A Christmas Baby Surprise: Reclaimed by the Rancher

By: Catherine Mann

One

Alaina Rutger was living her childhood dream—a family of her own. Her charismatic husband was driving her home from the hospital with their infant son strapped into a car seat. She had the perfect life.

If only she could remember the man who’d put the four-carat diamond wedding ring on her finger.

A man who called himself Porter Rutger. Husband. Father of her child. And a man who’d been wiped from her memory along with the past five years of her life.

She tore her eyes away from his broad shoulders and coal-dark hair as she sat in back with their baby. Her baby. Alaina tucked the monogrammed red blanket over the infant as he slept, one foot in a booty, the other in a cast that had begun the repair on his clubfoot.

Another person she didn’t remember. Another heartbreak in her upside-down world. A week ago, she’d woken in the hospital with no memory of the man sitting by her bedside or of the blue bundle in the bassinet.

Waking up from a coma had felt a lot like coming to after the worst hangover ever, her head throbbing so badly she could barely move. But a quick look around showed her a hospital room rather than a bedroom.

And a hot man sleeping in the chair, his dark hair rumpled. His black pants and white button-down wrinkled.

Her own Doctor McDreamy?

“Hello,” she’d croaked out, her throat raw for a sip of water.

McDreamy bolted awake quickly. “Alaina?” He blinked, scrubbed his hand across his eyes in disbelief, then shot to his feet. “Oh, God, you’re awake. I need to get the nurse.”

“Water,” she rasped out. “Please, a drink.”

He thumbed the nurses’ call button. “I don’t know what the doctors will want. Maybe ice chips. Your IV has been feeding you. Soon, though, I promise, whatever you want, soon.”

The nurses? Doctors? He wasn’t Doc McDreamy? Then... “Who are you?”

He looked up from the control panel of buttons slowly, his eyes wide with disbelief. “Who am I?”

She pressed her fingertips to her monster headache. “I’m sorry, but I feel like hell. What happened?”

“Alaina...” He sank slowly into the chair, his voice measured, guarded. “We were in a car accident.”

“We?” She knew him?

“Yes,” he said, leaning closer to cover her hand carefully. “Alaina, my name’s Porter and I’m your husband.”

The shock of that revelation still echoed through her.

Once the nurse and doctor had checked her over Porter had further explained they’d been in a car wreck a month prior, after picking up little Thomas from the adoption agency. Her husband... Porter. Porter Rutger. God, she still struggled to remember his name. Porter told her the baby had a birth defect and had spent the past month going through surgeries while she’d been in a coma from the accident.

Too soon, before she felt ready to handle this life she’d landed in, it was time to leave the hospital. She’d been told many first moms felt that way.

But not all new mothers had amnesia.

Her throat burned with bile and fears that hadn’t abated since she’d woken from the coma a week ago thinking it was November, only to find it was December.

Five years later.

Five years of memories simply gone, pushed out of her head in the course of a month. Most devastating, she’d lost the four and a half years Porter had been in her life.

How was it that four weeks asleep could steal so much of her life? That coma had left her mind missing a substantial chunk of memories and yet her body felt 100 percent normal. She’d even been attracted to her stranger husband, so attracted that the aches and lethargy left over from her coma hadn’t dulled the shiver of awareness she’d felt at the brush of his hands against her as he helped her from the hospital bed and into the car.

She swallowed hard and turned to look out the window at the rolling waves as the Mercedes traveled the Florida coastal road toward what Porter had told her was their beach mansion. They also owned a home in Tallahassee but they’d been closer to the beach home when picking up the baby, then having the wreck. Traveling with their infant son so fresh from surgery and her so recently out of a coma hadn’t seemed wise. The doctors had advised they stay close for the short term at least.

Porter had quickly suggested they stay at their nearby vacation home. Apparently her tall, dark and studly husband was wealthier than Midas, thanks to his construction empire that won major contracts to build corporate structures around the country. They had no financial worries as she recovered, he’d told her. Another reason to be grateful.

But instead of gratitude, she could only feel fear at the imbalance of power between her and this man who was her husband. She was adrift with only the facts he told her about her past. No family since her parents were dead. No friends, other than people she apparently hadn’t seen in five years, since her breakup from an abusive boyfriend. She’d cut herself off from everyone then.

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