The Detective's 8 lb, 10 oz Surprise

BOOK: The Detective's 8 lb, 10 oz Surprise
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A Baby On The Way—And On His Doorstep

When an infant shows up on Nick Slater's desk with a note, this case has the detective stumped. At which point beautiful Georgia Hurley shows up in his office as well, with an explanation for why she dumped him—and sporting a baby bump that dates back to their one night together four months prior...

Georgia knows she turned on Nick for his own good...but will Detective Daddy believe her? She offers to help care for his “temporary” baby for one week—surely the mother will turn up by then. But when the seven days are up, will they part ways and go back to their separate corners? Or will they find that a week of living as husband and wife, mommy and daddy, just made them hungry for the real thing?

God, he was handsome.

And shirtless.

He wore a pair of dark blue sweatpants and nothing else. She could barely take her eyes off his chest.

Memories came over her. The two of them sitting on the couch in her living room in her Houston condo. Talking. The tall, dark and incredibly hot cop making her feel safe, making her dream of a way out, making her want him like she'd never wanted a man before. One minute he'd been telling her about his cat, Mr. Whiskers, and the next, he'd reached his hands up to her face and looked at her, then leaned in to kiss her, possessively and passionately, and she'd responded. Within minutes they'd been naked and on the soft shag rug.

From the way he was looking at her now, she had a feeling he was remembering, too.

“Well,” he said, glancing away. “If you're both all right, I guess I'll leave you alone.” He turned to go, but Georgia sensed he wanted to stay, wanted a reason to stay.

She would give him one. And give Operation Dad more time to work.

* * *

Hurley's Homestyle Kitchen:
There's nothing more delicious than falling in love...

Dear Reader,

In my Harlequin Special Edition debut this past March,
A Cowboy in the Kitchen
, Georgia Hurley is nowhere to
be found during a family crisis at Hurley's Homestyle Kitchen, the restaurant
her grandmother opened fifty years ago. Georgia's two sisters, Annabel and
Clementine, call her home to Blue Gulch, Texas, but Georgia doesn't return. No
one understands why.

Until now. In
The Detective's 8 lb, 10
oz Surprise
, Georgia finally comes home to explain herself to her
family—and to one very handsome, none-too-pleased-with-her police detective with
whom she shared an amazing night and then betrayed in the morning. You see,
Georgia is four months pregnant with Nick Slater's child.

And since Nick has just found an infant on his precinct desk
with an anonymous note asking him to please watch baby Timmy for a week, he
can't turn down Georgia's offer to be his temporary nanny for on-the-job
training. Especially when he discovers the harrowing reason why Georgia had
betrayed him all those months ago...

I hope you enjoy
The Detective's 8 lb,
10 oz Surprise
. I'd love to know your thoughts on the book—feel free
to email me at
[email protected]
. PS: Did you know that Meg Maxwell is a
pseudonym? My real name is Melissa Senate and
The
Detective's 8 lb, 10 oz Surprise
is both my second book (as Meg) and
my fourteenth! For more info, check out my website,
megmaxwell.com
.

Warmest regards,

Meg Maxwell

The Detective's 8 lb, 10 oz Surprise

Meg Maxwell

Meg Maxwell
lives on the coast of
Maine with her teenage son, their beagle and their black-and-white cat. When
she's not writing, Meg is either reading, at the movies or thinking up new story
ideas on her favorite little beach (even in winter) just minutes from her house.
Interesting fact: Meg Maxwell is a pseudonym for author Melissa Senate, whose
women's fiction titles have been published in over twenty-five countries.

Books by Meg Maxwell

Harlequin Special
Edition

Hurley's Homestyle
Kitchen

A Cowboy in the Kitchen

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin
ebook!
Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewards
http://www.harlequin.com/myrewards.html?mt=loyalty&cmpid=EBOOBPBPA201602010002

For my dear friend Julia Munroe Martin. Lucky me to have a great friend and a great writer friend in one.

