Caleb gave him a huge drooly smile Jinx couldn’t help but laugh at.
He rose to his feet. “Let’s go, Ray. We’re going to see your mama.” The mention of the word ‘mama’ made his heart clench for the baby in his arms. The baby who’d never know his mother, thanks to Lobo selling fentanyl-laced meth on the streets.
“Fuck, now I’m getting dark. Let’s go.” He looked up and stopped midstride. Standing on the rickety steps to the She Shed stood Harper. She wore a simple yellow dress, revealing more skin than he’d seen her bare.
Her eyes were wide with shock and maybe longing as she stared at him holding the baby. He couldn’t look away or tear his gaze from her. She was so pretty. Insanely fragile, yet she worked so damn hard to hide it from the world.
Because she’s been terribly hurt.
It had to be the reason. Why would you always wear a mask if it wasn’t to keep a painful past from repeating itself? He’d bet money on the reason being tied to her prison sentence.
And he’d give nearly anything to hear her whole story.
Brooke might know. Maybe all the ladies knew. He could ask and probably charm them into revealing Harper’s secrets, but he didn’t want to. He wanted the woman to come to him with her secrets and give them up freely.
Harper blinked, then ripped her gaze away as though realizing they’d been staring for too long. After one final glance at Caleb, Harper scurried into the shed.
You can run, but you can’t hide.
He grinned and strode her way with the most adorable kryptonite in his arms.
HE HAS A child.
He has a child.
Jinx has a child.
How did she not know this?
With all the things her new friends had told her—he was a master flirter, hilarious, kind, protective as hell, and all that—all those things, and they couldn’t have mentioned he had a child?
A recent child too.
A baby, for crying out loud.
Her heart went berserk in her chest, trying to escape and hide under her desk because, for all her protests, the sight of that big man being so gentle and sweet with a baby and a dog did something dangerous inside her.
She went straight to her desk, bypassing the coffee maker and tray of muffins someone generously brought. The last thing she needed was extra caffeine to charge her system even more.
He has a baby.
A future including children wasn’t something Harper had ever given much thought to. What was the point? She spent many of her meet-a-man-and-have-a-child years in prison and couldn’t imagine trusting someone enough to create a life with them now. Why waste time envisioning that kind of future when she could barely picture herself allowing a man close enough to kiss her, let alone knock her up? It seemed like a recipe for heartache and pain, so she didn’t indulge in the fantasy.
But all it took was one glance at a gorgeous man holding an adorable baby while petting a dog, and her brain couldn’t help but go all white picket fence on her.
It would never happen, so she needed to stop thinking about it.
Focus instead on the fact that he hid the small detail of being a new father.
Where was the baby’s mother? Were they close?
Oh God, were they in a relationship?
Her stomach cramped.
Why was she more shaken this morning than she’d been after being attacked last night?
The toilet flushed, and a moment later, Brooke walked out of the bathroom. “Morning, Harper.” She walked straight to Harper’s desk, leaned over, and hugged her tight. “How are you feeling this morning.”
“Uh… I mean, I’m a little shocked but okay. I just wish someone had clued me in. Now I feel a little foolish.”
Brooke pulled away and frowned. “Clued you in? What do you mean? I was referring to everything that happened last night.”
Harper’s face burned.
You’re an idiot.
Of course, Brooke wasn’t referring to Jinx and the baby.
What the hell is wrong with you?
She needed to screw her head on straight. With a forced laugh, she waved a hand in front of her face. “Sorry, I’m off my game this morning. Of course, that’s what you meant. I’m okay, thanks.”
Brooke still wore a funny expression, but she let it drop. “You sleep okay?”
“Uh… no.” She chuckled. “That I did not do.” She tapped her temple. “Lots of spinning up in here.”
With a sigh, Brooke nodded. “Been there, hon. Boy, have I been there. You know we are all here anytime you need—”
A sharp rap on the door had both their gazes shifting. A second later, Jinx strode into the trailer, baby in arms.
Brooke straightened and beamed at him. “Gimme.” She charged over to Jinx, who unloaded the baby into her arms. “How is the most handsome boy in the world?”
“Doing well, thanks,” Jinx answered.