Authors: Kristi Gold
Damn. He hadn’t considered that his nieces were beyond the infant stage. “That just goes to show how much I know about kids.”
Mallory came to her feet and waved a hand at him. “Come with me. I have an idea.”
Whit groaned as Kevin followed his sister out of the den and into the hall. They traveled several feet before reaching a bedroom decorated in shades of yellow and green, twin beds—not cribs—set out on opposing walls. Mallory crossed the room, picked up a doll and two miniature diapers from a shelf, turned and offered them to him. “You can practice with Sally Sweetness, who happens to be anatomically correct. If you’d like, I can give you one of her play bottles. Fill it up with
water, stick it in her mouth, and in a matter of minutes, she’ll wet her diaper and you can change it.”
Not at all what he’d had in mind. “A doll isn’t the same as the real thing, Mallory.”
“It’s a start, Kevin. Or you could wait another few weeks for Logan and Jenna’s baby to arrive.”
He didn’t have weeks to wait for the birth of another niece or nephew. Not if he wanted to prove to Leah that he could care for Carly now. He took the doll from Mallory and stuffed the diapers in the pocket of his slacks. “I’ll make do with this.”
“I just remembered something else that might help, so wait here,” Mallory said as she left the room. She returned a few moments later, this time with a book that she held out to him. “You’ll find everything you need to know about babies in here.”
He took the book and flipped through the pages, complete with illustrations. “It’s all covered in here?”
“Yes, but if you have any questions, call me. You can also call Mom. After all, she’s raised six kids.”
Not something he cared to do. “I don’t want to tell Mom and Dad yet. Not until I know for certain if Leah’s going to go along with my plan.”
Mallory inclined her head and studied him for a moment. “You don’t want Mom hovering, which is why you came to me instead.”
His sister knew him too well. “You could say that. I want to do this on my own, or at least for the most part. But I have to admit, it’s pretty daunting.”
She patted his arm. “You’re a smart guy, Kevin. And
don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that men don’t have instincts when it comes to their children. All you have to do is listen to those instincts, and love your child.”
The odd thing was, Kevin already loved Carly, even though he’d only held her one time. “I’ll remember that.”
Mallory studied him a few moments before saying, “Believe it or not, I think you’re going to make a good father, Kev.”
Then his sister did something totally unexpected—drew him into a hug. The moment seemed awkward at first, at least to Kevin. He’d built a lot of walls during his adulthood, even when it came to his family. Especially when it came to family. But he welcomed the renewed closeness with his siblings, now more than ever.
After Mallory released him, Kevin smiled self-consciously. “Wish me luck with convincing Leah that moving in with me would be the best thing for all three of us.”
Mallory grinned. “You don’t need any luck, Kevin. You only need to turn on that charm you’ve always used to your benefit.”
Kevin didn’t feel all that charming lately. “That was the old me, Mallory. I’m not sure that person exists anymore.”
“Oh, I think he does. Only he’s a better version of that person.”
Kevin sincerely hoped he had become a better person. More important, he hoped that Leah would eventually recognize that. “Thanks, Mallory.”
“Not a problem. Again, if you decide you need my help with anything else, let me know. Only next time, call before you drop by.”
Kevin could think of one thing he really needed—a miracle. Nothing short of that would convince Leah to move in with him.
go to sleep, sweetie.” Leah recognized how foolish she sounded, pleading with a thee-month-old infant. But she was growing more desperate by the minute, as well as losing what little coherency she had left.
No matter what she’d attempted in order to lull her baby to sleep—from a drive around town, feeding her several times and rocking her for what seemed like hours on end—nothing had worked.
Using all her medical knowledge, she’d examined Carly from head to toe, taken her temperature and determined that her daughter wasn’t in any physical distress. She basically didn’t care to sleep, despite her mother’s exhaustion. She continued to teeter between wide-eyed bouts of glee and fits of nonstop fussiness. Worse still, the behavior had gone on for three nights in a row. Of course, the day-care workers had reported that Carly had been the perfect little angel, napping twice during the day for at least two hours at a time. Unfortunately, Leah hadn’t had that luxury. She did have an impending schedule crammed full of appointments with children who needed her skill and her attentiveness. At this rate, she wouldn’t be able to form a complete sentence, much less perform an accurate well-baby check.