Chapter One

I
n the fifteen minutes it had taken detective Nick Slater to go down the street to Hurley's Homestyle Kitchen to pick up his lunch order of a roast beef po'boy with a side of spicy slaw, someone had left an infant in a blue-and-white baby carrier on his desk.

Nick froze in the back doorway of the otherwise empty Blue Gulch Police Station, staring at the baby and mentally taking stats.

Newborn, one month, maybe six weeks old. Boy, according to all the blue. Healthy, from the peaches-and-cream big cheeks and the rosy bow-shaped lips, slightly quirking. Cared for, given the cap and clean outfit, the hand-knit blanket tucked around him in the sturdy, padded carrier. Sleeping—for now.

All that had been on his desk when he left were his frustrating notes on the Jergen burglary case, half-finished paperwork for Farley Melton's seventh disorderly conduct arrest of the year, a “just because” card with two folded twenties and a ten that he was going to send to his sister at Dallas City College, and a scrawled note from himself that he was running out to pick up lunch, back in ten.

Now there was a baby.

“Hello?” he called out, expecting the parent or caregiver or someone, anyone to appear. The Blue Gulch Police Station wasn't very big. Aside from the main room with the long reception desk, and Nick's and the other two officers' desks, the chief had a private office next to the two jail cells and a break room that served as conference room, interrogation room and lunchroom.

“Hello?” he tried again.

Silence.

Nick kept one eye on the baby and walked over to the break room—empty. Chief's office—empty. Jail cells—one empty, one containing the sleeping form of Farley Melton.

Cynic that he was, he walked over to his desk, put the bag containing his lunch on his chair and lifted up the baby carrier to see if the cash was still in the card. It was. He set the carrier back down.

Okay, so the baby's mother came in for some reason to talk to an officer or lodge a complaint, saw no one was around and set the carrier down while she went to use the restroom.

Except both restroom doors were ajar, the lights out.

Nick glanced out the windows at the front of the station to see if anyone was sitting on the steps or the bench. No one.

“Hello?” he called out again, despite the fact that clearly no one was there. Except for Farley snoring in his jail cell and the gentle hum of an oscillating fan in the corner, the office was quiet.

Why would someone leave a baby on his desk—and when no one was in the station? He mentally went down the list of who in Blue Gulch had had a baby recently. The Loughs, who lived a quarter mile from here in the center of town. But they had a girl with blond wisps. Nick eyed the baby; fuzzy dark hair peeked around the baby's ears, just below the blue cotton cap.

Then there were the Andersons, who lived on the outskirts of Blue Gulch and didn't often come to town. They'd had a boy back in June. Had one of the Andersons left the baby on Nick's desk for some reason that even he, seasoned detective, couldn't come up with? Nick grabbed his phone, looked up their number and punched it in.

He heard a baby cooing the moment Mike Anderson said hello.

Nick pretended to be alerting residents about the coyote sightings in his area, which was true, and to be careful, then hung up, racking his brain for who he might be forgetting. Blue Gulch was a small town, population 4,304—4,305, he corrected. If there had been another hugely pregnant woman in town over the summer, he'd have known about her.

Nick stared at the baby. A tiny blue-encased foot kicked out. Then the other. The big cheeks turned to the left. Then to the right.

Little eyes opened just a crack. Then closed again.

And then the first
waaaah
. The baby started sort-of crying, the bow-shaped mouth suddenly opening wide and pouring forth a screeching wail you wouldn't think could come from such a tiny creature.

He glanced at the clock—1:16 p.m. Michelle Humphrey, department secretary, was on her lunch break. Officer Midwell, who was supposed to be manning the station, was probably at the coffee shop for his sixth iced coffee of the day, flirting with the barista he had a crush on. And the chief, nearing retirement, took long naps in his pickup truck in the back parking lot these hot summer days.
You take over for me, Nick, will ya?
was Chief McTiernan's favorite refrain. Nick wasn't much interested in being chief, even for an hour. He liked being a detective, needed to be out in the field.

