All I Ever Wanted
by Nancy Pirri
Chicago social worker, Maggie O’Hara, arrives at the Minneapolis airport where she awaits the arrival of her family to pick her up and take her home with them for Thanksgiving. She’s nervous, due to the surprise she has for them in her arms—her newly adopted baby girl from Korea. With little thought, Maggie grabs a stranger getting off the same airplane, and asks him to portray himself, temporarily, as her fiancé. She knows that her old-fashioned family will disapprove of the adoption because she’s not married. What Maggie doesn’t count on is falling in love with Dr. Nick Capra, who does more than a passable job of posing as her fiancé that day, and over the holiday week.
From the moment Maggie snags Nick, a confirmed bachelor, his gut tells him his single days are over and that she’s the woman for him. While posing as her fiancé he tells her he wants to be a permanent part of her life. While Maggie has fallen in love with Nick, she has a secret that could ruin their chances of being together, though she refuses to divulge the secret to him—until the choice is taken out of her hands.
Release Date: January 23, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Present Day Chicago
“Excuse me?” a soft, feminine voice said.
Nicholas Capra’s head shot up and he focused on a pretty, red-haired woman’s impish expression.
She smiled. “I seem to be hooked on you.”
He’d noticed her inside the airport terminal while waiting to board the airplane. Now he gazed at her long, curly russet-colored hair, and at eyes that reminded him of dew-spiked grass in early spring. Her smile nudged an answering grin of male appreciation from him.
The baby fidgeting in her arms drew his attention. She was a sweet, dark-haired little imp who looked nothing like her mother. Looking down, he saw that the strap of her diaper bag had caught on the arm of his seat.
His legs were sardined into the leg space, and he struggled to release it. Finally, he managed to free the strap.
“Thanks,” she said as she turned away.
“You’re welcome.” He returned to his game of solitaire, staring down at his computer monitor as his early warning system kicked in; Woman...baby...off limits.
“Computers have taken all the fun out of playing solitaire.”
He glanced up, surprised to see her standing beside him again and shrugged. “Maybe, but in a moving vehicle you can’t beat the convenience of a computer. I grew tired of chasing cards all over the floors of planes and taxis.”
“Good point,” she said. “Thanks again.”
Nick turned in his seat and followed her as she struggled down the aisle. She carried a purse over her shoulder, the large diaper bag swung from her forearm, the baby she clutched against her breast. He thought about her sitting in coach while she could have used the space a first-class seat offered, where he sat.
Some guy was lucky to have her as his wife and a cute kid, besides, both things he’d been thinking a lot about lately. Of course, he knew the reason why. His mom and dad badgered him each time he visited. What? No girlfriend, yet?
No girlfriend. Hardly any dates due to his hectic schedule at the hospital. As a pediatrician with a burgeoning practice, he had little time to call his own. He’d decided to make time, though, especially every time he saw his nieces and nephews.
Just when he decided to give up his first-class seat, the seatbelt light came on to buckle up. By the time the light went off he glanced back to find both the redhead and her baby settled into her seat and sound asleep.
Two hours later the airplane landed at the Minneapolis International Airport. Nick exited the plane and moved into the terminal, shuffling around people and gazing over the crowd, searching for his family.
“Sorry,” he muttered when he ran into the person ahead of him. He had been so busy looking for his parents he hadn’t noticed the redhead had come to a dead stop directly in front of him.
“Pardon me,” she said, throwing a casual glance in his direction. Then she turned away and stared into the distance. “Oh, darn,” she said, to no one in particular.
Nick tried to maneuver around her.
She latched onto his forearm. “Please, I need your help.”
“What’s the problem?” He glanced at the squirming baby in her arms then into her worried expression.
“How good of an actor are you?”
He narrowed his eyes on her. “Excuse me?”
“Play along with me for a few minutes and I’ll be eternally grateful.” Panic filled her eyes and her voice held an urgent tone.
“Who’re we trying to fool?” he asked. With his luck, the kid's father would be barreling down on them any moment. He wondered if airport security was close by. He’d always been a sucker for a lady in distress; a fact which his sisters had frequently used to their advantage, and to his annoyance.
“My family,” she whispered. Straightening up, she came around to his side and leaned into him.
As though he’d known her for years, he wound an arm around her waist and pulled her closer.
She darted a quick look up at him.