When Carly started to cry again, Leah rose from the rocker and strolled around the room, feeling as if she’d lost control of her life. She’d worked so hard to be a competent pediatrician, but she obviously lacked in parenting skills.
If only she could close her eyes for a few minutes, or at the very least take a shower to get a head start on the morning. And morning would be arriving in less than two hours.
On that thought, Leah left the room with Carly in her arms and headed down the hall to seek out her roommate. Macy could at least watch over Carly long enough for Leah to get a quick bath and maybe a nap. Provided Macy was open to the plan.
Once she reached Macy’s room, Leah quietly opened the door so she wouldn’t startle her. Carly picked that moment to let out an irritable howl, as if she sensed her mother was about to foist her off on a woman who didn’t possess one solitary maternal bone in her body.
A sliver of light fell across the bed, illuminating Macy’s closed eyes. “I really could use some help,” Leah whispered.
Macy groaned, lifted her head and muttered, “What time is it?”
“Almost four. Carly’s been up most of the night and I haven’t had any sleep. Could you watch her for an hour or so while I take a nap?”
Macy rolled onto her back and sighed. “I’m scrubbing in on an open heart in less than five hours.”
Leah wasn’t in the mood for a schedule competition, but she’d do whatever she had to do to earn Macy’s assistance. “And I have to see the first of thirty or so kids in less than four hours.”
“Sorry. My mitral valve trumps your rug rats. If I’m not on my game, Brannigan will find some way to punish me for at least a month. Isn’t that right, Dr. Lattimer?”
“Damn straight,” came from beside Macy in a decidedly low, masculine tone.
Only then did Leah realize that Macy had a bed buddy. A playboy anesthesiologist, to be exact. Somehow Macy had sneaked him into the apartment. Probably when Carly was screaming at the top of her lungs.
Leah murmured, “Sorry to bother you,” as she closed the door on the scene. And Carly smiled up at her, as if she found the situation very amusing.
Leah wasn’t amused. She was weary and tired and a little jealous of Macy. Not that she would trade her child for a casual fling. Not that she wanted to have a life without Carly, no matter how difficult raising a baby alone could be.
Yet as she returned to the tiny room and began to rock her daughter again, she fought back tears. The urge to cry strengthened when she considered her former relationship with Kevin and how she had hoped for a future with him.
Leah might have been wrong about that, but she wasn’t wrong about one thing—Kevin did care for their
child. He’d proven that the moment he’d held Carly. He’d affirmed that when he’d set up a trust fund and then offered his home to them. And remarkably, he hadn’t pressured her into making a decision about the move since he’d made that offer six days ago.
The longer Leah weighed Kevin’s proposition, the more she believed that it could be best for both her and the baby. She would actually have some help on nights like these, when she felt as if she were failing as a parent. When she felt so alone.
With Kevin, she might find some stability for the time being, or at least until she moved to Mississippi. And when that time came, she would be the one to leave, instead of the other way around. That should give her some satisfaction, yet Leah only felt sad, and that’s when the tears began to fall in earnest, soft and quiet like the bundle in her arms.
Leah listened to the sound of Carly’s steady breathing and realized she’d finally fallen asleep. But she didn’t dare try to put the baby down for fear she’d awaken again. Instead, she leaned her head back against the rocker and closed her eyes. Yet, before fatigue completely overtook her, she came to a decision. For the sake of her mental health, her career and, most important, her daughter, she was going to move in with Kevin. And now that she’d made up her mind, she only had one more decision to make—exactly how and when to tell him.
, I’ll do it.”
Kevin’s sleep-induced stupor prompted the only logical response to the woman’s abrupt declaration. “You’ll do what?”
“Move in with you.”
When the mental fog cleared, Kevin scooted up against the headboard and swiped a hand over his face. “Leah?”
“Yes. How many women have you invited to move in with you?”
