Daddy By Default

an excerpt



Prologue

"Hello?"

"Derek Webster?" a male voice on the line asked.

"Yes."

"This is the Austin Sheriff Department. Your sister Ashlynn has been involved in an automobile accident. She's at University Hospital."

Derek sat up abruptly. Sweat beaded on his forehead. "I'm on my way." Derek disconnected the call, tossed the covers aside, and hopped out of bed. No time to get Mitch. I can drive myself. He pulled on his clothing and pushed his feet into his shoes. He shoved his cell phone, wallet, and keys into a pocket and hurried down the stairs. Derek ran through the living room and outdoor to his Porsche. Moments later he sped down the paved road toward the gate, only pausing for the metal contraption to open. He didn't even look back to see if it closed properly. Every minute counted.

The Austin University Hospital was less than a mile away. Derek shifted gears of the expensive sports car, pressing his foot down on the accelerator, willing the automobile to go faster down the virtually empty highway. He wiped the sleep from his eyes, trying to imagine what had happened. The deputy hadn't given him much information. Ashlynn had gone out to dinner earlier with her fiancé, Neil Carson. The young couple was expecting their first child in less than a month. He hoped Ashlynn and the baby were okay, because they were his only living relatives. Once there, Derek hopped out of the car and ran inside.

"Are you Derek Webster?" a deputy asked from the waiting room.

Derek nodded. "Yes, where is my sister?" he asked excitedly.

"Calm down, son. She's in surgery," the deputy said.

"What happened?"

"An eighteen wheeler ran a red light."

Derek groaned. "Oh no!" His stomach cramped just imagining the scene in his head.

The deputy continued the explanation. "From what we gathered at the scene, the driver must have fallen asleep behind the wheel."

"Is she okay? What about her fiancé?"

"I'm sorry. The young man behind the wheel didn't make it. We're trying to notify his family."

Derek's voice broke. "He doesn't have any. His name is Neil Carson, aged twenty." He paused. "How is my sister?"

The deputy took him aside. "She's in pretty bad shape. The doctors are trying to save the baby."

"Oh my God! She's just nineteen." He couldn't lose Ashlynn, not after losing his parents just six years ago.

Another deputy approached. "The receptionist needs you to fill out some forms and maybe notify your parents."

"Our parents are deceased." His voice cracked. "It's just her and me." He left the officers and went over to the desk. "My name is Derek Webster. My sister Ashlynn was just brought in."

The receptionist handed him a clipboard of paperwork. "Does she have any insurance?"

Derek frowned. Damned parasites. All they were interested in was the co-pay, not his sister. Derek pulled out his wallet and took out his identification and medical cards and handed them to her. He quickly filled out the forms the best his could. His hands continued to shake. He handed the clipboard back to the nurse.

She handed him back his cards and a receipt. "Please have a seat."

"What about my sister?"

"She's in surgery. The doctor will come out when there is some news."

The deputies were still present, talking amongst themselves. A few minutes later the emergency entrance doors opened again and paramedics rushed a gurney through the waiting room then through another double set of doors beyond the receptionist. An elderly couple entered. The woman cried all the way up to the reception desk. They got the same treatment from the receptionist. Another set of deputies entered and talked to the couple. Apparently their son had been involved in a traffic accident as well.

Derek sat down and rocked back and forth in his seat as he waited on word of Ashlynn's condition. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. The phone rang a couple of times.

"Hello?" a groggy-sounding male asked.

"Matthew, it's me, Derek."

"What's wrong?"

"Ashlynn and Neil have been in a car accident. I'm at University Hospital."

"I'm on my way," his attorney said.

Matthew Brown lived about ten minutes away. He came running through the door, still in his pajamas with just a coat over them.

Derek hopped out of his seat and ran to him. The two old friends hugged.

"What happened?"

"Their car got hit by an eighteen-wheeler. Neil didn't make it."

Matthew walked him back over to some seats. "Everything is going to be okay."

The emergency room doors behind the receptionist desk swung open and a white man dressed in scrubs exited. "I'm looking for Derek Webster."

Derek fought back the tears. He could tell by the expression on the doctor's face that something bad had happened. Matthew helped him to his feet.

"That's me."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Webster, but your sister didn't make it," the doctor said.

The tears he'd been holding back slid down his cheeks. "But she's just nineteen years old. She was about to get married and have a baby."

The doctor patted Derek's shoulder. "I delivered the baby. It's a healthy baby boy."

Derek cried more. Matthew joined him at his side and put an arm around his shoulders.

"You have to get control," the doctor said. "Your sister's last words were that she loved you and for you to please take care of her baby. I'm sorry." He walked away.

