Authors: Jaycee Ford
“You could have brought her to dinner, though,” he said after a moment.
I almost choked on my drink. I glared at my brother again. “Did parenthood make you stupid or something? I can’t bring her to a dinner with Tom and Lance.”
“But everyone’s married, man. Can’t it just be water under the bridge?”
“Not for me,” I mumbled and went back to the kitchen to throw my bottle away.
“Caleb, what are you getting into?” Paul followed me into the kitchen.
I leaned on the counter and shook my head. “I don’t know, dude. My head’s a fog right now. She makes me unable to think straight, and I
to think straight.”
“You need to get laid, dude.”
“God help me for admitting this, but I don’t want to.” There it was: The truth. It came out hard and flat, a cold admission to both my brother and myself. I wanted
The bathroom door creaked open. Angie walked into the room and headed over to my brother. “It’s really good to see you again, Paul.”
She gave him a hug. Paul was always nice to her … probably because he didn’t sleep with her.
“It’s good to see you, too. So … ah … how far along are you?”
“Well, I have about a month, so your timing is perfect.”
My brother looked at me. I looked back at him. We both looked at Angie.
“Why?” I asked.
“I’m going to need a doctor, Caleb. I don’t think you’re qualified to deliver babies, and frankly, I’ll need drugs. So, we’re going to have to figure something out here.”
“I’ll text over all the info for Ellie’s doctor later.” Paul looked at me and I knew I’d have to tell him the whole story one day. Today was not that day.
“That would be great,” I said. “And thanks for the food. With the human garbage disposal here, I can’t keep anything in this house.”
“Oh, shut up, Caleb. It was good to see you, Paul. Don’t tell anyone I’m here.” She smiled.
Paul shook his head as he eyed me with a look that said he’d be back for answers. Paul left a few minutes later and I locked the door behind him. I returned my gun to the closet. Angie grabbed up the plates and started to carry them toward the sink when I met her half way and took the plates from her. “I’ve got these. Go finish watching the movie.”
“I have a better idea,” she said following me into the kitchen. She cleared the other plates from the table. “Why don’t we be lazy and leave these in the sink overnight so you can watch the movie with me?”
I helped her stack the dishes in the sink and said, “I like this plan.”
She grabbed the plate of food Paul brought and put it in the fridge. She walked into the living room to sit down, clicking the TV on. I joined her, leaving an appropriate space between us. I watched her more than the movie, thinking I wasn’t going to give into this fucked up thing called emotions. By the end of the movie, I realized I couldn’t fight it anymore. She crossed her legs in her lap and started rubbing her feet. She looked up when I patted the seat next to me. I waved my hand for her foot.
“Caleb, you’re not rubbing my feet.”
“Give me your damn foot, stubborn woman.”
She rolled her eyes but extended her feet toward me in an act of willful concession. I kneaded the arch of her foot. Her shoulders, her body, immediately relaxed under my touch. Her eyes fluttered closed as I concentrated deeply on working the tense muscles in her feet. Her eyes opened. She caught me staring at her. She exhaled.
“I think I should tell you something. I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but men’s gossip and women’s gossip are not the same.”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“I never slept with Steven.”
I faltered, disbelieving. “You didn’t?”
“Nope.” She shook her head and smiled. “It was actually funny. I could see why he’d spread such vicious rumors about me after I bruised his ego.”
“What’s so funny?”
“Well, he took me on a date and at the end, he tried to get on me in the backseat of his car. When he took …
… out, I asked him if they all were that small.”
A barrel of laughter came out from somewhere inside me.
“I had no clue! I was only sixteen!”
“What the fuck was he doing pulling out his dick to a sixteen-year-old?” I shook my head at the bastard.
“Well, I won’t lie, I was curious. I kind of wanted to see it, ya know? To see what one looked like in person, but it never went farther than that. And I’ve had to live my life every day since with the consequences of Steven’s inadequacy complex.”
“What does Tabitha see in him?” I didn’t think I’d intended to ask this question aloud, and I could see the sad smile cross Angela’s face at the very mention of the name.
“Money. Money she’d never get being a cop’s wife.”
My rubbing of her feet slowed. “Ouch.”
“Yeah, Tabitha’s a bitch. It’s well known.”
“I sure know how to pick ‘em.” I glanced in her direction, but her eyes shifted away.
“I’ve only slept with three men, Caleb,” she said softly. “One of them took my virginity and the other two were men I loved. That’s why I was such a pest around Tom. I did it on purpose. Truth be told, it was a huge mistake, but I was very tipsy and you’d already pushed me away.”
I moved her foot off of my lap, letting it drop as I stood up. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because … because I felt like I had to. You’ve been so nice to me even though you don’t have any reason to be.” She followed me into the kitchen.
“It’s my job, Angie,” I said, reaching into the fridge for another beer.
“Rubbing my feet isn’t a part of your job requirement, Caleb.”
I popped the cap off the beer and drank down the sweetness of relaxation. She didn’t need any stress or to see me getting riled up. She could see that I cared. She was on to me. Damn it. I walked passed her, back to the living room, but she stayed on me, following me back to our spot on the sofa. When she sat beside me this time, she kept her feet to herself.
“Did I wake you this morning?”
She looked at me and replied, “For once, you didn’t. You were even loud when we weren’t sleeping in the same bed. It was almost like you were trying to wake me up.”
So, she didn’t remember kissing me. “Did you dream last night?”
