An Unlikely Daddy. Rachel Lee

An Unlikely Daddy - Rachel  Lee

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need to be replaced.”

      She shook her head. “I want new springs if I can get them. Babies bounce when they get old enough to stand. I wouldn’t trust it.”

      “Fair enough,” he agreed, and carted it back down to the basement. He could also put some wood slats in place to replace the springs, he thought. Peg them in so they couldn’t slip out.

      But why was he even thinking of such things? He had no place here, and no sense of how long Marisa would tolerate him. Worse, with every passing hour he was building the wall of lies higher.

      Sometimes he just hated himself.

      When he got back upstairs, he found Marisa in the kitchen. She was nibbling on some carrots, and a plate of them sat at the center of the table as if in invitation to him.

      “Mind if I get some coffee?” he asked.

      “Help yourself. Make fresh if you want. And thanks for your help with the crib.”

      “No big deal.” He filled a mug and sat across from her. She appeared pensive, so he waited for her to speak.

      “You know, I don’t want to use springs in that crib at all. I shouldn’t need them. They look dangerous to me, and my friends all have mattresses that just sit on brackets around the outside of the crib.”

      He summoned a mental picture. “That would work. I could add some more brackets for you easily enough. The way it looks now, you only have four of them.”

      She nodded thoughtfully. “I’d need them all the way around so the mattress is higher. You know, so fingers or hands couldn’t poke out.”

      “Easy enough.”

      Then she smiled faintly. “And that’s part of the reason for crib bumpers, I guess.” A little shake of her head. “I need to get on the stick about this, don’t I?”

      “You’ve got a little time.”

      “Not a whole lot.” She held out her hand. “Pad? Pen?”

      He’d forgotten he’d tucked them into his breast pocket and turned them over immediately.

      “So, hardware for angle brackets and screws, right? Say eight of them?”

      “Maybe twelve. And they should be wide, not too narrow.”

      She wrote. “Then mattress, bumpers, sheets, blankets...” Her voice trailed off. “I let this go too long.”

      “You’ve still got time, right?”

      “Another ten weeks.”

      “That’s plenty,” he said bracingly. “Your friends and I will help if you let us.” Then he took a leap into a potential briar patch. “I don’t like those basement stairs of yours.”

      She looked up from her writing. “Why?”

      “Too narrow, and the railing isn’t sturdy enough. “You shouldn’t be climbing them right now, but with a baby in your arms or on your hip...” He let it hang, and braced for her justifiable anger. Just who the hell did he think he was? She’d have every right to demand that of him.

      She frowned, then sighed. “You’re right. I hate those stairs.”

      “I can fix them.”

      At that her head jerked back. “Ryker, you just dropped by to do your duty to Johnny. You checked on me. Are you planning to move in?”

      A justified question. But he was feeling a need, a strong need to atone and make up for things, including the lies he kept telling by omission as much as anything. His answer, though, surprised even him. “For a change I’d like to actually build something.”

      Something passed over her face—whether sorrow or something else, he wasn’t sure. “Why should I trust you?” she asked finally. “You think I can’t tell you’re keeping secrets?”

      “John kept secrets, too,” he said. “And by the way, John trusted me, or I wouldn’t be here now.”

      She debated. He could see it. He wondered how much faith she’d lost in her husband just by the few things he’d told her. He’d certainly tried to avoid telling her that she’d been fed some outright lies. He didn’t feel good about it, but that was the job. Besides, he owed it to John to protect her from the ugly truths.

      “What would you do to the stairs?” she asked.

      “For one thing, the steps need to be wider. So it’ll stretch farther into the basement, but there’s room. And I’d give you a rail on both sides strong enough that if you grab or fall against them, they won’t collapse.”

      She nodded slowly, giving him his first sense that he might actually be getting somewhere with her. “I’d like that,” she admitted.

      He rose and reached for the jacket he’d slung over the back of the chair earlier. “I’ve imposed too much. See you tomorrow.”

      Before she could answer, he headed for the door. Coming here hadn’t eased his sense of guilt in the least. He’d better watch his step before he carried that woman into another thicket of lies, a thicket worse than the one left to her by John.

      He was, after all, still CIA. And while he might have a few months off, that didn’t mean he should spend them weaving another trap for an innocent woman. She’d paid a high enough price already for loving the wrong man.

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