Derek sank down to the floor sobbing uncontrollably. What do I know about raising a baby? I'm just twenty-four.







Chapter One

Eight months later



"Oh my God," Chance Richards groaned.

He had just passed the two-mile mark and wondered if he'd have enough energy to get back to his car. Whose bright idea was it anyway to jog the park? He had his digital camera with him, strapped to his waist, which made the run harder. Chance got his second burst of energy on the return trip. Ooh, what's this? He spotted a young man seated on a bench, playing with an infant. How sweet. The photographer in him made him stop. He slid his camera out of its case and captured the touching scene.

The young man looked up, catching him. Instead of being angry, he smiled and went back to playing with the child. Cool. A smile meant hello to Chance. He took a few more pictures and then walked over to the bench. "Good afternoon."

The other guy looked up.

Oh my, he's a keeper. Besides the smile that melted his heart, the guy had a pair of light green eyes that twinkled merrily.

"Good afternoon."

Chance took a towel out of his pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow. "What a cute baby. Is he yours?"

The young man with the fantastic smile nodded. "He's my nephew. His name is Jaden."

"And your name would be?"

"Derek Webster."

Nice voice. Not too deep or nasally. "Hello, Derek Webster. My name is Chance Richards. May I sit with you?"

"Yes, you may." Derek sat Jaden on his lap.

Chance sat down. Love his cologne. Not a bad dresser either...slacks, dress shirt, and cardigan sweater. "I'm a photojournalist for Today's Baby Magazine, and not a stalker." He pulled a business card out of the camera case and handed it to Derek.

Derek chuckled. "That would be why you took our picture."

Chance nodded. "Yes, I know I should have asked first, but my camera has a mind of its own." Derek laughed at Chance's joke. "You two are very photogenic."

The baby cooed at him.

"Yes, you are," Chance said to him. "You're a very lucky little boy. Not all uncles will take time off to spend time with their nephew. He's also kind of cute." The guy with the beautiful smile blushed. Ooh, an innocent. Just my type. "I'd like to take another picture of you two."

Derek shook a lock of jet-black hair out of his eyes. "Why would you want to take a picture of me?"

Apparently, uncle gorgeous has no mirrors at home. "Not just you, but precious Jaden, too. You guys have some killer dimples." Another blush. "Plus, I think the two of you would be perfect for the cover of an upcoming issue of our magazine."

"I don't know," Derek said. "I'm sure you have better things to do."

"Come on," Chance said. "We pay top dollar for the pictures and more for the accompanying story."

"It's not about the money," Derek said. "I don't think an article on us would sell magazines."

"Let me be the judge of that," Chance said. He picked up his camera again. "You have a beautiful smile." Little Jaden did, too. He had the same black hair and green eyes as his uncle. In fact, they looked enough alike to be father and son.

"Thank you," Derek said.

Chance dug the little red flush under Derek's cheekbones. He hadn't seen a guy blush this much since middle school. "What do you do for a living? Or are you a student?"

"I work for a pharmaceutical company," Derek answered.

Jaden turned and put his head against Derek's stomach. "Oh-oh, someone's sleepy." Derek cradled the child in his arms.

The sight simply stole Chance's breath away. "Please have dinner with me tonight so we can discuss the photo shoot."

"I can't," Derek said. "No babysitter."

Drat.

"But I'd be honored if you'd join us for dinner at our place. You can bring your camera equipment."

Chance raised an eyebrow. "Do you really mean it?"

Derek nodded. "Can I see your phone so I can put my contact information in it?"

Jaden snored peacefully on his uncle's lap. Chance handed his phone over.

"Dinner is at seven," he said as he typed in the address. He handed the phone back to Chance and then pulled out his phone and texted something. Derek put his phone away.

"Are you old enough to drink? I mean, wine with dinner?"

"I'm twenty-five. And you?"

"I'm thirty," Chance said.

A black town car drove up to the curb.

"That's our ride," Derek announced. He picked up Jaden, put him into the stroller, and then he stood up. "I'll see you later." He waved and pushed the stroller away.

Chance watched as a guy in black livery came around to the back door and opened it. Derek took Jaden out of the stroller, put him into a car seat, and then slid in. The driver shut Derek's door and then put the stroller in the back. As they drove away, Chance put his camera away, stood up, and jogged back to his car. Edgar is going to flip when he sees these pictures. Edgar Mann owned the magazine Chance worked for. Chance's horoscope had said that he would meet someone special today who would bring happiness into his life. He chuckled as he drove out of the park. I sure did. He had just enough time to go home and shower then take a nap before going to dinner.

****