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Protecting His Pregnant Ex

 

Grieving over the terminal diagnosis for his sister, Navy SEAL Brock Hardy tries to bury his pain in the arms of the only woman he’s ever loved, Monica Ingram. It’s a mistake; the last thing he wants to do is bring his damaged, personal baggage into Monica’s life and hurt her. Things get even more complicated when he returns home for the funeral and a caseworker with a baby shows up at his late sister’s door the same time as Monica. Turns out Brock’s sister was a foster parent, and with a blizzard brewing, the caseworker has nowhere else to leave the baby. Brock has the house, still set up for childcare, and Monica has experience caring for infants, so they team up…just for now. Meanwhile, Monica has her own surprise for him—she’s pregnant.

As Brock and Monica set up house during the storm, an unexplained broken window and snowy footprints outside puts them on edge. Is someone trying to harm the baby?

Monica only wanted to let Brock know she was pregnant, but after volunteering to help the desperate caseworker, she’s now staying in his house, caring for an adorable baby, and feeling things for the sexy SEAL she’d rather not. It’s hard to resist a man as gorgeous and nice as Brock, even if he does try to hide his softer side. Their attraction smolders beneath everything they do, and it doesn’t take much for that spark to turn into a flame. When it’s clear their lives are in danger, Monica’s never been so happy to have a tough Navy SEAL by her side. But after the storm is over and the danger is gone, will Brock be gone too, running away from commitment like he’s always done before? Or will he finally realize love is the best baggage of all?

Protecting His Pregnant Ex is 99c until March 24th. Get your copy from Amazon.

Chapter One

 

“Winter storm Horatio is gearing up to be the worst one of the last fifty years. Get ready to hunker down, folks.”

Navy SEAL Brock Hardy sat at the kitchen table in his sister Melissa’s house and couldn’t quite believe he was back home again. When he’d left Lake Bristow, Minnesota, ten years prior right after high school graduation, he’d figured he’d put this place and the past well and truly behind him.

Funny how life worked sometimes.

Or perhaps not so funny, considering the reason he was back here in the dead of winter was his sister Melissa’s death. He swore softly and hung his head, cupping his steaming coffee mug with both hands. The wound was still too fresh, the funeral and burial only held the week prior. Their mother had died young, and after that, their father’s main focus had been on drinking himself into an early grave. Even though she was only five years older than he was, Melissa was the one who’d basically raised him. Each time Brock thought of her being gone from the world, his heart twisted.

But Brock kept that all under wraps. His stoicism kept him moving, kept him working, kept him on guard at all times. It was one of the things that made him such a good SEAL; he was able to set his emotions aside and deal with the task at hand. Unfortunately, it was also what made him still single at twenty-eight. Easy as it was to suppress what he was feeling, pushing all those emotions down made it so much harder to let them out when needed—not to mention how difficult it was for him to let anyone in.

Fuck it. Time to get off his ass and away from the table where he’d been sitting all day, going over the paperwork to settle his sister’s estate. He had limited time to sort it out before his bereavement leave would be over…but with the storm rolling in, it couldn’t be his top priority. Better to head to the grocery store for bread and milk and toilet paper. Maybe some beer and snacks, too, enough to last him through what sounded like a hell of a blizzard on the way.

He guzzled his coffee then grabbed his down jacket from the peg in the hall before heading to the back patio to batten down the furniture so it wouldn’t blow away in the storm. Maybe he shouldn’t bother, considering he’d be putting the place on the market soon, but he couldn’t really help himself. It was what he’d always done, helping Melissa whenever he came to visit. Plus, it gave him something to do besides stew over her death.

A strong gust of wind knocked into him from the side, and he squinted at the skies once more. Minnesota’s brutal winters was one more thing he hadn’t missed when he was overseas in the warmer temperatures of the Middle East.

Done with the furniture, he headed back into the house to lock up. He’d just finished shutting off the TV in the kitchen when a car pulled up in the gravel driveway. Shit. He wasn’t sure he could take any more mourners. While he was glad to hear how much everyone loved his sister, he never knew what he was supposed to say in reply. Yes, he’d loved Melissa, too—but that didn’t mean he was comfortable crying about her on some stranger’s shoulder. For a guy who kept everything locked inside, it was exhausting.

The doorbell echoed through the quiet house and Brock took a deep breath, preparing himself to greet someone else with their hands full of more casseroles or desserts or whatever. He appreciated the sympathy, but considering he’d only be here a few weeks at most before returning to his SEAL team, he’d rather they donate the stuff to the local food bank.

