not that he’d changed his mindabout preferring to go it alone. With relationships came complications. Pain. Heartache.Those, he could do without. However, being alone and being lonely were two entirelydifferent things.Definitely a new wrinkle he hadn’t expected.Just as he hadn’t expected to be shaken up by a bubbly little redhead in a frilly pink  blouse that looked totally out of place in the Institute’s austere surroundings. A bubblylittle redhead whose sparkling brown eyes and curved mouth seemed to say, “Just say theword, and I’ll let you in on the joke.” Whatever the joke was.Life itself, probably, Russ thought as he pulled up in front of the nursery. A stocky, balding guy with a bright grin approached him the minute he stepped inside. HowieCarter was the middle of three brothers, who with their father owned a fair-sizedlandscaping business. When their primary vendor went under a month or so back, leavingthem in the lurch, they turned to Farris. And Russ had no intention of losing them…evenif it meant constantly fending off thinly veiled attempts at fixing him up with their unmarried sister.“Howie, good to see ya,” Russ said, clapping the guy’s hand. “You find everythingokay?”

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