By: Beverley Kendall

“Paige,” he says in that tone—the one he uses when he’s trying to reason with me and sweet-talk me at the same time.

“Paige what?” I ask evenly, shifting Bree over to my other arm.

“Here, let me take that.” His offer to relieve me of the burden of the oversized toy is clearly a ploy to soften me up. It’s so not gonna work.

“No, she’ll start crying for it. I’m okay. It’s not that heavy,” I lie. Between Bree and her new best friend, my arms are beginning to strain with fatigue.

“At least let’s go sit down.”

“Mitch, you’re pushing,” I warn. “I’ve already had to cancel my plans because of you. I told you we’ll talk later. Now is not a good time.” Never would be a much better time.

Mitch doesn’t say anything for several seconds, his gaze going from Bree and then back to me. Even after more than a year of no contact, I can tell he’s trying to decide how he should respond. Retreat or attack.

Slowly his hands go up in surrender. “Okay, you win. But I’m coming back tomorrow,” he says, a determined tightness to his jaw.

We’ll see about that.

“Make sure you call first.” I try to keep all traces of rancor from my voice but there’s no way I’m going to let him call the shots.

His gaze narrows as he picks up on my meaning.

Yeah, I hope you’re getting the message loud and clear, jerk. I’m not the same girl you left high and dry. I’m not the same girl you dated for three years, the same girl who hung on your every word. That girl had your baby without you and was forced to grow up real fast.

“I’ll call,” he says curtly. His gaze softens when it drifts down to Bree, who’s smiling at him around the thumb in her mouth.

Smiling at her in return, he makes a move toward us, his arms outstretched as if intending to take her from me. Then he looks into my eyes and whatever he sees there has him lowering his arms and thrusting his hands into the front pockets of his jeans.

“The number is still the same.” I can’t help the dig. I want to remind him that while he’s been away, all methods to contact me never changed. Not my address or my phone number. He’d just chosen not to up until now.

Turning, he heads toward the door. “Expect my call,” he tosses over his shoulder before closing the door behind him.

It’s only after he’s gone that I remember I’d arranged to have Diane watch Bree tomorrow because my mom can’t. So as usual, Mitch is going to end up getting exactly what he wants without lifting a finger.

As I’m contemplating the sudden change my life has taken, my cell rings. I drop Bree’s new toy on the floor and awkwardly dig the phone out from the bottom of my purse again.

“Didn’t you get my text?” Erin doesn’t give me time to say hello.

“I couldn’t—”

“Are you sitting down?” she interrupts, her tone foreboding.

I glance at Bree and then at the floor. “No.”

“Well you’re going to need to sit down when I—”

“If you’re going to tell me Mitch is back, I already know. He just left the house.”

Erin falls silent. I took the wind out of her sails. “What did he want?” she asks, her tone now sharp and cold.

I glance at Bree, whose eyes are closing, her thumb in her mouth. “What do you think he wants? He came to see his daughter.”

Chapter 4


All the way home, I’m reeling from seeing Brianna for the first time. A part of me can’t believe she’s mine. Not that I’m questioning her paternity, I know she’s mine in that sense. What I mean is that that beautiful little girl is my daughter.

I’m a father.

Wow. It’s still something I find hard to wrap my head around.

And if I thought the ache in my chest was bad when I first saw the picture of her in New York, it was a hundred times worse seeing her in person today. I’d wanted to hold her so bad I had to shove my hands in my pockets to keep from grabbing her from her mother. But Paige looked at me as if she’d cut my balls off and serve them to me on a tray if I dared even try. I didn’t push because she’s pissed off at me enough as it is.

But I’ll see Brianna tomorrow and without a doubt I’m holding her.

When I get to the apartment, I check my phone for messages and find one from Diane.

I fixed you a plate for dinner. It’s in the refrigerator. Don’t forget to eat. I’ll stop by later.

In the kitchen, I open the fridge to discover my sister must have done some grocery shopping. When I’d arrived earlier to dump my stuff off, the thing had been empty. Now it contains all the basics: orange juice, milk, eggs, bacon, bread, apples and oranges. Sitting on the middle shelf is a covered dish. Lasagna is scrawled on a sticky note on top.

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