Excerpt from THE VIRGIN'S MAKEOVER, February 2004


Portland, Oregon—1976

"I'm pregnant."

Jared Cambry's gut clenched as he looked at Olivia in disbelief. "But we only did it once. Are you sure?"

The sixteen-year-old blonde glanced down at her worn leather sandals and kicked at a dandelion that grew in the grass at the park where they'd met. She looked up and caught his gaze. "Yeah. I'm sure."

Jared wanted to bolt, wanted to call her a liar. Instead, he blew out a ragged breath. "I don't know what to say."

"I was surprised, too," she said. "I guess neither of us planned on having a baby."

She could say that again. He'd just been accepted to Arizona State. And last time his parents had taken him to visit, the football coach had said that he had a good shot at a quarterback position in the fall—maybe even first string.

He looked at the teenage girl who'd just given him the worst piece of news he'd ever heard.

"I know we're young," Olivia said.

Young? Heck, he'd only had his drivers' license for a little over a year. And though old enough to drive, she still rode a bike. They should be thinking about college. And summer vacation. Not a baby.

Besides, it's not as though they'd ever dated. They'd met at a party a couple of months ago, and it had just happened.

Two weeks before the party, he and Megan Phillips, a pretty, redheaded cheerleader he'd gone out with since the fall, had broken up. He was still nursing a broken heart and a wounded pride. And he wasn't in the party spirit—until Olivia had come along, holding two glasses of cheap, fruit-flavored wine.

Olivia had a pretty smile and a way of making him forget about the obnoxious college guy Megan had dumped him for.

Neither of them had been virgins, but the experience had still been awkward. And Jared had a feeling she'd been disappointed.

He'd driven her home afterward, and they'd exchanged phone numbers. But he hadn't called her. And when she'd asked him to meet her today, he'd been surprised.

"We could maybe date for a while, get to know each other better," she said.

They could date? His mom and dad would come unglued if he brought home a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. They had their hopes set on their only son meeting a debutante, or at least someone whose parents belonged to the country club set.

And even if Jared was willing to go out with Olivia, his family was relocating to Scottsdale about the same time he moved to the dorms at ASU. They said the move was for business purposes, although he suspected they wanted to be near their only child in Phoenix.

"What are you thinking?" she asked, eyes snagging his and demanding some kind of answer.

Heck, he was thinking about all kinds of things. College. Playing football. Maybe taking some pre-law and business courses.

And the sudden realization that his once charmed life was going to hell in a broken-down baby buggy.

Only one solution came to mind. "I'll pay for an abortion."

"What?" Olivia asked, voice raised an octave.

"An abortion. I'll get the money. And I'll drive you there and wait while it's done. That way, your mom won't find out."

"No way. I know having a kid isn't convenient for either one of us. But I'm keeping this baby."

She couldn't be serious. Olivia and her mom lived in a rundown, rusted-out trailer on the outskirts of town. How the heck was she ever going to raise a kid?

And even if he got a part-time job flipping burgers while attending school, he wasn't going to be able to contribute too much. Her keeping the baby was a bad idea—for both of them.

"You've got your whole life in front of you," he said. "Why would you want to tie yourself down?"

"Because babies are a blessing. And God wouldn't have let me get pregnant if there wasn't a good reason for it."

Jared rolled his eyes. He didn't think God had anything to do with the mistake they'd made. And he couldn't see how having a kid at his age would bless his life.

Not now.

Not ever.

Portland, Oregon—2004

"I'm pregnant."

Lissa Cartwright, who'd been slouching in a cushioned patio chair on the deck, nearly dropped her morning cup of coffee and sat up straight. "You're what?"

"Pregnant," her bright-eyed sister said.

"That's great. Congratulations." Lissa managed a smile. She couldn't be happier, yet the excitement had an ambiguous edge.

Last year, her sister had married the love of her life, a man who adored her. And having a baby had always been Eileen's dream.

Lissa's too, she supposed. That's what made the news so bittersweet.

"You look surprised."

No, Lissa wasn't actually bowled over by the announcement, but as usual, when her sister achieved one of those heart-touching milestones, Lissa felt a wee bit envious. "I just didn't expect to hear it so soon. Or so early in the morning."

Eileen laughed. "You didn't think I'd drive all the way out to the vineyard for breakfast, did you?"

"No." Lissa adored her younger sister, but Eileen wasn't a morning person. Not like Lissa.

In fact, the two young women weren't anything alike, but there was a good reason for that. Seven months after Lissa had been adopted as an infant, her mother had given birth to Eileen.

Lissa wasn't sure when she'd begun to feel like an outsider. Maybe on the day her parents sat her down and told her about being special, about being chosen. About her being their very first baby girl.

That's when Lissa began to take a good hard look at the differences between her and her sister.

Eileen was petite and vivacious, a strawberry blonde just like their mother. And Lissa was tall and introspective, with plain brown hair. God only knew who she resembled—certainly not anyone on the Cartwright family tree.

Still Lissa had to give her mom and dad credit for trying to be fair. They were great parents. And they were good to her. She had no complaints.

After all, how could they not love their real daughter more?

Besides, Eileen was everything Lissa wasn't. And their differences went beyond appearance—something Lissa had learned in the fall of first grade.

One day after school, their mother had enrolled them in a dance school and bought them new black-patent-leather tap shoes. Mom's enthusiasm had been contagious, and both girls had been ecstatic and ready for their very first lesson.

Before long, Eileen was dancing her little heart out—Shirley Temple style. All the while, Lissa clomped around like a pack mule in army boots.

Fortunately, Ken and Donna Cartwright had done a good job of pretending to be equally proud of both girls. But the tap instructor hadn't been quite as tactful.

But who could blame her? Lissa had seen the proof played out loud and clear on the family home videos of the dance recitals.

Yet that didn't overshadow one important fact. The girls shared a genuine love for each other—and for their parents.

"Have you told Mom and Dad?" Lissa asked.

"Not yet. I will, as soon as they get in from their morning walk."

From her seat on the deck, Lissa scanned the rolling hillsides of Valencia Vineyards, where sturdy vines nourished premium grapes. She loved the fertile land and the bounty it produced. The vineyard was the one place where she actually belonged, where she could thrive and be herself.

That's why she started each day with breakfast on the backyard deck, under the protection of the overhang when it rained and out in the sunshine when it didn't.

She spotted her parents near the new, state-of-the-art winery, walking hand-in-hand, their love for each other impossible to ignore.

Maybe that's what Lissa envied. The sense of truly belonging. Of loving and being loved.

"Look." Lissa pointed toward her parents. "They're coming this way."

"Good. I can't wait to tell them, especially Mom. You know how she is about babies." Eileen rolled her eyes and laughed. "Remember how embarrassed we used to get? I've never known another woman to get so goofy whenever she spotted a little one at the mall or in the grocery store."

"I remember," Lissa said. "And you're right. Mom will be thrilled to have a grandchild."

Especially since Eileen's baby would be a real grandchild.

The old insecurities seemed to settle over Lissa, but she adored her sister. "I'm so happy for you. I know how much you love Dan."

Eileen reached across the glass tabletop and squeezed Lissa's hand. "I really hope that you find a special man someday. Someone who appreciates you."

"Thanks," Lissa said, although that wasn't likely. Her shyness made her steer clear of serious relationships.
And at this point, it seemed that life—and love—had passed her by. After all, how many twenty-seven-year-old virgins were still walking the face of the earth? Not many, she would wager.

Back to book page

This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance information surf to www.eHarlequin.com.
Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited ® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.