And besides, Nick was planning on leaving Blue Gulch in the coming weeks. He'd moved back two years ago to take care of his sixteen-year-old sister when their mother died. But now that Avery was in college, living in a dorm, Nick didn't have to live in this town he hated, a place that reminded him of his worst memories on a daily basis.

“Waaah. Waaah! Waaaah!”

Oh hell. He'd have to do something, like pick up the baby.

He reached into the carrier and pulled down the tiny blanket and froze.

There was a note taped onto the baby's pajamas.

Detective Slater: Please take care of Timmy until I can come back for him in a week. I am not abandoning him. I know I can trust you.

What the—

He stared at the note, reading it again, then again. The note was typed on a half piece of plain white paper,
please
underlined in red pen. He read it yet again, hoping his eyes were playing tricks on him, that it said
I'll be back for him in a minute, thanks.
With
minute
underlined in red.

So...a scared mother? A mother who had to attend to some personal business?

Timmy. At least there was a name. A big clue. Who did he know who'd had a baby named Timmy? No one. He glanced at the little guy. Yawning and stretching, unaware that someone else's decisions, actions, choices could change the entire trajectory of his life.

Nick knew about that too well.

Now here was an innocent baby, at everyone's mercy.

His, right now.
I know I can trust you...

Obviously, the mother was someone he knew.

His heart started banging in his chest.
No. Couldn't be. No, no, no.

His sister?

God, calm down, Slater
, he ordered himself.
You just saw Avery off to college less than two weeks ago.
For the past nine months, she'd been the same tall string bean she'd always been. His eighteen-year-old sister wasn't the baby's mother. His heart rate slowed to normal.

So who? Who would have chosen him over the other officers, or over grandmotherly Michelle, or over anyone else she knew? Why him?

Nick Slater wasn't exactly paternal.

What you want doesn't matter!
the entire town had heard him shout at Avery a few months ago when she told him in front of Clyde's Burgertopia that she wasn't sure she wanted to go to college after all. And that her boyfriend, Quentin—
Quentin says this, Quentin says that
—thought she should give her singing talent a real chance. Quentin, who walked around spouting philosophy and called Nick
dude
, thought his eighteen-year-old sister, who liked to sing and play guitar, should give up college to sing at the coffee shop for change from people's lattes. Over Nick's dead body—that was
his
philosophy.

He stared hard at the squawking baby. Who the heck left a baby alone? On someone's desk? A hot burst of anger worked its way inside Nick at the utter crud some people did.

You're not just any old someone
,
he reminded himself.
You're a police officer. And the note is addressed to you.

Still, he'd have to call Social Services and report it. He shook his head as he walked to the front door and held open the screen, his gaze going over every hiding spot, from the tall oaks that lined the stone path into the building, to the weeping willow. No one was out there. The Blue Gulch Police Department was in the center of town, right on Blue Gulch Street with easy access to a main road leading to the freeway. He glanced out at the small parking area on the side of the office, flanked by evergreens and the green and brown hills, the expanse of the Sweet Briar Mountains that went as far as he could see, reminding him how big the world outside Blue Gulch was.

Whoever had left the baby had left too.

“I'll give you an hour,” he said into the air, putting it out there for the child's mother. “Then I'm calling Social Services.”

He glanced back at Timmy. He was still crying.
Pick the baby up
,
he ordered himself. He took off the blanket. Wedged against the side of the carrier were two baby bottles, one full of formula, three diapers, a small stuffed yellow rabbit with long brown ears and a canister of formula.
Someone cares about this baby
, he thought, quickly freeing Timmy, who struggled to open his eyes.

Nick picked him up. Carefully. The lightness of him was almost staggering. He definitely wasn't more than nine pounds. Nick cradled the baby's neck against his forearm the way he'd learned long ago in officer training, and Timmy stopped crying. Until he started again, a minute later.

A thud and a string of expletives came from the direction of the cells. Farley Melton must have fallen out of his cot again.

