The Only Solution(11)

By: Leigh Michaels

“Your family cared so little about Marissa that no one even came to Phoenix when she died!”

His gaze flickered a little. “Obviously we should have. But at the time, the decision seemed very clear. She was gone, and the details didn’t matter.”

Wendy bit her lip. She didn’t agree with that, but she could understand it. “Still, you can’t just snatch Rory like this. What do you plan to do? Check into a hotel tonight and demand a crib and a nanny and a full range of supplies?”

“You don’t think the Kendrick Hotel would be up to the challenge?”

She didn’t answer. She looked down at the baby, who smiled sleepily and reached up to pat her cheek. “I’m good to her,” Wendy said. Her voice had a rough edge.

“I understand that, and I’m not belittling it. But she has a family. You said yourself that they shouldn’t be closed out of her life.”

Wendy couldn’t look at him.

He sighed. “Would you mind if I got a glass of water?”

“In the kitchen. There’s soda in the refrigerator if you’d rather have that.”

“Water’s fine.” She heard the cabinet doors open and close till he found a tumbler, and she thought he stayed so long in the kitchen to give her a chance to pull herself together. It was thoughtful of him, if that was what he’d intended – though it didn’t make a lot of difference to Wendy. A few minutes couldn’t soothe the ache she felt.

When he came back to the living room, he wasn’t carrying a glass. “There’s a piece of dried-out toast covered with peanut butter on the counter next to the infant seat,” he said.

“Don’t worry. I wasn’t feeding peanut butter to Rory.”

“It never occurred to me that you might try. Was that your dinner?”

Rory’s bottle was empty, and she was almost asleep. “There wasn’t time for anything else,” Wendy admitted.

He didn’t comment. He sat down again, reached for the telephone book, and riffled through the pages till he found the section listing restaurants which delivered. “Is Chinese all right?” he said. “Or would you prefer pizza?”

Wendy would prefer dry toast with peanut butter, if he’d just take himself away so she could eat it in peace. But of course that meant Rory would go, too. “Chinese,” she said.

She waited till the order was placed before she set Rory’s bottle aside and slid carefully to the edge of her chair. “I’m going to put her to bed.” The words were commonplace, but the tone was almost defiant – as if she’d announced that he would not take the baby tonight, at least not without a struggle.

“She might as well be comfortable while we’re waiting,” Mack said genially. He didn’t add anything about what would happen afterward, but it was perfectly clear to Wendy what he meant.

Rory murmured sleepily and rooted around till she got into her favorite position, with her head firmly lodged against the padded corner of her crib and her fist curled next to her cheek. Wendy thought the baby liked to keep her thumb handy just in case she needed something to suck.

She stayed beside the crib for a moment – any longer and she’d burst into tears. Then she gathered up a basket full of sleepers and shirts and tiny socks. She could at least keep her hands busy for a while – though it would serve Mack Burgess right if she packed everything up and sent it with him just as it was. Let him cope with laundry on top of everything else... though of course he’d just turn it over to the hotel staff.

Or maybe he was experienced. He’d said he was a connoisseur of babies, and the way he’d used that simple toy to bamboozle Rory into making friends had definitely not been amateur. For all Wendy knew, he could have half a dozen kids of his own. Rory would fit right in – or be lost in the crowd.

He didn’t wear a wedding ring. Wendy hadn’t realized till then that she’d noticed.

He was sitting on the edge of his chair, his elbows braced on his knees, his fingertips stroking his temples as if his head hurt.

Wendy paused in the doorway, the basket propped on her hip, and looked at him. He looked tired, too, and drained...

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