Answering the door, he found himself staring at a woman on his doorstep with a baby. Cute kid, with big blue eyes and messy blond curls. He cleared his throat. “May I help you?”

“Hi, yes.” The woman’s white coat contrasted sharply with her dark skin. Wind whistled through the porch, and she held the baby closer, smiling. “I’m Robin Griffiths, with Child Protective Services in St. Paul. Is Melissa home?”

For a moment, Brock just looked at her. Was it possible she really didn’t know? But then, St. Paul was about a hundred miles south of Lake Bristow. Maybe the news hadn’t spread that far yet. “Sorry, but my sister passed away last week.”

“Oh God.” The woman’s eyes widened with horror, then her gaze fell to the baby in her arms. “What happened?”

Brock sighed. Melissa hadn’t told many people about her ovarian cancer diagnosis, preferring to pretend it would all work itself out and go away with the proper treatment. He rested his hand against the doorframe, trying to block the cold from seeping into the house. “Cancer. Quick and unexpected. The funeral was last week. Just locals and friends and family.” He left off the part that “family” meant just him. They’d had no other relatives after their father had died.

“I’m so sorry for your loss. Melissa was a good woman.” Robin switched the now-fussy baby to her other shoulder. “And a great emergency foster parent for us.”

“Yeah, she was.” Oh boy. He suddenly didn’t like where this conversation was headed.

Her next words only confirmed his fears. “That’s why I’m here, actually,” she said, glancing at the growing storm clouds with a worried look. “Baby Aaron here needs a temporary home.”

Right. “Well, given the news, I’m sure you can find another family for him to stay with in St. Paul.” The population there was a lot larger than tiny Lake Bristow. Surely there were plenty of options to choose from. “Sorry you made the trip all the way out here, but you have a safe drive home, Robin.”

He stepped back inside and started to close the door, but the woman wedged her foot in the jamb at the last minute. “The thing is, Mr. Hardy,” Robin said, her voice filled with the same stern determination as his commanding officers at boot camp, “I can’t find another family for him after all. All of our foster homes are full in St. Paul, and Melissa was my last option.”

“Sorry to hear that.” Brock leveled his best no-nonsense stare. “But I can’t take a baby.”

He started to close the door again, only to hear the sound of more tires grinding up the long gravel driveway. What the—Brock scowled at the burgundy sedan rolling toward the house. Crap. Why did Monica Ingram have to show up on his doorstep now?

He shoved aside the memories of their ill-advised, hot-as-hell one-night stand from two months ago.  He’d been home on emergency leave, having just gotten the news of Melissa’s cancer diagnosis. Falling into his ex’s arms for a night of comfort was not like him at all, and it left him a little embarrassed to be facing her now. She’d been wonderful, just as she always had been, but he’d been a goddamned mess, and it left him feeling awkward and unsure of where they stood, worried that she thought less of him now. He’d hoped to get out of town before the past had caught up with him. He’d seen her briefly at the funeral last week, but that had just been a quick hug and condolences with plenty of people around. Coming to his home was another matter entirely. Why was she here?

Monica parked behind Robin’s black SUV and walked up to the house, her long brown hair whipping in the wind, her pretty face pink from the cold, blue eyes sparkling. There was a serious, determined set to her mouth that he recognized all too well. She’d come here to tell him something, and she was going to speak her peace come hell or high water. His gut tightened.

Yep. Looked like he was in for a hell of a storm all right. One way or another.

* * *

Monica stood at the bottom of the stoop and steeled her courage. No turning back now.

She hadn’t really wanted to see Brock Hardy again, but the funeral hadn’t been the right place to tell him the news. Today didn’t feel much better, but what choice did she have? Wasn’t like she’d be able to keep the secret from him for much longer anyway. He deserved to hear it from her.

When she’d first found out, she’d tried typing a few emails to him, brainstorming the best way to break the news, but none of them had sounded right. “Hey, remember that night we shared together two months ago?” or “Surprise!”

Ugh.

“Robin, what are you doing here?” Monica asked as she climbed the stairs up to the porch. Her worries about telling Brock about her pregnancy took a backseat to the bundle of joy in her friend’s arms. She and Robin had met years ago through the volunteer program at the local hospital. Monica filled in there sometimes as a volunteer during her days off. She was able to pitch in on the actual nursing duties since she had taken training and worked as a certified nursing assistant at one point, but the main draw for her was the chance to be part of the baby cuddler team. She loved going up to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit once a week and spending hours holding the tiny premature babies, letting them know they were loved. She knew that Robin felt the same way—it was something they’d always bonded over in the past. “Who’s this handsome fellow?”

