His Forever Family(8)

By: Sarah M. Anderson

Liberty was confident they were going to pretend that the touching and the holding and even the wedding date invitation had never happened. And that was fine with her, really.

But Marcus leaned forward. Even though he didn’t touch her again, she still felt the air thin between them. His gaze dropped to her lips and, fool that she was, she still wanted that kiss that hadn’t happened. The kiss that couldn’t happen. “I promise you, Liberty—we won’t lose that baby.”





Three

It took Marcus the better part of three hours to find the right bureaucrat to deal with. The CEO of Children’s Hospital, while sympathetic to Marcus’s plight, could not legally provide any information on the baby. He did, however, call Marcus back in twenty minutes with the number of a DCFS supervisor.

The supervisor was less than helpful, but Marcus got the name of the manager of DCFS Guardians, who was responsible for assigning workers to these cases. It took some time to get ahold of the manager, and when he did, Marcus discovered a caseworker hadn’t even been sent out.

“We’re doing the best we can, Mr. Warren,” the tired-sounding woman said. “But we have a limited amount of social workers and a limited amount of funds available to us. The baby will probably be in the hospital for several days. We’ll send someone out as soon as we’re able.”

“That’s not good enough,” Marcus snapped.

“Well, how do you propose we deal with it?” the woman shot back.

The same way he dealt with everything. He wasn’t about to let something like red tape get in his way. Marcus did a cursory web search and discovered that the current head of DCFS had gone to school with his father.

Well, hell. He should have started there. He knew how to play this game. He’d been raised playing an extended game of Who’s Who. Political favors and donations were the kind of grease that made the wheels in Chicago run.

It took another twenty minutes to get through to the director’s office and an additional twenty before Marcus had the man’s personal promise that a caseworker would be assigned within the hour. “Of course, we don’t normally keep nonfamily members updated...” the director said.

“I’d consider it a personal favor,” Marcus said and in that, at least, he was being truthful.

Because after watching Liberty fold herself around that infant and cuddle the baby until he calmed down? After seeing Liberty’s anguish as the baby was driven away in the ambulance? After impulsively pulling her into his arms because she was going to cry and feeling her body pressed against his?

After seeing that look of total gratitude when Marcus had said he’d take care of things?

Yeah, this was personal.

“Give your father my best,” the man said at the end of the call.

“Will do!” Marcus said with false enthusiasm. He’d rather his father not find out about this particular conversation or the reason behind it. If Laurence and Marisa Warren knew about this, they’d give Marcus that disappointed look that, despite the decades of plastic surgery, was still immediately recognizable. It was one thing to trade political favors—but to do so for this? For an abandoned baby? Because his assistant got a little teary?

“What do you hope to gain out of this?” That’s what his mother would say in her simpering voice, because that’s what life was to her. Everything, every single human interaction, had a tally associated with it. You either gained something or you lost.

Warrens were never losers.

And his father? The man famous for his affairs with his secretaries? “If you want her, just take her.” That’s what his father would say.

He didn’t want to be that man. He didn’t want to use Liberty because he had all the power in their relationship. He was not his father.

Still, his father cast a long shadow. Marcus had gone to the university his parents had picked. His girlfriends had been preapproved daughters of their friends. Hell, even his company, Warren Capital, had been his father’s idea. What better way to curry power and favor than to literally fund the businesses of tomorrow?

It had taken him years to loosen the ties that bound him to his parents, but he’d managed to separate his life from theirs. Liberty was a part of that, too. His mother had some friend of a friend she’d wanted him to hire—someone she could use to keep tabs on Marcus. Instead, he’d defied her by hiring a young woman from a family no one had ever heard of based on the strength of her recommendations and her insistence that she jogged regularly.

Marcus had paid for that act of defiance, just as he’d paid for refusing to marry Lillibeth Hanson. He may have lost favor with his parents, but he’d gained much more.

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