Tracy Madison

An Officer, a Baby and a Bride

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      “Victor is a private investigator.” Oh, hell no. Yeah, bodily harm sounded pretty dang good at the moment. “You hired him to hire me? To do what… report back to you?”

      “Well, yes. Because you were important to Seth and that made you important to me. But it isn’t as bad as it sounds.” Jace spoke so fast, his words blurred into each other. “Vic didn’t conduct any background searches and he didn’t poke into your private life.”

      She counted to three. “So what did he do?”

      “Confirmed you were pregnant once that became obvious. Kept me updated on your well-being, if you seemed healthy—which you always did,” Jace explained, still speaking fast. “That was about the extent of it, I swear. But it’s important for you to understand—”

      “I think you should leave.” Anger, hot and fierce, roared in. “Before I let my hormones take control and I throw something at your head.”

      Naturally, she wouldn’t. But he didn’t have to know that.

      “Not yet.” Jace smiled a smile that had probably gotten him out of hot water with plenty of women, plenty of times. Too bad for him that it didn’t work on her. “You promised to listen.”

      Rebecca’s gaze landed on her stapler. It was an old-fashioned, metal stapler. Large and heavy. She picked it up, tried to replicate Jace’s smile, and said, “Talk fast.”

      Still reeling from Jace’s admission, Rebecca took her time driving home. While she wasn’t happy with what had happened, she recognized that some of the fault rested on her shoulders. If not for her actions, Jace might not have gone to the extent of hiring a private investigator. Equally important: he was her daughter’s uncle.

      Unlike Seth, Jace did live in Portland. Chances were she’d see him far more often than she’d see Seth. So even though it felt an awful lot like caving, she’d accepted Jace’s apology.

      Good and steamed, she waited a full hour after Jace left to contact Victor, who didn’t offer her an apology. That didn’t surprise her. The guy was only doing his job. He sounded contrite, though, and wanted her to continue on as his accountant. She agreed only after he promised to never, under any circumstance, “spy” on her again.

      But that didn’t mean she wasn’t annoyed by the whole mess.

      Within minutes of arriving home, Rebecca changed into a pair of stretchy black maternity pants and an oversize yellow T-shirt. Deciding that a walk was the perfect way to burn off the remnants of her temper and get some exercise, she grabbed her sneakers from the closet.

      Only to discover that she—a twenty-nine-year-old woman—had lost the ability to tie her own shoes. Or rather, she could no longer reach her shoes when they were where they were supposed to be—on her feet. The realization momentarily stunned her.

      Surely, she’d tied these very same shoes less than a week ago, hadn’t she?

      Unwilling to give up on the idea of her walk, Rebecca crouched down and reached for her right shoe… and immediately lost her balance and toppled to the right.

      Great. Pregnancy had turned her into a human Weeble. Except, unlike the toy, she could and would fall if she wasn’t careful.

      She tried her aerobic step next. Raising it to its highest level, she pressed her bottom against the living-room wall, planted one foot on the step, leaned forward and, once again, nearly fell on her face. Fine, then. She’d go about it a different way.

      Rebecca kicked off her sneakers, tied each of them into loose bows, dropped them to the floor and slipped her feet into them. Feeling absolutely victorious, she let herself out of the house into the beautiful afternoon. The still-shining sun warmed her face and the crisp scent of rain lingered in the air, left over from that morning’s unexpected downpour.

      No way was she ruining the loveliness of the day or her walk by thinking of the Foster men, their oversize egos or the diamond ring that resided somewhere in her rosebushes.

      Though that last one was harder. Every time she left and entered her house, she had to stop herself from searching the prickly bushes. And okay, she probably shouldn’t have tossed the ring. Even if Seth’s commanding, I’m-in-charge attitude had ticked her off.

      But leaving something so valuable in a place where anyone—her mailman, a solicitor, anyone—could find and walk off with it rattled her. It shouldn’t. Seth obviously didn’t care, so why should she? Yet, for whatever reason, she did.

      Rebecca swept a cursory glance over the bush as she descended the front porch stairs. Nothing sparkly jumped out at her, so she continued.

      It was a beautiful ring. Simple and elegant, with a traditional princess-cut diamond—not too large, not too small—set in a wide band of shimmering white gold. It was as if Seth had glimpsed into her dreams and chosen the exact right ring for her, which was about as absurd as his proposal. They certainly hadn’t chatted about her sense of style during their weekend.

      A hot flush stole over her cheeks as she turned right on the sidewalk in front of her house. The memory of the woman she was that weekend continued to stun her.

      Maybe it shouldn’t. Seth’s letters piqued her curiosity about the man behind them almost as soon as they began writing. And Lord, how she’d looked forward to receiving those letters. To answering them. And while she hadn’t told him about Jesse, she had shared more personal details of her life than she had with any of the other people she corresponded with.

      Doing so had seemed natural.

      And when she’d finally spoken with Seth on the phone, her pulse had jumped and her palms had grown sweaty, as if she were sixteen and the high-school quarterback had asked her to prom. The sound of Seth’s voice had filled her with elation.

      She’d tried to resist the need to meet him, but curiosity and a hunger to see his face won out over practicality. When she walked into the café they’d agreed on, his dark-eyed gaze landed on her and a triple-shot of energy, of intense recognition, turned her stomach on its side.

      No, she shouldn’t be stunned by the woman she was that weekend. But that didn’t mean she had to make sense of it. What happened, happened.

      Keeping her pace leisurely, Rebecca headed toward the elementary school that was located three blocks south from her house. Her daughter would attend that school someday. Most days, Rebecca would probably drop her off on her way into work. But every now and then, they might walk hand in hand down the same path Rebecca was now walking.

      The tightness in her muscles relaxed as she continued, and within a block, her mind cleared. Her hand came to rest on her stomach and when she crossed the street, her thoughts turned to possible names.

      Emily, maybe. She liked Sarah and Hannah, as well. Would Seth want input on their daughter’s name? Dumb question. Of course he would. Knowing her luck, he’d favor something obscure and untraditional, like the sometimes odd names celebrities chose for their children.

      Her stomach tightened with a Braxton Hicks contraction. Any type of physical exercise tended to bring them on, but her doctor said they were harmless. Rebecca paused, let the contraction pass and then started forward again. She’d only taken a few more steps when a far-too-familiar form fell into stride next to her.

      Her heart leaped and blood rushed to her head. Seth.

      “What are you doing here?” she asked without slowing down, somewhat dazed she hadn’t sensed his approach. “As of today, I know you know where I work, so don’t give me the excuse that you couldn’t call to set up a meeting.”

      “Actually, I did call,” he said in that resonant, severe, sexy voice that made her feel like a cat being taunted with a bowlful of cream. “But alas, you’d already left for the day.”

      “And you decided another surprise visit would somehow be a good idea?”

      “It’s been several days, Becca. You can’t expect me to wait forever.”

      Breathing in through her nose, she stopped and faced him. Dressed in khakis