Hannah openly admitted her love for her dead fiancé, and after learning what he had that evening, Riley didn’t blame her. Jerry Sanders had been one hell of a man.

A far better man than he’d ever be. Riley had been born on the wrong side of the blanket. By the time he was in junior high, he’d been labeled a troublemaker and a rabble-rouser. His headstrong, rebellious ways had repeatedly gotten him into trouble throughout high school. He was lucky to have escaped reform school, not to mention prison. Actually, he had the Navy to thank for rescuing him from a life of crime.

He’d enlisted the day after he graduated from high school, at the bottom of his class. His cocky attitude hadn’t lasted long; by the end of boot camp he’d realized the Navy could well be his one chance to turn himself around. It was up to him to decide.

It had taken him fifteen years to make the transformation from a street-smart, foulmouthed kid with a chip on his shoulder the size of a California redwood to a responsible Navy chief. A few of the rough edges of his personality had been rounded off over the years, but he’d never be the educated, cultured husband Jerry Sanders would have been to Hannah.

Riley would like to hate Hannah’s fiancé, challenge him face-to-face for her heart. But everything he’d heard that night in church convinced Riley that, had he known Jerry, he would have liked him. Jerry Sanders had been the kind of man everyone looked up to and admired. A natural leader, a lover and defender of justice. Hell, the man had been near perfect. There wasn’t anything to fault him with. He’d been a saint. He must have been, to be engaged to a woman as beautiful as Hannah and restrain from making love to her.

Hannah, who’d been sheltered and protected all her life, was the perfect match for such a man as Jerry. She was generous and sweet, a delicate rose; and by God, she deserved a better husband, someone far more decent than he’d ever be.

The problem was, what would Riley do about it now? Even if he found the courage to leave her for her own good, he couldn’t turn away from her now. Not with her six months pregnant with his child.

What was a man to do in such a situation? The hell if Riley knew. He wasn’t even close to being good enough to deserve Hannah. She’d crashed into his life when he least expected to meet a woman like her. One night with her had left him frantic with worry, furious and baffled. He hadn’t known who she was or where she’d come from; all he had known was that he had to find her again.

He was getting too old, Riley decided. Too tired. Too weary. He was losing his cutting edge. His emotional resilience was gone. He’d like to blame Hannah for that, as well, but he couldn’t. The problem was his own. The stark truth of the matter was he’d never been in love before and he’d lost his heart to her that night in Seattle.

His heart and his mind.

All his life he’d been waiting to meet someone like her. He just never expected it to happen in a waterfront bar. He’d seen her and wanted her immediately, not recognizing himself what it was he found so damned appealing about her. After three months of marriage, he knew. He’d been attracted to her innocence, her generosity of spirit and her awesome ability to love. For once in his life, Riley needed a woman to love him. Someone who belonged to him. Someone not bound to a memory.

He couldn’t, he wouldn’t share her.

But he did already.

As he lay next to Hannah, her measured, even breathing echoing in his ear, the implications of his situation pounded at his temples with the sharpness of a hangover.

He could fight her love for Jerry, do everything he could to wipe out the other man’s memory. In essence Riley could shadow-box with a dead man. Or he could accept her love for the seminary student and go on, doing his utmost to be the best husband he knew how to be – always knowing, always conscious that he was a damn poor second choice.

The choice, however, had already been made. The gold wedding band on his finger was reminder enough of that. The child growing in Hannah’s womb convinced him there could be no turning back now. That being the situation, the best Riley could hope for was that, in time, she’d be able to look past the hard outer crust he wore like battle armor and come to love him, too.


No one had told him it was such a painful emotion. Powerful enough to break a man, topple him from his prideful perch and leave him shaken and unsure. Riley loved Hannah and their unborn child beyond reason. Enough to cast, all pride aside.

She stirred and rolled closer to him, draping her arm across his stomach. Her bare legs scooted next to his as she drew in a deep, even breath. Lying as she was, her stomach nestled against his side, reminded him how grateful he was that she hadn’t lost Junior. He’d never experienced such panic as he had the night he’d driven her to the hospital.

It happened then, and Riley’s eyes flew open. The baby kicked, and he’d felt it as strongly as if Hannah herself had poked him. An involuntary grin grew and grew.

"Riley," she whispered, "did you feel him?"


"I told you he was going to be a soccer player."

"He’s so strong."

Her smile was evident even in the dark. "Tell me about it." She yawned, holding her hand in front of her mouth. "What time is it?"

Riley read the illuminated dial of his wristwatch. "A little after two."

"Did Junior wake you?"

"No. I was lying here thinking."

"About what?" she quizzed.

