Page 29 of Baby Bonanza

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“Relax,” he said, lifting one hand to try to stop her from taking off on another rant. “I said that’s the plan I did have. Things have changed.”

“You’ve been here ten seconds. What could have changed?” She was still defensive, standing in front of her sons like a knight of old. All she really needed was a battle-ax in her hands to complete the picture.

“I saw them,” he said, and something in his voice must have reached her because her shoulders eased down from their rigid stance. “They’re a unit. We can’t split them up. I get that.”

“Good.” She blew out a breath. “That’s good.”

“I’m not finished,” he told her, and watched as her back snapped straight as a board again. “I came here to see my sons, and now that I have, I’m not going anywhere.”

She looked stunned, her mouth dropping open, her big, blue eyes going even wider than usual. “What do you mean?” Then, as she began to understand exactly what he meant, she shook her head fiercely. “You can’t possibly think you’re going to stay here.”

This was turning out to be more fun than he’d thought it would be.

“Yeah, I am.” Nick glanced around the small living room. You could have dropped two entire houses the size of hers into his suite on the ship, and yet there was something here that was lacking in his place, despite the luxury. Here, he told himself, she’d made a home. For her and their sons. A home he had no intention of leaving. At least not for a while. Not until he’d gotten to know his sons. Not until he’d come up with a way that he could be a part of their lives.

“That’s crazy.”

“Not at all,” he said tightly, his gaze boring into hers. “They’re my sons. I’ve already lost four months of their lives and I’m not going to lose any more.”

“But Nick—”

He interrupted her quickly. “I won’t be just a check to them, Jenna. And if that’s what you were hoping for, sorry to disappoint.”

She chewed at her bottom lip, folded her arms over her chest as if she were trying to hold herself together and finally said, “You can’t stay here. There’s no room. It’s a two-bedroom cottage, Nick. One for the boys, one for me and you’re not staying in my room, I guarantee that.”

His body tightened and he thought he just might be able to change her mind on that front, eventually. But for now, “I’ll bunk on the couch.”


“Look,” Nick said. “It’s simple. I stay here, get to know my kids. Or,” he added, pulling out the big guns, “I sue you for sole custody. And which one of us do you think would win that battle? Your choice, Jenna. Which will it be?”

Her face paled, and just for a second Nick felt like a complete bastard. Then he remembered that he was fighting for the only family he had. His sons. And damned if he’d lose. Damned if he’d feel guilty for wanting to be a part of their lives however he had to manage it.

“You would do that?”

“In a heartbeat.”

“You really are a callous jerk, aren’t you?”

“I am whatever I have to be to get the job done,” Nick told her.

“Congratulations, then. You win this round.”

One of the babies began to cry, as if sensing the sudden tension in the room. Nick glanced down to see that it was Jacob, his tiny face scrunched up as fat tears ran down his little cheeks. An instant later, taking his cue from his brother, Cooper, too, let out a wail that was both heart wrenching and terrifying to Nick.

He threw a panicked look at Jenna, who only shook her head.

“You want a crash course in fatherhood, Nick?” She waved a hand at the boys, whose cries had now reached an ear-splitting range as they thrashed and kicked and waved their little arms furiously. “Here’s lesson one. You made them cry. Now you make them stop.”


Then, while he watched her dumbfounded, she scooped up the stack of freshly folded baby clothes and walked off down a short hallway to disappear into what he guessed was the boys’ bedroom, leaving him alone with his frantic sons.

“Great,” Nick muttered as he dropped to his knees in front of the twins. “This is just going great. Good job, Nick. Way to go.”

As he dropped to his knees, jiggled the bouncy seats and pleaded with the boys to be quiet, he had the distinct feeling he was being watched. But if Jenna was standing in the shadows observing his performance, he didn’t really want to know. So he concentrated on his sons and told himself that a man who could build a cruise ship line out of nothing should be able to soothe a couple of crying babies.

After all, how hard could it be?

By the end of the afternoon, Nick was on the ragged edge and Jenna was enjoying the show. He’d fed the boys, bathed them—which was entertainment enough that she wished she’d videotaped the whole thing—and now as he was trying to get them dressed. Jenna stood in the doorway to the nursery, silently watching with a delighted smile on her face.

“Come on, Cooper,” Nick pleaded. “Just let me get this shirt on and then we’ll—” He stopped, sniffed the air, then turned a horrified look on Jacob. “Did you?” He sniffed again. “You did, didn’t you? And I just put that diaper on you.”

Jenna slapped one hand over her mouth and watched Nick in a splash of sunlight slanting through the opened louvred blinds. The walls were a pale green and boasted a mural she’d painted herself while pregnant. There were trees and flowers and bunnies and puppies, painted in bright, primary colors, racing through the garden. A white dresser stood at one end of the room and an overstuffed rocking chair was tucked into a corner.

And now there was Nick.

Staring down into the crib where he’d laid both boys for convenience sake, Nick shoved both hands through his hair—something he’d been doing a lot—and muttered something she didn’t quite catch.

Still, she didn’t offer to help.

He hadn’t asked for any, and Jenna thought it was only fair that he get a real idea of what her days were like. If nothing else, it should convince him that he was so not ready to be a single parent to twin boys.

“Okay, Coop,” he said with a tired sigh, “I’ll get your shirt on in a minute. First, though, I’ve got to do something about your brother before we all asphyxiate.”

Jenna chuckled, and Nick gave her a quick look. “Enjoying this, are you?”

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