“Just getting into the part,” he stated. What the heck. If he was about to get clobbered by a jealous husband or boyfriend he’d at least enjoy the moments leading up to the event.
The scent she wore was intoxicating—a combination of spices and flowers. Her medium height and lithe body seemed to be a perfect fit next to his tall frame.
Two teen-aged boys ran up to them with excited, matching grins. “Hi, Maggie!” they shouted in unison.
Great. Now he at least knew her name.
“Hi, guys!” She pulled away from Nick to give the boys each one-armed hugs. “You two look great.”
The baby squirmed and fussed.
“Hey, Sis,” the taller boy said, “I didn’t know you were escorting a baby this time.”
“Then whose baby—?”
“And who’s he?” the other boy interrupted, jerking his head at Nick.
Maggie just stood there, tongue-tied.
Nick took the initiative. He reached out and shook each boy’s hand. “I’m Nick Capra, a friend of Maggie’s.”
“My brothers, Patrick and John,” Maggie said.
An older replica of Maggie rushed up and embraced her, baby and all.
“It’s so good to see you, Mom,” Maggie cried. She looked around and added, “Where’s Dad?”
“He woke up this morning with a nasty flu bug.” She scowled at Maggie. “I’ve a bone to pick with you, young lady. You haven't been home in almost a year.”
“You know what my caseload is like, and how difficult it is for me to get away.”
“I know. We miss you, dear.” Her mother sighed. “Now, do you want to explain what this is all about?” She took the baby and held it to her bosom, crooning softly.
Nick grinned when the infant immediately stopped fretting.
“How in the heck do you do that?” Maggie said. “Sometimes it takes me a good hour to settle her down.”
“Talk to me after you’ve had four children. She’s got to be a girl since she’s dressed in pink. What’s her name?”
“Leah—your new granddaughter.”
The older woman gasped, “You’ve adopted her?”
“I’m in the process, yes. Before you start hollering, you know I’ve been thinking about adopting a child for a long time. The opportunity presented itself sooner than I expected.” Maggie took Nick’s hand again. “I’d like you to meet another important person in my life.” She pulled Nick close. Nick felt her grasp tighten and he looked at her, confused, before the floor caved beneath his feet.
“Meet my fiancé, Nick Capra.”
The older woman’s jaw dropped. The boys stood in silent, wide-eyed amazement.
Nick managed to remain calm, even as confusion and impatience brewed inside him. What had he gotten himself into now?
“This is wonderful news!” Maggie’s mom reached for Nick.
He accepted her hug, his gaze on Maggie.
Maggie averted her eyes.
Yes, you should feel guilty! He silently railed.
A benevolent smile crossed Mrs. O’Hara’s lips as she stared at Nick. “So handsome. You’re coming home with us, aren’t you? No hotel got you. We’ve plenty of room.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t Mrs. O’Hara. My family should be here any moment to meet me.”
Margaret O’Hara gave Nick a wide-eyed look. “Your family is from Minnesota, yet the two of you know each other from Chicago?”
Nick nodded. “Quite a coincidence, isn’t it? Imagine my surprise when I learned Maggie was from Minnesota.” He laid it on thick and reached for Maggie’s hand. “We were like two lost kindred spirits adrift in the Windy City, until we found each other and fell madly in love.”
“How romantic,” said Mrs. O’Hara.
Nick turned to Maggie.
“You’d think you were the one who was Irish around here,” she said, attempting to pull her hand from his. He wouldn’t release it.
Grinning, he said, “Maybe I am part Irish.” He looked at Maggie’s mom. “Excuse me, won’t you? I’d like to speak to Maggie, alone, before we part. We won’t be able to see each other for a few days.”
“Of course,” Mrs. O'Hara agreed, dismissing them, her attention focused on her sons who were making faces at the giggling baby.
Nick held Maggie’s hand and started dragging her away. “Come along peacefully, sweetheart,” he said softly under his breath. It was time to put an end to his involvement in her charade before things got way out of hand. What was he talking about? It already had.
“Are you a policeman?” Maggie asked as she stumbled along to keep up with his much longer stride.
“Why do you think that?”
“Well, ‘come along peacefully',” she quoted his words back at him. “You’d think I broke a law or something,” she muttered.
“Lying is a crime in my book. You owe me, at the very least, an explanation.”
