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“That sounds good,” I squeak out the words from a throat that’s too dry. “It looks like you bought him a lot of toys.”

The toybox in the corner is overflowing. Most of the toys are still in the packaging. Even if they weren’t, I doubt that Ollie could play with everything. It’s obvious that Hale is going to be one of those over-the-top dads, and something about the idea makes me want to smile.

Hale shrugs. “I don’t have a profile on him yet.”

“A profile?” I repeat.

He waves a hand as he produces a pocket knife from his blue jeans. He uses it to open the crib box, explaining as he works, “You know how it is. You keep a profile on the people that are important to you. What they like, what they dislike, what they need. It’s all data.”

I don’t quite know what to say to that. Sometimes when Hale opens his mouth, he completely surprises me. “Do you keep databases on everyone you know?”

“Just the people that are important to me.”

He removes the instructions and puts on a pair of black, square glasses that are giving me serious Clark Kent vibes. If only I weren’t a sucker for the nerds.

After reading the instructions twice, he carefully removes the pieces from the box. But I can tell by the expression on his face, he’s overwhelmed. I don’t want to insult him or make him feel bad, so I say softly, “It looks like a two-person job.”

We settle Ollie on a pile of blankets. Hale is funny, the way he makes a little cot for his nephew. I love the way he looks at him, the adoration on his face softens his normally harsh features. Ollie’s small body looks so safe and secure whenever he’s in Hale’s big hands.

“How did you end up moving to Courage County?” Hale asks as we work on the crib.

“I took a job working at a daycare in the next town over. I couldn’t find any affordable housing there, so I ended up renting an apartment here in town. When the daycare eventually closed, I was able to find an opening at Sinful Desserts. Kids are my passion, and I want to go to school so I can become a pediatrician.” My cheeks burn as I realize I admitted my deepest dream to Hale.

He’s a smart entrepreneur who knows how to turn all of his ideas into actionable steps and make millions of dollars. I still struggle to make my car payment. I can’t remember the last time that I wasn’t eating prepackaged noodles to make it through the end of the month.

He pauses what he’s doing and looks up at me. I love those dark glasses and the way they make his brown eyes even bigger. “You would be a great pediatrician.”

Hale leans so close and I angle my head toward him. My heart skips a beat as blood rushes to my cheeks. This is the moment when the grumpy mountain man is going to kiss me. But instead, he reaches for the booklet. “Just need the instructions for the bracket.”

I manage a shaky laugh, like I’m not humiliated. Yeah, like the hot mountain man was going to kiss me. Clearly, my attraction to Hale all this time has been one-sided.



“What do you think?”Hale asks as he pushes the chest of drawers into the corner of the room. It’s the final piece of furniture, and we spent the day putting everything together ourselves.

I’ve learned a lot about Hale, and the type of person he is. He’s slow and methodical, someone who prefers to carefully research everything before he makes a move. He watched three instructional videos when he couldn’t find the guide for the changing table.

He’s also endlessly patient, taking plenty of time to stop and chat with Ollie as he works. Granted, it was baby babble on Ollie’s part, but it was still adorable to watch the two of them interact. Hale may not know it yet, but he’s a great father. I hope he’ll see that about himself in time.

“Any thoughts on the work we’ve done?” Hale prompts because I’ve been caught staring at his ass. Again. It’s embarrassing, the number of times he’s caught me checking him out since we started this project.

Hale is a mystery to me in some ways. He’s all tight, corded muscles and yet he seems completely unaware of his sex appeal. He has a brilliant, engineer’s mind and yet he’s humble and modest, acting as if I’m the essential part of the project.

“I think…” I scramble to come up with something that isn’t a sleazy come-on or complaint about my aching back. While I suspect that Hale works out regularly at his gym, I’m not very active. I’m more of a sit-on-the-couch-and-knit-a-stuffed-animal-for-the-children’s-hospital type of person. “The room could use some decor.”

He pulls off his glasses and sets them on the chest before glancing around the room. He frowns at it. “Like a theme?”

“I know we don’t have any data yet, but Ollie doesn’t strike me as a blue-walls kind of guy. I’m thinking something fun and exciting, maybe a circus theme.” I gesture to the walls as I talk, the idea taking shape in my mind.

He glances at Ollie who’s tucked in for the night. “I’ll order take out and grab my laptop. Are you good with burgers from Ernie’s?”

My stomach growls at the suggestion. “No pickles on mine. Is it OK if I wash up while we wait?”

He gives me a distracted nod and reaches for his phone.

I take a quick shower in the bathroom attached to my new bedroom and remind myself twenty times that it’s not a date. It’s dinner while we discuss Ollie’s nursery. But if it’s not a date, then why am I struggling with what to wear?

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