Oh, hell. “None. I’m just surprised to hear from you after midnight.” Or at all, for that matter.
“You used to rarely go to bed before two.”
True, but that was before he’d gotten sick. Now he made it a point to be in bed by midnight, as long as he wasn’t facing a tight deadline. “It’s been a crazy week.”
“Tell me about it.”
She sounded exhausted and maybe that had to do with the decision she’d made. And to think that after a week of no contact and no indication that she’d changed her mind, he’d almost given up. A week when
he’d decided to back off in hopes that she’d come around. Apparently that had worked. “Are you sure you still want to go through with it?” Damn. Now he sounded like
“Yes, unless you’ve reconsidered.”
“Not at all.” Not in the least.
“Okay,” she said. “But before we go any further, we need to set some ground rules.”
Kevin didn’t find that at all unexpected. Leah had always been about order and rules, and he’d broken more than a few in their relationship, including his promise always to be honest with her. “Go ahead. I’m listening.”
“I don’t have much time, so I’ll just cover a few of the most important ones. I expect your daughter to wake up any moment now, something she’s been doing every two hours lately.”
No wonder she sounded tired. “Guess she inherited your insomnia.”
“I don’t consider myself an insomniac.”
“I remember a couple of times when you couldn’t sleep. One time in particular, not long after we’d started dating. You called me at 3:00 a.m. and asked if you could come over.” And they’d been all over each other the minute she’d walked through his door. They hadn’t even made it to the bedroom. Hell, they hadn’t even made it to the couch. Nothing like a hot stop, drop and roll on the carpet…“Do you still have those zebra-striped silk pajamas?” The ones she’d worn to his house that night, covered by a coat. Great pajamas. Thin-strapped top, low-riding bottoms, man-slaying effect.
“That’s the first rule, Kevin. No trips down memory lane.”
Too late. He’d already traveled down the recollection road. “I’m just curious.” His innocent tone didn’t sound all that convincing, and he doubted Leah was convinced, either.
“I threw those pajamas away over a year ago,” she said.
Probably around the same time he threw away their relationship. “What about the other rules?”
She cleared her throat as though she was preparing for a serious speech. “No touching. No late-night conjugal visits when the baby’s asleep.”
Double damn. “You make it sound like you’re condemning me to prison.”
“No. I’m just making myself perfectly clear when it comes to my expectations. And I’m going to keep Carly in day care until I know for certain you can handle her.”
He tightened his grip on the receiver. “Good idea. I might forget she’s there and toss her out with the recyclables.”
“As I’ve said before, I have some trust issues with you, and trust is earned, Kevin.”
He probably merited her scorn, and that only fueled his determination to prove himself competent enough to care for their baby. “What if I pick her up early in the afternoon, say an hour or two before you get home?”
A brief span of silence passed before she said, “I suppose that might work.
we’ve been there for
a few days and I see how well you handle her. Babies are not easy.”
At least he was making some minor headway. “Okay, but I’ll be glad to take over Carly’s care at night, under your supervision, of course. That way you can make sure I’m doing everything correctly.”
“I might agree to that, as long as you listen to what I have to say.”
“Deal.” He would weigh every word she said if it meant having his daughter nearby. Having Leah nearby wasn’t unappealing, either, even if she was bent on keeping him at arm’s length. “When do you want to move in?” He sounded as eager as a baseball player waiting to hear the all-star selections.
“I’m off next weekend, so I’ll pack up then if that suits your schedule.”
“That should work,” he said, although he only had a few days to prepare. That didn’t matter. He’d find a way to make it happen, even if it meant asking for help. “I guess I’ll see you on moving day.”
rolled around much quicker than Leah had expected. Between work and caring for Carly, she’d somehow managed to pack her belongings in boxes that were now stacked near the front door. And with Macy’s help, she’d loaded most of the baby gear into the car.
At the moment, she was perched on the edge of a chair, waiting for Kevin to arrive to retrieve the rest of her belongings. Carly slept in the safety seat at her feet, totally unaware that she was about to move into a
house with the father she barely knew. A month ago, Leah would never have imagined such a thing. A year ago, that had been her secret wish—living with Kevin—only under more favorable circumstances. She would just have to learn to accept a modified, temporary version of that wish.
