The Sooner The Better Page 40


Afterward Jack held her close and whispered into her ear, ’’You\d better explain what you said earlier.’’

’’You mean you still haven\ guessed?’’ She smiled at him mysteriously.

’’Lorraine?’’ He paused and swallowed hard. ’’Could you be...is there any possibility you\ e pregnant?’’

’’Yes! Oh, Jack, isn\ it fantastic?’’

He went very still. Raising her head, she smiled up at him again, this time with unconcealed delight. ’’Don\ tell me you hadn\ guessed.’’

’’I hadn\ guessed.’’ His voice sounded odd, raspy and shaken.

’’Oh, Jack, I\m so happy about it.’’

He buried his face in the curve of her neck. ’’I can\ believe it.’’ His kiss was filled with tenderness. ’’What about finishing school, working at the clinic? We hadn\ planned on a baby this soon.’’

’’Some of the best things in life are unplanned.’’

He laughed outright. ’’Isn\ that the truth!’’

’’I\ve got it all figured out,’’ she told him, snuggling close to his side.

’’I want you to finish school.’’ He pressed his hand against her flat stomach as if to welcome the child growing inside her.

’’I will, I promise. And I\m looking forward to my residency and then working at the clinic.’’

’’I\ll help with the baby.’’

’’I\m counting on that. When we move back to El Mirador, Azucena will watch the baby during the day. I know Dr. Wetmore will stay on another couple of years to run the clinic and you can start that boat-building company you\ve been talking about.’’

Jack chuckled. ’’You do have this all figured out, don\ you?’’

’’I have a few other plans, but we don\ need to discuss them now.’’

’’You mean there\s more?’’ He laughed and kissed the top of her head. ’’I swear, marriage to you is about as much adventure as a man can take.’’

Coming from an ex-mercenary, that was quite a compliment.

Epilogue

2011

’’Hey, Raine, we\ve got company,’’ Jack said, walking into The Virginia Dancy Medical Center one afternoon in late January.

Lorraine, who generally went by Raine these days, sat at her desk, exhausted after a long day of seeing patients. It seemed that between the two of them, Dr. Sam Wetmore and Raine still couldn\ keep up with the demand. A third doctor would soon be joining them, a Canadian who was a good friend of Sam\s. Dr. Larson wanted to be of service following his own retirement and after briefly visiting the clinic, had volunteered.

’’Company?’’ Lorraine repeated. ’’Who\s coming?’’

’’We can feed four extra people at dinner, can\ we?’’

’’Four extra? Dinner?’’ She must sound as if she was in a daze, Raine thought. It was always like that during the first few months of pregnancy. This third baby was a surprise. So for that matter was Jackie, their first. And Tommy, born two years after his sister. Raine was a little shocked that someone as organized and in control as she was could be so sloppy when it came to birth control. She hadn\ told Jack about the pregnancy yet....

As it turned out, he wasn\ very good at being an expectant father. He fretted and worried, convinced that every ache or pain she experienced meant she was in mortal danger. If she\d ever doubted Jack Keller loved her, all she had to do was remember the two times she\d gone into labor. Seeing her in that kind of pain had nearly killed him. Twice while delivering Jackie, Raine had heard Jack swear he was never going to make love to her again if this was the result. It went without saying that she was able to persuade him otherwise, although at the time he\d sworn that their love life was over.

’’Murphy and Letty are here,’’ her husband told her.

Raine nearly leaped up from the desk. ’’Now? Today?’’

Even before Jack could respond, Letty entered the clinic. The two women immediately ran into each other\s arms and hugged fiercely.

’’Letty, my goodness, look at you!’’ It\d been more than a year since she\d last seen Murphy\s wife. ’’Are the kids with you?’’

’’Luke and Rose are at your dad\s with Hector and Alberto.’’ The four preteens were like Velcro whenever they got together. Luke was excellent with languages, the way his namesake, Letty\s twin brother, had been. He\d already started to learn Spanish. And although he\d never had the opportunity to meet his uncle, Raine could tell from the pictures she\d seen that there was a striking resemblance. Rose, their daughter, was a lot like Letty. Gentle, shyly charming, a true nurturer, the eleven-year-old possessed an incredible green thumb. She liked nothing better than gardening and had astonishing success with planting just about anything flowers, vegetables, herbs...

’’Jackie and Tommy will be so excited to see them.’’ Their children thought the sun rose and set on Letty and Murphy\s two.

