Never Look Back

By: Linda Lael Miller

I narrowed my eyes. "Did Loretta tell you I'm pregnant?" I'd sworn my best friend to secrecy. If she'd been spreading the news before I had a chance to break it to Sonterra, and then Emma, I'd wring her neck.

Mrs. K's smile widened, and the light came back into her eyes. "Of course not," she said. "I saw it—a little golden light, nestled in your tummy."

I smiled back at her. "Of course you did," I said.

Mrs. K let go of my hand and got to her feet. "Well, I'd better be off. I'm dropping Rodney at the bus station—he's moving to Tucson—and then I've got an assignment at a Chinese restaurant in Mesa. I've put on five pounds since I took this job."

I stood, too. "Rodney's leaving?"

"Now that his name's been cleared, he wants to start over. I don't mind telling you, it will be nice to live alone again."

Will wonders never cease? I would have thought getting rid of Rodney would require an exorcist. "Take care," I said, and

kissed her on one powdery cheek.

She looked straight into my eyes, and her expression was serious again. "If you see yourself again, will you tell me?"

That much I could promise, because I wasn't going to have that experience again. It was connected to getting my brains scrambled, that's ail.

"You'll be the first to'know," I said.

She nodded, and left. I watched her until she disappeared behind the elevator doors.

When I stepped into Sonterra's room, he and Loretta and Emma were conferring about something.

"What's going on here?" I demanded, with mock suspicion. "I think I smell a plot."

Loretta and Emma grinned.

"Meet you downstairs," Loretta said.

Just like that, they were gone.

Sonterra crooked a finger. "Come over here," he said.

"If you're going to give me a hard time about getting involved in the doll man bust—" I warned, staying right where I was.

"It's not about that," Sonterra replied. He looked so innocent. I should have suspected something.

I moved to his bedside. "What?" ' "I love you."

I grinned. "Yeah. You mentioned that."

"I know you, inside and out."

"You'd like to think so."

He pulled me onto the mattress, and I lay next to him. "You're keeping a secret," he said.

I sat up. "Did Loretta—?"

"Loretta has nothing to do with it. It's a look that comes into your eyes when you're up to something. Give, Counselor."

I turned to look into his face. "Okay, I'll tell you. We're going to have a baby,"

He stared at me. A smile took shape in his eyes, made it to his mouth. He gave a low, throaty whoop of joy. "Yes!"

I was a little surprised. I was also delighted. "I wasn't sure how you'd take the news."

He kissed me. "I've had some time to think, being cooped up in this place," he said. "One thing about almost dying, it puts things in perspective."

We were quiet for a while. I don't know about him, but I was having a party inside my chest.

Finally, I broke the silence. "I want to know what you and Loretta and Emma were talking about when I came in."

He shifted, reached for something on the bedside stand, presented it to me. "This isn't the most romantic setting," he said.

It was a box. A small, black velvet box.

My breath caught in my throat.


With a motion of his thumb, he raised the small lid. A diamond ring glittered inside. "It was my mother's," he said. "I had Dad bring it in."

I stared at the exquisite setting, speechless.

Sonterra gave me a nudge.

"Will you marry me, Counselor?"

* * *