Dressed in blue-green scrubs covered by a lab coat, Macy breezed out of her bedroom and plopped down on the sofa across from Leah. “Do you have everything?” she asked as she draped her hospital ID around her neck.
“I think so.” Leah leaned over, retrieved an envelope she tucked into the diaper bag’s outer pocket and offered it to Macy. “Here’s some money for my part of the bills. Let me know if I owe more.”
Macy waved a hand in dismissal. “Keep it.”
“I insist. I’m already leaving you in the lurch by moving out before you’ve found another roommate.”
“I’m not looking for another roommate, and I don’t need your money.”
That was news to Leah. “I thought you invited me to move in because you did need the money.”
“Not hardly. Money has never been a problem for me. Not when my daddy owns half the real estate in New Hampshire.”
Oddly, Leah had never pegged Macy as being a “rich” girl, in spite of her socialite looks, but then she really knew very little about her personal history. “What about your mother?”
“She’s in charge of spending Daddy’s money. Why do you think she named me after a department store?”
Leah chuckled before returning to her next question. “Okay, so if you didn’t need the extra income, then why did you ask me to be your roommate?”
“Because I knew Jan was finished with her residency, which meant you wouldn’t have a roommate when you came back to Houston after you had the baby. I just figured you needed somewhere to go and I didn’t want to step on your pride by letting you stay here free.” Macy grinned. “But please don’t publicize it. I wouldn’t want my fellow docs to think I’m anything less than a heartless drill sergeant.”
“My lips are sealed.”
Macy leaned forward and nailed Leah with a serious stare. “I’m sorry about the other night.”
The sleepless night that had prompted the decision Leah hoped she didn’t live to regret. “Don’t worry about it, Macy. You’re an adult and you’re free to do whatever you please with whomever you please.”
“I’m not talking about Dr. Feel Good. I’m referring to objecting to watching Carly. To be honest, kids scare me.”
She’d always known Macy lacked in motherly skills, but kids scared her? “I didn’t think anything scared you, Macy, much less a ten-pound infant.”
“Look, I grew up as an only child, and not always a pleasant one at that. Even my imaginary playmates stopped coming around after awhile.”
Leah laughed. “I’m glad you’ve decided to concentrate on surgery, not pediatrics.”
“Not in a million years. I’m much better with people when they’re completely grown and under sedation.”
“You’re too hard on yourself, Macy. I’ve seen a softer side of you.” Leah had witnessed that just a few minutes ago.
Macy looked chagrined. “Again, let’s not spread that rumor at the hospital. But remember, if your arrangement doesn’t work out, you can always come back here. And if Kevin gets out of hand, let me know and I’ll bring my scalpel over and turn him into a eunuch with a couple of speedy snips. He’ll never know what hit him.”
“That won’t be necessary. I can handle Kevin.”
When the doorbell rang, Leah remained rooted in place, unable to move even an inch. Before she could ask her roommate to let Kevin in, Macy had already made her way to the door and stood peering through the peephole.
“Oh, no. There’s two of them.”
Leah finally came to her feet. “Two of what?”
Macy sent a quick glance over her shoulder. “Two of Kevin. Unless I’ve developed binocular diplopia in the last five minutes.”
Curiosity sent Leah to the window to take a peek. She confirmed Macy’s observation when she saw Kevin and his clone standing on the stoop. No wonder her friend thought she was suffering double vision.
After closing the shade, she said, “That’s Kieran, Kevin’s identical twin.” The twin Leah had yet to meet due to the bad blood that had existed between the brothers. Obviously the feud had come to an end at some point in time.
Macy took another look through the peephole.
“Okay, I see the difference now. The other one has arms as big as a petroleum barrel.”
“That’s because he’s a health-club owner and personal trainer.”
Macy grinned. “Where do I sign up?”
If someone didn’t answer the door soon, Kevin might decide she’d changed her mind. “Why don’t you let him in the apartment so you can ask?”