She sounded worried, and he sought to reassure her. "About what we should name Junior. I was thinking… that if you wanted, we could name him after Jerry."

Her silence confused him. He turned his head toward her, hoping there’d be enough moonlight in the bedroom to judge her expression.

"That’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever said to me," she murmured, her voice breaking with emotion. She pressed her hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek. "Actually, I’ve been giving some thought to a name myself."

"And?" he pressed.

She hesitated, as though she expected him to disapprove of her choice. "There’s a Hannah in the Bible. I didn’t know if you were aware of that or not."

Riley wasn’t, but that shouldn’t come as any shock. Now that he thought it over, it made sense that a godly man like George Raymond would give his only daughter a scriptural name.

"She was married and desperately wanted children. She tried for years and years to become pregnant, but was barren."

"So far I don’t see any similarities between the two of you," he teased, and was rewarded with an elbow in his ribs.

"Might I continue?"

"By all means."

"Hannah went to the temple to pray, asking God for a child, and soon afterward she found herself pregnant. When her son was born, she named him Samuel."

"Samuel," Riley repeated slowly, testing the name. It had a nice solid sound to it. Samuel Murdock. "I like it, but aren’t you taking a lot for granted? We could very well be having a daughter."

"Samantha, then."

"All right," Riley said, gathering her close in his arms, pressing his chin against the crown of her head. "Samuel or Samantha it is."

"Samuel Riley Murdock."

Riley felt his throat thicken. "Or Samantha Hannah Murdock."

"But Riley, that’s too awkward a name for a little girl. Samantha Lynn or Samantha Anne would be better."

"It’s Samantha Hannah, so don’t argue with me."

"In that case I certainly hope we have a son," she muttered under her breath, just loud enough for him to hear. She tugged the blankets more securely around her shoulders and continued to use his chest for a pillow. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, with her breasts brushing against him and her thighs rubbing his own, but Riley hadn’t the strength to ask her to move.

Good night, Hannah, he said, closing his eyes, content for the first time in hours. "Good night, Sam," he added, and nearly laughed out loud when a tiny foot or arm jabbed him in the side.

"Oh, Riley!" Hannah cried as she pried open the lid to the large rectangular box he’d squirreled away beneath the tree. "Oh, Riley," she repeated, tears brimming in her eyes as her gaze shot over to him. With infinite care, she removed a soft pink maternity dress from the tissue wrapping and held it against her waist. "How’d you know?"

"You mean other than the fact you went back to the clothes rack four times to look at it?"

"But it’s much too expensive…. I could probably sew one like it for half the price. But I’m so pleased I don’t have to! I’ve only got a couple of things I can wear to work as it is. Oh, Riley, I love it so much. Thank you." She rushed to his side, threw her arms around his neck and hugged him hard.

"Tears, Hannah," her father teased.

"Don’t worry, I get emotional so easily now. Dr. Underwood said it was to be expected."

"Your mother was the same way. She’d start to weep over television commercials when she was carrying your brother and you." His eyes grew warm at the memory as he leaned back in his chair and smiled down on his daughter.

"Riley, open my gift next," she said, breaking away long enough to pull a purple and blue gift-wrapped box from beneath the tree. "I made it myself while you were away."

Riley examined the box, shaking it.

"Careful, it might break." The blue wool sweater, complete with matching hat and scarf would do no such thing, but she enjoyed baiting him.

Riley took his time unwrapping the gift, and it was all Hannah could do not to rush to his side and help him tear away the paper. She watched closely as he lifted the lid. No emotion registered in his eyes as he carefully unfolded the garments one by one and brought them out of the box.

"I hope it fits," Hannah said in a rush, her words blending together.

Riley stood and tried on the sweater, slipping his long arms into the sleeves and then tugging them up past his elbow. He glanced over to her, and appreciation gleamed from his deep blue eyes. "I’ve never owned anything finer." With a flair that delighted Hannah, he wrapped the scarf several times around his neck and set the hat upon his head. His eyes met hers, and a surge of warm emotion filled her heart. His look penetrated the very core of her being and communicated to her a feeling of love so strong, she wondered why she’d never noticed it before.

Riley did love her, and yet… and yet, he’d barely touched her all night. It seemed he went out of his way to avoid doing so. Hannah strongly suspected he would have stayed on his side of the bed the entire night and made no contact whatsoever if she hadn’t moved over to him.

Perhaps having her father so near had intimidated him and he hadn’t wanted to consummate their marriage while in his father-in-law’s home. But her father’s bedroom was downstairs and he slept like a brick. She’d made a point of telling Riley so, although she’d wondered at the time if he was listening.

"Do I get a turn here?" her father asked, effectively cutting off Hannah’s train of thought.

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