The Daddy Salute
Resist her charming neighbor's advances? No problem–even if Marine Sergeant Brian Haley's killer smile sent shivers up Kathy Tate's spine. No sir, Kathy had sworn off love and marriage, and nothing in the rugged marine's arsenal could break through Kathy's defenses. Nothing except…A baby? When Brian's surprise daughter ended up in his care, Kathy couldn't ignore the tiny tot's plaintive cries or the instant dad's S.O.S. And when the sexy marine proposed a marriage of convenience, Kathy couldn't say no. After all, the passionate dad had melted Kathy's resolve-but could she commit to a loveless union after Brian and baby had captured her heart?
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âDonât Misunderstand, Sergeant. Iâm Going To Take Care Of Your Baby. Not You.â
One light brown eyebrow lifted and Kathyâs toes curled. Oh, brother, what was she letting herself in for?
âStrictly business?â he asked.
She cleared her throat noisily. âBusiness.â
âGood. Itâs a deal, then,â Brian said, and held out one hand.
She looked at it as if it were a snake and had to work up her nerve before she slid her hand into his. But even braced for the contact with his skin, as his fingers were curled around hers, she felt a white-hot burst of light shoot straight from her fingertips, along her arm to dazzle her heart.
She was in deep trouble. She could feel it in her bones.
The Daddy Salute
To my editor, Karen Taylor Richman, with thanks for her support and her belief in me. Karen, I wish you joy with your little miracle. Youâre entering an amazing new worldâ¦enjoy the magic.
was born and raised in Southern California and is the only person she knows who longs for an occasional change of season. She is delighted to be writing for Silhouette Books and is especially excited to be a part of the Desire line.
An avid reader, Maureen looks forward to those rare rainy California days when she can curl up and sink into a good book. Or two. When she isnât busy writing, she and her husband of twenty-five years like to travel, leaving their two grown children in charge of the neurotic golden retriever who is the real head of the household. Maureen is also an award-winning historical writer under the names Kathleen Kane and Ann Carberry.
âYou canât die! Not now.â Kathy Tate turned the key one last time, listened to the dreaded coughing and droning of the engine, then shut it off and slapped the steering wheel. âFor Peteâs sake,â she reminded her trusty Bug, âyou just had a checkup.â An overhaul, she thought with disgust, that had cost her a whopping six hundred dollars.
The battered old VW sat silent, apparently having nothing to say in its own defense.
Well, perfect. She stared out the windshield at the tree-lined suburban street. How was she supposed to get into town and deliver the stack of rÃ©sumÃ©s sheâd been up all night typing and printing?
âU.S. Marines to the rescue, maâam.â A deep voice interrupted her thoughts, and she slowly turned to look out the driverâs side window.
Oh, man. Talk about from the frying pan into the fire.
Her heartbeat did a weird little thump as she stared into the crystal-blue eyes of her across-the-hall neighbor, Sergeant Brian Haley. He and a friend of his had been playing basketball in the driveway when sheâd left her apartment only a few minutes ago. Sheâd managed to get past them with just a quick wave, but now she was trapped. By her own blasted car. The traitor.
Her ârescuerâ bent at the waist, put both hands on his knees and peered in at her. Sharply chiseled features, short, marine-regulation haircut and bare, tanned, sweat-dampened muscles that looked to have been meticulously carved into his chest made for one impressive package. Unfortunately, in the month since heâd moved in, sheâd learned that he was all too aware of his impact on women.
Oh, not that he seemed conceited or anything. It was more subtle than that. When he smiled that crooked smile of his, it was clear that he fully expected a woman to turn into a puddle of goo. And, since Kathy Tate puddled for no man, sheâd become something of a challenge to him. Lately it seemed that whenever she turned around, there he was.
âNeed some help, maâam?â another deep voice spoke up, and Kathy swiveled her head to look out the passenger window at Brianâs friend. Judging by the high-and-tight haircut, he was also a marine. But then, in Bayside, a town only a mile or so from Camp Pendleton, you couldnât swing a broom without hitting a marine.
âNo, thanks,â she said. She didnât need help. What she needed was for her stupid car to start.
âKathy Tate,â Brian said, âthis is First Sergeant Jack Harris. Jack, meet Kathy. My new neighbor.â
âHi.â He gave her a friendly smile that Kathy returned with ease once she noted the gold wedding ring on his left hand.
âNice to meet you,â she said.
âI say she needs help, Jack.â Brian shook his head slowly as he gave the little car a good once-over. Then, looking past her at his friend, he asked, âWhat do you say?â
Kathy turned to stare at Brian. One corner of his mouth was tilted into that patented lady-killer smile, but his eyes were all innocence. Yeah. Like she believed he was an innocent. âOkay, guys, I appreciate the offer. But look, the car will be okay. It just needs a rest, thatâs all.â
âA rest?â Brian repeated with a short laugh. âFor how many years?â
She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel and gritted her teeth. It was one thing for her to insult poor old Charlie the VW; it was quite another for somebody else to take a shot at it. âSergeant Haleyâ¦â