Strictly Temporary. Robyn Grady
You’ve heard of it, right?
Acting suitably informed and impressed despite his aversion, Zack nodded and said, “Of course,” a moment before she dragged back the hood. The shadow framing her face lifted and Zack forgot to breathe.
Other than her cheeks, which were flushed a healthy pink, her complexion was as flawless as porcelain. Her hair, a luxurious mane, rested like a sable mantle over two slim straight shoulders. Her violet eyes were so vibrant their light penetrated and illuminated places he hadn’t known existed.
He’d dated some beauties in his time, women who drew attention when they floated into a room and were comfortable exerting their power over the opposite sex. But Zack couldn’t recall having met a female whose company literally left him short on air, and not only because of something as superficial as looks. In the clear depths of her eyes…the poised yet innocent manner with which she listened and spoke…
Quite simply, this woman glowed.
After today’s unproductive meeting with the owner of this building he was ready to kick back and get home—home being the two-story private cabin he chilled at whenever he stopped in town. But the delectable Red was obviously in a hurry, eager to leave Denver and its freak weather behind. He’d be happy to play the gentleman and wait for another cab.
Which also meant she and the driver could work out between them what to do about this baby, who, thankfully, was still sound asleep.
Zack looked harder.
Almost too peaceful. He had the damnedest urge to check each tiny finger curled over that wrap to make certain they were warm.
Red was peering at the baby, too. “I see you have a little one to worry about. She’s gorgeous.” She sighed then drew away. “I’ll ask the concierge to call and see where my cab is.”
As she turned to find her door’s handle, Zack’s muscles clenched and he caught her sleeve. Red couldn’t leave. She had it all wrong.
When her gaze hooked back—unsure, concerned—he released her arm and coughed out a hoarse laugh at the same time he glanced at the baby.
“This isn’t mine.”
The cabbie grunted. “Sure as heck ain’t mine.”
The woman blinked two sets of generous lashes and her lips twitched as if she wanted to smile but didn’t dare. “She looks a little young to travel alone.”
She. Zack had to ask.
“How do you know it’s a girl?” The carrier, blanket and bonnet were as white as the snow piling up on the sidewalk and road.
“Well, her face is so sweet.” Expression melting, Red curved the back of her hand over the baby’s bonneted crown and a tiny pair of lips pursed in and out as if she were dreaming about dinner. “Rosebud mouth,” Red went on. “Cute and tiny. She’s too pretty to be a boy.”
The driver drummed his thumbs on the wheel. “Meter’s running, folks.”
“Of course.” Gathering herself, Red pulled away. “I’ll let you go.”
For a second time that day, Zack’s calm evaporated. But now his mouth went completely dry, and sweat broke on the back of his neck. This afternoon was supposed to finish with a quiet brandy in front of a toasty fire, not tossing a hot potato like this around. He didn’t even like babies… . Or, more correctly, they didn’t like him.
“What are we supposed to do with her?” he asked.
“Not we, pal.” The cabbie slotted the shift into gear.
His voice deep, Zack spoke to the man who clearly wasn’t his “pal.” “I told you, she isn’t mine.”
Red slanted her head and a stream of sable spilled over one shoulder. “What’s she doing here then?”
“Beats me. Who’d you drop off last?” he asked the driver.
“An eighty-year-old man with a cane.” The cabbie slid his beret back again. “He was flying out to see family in Jersey, and he wasn’t carrying no bassinet.”
The cabbie’s expression said, Don’t know your game, son, but don’t try to dump your problems on me.
Zack growled. How many times did he have to say it? The baby wasn’t his! At least it seemed that Red believed him.
Her face had lost all color as if every drop of blood had rushed to her feet. Her question came out a struggled whisper as though she shouldn’t speak the words too loud for fear they might be true.
“Do you think someone abandoned her?”
“Guess the authorities will have to figure that out.”
Zack didn’t like the situation—not a bit. He knew less than zip about babies and had every intention of keeping it that way. Marriage and its inevitable complications were the furthest things from his mind. But, in this matter…
Ah, hell, what choice did he have? Red was in a legitimate hurry and—no getting around it—he had been the one to make the find. Either the guy behind the wheel could outact Tom Hanks or he sincerely had no clue. God only knew how a baby could end up alone in the backseat of a cab.
Zack’s gaze roamed the small sleeping form, those rosebud lips, that button nose, and his heart swelled and dropped. Some things you simply couldn’t shrug off.
After flexing his fingers, he slid a firm grip around the unharnessed car seat’s handle.
“I’ll bring her to the police station.” His voice was hushed now. He didn’t want to wake her and maybe have her cry. “They can call Child Services.”
“But they could take ages to collect her.”
“I only know a baby doesn’t sleep forever and I don’t carry spare diapers around in my breast pocket.”
Red quietly searched around the foot of the blanket. “There’s a bottle here,” she said, “some formula and a few diapers, too.”
“The officers at the local precinct will be most appreciative.”
She lifted an eyebrow. “I’m sure they’ll be eternally grateful.”
Zack narrowed his eyes at her. What was she after? He was a businessman, for Pete’s sake, not a babysitter—no matter how cute the kid.
The driver adjusted his rearview mirror. “Should I drop you two lovebirds off at a café so you can nut this out?”
“We’re not lovebirds.” Zack gripped the carrier’s handle more tightly while Red held his gaze for an interminably long moment before surprising him yet again. Her slim nostrils flared, her delicate chin lifted a notch.
Then she reached out and her hand closed over his.
The sensation of her palm pressing, fingers brushing, sent his thoughts and pulse leaping. In an instant he became intensely aware of her scent, subtle and citrus, and the fact that her left hand bore no rings. The idea she might be unattached—available—hijacked and toyed with his mind.
When her fingers moved enough to scoop beneath his, her nails teased his palm and a jet of heat, like the initial burst of a flame, licked a hot path through his veins. Pleasant. Tempting. His runaway thoughts bubbled with all kinds of possibilities that had nothing to do with a baby, except, perhaps, the making of one.
“You go on,” she said as her fingers wrapped around the carrier’s handle and his reluctantly eased away. “I’ll take her back inside with me. I can’t stand to think of her waiting in a police station. Who knows what types might be lurking around.”
Zack opened his mouth to argue. Red had a flight to catch. But in truth he couldn’t disagree about the police station; not the best environment for an infant