He stopped when he determined they were far enough away from Maggie’s family. He backed her up against a wall, blocking her movement. He didn’t touch her but he wanted to, and not because of his anger; the woman was beautiful and tempting, her femininity drawing him in as no woman had ever done. Nick noted the worry on her face when she stepped to the side and he stepped right along with her. Let her see what it’s like being in the hot seat.
“What are you going to do?” she said.
“Upon your request—making this look good. ‘Play along,' sweetheart.’ Weren’t those your precise words?”
Nick could almost see the wheels turning inside Maggie’s head as she assessed the situation.
Then she gave him a sultry look and he caught his breath. “Release me and I’ll give you what you want.”
He was speechless, his heart quickening at her words. So, it appeared he wasn’t the only one who could act.
She surprised him when she reached up, circled his neck, and kissed him as he hadn’t been kissed in a long, long time. Heat tore through him. When she ended the kiss, he stepped back warily. What was she up to, anyway? He’d expected her to protest his taking advantage, so her warmth and willingness stunned him.
Clearing his throat, he glanced over his shoulder at her family. Maggie’s mom was grinning; the boys had looks of disgust on their faces. This explained her sizzling kiss. His glance revealed a new problem; this time it was his.
He looked at Maggie. “Give me your parents’ phone number,” he demanded.
She frowned. “Why?”
“I'll call you later,” he rushed out, glancing over his shoulder again.
Maggie shook her head. “That’s not necessary. You wanted an explanation as to why I bulldozed you into this mess. Let me explain—”
“There’s no time,” he interrupted. “My mother will be arriving shortly. Give me your number and I'll call you later.” His full attention returned to her for a moment. “Besides, don’t you think your family would find it unusual that we’re engaged and I don't call you during the holidays?”
She frowned. “You have a point, though I might be able to think of something to make them forget about us.”
Nick chuckled. “I don't think so. Your mother may already be in love with me.”
Maggie ploughed through her purse for a scrap of paper and a pen, muttering, “If I'd known you'd be so persistent, I wouldn't have picked you out of the crowd.” She wrote down the number and handed it to him.
“If you hadn’t clamped onto me, how were you planning on telling your family about the baby?”
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”
“Why would you lie about such a wonderful thing as adopting a child, anyway?”
“You heard the shock in my mother’s voice—saw her stunned expression.”
“I see.” He didn’t. This was the twenty-first century and single people adopted babies all the time. “Listen, I’ll call you in a few days.” He pressed another kiss on her lips. When he raised his head he stared at her a long while, then asked himself when a kiss had felt so good, so right.
He frowned and thought, what was he thinking? He had his work—and more work, and no time for socializing, though he couldn’t deny the excitement running through him at the thought of seeing Maggie again.
Clearing his throat, he gave her a careless smile. “Until later.”
Maggie touched her lips and watched him stride away. The man is gorgeous! He wore a woolen tweed jacket, paired with a pair of well-worn jeans, with the aplomb of a GQ model. His broad shoulders and the expanse of his deep chest intrigued her. Indulging in a good cry on his chest would be heavenly, or snuggling up against him, his strong arms wrapped around her.
She sighed, resigned that more trouble would be coming her way because of her lie. He was right about her mother liking him. Margaret O’Hara would be disappointed when Maggie got around to telling her the truth. Maybe she wouldn’t have to make a confession. Maybe she could say they broke up after they returned to Chicago. She could write her mother a nice long letter about it. The thought brought on new guilty feelings and shame.
Her family joined her and they made their way to the baggage claim area. Her brothers each picked up a suitcase. As they neared the exit, Maggie noticed a crowd of people in a circle, laughing and talking. In the center stood Nick, towering over everyone, a toddler in his arms.
No man had the right to be so handsome, she mused, her gaze settling on his dark hair and intense brown eyes focused on an older woman nearby. She guessed with his strong chin, square jaw and slightly narrow lips he’d be strong and independent, and stubborn.
She watched him shift the child into the crook of his arm then drape the other arm casually around the shoulders of a pretty woman with dark hair, same color as Nick’s. Her heart clenched when he leaned down and kissed the woman’s lips. When he raised his head, she saw the love in his eyes.
Maggie felt ill, not having even having thought about the possibility he could be married. Guilt tore through her when she thought about how she had taken outrageous advantage of him. She had been desperate. Heat blazed a path into her cheeks when Nick suddenly looked over at her. She smiled and tossed him a nonchalant wave before leaving.