“Good idea.” Macy opened the door, stepped aside and merely said, “Enter.”
Both men moved into the living room, making the limited space seem very small. The similarities in their features were remarkable—the same brown hair and intense dark eyes—yet Leah could tell them apart, and not because Kieran carried more bulk. She just knew Kevin that well, his mannerisms and his smile, which he sent her when their gazes met. She hated that sliver of awareness, that sense of excitement he could still generate in her. She recognized the threat in that and vowed to quell those feelings.
Kevin gestured toward his brother. “Leah, this is Kieran. Kieran, Leah.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you, Kieran,” Leah said as she offered her hand for a polite shake.
“Same here,” he said. “Kevin’s told me a lot about you.”
Macy stepped forward and regarded Kieran with a look that couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than incontrovertible lust. “I’m Macy, surgeon extraordinaire and Leah’s soon-to-be ex-roommate.”
Kieran hesitated a moment before taking Macy’s offered hand. “Nice to meet you both.”
“We need to start loading up ASAP,” Kevin said. “Kieran has to leave to pick out a wedding cake.”
Macy looked completely crestfallen over the information. “Wedding cake?”
Kieran smiled with pride. “Yeah. I’m getting married in August.”
Without formality, Macy pointed at the boxes. “In that case, that’s her stuff. I have to go to work now.” She turned to Leah. “I’ll see you at the hospital.” Then she pointed at Kevin. “And you be nice to her and the kid.”
With that, Macy strolled to the door but before she left, she shaped her fingers into scissors and sent Leah a snip-snip gesture along with a wily grin. Fortunately for Leah, Kevin and Kieran were too busy surveying the boxes to notice.
“Is this all there is?” Kevin asked as he turned to Leah.
“That’s it,” she said. “Most everything in the apartment belongs to Macy.”
When Carly began to fuss, Kevin crossed the room and crouched down in front of the safety seat. “Hey, baby girl.”
“She’s been napping most of the morning.” Due to the fact that she’d had another restless night, much to Leah’s chagrin.
Kieran walked over and stood above Kevin. “There’s no doubt she’s an O’Brien, Kev. She looks just like us.”
Kevin glanced up at Leah and smiled again. “Yeah. But I see a lot of her mother in her.”
She should probably thank him for that, but she was more interested in getting the move started before Carly began to protest her confinement. “My car’s full of her stuff, but I might have room for a few more boxes.”
Kevin straightened after kissing Carly’s cheek. “I’ve got enough room in my SUV for everything.”
Funny, as long as Leah had known him, he’d always preferred smaller, sleeker vehicles. “Since when do you drive an SUV?”
“Since I realized my two-seater doesn’t have room for a car seat.”
“Oh.” All Leah could think to say at the moment. The reality of Kevin’s role in Carly’s life—in her life—was starting to sink in. That reality would become more apparent as soon as she stepped into his house.
EAH HAD EXPECTED
his house to be nice. She didn’t expect it to be so incredible—from the soaring ceilings to the muted taupe walls to the polished hardwood floors. Yet nothing in the great room looked familiar. Not the overstuffed beige leather sofa and chair. Not the black accent tables and contemporary artwork. Especially not the photos of his family set out on the mantel above the stone fireplace.
It was as if he’d erased all evidence of his former life as a bachelor living in an upscale condominium sparsely decorated with hodgepodge furnishings. This place seemed much more refined. Better equipped for a
couple, but not necessarily a toddler. No matter. She would be long gone before Carly reached that stage.
“What do you think?” Kevin asked as Leah stood in the middle of the room, taking in the scene.
She set down the diaper bag on the sofa along with the safety seat containing her daughter, who’d slept blissfully throughout the trip. “I think it’s amazing. Did you design it yourself?”
“With my brother-in-law’s help. He’s an architect so I told him what I wanted and he drew up the plans.”
“You mean Whit.” Clearly he’d forgotten she’d met him.
“Yeah, Whit.” Kevin looked around a moment as if uncertain what to do next. “Do you want me to unload the boxes now or do you want the grand tour?”