“And you like that.”
Not a question, a statement. She stopped walking, looked up at him and said, “Yes, I like it. I couldn’t bear the thought of the boys being in day care. I want to be the one to see all of their firsts. Crawling, walking, speaking. I want to hear their giggles and dry their tears. I want to be at the heart of their lives.”
He studied her for a long minute or two, his gaze moving over her face as if he were trying to imprint her image on his mind. Or trying to read her thoughts to see if she had really meant everything she just said.
“Most women wouldn’t want to be trapped in a house with two screaming babies all day,” he finally said.
Instantly Jenna bristled. “A, the women you know aren’t exactly the maternal type, now, are they? B, the boys don’t scream all day and C, spending time with my kids isn’t a trap. It’s a gift. One I’m thankful for every single day. You don’t know me, Nick. So don’t pretend you do.”
One dark eyebrow lifted, and an amused glint shone in those pale eyes of his. “I wasn’t trying to insult you,” he said softly. “I…admire what you’re doing. What you feel for your sons. All I meant was, that what you said was nice to hear.”
“Oh.” Well, didn’t she feel like an idiot? “I’m sorry. I guess I’m a little quick on the trigger.”
“A little?” He laughed shortly, and started walking again, keeping his arm locked about her waist as if concerned she might wander off. “The words Mother Grizzly come to mind.”
Even Jenna had to chuckle. “You’re right, you know. I learned the moment the boys were born. I was so electrified just by looking at them…to know they’d come from me. It’s an amazing feeling. Two tiny boys—one minute they’re not there, and the next, they’re breathing and crying and completely capturing my heart. I fell in love so completely, so desperately, that I knew instantly I would never allow anyone or anything to hurt them. Nobody criticizes my kids. Nobody.”
“Yeah,” he said, with a thoughtful look in his eyes. “I get it.”
His hand at her waist flexed and his fingers began to rub gently, and through the thin fabric of her summery dress, Jenna swore she could feel his skin on hers. Her heartbeat jumped into high gear, and her breathing was labored. Meeting his gaze, she saw confusion written there and she had to ask, “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Quickly he said, “Nothing. It’s just…” He stopped, though, before he could explain. Then, shaking his head, he said, “Come on, we’ve still got a long walk ahead of us.”
A half hour later Jenna’s feet were aching and she was seriously regretting jumping out of that cab. But there were compensations, too. Such as walking beside Nick, his arm around her waist as if they were really a couple. She knew she should step out of his grasp, but truthfully, she was enjoying the feel of him pressed closely to her too much to do it.
It had been so long since their week together. And in the time since, she hadn’t been with anyone else. Well, she’d been pregnant for a good part of that time, so not much chance of hooking up with someone new. But even if she hadn’t been, she wouldn’t have been looking. Nick had carved himself into her heart and soul in that one short week and had made it nearly impossible for her to think about being with anyone else.
Which was really too bad when she thought about it. Because he’d made it clear they weren’t going to be getting together again. Not that she wanted that, or anything….
“Oh!” She stopped suddenly as they came abreast of the street market they’d passed on their way to the lab. An excellent way to clear her mind of any more disturbing thoughts of Nick. “Let’s look in here.”
Frowning some, like any man would when faced with a woman who wanted to shop, Nick said, “What could you possibly want to buy here? It’s a tourist trap.”
“That’s what makes it fun,” she told him, and slipped out of his grasp to walk beneath the awning and into the aisle that wound its way past at least thirty different booths.
She wandered through the crowd, sensing Nick’s presence behind her. She glanced at tables set up with sterling silver rings and necklaces, leather coin purses and crocheted shawls that hung in colorful bunches from a rope stretched across the front of a booth. She smiled at the man selling tacos and ignored the rumbling of her stomach as she moved on to a booth selling T-shirts.
Nick came up behind her and looked over her head at the display of tacky shirts silk-screened with images of Cabo, sport fishing and the local cantinas. Shaking his head at the mystery that was women, he wondered why in the hell she’d chosen to shop here.
“Need a new wardrobe?” he asked, dipping his head so that his voice whispered directly into her ear.
She jumped a little, and he enjoyed the fact that he made her nervous. He’d felt it all day. That hum of tension simmering around her. When he touched her, he felt the heat and felt her response that fed the fires burning inside him. The moment he’d wrapped his arm around her waist, he’d known it was a mistake. But the feel of her body curved against his had felt good enough that he hadn’t wanted to let her go.
Which irritated the hell out of him.
He’d learned his lesson with her a year ago. She’d lied to him about who she was. Who was to say she hadn’t lied about her response to him? Wasn’t lying still? But even as he thought that, he wondered if anyone could manufacture the kind of heat that spiraled up between them when their bodies brushed against each other.
“The shirts aren’t for me,” she was saying, and Nick pushed his thoughts aside to pay attention. “I thought maybe there’d be something small enough for the boys to—here!”
She pulled a shirt out from a stack and it was so small, Nick could hardly believe that it could actually be worn. There was a grinning cartoon burro on the front and the words Baby Burros Need Love Too stenciled underneath it. “It’s so cute! Don’t you think so?”
Nick’s breath caught hard in his chest as she turned her face up to his and smiled so brightly the shine in her eyes nearly blinded him. He’d given women diamonds and seen less of a display of joy. If this was an act, he thought, she should be getting an Oscar.
“Yeah,” he said. “I guess it is.” Then he looked past her to the woman who ran the booth and in Spanish told her they’d be needing two of the shirts.