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Kimber Chin


Thank you to my two of my favorite romance reading buddies Cecile and Blodeuedd. Found wouldn't have been written without your love and support. A big thank you, as always, to my wonderful hubby. You rock, love!



"Loyalty is built upon the foundation of favors."ȄSergei Kaerta A horn blasted, startling Tatyana so much she fell out of bed. A car. She scrambled to her feet. Here. She ran through the house, her bare feet slapping on the hardwood floor. In the middle of nowhere. She paused only for a moment to slip into flip-flops before darting out the door. She summed up the situation in a glance. An accident. The hood of a car wrapped around a tree, the tires spinning up turf, a sole figure slumped over the steering wheel.

Damn, damn, damn. Tatyana ran. How had death found her? The nearest neighbor was a mile away. She talked to no one. How?

She yanked the door open. The driver was a woman, her long black hair matted with blood, a rounded belly protected by a hand. Pregnant. She couldn't die. Please don't let her die.

"Are you okay?" Tatyana touched her left shoulder.

The woman raised her head, her Asian eyes unfocused. "B...b...baby...," followed by some words in a foreign language, gibberish to Tatyana. She waved a bloody business card like it would explain everything.

Tatyana scanned the card. It explained nothing. Just a phone number. Useless. She tucked the card into the pocket of her pajama top. "Can you walk?" At this time of night, it'd take thirty-two minutes for the paramedics to arrive, but only twenty-one to drive her to the hospital. The eleven minutes could make a difference.

A nod from the woman and an attempt to rise. Tatyana hooked her arms around her, helping her up. Blood gushed from the woman's right shoulder. Had she been shot?

Tatyana moved her to the passenger seat of her Volvo sedan.

Her own hands were soaked. Too much blood. Tatyana backed up, tires squealing. She hadn't much time. "Your name?" Anything to help identify her...in case.

"Chai...," she babbled more words Tatyana didn't understand.

She let her talk, her fading voice reassuring Tatyana she was alive. She would not be responsible for a pregnant woman's death. She would not. Tatyana drove with grim determination. This time it'd be different. The woman's words drifted off. This time she'd live. Tatyana had the best medical coverage. The hospital was known for its emergency room. She'd live. She had to.

Red light. The only damn light between her and the hospital and it would have to be red.

Tatyana didn't slow, swerving to miss a minivan, the Volvo tilting. The woman mumbled something. Tatyana breathed in deeply, relieved. She still lived.

Tatyana turned into the emergency entrance. A man in an orange vest waved at her, signaling for her to move her vehicle. Tatyana ignored him, running to the passenger side.

"You can't stop here, miss. Ambulances only."

"I need help," Tatyana yelled at the top of her lungs. "She's been shot. She's pregnant. She's dying."

Please let me, just this once, be wrong. Tatyana stepped back, allowing the men and women to do their jobs. They lifted the woman onto a stretcher, wheeling her into the building. So much blood. Tatyana stared at the damp leather seat.

"Miss, miss." A sympathetic woman in pink scrubs touched her arm. "Are you next of kin?"

"Yes," Tatyana replied. She knew the routine. Being next of kin granted her authority to make much needed life or death decisions. "Her name is Tatyana Sokolov...her married name," she clarified. The explanation was unnecessary; the admittance nurse hadn't seen that the woman was Asian. "I have her medical insurance information. Do whatever you can." Please let her live.

Tatyana sat alone in a private waiting room. She'd stay for a few more minutes, leaving before the cops returned, before they figured out the name she'd given them was false. Not that the Sokolov name was any more real.

Tatyana flipped the bloody business card in her fingers. The woman who answered was mere minutes away from the hospital, that information relayed in a calm, unemotional voice. As though all her friends ended up dead. As though she was another Tatyana.

She wasn't another Tatyana. There was no one else like her. She should leave now, before the woman arrived and exposed her as a fraud.

But then the baby, the baby would be alone. Like she was. A sweet little baby girl with no mother to take care of her.

Tatyana's head bowed. Because she had killed her mother, the mystery woman. Why? Why did death follow her?

There was a creak as the door opened. A woman almost as petite as she was stood there, studying her with sad emerald eyes. "Are you Tatyana?" she whispered.

The woman from the business card. Now, she'd have to deal with that drama, too. Tatyana looked around her, reassuring herself the room was empty. "Yes."

"You can call me Maggy." You can call me? Was that not her real name? "She's dead, isn't she?" Maggy sat beside her, a briefcase in her lap.

"Yes." Tatyana couldn't look at her. The woman, this Maggy, would spot the guilt written in her eyes. Deserved guilt. It was her fault the lady was dead. She killed her.

Instead, Tatyana gazed through the tiny window in the door. All she could see was the back of some guy's bald head. He hadn't been there before Maggy arrived and he wasn't moving away. They must be together.

"We waited a day too long," the brunette mumbled. Too long? What did that mean? "The baby?"

"A healthy baby girl." For now. She should leave. Before death came back. If the baby died.

Tatyana clasped her hands together. Her fingers were so cold.

There was rustling. "I'll need you to sign the papers, then."

"The papers?" For what?

"The adoption papers," Maggy said, like it was obvious. "We'll back date it for a month ago."

She held out a pen.

Tatyana took it. "What about the dad?"

"Dead, and the husband did

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