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"I want babies and a husband, and preferably not in that order," Rebecca said as she took a swallow of champagne.
"You've had too much to drink," her friend Ginger replied, studying the bubbles in her own glass. "Or maybe not enough," she added reaching for the bottle on the coffee table. They were in Becca's apartment after a big night of celebrating.
"Why aren't I happy, Gin?" Becca asked woefully. "I just finished my residency in pediatrics. I should be happy, ecstatic. All the hard work's behind me and now I can treat children like I've always planned. I don't understand why I'm not happier."
"Maybe you didn't do it for yourself," Ginger muttered. "Go to medical school, I mean."
Becca's head jerked up. "What are you talking about?"
"Maybe you did it for Emily and Jackson. Ever since you found out they're your real parents, you've been trying to be the perfect daughterdoing everything to be the daughter they wanted. But hell, Bec, no one's perfect. Not even you."
"You're drunk," Becca said, refusing to believe a word Gin was saying. At seventeen, she'd found out that Emily, the sister she adored, was really her mother and that Rose, her grandmother and the woman she'd believed to be her mother, was not. It had been a traumatic time, but she'd adjusted.
"Maybe." Gin hiccuped. "But the truth is a hard pill to swallow."
"I've wanted to be a doctor ever since I can remember," Becca said defiantly. "Finding out about my birth had nothing to do with it."
"Yeah, you started saying that in first grade. I want to be a doctor like my sister. Then bam, you find out your sister's really your mother and you have to be a doctor. There wasn't any other choice for you."
Becca stared at Gin with a mutinous expression. They'd been best friends since kindergarten and they knew each other better than anyone. Gin always spoke her mind, and that sometimes got on Becca's nervesas it did now. She hadn't gone to medical school to please her parents. Or had she? God, she needed more champagne. She grabbed the bottle and refilled her glass.
"You're wrong, Gin," she murmured under her breath.
"Let me ask you a question," Gin said as she twisted her glass. "You have a month off before you join Dr. Arnold's practice in July. What do you plan to do with that time?"
Becca's eyes darkened, but Ginger didn't give her a chance to speak. She answered her own question. "I'll tell you exactly what you're going to do. You'll spend that month with your parents and Scotty, like you always do. You want babies? Well, doctor or not, you don't seem to realize you need a man to accomplish that. And you haven't had much of a social life in the past ten years, except for Colton who's always hanging aroundlike a little puppy waiting for your attention."
"Colton and I are friends," Becca said in a cool tone. "I bet you haven't even slept with him."
"We don't have that kind of relationship."
"The man is forty years old, Becca. If he doesn't want that kind of relationship, there's something wrong with him."
"Shut up! You're making me angry."
Ginger took a long swig of champagne and set the glass on the table. "Damn, that was good. Your dad doesn't spare the bucks when he buys the bubbly."
Becca knew what Gin was doingchanging the subject but Becca wasn't letting her get away with that. They had started this and they were going to finish it.
"My relationship with Colton is my business," she snapped.
Ginger lifted an eyebrow. "Did I say it wasn't?"
"You're making snide remarks and I don't like it."
"Okay, I'll keep my mouth shut."
Becca sighed. "I don't want to argue with you."
"Me, neither," Ginger agreed, and stretched out on the sofa. "All I'm saying is if you want those babies, you have to do something about it. You have to have a life of your own."
Becca settled back in her chair and didn't say anything. She hoped she wouldn't remember any of this in the morning, but she couldn't shake the discontent inside her. She should be so happy. She'd finally graduated from medical school with a specialty in pediatrics, and her parents had thrown a big party to celebrate her achievement. They were proud of her and had invited all her friends and familyincluding Colton. When she'd first met him, she had disliked him on sight. He was intelligent, good-looking and far too sure of himself. But as she got to know him, her opinion changed, and she found that he had a softer, more vulnerable side. It was an appealing quality in such a driven businessman.
