The Christmas Bouquet(Chesapeake Shores Book 11)

By: Sherryl Woods

1

It was all because of that blasted bridal bouquet, Caitlyn Winters thought as she stared in dismay at the positive pregnancy test in her hand. From the moment she’d caught the bouquet at Jenny Collins’s Christmas wedding in New York a little over a year ago, she’d been doomed. That instinctive grab of an object flying straight at her had changed her life.

Her twin sister, Carrie, who’d all but shoved her aside to try to snatch the bouquet from the air, was going to laugh herself silly at what had transpired since that night. So were the rest of the O’Briens, for that matter. They loved irony.

Noah McIlroy, the family medicine resident whom she’d met soon after the wedding and with whom she’d been having a serious relationship since last September, tapped on the bathroom door.

“Caitlyn, are you okay?”

A hysterical laugh bubbled up, but she fought to contain it. This was no laughing matter. “Fine,” she managed to squeak out just as the door opened. Noah’s gaze shifted from her face to land on the test strip she was holding. Concern immediately evolved into astonishment.

“You’re pregnant?” he asked, his eyes filled with surprise, but a smile already tugging at his lips.

His wonderful, sensual lips, which had gotten them into this mess, she thought wryly. Of course, she was well aware those lips hadn’t caused her pregnancy. Heck, she’d known about the birds and bees long before that, thanks to all the romances in Chesapeake Shores and among her amorous O’Brien relatives.

But it was her inability to resist Noah’s heated kisses that had led to all the rest. That and an apparently defective condom. Given her cautious nature, she probably should have insisted on at least three methods of birth control, but no, she’d trusted Noah when he’d assured her that the condoms would be sufficient.

The man had cast a spell over her from the minute they’d met, literally one week after she’d caught that blasted romantic bouquet with all its superstition attached like streamers of satin ribbon. The deft catch had earned hoots of laughter from her family and a stunned, disappointed scowl from her twin, who’d been angling for the bouquet all evening.

And now, here she was, barely more than a year later, and pregnant. She hadn’t even accepted Noah’s repeated pleas that they live together, even though he was in her apartment more often than he was in his own. She’d drawn a line at that, knowing that she’d never be able to keep his presence in her life a secret from her nosy family if they were actually living under the same roof.

And she’d wanted to keep this relationship a secret. After all, she was supposed to be the grounded, goal-oriented sister. Carrie was the one everyone had expected to fall madly in love and marry before her college graduation. Instead, Carrie was jetting around the world, leading a completely carefree life, building a career in public relations for a big fashion designer and tossing away men like used tissues while she pined for one unobtainable man. And Caitlyn, thanks to that bouquet, was standing here with a positive pregnancy test in her hand!

She recalled the forget-me-nots that her aunt Bree had tucked into Jenny’s simple bridal bouquet and fought back another hysterical laugh. She was hardly likely to forget this moment, that’s for sure.

She drew in a deep breath and finally dared to meet Noah’s gaze. For a man supposedly as dedicated to his medical career as she was to hers, he looked awfully pleased about this unexpected bump in the road. Of course, he was just a couple of months away from launching his career, while she still had the long years of an internship and residency to complete.

“Wipe that smile off your face,” she instructed him firmly. “This is not good news.”

His smile only spread, revealing that appealing dimple that had also sucked her right in. “It’s the best possible news,” he contradicted.

“Noah, you may see the light at the end of the tunnel, but be real. You’ll finish your residency at the end of June and you still have to decide where you want to go into practice and get established. I haven’t even started my internship. We might not even be living in the same city a few months from now. A baby doesn’t fit into the plan.”

“You know what they say,” he began.

“Don’t you dare remind me that God laughs while we’re making plans.”

She frowned for emphasis as she passed him on her way into the bedroom, where she sank down on the side of the bed. Maybe if she sat for a minute, she could think. Thinking clearly had always been her best trait.

She’d known what she wanted for her life by her teens. After spending a summer volunteering in a doctor’s office in a medically underserved community in Appalachia and seeing reports about villages in third-world countries that were even worse off, she’d found her calling. Her reward had been the healthy children who’d clustered around her at the end of the summer to say goodbye, the moms who’d hugged her with tears in their eyes.

Just like her ambitious mother, Abby O’Brien Winters Riley, Caitlyn had thought her future through very carefully. There would be college, medical school, an internship and residency. Then she’d use all that knowledge to help children in parts of the world where medical help was severely lacking. She’d make a difference, just like everyone else in her family had in their own way. This was her way to shine, to live up to all those family expectations and at the same time do the kind of meaningful work she’d been born to do.

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