’’Come on, Dr. Keller,’’ Letty said, leading Raine out of the clinic, one arm around her friend\s waist. ’’Good news! You\ll never guess who we talked into joining us.’’

’’Tell me!’’

’’Cain and Linette!’’

This was going to be a real, honest-to-goodness reunion of the Deliverance Company. Raine couldn\ remember the last occasion when the three men were in the same place at the same time. Four years ago? Five? She needed to think about it. Okay...Tommy was three, so it would\ve been four years ago.

’’Murphy told me Cain and Linette plan to arrive tomorrow afternoon.’’

Raine wanted to shake her head in exasperation. If Jack knew about this beforehand and hadn\ told her, she\d let him know what she thought of that. Some secrets should be kept, but others like this one were best shared.

’’I\m going to shoot Jack,’’ Raine muttered. ’’He might have mentioned this a bit earlier.’’

’’I thought you already did shoot him,’’ Letty teased.

’’To be perfectly accurate, that wasn\ me. Although there were a few times when we first met that I gladly would\ve done it myself.’’

Letty wore a look that said she understood all too well. ’’I know the feeling.’’ They continued toward the house at a leisurely pace. ’’I\m not sure but I think I overheard Murphy tell Cain that Francine and Tim are hoping to come, too.’’

Raine had only met the other couple once. Francine and Tim had six children and lived on an island in Puget Sound, where they raised llamas. So for them, planning time away was difficult. A visit from them would be a rare and special treat. ’’That\s wonderful!’’

’’What is?’’ Jack asked, coming into the house with Murphy, hauling suitcases and backpacks.

’’Francine and Tim might be joining us.’’

’’Really?’’ Jack looked to Murphy for confirmation.

Murphy laughed. ’’Who would\ve thought Tim would end up with six kids?’’

’’Or you with two,’’ Jack returned.

’’Or you with three,’’ Raine inserted.

’’Funny one, Raine,’’ Jack said, as he handed Murphy a cold beer. ’’We have two children and we agreed that\s it. Our family\s complete and ’’ Suddenly he paused. ’’Unless you\ e telling me something I don\ know.’’ He set the beer on the counter and walked over to where she stood. Taking her by the shoulders, he studied her through narrowed eyes. ’’Raine?’’

She smiled back at him ever so sweetly.

’’Raine?’’ he repeated. ’’Are you...’’

’’Pregnant?’’ she finished for him.

All he seemed capable of doing was nodding. ’’Expecting? Encinta? With child?’’ she went on.

He nodded again.

’’It appears so,’’ she said with a light shrug.

Jack sank into a chair and pushed the hair roughly away from his forehead. ’’I can\ believe this happened!’’

’’I know what causes the condition if you haven\ figured it out,’’ Murphy joked.

’’I know, too,’’ Jack muttered. ’’I can\ seem to keep my hands off my wife.’’

’’Then that\s your trouble,’’ Murphy said, completely deadpan. ’’It\s not your hands that are the problem.’’

’’A third baby,’’ Jack murmured, ignoring the joke. ’’Thing is, I\ve always been partial to round numbers.’’

’’I\ll lend you one of mine,’’ Murphy said.

’’Very funny.’’

’’I have a feeling you and Raine are going to end up being another Francine and Tim.’’ Murphy downed a swallow of his beer. ’’It just might take you a bit longer.’’

Jack glanced up at Raine and grinned sheepishly. ’’You did say I was a potent son of a gun.’’

’’I don\ believe those were exactly the words I used.’’

’’Probably not, but there are children outside with big ears.’’

’’You\ve trained him well,’’ Letty whispered. ’’Rose makes her father pay her a quarter every time he uses a swearword.’’

’’I\ve already paid for her college education,’’ Murphy said.

Everyone laughed. Jack stood and slipped an arm around Raine\s waist. ’’I think I knew,’’ he told her in a low voice. He kissed the side of her neck. ’’You\ve been more tired than usual lately.’’

That was true enough.

’’It\s a good thing we\ll have a third doctor. Getting you to slow down is nearly impossible.’’

’’I\m happy about this baby, Jack. I hope you are, too.’’

His eyes held hers and she read the answer in their depths. No, life didn\ always go as planned. Yes, it was often filled with surprises some big and some small but she didn\ want to miss a single one of them, especially if Jack Keller was at her side.


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