“This is Aaron.” Robin patted his little back, her expression harried. “He just lost his parents—car accident. I was here to place him with Melissa for emergency foster care.”

“Oh no.” Monica said. “I’m so sorry you drove all the way up here.”

“Me too.” Robin checked her watch. “The last thing I want is to get stuck on the highway going home with the storm about to hit, but I can’t leave until I find someplace for this little guy to stay. Melissa was my last hope. The only family is in Europe. They’ve been notified and they’re making arrangements to come get him, but it’ll take a few days before they can get here.”

Before Monica could rethink it, she said, “I can take him for you.”

“Really?” Robin and Brock said at the same time.

Monica looked from one to the other then nodded. “Yes. I have the medical training and experience to care for a baby, plus I’ve passed all the background checks at the hospital, too, so I should fit any requirements the state has for a foster parent.”

Robin frowned. “But you don’t really have the space, do you?”

Her apartment was about the size of a shoebox, no lie. And she had nothing set up for a baby—no supplies, no furniture, nothing babyproofed at all. It was worlds away from ideal, but what other option was there?

“I don’t have anything set up,” she admitted. “But—”

“Melissa kept her house set up to accommodate a baby at any time, didn’t she?” Robin interrupted.

“Well, yes,” Monica agreed. “I suppose she did.”

“And you haven’t gotten rid of any of her things yet, have you?” Robin asked, turning to Brock.

“Not yet,” he said.

“And you two clearly know each other…” Robin added, looking back and forth between the two of them. Monica blushed, but couldn’t deny it. She knew Brock in just about every way imaginable, though she doubted that was the information Robin was looking for.

“If it’s all right with Brock,” Robin said, turning back to focus on Monica, “why don’t you and little Aaron stay here?”

“Stay…here?” Monica repeated, feeling a little faint.

“If it’s all right with Brock,” Robin repeated, pivoting to refocus on him. “It would just be such an expense for Monica, is the thing,” she explained, “if she had to buy supplies to babyproof her house, and get a changing table, and somewhere for the baby to sleep. And for all of that to just be sitting here, unused…”

Monica flushed as she realized what Robin was getting at. Her friend knew that finances had been tight for Monica lately. In truth, it would be quite a hit to her budget to set things up to be baby-safe. She could borrow a few things from Melissa’s stash, but plenty of the items Melissa had just weren’t portable—at least not in her tiny car. Still, staying with Brock wasn’t really an option…was it?

Both women turned to him. He eyed them warily. “I guess that’s fine, but—”

A huge crack of thunder boomed through the countryside as the first snowflakes fell. Thundersnow was never a good sign. Monica’s adrenaline ratcheted higher.

“Well, if you’re sure.” Robin thrust the baby into Monica’s arms. “It won’t be for long. Just until his extended family can get here to claim him,” she called as she ran down to her SUV and grabbed a diaper bag from the back then placed it at Monica’s feet. “I’ll email you with more once I get back to St. Paul. I’ve really got to get back on the road now or I’ll never make it home before the storm hits. And I still need to stormproof my house! It sounds like we’re in for a doozy. Take care!”

“Wait!” Monica called after her, but Robin was already pulling down the gravel drive, her taillights glowing crimson in the dimming light. Monica turned back to Brock and his inscrutable expression. Back when they’d dated in high school, it used to drive her nuts, never being able to tell what he was thinking. She stared at him over the top of the kid’s head. “Can I come in?”

He sighed and stepped back to let her inside. As she sidled past him, Monica did her best not to notice his scent—sandalwood and soap—still far too aware of him for her own good.

The house looked the same as the last time she’d been in here. Clean and comfy, if a bit rustic in the décor. Simple and inviting.

Brock watched her and the baby as if they might explode into a million feral cats. She ignored him as best she could and walked into the living room to put baby Aaron into a carrier seat left from one of Melissa’s previous fosters. Hands free now, she turned back to the man who’d occupied her space, mentally and physically, for more than a decade.

He was still hot, darn him, with those smoldering eyes and that mouth. God, a woman could lose herself in those soft, full lips and die happy. He’d always been tall and fit, but now he carried more muscle. More confidence, too. A man who knew how to fight and wasn’t afraid to, if the situation warranted.

“Coming or going?” she asked for lack of anything better, noticing the keys in his hand.