Because of Colton's connection to her father, he spent a lot of time with her family. Did Colton think their relationship was more than friendship? Surely not. But after talking with Gin, she realized it was time to clear things up with Colton. She'd been saying that for over a year now and still hadn't done anything about it. They'd both been so busy and
Damn, what was wrong with her? Why was she finding fault with everything in her life? She glanced at Gin, who was now snoring into a cushion. Becca smiled. She treasured her bond with Gin and was glad they hadn't lost touch after high school. Becca had come to Houston to live with Emily and Jackson after she'd found out they were her real parents, while Ginger had gone to secretarial school and had become a secretary to the CEO of an insurance company in Houston. They talked often, and Becca valued her opinion. That was why Gin's words weighed so heavily.
Maybe Gin was right. She'd spent the past ten years being Emily and Jackson's little girl. Even though she now had a medical degree, she still felt like that little girl. She had to find the woman inside, and maybe that meant leaving Houston
and her family.
How did she do that? She loved her family. As she yawned and stretched, she knew it would be one of the hardest things she'd ever have to do. But she also knew it was the only way to release this restlessness inside herto find true happiness and all that crap. God, she'd had too much champagne. There was nothing wrong with her life. Oh, yes, there was. She wanted babiesbabies with big brown eyes and
It took Becca two days to recover from the hangover. She'd never drunk that much in her life, but she and Gin had really tied one on that night. It was a kind of release, she supposed. She'd worked so hard for so many years; she was exhausted, physically and mentally. A long rest and she'd be as good as new.
Gin was right about one thing, though. For a twenty-eight-year-old woman, soon to be twenty-nine, she spent too much time with her family. But she'd needed those years with Emily and Jackson and Scotty. They had connected as a family, and that was important to her. Leaving seventeen years behind hadn't been easy, and in retrospect she realized she hadn't. She had merged the two parts of her life, and she was happy with her relationship with Rose and Owen, her grandparents, the people who had raised her, as well as her relationship with Emily and Jackson. Then why
No, she wouldn't do this. It was Monday morning and she didn't have to go to work. It was her time off and she could do anything she wanted. Anything at all. Analyzing her life wasn't on that list. Carrying her coffee cup, she went into the living room and sat down in her favorite chair. She started to call Gin, but realized she'd be getting ready for work. Becca would call her later.
Try as she might, she couldn't keep her thoughts from drifting to her mother and the twists and turns in their lives. At seventeen, Emily Cooper had fallen in love with Jackson Talbert. Jackson and his father had come to Rockport, Texas, for a fishing trip. Rose and Owen, Emily's parents, rented cottages to tourists. Since it was November, the cottages were closed for the winter months, so Owen rented them the spare room. At the time, Rose, who was forty, had just found out she was pregnant. Emily was very upset by the news. She was in high school and embarrassed by the whole situation. That was why she'd done things with Jackson she wouldn't normally do. She'd wanted to get back at her parents. Well, that wasn't the whole situation, of course. She'd fallen for Jackson, and fallen hard.
Soon after the Talberts left, Emily found out she was pregnant. It was devastating news, and Rose had berated Emily for her stupidity. After several attempts to reach the Talbert family without success, Rose insisted Emily give up the baby for adoption. Emily fought it, resisted, to no avail. Rose and Owen had their own child on the way and couldn't help her.
Besides, all her life Emily had planned to be a doctor, and Rose wasn't letting anything interfere with that. In the end, Emily did what her parents wanted. After graduation, Owen took Emily to San Antonio, where the adoption had been arranged.
At the same time, Rose gave birth to a baby girl, who died after a few weeks. In a depressed and disturbed state of mind, Rose cancelled Emily's adoption, and when Emily's baby was born, Rose took her home and raised Rebecca as her own. Emily never knew. She went to college, then to medical school, never knowing the truth. Everyone thought Becca was Rose'seven Emily.
For years, Emily had nightmares about giving her baby away, and when Jackson came back into her life, she told him about the pregnancy. He was angry at first, and then they set out to find their daughterneither of them dreaming that she was so close.
