The Only Solution(9)

By: Leigh Michaels

Rory pushed herself away from Wendy’s shoulder and reached for the keys. She finally got her fist around one of them, and Mack released the toy and slipped both hands under the baby’s arms.

Wendy let her go. She could hardly treat the child as the rope in a tug-of-war. But she felt incredibly empty, lonely, and cold.

He’d said he was a connoisseur when it came to babies, and he’d been right, she thought bitterly. That had been one of the slickest maneuvers Wendy had ever seen. Absorbed in her new treasure, Rory didn’t even seem to notice that she’d been moved. And it had been pretty smooth of him to chat about names to distract Wendy and kill a bit of time till he could get hold of the baby.

“Now if you’re satisfied about my credentials,” Mack Burgess said politely, “can I ask about the baby? What’s her name?”


He winced a little. “Well, at least it isn’t Snowflake or something totally bizarre.”

“Aurora Dawn, actually.”

“That sounds like Marissa. It’s completely redundant – but rather pretty. Shall we sit down and talk this whole thing over?”

She didn’t realize till then that he was still standing in the hallway, with the door open. It was rather clever of him to wait till he had possession of the baby, she thought, and then ask to come inside. She certainly wasn’t going to ask him to leave while Rory was in his arms.

“Won’t you come in?” she said sweetly.

He almost smiled at that – she thought, in fact, that he had to bite his lip to prevent it. But he meekly followed her into the small living room. Wendy thought she saw him take an appraising look around the room, especially at the small Christmas tree and the tiny stack of gifts under it.

He chose a place at the end of the couch. Rory didn’t want to sit; she braced her feet against his thighs and pushed herself upright.

“There’s obviously nothing wrong with her physical development, is there?” he said.

“You expected there might be?”

His voice was almost gentle. “Sarcasm isn’t going to get us anywhere, Wendy.”

He was right, and she knew she was being petty. She twisted her fingers together and stared at them.

“It’s obvious that this is Marissa’s child,” he went on, “and I wouldn’t have any doubt of it, even if I hadn’t spent an hour at the department of vital records this afternoon and found her birth certificate. Now we have to decide what to do about it.”

“There isn’t anything to do. Marissa put her into my care.” It was the truth, but Wendy was uneasily aware that without a will which named her as guardian, she had nothing to prove what Marissa had said, what she had wanted. And she didn’t think Mack Burgess was likely to take her word for it.

In fact, he didn’t even bother to answer. “What about the father? The name on the birth certificate doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Wendy shook her head. “I know who he is, nothing more than that. He and Marissa dated for a while. They’d broken up by the time Rory was born, and he didn’t show any interest in the baby. When Marissa was–” She had to clear her throat. It was still difficult to think of the way that young life had been snuffed out. “When she died, I called him, and he just thanked me for letting him know and hung up.”

“So you kept the baby.”

“I told you, Marissa put her into my care.”

“But of course you don’t have any legal papers to that effect. Marissa didn’t leave a will.”

“No. But she told me that’s what she wanted.”

His voice was crisp. “Any witnesses?”

She shook her head, reluctantly. “We were alone, in the intensive care unit. At least, as alone as anyone ever is in those places. You don’t believe me, do you?”

“I don’t see why I should.” His voice was low, but there was an intensity about it which brought a lump to Wendy’s throat. “I caught you in four separate lies within half an hour this afternoon.”

Wendy felt soft color rise in her face. “A woman will do anything to protect her young.”

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