“Going. Or I was. Down to the grocery store for supplies.”

“Right.”

He stood there a second, looking at her, then said, “Something I can help you with?”

“Actually, yes. Remind me where your sister kept her supplies?”

They went down the hall to a back bedroom turned nursery. Brock’s sister had never married or had kids of her own, but she’d cared for plenty of them just the same. Monica had always admired the selfless way Melissa had loved other people. That was rare, in her experience. As far as she knew, love was conditional, not to mention temporary. It only lasted until people got what they wanted. After that, they were done with you.

Brock flipped on the lights, revealing boxes of supplies stacked inside the large closet—diapers, formula, clothes. If she was remembering correctly, most of it was donated by local charities. She and Melissa had been friends, so some of this she knew from her conversations with the other woman. But a lot of it she knew from personal experience. Like the fact that many of the foster kids came from disadvantaged backgrounds and qualified for aid—both supply wise and financial. That second part had been the driving force for Monica’s own foster parents to take her in as a kid.

Everything was sorted by type, so it took a bit to gather out the things specifically for a baby Aaron’s age. She didn’t want to take out so much that they were tripping over it, but she did want to make sure they had enough. Based on what Robin had said, he wouldn’t be here long. A few days, maybe a week or two at most. She pulled out boxes of diapers and formula, stacking them up near the door, all the while aware of the whistling wind picking up outside. Her adrenaline spiked along with the worsening weather. This was going to be a bad one, no doubt about it, and she was going to have to go back out into it. There wasn’t quite enough here for all that Aaron would need. Given the range of ages Melissa had cared for in the past, she’d prioritized having at least one box of diapers in each size…but one box of diapers wouldn’t be enough, not for a week or more. Not to mention, she needed to get groceries for herself and Brock, and then swing by her apartment to pick up her dog. She hoped to be able to make the full trip—store, apartment, and back here—before things got too rough.

Crackling sounded on the window nearby, and she glanced over to see the first sleet melting down the glass. Perfect. As a born and bred Minnesotan, she was used to driving in the snow. The ice, though? That was a different story. And the fact it was escalating so quickly didn’t bode well either. Ugh. She finished making her mental tally of how much she’d need of what, and then led the way back down the hall to the living room. Brock followed her, then positioned himself at the window, scowling at the rapidly falling snow.

“It’s getting really bad out there,” he said, glancing back at her over his shoulder.

“Yeah, looks that way,” she replied, feeling awkward. God, when had it gotten so hard to have a normal conversation with Brock? They’d always clicked so effortlessly. Was the strain coming from him—or from her? Was she having trouble making conversation because she couldn’t think of how to get out the one thing she needed to say to him?

Tell him you’re pregnant. Tell him you’re having his baby. Tell him!

Except when she opened her mouth, what came out instead was, “When are you leaving again?”

“February.” His low, deep voice sent a shiver of awareness through her despite the chilly air. “I’ll be around for a few more weeks to get everything settled.”

“Oh. That’s good.” She didn’t look at him for fear he’d see the nervousness in her eyes. Talk about awkward. The words she needed to say were practically burning in her mouth, but she couldn’t seem to force them out. Maybe this was the wrong time. He’d just agreed to let them stay with him—maybe she should give him time to adjust to having guests before dropping another bombshell on him. “Uh, I’ll do my best to keep Aaron out of your way. I do appreciate you letting us stay here. Thank you for agreeing—I know that Robin kind of pushed you into it.”

“It’s fine,” he said, not sounding at all sure.

She turned, not realizing Brock was so close. Close enough to see those tiny flecks of gold in his brown eyes. Her throat tightened, and she forced a shaky smile. “Really?”

His gaze flickered to her lips then returned to her eyes. With another man, she’d think he wanted her, but that couldn’t be the case with Brock. Sure, they’d had a one-night stand two months ago, but he didn’t want her long term. He’d made that clear when he’d broken up with her after graduation.

“Really,” he said, mustering a smile. “Maybe it’ll be nice, having some company instead of knocking around this house by myse—” Aaron gave a loud squeak from his carrier, cutting him off.  and Brock raked a hand through his short black hair, looking over at the baby as if it were a live grenade ready to explode. “Are they supposed to do that?”

“Make noise?” Monica snorted. “Yeah.”

