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First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes baby in a baby carriage. Just not necessarily in that order. . . .
Braxton: I should probably be dead or in jail right now. Instead, thanks to some tough love, I worked my ass off and now I own a string of tattoo parlors throughout the Pacific Northwest. And yet the one thing I’ve always wanted—a family—still seems out of reach. When my best friend gets married, I’m just hoping to blow off some steam with the super-hot maid of honor. But after Cara Thompson tracks me down to tell me she’s pregnant, she’s more surprised than I am when I tell her I’m all in.
Cara: For the first time in my life, I’m living for myself—not for my parents and their ridiculous expectations. I gave up on my MBA, dropped out of the Ivy League, and moved to Portland to pursue my dream of becoming an artist. And what’s the first thing I do? Get knocked up. For a tatted-up sex god, Braxton Henley seems way too eager to “be there for me.” Is this guy serious? Maybe. He sure is patient. Because he won’t back down until I admit what I know in my heart: that our one night stand might’ve led me to the one.
Advance praise for Knocked Up
“Stacey Lynn always knows how to perfectly balance sexy and sweet, and has a modern writing style that makes all of her stories feel fresh and fun.”—New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne
“A broody alpha hero with heart . . . I fell madly in love with Braxton from the very first page. Prepare to pull and all-nighter with Knocked Up.”—USA Today bestselling author Stacey Kennedy
“Braxton is your ultimate tattooed father-to-be—sweet and ever so sexy.”—Stina Lindenblatt, author of the Pushing Limits series
The steamy standalone novels in Stacey Lynn’s Crazy Love series can be read together or separately: FAKE WIFE | KNOCKED UP
And don’t miss her passionate Fireside series: HIS TO LOVE | HIS TO PROTECT | HIS TO CHERISH | HIS TO SEDUCE
This standalone ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Knocked Up
Chapter 1 Cara
There are certain moments in life a young girl believes are absolute certainties.
Fairy tales are not only real, they really do come true.
Unicorns fly through the sky spreading glitter in their wake.
Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy and girl get married. Girl has a baby.
I’ve dreamed of and planned my wedding since the first time I saw Cinderella’s blue ball gown.
My wedding was going to be romantic. It would have white roses all over the place, twinkling lights hanging from the ceiling. I would wear glass slippers and my father would walk me down the aisle, glowing with a mixture of pride and pain as he handed me off to my groom. It was going to be classy, but excessively beautiful and extravagant.
In my fairy tale, my parents would be ecstatic. My brother would threaten the groom with bodily harm if my soon-to-be-husband ever hurt me. They would laugh it off, hug it out, and then my groom and I would dance the night away before he swept me off into my very own, happily ever after.
In reality, parents turn their backs on their children.
The happily ever after spent living in a mansion like the one I grew up in turns into a studio apartment in downtown Portland no larger than a shoebox. The disowned princess gets knocked up in a one-night stand and spends the next six weeks puking morning, noon, and night with no relief in sight. My midwife has assured me it will end once I reach the second trimester, but I’m now ten weeks along and more than doubtful.
I’ve had a month now to get used to the idea of pregnant. To weigh the pros and cons of this fiasco I’ve found myself in. I’ve had time to consider all my options and there is only one that brings peace to my soul, while at the same time scaring me half to death.
I’m keeping the baby.
I have to tell the father I’m having his baby.
It’s no longer just the morning sickness causing me to puke.
Butterflies have been swarming inside me, rolling and taking flight ever since I made my decision, but the time has come to let him know.
From everything I know about Braxton firsthand, and from years of Dan occasionally mentioning him, he’s a good guy. A noble guy.
My first impression of Braxton when I walked up to him at Jenna’s wedding ten weeks ago didn’t include any thoughts of good or noble. Nope. My thoughts dove straight to the gutter, and my knees wanted to hit the floor. The weekend with him had been spectacular, better than any time with a man I’d had yet. Tattooed from his knuckles to his throat with a large piece all over his back and down both sides of his ribs, Braxton was nothing like the country club members I’d been around my whole life.
Tatted and dark and menacing and absolutely delicious.
Just the memory of Braxton, the way his strong hands tenderly caressed my body, the way he lost control and slammed into me, can heat my body in pleasurable ways. I dream of his groans. I still feel the weight of his body on top of mine. I wake up in the mornings, gasping for breath, reaching for him next to me for another round. It’s a disaster. I’m still trying to find my footing in Portland after throwing away my family’s expectations of me and going out on my own. I’m struggling to find my place in the art world, working part-time at Gallio’s Galleria while spending the rest of the time working on my own art either outside at the amphitheater when it’s weather permitting, or alone in my apartment.
A baby is the last thing I need thrown into the mix.
It changes all the plans and promises I’ve made.
I’m still keeping it.
I only hope Braxton doesn’t despise me for it. We might have just been a one-night stand but we’re connected through Jenna and Dan and while we haven’t seen each other since the wedding, that doesn’t mean our lives won’t continually cross paths in the future.
I’ve put this off long enough.
Grabbing the notepad where I scratched down his number and address for his tattoo parlor weeks ago when Jenna gave it to me, I slide into a pair of tan ankle boots and toss my purse over my shoulder.