“For Pete's friggin' sake, shut that wailing creature up!” screeched Farley, who been brought in two hours ago for disturbing the peace and public intoxication on town property.

Timmy's probably hungry
, Nick thought, reaching for the full bottle. He opened it and gave it a quick smell test and it seemed fine, not that he knew what baby formula, fresh or spoiled, smelled like.

With the crying baby in his arms, he headed over to Farley's rectangular cell, just visible from the main room. The skinny, disheveled sixtysomething was sprawled out on the cot, his hands pressed over his ears.

“Hey, Farley, did you hear anyone come in a little while ago?”

“Yeah, you and that screaming kid,” was Farley's helpful response.

“No, I mean like fifteen minutes ago. Did you see anyone come in and leave something on my desk?”

“I was sleeping until that wailing started. Now let me get back to it,” he snapped, and was snoring before Nick could turn around.

Nick rolled his eyes, reached into his pocket and pulled out the note.
Please take care of Timmy until I can come back for him in a week. I am not abandoning him.

A week. Good Lord.

But the underlined
please
in red assured him the mother would be back when she could because of some kind of trouble or another. He glanced at the clock—1:18. Time sure moved slowly.

As Timmy sucked on the bottle, he glanced outside, hoping the secretary would come back. Michelle was great with babies.

Yes! Someone was coming up the walk. Maybe it was Timmy's mother, realizing she'd done a nutty thing and was returning for her baby. Although he wouldn't hand over Timmy so fast—not until he was sure the mother was stable.

He rushed to the window to get a good look at her in case the woman changed her mind and bolted.

He did a double take.

Georgia Hurley was coming up the walk. And considering that her stomach—which he'd kissed every inch of—had been flat as a surfboard just four months ago when he met her in Houston, she certainly wasn't the mother of baby Timmy.

Well, well, so Georgia had finally come home to Blue Gulch.

The woman was so self-absorbed that when her grandmother had gotten sick a few months ago, and the family business, Hurley's Homestyle Kitchen, was in financial jeopardy, Georgia ignored her sisters' pleas to come home and stayed in Houston with her rich boyfriend.

Nick knew all this because four months ago, before he even knew Georgia Hurley existed, her sister Annabel had been worried sick about Georgia and thought she might be in some kind of trouble.
Nothing would keep Georgia from coming home when her family needed her unless something was very wrong
, Annabel had told him. Nick had barely known Annabel, but since he'd been headed to Houston for a police academy reunion, he'd assured Annabel he'd check on Georgia that weekend. Make sure she was okay.

Boy, had she been okay. Checking on Georgia had started with a knock on her condo door in Houston and ended with the two of them wrapped naked in each other's arms, talking for hours about things he never talked about. He'd lost himself in Georgia Hurley that night.

Then, wham, bucket of cold water on his head in the morning. He'd never forget how she acted as if she didn't know him, as if they hadn't just spent the night together, when her slick boyfriend unexpectedly showed up the next morning in his Italian suit and thousand-dollar shoes. The man's sunglasses probably cost more than a year's room and board at Nick's sister's college.

“Oh, him?” Georgia had said to the boyfriend, tossing a glance at Nick in the bright April sunshine in front of her Houston condo. She and Nick were standing on the sidewalk, making a plan for where to have breakfast, when the boyfriend had shown up. The boyfriend Nick hadn't known about. “Just an acquaintance I ran into. Ready, darling?” she'd added, linking her arm with the Suit and heading down the street. She hadn't looked back.

It took a lot to shock Nick. He's been through hell and back as a kid. He'd gotten through raising his teenage sister, the two of them both in one piece. He'd seen the worst of humanity in his first five years as a cop on the force in Houston. Nothing surprised him. Nothing got to him.

But Georgia did. His head, his heart, everything in him exploded like an earthquake in those minutes on that Houston sidewalk, and trying to make sense of it as he drove back home to Blue Gulch had given him a bigger headache.

BOOK: The Detective's 8 lb, 10 oz Surprise
5.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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