Brock stared at Aaron a moment, and Monica felt something in her stomach sink. He looked so bewildered by the baby, as if the little boy was some alien life form that Brock couldn’t begin to understand. She’d never really seen him around little kids before, but she’d assumed…well, who didn’t like babies? She’d known that the news that she was pregnant would be a surprise, but she’d held on to some tentative hope that, once he had time to process it, he’d be at least a little happy and excited about the baby, about being a father. She wasn’t looking for a grand romance from him, but she did want him to be a part of his child’s life. She wanted him to want that—to commit to being a parent the same way he’d committed to being a SEAL.

Even if he hadn’t seemed to be able to bring himself to commit to her.

Aaron kept grumbling. Brock kept staring. Monica’s stomach kept sinking. I can’t tell him, she decided. Not yet, anyway. We’ll be here for a few days. The right moment will come, eventually. It has to.

But when?

 

Chapter Two

 

Brock stared at the baby, still struggling to believe that he was going to be living with an infant for at least the next couple of days. And living with Monica, too, as an added dose of discomfort.

Things were awkward as hell between them now, thanks to the one-night stand. Not that their rapport had ever been great after the breakup, of course. He and Monica hadn’t had a real conversation since before he’d left for the Navy after high school. The night they’d slept together a few months back, they’d both had too much to drink and talking had been the last thing on their minds. But it wasn’t the talking that was bothering him so much now, though. It was the question stuck in his brain. Why she’d shown up here today in the first place?

The baby made a fussy sound, and she went over and picked him up, cuddling him close and rocking him back and forth to soothe him. The sight did something weird to his gut, making him wish for stuff that was better left forgotten. He wasn’t a family man. Never had been. Never would be. He had no idea how to even go about it, and he had no intention of learning. That path wasn’t for him.

“Looks like it’s coming down even harder out there,” she said, hiking her chin toward the window.

“Yeah.” Brock looked away, but not before he saw her bouncing baby Aaron in her arms and cooing to him. She seemed like a natural parent, which was odd, since he’d never really thought about Monica in that capacity before. Sure, they’d dated in high school. Been good friends, too. But the subject of kids had never come up. And now? Well, that wasn’t really something you discussed with a one-night stand, was it? He went into the kitchen to start a new pot of hot coffee to cover his awkwardness. Besides, with the temperatures dropping well below zero tonight, they’d need it. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, thanks.” Monica walked over to him with Aaron. “We’ll need to get the baby fed soon, though.” Aaron’s fussing kicked up a notch. “Make that ‘now.’”

“Hmm.” Brock finished scooping some grounds into the filter then dumped water in the reservoir and pushed start. “Well, I’ll leave that up to you. I know nothing about babies.”

“You could learn.” She gave him an odd look that only tightened that knot in his gut. It was a relief when she looked away, heading back to the nursery to get a container of formula. On her way back into the kitchen, she fumbled a bit as she juggled the large container and the squirmy baby, and her movement made her bump into a shelf, rattling a framed picture of him and Melissa, his arm wrapped around his petite sister’s shoulders. Monica’s expression softened as she straightened the frame. “I’m sorry again about Melissa’s passing.”

“Me too.” Grief clawed his insides once more. For a moment, he’d thought that maybe a side benefit of having another person here would be to keep him from having to deal with his sadness. But nope.

Monica nodded then stared down at baby Aaron again as she started to fix a bottle one-handed. “We’ve got a good start on supplies for him here, but it won’t be long before we need more. Not to mention, all my things are still at my apartment, so I’ll need to go back to my place anyway. I’ll get him fed and then head out.”

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen, not in this weather.” Brock rested his palms on the counter and gave her a stern look. “Until the roads are safe, we’re not going anywhere.”

She frowned. “Were you always this bossy?”

“Probably.” He grinned. He’d always loved her snarky humor and that hadn’t changed at all. It was one of the things he’d found most attractive about her. Well, that and those gorgeous blue eyes. And that silky hair. And those soft curves. And the cute dimples that showed each time she smiled. And…

Brock gave himself a mental shake. Their current cohabitation was due to necessity. Nothing else. He rinsed out his mug in the sink, concentrating on anything besides the undeniable attraction to Monica that still seared through his blood.

The beep of the coffeemaker behind him was a good distraction. He fixed himself a cup while she continued mixing up food for the baby. The kitchen wasn’t big, and they kept bumping into each other, murmuring awkward apologies.

Finally, she had a bottle in the baby’s mouth and had taken a seat in the living room a safe distance away from him. Being around her again brought up all sorts of memories for Brock that were best left forgotten. Things like holding her and kissing her and feeling her come apart around him as she cried his name in ecstasy and…

Whoa there, cowboy.