She turned her face away just before I saw her cheeks flush. “None that I can remember. It’s getting a little stuffy in here. I think I’m going to go lay down.”
She stood up and moved for the hallway toward the room we’d been sharing. I kept my eyes on the fire, trying to process all these thoughts.
I turned to see her standing at the entrance of the hallway. She had one hand on the wall, the other rested on her stomach. I couldn’t help but think that regardless of whose baby she carried, she still looked sexy as hell.
“Is it still okay for me to sleep in your bed?” She bit her lip. My heart slammed in my chest. She had to stop that lip biting.
“For as long as you’re here. You don’t have to ask anymore.”
Her small smile still captured by teeth stirred me up. She disappeared into the bedroom, and I found myself staring into the fire, still thinking about those lips.
“Angie, I really don’t like this idea.”
“You really need to calm down.”
A standoff was happening in my living room. Me: dressed in my Police khakis. Her: dressed in a long sleeved shirt that fit her chest snugly – provocatively – and yoga pants pulled up to her belly. Her hair hung loose around her face, and those crystal blue eyes stared at me.
She’s carrying a dead man’s baby. She’s carrying a dead man’s baby.
This concept wasn’t working anymore. We weren’t at war like we once were, things were different now, but she was still grieving the loss of her fiancé. There wasn’t much of a shot for me, no matter what I thought I could read in those eyes.
“Why can’t Dr. Cooper continue to examine you here?”
“He will today, but seriously Caleb, this baby is going to come any day now. I know that I’m in hiding, but I need to be hiding closer to a hospital.”
I moved to the closet and eased into my shoulder holster, secured my gun, and then threw my jacket over the whole get-up. When I turned back to her, the sun was shining through the window, beaming light directly on her. The natural glow of her cheeks brightened, her hair shimmered a golden yellow. I looked away, tried to focus on anything and nothing as I zipped up my jacket. The distance felt too great and I instinctively took a few steps toward her, stopping a few feet away. A whiff of her lotion tickled my nose and warmed my cold chest. I could never figure out what that scent was, I was too embarrassed to ask. It wasn’t floral or fruity. It was … like heaven. Everything about her seemed like heaven … and I didn’t have a shot in hell. I exhaled and gently grabbed her cold hands, clasping them in mine. I rubbed my thumbs over her knuckles under guise of warming them as I continued to stare into her eyes. She relaxed at my touch.
Dead man’s baby.
“We have two options then.”
“We?” she asked, her eyes brightening my hell.
“You think I’m going to let you go?”
Her eyes shifted at my response, and I realized how differently she might have interpreted the question. I stared at her twitching lips as she chewed on the inside of her mouth. I kept thinking back to Thanksgiving morning, the morning she’d kissed me in her sleep.
“What are our options then?”
I assumed she knew there was no chance I was letting her go out on her own. It felt good to know she wasn’t going to fight it, that she trusted me enough to protect her.
“We can stay at The Inn or stay with my brother.”
Her eyes grew wide as she stepped away from my hold.
“You expect me to live with Ellie Caldwell?”
“I don’t care what her name is now, that girl hates me. She’s always hated me. And you think that’s a good option?” She crossed her arms, pushing up her swollen breasts. I blinked a quick view. Her nose twitched when she caught me checking her out again. Jesus Christ, if I didn’t get laid soon…
“I believe it’s safer than The Inn. There are too many strangers coming in and out of there. You’d never be able to leave the room. At least Ellie has been through this before. She could help.”
She uncrossed her arms and wiped her hands down her face, peeking at me through her fingers. “I don’t know, Caleb. Can’t I just leave and go to Hickory or Asheville or something?”
“No. That’s not an option.” I closed the distance between us and fisted my hands, willing myself not to pull her into my arms. There wasn’t much I could fight anymore.
Perhaps it was the living arrangement or that whatever was building between us was becoming too great to ignore, but she didn’t argue. She simply nodded and sighed. “Fine, but I swear to God if you leave me alone with that girl, I will hurt you.”
I couldn’t hide the smirk. The thought of being in a position where she could hurt me was appealing.
She stared up at me. Thoughts of running my thumb across that pouty lip paralyzed me. As I stared back at her, unwilling to blink first, I suddenly realized what she was doing to me. She was making me fall in love with her.
“Be careful today,” I whispered, breaking the longing silence between us.
She playfully rolled her eyes, giving me the brush off. I reached out and gently brushed her bangs back, tucking them behind her ear. Wide-eyed, she slipped quietly into my arms as I pulled her to me and brushed my lips against her forehead. Her breath grazed my neck, her pulse rising as her hand pressed into my chest, not to push me away, but to touch.
“You be careful. You’re the one with the gun.”
I pulled my lips away from her skin and smiled. “I’m well trained on how to handle these types of things, Angie.”
I released her and headed for the door. I glanced back at her before I exited and caught her eyes watching me from over her shoulder. I locked the door behind me and shook my head as I headed to my cruiser. Whatever my heart was going through, I couldn’t stop it.
• • •
The dark clouds gathered across the foothills. Parker and I drove to the outskirts of town, toward Sigmon Road. We didn’t know for sure what we’d find up at the old farmhouse, but we knew we wouldn’t find the owner. He stayed in Raleigh permanently after his son went to jail for operating a meth lab in the basement. We’d made the bust only a few days before Angie arrived on my doorstep, and everything seemed pretty quiet until Parker noticed some suspicious traffic out here.