Becca took a sip of coffee as she relived the heartache of that time. She'd felt so angry when she found out what Rose had done. She'd been furious with everyone, including Emily. Especially Emily. The mother who'd let her go. But eventually they had gotten through all the pain, and Emily and Jackson were more deeply in love than ever. Now they had Scotty, too. Rose and Owen still lived in Rockport, and Becca saw them as often as she could.
Forgiving was easy, but forgetting was sometimes hard.
Someone had once asked her what you do when you discover you're not really who you thought you were. The answer was that you fall apart, then you pick yourself up and get on with your life. Now Becca was wondering if she should be making bigger changes in that orderly life of hers and
The ringing of the phone stopped her thoughts. She put her cup down and picked up the receiver. "Hello."
"Dr. Becca Talbert?"
Becca recognized that voice. For the past year and at the oddest times she'd seen his face and the sadness in his eyes. "Yes," she answered readily. "This is Cord Prescott."
Becca already knew that. But why was he calling her after a whole year without a word? Why was he calling when they were practically strangers?
"You may not remember me," he said, "but I'm Colton's brother."
"Yes, I remember you, Cord, and your little girl. How are you?" Over the past year, she'd often asked Colton about Cord and his daughter. He always said they were "trying to adjust."
"Not good," he answered. "Colton said you're a pediatrician and I thought you might be able to help me."
"With Nicki, you mean?"
"Yes," he replied. "I know you're busy, but I'm not sure what to do anymore."
Becca curled her feet beneath her, settling more comfortably into the chair. "Tell me about Nicki."
"I've taken her to several doctors, even a child psychologist, but she won't talk to them. She just clings to me, and if I leave the room she screams and cries."
"Then she hasn't adjusted to her mother's death?"
"Not at all," he said. "She insists on staying in her room and she's hardly eating. She's lost so much weight I can hardly stand it. She used to love the outdoors, but she won't even ride her horse. She won't talk about her mother, and I'm at my wits' end. I think she's making herself physically ill with grief. I'd really like to get your professional opinion."
"Of course. I'd be glad to help any way I can," Becca said instantly, her heart heavy at the thought of what Cord was going through.
"Thanks, Becca. I'd appreciate it."
"But I'm not seeing patients until July."
There was a long pause. "Nicki doesn't do well in an office environment. I was hoping I could persuade you to come out to the ranch and see her."
This time Becca was the one who was startled, but it didn't take her long to decide. "I can do that. As a matter of fact, I have the afternoon free. Why don't I drive out there today."
"Thank you so much," he said earnestly. "Do you remember where we are?"
"Yes. But Cord
you have to understand that I treat the body. Nicki may need a psychologist. I've had courses, but it's not my specialty."
"Just see her, that's all I ask. Colton says you're a very good doctorand I trust his judgment."
"Fine. I'll be there around four o'clock."
As Becca hung up the phone, she wondered what else Colton had told him about her. She shook her head. What did that matter? Nicki Prescott needed help, and she had to do everything she could.
Cord replaced the receiver with a long sigh. He remembered how comforting Becca had been the day of the funeral. He'd been so overwhelmed by anger, disillusionment and pain that he didn't remember much, but he remembered Becca. And she would help his baby. She had to.
He hurried down the hall to the kitchen. Della, the housekeeper, was sitting on a stool, peeling potatoes. At sixty-five, Della was a high-strung woman who never seemed to tire or lose energy. She'd been with the Prescott family since Cord was a young boy. Her hair was now gray and her blue eyes not as sharp, but in other ways she was unchanged.
"What are we having for supper?" he asked. "Roast. Why?" She didn't look up, just kept on peeling potatoes.
"Because Dr. Talbert's coming to see Nicki, and I'm going to invite her to eat with us."
"Dr. Talbert?" Della raised her head, frowning. "Isn't that Colton's
friend? Becca, right?"
"Does Colton know she's coming?"
"No, and what difference does it make?" There was a note of exasperation in his voice that he couldn't hide. He hadn't called Colton because he didn't want a lot of people around. He wanted to keep this as private as possible, for Nicki's sake.
"None whatsoever," Della replied, returning to her potatoes.
"Becca will be here to see Nicki, that's all."
"It's time someone helped that child. She can't go on like this much longer."