“Listen, Brock. I appreciate that you’re concerned about me driving, but I really do need to go,” Monica said, her attention focused on the baby. “Even if I could make do with the baby stuff we have, and with whatever spare supplies you have around here that I could use for myself, I need to get Cottonball.”

“There’s cotton balls in the bathroom,” he said, scowling. He wasn’t used to people going against his suggestions. “And I can go to the grocery to get milk and TP.”

Monica laughed. “Okay, first, you’re not a SEAL right now, so quit acting like commander of everything, including me, because you’re not. And second, Cottonball is my dog. I can’t leave her alone. She needs food and water, too.” She stood and headed back toward him with that determined glint in her eye again, baby Aaron still in her arms, going to town on that bottle. “It will be quicker and easier for me to run all the errands right now and bring everything back here. I’ve lived here all my life. I can make it into town and back just fine in this crap. I’ve got chains on my tires, and I know how to drive in the snow. Might take me longer than usual, but I can do it. Plus, since I work at the FoodMart, I get a discount. So, I’m going to the store to get the things we need, then stop back to my apartment and get my dog, then I’m coming back here, whether you like it or not.”

A muscle ticked near Brock’s tense jaw. “I’ll come with you.”

“Uh, no.” She set the empty bottle on the counter then put the baby over her shoulder. “You need to stay here and watch Aaron until I get back.”

* * *

The stunned look on his face was so comical, she almost laughed. Almost.

But considering the fact they’d have their own bundle of joy arriving in about seven months, he needed to learn how to deal with this stuff. Why not start now?

Aaron gave a loud burp then a happy squeal, and she handed him to Brock before he could refuse. Monica walked away, glancing over from beneath her lashes as she grabbed her coat. He held the baby out in front of him as if it were covered in toxic waste.

Monica snorted. “Seriously, hold him like he’s a football and you’re making a run toward the end zone.” She demonstrated. “Like this.”

Brock scrunched his nose, but he complied, drawing the baby closer slowly and carefully, doing his best to emulate her moves. For his part, Aaron seemed fascinated by the man holding him. He stared up at Brock wide-eyed, one tiny fist shoved in his mouth as he drooled down the front of his onesie. He really was adorable. An unexpected rush of warm affection filled her with anticipation. Man, she loved kids and couldn’t wait for her own to be born.

And speaking of her baby… Correction, their baby…

Tell him. Tell him now!

But no. The timing still wasn’t right. They didn’t have time to sit down and talk about what this meant. Not when she had to hurry to get to her place and the store, then back here fast. She’d tell him later, after they were settled in and safe. After Brock felt more comfortable with Aaron. Yeah, that sounded good.

After zipping up and pulling on her mittens, she grabbed her purse and headed for the door, only to have Brock come out of nowhere to block her path. “This isn’t a good idea. I really think I should go.”

“Don’t be silly. I know what I need at my place and you don’t. Trust me. It’ll be fine. I’ll be back before you know it. Just sit tight and play with Aaron. Babies are more fun than you think.”

Aaron took that opportunity to start fussing as if to prove her wrong, and Brock shook his head. “I can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t?” Was his anxiety more than just normal guy apprehension over babies? Maybe Brock didn’t like kids at all. Maybe he had zero interest in being a father.

Oh God. That was bad. Very, very bad.

Her shoulders slumped. Man, maybe she shouldn’t have been so quick to take up his offer to stay here. Maybe this whole fiasco would make things even more strained and uncomfortable between them.

Wind howled against the front door, and she glanced out the now-frosty window to where her car sat in the drive, gathering more snow. Well, whatever happened, she was just going to have to deal with it. She and Aaron were going to be staying at the house for the foreseeable future, so she and Brock would have to figure out how to deal with each other—or at least, stay out of each other’s way.

Brock was still glowering at her, and Aaron was gurgling happy baby noises. It would be fine.

Everything’s fine.

Determined, she threw her purse over her shoulder and grabbed the door handle, holding tight so the wind didn’t wrestle the knob from her grasp. “Don’t worry. I won’t be long. You and Aaron can get to know each other while I’m gone.” She kept her voice deliberately cheerful to hide the growing ball of anxiety inside her. “We’ll talk more when I get back. I saw a high chair and a playmat in the nursery supplies. A travel crib, too. Why don’t you get those out and get them set up while I’m out?”

Then she was gone, closing the door on him saying, “Hurry!”

Monica stood on the porch a moment, hoping the blizzard might blow some patience her way. Something told her she was going to need an abundance of it tonight.

 

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