“Is that wrong?” she asked, still grinning.
He scowled at her, then shook his head and wrinkled his nose. “Fine, fine. Big joke. But you have to admit, I’m not doing badly.”
“I suppose,” she conceded with a nod. “But smells to me as if you’ve got a little problem facing you at the moment.”
“And I’ll handle it,” he said firmly, as though he was trying to convince himself, as well as her.
“Okay then, get to it.”
He scrubbed one hand across his face, looked down into the crib and murmured, “How can someone so cute smell so bad?”
“Yet another universal mystery,” she told him.
“Never mind,” Jenna said, thinking back to her conversation with Maxie when Jenna was still on the ship. Before the redhead. Before she’d left in such a hurry. Oh God. Jenna straightened up and closed her eyes. Maxie. Wait until she found out that Nick was here.
“You okay?” he asked.
Opening her eyes again, she looked at him, so out of place there in her sons’ nursery, and told herself that this was just what he’d said their night together was. Nothing more than a blip on the radar. One small step outside the ordinary world. Once he’d made his point, got to know his sons a little, he’d be gone again and everything would go back to the way it was supposed to be.
Which was good, right?
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. I’m fine. Just…thinking.”
He looked at her for a long second or two as if trying to figure out just what she’d been thinking. Thankfully, mind reading was not one of his skills.
“So,” Jenna said softly, “are you going to take care of Jake’s little problem or do you need a rescue?”
He didn’t look happy, but he also didn’t look like he was going to beg off.
“No, I don’t need a rescue. I said I could take care of them and I can.” He took a breath, frowned again and reached into the crib.
Jenna heard the tear of the Velcro straps on the disposable diaper, then heard Nick groan out, “Oh my God.”
Laughing, she turned around and left him to his sons.
Though it made her crazy, Jenna spent the rest of the day in her small garage, working on a gift basket that was to be delivered in two days. If Nick wanted to play at being a father, then she’d just let him see what it was like dealing with twin boys.
It felt strange to be right there at the house and still be so separate from the boys, but she had to make Nick see that he was in no way prepared to be a father. Had to make him see that taking her sons away from her would be a bad idea all the way around.
Just thinking about his threat sent cold chills up and down her spine, though. He was rich. He could afford the best lawyers in the country. He could hire nannies and bodyguards and buy whatever the court might think the boys would need.
“And where does that leave me?”
A single mom with a pitifully small bank account and an office in her garage. She’d have no chance at all if Nick really decided to fight her for their sons.
But why would he? That thought kept circling in her mind and she couldn’t shake it. Was this all to punish her? Was it nothing more than a show of force? But why would he go to such lengths?
Shaking her head, she wrapped the completed basket with shrink-wrap cellophane, plugged in her travel-size hair dryer and focused the hot air on the clear plastic wrap. As she tucked and straightened and pulled, the gift basket began to take shape, and she smiled to herself despite the frantic racing in her mind.
When she was finished, she left the basket on her worktable where, in the morning, she’d affix a huge red bow to the top before packing it up to be delivered. For now, though, she was tired, hungry and very curious to see how Nick was doing with the boys.
She slipped into the kitchen through the connecting door and stopped for an appalled moment as she let her gaze sweep the small and usually tidy room. The red walls and white cabinets were pretty much all she recognized. There was spilled powdered formula strewn across the round tabletop, discarded bottles that hadn’t been rinsed and a tower of dirty receiving blankets that Nick had apparently used to wipe up messes.
Shaking her head, she quietly walked into the living room, half-afraid of what she would find. There wasn’t a sound in the house. No TV. No crying babies. Nothing.
Frowning, she moved farther into the room, noticing more empty baby bottles, and a torn bag of diapers spilled across a tabletop next to an open and drying-out box of baby wipes. Then she rounded the sofa and stopped dead. Nick was stretched out, fast asleep on her grandmother’s rag rug and on either side of him lay a sleeping baby.
“Oh, my.” Jenna simply stood there, transfixed by the sight of Nick and their sons taking a nap together. A single lamp threw a puddle of golden light across the three of them even as the last of the sunlight came through the front window. Nick’s even breathing and the soft sighs and coos issuing from the twins were the only sounds in the room and Jenna etched this image into her mind so that years from now she could call up this mental picture and relive the moment.
There was just something so sweet, so right about the little scene. Nick and his sons. Together at last.
Her heart twisted painfully in her chest as love for all three of them swamped her. Oh, she was in so much trouble. Loving Nick was not a smart thing to do. She knew there was no future there for them. All he wanted was to be a part of her sons’ lives—that didn’t include getting close with their mother. So, what was she supposed to do? How could she love Nick when she knew that nothing good could come of it? And how could she keep her sons from him when she knew, deep down, that they would need a father as much as Nick would need them?
“Why does it have to be you who touches my heart?” she whispered, looking down at the man who’d invaded her life and changed her world.
And as she watched him, Nick’s eyes slowly opened and his steady stare locked on her. “Do I?” he asked quietly.
Caught, there was no point in trying to deny what she’d already admitted aloud. She dropped to her knees. “You know you do.”
Carefully, so as not to disturb the twins, Nick sat up, wincing a little at the stiffness in his back. But his gaze didn’t waver. He continued to meet her eyes, and Jenna wished she could read what he was thinking. What he was feeling.
But as always, Nick’s thoughts were his own, his emotions so completely controlled she didn’t have a clue what was going on behind those pale blue eyes.