Page 35 of Baby Bonanza

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“Nick…” The kitchen was amazing, but she hardly had time to glance at it as he led her straight through the big room and out the back door.

“Come on, I want you to see this,” he said, stepping back so that she could move onto the stone patio in front of him.

A cold ocean wind slapped at her, and Jenna realized she’d been right, the house did sit on a knoll above the sea. The stone patio gave way to a rolling lawn edged with trees and flowers that looked as she imagined an English cottage garden would. Beyond the lawn was a low-lying fence with a gate that led to steps that would take the lucky people who lived here right down to the beach.

As Jenna held Jacob close, she did a slow turn, taking it all in, feeling overwhelmed with the beauty of the place as she finally circled back to look out at the sea, glittering with golden sunlight.

Shaking her head, she glanced at Nick. “I don’t understand, Nick. What’s going on? Why are we here?”

“Do you like it?” he asked, letting his gaze shift around the yard as he dropped the diaper bag and her purse to the patio. “The house, I mean,” he said, hitching Cooper a little higher on his chest. “Do you like it?”

She laughed, uncertainty jangling her nerves. “What’s not to like?”

“Good. That’s good,” he said, coming to her side. “Because I bought it.”


Nick nearly laughed at the stunned expression on her face. God, this had been worth all of the secretive phone calls to real estate agents he’d been making. Worth getting up and leaving her that morning so that he could finalize the deal with the house’s former owners.

This was going to work.

It had to work.

“Why would you do that?”

“For us,” he said, and had the pleasure of watching her features go completely slack as she staggered unsteadily for a second.


“Yes, Jenna. Us.” He reached out, cupped her cheek in his palm and was only mildly disappointed when she stepped back and away from him. He would convince her. He had to convince her. “I found a solution to our situation,” he said, locking his gaze with hers, wanting her to see everything he was thinking, feeling, written in his eyes.

“Our situation?” She blinked, shook her head as if to clear away cobwebs and then stared at him again.

The wind was cold, but the sun was warm. Shade from the trees didn’t reach the patio, and the sunlight dancing in her hair made him want to grab her and hold her close. But first they had to settle this. Once and for all.

“The boys,” he said, starting out slowly, as he’d planned. “We both love them. We both want them. So it occurred to me that the solution was for us to get married. Then we both have them.”

She took another step back, and, irritated that she hadn’t jumped on his plan wholeheartedly, Nick talked faster. “It’s not like we don’t get along. And the sex is great. You have to admit there’s real chemistry between us, Jenna. It would work. You know it would.”

“No,” she shook her head again and when Jacob picked up on her tension and began to cry, Nick moved in closer to her.

He talked even faster, hurrying to change her mind. Make her see what their future could be. “Don’t say no till you think about it, Jenna. When you do, you’ll see that I’m right. This is perfect. For all of us.”

“No, Nick,” she said, soothing Jacob even as she smiled sadly up at him. “It’s not perfect. I know you love your sons, I do. And I’m glad of that. They’ll need you as much as you need them. But you don’t love me.”


“No.” She laughed shortly, looked around the backyard, at the sea, and then finally she turned her gaze on Nick again. “It doesn’t matter if we get along, or if the sex and chemistry between us is great. I can’t marry a man who doesn’t love me.”

Damn it. She was shutting him down, and he couldn’t even find it in himself to blame her. Panic warred with desperation inside him and it was a feeling Nick wasn’t used to. He was never the guy scrambling to make things work. People cowtowed to him. It didn’t go the other way.

Yet here he stood, in front of this one woman, and knew deep down inside him that the only shot he’d have with her was if he played his last card.

“Oh, for—” Nick reached out with his free arm, snaked it around her shoulders and dragged her in close to him. So close that their bodies and the bodies of their sons all seemed to be melded together into a unit. “Fine. We’ll do it the hard way, then. Damn it Jenna, I do love you.”

“What?” Her eyes held a world of confusion and pain and something that looked an awful lot like hope.

She hadn’t even looked that surprised when he’d shown up at her house a few days ago. That gave him hope. If he could keep her off balance, he could still win this. And suddenly Nick knew that he’d never wanted to win more; that nothing in his life had been this important. This huge. He had to say the right things now. Force her to listen. To really hear him. And to take a chance.

Staring down into her eyes, he took a breath, and then took the plunge. The leap that he’d never thought to make. “Of course I love you. What am I, an idiot?” He stopped, paused, and said, “Don’t answer that.”

“Nick, you don’t have to—”

“Yeah, I do,” he said quickly, feeling his moment sliding by. He hadn’t wanted to have to admit to how he felt. He’d thought for sure that she’d go for the marriage-for-the-sake-of-the-boys thing and then he could have had all he wanted without mortgaging his soul. But maybe this was how it was supposed to work. Maybe you couldn’t get love until you were willing to give it.

“Look, I’m not proud of this, but I’ve been trying to hide from what I feel for you since that first night we met more than a year ago.” His gaze moved over her face and his voice dropped to a low rush of words that he hoped to hell convinced her that what he was saying was true. “I took one look at you and fell. Never meant to. Didn’t want to. But I didn’t have a choice. You were there, in the moonlight and it was as if I’d been waiting for you my whole damn life.”

“But you—”

“Yeah,” he said, knowing what she was going to say. “I pulled away. I let you go. Hell, I told myself I wanted you to go. But that was a lie.” Laughing harshly, he said, “All this time, I’ve been calling you a liar, when the truth is, I’m the liar here. I lied to you. I lied to myself. Because I didn’t want to let myself be vulnerable to you.”

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