It’s time to face the music.
I’m a block away from MadInk, feeling more green due to the sudden movements of the MAX light rail system, on my way to tell the man I barely know I’m having his baby.
I know a few certain things about Braxton Henley. He’s twenty-eight, owns a tattoo parlor in one of the seediest areas of Portland, and he’s been friends with Dan since they were nine when Dan beat up a couple of older boys who had ganged up on Braxton. He moved out of Portland to go to college in Seattle, where he also learned the art of tattooing. He’s only recently returned to Portland to open MadInk.
Since Dan travels almost weekly for his job, and I’m busy on the weekends with my own art shows, having only recently moved back to Portland myself, it never worked out for the four of us to get together and meet before Jenna’s wedding.
That’s what I know. He’s busy and drills needles into people’s skin for a living.
Oh, and he screws like the Energizer Bunny. Actually, he’s better than the batteries that power my own personal go-to device. The man doesn’t stop and knows his way around a woman’s body like he was born to pleasure them. Or, he’s just had a lot of experience.
Which makes me want to vomit.
And did I mention he fosters animals? If he has that big of a heart for animals then he won’t exactly be pissed about the fact he got the maid of honor knocked up, right?
Right. My hands clasp together and I get a sudden waft of stench coming from the garbage dumpster in the alley I pass.
Fortunately, MadInk is right ahead and before I can second-guess myself and run back home to call him instead, I lunge forward and grab the door handle.
I whisk it open and a bell jingles. I gasp, inhaling the crisp, cool air inside, and almost stumble to my knees before righting myself.
Getting to my feet, I rub my arms and glance around. The waiting area, a small section of metal and black leather chairs, is empty. In the middle of the chairs is a glass table, three-ring binders are spread out in a fan shape, some open to reveal small but intricate and colorful pieces of art. Tattoos, probably.
In the distance, the faint buzzing of needle guns is barely audible over the heavy metal music.
“Can I help you?”
I jump at the voice and the woman who’s entered the lobby area without making a sound. Walking behind a large desk filled with small pieces of glittering jewelry, she snaps her gum with boredom clear on her face. “Need some ink? We’re busy tonight but the head guy can fit you in if it’s a small piece.”
“No.” God no, is more like it. I have a perverse fear of needles. The sharp stinging pain. And how do people ever truly know they’re sterilized properly?
“So what can I do you for then?” Her eyes narrow, dip down and then up, trailing my body. “You don’t seem like the clientele we usually get. You lost?”
I wish. Southtown isn’t far from where I live, but two blocks into Southtown is an entirely different world from the Pearl District.
“No, I’m not. Is Braxton here?” As soon as I ask the question, my gaze lands on a portrait on the wall. My heart seizes. It’s not just any ocean, it’s his. The way he sees it. The way he’s imagined it. Startling blues with bright orange lighting the night as the moon rises, pinks and swishes of purples melding at the horizon. It seems and feels as if the water travels forever. Just like it appears in real life except the painting makes me hurt. Because he wants to see it and hasn’t.
I don’t know what possessed him to tell me all about it when we were together, but I’ll never forget the story or the ache in his voice as he mentioned his desire to see dolphins splash in bright teal waters.
I am so going to throw up.
Clearing my throat, I step toward the girl behind the counter. She’s sitting in a chair, bar height, feet kicked up onto the counter. Her feet, clad in rubber flip-flops despite it being only fifty degrees outside, wiggle to a beat of music. She has multiple facial piercings and ink covers the entirety of her arms until it disappears beneath cutoff sleeves of her tank top.
“Sweetie, listen, I’m not sure what you need—”
“I need Braxton,” I blurt. Get a grip, I tell myself. Just say what you came to say and leave. “I don’t have an appointment, but my friend Jenna said he should be here.”
She scans my body again, a piercing on the outer edge of her upper lip glimmering in the light as she presses her lips together. “So you do need to see the head guy.”
Her gaze makes me uncomfortable, like she’s inspecting me. “Yes. If he’s not busy.”
“Sure thing, sweetie.” Without taking her eyes off me, she reaches for a phone next to her and presses a singular button. “Yeah, B? Got a girl out here needs to talk to you.” Silence, then, “Don’t know. Seems like a Free People model if you ask me, but she’s asking for you.”
Free People? I’m not certain whether to be offended or flattered. I’m in my last remaining pair of “fat” jeans, barely able to squeeze my quickly growing backside into them and unable to button them at night when pregnancy bloat appears. My flowing tunic top is able to hide the small pudge in my front, and while I might be dressed more hipster-ish, I’m not sure she really cares.
“Don’t matter you don’t know Free People, B, just get your ass out here. Girl looks like she’s gonna puke.”
Stacey Lynn was raised in the Midwest. Over the long, frigid winters, she would read every book she could get her hands on, from John Grisham and Danielle Steel to Ann M. Martin and C. S. Lewis. She began writing poems and short stories long before she reached high school, and now, as a wife and mother to four children, she finds solace from the craziness of her life by creating steamy, sexy stories. After publishing her first book, what began as a hobby has now turned into an unending passion.