A Baby for Christmas – Excerpt

Ethan grabbed Belle's hand as they walked down the steps from her home. For a moment he thought she was going to pull away, but then her fingers enfolded his. He'd wrapped up warm the same as her; he liked the way the red wool hat hugged her head, the wide matching scarf was wrapped around her neck several times, and her mittens reminded him of a similar pair his sister wore.

He breathed in the smell of pine needles in the crisp winter air and thoughts of home filled his mind. They walked down the small road that led away from Belle's house, and the trees either side of them soared upward, some of the branches drooping beneath the heavy weight of the fallen snow.

Even though it was early afternoon the light was fading, revealing a small glimpse of the sun through the clouds. It was retreating fast, leaving an almost mystical glow on the snow. The silence was only broken by the sound of their boots crunching in the condensed pure white flakes and the occasional thud of snow falling from the over-laden branches.

When he gripped her mittened hand, she turned to look at him and he smiled.

"What?" she asked as he held her gaze.

"You haven't been this quiet since I got here."

"I'm thinking."

"I know, I can hear you," he said, a smile tugging at his lips.

"Funny man," she replied. "Tell me what sort of man just takes off from his home looking for a woman he had a…fling with?"

"One who was irresponsible about birth control."

"And that's the only reason?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, when we—" She cleared her throat. "When we had sex, was it just sex?"

Ethan stopped walking, making her stumble. He caught her by the waist, stabilizing them both as she came face to face with him.

"Initially, it was chemistry I felt." He smiled. "So did you. But we didn't just have sex, Belle, we made love, creating something that is totally amazing." He felt the pull in his chest, and his voice had lowered a few octaves as he thought about what was inside her—a part of both of them united into a human form that would be as precious as the air he breathed.

He turned up her collar against the cold breeze, pulling her closer as he did. It wasn't what he'd intended to do, but it just happened.

"Belle. What made you sleep with me that day?"

She laughed. "I think we both know that sleeping wasn't on the agenda."

"Don't be facetious." He narrowed his eyes.

The smile on her face disappeared instantly, and he knew she had been trying to lighten the mood, but they needed to get this out in the open.

Belle let out a deep sigh and the cold air furled in front of her. "I don't know, Ethan. I've never done anything like that before." She shrugged her shoulders, her hands laying on his chest. "Let's keep walking. It'll be dark soon, and we'll have to turn back."

He let go of her, and for a moment just watched her small frame go ahead of him. What the hell was the matter with him? He'd never in his life been like this, but then, he'd never gotten a woman pregnant before. He strode forward, catching up with her, and they walked side by side quietly.

"Do you want to see something?" she asked, her breathlessness meeting the cold air in a swirl.

"What?"

She took hold of his hand, pulling him down a small path. He hadn't realized how big the property was; although they'd been walking for about ten minutes they were still on the drive that led to the B-and-B.

"Hey, slow down or you'll fall," he admonished as he gripped her hand more firmly.

She laughed. "I've been walking down this path for more years than I can remember. I could do it in the dark."

"That may be the case, but the snow is deep here."

They walked another hundred yards, and Belle stopped beside a home-made swing attached to two trees. An old tire was covered in snow and she cleared it off before sitting on it.

"When my mum and dad fell in love, my Gran said they were inseparable." She pushed her feet on the ground, making the swing move slowly backward and forward. "They used to sit here together. Well, my dad sat on it and Mum sat on his lap."

"Do you remember them?"

She shook her head. "No, I was too young when they died, but when I come here I feel close to them. My dad built this for my mum when she was expecting me. He carved their names into the tree." She jumped off the swing. "Look."

He took a step toward her, leaning down to see what she was showing him. Belle took her glove off and traced the lettering. Stephen loves Belle and baby xx

"You have your mom's name."

She nodded.

"I'm sorry."

Belle turned to him, her head tilted back, a smile on her face. "For what?"

"That you missed out."

"I never went without, financially or emotionally. My Gran loved me fiercely. She was my mum and dad rolled into one. I had a very happy childhood."